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Should A Home Classroom "Look Like School"?

Earlier this week, my sister-in-law posted a photo of her family taking off for a day of skiing. She called it “playing hooky” and “on-location PE.” I respectfully suggest that only the second is correct. One of the joys of at-home schooling is that the classroom travels with you.

Which brings me to the topic I want to address this week. It is tempting to go with a clickbait title “Top 10 Mistakes New Homeschoolers Make” but I loathe clickbait, and I’m only covering one mistake. Or rather, one misconception: that the home classroom must look anything like an institutional school classroom.

When we first began exploring homeschooling, we did what many others do: visited a friend who had already been schooling successfully. This particular friend had been a schoolteacher previously, and her home classroom was amazing. She had a dedicated room with classic school desks, a blackboard, lovely posters. And it worked really well for her and her two children. She had the space to arrange things this way. She was working from her strength zone. And her kids, in addition to traditional classroom schoolwork, had several acres of country to run about in. A classroom that “looks like a school” can work very well.

But it isn’t the only way to do school at home. Our own arrangement is much more eclectic. Partly it’s a matter of space. Our home doesn’t have room for a dedicated classroom, and we have three times as many young scholars. But it’s also driven by changes in technology. Several of my children do some of their school online, whether through interactive classes using Zoom or an education portal, or using sites like DuoLingo, Khan Academy, or Typing Club. We only have a few computers and they’re scattered about the house wherever power outlets and wall space allow. Some tasks, like handwriting or workbooks, are done at the kitchen table.

And some classes are much more like my sister-in-law’s “field trip”. If the weather is beautiful, we move our classroom outside. We head to the zoo or a local park, using driving time to drill memory work, while using our time on location to get exercise, explore the natural world, and identify plants and animals. Or, if the weather is rainy, we might head to a museum and see works of art close up.

Maybe you remember from you own days of school someone from the AV Club wheeling in a TV and watching a video in lieu of lecture? Sometimes school can look like this as well. If the weather is especially awful, or we’re feeling low-energy, watching a recorded lecture or an episode of “The Hollow Crown” is also school.

Fundamentally, the purpose of homeschooling is education. It can look like “normal school”. But it doesn’t have to. If you are choosing activities that develop skills, broaden knowledge, and increase understanding, you are educating your children. Give yourself permission to see that even a ski trip is, properly speaking, also a school day. (Just don’t let the kids know. Stealth homeschooling is often the most effective kind.)

Want to learn more? We’re starting a weekly livestream at our YouTube channel every Wednesday at 6:30 AM Central Time. If that’s too early, catch the replay and be sure to leave any questions in the comments.

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