I was telling a friend the other day that there are some questions about homeschooling I don't really like to always answer especially among other homeschoolers. Some of those questions are: How many hours a day to you spend on schoolwork? What kind of Language Arts (or other subject) curriculum do you use? What kind of homeschooling philosophy do you believe? How can you get everything done in 4 days? On the surface these seem like very curious questions, but it also can get a bit uncomfortable when you get into a conversation with someone who believes that their homeschooling methods are "right" and yours are "wrong." I absolutely shocked another homeschooler one day when I told her that we did not use a formal Language Arts curriculum, we did "school" only 4 days a week and for less than 3 hours a day. She had a more formal homeschooling style with a textbook for every subject and spent 6 hours a day 5 days a week on homeschooling. So who's style is right?
There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. One of the biggest benefits to be able to homeschool is the ability to cater our style to our own family and sometimes to each individual child. Some children may learn better doing everything out of a textbook, while others need to do a hands on project to understand what they are learning. Some families don't take a lot of educational field trips or extra curricular activities and some do all of their schoolwork that day. The only way you can tell if something is "right" is if it works for your family. Are you/your child happy with what you are doing? Is the child excited to do "school" (OK maybe not every subject), is your child learning?
There is a danger among homeschoolers (just like anything else) to be judgemental about what other people are doing/not doing in their homeschools. We should be encouraging to others and not make them feel like they are doing something wrong because their homeschool is different than ours. Especially with people that are just getting started and are not very confident in what they are doing. You may end up convincing them that they are doing something "wrong" and they could give up on homeschooling altogether. You also may find yourself in a different life situation (new baby, move, illness, injury) that may completely change your homeschooling philosophy and one of those "methods" you thought was just crazy may become yours.
I admit I have been guilty of this myself at times. Just as some people think I am not doing enough bookwork with my kids, it is hard for me to understand when there is a great hands on fun educational activity, or a community service to participate in why some people feel it is more important to get their book work done. But, again that is not my family and everybody should do what works out best for their family.
That's not to say that we should not give or offer advice (to those who want it.) I have learned so much about homeschooling by talking to other homeschoolers and asking lots of questions. I like to say something like this, "This is what we have found about.....or This is what I have found works for best for us.....In that kind of situation I.....or My son's favorite way to learn .......is....." There are lots of ways to offer advice or suggestions without making someone feel like because their homeschool doesn't match yours they are wrong. Oh, and try not to worry if you are doing OK, or doing something wrong. Kids are like sponges and they will learn no matter what......even if you don't make them diagram sentences :).