Back to Homeschool

I wrote this about a dozen years ago, when my youngest kids were just becoming teenagers. While “edupreneurs” and the like looking to tap into homeschoolers as a market have created huge changes in the homeschooling landscape, the slow homeschooling our family and so many others enjoyed is still an available option. Slow homeschooling prioritizes respectful relationships and mindfulness of each individual’s time, resources, gifts and interests. As families decide whether to keep or start homeschooling, and how to structure their upcoming year, I offer up these words from long ago.

It’s the middle of August, and summer is winding down. September looms, and with it the beginning of the school year. Just what does “back to school” mean for homeschoolers?

There isn’t one answer to that question. All homeschooling families are different, and one of the great benefits of homeschooling is that we’re not bound to academic calendars that rule the lives of families with kids in school.

That’s how I envisioned it, anyway. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way. My kids may not be heading to school every morning come September, but what we call our “year” will start. It’s time to gear up for dance classes, orchestra, chorus, and writing group. It’s time to decide whether we’re going to add any of the other amazing offerings available to us – nature classes or math club. Or perhaps this year my daughter will take her first community college class. We’ll see.

Photo by cottonbro on

I’m not complaining. Even in this lifestyle centered around the “academic” year, we have lots of freedom to choose, room to explore, and flexibility in our lives and our learning. Besides, there doesn’t seem to be a way around it. The groups and activities my kids want to be involved in abide by the school calendar. Summer is vacation time. That’s just one of the rhythms of the world in which we live.

I can’t help but think about that idyllic vision I started out with, though, the one where learning happens all the time, and life simply flows from one season to another without arbitrary cutoffs for what happens when.

When my kids were little, life was more like that. Days were spent at the library, museums, the park, the beach, sledding, or just at home playing – whatever was appropriate and felt right in the moment. Life was rich, filled with happiness, learning, and authenticity. There was no big gear up in August, no trying to figure out just what we’re going to do this year to facilitate rewarding and satisfying lives for everyone.

These days, life is still full, but in a different way. Older kids develop interests and drives that need to be nurtured. We’re still learning 365 days a year, but in order to participate in the social, academic, cultural, and artistic activities my kids choose, we inevitably fall into the conventional “back to school” pattern.

I guess that’s not so bad, especially when all the things we’re looking forward to beginning or resuming are fun and exciting. But sometimes homeschoolers get so drawn into mining available resources for opportunities that they forget that lazy summer days provide benefits no class or program can. It’s the unscheduled moments that help our kids learn introspection and how to fill their own time. It’s solitude that allows people to know themselves and recharge their batteries for interaction and participation in the larger world.

In the sometimes frantic “back to school” rush, we homeschoolers have the luxury of taking a deep breath, stepping back, and remembering some of the reasons we chose to homeschool in the first place. As September approaches and you need to decide how to commence your homeschooling year, let that sink in and guide your family’s choices for a productive fall and beyond.

This article first appeared at


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