How We Homeschool: Interview with myself

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Micaela of the multiple wonderful homeschool link-ups is asking for posts on how different families homeschool.  Since these are the kinds of blog posts for which I scoured the Internet at all hours of the night when I was starting out, or even now when I’m needing some new ideas, I’m going to add in my two cents, answering Micaela’s questions as well as a few of my own.

How long have you been homeschooling?

5 years total.  We started when our oldest was 4 1/2 and needed some structure to his day.  We took a break for a year and a half when we remodeled our home after two floods.  We returned to homeschooling when life settled down again.

How many kids are in your family? How many are homeschooled? Are any schooled in a more traditional way?  

We have 5 children ages 10 1/2 to 1 1/2.  The older four were all homeschooled this past year, but next year one of them will go to the private school where my husband teaches.

What laws, if any, are there in your state regarding homeschooling? How does your family meet compliance?

In Texas, a homeschool is considered a private school and is not regulated.  There is a law stating that homeschools are required to teach reading, spelling, grammar, math, and good citizenship, but no one checks to make sure we do that.

Because we used some special education resources in the public school for a time, we received a few letters from the school asking us to register our homeschool with the local district so we could continue to receive services.  We didn’t need the services.  Texas doesn’t offer any other help or resources to homeschoolers.

We teach a lot more than the 5 required subjects, and I keep some records, so we’d be fine if we ever moved to a state that actually regulated homeschooling.

Switching gears here: if you could summarize your homeschool philosophy in one sentence or mission statement, what would that be?

Love God and love learning!

What is your homeschooling style?

Eclectic, I guess–I plan my expectations in terms of the classical stages of learning, but I use Charlotte Mason’s methods for science and writing.  But I tend to think Charlotte Mason is a classicist too.

Do you follow any set curriculum?

Over the 5 years we’ve been homeschooling, I have purchased complete curriculum from 3 different providers–Mother of Divine Grace, Catholic Heritage Curricula, and Sonlight.  Although I never used any of them exactly as written, these lesson plans gave me a good sense of what is typical work for each elementary school grade level.

Now I’m comfortable compiling my own curriculum, and this is what we used last year.

MathSingapore and Saxon

PhonicsSonlight beginning readers with Explode the Code workbooks, and All About Spelling

Memoria Press Latin, Saxon Grammar, The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child

We read a lot of books from the Sonlight cores but also draw from our own bookshelves of classic children’s literature.

Our garden produces only a handful of vegetables each year and is usually overrun with weeds.  But it is an invaluable learning resource for our homeschool.

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What do your best homeschooling moments look like?  

My favorite homeschooling moments are when we are all engrossed in something together–either listening to a wonderful story or exploring the natural world.

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Park near our home after all the bluebonnets have gone to seed.

This spring, we did one whole week of just gardening and reading.  We all worked in the yard all morning, five days in a row, pulling weeds and planting seeds.

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The kids were an enormous help and they learned tons.  They picked grubs out of the dirt, found a garden snake, played with lizards, re-potted all our houseplants, and planned a little pond.  Then we came inside after lunch and read stories together.  That was an almost perfect week for me.

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What do your not-so-good moments look like?  How do you stay on track?

A not-so-good day usually involves me not starting school on time but still expecting the kids to get the same amount of work done.  They do not like to be hurried.

I stay on track by getting up early in the morning to read the Bible, pray, and go to the gym.  I make time to see my friends and to keep up my intellectual life.  I also have a weekly homeschool check-in with my super-supportive husband.

How do you keep any non-school-aged kids busy?

Toys, markers on the white board, holding him on my lap, and asking the older kids to take turns playing with him.  Sometimes this works better than others.

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What about socialization?

There are tons of studies out there showing homeschooled kids are just as well socialized as other kids.  In some areas (political engagement and volunteerism), they seem to do better.  However, day-to-day, I’ll be honest and say it can feel lonesome when we’re taking our nature walk through an empty, ghost-town-like neighborhood.  And then later drive by the elementary school playground teeming with kids.

Homeschool support groups are really important for making friends you can hang out with during the day.  Sometimes you gotta drive a ways to the events, and it can be a real pain with a fussy baby or a toddler who needs a nap.  But it’s worth it.

I’m also going to go ahead and say sometimes it’s still not enough.  Many days you’re going to have to stay home and let the baby take a good nap and the 5th grader finish a complicated math lesson.  I have a very extroverted child for whom once-a-month, once-a-week, even twice-a-week homeschool support group events are not enough.  He wants to be with friends every day AND play with siblings and neighbor kids every afternoon.  He’s the one going to school next year. 🙂

When do you do housework or run errands?

When our oldest was just starting kindergarten, I often did housework, errands, and playdates in the morning and did a little schoolwork with him in the afternoon while the little ones were resting.  This worked well for awhile, but as the homeschool has grown to include more students, we can’t finish it all during the space of the toddler’s nap.  Also, now I need a nap most days!

I think of homeschooling as my job and plan life differently than when I was a stay-at-home mom of just little ones.  Like many moms who work outside the home, I do errands on the weekends.  I get laundry and house business done in the late afternoons.

At several different points in time one or another of our kids has needed medical therapy, which we’ve done in the afternoons after school hours.  We hired a housecleaner during those times.  Right now, the kids and I devote one afternoon a week to cleaning the house.

I don’t cook fancy meals at all.  I had minor surgery about a month ago, and several people brought us absolutely delicious meals.  The kids were rather astonished to eat flavorful, well-prepared food (ie, something other than a slab of meat in the crock-pot).  I guess our palates have really taken a hit due to homeschooling.

What do you do in the summer?

Older kids practice math facts and piano; everyone reads.  We’d do that even if they went to school, and I am always so grateful to be “just” a stay-at-home mom during the summers.

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If you could give any homeschool advice to a new mom starting out, what would it be?

1. Take it slow and easy.  (That’s also the advice I need to give myself most of the time!)

2. Get to know older, experienced homeschooling moms who can give you perspective.  I once went to a mom of 10 and asked her if I could watch her homeschool for a day.  She was too self-conscious to let me do that, but she did invite me over and show me all her set-up and books and organization systems and answered millions of questions for me.  Those conversations were more helpful than most of the books I’d read.

3. NEVER stop having afternoon rest time.

Also check these out from the files…

Our Educational Philosophy

What worked/ What didn’t this school year (including recordkeeping)

One of our “best homeschooling moments”

Mid-year review with extracurriculars

The new school year always begins with such grandiose plans

 

 

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12 thoughts on “How We Homeschool: Interview with myself

  1. Hi! I’m just a homeschooling graduate passing through and I wanted to compliment you on your post. I think it’s great that you make sure that your social child will have access to a school outside of home, while those who prefer homeschooling can stay. I think it’s great that you are taking your childrens’ needs into account.

    Your post is a breath of fresh air because I like to check out what the conversation from homeschooling parents ever so often to see what the trends currently are, but I am often pained by what I see. You see, homeschooling was a wonderful thing for me in many ways, but it also failed me tremendously in others. When you mention that studies show that homeschoolers are just as well socialized as public schoolers, I cringe inside. The studies I have read that claim this are deeply flawed. Because there is no way to actually know how many homeschoolers are in our country due to very lax regulations in many states, studies have to rely on testing centers and homeschool support groups to try to find candidates. This, of course, results in selecting homeschoolers for study that tend to be more academically advanced and more socially connected than the average, since not all homeschoolers have to take tests, and not all are part of support groups. In addition, the vast majority of homeschoolers come from two-parent, middle-to-upper-class families with a stay at home parent. They also tend to be white, Christian/Catholic. These sorts of families cannot be fairly compared to the average public schooling family, which includes a much more diverse spectrum of living situations, socio-economic situations, environments, and challenges. In fact, considering that these studies select only the highest-performing, most socially-connected homeschoolers who tend to have stable, two-parent, comfortable-income homes, I am rather chilled by the fact that homeschoolers only SLIGHTLY outperform the average public schooler in terms of socialization.

    This is NOT to say that homeschooling cannot produce well-socialized children. It can (I’m married to one). But as a graduate that was homeschooled k-12, I beg you not to take this issue lightly. I probably would have been considered well socialized by many tests. However, I was never socialized with people who were not like me. A homeschool group that is primarily made up of other Christian/Catholic, middle-class, homeschooling members is hardly a place to learn how to understand people of different beliefs, cultures, and values. It also reinforces for a child a strong “us against them” mentality that, I think, the educating parent often does not even realize or intend. In addition, when I left home, I also found that I was woefully uneducated in modern culture. I’m not talking about sex and drugs, I’m talking about TV shows, music, pop-culture icons, and other things that the rest of my peers use to relate to each other and communicate. These things might as well have been another language for me, and it is very alienating to feel like a foreigner in your own country. Now, this particular issue may have been more the result of my parents’ over-sheltering, but it can often get tied up in a lack of adequate socialization since other peers would have been able to share this knowledge with me.

    Finally, and probably most harmfully, if a child does not have enough access to ideas, beliefs, and friends outside of their homeschooling circles, it can leave them intellectually stunted. In a public or private school setting, children will naturally learn to filter through different ideas and opinions since they will have different teachers, different educational authorities, diverse peers (hopefully), and they will have access to a huge range of information (sometimes too much). But for a homeschooler, all education tends to come from one source: the parent. Always. Sure, I was encouraged to read books and learn from them, but in the end, “Truth” was always from the words of my parents because books could contain lies. Outside educators could be teaching lies. Nothing could be trusted without sending it through their filter. And all information that I accessed was at least a little bit subject to their discretion. I mean, did I really want to check that sex-education book out from the library, knowing that my mother might see it? How could I be sure if it’s totally fine or if she is going to tell me that Satan was tempting me? How about that science book? It has Evolution in it. Is that okay, or will I be told that it was wrong of me to look at it? What if I read something in a book that makes sense to me but I’m not sure if my parents would agree with it? Who can I talk to about it besides them? No one. And so I didn’t talk.

    Do you see how this absolute educational Authority can stunt a person’s growth and curiosity without that parent even intentionally saying a word?

    I’m not saying that parents shouldn’t offer their own input on things that a child hears or reads or sees. But I think many homeschooling parents do not realize the position of ultimate educational Authority that they are in for their homeschooled children if the child does not have adequate access to other viewpoints and materials away from them. And maybe some realize that authority and like it. But it is not healthy. It creates adults who do not know how to form their own moral decisions. It creates adults who have been taught “always question everything and never trust what you read” but have no idea how to honestly evaluate the merit of an idea or opinion outside of “does it fit with what my parents taught me or not?” Children need to be developing these skills at a much earlier age than I did in order to be safe and well-adjusted, and it can be very hard to do in a homeschooling environment without adequate socialization. This caused me enormous struggles as an adult, and I am not alone in this; I know many peers in the same boat.

    So, I know that this has gotten to be quite a novel of a comment. I apologize. Your post struck a chord with me because I so often see parents dismiss the concern of “socialization” and it means a lot to me to see a homeschooling parent who is clearly thinking about it very seriously. Since I know that many homeschooling parents will probably not pay much attention to your concerns, I want to encourage you to continue to be serious about it. I want you to be aware of the pitfalls that many homeschooling parents are not aware of, so that you can ensure that you continue to avoid them for your children. I want to promise you that homeschooling can produce wonderfully socialized children and adults, but that there are serious dangers along the way that need to be pointed out in order to be avoided. After all, the voice that seems to be most often ignored in the homeschooling community is that of homeschooling graduates…

    In closing, all the best to you in your endeavors! I may not be religious, but I hope that your family is richly blessed all the same! 🙂

    -Evan

    • Evan, I’m sorry to hear that you feel like homeschoolers don’t listen to your perspective.

      However, I’ve never seen any criticism of the methodology of the famous studies showing most homeschooled kids grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults. A quick Google search turns up nothing but personal opinions.

      I thought it was fascinating that, in those studies, income level made no significant difference in the achievement of homeschoolers. Income level makes ALL the difference among public-schooled kids. Even if homeschooling was guaranteed to turn out quirkier adults, that alone would make it worth promoting among lower-income families.

      It’s my opinion that how kids “turn out” emotionally has more to do with the family’s internal culture, which it’s up to the parents to cultivate, than with the way the kids were schooled.

      • I do agree in large part with your statement that how kids turn how has most to do with the family’s internal culture. But homeschooling does play a big role in that… particularly since it dramatically changes the way that the child interacts with and relates to that internal culture. This can be hard to fully understand without having lived it. It does not take a “bad parent” to make homeschooling go wrong… just a parent with good intentions but poor decisions.

        Since the homeschooling movement as we know it is something that is still quite new, I feel it is important for the current generation of homeschooling parents to be aware of the mistakes of the older generation so they can avoid them. As I am among the first waves of homeschooling graduates that was turned out by the movement, I feel it is my responsibility to raise awareness about the positive and negative aspects of homeschooling in order to improve it for the next generation. I love homeschooling as a concept! I was given a spectacular academic education, which has built the foundation for my current success. But I was given a terrible social, moral, and ethical education, which caused years and years of confusion, depression, pain, and ultimately contributed to the tearing apart of my family, and for that, I am sad. And among my peers, I have seen all manner of harmful effects as well, stemming from many different things. I’ve seen girls forbidden from college or careers, a boy thrown out on the street, a young man unable to make friends or social connections, a young woman never given a diploma or transcript rendering her education useless, and many, many families ripped into pieces as their children came of age and acted out on all of the pain from their oppressive or restrictive upbringing, all just from my little circle of homeschooled friends. There are a myriad of reasons that these things happened, and not all of them are homeschooling-specific (although most have roots in particular sects of homeschool culture and thought). But what it has impressed on me is that homeschooling is not the silver bullet that it is sometimes made out to be. Homeschooling does not guarantee a good family life, happy or well-adjusted children, or future success. In fact, if not done correctly, it can sabotage those things, just like any other form of upbringing or education can.

        This doesn’t make homeschooling worse than any other form of schooling. It just means that those of us who have seen both sides of it should speak up about ways to avoid these problems, just like people with adverse experiences in public schools speak up about how to deal with bullying, peer pressure, drugs, and other such dangers of that environment. That’s all I’m here to do.

        And again, thanks for the post. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and teaching philosophy, and I hope that you will help me keep these sorts of discussions alive in your homeschooling community.

    • Okay..so I had just had to reply to the above commnet. I was public schooled for my entire life….including college and grad school. And I always was (and still am) worefully unaware of pop culture, pop TV shows, pop icons, pop music. Sure, I was exposed to some stuff at school…I mean I knew that Michael Jackson and Madonna were singers, but I couldn’t tell you even one song they sang. My parents weren’t into that stuff, we didn’t watch TV at home, we didn’t listen to the radio.

      You know what, it never harmed me to not be “into” pop culture. Heck, I think it was better for me, becaue I learned to like that I really LIKED and not just like something because it was popular. I grew up in New England, but when I was in high school, I LOVED country music. Country music was not popular at my school and none of my friends listened to it, but I didn’t care. I liked it, so I listened to it.

      I’m a social person, I have friends, I have no problems making conversation or meeting new people. Not being into “pop culture” hasn’t harmed at all.

      Also, as far as your concerns about Ultimate Educational Authority. Well, I can’t speak for all homeschoolers, but we take parts in various coops and outside acitivites and my oldest is going to start online classes. So my kids are definitely exposed to other teachers besides myself. We’ve been part of Christian coops and used Christian textbooks where we don’t agree with everything taught (ie. we aren’t “young earth creationists”) so I’d have to talk with my kids about that. They’ve been exposed to different viewpoints.

      If one wants to, one can definitely find diversity in the homeschooling community. Where we live now, my kids have known quite a few homeschoolers of a different race and different religions. One can be as diverse or as sheltered as you want to. Same thing in public schools. There wasn’t that much diversity in my middle-class, New England, yuppie public school either. Many suburban or rural public schools don’t have a ton of diversity either…just depends on where you go.

      • Hello, Amelia. I completely agree with you that you can find diversity in homeschooling circles and that homeschoolers do not have to be sheltered. I absolutely pointed that out in my original comment. My point is that one often has to be more intentional about this if one homeschools (or if your child goes to a small private school or a very homogeneous public schoo, for that matter), because you will have more direct influence over your child’s friends, culture, and of course, education. So long as you are intentionally including diverse socialization and a myriad of ideas, there is nothing wrong with homeschooling. However, it is a problem that many homeschooled parents are not aware of or do not address. There is no reason for you to be defensive about this. As you say, you do not speak for all homeschoolers, but you are ensuring that YOUR kids are well-socialized. That’s good! That’s encouraging to me! My message isn’t for people who are doing it right. It’s for people who are doing it wrong and don’t realize it.

        And regarding knowing little about popular culture… I am glad that you are not bothered by this at all. Some people are and some people aren’t. However, remember that you were not involved in pop culture because you had a CHOICE not to. Some homeschoolers did not have that choice. That is the problem.

        I’m not bringing these things up to accuse anyone in particular of poor education, and I think I’ve made that very clear. I’m bringing these things up to make homeschoolers aware of pervasive problems in the community that are often not being addressed. I’m bringing them up so that you’re aware that the “socialization problem” is not just some made-up scare tactic with no basis in truth. It’s not. Here’s someone who lived it who has networked with hundreds of other people who lived it to tell you this. I would greatly appreciate it if you could keep these conversations alive among your homeschooling groups. Thanks!

  2. I love your honesty in this post! Your part about socialization is so very spot on. When my first started homeschooling, I had no problems getting socialization in…we were probably around other kids 5 days a week. However, as we’ve had more kids, the kids have gotten older, things have gotten a lot harder as far as socialization goes. We need to spend more time at home to actually do school, so we can’t spend as much time as park days. Plus, as I have more kids, doing thing like classes and field trips becomes a lot more prohibitive. Paying $5-$10 for a class or field trip was not a big deal when we had were only paying for 1 kids, but is a much bigger deal when that is times 3.

    I also love what you say about treating homeschool like a job. I do the same thing and pretty much do errands and bigger housekeeping jobs on the weekends. Homeschooling (with older kids especially) is a different life than being a stay at home mom.

  3. I’m definitely bookmarking this to come back to in the future! I really appreciate you sharing your experience and what you’ve learned – I kind of anticipate our oldest girl being the type who would really benefit from being in a traditional school setting once she hits middle or high school – she’s just such a little social butterfly, and I don’t know that she can get the interaction she needs from just her family and whatever groups we can find in the area, plus it really is so hard to get out to anything like that when you have more than a couple kids! Hopefully we can just make our house the center of some sort of group, and everyone will come to us 🙂

    • I think socialization can be more of a challenge in the upper grades because, like Amelia said, you need more time at home to complete school work and the child’s need for friends outside the family is greater. Also, the number of homeschooling families drops off in the upper grades.

      Our homeschool group has had a really good middle school youth group but the challenge is always finding hosts. So we may end up having it at our house too! 🙂

  4. Hi Catherine!

    Your garden week sounds inCREDible. Seriously, like a dream come true. I think that would have been my best week ever, too.

    I think the thing that’s hitting me the most with all of these links and interviews is that families just find what works best for them. It isn’t always easy to strike upon that balance, but if we stay true to ourselves, we can correct and redirect and get there.

    I think GalacticExplorer’s comments above are very interesting. I’m going to have to come back and respond when I’ve had some sleep, and after I mull them over.

    Thanks for linking up!

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