Why Kim homeschools: ‘It’s magical to see’
Kim shares why she homeschools, how they've leveraged a homeschool charter school, and why she's an eclectic unschooler.
Editor’s note: This interview is part of our I homeschool because article series. The goal of these stories is to showcase differing firsthand experiences and approaches to homeschooling. They’re not meant to be prescriptive or to say this is the “right way” to homeschool or that this is the only valid approach. We hope this series inspires you to find what works best for your family.
Meet Kim E: Outschooler & unschooler
This blog is based on an interview with Kim, about why she chooses to homeschool as part of our “I homeschool because” series. Kim shares why her family began homeschooling, their experience with a charter school, how child-led learning helps her children thrive, what it means to be an eclectic unschooler, and more.
Throughout the interview, Kim’s genuineness shines through as she speaks about the respect she has for her child’s learning process. She also encourages homeschool families to stray away from comparison, because it’s okay to be different.
Kim works full-time as a CX Operations Lead at Outschool and unschools her two children, Ben and Caddie, who are 10 and 8. Their family lives in LA County outside of the city, and as Kim puts it, they “fell into homeschooling accidentally.”
When it was time to enroll 5-year-old Ben into Kindergarten, which is not required in the state of California, he was having some medical issues.
Ben’s parents decided he was only going to Kindergarten for socialization, and if that was the case, then his medical issues would have been enough to prevent the full Kindergarten socialization experience.
So they ultimately decided to keep him home.
“We always kind of said that maybe we’d put him back in school when he was ready. I always thought I would be the PTA mom, not the homeschool mom. I grew up in public school with a public school teacher as a mom. I thought public school would be my future and my kids’ future, so it surprised me that we enjoyed homeschooling.”
Kim said Ben loved homeschooling, so they continued to keep him home for first grade. It was this year that Kim figured out an important aspect of learning.
Children can thrive with child-led learning
From our interview, I could immediately tell that Kim is passionate about allowing children to follow their interests and passions, especially when it comes to their education. It’s because she witnessed it (and continues to witness it) with her own children.
After going through multiple different math curriculums to find the one Ben liked, he went to his mom a month later and asked, “Mom, what do we do after we finish the book?” She explained to him that there were 4 sections and each needed to be completed, but he responded, “Yea, and then what?”. Ben followed his interest and finished the math curriculum book.
In fact, within the first year or so of homeschooling, Ben finished multiple grades of math and now, as a 10-year-old, is taking algebra.
“That was when I figured out that he was really able to thrive learning what he wanted to learn. I think part of homeschooling is they’re very asynchronous learners. They can thrive in learning, because of asynchronous learning.”
Far different from traditional school, asynchronous learning is education that doesn’t occur at the same place or at the same time. For Kim, utilizing a charter school initially worked for her family; however, when her children advanced in certain areas, it was time for a change.
From charter school enrollment to disenrollment
“For all technical purposes, a charter school is a public school. It’s just a public school that allows you to do independent study where you create your own curriculum,” says Kim. “One of the reasons why people will use charter schools is because you get funding to pay for curriculum.”
Families are required to send in documentation regularly to show their child is learning and completing work. This is one of the main reasons why they disenrolled from the charter school, when her kids were surpassing the “technical” grade level work.
“We hit a point where they were asking our kids to do busy work to prove that they can do grade level work, even though they were working beyond,” says Kim. “Ben was doing 8th-grade math, but they were requiring work samples to prove 3rd-grade math.”
In the end, the charter school requirements became counterintuitive to their child-led learning principles, and they decided to disenroll altogether. Today, their eclectic unschooling education works best for their children’s overall needs and interests.
What it means to be ‘eclectic unschoolers’
For Kim, it’s not her job to teach her children what to learn, but how to learn.
“By teaching them how to investigate something and how to become strong learners, they’re able to take that and apply it to multiple topics,” says Kim. “So we teach them how to find their sources and how to investigate something, rather than sit down and read this book about history because you need to learn this.”
In terms of being eclectic, they pull together all kinds of different pieces into whatever works for them, and would never say anything is off the table.
I think sometimes people connect unschooling as having no curriculum, and unschooling isn’t about having no curriculum. It’s just about letting the kids learn about what they’re interested in when they’re interested in it.
Kim takes into account that her children are two different learners, and curriculum needs change and are very different for every child.
“Sometimes we have to find very different things that work for both of them,” says Kim. “Then sometimes we’ll do something that doesn’t align with either of them, just because they could both benefit from it.”
So far, Kim hasn’t run into any challenges with homeschooling two different-aged children, because they’re only one grade level apart. She does assert it’s hard to balance working full-time while homeschooling. But they make it work because Kim and the kids want to make it work. So, the nature of eclectic unschooling means at times, homeschooling happens in different ways.
“Sometimes homeschooling is a science experiment over lunch, and sometimes homeschooling is math on the weekends in a tent in the backyard. And that’s okay. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be school hours every single day.”
How Kim and her kids use Outschool to foster learning
From courses about the law to ice cream making to video games, Ben and Caddie have explored so many different topics. In terms of academics, sometimes they’ll find a class because they’re learning about a specific subject.
Kim has even found Outschool classes to help her kid’s overcome challenges in certain areas. An example she gives is about her son’s struggle with writing confidence:
“Ben kept telling us that he didn’t like writing. What we were trying to explain to him was that he didn’t like handwriting, but there’s a story-creation side of writing that he hadn’t explored.
"So we put him in a one-on-one class with somebody who loves writing and is very passionate about writing to teach him from a writer’s perspective. He became very interested in writing and found his specific passion for it. He discovered that he really likes writing science fiction.”
Ben ended up taking the course for more than 6 months, meeting one-on-one with the teacher every week to draft a book together.
This approach illustrates another example of Kim’s unschooling method of education. Ben wasn’t forced to take the class, instead, she got creative in terms of explaining the benefits of the class. When Kim framed the experience as being able to meet somebody who writes for a living, she said Ben loved it.
Thanks to the many different learning options, Kim says, “Outschool helps us look at things from a different perspective.”
Advice for fellow homeschoolers
For Kim’s family, they school year-round, because she knows her kids are learning all the time anyway.
Two things she wishes she’d known from the beginning are:
Homeschooling doesn’t have to be public school at home.
Sometimes homeschooling is hard, and that’s okay. Lean on other people and take breaks.
She also advises experimenting and trying new things, because there’s no one set rule for homeschooling.
“I think it kind of comes back to you can’t compare yourself to other people in life, and the same thing applies to homeschooling,” says Kim. “Everybody's homeschool journey looks different, and that’s okay.”
Kim’s favorite part about educating at home
A common thing traditionally schooled parents struggle with is learning about their child’s school day. I remember at the beginning of the school year when my Instagram was flooded with suggestions on how to get your school-aged child to talk about their day.
One of the perks of homeschooling is the ability to watch your child learn and see them grow throughout the year. Kim agrees.
“You can actually see them internalize the process and understand what they’re doing. That’s just amazing. It’s magical to see them get from one step to the next and to take the process that they’re using and take it one step further.”
Kim’s been able to witness both Ben and Caddie take what they’ve learned and create amazing things.
Ben built a museum in his living room, because he was really into researching and learning about recycling. He called it a “Found Art” museum in which he made art out of trash and recycling. He displayed the art on tables and on the walls, each with their own name placard, and gave tours.
Caddie, at one point, was interested in learning about ancient Greece and Greek mythology. So, she hosted the Greek Olympics in her backyard. They all dressed up like Greek Gods and Goddesses and held the Olympics, including a tortilla throw and relay races.
For Kim, there’s nothing better than watching her children go above and take control of what they’re learning and put it in their own direction. As Kim said:
Watching them come up with the things that they want to learn and ways that they want to express their learning is just magical.
For more information on how to homeschool, check out Outschool’s How to Homeschool eBook, your one-stop resource to help you start homeschooling today.