Homeschooling: The Big Questions

August is here, and we are now in our second year of homeschooling. Last year at this time, I was a ball of nerves – an excited, terrified ball of nerves. I had a lot of questions about how things would look for our kids’ education. A few weeks into the year, I realized that most of my anxieties were non-issues.

I could do this.

I can do this.

And you can too, if you so wish.

If you’ve ever considered homeschooling, but fears or doubts held you back, I encourage you to read on.

1) What will I teach?

This is a biggie, right?

If you want to buy a comprehensive curriculum, there are a bazillion resources to choose from. Start reading reviews online and talking to other homeschooling families. I’m certain there is a curriculum that’s right for you! Some companies will even send samples to potential customers so you can check out a hard copy.

That being said, who needs to BUY curriculum? If you’re on a tight budget, there are endless free and cheap resources online. My local dollar store even has workbooks for a buck that align with state teaching standards.

If you need guidance from folks who are homeschooling, but don’t know anyone locally, you may find Facebook groups for homeschoolers to be valuable resources for asking curriculum questions and sharing project ideas.

Our local library is a wonderful resource for homeschoolers, and even has a once-a-month group for homeschooling families. They held a science fair last year for homeschool kids to participate in. What a fun idea!

My favorite part, though, about homeschooling, is that the WORLD is our classroom. We learn about money and math at the grocery store. We learn about agriculture in the garden. We learn about life cycles at the pond. This kind of life-based is fun and engaging both for children and adults!

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Feeding alpacas
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Watching spring run-off (and scouting for Ninja Turtles)
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Hiking our favorite trail

Once I started homeschooling, I had an ah-ha moment that we’ve been doing a lot of this stuff with our kids for years, and now we just had to be a bit more intentional about it.

2) What kind of teacher will I be?

Homeschool parents are responsible for determining the structure and flow of the day based on their own styles. It’s up to us to follow through on our kids’ education. Sure, it took some discipline for us to get focused to and figure out our routine, but after a few weeks, we found our groove.

That being said, homeschool does not have to resemble a mini school (but it can if you want it to!) Take a few days or weeks to figure out what you and your children need for structure and organization, and tweak as you go.

I’ve found that my two best motivators for being an effective guide are my kids’ excitement for learning, and being present to watch those lightbulbs go off in their brains when they understand a new concept. Learning with kids really is a ton of fun.

3) Where will we do our work?

If you have space to designate a room or a corner as your school area, great! A lot of families like to hang a calendar and some kid-friendly posters and learning materials. We put a foam floor down in our basement and made it our place for storing supplies and working on messy projects.

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Making Valentines and feeling the love…
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Playing in the rice bin
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Coloring time

But truly, learning can take place anywhere! Maybe it happens on the living room floor with a pile of books, or on the front porch.

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“First day of school” last year took place on the porch

Maybe you practice flashcards in the car while driving the other parent to work. Again, homeschool does not have to be a miniature school! Let’s retrain our brains to remove the boundaries of “school space” and time. Learning isn’t an 8-3 Monday through Friday endeavor — it’s a lifestyle that allows education to happen anywhere and everywhere throughout the day and throughout the year.

4) Will we get sick of one another?

Ummm, I’d be fibbing if I didn’t admit that January and February were a little long. Okay, a lot long. Here in Michigan, it’s commonly below zero in the dead of winter, and we all get a touch of cabin fever.

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Preparing for our Winter Wonderland party
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With their frosty counterparts
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Braving the cold

These are the times when we were extra thankful for our social groups, the YMCA pool, the library, and the church gym.

My husband is awesomely supportive about making sure I have a weekly break from the kids and being at home. And let me tell you, when Momma has a getaway for a few hours, or a night, it is guilt-free. My kids have so much of my time and attention, I never feel bad about needing my own space.

For the most part, though, we enjoy one another. We really know each other, and respect individual limits and boundaries.  When we’re overstimulated or need a break, we are free to take one.

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My oldest son has become great at expressing when he needs a few minutes of alone time to recharge. We all take a quiet time after lunch where the littles nap, and my oldest son has some big boy time to play with the “chokey” building blocks or read books of his choice.

HomeschoolLegos

5) Will my kids have friends?

We’re all familiar with the stigma of the weird homeschool kid, aren’t we? He’s 12 years old with tape on his glasses, obsessed with video games, has a giant rubber band ball in his bedroom, and has no idea how to interact with the world. Right?

Friends, it’s just not like this anymore! Homeschooling used to be the “other,” but it’s becoming much more common and much more supported.

Whether or not your children have friends is basically up to you. Your kids can be as weird as you want them to be!

It’s crucial that my kids be around other kids, so we do a lot out in the world. Last year, we had Monday playdates, Tuesday homeschool co-op groupings (we launched our own with friends), Wednesday MOPS groupings and afternoon youth group, Friday library story time, and Sunday kids’ club at church.

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Co-op time
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Co-op puppet show

This year we are adding Taekwondo lessons for my six-year-old and tumbling class for my four-year-old.

These kids have PLENTY of interaction with others, and they absolutely have best buddies with whom they regularly play. I think it’s safe to say that anyone who encounters my kids wouldn’t even guess they are homeschooled (until they spot the giant rubber band ball in Gray’s pocket…)

6) How many years will we homeschool?

As soon as I uttered the words, “We’re homeschooling,” the interrogation began! One of the most common questions was/is, “What grade will you homeschool through?” and the answer is I HAVE NO IDEA.

We are homeschooling this year. It went really well last year, so we’re doing it again this year. Like everything else in our lives, career changes happen, geographical changes happen, THINGS happen! I know we always have the option of enrolling our kids in a traditional school if this homeschool thing stops working for us, but for now, it’s ideal for all of us, so we are going for it this year!

7) How long can we get by on one income?

Some parents wish they could homeschool, but they’re not sure how they could swing it financially. It definitely takes some preparation and discipline, but living on one income is do-able if it’s a family priority.

I’m a secondary education teacher, but I decided to stay home with my kids when my second son was born. I had to change my spending habits (farewell, J. CREW!), and time larger purchases carefully. We downsized to one vehicle, and took smaller, closer vacations like camping trips.

Our kids wear a lot of hand-me-down clothes and gifts from their generous grandmas. We don’t have a need for fancy clothes because we are in “comfies” most of the time. We’ve got a few nicer items reserved for church and special occasions.

As far as the family budget goes, I’ve always had the desire to contribute to our income, so over the last few years, I’ve turned my gifts and passions into part-time work. I enjoy fitness, so I became a certified yoga instructor. Because I teach yoga class at the YMCA, our family has a reduced membership fee (Heck yes, winter pool parties!). I also channeled my passion for writing into part-time work by becoming a contributor at an online magazine. With a little innovation, it’s easy for an at-home parent to make a few bucks on the side.

Some families are able to work out their homeschool schedule with two parents working different shifts as well. There are many options for folks who are flexible and committed!

What I wouldn’t trade…

All questions and fears aside, the benefits of homeschooling are abundant.

One of my favorite perks is unrushed mornings.

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HomeschoolBook

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A huge first-year homeschooling mom highlight for me was helping my son learn to read. We sat together and practiced for hours every week. We sounded things out together, and played sight word Bingo until the cows came home. Then one day, it clicked. A whole world opened before him, and I was part of it.

Another invaluable benefit of homeschooling is the opportunity to tailor your child’s education around his/her interests. My oldest son is into architecture and robots, so we’ve spent a good deal of time building and designing structures, and operating a remote control robot.

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HomeschoolRobot

The middle one is into art, so he does a lot of painting and coloring.

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The littlest is into being messy, so…

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If this stuff isn’t “school”, I don’t know what is!

Another great perk I’ve been thankful this year to have spent so much time with families of similar values. It’s nice to have the opportunity to steer our boys towards friendships with other kind and compassionate kids.

Last, my strongest motivator for homeschooling is to keep my kids’ natural enthusiasm for learning alive.

John Holt, an advocate for homeschooling/unschooling (and terrific author) says it best: “Children do not need to be made to learn about the world, or shown how. They want to, and they know how.”

This philosophy resounds in me. I have three little boys who need to move and run and play throughout their days. We limit our time sitting at a table in favor of hands-on activities, and learning on the go. We take a LOT of outings.

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Strolling with a peacock at a nearby zoo
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Corn maze
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“Moving” a fallen tree on our favorite walking path
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Sampling the apples they picked at the orchard
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Spotting a butterfly at the strawberry farm

Some of their best learning has taken place in nature.

The talented and prolific Claude Monet wrote, “It was at home I learned the little I know. Schools always appeared to me like a prison, and never could I make up my mind to stay there, not even for four hours a day, when the sunshine was inviting, the sea smooth, and when it was joy to run about the cliffs in the free air, or to paddle in the water.”

I think he was onto something.

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Cloud-watching with Daddy
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Learning about “wake” on the boat
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My garden helper
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Innovation!
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My critter-lover with Mr. Toad
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Free to be a little boy

This summer, when we were walking in the woods near the river, we came across the jawbone of a whitetail deer. My oldest son picked it up and examined it with wide eyes, then turned to me and said, “Mom, we HAVE TO study this!”

That moment affirmed to me that for my boys, “study” is an opportunity. Study means to question and to wonder. To awe.  Study means excitement.

I hope to keep that enthusiasm alive — to give the gift of study to my kids.

If you feel called to homeschool – if you have an inkling that you just can’t stifle, I encourage you to pursue it. The rewards are well worth the challenge.

If questions or doubts are holding you back, talk to me! I’d love to help you along on your path.

Yours,

Stacy


If you enjoyed this post, read more personal essay here.

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18 thoughts on “Homeschooling: The Big Questions

  1. This was so fun and encouraging to read!!!! Thank you Stacy!! I am excited to start homeschooling in a few years. Also, I took notes from your blog….a whole page!! lol… thank you you! 🙂

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  2. Great Post Stace…. I am so thankful that the year went well and so many of your concerns were laid to rest. On to year 2 🙂

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  3. Thank you for this post! Hubby and I are considering homeschooling as an option and so I will be keeping it for future reference as my girl is also not old enough – many of the questions were questions I were already thinking myself and didn’t quite know how to answer. Great insight! 🙂

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    1. Esther, I’m so glad this post was helpful to you. I think a lot of us have the same questions early on. Please let me know if I can be of any help down the road. Best withes on your parenting and teaching adventures! Stacy

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  4. And since you like poetry, here’s a poem that fits this post perfectly:

    Who Loves the Rain

    by Frances Shaw
    Who loves the rain
    And loves his home,
    And looks on life with quiet eyes,
    Him will I follow through the storm;
    And at his hearth-fire keep me warm;
    Nor hell nor heaven shall that soul surprise,
    Who loves the rain,
    And loves his home,
    And looks on life with quiet eyes.

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  5. Really well said Stacy! Your pictures are perfect examples of what learning at home can look like. I think the most difficult thing about homeschooling is just thinking outside of the ‘school box’. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You are so right, Shawna. Once we grasp that learning can take place anywhere, a whole new world opens up. I’d love to talk more about HS in the future, Shawna! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

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  6. Stacy, may I share with you some wonderful resources? The first has a link near the end to a list of wonderful education posts written by Susan LaBounty who wrote a couple of blogs, High Desert Home and A Summer Notebook that were highly inspirational and chockful of wisdom. Unfortunately the blogs are no longer public. HOWEVER, I copied those posts, plus many others before she took them down, and am willing to share them with you if you want to copy them to read. You will not be disappointed. It breaks my heart that she doesn’t have these blogs public anymore, and isn’t still writing blogs. She was wonderful!
    http://www.threeplustwohomeschool.com/2012/08/taking-the-road-less-traveled-in-high-school/

    Three books, pretty much the from unschooling philosophy, she recommended (all written from a Catholic perspective, though she was not Catholic) and which I found had lots of helpful info in them:

    http://www.amazon.com/Homeschooling-Familys-Journey-Martine-Millman-ebook/dp/B001EYD1N4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438625262&sr=8-1&keywords=homeschooling+gregory+and+martine+millman

    http://www.amazon.com/Little-Way-Homeschooling-Suzie-Andres/dp/0983180008/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438625372&sr=8-1&keywords=a+little+way+of+homeschooling+suzie+andres

    http://www.amazon.com/Little-Way-Homeschooling-Suzie-Andres/dp/0983180008/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438625372&sr=8-1&keywords=a+little+way+of+homeschooling+suzie+andres

    I am so glad you’re discovering the joy of this venture. Which is not to say that it is ALL joy. Because we are all sinful. So whatever we do is going to be marred at times by our sinfulness. But in the end, so worth it.

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    1. Judi, I will absolutely check out these resources! Thank you so much for taking the time to share the links with me You are a wealth of homeschool knowledge and experience — I hope you don’t mind if I question you from time to time! Best, Stacy

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  7. Hi there, thank you so much for sharing your homeschooling experiences thus far, and for all the great tips. I have a 1 1/2 year old, so I’m not deciding at the moment although I am aware that time will soon fly and my husband and I will need to make a decision. This post helps a lot in knowing what homeschooling is really like.

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    1. Alma, I’m so glad the post was an encouragement to you. You will make the right choice based on your future circumstances, but you’re a smart gal for thinking about it ahead of time!

      The age your child is at now is so much fun, isn’t it? One of my favorite stages! Talk about watching lightbulbs go off every day while learning to navigate the world! Enjoy it. It does fly by. 🙂

      Please let me know if I can be of any help in the future.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

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