Yes, there is a difference. Homeschooling is much more than just bringing the books into the home. Homeschooling is a lifestyle; it involves every aspect of life, from schoolwork to free time, from your manner of dress to your manner of speech. Now, lest you close this book before we have even gotten acquainted, let me say that I am not an evil taskmaster, pushing you to conform to a rigid code of standards. Far from it, my version of homeschooling is relaxed and Guilt-Free. This is homeschooling, not school at home. You are free to do whatever works.
When I say homeschooling affects your manner of dress, I mean that it is OK to wear your pajamas — not something we want to see in public schools. I encourage Moms and kids to wear what is comfortable, whether that means sweatsuits or blue jeans. (I will address that pesky, little issue of denim jumpers later.) When you do leave the house, whether that is for a field trip or just shopping and errands, by all means look respectable, but do not go to the extreme of wearing your “Sunday best.” I personally feel that if I do not want to be seen in a stained T-shirt with holes in it, then I should not even wear it at home on laundry day — use it for waxing the car, and then throw it out. Another way homeschooling should affect your manner of dress will be covered more fully in the section on Role Modeling. For now, suffice it to say that we should be setting higher standards than “the world,” not copying what it does.
“Schooling at home” is an attempt to reproduce the government school model within the confines of your dwelling place. Shiny little desks lined up in rows, precise time requirements for starting and stopping each subject, never giving an inch from the tightly-planned schedule, using the exact same textbooks as the local school district — these are the earmarks of school at home. What is the point? Jesus came to set us free from the Law; we are not called to put ourselves back in bondage to it.
I do recommend having a designated place for doing schoolwork, but the dining room table works just fine. We also designated shelves to hold the schoolbooks when they were not in use, just to discourage clutter. When my students were smaller, we did use an enclosed back porch as our “schoolroom,” but as they became able to work on their own, they were rewarded with the privilege of going to their bedrooms to read or do other independent work. If you have the space available, a “schoolroom” does provide one collection area for all the textbooks, real books, reference books, art supplies, desk supplies, teaching aids, maps, charts, etc. You can never have too many shelves! Cupboards with doors are also a blessing for making things look tidier than they may actually be. Boxes or baskets are great for sorting and storing all the myriad of little “things” that tend to accumulate — I highly recommend stackable pencil boxes (we used to use Grandpa’s old cigar boxes, but now we can purchase very inexpensive ones decorated in kid-friendly themes).
Most importantly, fit homeschooling into your family’s lifestyle. Do not become enslaved to a schedule. “Life happens,” and we often find our schedule being tossed aside because someone got sick or some other such emergency came along. Sometimes the “emergency” is just a beautiful day that begs to be enjoyed. We can all benefit from the blessing of taking a day off just to enjoy God’s creations around us and fellowship with each other or with friends. An acquaintance who is a public school teacher informed me a few years ago that they were allowed a certain number of “mental health days” each year, similar to physical “sick days.” It is amazingly refreshing to both teacher and student to have a day free from duties, just for the purpose of relieving a little stress and re-ordering our thoughts.
How does homeschooling affect your entire lifestyle? I have found many ways that my “worldview” shifted when we had moved the education process back home where it belonged. I no longer looked at books as the only source for imparting knowledge. Some of our most important lessons have come from spontaneous conversations or circumstances. Learning does not stop at 3:15pm, nor does it cease during the summer months. Summer provides a great opportunity to concentrate on outdoor learning: swimming, bicycling, roller-blading, hiking, etc.
I also noticed a gradual change in my attitude toward my children and in my children’s attitudes toward us as parents. We became much closer as a family. We have come to support each other with a fierce loyalty. We enjoy opportunities to go out together to do even the mundane things as a family unit. Other people, even some homeschoolers, do not understand our preference to spend time together. If you have been homeschooling for a while, you may. If you still do not, read on.