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Homeschool or Public School at Home Philosophy - What’s the Difference?

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

Let’s chat about the philosophies of “public school at home” vs. “homeschooling.” Note that I’m not referring to whether your child does online schooling at home nor whether they’re using a “homeschooling charter;” I am referring solely to the philosophies of how you approach homeschooling in your house.

The question is - are you “homeschoolers” or “school-at-homers” (yes, I realize this is a silly way to refer to this philosophy but what fun is life without big doses of silliness?)? Neither approach is wrong! Homeschooling can look different in every house and with every child - that’s the joy of homeschooling. How you approach homeschooling can have a big impact on how peaceful and enjoyable homeschooling is for your children, for you, for the culture in your house, and for your family in general.

Public school at home often entails something like an 8am to 3pm schedule each day with scheduled subjects, breaks, and lunch. Often it includes a grade level curriculum and an attempt to cover state standards over the course of a school year. The year/month/week is often scheduled out in advance and the prescribed work will need to be completed to avoid “falling behind.” I have even heard of “school-at-homers” where the homeschooling parent requires their child to address them as Mrs. or Mr.

Homeschooling, on the other hand, often includes gearing your child’s education toward their interests and delivering it to them in the way they learn best. This can include hands-on learning, workbooks/textbooks, online learning, project-based learning, unit studies, or many other ways of educating your child. Homeschooling is learning anytime and anywhere. It’s a lifestyle of learning that isn’t dictated by the clock or the day of the week. It’s instilling a love of learning in your child and ditching busywork that may not have educational value for them. The goal of homeschooling is to foster a love of learning vs just checking off boxes, and to foster relationships in your family.

So, let’s say that your child has a vast knowledge of science and is bored with the science curriculum they are using because they already know and understand the contents. What philosophy would you approach this situation with? Is your goal for them to check off the boxes of third grade science? Or is your goal for them to continue learning and being challenged in their knowledge of science? Do you force them to finish the entire workbook, knowing they are not learning? Do you flip through the book and ask them some questions to verify their knowledge of the subject so that you can move on to something challenging? Do you ditch the book and pull out some hands-on science experiments/projects for them to really dig into?

In our family, we are homeschoolers. The goal is for our kids to be learning. I don’t need them filling out page after page of worksheets on knowledge they’ve already mastered. Instead, they master a concept (including doing many hands-on projects related to that concept), and we move on. If they are interested in continuing to learn more and more about that concept, that’s what we do. When they are interested, they really learn and retain the info instead of storing it long enough to take a quiz and then forgetting it. I was a “store it and forget it” kid in public school and I could pull off straight A’s in my sleep. However, I don’t remember most of it because I wasn’t learning about things in which I was interested. Sitting in college classes learning about things that piqued my curiosity and things about which I couldn’t wait to devour more information, those are the things I remember. Those are the things I truly learned.

Over the years of homeschooling in our family we have built pyramids out of sugar cubes, mummified apples, painted Mayan cooking pots, made DNA strands and cell models out of candy, dressed up as pioneers and performed pioneer chores, recreated meals from Shakespearean times, sailed on a tall ship after our pirate study, and done countless science experiments, art projects, and unit studies. We’ve toured factories, stores, museums of all types, TV stations, farms, and even a nuclear power plant. We’ve explored caverns, lava tubes, battlefields, a meteor crater, Aztec ruins, a NASA space center, and historical and geological sites of all types. With so many experiences and having tried so many things, our kids were able to find their passions and have spent untold hours learning, practicing, and honing their skills.

So, while we do bookwork as a backbone for some core learning, most of the education in our family doesn’t come from a curriculum, doesn’t come from checking off boxes, and doesn’t come from sitting down at a desk/table for hours on end. It comes from the lifestyle of learning we have cultivated in our house. We are homeschoolers.

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