By Rachael Horrocks

Seven-year-old me had no interest in being homeschooled. I loved first grade in public school, where I had friends who shared their snacks and a teacher who let me finish math class early and write stories. So when Mum told me that I was going to start grade two at home, I was less than pleased.

Now, some sixteen years later, I couldn’t be happier that my parents made the decision to homeschool my three younger siblings and myself. After all, homeschooling was even better than public school at giving me the chance to discover subjects I loved and to dive deeper into topics I was truly passionate about.

For our family, homeschooling meant developing a love of learning rather than memorizing an arbitrary list of facts and formulas. During most of primary school, especially the early years, there’s no need for tests, grading, or, in many cases, even a formal curriculum. While some subjects, such as math, are probably best taught using a series of workbooks, most other topics often work better with a more laissez-faire approach. We learned geography from a cassette tape of far-too-catchy songs and picked up French vocabulary by watching dubbed films.

It’s impossible to overestimate how important books are to homeschooling, whether your own personal collection or a friendly local library. Many libraries will give teacher cards to homeschoolers, which allow you to take out more books, and for longer. A good set of encyclopaedias is fantastic for allowing your children to explore a subject for themselves, without the potential dangers of the internet.

While homeschooling does offer a fair amount of flexibility, a simple schedule can be helpful in providing your family with a routine and giving your children a sense of what subjects are coming next. We used a paper schedule divided into fifteen-minute chunks, with different activities sticky-tacked on in coloured paper. With older children, allowing them some input into the schedule (or even letting them create their own) gives them a sense of ownership of their education while also teaching them time management.

As for slightly less academic subjects, one advantage of homeschooling is that you can head off in school hours and take advantage of activities in your hometown, such as concerts, or daytime discounts at sports centres. Our local university hosted free noon hour recitals on Fridays, where we learned an appreciation for classical music (and how to keep our heavy theatre seats from squeaking for an hour!) and both the nearby swimming pool and ski hill offered school group discounts to homeschoolers.

Don’t be discouraged if your child resists a certain subject or activity. Looking back, the exercises I disliked most were often the ones that became most useful; Mum’s idea of getting us to ‘narrate’ stories back to her was certainly not a popular one in our household, but it taught me the comprehension and analytical skills that have been invaluable during my time at university.

That said, one of the benefits of homeschooling is how it allows you to try new approaches; I disliked learning spelling and grammar from workbooks, but had no difficulty picking up these skills by reading novels. Just because your child dislikes a certain program doesn’t mean they aren’t learning, but there’s no reason to painstakingly work through a curriculum when they could learn the same skills more organically elsewhere.

Ultimately, homeschooling is more about encouraging your child to love learning than it is about teaching them any particular facts or skills. Curricula, books, field trips, co-op groups… all of these are simply means to an end: raising your children to be well-rounded individuals with the ability and motivation to go out and learn anything they need to know.