“None of the noise matters. What matters is this child.” ~ Gwyn Ridenhour, TEDxBismarck

It has been sixteen years since we began homeschooling and six years since we finished (when our son went to college), but every once in awhile I still am asked what, exactly, homeschooling was like.

It’s a question that is both easy and impossible to answer.

The easy answer is that homeschooling was a lot like those years before a child reaches school age in terms of integrated and day-long and year-long learning, curiosity, and interest-based focus (think of how toddlers and preschoolers learn about life and their world simply by being in it and asking questions)–but with the depth and breadth suited to our son’s age. It seemed the only sensible choice at the time, although we had no idea then that we would continue through high school, and it was the best decision our family ever made.

The impossibility is that homeschooling is different for every family and often even for every child within a family. It also can change quite dramatically throughout a child’s homeschooling journey. There really was no typical day for us, no template or model that can be passed on to someone else. In many ways, that’s the point: It was now up to us to figure out what our son needed and what worked best for him, not just in terms of curriculum but also in terms of his personality and passions and evolving goals.

AsGwyn TEDx Gwyn Ridenhour (children’s librarian, education advocate, writer, and friend) explains in her recent TEDxBismarck talk, homeschooling or hybrid education asks us to address our fears as parents and give ourselves permission to do what works—without being unduly influenced by the latest trends or biggest headlines or even well-meaning advice from friends and family:

I see conflicting headlines in the media all the time telling us how we should live our lives. There’s this one: “10 Really Important Things You Should Do in Order Not to Feel Like You’re a Total Loser When Your’e 85.” These include things like writing a novel, climbing a mountain, traveling the world.

Ah, but then there’s this one: “10 Things Your’e Doing to Make Yourself Feel Terribly Important that Are Actually Making You a Terrible Parent.” And these include things like writing a novel, climbing a mountain, and traveling the the world.

And there’s a lot about helicopter parenting, and how we’re taking too much pride in our kids’ accomplishment. And there are articles about how terrible public schools are, and how they’re ruining our kids. And articles about how terrible homeschoolers are, and how they’re ruining their kids.

There’s so much shaming to be had, and it’s easy to pick and choose the messages that make us feel the worst about ourselves. [emphasis added] ~ Gwyn Ridenhour

Watch and listen to the rest of Gwyn’s talk, “Shaping a Creative Education,” below, and visit her blog STEAM-Powered Classroom.

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