Answering the homeschooling “How do you do it?” question

Small Things Homeschooling-0020Small Things Homeschooling-9612

I have to be honest and tell you, I really try to avoid answering this question.  But it has landed in my inbox so many times in the past few months, that I realize that I need to address it.  I am very much an over-thinker though, and in the world of blogging that makes answering hard questions difficult.  I am always worried about offending or hurting someone, or giving the wrong impression, or being criticized for our choices, and I end up saying nothing at all to avoid saying the wrong thing.  I’m going to stop though, stop worrying, that is.  I’m going to begin writing regularly on homeschooling.  Hold me to it, okay?  Maybe not every week, but hopefully at least every other.  I have a list of topics that I plan to address, all I have to do is find the quiet moments to do so (ha!)  I’m going to do my best!

Originally, when our first two children were small, I said that as much as I would like to homeschool, there was no way that I could.  I am highly distractable (was diagnosed ADHD after extensive testing in college that began after I made an appointment to address anxiety issues) and felt that I wouldn’t be able to focus enough on the homeschooling unless I was able to first have my environment perfectly ordered.  Guess how often my environment is perfectly ordered?  Never!

But, my firstborn, after spending a year and some months in Montessori school followed by his kindergarten year in public school, was just too stressed by the school environment.  He chewed holes in his clothing:  each day when I picked him up, his collar and sleeves would be gnawed and wet.  I was called to the principal’s office on multiple occasions because he didn’t fit the mold.  By the end of that year, we were both exhausted with it all.  I started homeschooling him his first grade year.  He’ll begin high school at home this fall.  So I guess I’ve been doing what I said that I could never do for nearly eight years!  And while I am far from being a perfect homeschooling mom (I avoid blogs of those who seem to fit that description, because they tend to fill me with self doubt and I become discouraged), I have seven happy children and they seem to be learning, a lot, despite my inadequacies.  Homeschooling is hard, and the past couple of years have been very difficult for me as I’ve transitioned to being a mom of both babies and teens.  But, if I can do this (and evidently I am), so can you.

Over the years as our family has grown, the scope of learning differences in our home has grown too.  My firstborn isn’t the only one who doesn’t fit the mold.  And the more I learn, the more I realize that that is normal!  While I don’t plan to write in detail about my children and their learning habits and differences, because that just wouldn’t be fair to them, I think that I can share enough that you might be able to take home some tips and at the very least some encouragement.

All any one of us can do is our best and there are days when your best isn’t going to be that great.  But, if you are convicted of the fact that you are meant to home educate your children, you have to relax a little and trust the process, accepting that there isn’t a perfect one-size fits all formula for how this works, and how it should look in your home.

I’m really looking forward to writing about how that looks in our family, and discussing it with you all in the coming months.  Obviously, I’m not an expert, but if we just look at this as a conversation amongst friends who want to encourage each other, I think this will be really good!

p.s.  I know that not everyone is called to homeschool.  Trust me when I tell you that I am not the judgmental type regarding how you choose to educate your children (or really anything for that matter).  Feel free to ignore my homeschooling posts if you wish, though some of the principals that I plan to discuss will most likely apply to any family.

Comments

  1. Thank you for this. I would love to hear more about your homeschooling! I have my four boys at home, and the oldest is going into sixth grade at home next year.

  2. erin hellar says:

    I’m looking forward to these posts! Thanks for taking the risk to write about this!

  3. Holly Salemi says:

    My children are all grown with degrees from university, careers, and lives of their own…but oh how I love reading your blog posts. I wanted nothing more than to be a homeschooling mom, but the Lord allowed my family to learn and grow in a different way. My husband left the family when our children were 7, 5, and 1 1/2 years old and I needed to earn a living, which I felt blessed to be able to do as a teacher. I’ve taught in the public school, private Christian school, and church school. I know first hand that God equips you to do what He calls you to do. I think it must be especially sweet to be home-schooled…to have an education driven by the family value system and not the philosophy of the federal government, to be guided by the interests and needs of your children and not by what works for the masses, and to be taught by the one/s who knows your child/children best…absolutely priceless and worth the sacrifice. I’m praying for multiplied time, plenty of moments of peace and rest, and confidence for all of you home schooling moms out there.

  4. I’m so glad that you’ll be writing about this! This is our first year homeschooling our children (my husband stays home with our kindergartener and 4 year old), and our plan is loose at best. I’m a planner and anxious about the fact that homeschooling doesn’t look a lot different than our days last year when we didn’t have a school-aged child, and all the homeschooling blogs I look at are organized and planned and picture-perfect. I can’t wait to hear about your days and programs (or lack thereof!), and I’d love it if anyone could recommend other blogs as well!

  5. Jada Sharp says:

    I’m really looking forward to these posts! Our kids are currently in the public school system (5th, 3rd, preschool) but we have taken this year to discern homeschooling for the next year. Our 5 year old doesn’t fit the “mold” so we are concerned about him going to school next year. The route public education in our state appears to be taking also concerns us. I have been reading your blog for years and love it! Our 8 year old loves the posts about Seth’s metal detecting b/c he received a metal detector for Christmas! Thanks for writing and sharing your life!

  6. Samantha watt says:

    Hi Ginny,
    I am so much looking forward to reading your posts on homeschooling! I am currently homeschooling my 8,7,5 year olds with a 11 month old baby in the mix. Each year around this time, I go through so much doubt over whether we are doing the right thing, especially since we have a very lovely parish school just minutes away. We started for similar reasons that you mention- our oldest was pretty stressed by busy environments and being around other children in particular, so it seemed that “school” would be a pretty stressful environment for him to tolerate day in day out. He went to preschool, but never really adjusted happily .. Only seemed to “cope” and there were lots of tantrums, refusing to go etc. Overall, it just felt easier and happier for us all to stay home at the time. My children seem to be very happy homeschooling, but I sometimes just wonder if it is the right thing for *me* and for our family overall as we go along, although it does seem to be going pretty well. I love your blog and read every post, and am so looking forward to hearing more about how you homeschool. One thing I wonder about is how you get time to do the things you love such as the knitting and reading, as well as the blogging and photography. I don’t find time to do things like that for myself in my days, although I would very much like to. For example, I would like to find time to read and play the piano, as well as to cook more interesting things.
    I am also curious about whether and how much your kids spend time with electronics at various ages ? Such as iPad and computer? I go back and forth on how much or whether to allow my kids to use the iPad. There are so many great learning apps, that my kids love but then they seem to play less, read less, and go outside less than when they just don’t have it at all.
    I am also curious about how much time you spend out of the house going to activities. I take my kids to a lot of extra curricular activities and sometimes I think we need to spend more days just at home for everything to feel more relaxed and so I can find the time to do those aforementioned things.
    Anyway, I am waiting to hear more of the nitty gritty on how you approach things in your homeschool, especially with such a wide variety of ages.
    God Bless you,
    Samantha

  7. what did your children use on their index cards?? acrilic or watercolor??? i LOVE the picture of S&S!! it says a lot!!! and the post you shared with Seth is one of my favorites, it gives me so much encouragement. that’s the way i dream my children to learn, through living….

    • They were painting with cheap liquid tempera paint. Seth and Silas get along pretty well. Silas makes for a great audience–loves the attention from Seth and will listen to him explain all about each treasure.

  8. Reading about your son chewing his clothes gave me chills. My now five year old son did the same thing on and off for nearly two years while attending Montessori. He has been attending Montessori since age two and did not begin the chewing he was three and I was pregnant with our second child. He seems to have relaxed now, as he rarely does the clothes chewing/sucking thing, but it breaks my heart to think of what stress he was enduring. He will be going into first grade next year and I wonder if homeschooling would be better for him, but I’m not sure I could manage it. I look forward to hearing more about your homeschooling adventures. Thank you for your honesty.

  9. Sara Williams says:

    Ginny, I have been following your blog for some months now, and I absolutely LOVE how you write!! You are so down to earth, honest, and witty! I am very much looking forward to your posts about homeschooling. I have homeschooled my two oldest since they started school- I have a third grader and second grader. I also have a three year old that has been going to the local elementary school for speech therapy and have been so happy with the teachers and the progress that he has made, but I plan to do a laid back preschool here at home with him next year ( he has almost met his IEP) I also have an 18 month old that will also be homeschooled and Im so happy to have this choice for my family. Cant wait to see the ins and outs of your homeschool days as you seem to have the same outlook on it as our family. Thanks so much Ginny for your blog and sharing your heart!

  10. I would love to hear more about your homeschooling! I have my four boys at home, and the oldest is going into sixth grade at home next year. I never thought I’d do it this long, but it is working for us.

  11. There cannot be any easy way to educate seven children! Public, private or home — schooling challenges would occur! I chose to send my kids to public school for a variety of reasons but mostly because I believe in my local school system and both of us have professional careers. School has been a breeze for my oldest, who is bright and organized and self-driven and thus far unfazed by everything and loved by seemingly everyone. Her younger sister does well academically and has a lot of friends but seems to rub teachers the wrong way with her stubbornness. We have had to address her attitude many times! My son struggles a bit academically but the teachers always like him and feel that he is still at grade-level. He requires a lot of extra work on our part at home, and we have talked to pediatrician and school about strategies to help him more. So it’s been hard! But so far, so good: the teachers are responsive to my queries and encouraging about my kids’ issues. If one day it ceases to work for us, we will do something else. But I suspect no path would be hazard-free. Best of luck to you — I don’t think I could survive one day of home-schooling and I admire you for taking it on!

  12. I’m really glad to see you expanding into talking about homeschooling! I’ve been very curious to see what your process is these days.

    I have a three year old and I’m debating about homeschooling or not. I truly believe it would be best for his education and mental/emotional development… not sure if I would be doing a disservice to him socially. Or if I have what it takes to make it work!

    Love your blog as always.

  13. Hi Ginny,
    I appreciate how you are approaching this issue. I was following the blog of one mom who defended her homeschooling decision by criticizing those who sent their kids to school by saying something about “those moms who give their kids a pat on the head, and then send them off to school so they can go home and enjoy their freedom”, or something similar to that. I was extremely offended by her comments because that is NOT why I send my kids to school. Anyway, I don’t follow her blog anymore, obviously, but I just had to tell you that I like your approach and your hope that this will be a supportive group, no matter what anyone’s decision is. Parenting is hard and we all need all the support we can get…

  14. Hi Ginny,

    I am a huge fan of your blog and I was happy to find your homeschooling post in my inbox! I look forward to reading more about your experience!

    We are in our 5th year of homeschooling and it’s been working out very well so far. My older daughter is officially “high school” age this year and I was one stressed out mamma last spring and summer when faced with that fact. I ordered more than a dozen books, subscribed to a few sites, and read hundreds of blog posts…all geared towards how to homeschool high school just the right way. Turns out my daughter had plans of her own and, kicking and screaming (me…not her), that’s what we’ve ended up doing instead. I threw out the schedule I spent hours and hours planning and the booklist I meticulous put together and am now following her lead. I now realize I could not have planned a better year and experience for her but I was scared witless of letting go and turning it all to faith and trust! I still do have my moments when the fear does creep back up but when I look at the overall picture of the wonderful human she continues to become, it melts away and the moments of doubt come fewer and far between now. I do keep a homeschool journal which I will translate into edu-speak for record keeping purposes (should we need them in the future) and we do keep a booklist of the books she’s read, among other things. She has goals for her future which she is actively pursuing and we fully support her. Protecting her time to pursue her interests and passions has been the best thing we have done.

    I wish you well on your journey! Thank you for your courage in sharing your family experience with the rest of us! You might have just inspired me to do the same…

    Chao

  15. Ginnie, I always look forward to your homeschooling posts and I’ll admit utter excitement at the idea of hearing more from you about your homeschooling ventures, but I understand your trepidation about sharing such a personal thing. The answer for us in managing everything is always grace and prayer, and sometimes falling down. I love your words- “despite my inadequacies” – I often feel the same. It is a lesson in grace and humility every day that I homeschool my children.

  16. I’m really looking forward to your homeschooling posts, Ginny! I used to be an el. ed. teacher (including in parochial school for five years) before we became Catholic and had children of our own. We’ve been homeschooling from the beginning and love, love, love the homeschooling lifestyle and wouldn’t want to do it any other way. Our children are all young and close in age, so I’m especially interested in seeing how you do this with a greater span of ages and also what you’ve done to involve them in community (we’re challenged by being in a rural areas without a lot of resources for homeschool families). God has also been putting the call to adopt (international special needs) heavy on our hearts for about two years now. I know that one of your boys was adopted, and I’m hoping(!) that you might address if/how being able to homeschool him has helped him to adjust. Anyway, I’ll be looking forward to your posts. As always, I find your blog to be a very peaceful and encouraging place!

  17. I’m so looking forward to what you have to say. I too am a mama to many(9)- my oldest is a junior in high school and my youngest just turned two. I see all the lovely things your little ones are doing I assume while some of your bigger ones are schooling- the painting, crafting, exploring and I wonder how you are able to allow all that to go on (the mess they make- I mean) and still stay sane. I’d love for my 2, 3 and 5 year old to do that but there’s also the 1st grader and 3rd grader to help besides all the bigs! You’d think I’d be an expert on this since I’ve only known schooling with lots of mixed ages but I’m not!

    I love your blog Ginny- I find a moment of peace every time I come here:) Thank you for sharing your world.

  18. Mindydana H says:

    Our three children (middle school & high school) are public school educated, but I’m still looking forward to reading your posts about your family’s homeschool experiences. 🙂 I like stories. I like your stories. You even have pictures! Thank you for sharing your world. I look forward to reading every new post.

  19. Ginny,
    Though I don’t homeschool, I am interested in your homeschooling posts and I full heartedly feel homeschooling is the best for children, because what children (especially boys) AND teachers must go through in the public school system is horrible. Never worry about us judging you, many will understand why you homeschool and many others need to know! Thanks for a closer look at your home! Jeannine

  20. I can’t wait for your homeschooling posts. Although we never (yet) went this route, I’m soaking any info I can on it and how different families do it in their own little ways!

  21. Can’t wait! Looking forward to it!

  22. Thanks Ginny, i am looking forward to your forthcoming posts on homeschooling. We homeschooled our 4 boys for 3 years after the stress of school became just too much. Now, after moving to Canada (from the UK) our boys have been in school for nearly 3 years AND much to my amazement they are ok and cope well with school life. I wouldn’t hesitate to homeschool again though as i think it was hugely valuble for our family as a whole….we really got to know eachother…good, bad and otherwise. On reflection i think homeschooling has cemented ‘home’ in our family’s DNA as somewhere real, safe, interesting and hopefully fun (although i admit to there being some pretty awful days during our 3 homeschooling years, most were great). The scope of learning at home reaches far beyond that of the classroom, this i am sure.

  23. We would really like to homeschooling someday,and I am excited by the opportunity! Yet, I am nervous about it. I am still trying to figure out my philosophy too. I like more eclectic styles, rather than premade curriculum, but I know it takes a lot of work. that is why I want to start developing unit studies now especially with my background in english industry education. I am hoping by the time our kids are old enough to be home school I will have a better idea of how I want to do it.

  24. I also have 2 children who really don’t “fit the mold” Unfortunately I am not able to home school but often wish I could. We are fortunate to have 2 Montessori schools in our area that go through 8th grade. I am getting nervous as highschool gets closer. We still have a few yrs but I’m trying to think creatively regarding the next step. I came to your blog through knitting links but I read it faithfully for all posts and my children love looking at the pictures of your children. God bless.

  25. Thanks for sharing on this topic. I think as with everything there are trade offs in the choice to homeschool. When I would doubted myself I would just revisit the essential reasons why I made the homeschool choice and realize that no matter the academic accomplishments or lack of them, my family culture was definitely what I wanted it to be. I’ve often read that children don’t remember what you taught so much as they remember how you made them feel.

  26. Looking forward to your homeschool posts! I have twins that are beginning high school in the fall. I would love to see more blogs that discuss homeschool at this level.

  27. Wow! All the supportive posts on reading about your HS experiences are wonderful!! Yay!

    I too, often get asked about the ‘why’ of homeschooling or ‘how’ I manage it. Like I am some unearthly being with superpowers – or crazy – or they are just simply interested. I become paralyzed because I too, don’t want to say anything for fear of sounding ‘better than thou’ or for offending someone because that’s not my intent. But if asked the question I feel they deserve an answer. Lately, I just say that it works for us. I want to say more but I feel I stumble on my words because I could say so much but it could all come out wrong. So I say it with my blog because there I feel I don’t have expectations or judgement looming for how we school. I think I use the blog to show that we just don’t hang out and watch tv all day just so we don’t have to get everyone up early to catch the bus!

    That said, I agree, that there is no judgement on my part, either, for those who don’t home educate. It’s not for everyone. I never every thought I would do it and only decided to two weeks before my first went to school! It’s an exhausting job, and yes, it’s a job for which we do not get paid. It’s also incredibly rewarding. But we sacrifice so much and that’s not always so fun, not always. Two full-time jobs would make life so much easier in so many ways. But we are fortunate to live in a city with tons of HS’ers and connections/programs. We stay busy.

    I look forward to your posts – so excited! I love reading about your family and love the images you post. And I agree, I can’t bear to read some blogs where everything seems just perfect every day. It makes me feel so less than perfect. 😉

  28. I have only ever homeschooled middle school children & I’m sweating bullets the closer my eldest gets to HS. My middle son had a similar set of experiences as your eldest in public school. Broke my heart and still does. Very much looking forward to your wisdom, Ginny. So glad you decided to blog more about your experiences. I absolutely adore the authentic nature of your writings.

  29. Looking forward to these posts! 🙂 And I’m in love with your green cabinets. 🙂

  30. Love reading your blog! I appreciate your honesty and humanness in your writing. I feel very similar to you. Yes, homeschooling and staying at home is hard, but it is so very rewarding. <3

  31. Hi! As a homeschool veteran of 20+years I would say it is a journey worth sticking to, if that is your calling. Is it a challenge, you bet. My college age kids have appreciated what they gained through homeschooling that has given them the opportunity to focus on what they truly love. My highschooler so enjoys time to create and to just think.
    What can be gleaned from you blog is applicable to both homeschooling and non-homeschooling families.
    Keep up the great posts!

  32. Ginny, thank you for this! As a mom of a 4 yo, 2 yo, and new baby in May, we’re at that point where we’re saying oh my gosh, are we really going to do this? Should we she’ll out all that money for the parish school? Even though we feel homeschooling is good for our family and our oldest, at least at this point in time.
    It’s encouraging for me to read your blog and get a glimpse into organic learning in addition to all the other work that’s not publicly shared. Your family seems happy and real- in the best way. 🙂
    I’m curious about how your homeschooling has changed as your family has grown? Have your kids ever asked to go to school? (Even though I had a not good public school experience, the fear of them “missing out” is always lurking. )
    Thanks always for sharing your writing.

    • I will confess that I have threatened to send one or more of them to school on a bad day. It’s like their worst nightmare! I think they are so surrounded by homeschoolers in their social life, and so used to this being the way their life is, that attending school just doesn’t appeal to them at all. My older children are well aware of how much freedom they have because they are homeschooled, and that helps too.

      • thank you so much for what you are going to do. one of the things i’m facing right know is that my daughter struggles so much with school (homeschool) that there are days when i think i’m not going to be able todo this… she doesn’t like to read, or do sums, we fought over handwritting, now is a little better. she doesn’t have many friends, mostly family, mostly boys (she is 8), she actually asked me to go to school 🙁 she longs the friendship, i have prayed and tried to be the friend she needs but God has only given us one girl and three boys, younger than her. i try to incorporate things they like to do, i’m really trying, it’s my focus this year. someone said that if they don’t like school (homeschool or whatever) is because they’re not enjoying it. so, i want them to ENJOY this, all of us. I want to share a quote from “An Old Fashion Girl” (reading after your recomendation) that encouraged me: “We can’t any fo su do all we would like, but we can do our best for every case that comes to us, and that helps amazingly”. 🙂 (sorry for the long comment!)

  33. I also look forward to your homeschooling posts, but then, I look forward to all your posts.

    Truly, yours is my favorite homeschooling blog, even though it is the least school-focused. And I appreciate that. Yours is the blog I visit to remind myself that faith, family, and home life are more important than the minutiae of schooling.

    Lots of blogs say that, but yours shows it very beautifully.

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