Some day I will look back on the last few years and remember how they were challenging, yet they are some of the years I was most alive and most needed. There has been a lot of joy along with the sad parts, and it continues to sustain me. Life is not just one or the other. It’s a little bit of everything, and I’m happy to be living it.
Among other things, I’ve been losing my parents. Two years ago in January, my dad died. This January, my mother reached a critical point when she could no longer refuse help. I flew to my old home, Las Vegas, for four weeks, and I moved her into an assisted living memory care. It was difficult, yet I surprised myself at how I handled it. I left Las Vegas a young girl, and I returned as a middled aged mama who knows how to take care of other people.
I wish I could have stayed with Mom longer, but I’m also glad to be home because my family needs me. But, hey, I think they appreciate me a little more after my absence! My boys stepped up to the plate, helping around the house while I was gone. I think the whole experience raised us up a notch in our Life Skills.
It’s taking me a while to get back into the swing of things at home. I’m overseeing my mom’s care from afar and dealing with some other issues. I have so much I’m coordinating for my homeschool boys: a middle schooler and high schooler/active performing pianist. I have a lot I could write about, but I don’t have much inclination to write at the moment. Maybe in the future…
I have moved a lot of my old things from my home in Las Vegas to Georgia….my high school and college life in two big boxes, and I need to figure out which cluttered corner of my house to put them. 😉 Wow, how crazy it is to look through these things! I’ve changed so much. The girl who was once me seems like someone else, yet she also seems quite familiar.
Please let me know what’s going on in your life in the comments or by email. I may be quiet here for awhile, but I’m always available by email.
Happy New Year, Homeschool Friends and Non-homeschool friends too! I hope that 2023 will be a happy, healthy, peaceful year for my readers. I want you to know how much I appreciate each one of you. Over the years, this blog has made some connections for me that I can’t imagine my life without right now. So, thank you.
I wrote more bloggy-ish posts this year than I did the two years previously! One of the more popular ones was Slow and Steady. And here are some others I am fond of:
As I look back over the years, these are the items that were the most appreciated and long-lasting. If you have a homeschooling family to buy a gift for, you can’t go wrong with any of these.
A school table and chairs. An adjustable table and comfortable school chairs was a gift I greatly appreciated when my kids were young. We still use it to this day, although after we lifted the table to its maximum height, my husband had to put new legs on it for my tallest teenager! I know some homeschoolers use the kitchen table, but having a separate school table allowed us to leave projects or school work out, and this made going back to work easy. When my son was working on a project, seeing it on the table always invited him to finish it too.
A membership to an aquarium, museum, or other venue. Homeschoolers take advantage of local venues to give their kids hands-on and meaningful learning experiences, but this is expensive. Yearly memberships make it more affordable. We would get a membership to a different venue each year and go as often as we could. Our kids learned so much that way, and they met adults who had interesting jobs and could talk to them about science or art, etc. I can’t emphasize what a great gift this would be for a homeschooling family. In addition, many memberships come with reciprocal benefits. For example, by being a member of our local botanical garden here in Georgia, we could get into the Chicago Botanic Garden for free when we visited relatives in that area.
Quality art and craft supplies. All homeschoolers need art and craft supplies whether or not the kids are into art. These items come in handy for science experiments, making posters, dioramas, books, or any kind of graphic that would showcase what a child learned. But all kids should be able to have fun and get creative. Learning about art and drawing techniques are skills that everyone can benefit from, and fostering creativity will help kids problem solve and think for themselves. While individual art supplies aren’t very expensive, buying them continually over the years can add up, so buy sketchbooks, quality pencils, paints, paintbrushes, modeling clay, cloth and sewing supplies….and then just walk up and down the aisles at your local craft shop and look at all the interesting stuff you can add to their collection. You never know what they might be able to create with it!
What are some of the best gifts you’ve received as a homeschooler?
Some kids will be natural builders. They will gravitate toward toys such as blocks, Legos, Zoob pieces, Tinker toys or many others that are available. They can also do wonders with cardboard and lots of tape. They like building, making, and creating. Let them do this to their heart’s content. There are other kids who may not like building, or they just do it a little. That’s okay too. Let kids do what they want when they have free, unstructured time.
Supporting the little makers is perfect project-based homeschooling territory, and over time, it may help you see how these techniques work.
Every parent wants their child to be independent and do things on their own, but that’s not going to happen until well into adulthood. So don’t think that when I say “fostering independent learners” or something similar, it means that you need to let your kids struggle or always play alone. On the contrary, when you follow project-based homeschooling techniques, you’re going to be available to your child and offer them the support they need.
During the time you set aside for your child’s projects, you can consider your child the boss, and you’re the employee. Your child gets to tell you what they want to happen, and you can do it for them. This is especially helpful when your child is little, and they may not have the manual dexterity to create what they envision. The important thing is not to take over your child’s project. Just ask them what they need you to do and don’t do anything else.
Don’t wander off or look at your phone during this time unless it becomes clear that your child doesn’t want you there. Sit there and let them know you’re available to help. Be interested in what they are doing. You can show interest by asking them questions about what they are building, but sometimes they’ll be happy if you just watch. Be enthusiastic. Just taking 30 minutes to an hour to sit by your child’s side even if they don’t need you to do anything will show your child you love and support them!
You can sometimes make suggestions, but I recommend waiting until they’re a little stuck or having a hard time accomplishing something. Always hesitate and ask questions. Wait and watch to see if they can figure it out on their own. Project-based homeschooling is about letting your child do the work when they can. You may think your child could not possibly figure out a way to fix a problem, but they might surprise you. I know there were a few times when I was working with my son, and I could see an easy way to make whatever it was he wanted, but I didn’t say anything. I saw him start doing something that I didn’t think would work, but then guess what? He made it work! His mind was working differently from mine, but his way worked just as well.
Of course, there were also times he got frustrated, cried, and I wondered what the heck I was doing. This is definitely a long road and takes practice for the parent. You are getting to know your child, learning when to step in and when to back off.
Do you have a little maker? I’d love to hear about them!
It’s not always helpful to tell parents “don’t worry” and “you’ve got this.” For some parents, it comes natural to take the relaxed approach to homeschooling, but at some point, every parent wants to see the positive results of homeschooling. If they relax too much, will they see results?
It truly depends on what your goals are for your family and your kids. As you begin homeschooling, I would have a serious talk with your partner or spouse about what you hope the end goal is for your kids. In other words, what are you preparing them for?
Are you preparing them to attend the local high school? Or maybe you just want to homeschool for the elementary years? If so, homeschooling may look different for you than for the kids who are going to homeschool K-12. Do you want them to find what fulfills them? Do you want them to be capable of finding a full-time job and supporting themselves? Do you want them to attend college? A local college or a top university? Is your main goal to foster kind, generous, productive citizens? Preparing them for one thing doesn’t mean you won’t be preparing them for all these other things, but it will give you a kind of compass when you sit down to make your homeschool plans. Also, you can be flexible as your kids grow and they begin to form their own ideas about what they want.
Frankly, I don’t think any goal is wrong as long as it’s not too rigid and the expectations aren’t too high or too low. Different parents have very different opinions about what they want for their kids. Some push their kids to succeed in a lucrative field and don’t offer any other choice. Other parents think that’s a terrible way to parent. I’ve met enough families to realize that all parents hope their kids will be happy even if they don’t believe that should be the end goal. Depending on culture and personal history, pushy parents have their reasons. Sometimes it’s the not-so-pushy parents who had pushy parents themselves, so now they are more of a I-just-want-you-to-be-happy kind of parent, but then they end up not giving their kids much guidance or practical skills.
I think there’s always a middle way. And to save your sanity, you need to take the middle way while homeschooling. Don’t stress out watching what other parents are doing and knock yourself out trying to do those things too. Don’t buy the curriculums that look good but are not a good fit for your child. Don’t join every activity or worry about trying to make a dozen friends for your homeschooled kids. If you feel overwhelmed, relax for awhile and enjoy this extra time with them.
Then you can think about what your “hope for” goals are. Observe your kids and think about what skills could benefit them in the long-term, and if they show interest in something, start to think about what you could do to support that. Maybe you can find some other kids with similar interests. But don’t go overboard. You can let things unfold naturally, but doing some research and keeping a folder of opportunities for the future isn’t a bad idea either. [When your kid does participate in activities, projects and great field trips, keep good records because you never know what your kid might want to apply for someday.]
As for figuring out how to teach the school subjects, take your time researching one subject at a time. What seems like a good resource for your kid? If they are already reading all the science books from the juvenile section of the library on their own, maybe you don’t have to worry about teaching science yet. What do they struggle with? That’s the area you want to focus on. Spend time researching and trying out different curricula, but be prepared to put aside what doesn’t work. If your child is young, maybe all they need is to wait a year or two before you try again. If they are in high school, maybe it’s time to hire a tutor, so you don’t have to worry about doing it yourself.
There are so many more resources available to homeschoolers now than when I started homeschooling, and some of them are extremely affordable. A lot of kids excel in one or two subjects and don’t do as well in another, so finding that right balance for your kid is essential. You shouldn’t feel like you have to teach every subject, especially if you don’t feel confident in that area, or your child struggles in it. You can also lower your expectations. Maybe they will never be a math whiz, but they are great writers. Support that. As for math, find out how much math they’ll need for whatever their goals are and don’t expect them to go beyond that. (Assessing this is easier in high school.)
You may not be able to achieve what that other family is doing, but you will be able to achieve your own family’s goals, if you are sensible and, yes, you relax! It may sound contradictory, but by taking the time to think about your goals, your kids’ goals, and the resources available, you will feel more relaxed. Make a yearly ritual of reevaluating your goals, such as spending a few days each summer thinking things through and discussing the year ahead with your family. Then you can relax and do what is most important: spend quality time with your kids. Ultimately, homeschooling is about fostering good relationships with your kids, and when kids have good relationships, they are more likely to succeed in life. I don’t know what parent wouldn’t be happy with that.
I hope you’ll reach out, if you would like someone to talk to about the possibility of homeschooling.
Happy Month of Thanksgiving! I want to say a heartfelt thanks to anyone who has been reading my blog long-term. I don’t know who you are, and maybe there’s only two of you, but for anyone who has stuck with me, I greatly appreciate it. I am also indebted to those of you who have reached out and sent me an email or message on social media. I appreciate your friendship so much.
I am not sure what compels me to keep writing on this blog. It’s just something I do to stay sane, I guess. But knowing it’s helpful to a few people means a lot, so thank you.
You may have noticed I’ve been blogging more lately. I’m trying something new as I reflect back on these years of homeschooling. I am writing posts that I might have liked to have read when I first started homeschooling. I hope that they can be encouraging to new homeschoolers. I don’t know how many posts I have in me, but we’ll see.
As I have been writing this, my son spotted a young hawk outside my window, and then I had the privilege of watching it for about fifteen minutes. I saw it dive down into the leaf litter and catch a red-bellied snake and eat it! Then I saw it go up into the trees again, fluffing up its feathers because it’s cold outside. It was always looking around, looking for prey, I imagine. A very nervous squirrel sat in a tree nearby and sent out warning sounds. I never saw another bird while the hawk was in our yard. The animals in our yard work well together when they need to, don’t they?
It was a good reminder to me to slow down and remember why I’m doing everything I’m doing even when it seems pointless. The fruits of our labor don’t always show up in tangible ways. I hope someday I will look back on this life and see that homeschooling and all the sacrifices we’ve made were worth it. I hope I’ll feel that I’ve done well by sharing my tips on this blog too. But I imagine it will be a lot like my nature encounters: The time I’ve spent savoring them will add up to time well spent, though only in my mind and heart. I can live with that.
As for my 13-year-old, he’s thrilled to have almost 100 subscribers on his YouTube channel, and he’s working on a celebratory video for when he reaches that milestone. If you haven’t seen any of his videos yet, here’s one:
I hear some parents who like the idea of homeschooling, but they don’t think they can do it. They say they don’t have the patience. While it’s up to you to decide what you can or can’t do, if you’re on the fence, I think you should go ahead and try. There really isn’t much to lose.
These are three reasons I know you can do it:
Love. If you love your kids and know homeschooling is in their best interests, you’ll be motivated. No one is more important than your child, right? For many kids, homeschooling could be the chance of a lifetime to be themselves, find interests that motivate them to work, and it can also give them the chance to master skills that will benefit them as adults. Let’s face it, traditional school makes kids spread their time too thin. For some, it works, but for many, it does not. They leave school not knowing what they want to do, so they end up floundering until their late 20s until they find what motivates them.
Time is something we can all use more of, and giving your kids the gift of time when they are young is one of the most loving gifts you can give.
Resources. If you want to homeschool, this is a great time to do it. The resources for homeschoolers have probably tripled since I began homeschooling just ten years ago. Most of them are very affordable, and some of them are free. I think for the first few years of elementary school, you could get everything you need at the library and off the Internet, but you can also find lots of my recommendations for different grades and subjects by using the Table of Contents in the menu at the top of my blog. ⬆️ I can’t imagine what will become available in the next few years. So don’t let your doubts about how you’re going to teach stop you from homeschooling because you’ll find lots of help.
There is room for mistakes. It’s the long view. Finally, I know you can homeschool because unless you’re starting in the 11th or 12th grade, you’ve got plenty of time to figure everything out. You will make mistakes, but that’s okay. Remember the resources I told you about? You can toss the ones you don’t like and find new ones. You can also go at your kids’ pace. You set the milestones — not a school. You can figure out when to challenge your kid and when to give them more time. Homeschooling is a lifestyle, and you can take the long view. What are your goals for your family? What are your kids’ goals? Start with helping your kids find what they’re good at and what motivates them to learn. If you can do that, you’ll figure the rest out.
This isn’t to say it’s easy, and it can help to have someone to chat with about homeschooling. I would love to help you, if I can. Contact me at any time.
Every homeschooling family is different. If you are going to home educate, you must not compare yourself to other families.
You can let other families inspire you. You can get good advice from other homeschool families too. But if you read homeschool blogs or meet other parents IRL, you will eventually see someone doing something you think is better. You may try to be more like them and fail, or maybe right away you think you could never do it that way. That’s not a failure! It shows you’re thinking about your kids and you also know your limits.
Every parent is going to have something they are good at, and you probably have super powers that you don’t even realize you have. Other mothers are probably looking at you wishing they could do what you do.
I know for me, I used to want to be one of those mothers who sat and read books half the day with my kids. I’m not well read! I like to read, and my boys like reading, but we’re not a sit-on-the-sofa reading most of the day kind of family. And when I think about, I don’t really want to do that anyway. It just sounds good, especially on days when I could use some more rest.
I know mothers who are so patient, and they seem like good teachers. All they need is a good curriculum, and they can lecture and teach the material to their kids. I don’t feel that’s me. Maybe it was when my boys were younger, but as they get older, I spend a lot of time figuring out resources that will help them teach themselves with less support from me. It’s not because I don’t want to teach but because it’s beyond my abilities now. My role is more of a facilitator and organizer and problem solver now.
I also know mothers who come up with incredible projects and unit studies, and they work on those together, exploring fascinating subjects. I sometimes think I would like to do that. Maybe I did a little when the boys were younger? (Everything was so much easier when they were younger!)
To be honest, part of the reason it’s easy for me to do child-led learning is because I don’t like coming up with the ideas! But this means we have many days when we’re not doing anything interesting. (I mean, not interesting enough to write about in a blog post. Most days are kind of the same.)
You should ask yourself: what AM I good at? Maybe you’re a fantastic cook, and you have inspired your kids to cook with you. Maybe you’re athletic, and you and your kids are outside on the trails every chance you get. Maybe you’re brilliant at crafts, and you’ve inspired your kids to build their own toys. Maybe you have a mind for business, and you have helped your kids start selling their crafts at a local market. Or maybe you just like hanging out together, and you give your kids a lot of quality time going to interesting places.
No matter what it is that you’re good at, it will be good for your kids. What they need is a guide who is loving and kind….Not a jack of all trades….Or an academic genius.
Another one: maybe you’re good at research, and you pick the right curricula and resources that fit your kids needs…..that’s me. That’s what I’m good at. But that also means I have spent time using not-the-right resources. I have to try stuff before I find something that works. Or works good enough. It’s not very glamorous. It’s not blog worthy to show a picture of myself sitting at my computer doing research. LOL
But see? If I can figure out what I am good at, you can too.
Maybe I’m pretty good at playing Wingspan more times than I can count too. 🤔😆
Today I’m reflecting on what I dislike about homeschooling after doing it for twelve years:
People make a lot of assumptions about you that aren’t true. One small assumption is that people tend to think we have lots of free time. As for other assumptions, I won’t go into details, but this is always the case when anyone does anything “off the beaten path.” For the most part, I have thick skin, but it can be hurtful sometimes.
In that same vein, I have been told that the reason my kids do well on standardized tests is because we cheat. WTF?! Note: People who lie and cheat tend to think other people lie and cheat, but there ARE many honest people out there, including us. One of the reasons we homeschool is so that we can impart good morals on our kids.
Three meals a day for four people = three sets of dishes to clean everyday. I mean, come on! If someone had told me before I got married and had kids how many meals I’d have to make or all the dishes I’d have to do, I may have decided to stay single. (Just kidding.) While I admire people who enjoy cooking, this isn’t for me. (Shout out to my husband who occasionally gives me a break by doing the dishes and getting take out!)
On a similar note, I’m not sure I ever realized how little time I’d have for myself, and even though I can make time, it can come at a price because there’s always something that’s not getting done, or someone is trying to find me, I’m forgetting that I need to make dinner, and my house is never truly clean. But who cares about that, right? I take breaks when I need to.
When we first started homeschooling, I found plenty of social activities for my boys, but it was hard to find friends who were kindred spirits. I didn’t find too many other kids who clicked with my kids, or the parent didn’t click with me, or our schedules didn’t match, or the interests of all the kids were different, etc…..I did find friends, but it wasn’t as easy as some homeschoolers have made it seem. Also, we live in a rural area, so that made it more challenging.
Overwhelm. Some days I drown in the overwhelm of taking full responsibility for two kids’ entire K-12 education. The curriculum choices are overwhelming…figuring out what works best is overwhelming…figuring out what I can let go and what I shouldn’t let go can be overwhelming.
Lack of time and funds to do everything. Trying to give the boys some free time while also making sure they do all their work and get some exercise is hard; I’ve never found that perfect balance. And then when you end up fostering awesome kids who have interesting life goals, and you realize you don’t have the funds to support all of it, that’s soul crushing. But I still wouldn’t have it any other way because without walking this unconventional path, I might not have these awesome kids.
To see what I love about homeschooling, click here.
Recently I gave a Zoom presentation on project-based homeschooling (you can sign up here for the next one), and a question I received made me think about how I have never stopped using project-based homeschooling (PBH) techniques, but PBH looks very different in our home than it did ten years ago. I don’t think about the techniques anymore. My sons each have a project that has become more of a life goal, and my role is to support them on a higher level. In other words, our lives revolve around these activities. My own projects have evolved over the years, overlapping with the boys’ activities, so we learn and grow alongside each other.
Here are the current state of our projects:
My eldest son is a classical pianist, and at 16, it’s clear that he has his heart set on a career in music. I’m not sure what that will look like yet, but we’re sacrificing a lot to help him. As we do more research, we know what we can offer him may not be enough to catapult him to the place he dreams of, but he works hard, and I have no doubt he’ll carve out a life full of music making.
My younger son has been interested in birds since he was four-years-old, and it’s interesting for me to look back at how this interest has always been there, though there have been long periods when he hasn’t done much with it. Now that he’s 13, this is changing, and that’s largely because he’s old enough to join certain classes related to birds on Outschool and get something out of them. He also has an active YouTube channel where he shares his videos of birds. Recently he also got to visit a bird banding station in a program run by Georgia Audubon for teens. Now that he’s getting a chance to meet people with similar interests, I hope it’ll introduce him to many possible paths that will most likely include birds.
As for me, I’m thinking about what I can do to support the boys in these later years, yet I also know they are going to go by fast. So I’m wondering what life has in store for me when they don’t need me as a teacher/facilitator/coordinator anymore.
If there is one thing about project-based homeschooling, it’s that the learning never stops, the creating never stops, and the striving never stops. It’s a life-long endeavor. You have to find joy in the journey. Ultimately, the big project is creating a life that is worth living that also puts some good into the world. With the proper support, you can’t go wrong with that.