Monday, June 9, 2014

How We Homeschool

Michaela at California to Korea and Back is hosting a How We Homeschool Link-up.   I love link-ups and I love homeschooling (okay, okay, I sometimes love homeschooling, I sometimes hate it), so it sounds like the perfect thing for me to participate in.   She's got the questions, I got the answers. 

How long have you been homeschooling?
We're just finishing our 7th year of homeschooling.  Wow..7 years...that almost makes me sound like a veteran or something (I'm not, I still have no idea what I am doing). 
How many kids are in your family? How many are homeschooled? Are any schooled in a more traditional way?  
We have 4 children...ages 12, 9, 6 and 1.  All of the ones old enough to be homeschooled are..which means we are just finishing up 6th, 3rd and Kindy.  None of my children attend or have ever attended a traditional school.  Not to say that they never will, but so far, no one has. 
What laws, if any, are there in your state regarding homeschooling? How does your family meet compliance?
Hmm...well we've homeschooled in 3 different states so far...Rhode Island, Florida and Virginia..  In RI, we only had to send in a letter of intent each year to the local school district.  In Florida, we had to send in a letter of intent each year and do an evaluation from a certified teacher.  That was a pain (mostly because had to pay for the evaluation), but we just picked a homeschool-friendly evaluator and showed her what we did.  The law says you have to 'show progess' so I just gave her all our work and that seemed to show plenty of progress.
In Virginia, you have to send in a letter of intent, list of subjects to teach and then do testing or an evaluation each year. Most people seem to choose testing, but we are doing an evaluation by a Virgina certified teacher.  Since, I just happen to be married to a Virginia certified teacher, I'm pretty sure he'll do the evaluation for free.  I'm not really sure if they'll take an evaluation from a family remember,but since we'll fleeing* the state anyway, I'm not going to worry about it. 
*Don't worry...we're not running from the law or anything.  We're just moving to Indiana, which is a hands-off homeschool state, and I'm pretty sure we don't have to do anything. 
Switching gears here: if you could summarize your homeschool philosophy in one sentence or mission statement, what would that be?
To survive.

No seriously...I don't really follow one philosophy.  I guess my philosophy is to keep my kids close, teach them to be good, moral people, teach them how to learn, teach them to love learning and educate them without making them a slave to grades.

When people ask me why I homeschool, I usually say something like:

Because in all my years of schooling, all I really learned was how to get an A. 
And, it's true. I feel like all I really did learn was how to get an A.  I learned how to take tests, I learned how to make teachers happy, but I never really learned anything.

One of the good things I've seen from homeschooling is that my kids aren't motivated by grades.  One of the bad things I've seen about homeschooling is that my kids aren't motivated by grades.  My kids are definitely not perfectionists, which is both good and bad.

Whenever I worry that my kids aren't learning enough or aren't doing enough I just remember the fact that my husband has taught 8th grade students who are unable to label the United States on a map. No matter how we do, we are doing better than that.

For us, homeschooling is very much a lifestyle choice. I love the freedom it gives us.

Freedom to go on field trips is awesome.
Heidi went with Ben to see him sworn in
at the VA state bar.  She saids she learned that
lawyers have lots of drinking
problems.  Definitely an educational
 I love keeping my kids close  (but not too close, don't worry, they do get out and do activities without me).

Plus, I'm terrified of what I would do with a toddler all day, if my big kids went off to school.  Last night Ben took the older three to chess club, and Elsa just followed me around all night, bored and whining.  Drove me crazy.  I shudder at the thought of sending my  big kids off to school all day just at the age when they start to become helpful, pleasant and able to carry on an intelligent conversation.

My kids are learning to be independent learners, independent thinkers and independent doers.  Of course, they could learn all that in a school as well...but it's nice that they can work at their own pace, they have some choice over what they study and for the most part, don't hate school.

What is your homeschooling style?
Mostly classical with a good bit of school at home tendencies.  I tend to be pretty unschooly for any kid under first grade. 
Do you follow any set curriculum?

We sorta follow Mother of Divine Grace,
 but I switch out their math (we use Math Mammoth), their science (we use Apologia) and their reading/phonics for Kindergarten and First Grade.  I don't do their elementary art, because I could never figure it out and we are always losing the art cards.  So, for art, we just do draw a picture or something.

However, this coming year, Heidi is going to do online school through Homeschool Connections.

We also do coops quite a bit.  Coops are's like a tiny taste of school without having to send your kids to school all day, every day.  We've done coops in RI, FL and VA and each one has been different, but a wonderful experience.  
What do your best homeschooling moments look like?  What do your not-so-good moments look like?  How do you stay on track?
The best moments are when I'm relaxed and calm and patient.

The worst moments are when I'm impatient and yell too much. Last Monday was a very, very, very bad day.

Thankfully, the rest of the week was much smoother and calmer.  On Wednesday, we even managed to finish ALL our school by noon and then eat lunch and meet a friend at the beach in the afternoon.  Those are the best days.

To be fair, my kids are really good, and almost never fight me about doing school.  Sometimes they don't always do their best work, and we've had more than  few occasions where their work did not meet my expectations, but generally they are really good about doing it. .

The number one way I keep on track is to discipline myself to do NOTHING but school.  To do NOTHING but be present and available to help them with school.  That is HARD for me.  I like to multi-task.  But, I've come to realize that I can't try to accomplish anything else while doing paying bills, no blogging, no emailing, no scheduling, no cooking, no cleaning.  One of the reasons that Monday was such a bad day is that we had just gotten back from being out of town at a wedding and I was trying to do ALL THE THINGS while also trying to do school.  NOT GOOD.  
How do you keep any non-school-aged kids busy?
Good question...I wish I had a good answer.  For Elsa (my only non-school aged kid), the #1 thing is to make sure she is well rested and gets plenty of sleep.  This is a challenge since sleeping is not exactly her forte, but making sure she gets enough sleep helps a lot.  She also has (in my humble opinion) pretty amazing fine motor skills for a 1-year old, and will happy draw or write on the floor while everyone else is doing school.  So paper and crayons can keep her occupied for sometime.  Sometimes she just plays independently by us.

She also loves books, so sometimes spending just 10 minutes with her reading a story or looking at a book "fills her cup" enough that she will then go play independently for 30 minutes.

Sometimes she is pain though...and is climbing in my lap and pulling on our books and screeching.  When she does that, I usually ask Heidi or Greta to take a break from school and take her outside or in their rooms or someplace else so I can finish working with whomever I was working with. 
If you could give any homeschool advice to a new mom starting out, what would it be?
Relax!  You don't have to teach ALL THE THINGS, ALL THE TIME.  And don't worry if your kid doesn't get reading or addition or multiplication or long division right away.  They WILL get it eventually.  I think my biggest stress is because I want my kids to get something IMMEDIATELY and I don't have the patience to let them learn it at their own pace.  If given the chance, most kids will learn what they need to know in their own time. And most curriculum go over everything over and over and over again.  Of course you do have to be aware of the possibilities of learning disorders or things like that, but just because your kid can't read fluently at age 5 is no reason to freak out.  They will likely get it at age 6 or 7 or 8.

And don't worry too much about things like science or history or whatever in the early grades.
Don't forget field trips. 

 They are good to do but your kid doesn't need to learn all the science things in 2nd grade.  And, if they don't *get* nouns in 3rd grade, they will have another chance to learn then in 4th and 5th and 6th.

My next bit of advice is to find a good support group or group of friends and get involved. It's worth the drive, it's worth the hassle, it's just worth it.  In order to make friends (for both you and your kids) you really do have to put yourself out there.  You have to attend the park days or events consistently, you have to make contact with people (email makes it super easy).  However, it's definitely worth it.  You NEED friends and your kids do too!  So, go out there....attend events....find someone you and your kids "click" with and then email them and make plans to get together again. It's so worth the hassle involved. 
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  1. I love reading this, Amelia. I think your point about doing NOTHING but school is so key. If I get distracted (as I often do) the kids get distracted, then I get annoyed and it goes downhill. Really paying attention is a key component to reducing stress.

    And I could not agree more about co-ops. Ours made our year 1,000 x better.

    Thanks for linking!

  2. Hi Amelia,

    I have been reading your blog for a couple of weeks but this is my first comment! I love this post! My family is considering homeschooling and trying to discern what is best for our family. We have been thinking of homeschooling from an attachment parenting stance. Many large catholic families seem to homeschool especially in the blogging world, I am trying to make the connection as to why? (note: this is not meant to be controversial, I think homeschooling is great and I am Catholic) I am really trying to discern what God would think is best for my family.



    1. Hi Shelley, I think a lot of large Catholic families homschool for a couple of reasons. The primary ones probably being that they can't afford Catholic school or don't live near a good Catholic school and they want to give their kids a Catholic education. They may be leery of the public schools and what their children would learn there or may not live near good schools.

      I like what you said about attachment parenting as in many ways we started homeschooling as a continuation of attachment parenting. Not that you can't be attached to your kids if they are in school, because of course you can but I do think that attachment parenting can lead itself to homeschooling.

      The nice thing about homeschooling is you don't have to make a decision about all 12 years from the very beginning. We just take it on a year by year basis and each year we are opening to trying something different if we feel that is where God is calling us.

  3. I love that you want to survive homeschooling... I feel like that everyday.

  4. "One of the good things I've seen from homeschooling is that my kids aren't motivated by grades. One of the bad things I've seen about homeschooling is that my kids aren't motivated by grades." So true!!!

    I also struggle to do nothing but school when it's that time and regret when I don't.

    And we also just memorized that little Stevenson poem! :)

  5. Clicked over here through the link at Micaela's! This was fun to read. Thanks! My favorite part was your "one sentence" mission statement or philosophy :) One of my secret reasons why I homeschool (as you alluded to!) is I think it would be harder just to have the littles home all day. I love my bigger kids that can have real conversations with me and can help with the toddler and baby when I need it :)


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