by Editor Rebecka Hoyt with Photos submitted by Ashley Hanson
As the school year comes to a close, we decided to include our local homeschooling students in this spotlight as well. They will also be included in the student spotlight rotation when school starts back up this fall. I asked Ashley Hanson all about how homeschooling has been going for the last 2 years for her and her son, AJ via e-mail.
Ashley and AJ started homeschooling during AJ’s 5th grade year. They are planning to go as long as they can up through graduating. “We plan on homeschooling until we can’t anymore…for whatever reason…AJ wants a change, or I can’t manage teaching him higher level education…hopefully, we can kick it til graduation,” states Ashley. I have wondered about what kids think about homeschooling. AJ likes most of it. Ashley says, “We unschool, so it’s a more lax style of learning. He kind of directs the day. I come up with things I want to go over and he decides what we learn and when…for the most part. We don’t stop learning for summer. He doesn’t love that part, but he sleeps till 10 most days and gets to stay up pretty much as late as he wants.”
AJ has quite a social life of friends that he has met through homeschooling that are all around the world, but he has also kept in touch with his friends from BCS. They were a part of the Berrien Springs Partnership for homeschooling. “He could take classes, such as voice class, for free through the program. He has taken archery, cooking, electronic music…there are many possibilities. Kids can take up to 4 classes/semester. We chose only one last year because things were still virtual, and we don’t do virtual well,” stated Ashley.
One thing that comes to my mind about homeschooling is what and how should you teach your children? The Hanson’s don’t use a curriculum, and instead they “Unschool, which means take what you learned about school and forget that. Think about how you learn new things…you get books, or find videos, or do the thing you want to learn more about. Well, that’s how we learn too. AJ wanted to know about healing crystals this year…we visited rock shops across Michiana, talked to people in the field, watched videos, read books, bought crystals…this lead to other alternative healing practices…he now sages his room when he feels like he needs a cleansing, he puts his amethyst and lavender by his bed because he learned from experiences that they help him be calm. Project based learning, YouTube videos, documentaries, books, current age appropriate magazines…that’s our “curriculum”,” explains Ashley.
As with anything in life, homeschooling can be challenging. Their biggest challenge: “we spend too much time together. We love each other, but I am his teacher, co worker, best friend (so he says, most days)…it’s a lot of time with ANYONE…we’re learning to take more breaks from one another. He gets plenty of social time so we don’t drive each other TOO crazy,” says Ashley.
They don’t stick with schedules as those can be overwhelming for them. But Ashley does set due dates for certain projects/chores. Although, they do “chill and just BE…EVERYDAY,” Ashley states.
When I asked what are the pros and cons, if any, of homeschooling Ashley said, “pros…I get to decide exactly what my child learns, I do not send my kid to be molded by someone else for hours a day. Cons…I don’t send my kid aways for hours a day.” To homeschool AJ, it was not a challenging decision for her. She said that “middle school was changing my child…it was making him feel like he needed to conform to be popular and it was killing his free spirit. BEST PARENTING DECISION EVER.”
I wanted to know what things that AJ and her liked/disliked about homeschooling. Ashley answered for the both of them with, “being able to go with the flow. We do what we want and it’s great. THE FREEDOM is the best part. The freedom can be a con sometimes too…keeping up some type of regiment just make sure we are continually learning and working towards the end goal of making AJ be as well adjusted as he can possibly be as an adult…not sure I know too many well adjusted adults, but I am going to try my best.”
They also go on field trips. “We go to the zoo, nature preserves, the movies. It also depends on what they’re learning..we go where the lesson(s) take us. Last year we went to Washington DC,” answered Ashley. Their favorite subjects are science and geography/culture. Writing and reading is the least favorite.
I asked Ashley what is something that you want our community to know about homeschooling and anything else that you want to add? “School is the least effective way to learn things in my opinion. Nobody learns by force or on some predetermined time frame. Learning organically as things happen and when the learner is ready…that’s how we learn. Otherwise we are only memorizing things we probably don’t really care about, and ultimately will forget after being tested on the material. We do not test or have grades…those are both arbitrary tools to see what the individual knows or has retained the given information. I am around AJ as he is learning…I do not need to test him. Life is a test enough. When we require a test or a book report…that learning has just become a chore.”
* The above discussed is independent homeschooling and is not associated with Buchanan Community Schools.