The Perfect School Day

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Easy going, stay cozy in our pajamas, linger over a pancake breakfast, together mornings.

No backpacks, no cold lunches, no need to bundle up, no bus to catch.

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One daughter, comfy on her bed, laptop open, paying rapt attention to her online science teacher.

No loud bells, no lining up, no hall passes, no hurry-up-and-get-to-class-or-you’ll-be-tardy.

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One son, at the table, creating a chalk pastel masterpiece, taking his time.

Leisurely lunches together, laughing and talking while we eat. We can have peanut butter!

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Free to go outside anytime we like. Let’s visit a museum or take a nature walk together.

Free to stay inside if we prefer, warm and snug. There’s plenty to do, alone and together…

Dive into a unit study.

Read a classic book.

Set up a science experiment.

Cultivate a talent.

Play a game.

Create something amazing.

No afternoon slumps, no homework battles, no wondering how their day was because I shared their day and they shared mine.

The perfect school day and it took place at home.

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Homeschool With Confidence

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I have been on a homeschooling journey for seven years now. If there is one piece of advice I could give to every homeschool parent out there, especially newbies, it would be this:

Believe in yourself.

When you are exploring different homeschooling philosophies and methods, from Charlotte Mason to Waldorf education, to eclectic to unschooling, and you start to feel uncertain… Believe in yourself.

When you are researching curriculum and you marvel at all the choices out there, and you wonder how you will afford it all and how you will know what will actually work for your child… Believe in yourself.

When your mind starts swirling around all the subjects of traditional education, such as: history, science, math, reading, writing, music, art, health, physical fitness, etc. and then you start to think about schedules and fitting it all in, and then it hits you that you actually took it upon yourself to educate your own child… Believe in yourself.

When you are reading other homeschooling blogs and you look at other homeschooling families in action, and you’re tempted to compare… Believe in yourself.

When neighbors, friends, family and strangers criticize your choice and right to homeschool… Believe in yourself.

That’s right, take a deep breath, relax and believe in yourself. YOU can do this homeschooling thing. You’ve got this!

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So, if you are worried about teaching your own child, remember, you have three things already going for you: First, you are your child’s first teacher. You already teach your child. Second, no one knows your child like you do. Third, no one will be as invested in your child’s education as you are. Believe in yourself and your ability to homeschool.

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Here are some homeschooling truths I’ve learned along the way-

  • There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. 🙂
  • It is not essential to follow a homeschooling method or philosophy.
  • Nor is it necessary to spend oodles of money on fancy-smancy curriculum.
  • However, if a particular method or curriculum appeals to you, go for it…
  • And make it your own. Tweak it to your heart’s desire. Mix and match. Anything goes!
  • If something stops working, it’s okay to abandon it altogether and go in a new direction.
  • Not all subjects need to be tackled at the same time or even in the same year!
  • And they certainly don’t need to be taught the same way as public school.
  • Learning takes TIME, but it’s not a race.
  • It’s okay to have days where all you do is read to your child. 🙂
  • Homeschool blogs are fun to read as long as you remember that every homeschooling family looks and functions differently, and that’s okay.
  • In other words, don’t compare! Your family’s uniqueness is what makes your family awesome.
  • The only opinions about your choice to homeschool that matter are your own (you, your spouse and your children).

You’re welcome.

The Hardest Part of Homeschooling For Me

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I think Jamie and her contributors over at Simple Homeschool were inspired when they started a series where moms share their hardest part of their homeschool year. I debated what I wanted to share and the first thing that came to my mind was our rather unique lifestyle…

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For example, last year we moved back and forth between our permanent house in Utah and our temporary apartment in Peru (where my husband was employed at the time), twice, dividing our homeschool year into two-parts Utah and one-part Peru. It was a little nutty to say the least. I was toting curriculum back and forth in my suitcase, and each move meant settling in before we could attempt to pick up where we had left off. I had this whole idea of how I wanted that homeschool year to progress, but in the end I had to flow with our gypsy lifestyle, sometimes letting go of my perfect (only in my mind) plans.

At least this year we will be back and forth between neighboring states instead of two different countries! 😉

The truth is, we have embraced this way of life so it’s not the hardest part of my homeschooling. But I do think the two are related.

What’s hardest for me is that I have never had a support network for homeschooling except for my husband and my children.

I don’t have a single extended family member who cheers on my homeschooling. I don’t mind so much the silly concerns some have shared with me, but several have been openly critical (as recently as last week!) and that stings just a bit, especially since I have never critiqued anyone’s parenting. I am the sweet one in my family! I am the one who mails out Valentine and Halloween cards to my nieces and nephews.

And while I have some amazing friends who accept the fact that I homeschool (I think they see it as one of my quirks), I have never had a true homeschooling friend. In real life I’ve only known a handful of homeschooling moms and I guess we just didn’t click? We were more acquaintances than friends, and then of course, one or the other of us moved away.

We are the only homeschoolers in our home base neighborhood so we are a novelty there. I dread every conversation that comes up about our homeschooling because I feel like a bug under a microscope!

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I started this blog as a way to connect with other homeschooling moms out there. It’s not the same as having a real-life (what I mean is someone I personally know outside the virtual world of blogging) homeschooling friend, but it does help. I try to encourage and support other moms out there because I know homeschooling isn’t always easy, but I also know it’s worth it.

Most mornings I say a prayer of gratitude to my Heavenly Father and I often focus on the blessings of homeschooling, especially the extra time it gives me with my kids before they grow up and leave home.

I know I am blessed to have the love and support of my husband. He works hard to provide all we need temporally so that I can stay home with our kids and learn beside them. (I love learning beside them!)

Our lifestyle is unique and most of our family and friends don’t know what to make of it, but it’s ours and I treasure it.

Blending In While Standing Out!

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I’ve had this post title in my drafts for a while now. I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to use it, and yesterday nailed it for me. Let me explain…

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a “lunch bunch” at a neighbor’s home. There was a good mix of mothers there, about 10 of us in total. Some were young moms with young children. Others were more seasoned moms, such as myself, and then there were a few sweet grandmothers.

I was the one and only homeschooling mom in the group, which is no surprise. I think I may be the one and only homeschooling mom in this bitty town.

Something you should know about me is that I am more comfortable in smaller, more intimate groups, or one-on-one. In bigger groups, I often feel out of place. I don’t know why. I just do. It’s out of my comfort zone. So, there I was amid this crowded group of women, most of whom I barely know, sitting in a circle with them, plates of mac ‘n cheese and jello salad on our laps, doing my best to just blend in.

At one point in the conversation, the topic of homeschooling came up. I certainly didn’t bring it up. I was blending! But our lovely hostess is a military wife and she and her husband and their four children have moved around quite a bit. They have lived in Japan and Hawaii. That is something she and I have in common. I’m not a military wife, but due to my husband’s job, we move around, and have lived in different states and in other countries. In fact, I’ll be returning to Lima, Peru next month, along with my 11 and 16-year olds, to rejoin their father who currently works there. (The kids and I have been on an America-break for several months now, mostly so that the 16-year old can learn how to drive.)

Well, this amazing mom was explaining her family’s lifestyle, which is certainly unique here, and she was mentioning the different schools her children have attended over the years, and how at times they’ve had to compensate when it was necessary to move before a school year was completed. I guess that led her to say that she could “never homeschool” even though that might be a solution to those in-between-school-times. She was convinced she would “pull her hair out” as she put it. She is fairly new here and had no idea there was an actual homeschooling mom in the room, but the woman sitting next to me looked at me and whispered, “Don’t you homeschool?” to which I simply nodded my head and gave her a conspiracy smile. I didn’t feel the need at that point to mention out loud that I happen to homeschool and I absolutely love it.

This was one of those moments when I wanted to blend in, and just feel like a part of the group, but because I do something completely different than every other mom in that room (homeschool), I had the chance to stand out if I wanted to. Let’s face it. Homeschooling has this way of making us stand out sometimes, especially in groups of other parents who all send their children to public school. Homeschooling is often seen as untraditional, different, unique, and is certainly not considered “the norm”.

At that moment, a young mom sitting across the circle from me, turned to the mom next to her and asked, “Would you ever homeschool?” I tried to tune out their conversation so I didn’t catch her reply, but I couldn’t help noticing that she glanced at me first. I did hear the first mom say that sometimes it’s a bit of an issue when her children come home from school saying that if their teacher said it (whatever “it” may be), it must be true. She was talking about how teachers can trump parents as the ultimate authority sometimes.

I sat there and I stayed quiet. I held my tongue. I was not going to say anything to stand out!

But then our hostess turned to me and she asked me how many children I have and so I told her I also have four children, and gave their ages, and I said we too move around a lot… And then I heard myself say, “and we homeschool.”

Yikes! Why did I go and say that? In my mind I warned myself not to let my passion for homeschooling take over. And looking back, I think I handled the whole conversation just fine. I did make the point to say that homeschooling works beautifully for my family and that I no longer trust the public school system. I was asked a few probing questions, such as, “How are your older kids doing in college?” and “Do your kids feel like they are missing out?” I gave honest, but brief answers. I shared a tiny bit about how we homeschool. And then, I dropped the subject.

I think this taught me a lesson about blending in and standing out in a peer group. It’s okay not to volunteer information about yourself and your family when it’s a controversial subject such as homeschooling and you’re not sure how the group will take it. But it’s also okay, when the subject comes up naturally, to put in your two-cents, as long as you are respectful to those around you, and you don’t get carried away. You never know who may benefit from it. Maybe down the road, one of those moms will work up the courage to try homeschooling herself.

If you have had experiences similar to mine, please share!

Don’t let homeschool critics ruin your sunny outlook!

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5 years ago, my husband and I made what some of our friends and extended family (and acquaintances, neighbors, church members and complete strangers) saw as a radical parenting choice.

We pulled our 6-year old son out of public school to homeschool him.

Oh the horror!  Of all the crazy things we could’ve done, this one seemed to top them all.

You can read our story HERE. It turned out to be one of our best parenting decisions ever, which of course is only our opinion.

Of course, our opinion is the only one that matters.

But that hasn’t stopped all the homeschool critics from expressing their 2 cents nonetheless. I think they just can’t help themselves.

Soon after we started homeschooling our young son, a few well-meaning members of our church expressed their “concerns” for his welfare. They were certain homeschooling would mean that he would grow up in a bubble, over-protected from the world. How would he know to say no to drugs? How would he stand up to bullies? How would he know how to interact with his peers? How would he (fill in the blank).

Oh, there have been no shortage of concerns about our homeschooling over the years. I had to laugh (to myself) the other day when a friend of mine said, “I know the socialization thing has been debunked, but……” And then she went on to share one of her other fears about homeschooling.

To these concerned homeschool critics, some of which are cherished family and friends, we have learned to politely listen (trying not to roll our eyes), smile, and then walk away. It doesn’t change our opinion of homeschooling, but hopefully they feel better after airing their unfound worries with us. And most of the time they drop the subject afterwards.

We used to feel the need to justify our choice to homeschool, but now we simply let it go at, “We are doing what is best for our family.” There is no need to explain why homeschooling is best for our family unless they ask. Then we list off one of the many benefits in as few words as possible. For example, I have often said, “Homeschooling stabilizes our family with all the moving around we do.” I love that particular reason because people don’t know how to respond to it. Most of our family and friends think our moving around is just as crazy as homeschooling our children. *grin*

Sometimes we come across another kind of homeschool critic. These are the naysayers who do it for sport. They are easily recognized, especially in comment sections of education-related articles. They claim parents are not smart enough to teach their own children, homeschooling is the lazy approach to education which is best left to the professionals, and there is going to be a whole generation of homeschooled adults who can’t get jobs or function in the “real world”. These homeschool critics are simply not worth our time and effort. Nothing we say in return is going to change their narrow minds about homeschooling, no matter how stupid their comments. As Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” As my husband says, “You can’t change stupid.”

It used to bug me to no end to come across a homeschool critic, especially when it was a close friend or family member questioning my parenting because I’ve chosen to homeschool. I used to stay awake at night thinking up clever responses to their uninvited critiques. Then one day I remembered the wise council my father always gave me when I was a teenager convinced the world was against me. He told me that it doesn’t matter what others think of me. In the end, my opinion of myself is the only thing that counts.

Thanks, Dad. And, thanks for never being one of my homeschool critics.

I will never let the homeschool critics out there ruin my sunny outlook on homeschooling. I’m doing something different than the norm, and I love it. Homeschooling rocks!

When You Feel Alone in Homeschooling

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When my son and I first embarked on our homeschooling adventure, it was literally, just the two of us at home during the day together, while his three older siblings were in public school for 6 hours. We’d walk his two sisters to their middle school every morning (after his older brother caught a bus to his high school), and then we walk back home and begin our day together.

Just the two of us. Which wasn’t a bad thing, but it was sometimes just a wee bit lonely.

Marissa- soccer 100There was only one other family near us who also homeschooled, and sometimes we’d team up and spend part of our day together, but that did not last long, as the other mother eventually told me she preferred to be a solo-act. I didn’t blame her. She had younger children who kept her busy, and she was by nature, more of an introvert, whereas I am very social by nature, and much prefer to do anything in the company of someone else, than by myself. It’s just the way I am.

Still, I embraced my solo act in homeschooling. Not by choice, but by design.

It did not help that my only genuine support in my circle of family and friends came from my husband (and our other children).

In our case, being as isolated as we were from other homeschooling families, I wanted some occasional social interaction for my son, since it was like he was an only-child during the day. (I will put it to rest right now that he had more social time with peers while homeschooling than he ever did when he was in public school.)

I also longed for support and encouragment for myself as a new homeschooling parent.

For my son, we set up playdates with his peers who were in every-other-day-Kindergarten, or who were preschool age. We also joined a playgroup that met once a week. (Later, he joined a soccer team, but of course, they met after school hours.)

For myself, I found friendship and support online. I searched homeschooling groups in my city, and finding none, branched out to a homeschooling group within my providence (Ontario) in Canada, and I joined one of those. From there, I made two homeschooling friends who started emailing back and forth with me. They lived too far away for get-togethers, but just having another homeschooling friend made all the difference.

For both of us, getting out of the house helped as well, because we easily got cabin-fever if we stayed cooped up inside all day long. So, we’d take a lot of nature walks, bike rides, visit parks, and we loved to visit the library, which was in walking distance.

Years later, we moved to Utah, where there are a lot of homeschooling families, and we joined a co-op. That was a lot of fun, and gave us actual homeschooling classes to attend once a week.

As time went on, I discovered some helpful homeschooling blogs. These are my top three favorite blogs for homeschool support and inspiration. I like to join their email lists so that new posts come right to my inbox-

Simple Homeschool

Homeschooling Ideas

National LDS Homeschool Association

So, if you are feeling all alone in your homeschooling adventure, take heart! I promise, there is support out there. You just may have to go out and find it, like I did.