Meet the Parents Part 1: A Peek into the Lives of Homeschooling Families

Often, on homeschool Facebook groups and forums, I will see someone who is looking into homeschooling their children ask something along the lines of “What is your schedule like?” “What does a typical day look like for you?” or “What books and materials do you use?” The answers to these questions will vary from family to family and it is important when asking these questions to realize that there are many ‘right’ ways to homeschool and very few truly wrong ways to go about it.

If you are considering homeschooling, keep in mind that everyone has their own way of doing things. There is no reason your way needs to be the same as your friend’s way or your sibling’s way, and the direction your choose to go could easily change overtime as your children grow and change. Find what works for your family in the here and now and go with it.

With all of that said, I have decided to use this article to give those who are new to the homeschooling world a small sample of what might go on behind closed doors in the home of a homeschooling family. Keep in mind that this is a very, very small number of examples, and they in no way represent the vast number of teaching styles, schedules, and family dynamics found in the homeschooling world. I hope that this article serves as a starting point for families who may be nervous about taking the plunge. I hope it gives them an idea of how they might want to structure things for their own family. I do not intend for this to be a guidebook or set of instructions, but instead a source of inspiration.

Alanna

How long have you been homeschooling?
4 years

How old are your children?
13, 15, & 19

Why did you decide to homeschool?

Lots of reasons. My children never adjusted to the noise, chaos, and constant transitions of the public school environment. It was extremely hard for them to focus and “hold it together.” They are all very creative and gifted in visual arts, which are neglected in public schools. I wanted them to have more time for their creative pursuits, to be outside, to play, to be with family. I wanted experiences with our family to be their primary (but not only) social experiences. I wanted a more flexible schedule so we could go visit extended family, take days off when my husband (who works 2 jobs) is off, vacation in the off-season, etc. I wanted to spend as much time as a family as possible. I wanted to be able to cater to their needs–slow down when they are struggling or skip what they don’t need to review, etc. I wanted them to spend their days in a place that was safe, homey, and beautiful.

Do you use a specific curriculum and/or approach?

I describe our approach as relaxed classical eclectic. We use chronological history as the “backbone”, but we aren’t as structured as many classical homeschoolers. Our curriculum varies by subject. 

What does a typical day look like for your family?

We wake up around 8 am, feed our chickens and rabbits, do a quick check on the garden, eat whatever we scrounge up for breakfast, and do a daily devotion. The kids have a list of what to do for the week and I pretty much let them plan how to get it done unless they are struggling to manage their time well, then I might ask them to do certain things first. We break for lunch around 1:00, then the kids get an hour of free time. After that, we might have activities “in town”, work at the library, or work at home. Some days we are done by 3:00, some days we work up until dinner time, and some days we even finish up after dinner. On Thursdays, the kids take coop classes for most of the day. We might work a few hours on the weekend if we’ve had a busy week. 

For your family, what are the pros of homeschooling?

Benefits include the emotional, physical, and spiritual  health of our kids, flexible scheduling, knowing our kids are safe, allowing them to pursue their passions, allowing for more help and time when they are struggling with a subject, family time & bonding, and being more involved in our community as a family. 

What are the cons?

The con for us has been the financial sacrifice of having one parent stay at home full time, but we feel like the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice. Of course, having a stay at home parent isn’t required to homeschool and we know plenty of 2 income homeschool families. It just works best for us this way.

What is the one thing your would tell a parent considering homeschooling their child/ren?

Pray about it and don’t be afraid! After we made the decision, it seemed like a thousand things went wrong, but we stuck with the plan and everything fell into place. We get by on less money than we ever thought possible. After a year of swearing she hated homeschooling, our daughter now says she is so grateful to be homeschooled. A lot of our kid’s learning issues disappeared once they could work in a peaceful environment at their own pace.

I’d say go for it and get involved with the homeschool community. Other moms and dads are an invaluable resource for advice and support. There are lots of homeschoolers ready to befriend your kids so don’t worry about them being lonely. Worry about having too much to do and having to say no!

Alicia

How long have you been homeschooling?
10 years

How old are your children?
18, 17, 13 and 7

Why did you decide to homeschool?

My oldest kids were in public school and from the get go it was a struggle. They both had trouble reading and spelling despite hours spent at home practicing. My oldest also had trouble with her math. We spent 4 years in a constant battle trying to get our kids on track. We kept saying we thought something was not right. The answer was always “They are young, it is just a stage, it will click.”

We finally had a teacher catch on to the fact that my eldest has dyslexia. At that point we got both of our kids into the reading lab, as it looked like both of ththem were having a hard time due to dyslexia. Some of the ways they were tested were changed, and things got better. When it came time to enroll for the next year, we were given a choice to either put our daughter in her regular class and see how she did or put her in a remedial class because they did not offer reading lab in 4th grade. We were very upset.

While all of this was going on, our kids were constantly getting sick. We even had one point where they caught lice while riding the bus and because the school secretary didn’t know the difference between lice and dandruff my daughter was not allowed to come back to the school for a week. This put her over her allowed absences and the school threatened to send us to truancy court.

All of those things combined sent me looking for another option. I was already looking into homeschooling and it seemed to be the perfect solution. We could take our time with our kids and not have a stigma or embarrassment attached to out bright and capable children.

Do you use a specific curriculum and/or approach?

When we were starting out we used Switched on Schoolhouse in addition to a few other curriculums to make it all feel well rounded. We also used the Weaver Curriculum at one point, which we enjoyed because we had 3 learning at multiple levels. However, I was really overwhelmed by it all after a while. I had this notion my kids had to learn a specific set of things by a certain age or I was failing them. It didn’t help that I was the first in my family to do something so weird and controversial so there was a lot pressure to be super successful and have super smart over educated kids.

I started looking into other options and stumbled across unschooling.  I also began looking at the education process in other countries and studies on when they felt kids should begin school work and what they should know. I realized I was stressing over something the jury was still out on. What we expect here is not what is done or expected in other parts of the world.

We took a month off from schooling and then we tried out a mix of unschooling and other types of curriculums like Charlotte Mason, Montessori, and unit studies. This worked well for our family so we stuck with it. Our kids are given opportunity to study things they are interested in on top of the basics such as reading, writing, and math. We do hands on activities and include things to round out their learning like classic books, plays, and studies into other cultures. We no longer stress out about where our kids are academically. Instead, we spend our time enjoying life and learning together.

What does a typical day look like for your family?

Our typical day starts with chores and breakfast.  After breakfast, the kids are allowed to go do something that interests them while I work. After this free time we do one core subject each day such as reading, writing, or math. We incorporate lessons on life skills — like cooking more than just ramen noodles — into our days as well, so the kids are able to thrive once they are on their own. Our day ends with chores and more studying or reading. 

My eldest has graduated and is now working to save money for college and her own place, so she can have a debt-free start.  My 17-year-old has started learning scripting and code for gaming. He also has a growing photography business. My 13-year-old — with my help — is babysitting 3 days a week. She is also an avid Irish dancer, performing at festivals all over the state on a regular basis.

In addition to everything mentioned above, we also have weekly activities like dance class and church and monthly events such as our homeschool and field trips.

For your family, what are the pros of homeschooling?

There are a lot of pros for us. We can pick up and go do something at anytime during the week, not just when the kids are out of school. Which means trips to the store, movies, the museum, or the zoo can be done when there are no crowds.

My kids are able to learn in a relaxed atmosphere and at their own pace. This means fewer tears and an actual love for the things they choose to explore. For example: my older kids now love to read and do well at it. 

Additionally, the amount of time our family is sick has been drastically reduced. This doesn’t seem like a big deal to most, but we have one kid with asthma and my husband has RA. Both of these conditions can really flare up during illness, so the fewer illnesses in the house the better.  

Some of our kids are day people while others are night owls, but none of them are early risers. By homeschooling we can allow them to really study and do things around the time when they are more active and ready to learn. In the same vien, I am very happy to not to have to get up at 6:00 — or earlier — every morning and try to rush my kids out the door fully dressed and fed with everything they need for the day. 

What are the cons?

There is pressure to perform.  My kids don’t get asked “How is school?” or “How are your grades?” They are asked questions like “How do you spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?” “What is 5,650 divided by 23?” or “When was george washington president?” Ridiculous stuff, that the asker may not even know the answer to.

Another con is cost. There is the cost of learning materials, extra food (because you’re home all day), and utilities that are used all day.

Additionally, my home is in a constant state of needing to be picked up and I get very little down time. You will learn that getting burned out is a real thing, especially when life sends on that unexpected adventure and you are doing good just getting chores done. 

What is the one thing your would tell a parent considering homeschooling their child/ren?

I have a few.

Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your homeschool to others. I have a sister who also now homeschools her kids and her style of homeschooling looks nothing like mine, but both sets of kids are happy and are being taught.

If you need a break, take it and then come back refreshed and ready. No one is happy when you are stressed out.

Your kids will learn and it will be ok. It may not be when you think they will or when somebody else thinks they should, but they will learn what they need to know.

Lastly, your are not alone and you are not some kind of crazy nut. There is a large community of  homeschooling families of all types, styles and sizes. 

Christine

How long have you been homeschooling?
6 months

How old are your children?
15, 9 and 5

Why did you decide to homeschool?

Initially we decided to home school due to several things that happened within the first few weeks of the new school year. Kids were being disrespectful toward teachers and toward my child and we were dealing with some careless teachers as well. Another factor was the growing lack of safety in schools today.

However, as we homeschool and I do more research on things, my reasons for homeschooling are growing to not just school safety or disrespect. There are so many more reasons to homeschool. 

Do you use a specific curriculum and/or approach?

We use Epic charter school and then we do our own learning on things we love and things we need extra help with. 

What does a typical day look like for your family?

Each morning my 15-year-old gets dropped off at public school (couldn’t convince her to homeschool). After dropping her off, we come home and get ready for the day.
We have a pretty structured morning in which my 9-year-old does Epic work on the computer and I work with my 5-year-old on letters/reading and numbers/ math. This takes about an hour and a half. We also have reading time at some point in the morning. After morning work, the kids have free time while I get afternoon things prepared. After lunch, we work on our areas of interest and things we may need extra help grasping. Usually afternoon work involves a project, lap book, or fun worksheets. After this, the kids can play, continue learning, read, play learning computer games, or have some tv time.

We only work 4 days a week. Once a week we spend the day out at the museum or zoo and meet up with friends or play along with new people we meet while we are out.

In addition to our daily activities, we also do library activities from time to time, attend dance class, and meet with the 9-year-old’s Epic teacher as scheduled.

For your family, what are the pros of homeschooling?

With homeschooling we get more family time, less arguing, less rushing around, more fun learning, more life experiences, more learning through activities and experiences, and more learning about what we love.

What are the cons?

Some days it’s a little overwhelming for me, and some days my 9-year-old misses her school teachers. 

What is the one thing your would tell a parent considering homeschooling their child/ren?

It’s worth a try.

As stated before, these are just a few of the many folks who have decided homeschooling is best for their families. I hope this glimpse into their worlds gives you an idea of what to expect and helped boost your confidence. Keep an eye out for Vien more “Meet the Parents” posts to learn about other homeschooling families.

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