Home Ed Q&A with virginia_unschoolers

Jazakillahkhair to Unschoolers from Virginia, USA. Lovely read and great advice!

1. When and why did you decide to Home Educate?

Our children have never been to school. I cannot remember when the formal decision was made to homeschool them, but it was sometime when they were very young, before they reached school age. 

2. What kind of approach do you take?

 We educate using an approach known as Unschooling. Wikipedia has very good general information on what the philosophy of Unschooling is. Here is an excerpt from the first paragraph: “Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life
experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child. While courses may occasionally be taken, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, conventional grading methods, and other features of traditional schooling in the education of each unique child.” 

3. Where do the children do most of their work? and do they distract each other?

I have always followed the Montessori philosophy that the child should naturally feel part of the home as much as possible in a way that is suitable and meaningful to
them.  The middle floor or our house is divided into two homeschooling/living areas. One side is our dining room/living room area. The older kids mostly use this area for work. They have a wooden table with two chairs they use as a desk and each of them has a shelving system where they keep there books, paper, pencils and that sort of stuff near by. Our home library is also located in this area, and all the lower shelves are for my Preschooler and 1st grader, with the older kids books being on higher shelves, and the adult books being completely separate.  On the other side of the house  there is family room/playroom area which is also where the television is located.  For many years the playroom was our main homeschool area, and we’ve gone through many revisions of that as the younger kids grew older, Ma Sha Allah, and now it mainly is used by my Preschool and 1
st grader.  This set up allows for a natural sepearation of noise and quiet. 

The way we approach studying right now is one child at a time. Those who are not studying need to find something else to do, and help out with the younger kids so the one who is studying can concentrate and have more of my availability. In Sha Allah. This works well , Alhumdullilah, but nothing is perfect, and there are times when things get out of control. Its just a natural consequence of the behavior of young children. Ma Sha Allah. 

4.  What is your favourite thing about Home Education? 
Its hard to pick one thing, but I would say flexibility. There is so much flexibility in homeschooling that you can’t get in other situations. 

5. What subjects do you teach and do you stick to a timetable? 
Our state, Virginia, in the United States, requires something called 'Proof of Progress' due each year by August 1st. There are a few ways to do this, and we choose the option of standardized state testing. The state requires children who are age 6 at the beginning of the school year to be tested on Language Arts and Math, so we focus on that the most. They also learn the other basic subjects such as Science and Social Studies, and once they are over age 7 they begin Quran studies. 

6.  What do you find most difficult and why?

I struggle with  having to be “on”  all day. Balancing educational needs with home
duties is something I had to grow into. Homeschooling is a lifestyle. Just like working, or having kids in school. Those are specific lifestyles and you learn to adapt to those lifestyles. 

7.  How do you react to people asking about socialisation, do your children easily socialise and work well with others?

I don’t get this question a lot.  My answer to that would be that we engage in a variety of extra curricular activities through our homeschooling community, and our local community. 

8.  Have family supported your decision?

Yes. Alhumdullilah. 

9.  How do you incorporate Physical Education into your Home Ed days?

Physical Education is done through natural play in our back yard or at a local park, and some organized classes such as swimming or sports through our local rec center. We also attend a weekly, and a monthly park day, with other local Unschoolers where the kids free play for the afternoon at local playgrounds which have swings, slides, sandboxes and that sort of thing. One also has a sand volleyball court, a basketball court and both have skate parks. All of which the kids utilize for physical play. Ma Sha Allah. 

10) Do you plan and how  far in advance?

No. I do not plan out school work in advance unless there is a specific need to do so. I have a general idea of what needs to get done each day, and we work toward that. It can change weekly or daily. As we get closer to the end of the year and we need to prepare for testing we do have a more organized schedule, again because specific things need to be accomplished. 

11) What's a typical Home Ed day like?

On the days we are home we usually start school work after breakfast, which happens after I feed my Preschooler. Generally everyone works one at a time. So I will get all the work done with one child, then another one will go. This gives the child I’m working with my full attention as much as I’m able In Sha Allah.  Again, we are Unschoolers so we don’t do a lot of heavy formal academics, so we don’t spend large amounts of time doing book work. 

12) Do you spend a lot of money on resources?

No. We do not use a curriculum
so we do not have a need for specific materials, other than spiral notebooks, pencils, pens, erasers, that sort of everyday thing.  When we do need something specific my first place to look is our local dollar store, where everything is a dollar. 

13) How do you make time for yourself?

That is a tricky one. I honestly only get real time to myself at night once everyone is asleep. During the day I just catch breaks or moments whenever I can rest for a little bit. 

14) What advice would you give to someone just starting their Home Ed journey?

My advice would be again think of homeschooling as a life style. Also be flexible. Part of some advice I heard at a homeschooling conference years before I even had kids, Ma Sha Allah, : Take it one year at a time.  What you did this year may not work for your family next year. You may have circumstances that don’t allow you to do certain things that you did the previous year. You may have a curriculum you love but your kids hate. You may want to put your kids in activities but they don’t want to do that specific thing.  It could be any combination of things. Be flexible and remember it’s the child’s journey.  Also, surround yourself with like minded people who will encourage you when you need it or who you can talk with. In Sha Allah. Could be a homeschool forum, or group, or real people in a local homeschool group.  And of course always ask Allah to bless, and accept your efforts.

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