Homeschooling: The Butterfly Approach to Learning
By Linda Dobson
As I begin work on this book, leaves rapidly falling from the trees swirl in wind guests, delivering the unmistakable scent of autumn. Yet the monster marigolds outside my large picture window remain amazingly vibrant, attracting a monarch butterfly slowly flitting from flower to flower. I pause to watch.
What a wonderful vision to introduce a discourse on the practices and lessons that homeschooling families have gleaned as they learn at home with their children. That gorgeous black and orange creature appears to go about its innate goal in a random, almost haphazard fashion. We understand, though, through our experience and observation of many butterflies over the years, that it is doing what comes naturally, seeking what it needs when it needs it, perfectly capable of surviving just as it should.
Homeschooling Like a Butterfly
Many of the homeschooling children I have met over the last eighteen years go about learning and living in much the same way. Indeed, compared to the order and regulation of public schooling with which most of us are familiar, a homeschooling child’s education often appears to unfold in a manner as random as the butterfly’s. Yet those who live with and observe these children have come to understand there is order in the chaos. It’s just that the order is dictated to a great extent by the children’s needs and interests rather than by a somewhat arbitrary school schedule and curriculum.
Viewed this way, homeschooling is really a surprisingly simple concept, if only we (a) accept that each child is different; develooping at her own rate intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually; and dreaming dreams unique to her experience and innermost calling and (b) open our minds to the possibility that the commonly accepted school schedule and curriculum as the way to learn isn’t the only way, and may not even be the best way for all of those uniquely different children.
The good news is that if you can accept part (a), it’s relatively easy to wrap your mind around part (b), that the school schedule and curriculum may not be the best way for all children to learn. As you travel around this website, try to keep in mind this fundamental distinction made by homeschooling families and think in terms of how you can apply it to your own family. The important thing to remember is that the order of education is dictated by the child’s needs and interests rather than by a rigid school schedule and curriculum.
Two Priorities of Successful Homeschooling
For a previous book titled Homeschoolers’ Success Stories, I had the privilege of interviewing two dozen adults who experienced homeschooling as they grew. These folks were successful whether their families used a curriculum or not. They succeeded if their families were rich or poor. Success occurred regardless of the families’ reasons to begin homeschooling. Indeed, there were only two threads common to their diverse experiences:
1. They used as much time as possible to learn about and participate in topics of personal interest;
2. They received understanding, help, and advocacy from parents or other significant adults.
Homeschooling success rests on two priorities: Giving the child as much freedom of time as possible and giving the child as much adult support as possible. This is the learning lifestyle of homeschooling families. Think of it as the foundation upon which all your activity will build. Consider your child as the unique learner she is before before focusing on creating a favorable homeschooling environment. Last, but certainly not least important, consider the extremely important role you play as parent, from allowing your child to witness your own learning mistakes and victories to helping out with the homeschooling learning process.
Begin to imagine what life would be like if, when it comes to your children’s education, it occurs in a way that best serves their needs, goals, and dreams, instead of the goals of strangers.
May the learning road rise up to meet you.