How Do You Homeschool?

When Anika started homeschooling, we were living at Red Rock Bible Camp. To get her to the closest school, we would have to drive 20 minutes to the nearest town so she could catch a school bus for a 40 minute ride to the next town.

Homeschooling just made sense. By the time we left camp, we’d been homeschooling for four years, and it had become a normal way of life for us. We loved the freedom and flexibility, the creative approach to learning, and most of all, the time with our kids. It’s the relationship aspect that makes me want to keep doing this as long as I possibly can.

When we moved to Niverville, everyone assumed we’d put our kids in school, but it was too late – we were hooked!πŸ˜‰

It was scary, back in the beginning, though – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and desperately wanted direction. I pounced on any experienced homeschooling parent I came across, to ask all my burning questions: “What does your day look like? How do you know what to teach your kids? Do they have any friends? What about high school?”

After ten and a half years, those are the same questions people are asking me, whether they’re considering homeschooling their own kids, or they’re just trying to understand why someone would make the decision to homeschool.

A friend asked me the other day why I don’t write about homeschooling on my blog, and I wasn’t completely sure how to answer that. This isn’t a homeschool blog, so I have a good excuse, but it’s more than that. I think part of it is because it’s such a deeply personal thing – we all love our kids, and want the very best for them. When someone chooses to do things very differently than we do, it can bring up strong opinions. It’s often felt easiest just to stay quiet about the whole thing.

But it was because people were so open with me many years ago, and were gracious enough to answer all of my questions that I began to get a picture of homeschooling as something that could be beautiful and life-giving, and something I wanted our family to be a part of. If I share about this journey we’re on, I could be doing the same thing for someone else.

So today I’m answering the questions about homeschooling I get asked the most. Let me know if I’ve missed anything you’re curious about!

Why do you homeschool?

If I had to pick only one reason, it would be the relationship. I know parents can have a good relationship with their kids even when they’re in school, but there is just no other way to have this amount of time with my kids. (Can you tell that quality time is my love language?!)

I also really love the way it grows curiosity, and provides so much flexibility and freedom to learn about what interests them the most. I love how my kids have so many extra hours in a day to just be kids, and pursue what brings them joy.

Another huge benefit is being able to learn in a way that fits my kids’ learning styles. Anika is an audio learner, so she needs to think out loud. She often talks to herself while she’s working, or mutters cutely and quietly under her breath as she tries to work out a problem. Kaylia is very tactile, and is always creating things. She draws while she listens to me read, or cuts and glues and creates things based on what she is learning.

It made a huge difference to figure out what they needed most to learn well, and I’m happy to have the freedom to meet their individual needs. Because I’m a hands-on learner, I remember how frustrated some of my teachers would get when they had just finished teaching the class, and I’d go up to their desk for individual help, and ask them talk me through it again while I tried to work it out. I always felt really bad for doing it, but looking back, I can see clearly how I just couldn’t learn the way I was “supposed” to. There are different ways to learn, and I love having the ability to pursue education in a way that’s specifically suited to my children’s needs.

I’m sure teachers try to address these needs, but I can only imagine how hard it would be in a class with so many kids.

Creativity is also a huge deal for me. I love watching my kids using their imagination all day long. A school guidance counselor I know once said to me, “Keep homeschooling your kids. Every day, I watch kids at my school going from class to class, listening to a bell signaling where to go and what to do, and I see them losing their creativity and individuality.”

I was listening to a podcast this week that had nothing to do with homeschooling, but I found it very interesting when CJ Casciotta, author of Get Weird: Discover the Surprising Secret Success, talked about how we spend all our years in school and college living by the rule that we must fit in to survive and succeed. The goal is to become like everyone else so we don’t stand out, but then we graduate and apply for jobs, and every employer wants to know what makes each of us different, unique, and able to offer something the other candidates can’t. He talked about how hard and confusing it is to find our individuality after spending years trying to hide it.

Seems to me it’s a better thing to keep it all along. In my experience, homeschooling is an excellent way to do that. πŸ˜‰

How much time do you spend on school work each day, and what does your day look like?

Actual time spent on school work is a hard question to answer, because school work and everything else we do runs into each other a lot. Some school work becomes play, and lots of learning happens through life lessons, and not specifically during a set “school time”.

Anika keeps some school books right by her bed, so that when she wakes up first thing in the morning, she can get a bunch of reading done while she’s still cozy in bed.

Then she comes upstairs, we make breakfast and eat, and then she gets to work on subjects that require DVDs (for math), or the computer (for writing, French, or typing for answering questions for literature and science).

Kaylia takes a bit longer to get going in the morning. She would love to have hours for reading or playing when she gets up, but then it’s hard to pull her away from those things to focus on school, so we try to get her work done as early as we can so she has the rest of the day to spend as she chooses.

We get all her written work out of the way first, like math, grammar, handwriting, and spelling, and then we spend as long as we want reading social studies, history, and science. Sometimes there are activities or experiments to do, or we get distracted with looking up more information and videos on the internet about stuff we’re learning.

After she’s done, she spends time with Everett, who is very eager to play at this point, so I can spend some focused time with Anika on math.

Then we have lunch, do chores, and have “Rest Time”, which means napping for me (if Michael Hyatt naps every day, I should too!), writing fiction for Anika (I think she’s writing her 12th book), reading/playing/crafts for Kaylia, and audio stories for Everett in his room.

After that, it’s time for exercise or playing outside, and then Anika does some reading for social studies and history. I make supper while Kaylia and Everett play together, or have friends over.

Anika takes voice lessons, Kaylia takes art lessons, and I teach them both piano. They practice after supper, finish any chores that need to be done, and spend time playing, reading, or relaxing. After Everett is in bed, Ben and I take turns reading to the girls one on one. Anika is out more evenings now as she gets older, attending youth and worship team practice, or babysitting and hanging out with friends, but the majority of our evenings are pretty slow at home, just the way I like it! Staying home is the new going out.😁

Do you ever get a break?

Yes!! Everyone needs breaks! I get up early so I can start the day quietly, getting my mind and body ready for the day by doing devotions, meditating, and exercising.

We have “rest time” every afternoon, so we can all have a bit of time alone, and Ben and I enjoy quiet evenings after the kids are in bed. Our girls love books, so they enjoy having time to read and unwind in bed before going to sleep, which gives us a longer evening.

How do you have enough patience?

I don’t have enough, so I pray a lot! I also make sure to take care of myself so I am in a better place to take care of my kids – no one has patience if they’re eating junk food or not sleeping well.

But another important piece is that when my kids are very annoying, it can often be a sign that they need more attention and time with a parent. When I spend time connecting with them, they are more enjoyable to be with, and require less patience! Also, the less my kids use screens and the healthier they eat, the happier they are.

But the truth is that it can be really hard at times. There are good days, and there are very bad days, but we press on, and it is so worth it.

How do you know what to teach your kids, and are you qualified to do so?

You guys, the world of homeschool curriculum is a wild, wonderful place. There are SO MANY amazing options, and you can choose resources that do most of the work for the parent. In Manitoba, we’re provided a list of subjects we are required to cover, but we have complete freedom as to how we want to cover it and what material we use.

It’s up to me to find what curriculum is a good fit for our kids (using online reviews, recommendations from other homeschoolers, or by trial and error!), but once we choose our books, the lessons are clearly laid out and easy to follow. The curriculum is specifically written for parents to teach their kids, so it’s not hard to use. We’ve had some bumps along the way, but with all the resources available to us in the form of books, DVDs, or online programs, we’ve always found a way through.

Here’s the thing – the class doesn’t move ahead until the student is ready to move on. That means Anika WILL understand her math, for example, before we move on. Her lessons introduce concepts in small, manageable chunks, and we get each chunk under control before going on to the next thing.

I almost failed math in high school because I couldn’t keep up, and no one had time to help me. I wasn’t dumb, I just needed more time and practice. But I spent years thinking I was dumb, and couldn’t do math. I am so thankful that my kids have the time and one-on-one attention to learn, because it was what I needed.

Am I qualified? Well, I care about my kids’ education more than anyone else ever could (except Ben!), we have all the resources we could ever want or need, and all of us have the desire to make this work. I’m satisfied with those qualifications.πŸ˜‰

What curriculum do you use?

Anika uses Math U See, Essentials in Writing, Progeny Press literature studies, TruthQuest History for world history, Donna Ward’s historical fiction list for Canadian history, a boring textbook I wouldn’t recommend for social studies (I make up my own assignments using the textbook, or let her research topics she’s interested in), Discovering Nature Series for science, and Duolingo for French.

Kaylia uses Math U See, Growing With Grammar, Pathway Readers (Amish readers so good I have to hide them because my kids want to read them for fun but I want to save them for school!), Spelling Power, Donna Ward’s social studies series, Story of the World, Apologia science books, and Duolingo.

Is there any way in which their education is monitored?

I need to send our plan for the year to the Manitoba homeschool office each September, listing all the subjects we’ll be covering, and what curriculum we plan to use. In January and June, I have to send in progress reports to update how things are going.

There is no final homeschool exam before kids can graduate or anything, which is something lots of people ask about!

Do they have friends?

Our kids have wonderful friends, some who attend school, and some who are part of our homeschool group.

In the beginning, I was concerned about the social aspect of homeschooling, as well, but I don’t worry much about it anymore. I want them have great relationships with people, but I’ve learned this can happen in a variety of ways. As siblings, I think their relationships are much stronger than if they were in school, because of the time they spend together, especially considering the wide span in their ages. I also feel that they have opportunities for enjoying relationships with a wide range of ages – school can make us slip into thinking that “socializing” means spending time with kids the exact same age, but that only happens in school. In the real world, we spend time with people of all ages, and I like the variety our kids enjoy.

Will you homeschool your kids all the way through high school?

I hope so! Anika has decided she wants to homeschool all the way through, and Kaylia says she doesn’t ever want to go to school, either. I haven’t started any formal learning with Everett, but he picks up a lot from being around the girls all day. Because he’s a lot more active than the girls, I like the idea of him not having to sit still for most of the day in school, once he’s old enough to start. We’ll see how it goes, but we plan to continue with all of them.

Are you worried about hindering their chances of getting into college or university, or holding them back from any other opportunities in the future?

No! Colleges and universities love homeschooled kids, and I’ve been told they “roll out the red carpet” for them, because they are such great students. In general, they love to learn, and are very self motivated. Because they have such a different education experience, I’ve been told they receive a private interview when they apply for university or college, which allows their gifts and passions to shine through.

Anika is very interested in music, dance, and writing, so we’ll see where this takes her. These are interests easily explored outside of school, and we see homeschooling as an amazing way for her to have the time and freedom to focus on what interests her most.

Are you concerned your kids will be too sheltered, and not transition well to the “real world”?

Attempting to shelter our kids has never been our motivation to homeschool, and it’s a good thing, because problems come up wherever you are – that’s just kinda how life works. We haven’t locked our kids in Rapunzel’s tower, and we encourage opportunities which will be eye-opening, and expose them to different viewpoints.

But when Anika comes home after hanging out with friends who attend public school, and passes on all the stories about drinking, drugs, and sex, I must confess, we do not search out ways to expose her to stuff like that, so I guess she is a bit sheltered.

But that issue is easily solved, if we ever feel like she’s needing more drinking, drugs, and sex in her life.πŸ€” Innocence is hard to keep, and easy to lose, so our kids should be able to catch up quick.

But seriously now, our kids are sheltered from some things, and looking back, I wish I had been, too. There was a lot of junior high drama that I would have loved to avoid completely. Challenges make us grow, but some types of challenges can have long term negative effects. Someone once told me Anika should go to school because being bullied would do her good. I’ve never tried to find ways for her to be bullied, but she has been in some tough relationship situations that have been difficult to handle, and she came through beautifully. I think she’ll be just fine.

Life is tough in all kinds of ways, and problems don’t just happen at school. Also, homeschooled kids know they’re different, and they feel the strain of growing up in a way that’s different from everybody else. That’s not easy, but it’s a valuable lesson to learn. Raising strong kids who are willing to live counter culturally sounds good to me.

From the book Simple Parenting, I’ve learned that a lot of kids these days are very sophisticated, but that isn’t the same thing as being mature. Knowing about life is not the same thing as knowing how to handle it well. My kids may not grow up to be the coolest, most sophisticated in the crowd, but that’s not what we’re going for anyway.

Attending school does not guarantee a child’s success, but a kind heart, determination, creativity, a good attitude, and a willingness to learn will take them a long way. I believe they can learn those things very well at home.

Homeschooling is not perfect, and it also doesn’t guarantee success. Ben often reminds me there are pros and cons to either option, and it’s our job to keep reevaluating, looking for ways to bridge the gaps. So far, we have seen a lot of pros, not very many cons, and we really love the fruit that has come from homeschooling. 😊

We realize there are some things our kids miss out on because they don’t attend school, but there are other things they gain. In the end, it has to be a choice each family makes, and do what feels true to who they are and what they hope to gain from an education experience.

Like I said at the beginning, we all love our kids and want the best for them. We are so blessed and fortunate to live in a place where we have the freedom to pursue learning and creativity in the way we choose!

If You Ask Me About Homeschooling, I Might Cry

Most of the time, I try to stay away from writing about homeschooling on my blog. This is not a homeschool blog, and it’s not a topic that everyone really cares about all that much.

But right now, it’s one of the big things in my life that’s getting a lot of attention, stress, and prayer. And the longer I blog, the more I find that those are the topics that resonate with people – the personal, privately painful, deep, life stuff.

If I share what I’m truly struggling with at the moment, it seems there is a much better chance of someone else connecting with my story – someone who, for whatever reason, needs to hear those certain words, that different point of view, the reassurance they’re not alone.

So here’s a post about homeschooling, for anyone who might be needing it, for whatever reason:

I grew up in a town where homeschooling just wasn’t done that much. The few who tried it were viewed as being…kind of weird.And beyond that, I never gave it a lot of thought.

But when Anika was three years old, some friends of ours came over for a visit, and shared how they were considering homeschooling their kids.

I was surprised – they seemed so normal. Why would they be interested in homeschooling?

As they shared their reasons, I felt myself slowly starting to relate to what they were saying. The dreams they had for their family were very similar to ours, but I had never considered homeschooling as a way of accomplishing those dreams.

When our friends left that evening, Ben and I looked at each other and said, “Interesting. We may have to talk about this some more, someday.”

But Kindergarten still felt a long way off at the moment, and it didn’t feel like a pressing concern, just an interesting thought.

Two months later, the opportunity to move to Red Rock Bible Camp presented itself, which meant some big life changes for us, including…homeschooling.

If we chose to move out there, sending Anika to the nearest school would involve her spending two hours per day on a bus, in addition to over an hour of driving for us, getting her to and from the bus stop.

We saw homeschooling as our only option: Were we prepared to do it?

I have never been so stressed about Anika’s future. It was extremely difficult to make the choice to homeschool, and to move to a place where social interaction with other children was not guaranteed. We were dealing with infertility at the time, so producing siblings for her to play with wasn’t even looking like a realistic option. Would she be lonely? Would we regret moving out there?

In the midst of my turmoil, one day I felt God say, “Trust me with Anika’s future.” I realized He cared far more for her needs than I even did.

So we went for it. And at the job interview, when I was asked how I felt about my possible role at camp, and if I was prepared to homeschool, I cried when I answered.

I couldn’t help it! It was such a weighted question for me at that time.

I thought for sure Ben wouldn’t get the job because of his crazy, emotional, bawling wife.

But he did, and we moved, and we homeschooled.

And we loved it.

Not in an “Everything is sunshine and roses and happiness ALL THE TIME” kind of way, but in other ways.

Our family found it’s rhythm. We found a relaxed, flexible pace and schedule. I loved being there for all those times when Anika was learning something new, and the look of understanding and excitement flashed across her face. I loved learning with her. I loved shopping for all the fun books and resources. πŸ™‚ I loved being the one to help her with all the other life stuff that came up while we were doing school. I loved seeing the kind of relationship she grew with Kaylia because they were together all day. I loved all the hours she had for playing, reading, imagining, and getting outside when she was done her school work. I loved being in a place where every other family was doing the same thing, and loving it for many of the same reasons we were.

And we didn’t love every single moment of homeschooling, but we loved the results.

It’s like potty training – sometimes it’s hard and messy and frustrating, but I don’t ever quit for those reasons. I stick with it because in the end, I love the results, and it’s so totally worth the effort.

After four years of homeschooling, it’s become a part of who we are as a family.

We could change. We could send Anika to school, and she could love it.

And we may do that, someday.

Or we may not.

But for now, we just like it. Sometimes it’s hard, and very frustrating, but some moments are gold.

Now that we’ve left camp, I am starting to see more clearly how much our family changed and adapted to our life out there. It was very, very different than life out here.

Maybe our adventure at camp made this “normal life” seem harder to blend in with, but maybe blending was never the point. And I could never regret these past five years, because we loved it. It made us who we are. So has homeschooling.

But I find myself feeling scared again.

I am scared this could end up being a bad choice for Anika. I’m scared I won’t be enough. I’m scared we’ll shelter her, or hold her back from good opportunities. I’m scared she’ll seem weird to other kids.

Right now, though, this is where our hearts are at, and once again, I have to trust God with Anika’s future.

If He makes it really clear that Anika needs to go to school, off she goes. But in the meantime, this is who we are.

God has blessed us and cared for us so very well – far beyond our expectations.

Those social concerns I had for Anika at camp – not having enough kids to play with? There were 15 children living at camp when we left. I really didn’t need to be so worried.

I think He’ll work things out this time, too.

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If you want to read some great resources about why homeschooling can be amazing, these are my favorites:

Why Be Crazy Enough to Homeschool

So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling

Monday is Picture Day

Today is Monday, and that means it’s time for a bunch of pictures…

To start off with, we have a picture of Kaylia in an apron, because aprons are her new obsession. Whenever I’m working in the kitchen, she will go get the aprons out, and insist that we both put one on.

The girls were coloring together the other day – Anika was drawing a butterfly for Kaylia, because she knows they’re Kaylia’s favorite. It’s a relevant picture to post because it really highlights Kaylia’s “street urchin” look that she’s got going on these days. Her hair is going through an interesting growing phase, and she looks exactly like the picture of the street urchin in Anika’s “A Little Princess” book. Except she’s a lot chubbier.

This is my “normal day” picture – Anika doing schoolwork, Kaylia playing with toys, and me folding laundry while I wait for Anika to finish her work. Actually, that’s a “good” normal day. On a “not-so-good” normal day, Anika is not very excited about doing schoolwork, Kaylia is trashing the house, and I am trying to find enough patience to make it until nap time. Always happy for days that look like this:

And here’s one from the other evening. It was family night, so we had just finished an intense game of hide and seek, and then we moved on to horsey rides.

When people ask what we’ve been up to lately, I don’t quite know how to sum it all up! We’ve been cooking and cleaning and homeschooling and playing and working and readingΒ  and disobeying and apologizing and singing and dancing- lots of normal, little things that make me happy (except the disobeying part) because they’re just ordinary, everyday activities that make up our life right now.

We’re ready for another week of it!

Homeschool

We started school on Monday, and it was…interesting.

Because of our location, we have to homeschool, which is fine – I love doing it! Anika just started Grade 2, and we’re having a lot of fun. But this is our first year doing homeschooling with another little person around and into EVERYTHING.

Last year, Kaylia napped every morning, and we could still peacefully make our way through Grade 1. This year, I don’t think there will be anything “peaceful” about school.

While Anika and I read stories about Russia, Kaylia trashed Anika’s bedroom. While Anika and I colored and made a poster, Kaylia threw markers all over the floor, and emptied out half the craft cabinet. Finally I stuck her in her high chair and fed her as many crackers as possible…right before lunch.

Right. Those crackers were her lunch.

Anyway. I think I’m going to learn some new lessons this year. Anika will be learning Grade 2 stuff, and I will be learning flexibility, creativity, and patience.

When people think of “homeschooling”, they often think of those families with 7 kids who live on a farm and do all the chores in addition to homeschooling, keeping the house clean, baking homemade bread, and constantly doing crafts.

I am not that kind of mom. I feel like a bit of a wimp sometimes because 2 kids can get me so frazzled. And I never bake my own bread. Even a bread machine takes too much effort.

But that is okay, because we will do things in the way that is best for our own little family.

This year will not be like last year, but I am looking forward to it. It will be stretching, and my goal is to enjoy the way our family is right now. Kaylia is busy, and it is fun. Anika is curious and always asking questions, and that is fun, too.

So we’ll see how that goes! Here’s a picture of our first day of school: