Today I’m excited to welcome Valerie from Collecting the Moments… one by one, who’s quite the experienced homeschooling mom. She has a lovely blog where she writes about homeschooling, cooking, crafting and farming with her family. This post is part of a series called Homeschooling Made Simple where I’ve invited homeschooling bloggers to share their advice, tips and stories on how to start educating our children in the home.
I asked Valerie questions I’ve always had about homeschooling, and her are her answers. Take it away, girl!
1. Why did your family choose to homeschool?
The short answer – Because my children are my favorite people.
The long answer – I taught a preschool/kindergarten class for at-risk kids right after college. I have a teaching degree. At the time, my son was three and I had JUST gotten married. That year, due to stress, I lost two babies and ended up with health trouble. When I got pregnant with my daughter, I couldn’t stand the thought of another loss and so quit my job and stayed at home. When she was born healthy it was one of my happiest moments of my life. She and I have always had a special connection. So honestly, I chose to homeschool because being away from my daughter every day made me cry! I realized quickly that I didn’t have children so someone else could be with them most of their waking hours. I kept my daughter out of school and made it a ‘year by year’ choice. I assumed that from my Developmental Psychology education I would be able to go one grade at a time and just follow my daughters lead, doing research as I needed to. So far it’s never been the wrong choice.
With my oldest it was a little bit harder because he was already in school before I was a stay-at-home-mama, so I didn’t have the option to homeschool from the beginning, but as he entered middle school (sixth grade here) I saw him struggling. His teacher said they were going to send him to the middle school even though he was only passing half his classes. I already had my daughter at home, but was really unsure of my skills at this point with older grades. But I decided to take the plunge and try to see how much of middle school I could salvage for my son. After a year of watching his self-esteem and confidence grow much more than ever, I decided for good that all my kids will start out at home. Homeschooling kindergarten through graduation isn’t a hard and fast rule for us, as every philosophy that has worked well with our family is ‘child-led’. So if my children need something different, I will find that for them if I can, but for now, they are home with me.
2. How long have you been homeschooling? How many children do you teach?
I have been homeschooling for seven years. I have homeschooled my oldest for preschool and kindergarten and then sixth through tenth grades, my daughter for first through sixth grades, and Logan for preschool and kindergarten.
3. I am fascinated by homeschooling, but am overwhelmed at the same time to know where to begin. What is the very first thing a newbie like me should do?
If I had any advice for a mama who is just starting out, find a curriculum or philosophy you find beautiful and interesting. If you have a connection with something then it will be easier for you to teach. And more fun for your kids too!
There are phases for homeschooling. The first year is VERY overwhelming. You want to do and try everything! That is no joke. But the second year, you start to get blinders on to the things you know you are not interested in and you start to settle into your own personal schooling philosophy. For a new homeschooling mama, I would limit exposure to ideas when you have settled on a course of action. If you pick one curriculum or pedagogy, then just let the learning curve run its course.
I personally have settled on Waldorf, Montessori, and Charlotte Mason for my core curriculum. Each of these philosophies are heavy in stories, nature study, child-led learning, and art. That lends itself very well to the type of parent I am and how I learn myself. So it is the perfect fit for my family.
4. What would you say are the pros to homeschooling? What are the cons?
Pros and cons to homeschooling. Wow, I could go on and on… (smile)
The pros for me go along with question #6 below so well that I have to mention here that most of my friends are homeschoolers. Our neighbors are homeschoolers. This is not the norm, even here, but I happen to be VERY lucky and have found my group before I even made the choice to homeschool. Another huge pro for us is that we can keep my husband’s schedule. He has a complicated and very alternative schedule. If my kids were in public school they would only see him every other month on the weekends. There would be weeks where they didn’t see him at all. So for our family, homeschooling is one way we protect our family time.
The cons are the same for any stay-at-home-mom. You don’t get much space. You constantly have people asking you for things and you never get a day off. Just for homeschoolers, at the times when these things end for other people (around age 5 or 6) they just keep going! It means that you have to really prioritize yourself and your time. It’s important to cultivate relationships for yourself, although, I think that is important for any mom, but for a homeschooler, it is paramount.
This leads me to another question I get all the time “Wow, you homeschool? I wouldn’t have the patience.” Here’s my answer to that: “Patience is a muscle. If you don’t use it, then it will never get stronger. I am a much better, more patient person because I chose to homeschool.”
5. What type of curriculum or philosophy did you use? (Did you buy it? I’m worried about the cost as opposed to public school).
I have tried ALL KINDS of curriculum. The list is impressive of the things I have gone through in the past seven years. However, I have never found that anything works better than what I can make or find for free. Charlotte Mason philosophy works off of ‘living books’ which I most often find at the library, although a few gems I have bought, even after we are done using them! Waldorf works heavily with rhythm of the home and nature and art, all of which are inexpensive in comparison to a box curriculum. Montessori materials can be made from household items very easily, especially for the younger grades.
I will add an addendum for Math. Math, starting in 3rd grade, has its own scope and sequence. You need to go in order! Must teach basic facts before long division, must teach ‘order of operations’ before Algebra… it goes on. With math, I buy a curriculum starting in 3rd grade called Teaching Textbooks. I LOVE it. It has an online grading system and the interface couldn’t be easier and more fun. My kids love it too. I have been using it for the oldest two for the past four years.
6. Do you have a support group?
I absolutely do. I have a small group, made up of six homeschooling mamas (three of which are named Sarah) that represents 18 homeschooled kids between the ages of two and 16. We have been together now for more than seven years and have monthly mama meetings, field trips, and celebrations together. Our kids have grown up together.
Then I have my large group that is a home schooling cooperative day each Friday (co-op), which consists of around 200 people (kids and adults). It is set up like a mini school with typical classrooms, teachers and students. I teach a class in Creative Writing and Language Mechanics. But my kids take everything from Lab Chemistry to ‘Games, Games, Games’ (learning through Math games). It has really helped fill in the blanks for the older grades, when classes go outside my knowledge base. Plus, I just don’t want to ever teach ‘lab chemistry’ in my house!
I am SO grateful to have these communities. There are very few places where a homeshcooler feels ‘normal’, and a homeschooler with an alternative schedule almost never even gets those… but in these places… all my issues are common, all of my troubles are understood. There is just no replacement for feeling heard and understood!
Valerie Rose, creator of the blog Collecting the Moments… one by one, spends her days cooking, gardening, and homeschooling her four children on her urban homestead in rainy western Washington. With camera in hand, she is constantly collecting the moments of life and encouraging others to do the same with activities and inspiration for a simple, creative household. You can find her on Pinterest, Facebook and on her homeschooling blog where she documents all the fun learning her kids do day-to-day.