Meet my friend Christy! Christy and Dan live in Maine. They have two children, Emily and Ethan. They have been homeschooling for seven years.
Join me as I talk with Christy about her experiences homeschooling her kids. Like many of us, Christy and Dan were not initially planning to homeschool. She shares how that change came about for them and what a typical day looks like in their home.
Hi, I’m Christy. I’ve been married for 12 years to my husband, Daniel. Our kids are Emily (9) and Ethan (5). We live in Maine, about 30 minutes northwest of the capital city of Augusta. We have been homeschooling for 7 years now. My husband is a small business owner, which keeps him pretty busy. I worked outside the home as a home health nurse until we started a family. I now stay at home and homeschool our two children.
What attracted you to homeschooling?
It’s kind of funny, actually, because I never thought I would be a homeschooling mom. When I was growing up, the only family I knew that homeschooled was, I thought, a little weird. Before I was pregnant with our daughter, I remember my husband asking me if I would ever consider homeschooling. (My husband attended a public school and I attended a private Christian school growing up.) I told him that I didn’t think I could ever do THAT. I said that God would really have to change my heart because I thought that I could never spend that much time with my kids; that I would be happy for a chance to send them off to school every day, and get to do things I enjoyed. After my daughter was born, God DID change my heart. I began dreaming of all the things I could teach her and how much I didn’t want to be apart from her- ever. She was a very bright little thing and I was amazed at how quickly she learned. Just for fun, I started reviewing alphabet flashcards, the names and sounds, with her when she was 2 and she learned them! She was reading short words at 3, ironically before she was out of diapers. Come to think of it, my son was reading before he was out of diapers too, so I guess they were just a little late in that department. Anyway, I felt that she was very ready to start kindergarten a few months before she turned 4. She had a very active mind and I think she would have driven me a little crazy if I hadn’t started some kind of formal education with her. I don’t think a school would have accepted her at such a young age, but since we decided to homeschool, l got to do what I thought was best for her.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Well, my goal every morning is that we all have breakfast and my daughter is ready for the day by 8. She starts her seatwork- things that she can do on her own (penmanship, writing out her spelling and vocab words, and reviewing her Bible verses and poetry) and I start a load of laundry and dishes , exercise, then jump in the shower. After I’m ready for the day, I do the oral teaching time with her- either Grammar or Math, depending on the day. I will also take time to do any grading. Typically, I’ll have my younger son work on his chores during this time. After lunch, we do a rest/book time. This was a really great idea that I got from Sheri, who writes this blog. Since I am somewhat of an introvert, I find it helps me so much to have this alone time. I read my Bible and have a little time left over to do something I enjoy, while the kids quietly read a book or do a puzzle in their bedrooms. It gives me a fresh perspective on the day and my relationship with the kids, no matter how crazy the morning was or what conflicts there were. I am truly glad to see them again when they are done with their rest time, and they are glad to see each other again. I then start school with my son while my daughter begins her chores. Sometimes, I will either give my daughter some free time if there is a gap between getting her chores done and me being through working with Ethan. I find that he lacks confidence in his work if he does it with his sister at the table, so I try to keep her occupied elsewhere until I am done with him. Since he just finished kindergarten, it has been easy to do it that way these past two years. I will have to tweak our system a little as he gets older and the length of his school day increases. We finish up our school day with Emily doing either Science or History, depending on the day. While I cook dinner they will usually either watch a video or play a video game or something like that.
Each week, we take a half a day to either do either a Walmart grocery shopping trip or a play date with my sisters and their kids that aren’t yet in school. On the weeks that I meet with my sisters, I usually do a Hannaford-to-go pick-up on the way home from my sister’s house to save some time. I also will bring schoolwork for my daughter to do in the car on the trips we take each week. Oral reading is ideal, because it exposes my son to what his big sister is doing and keeps him occupied. Another thing I do that is helpful to us, is that I have my daughter do 2 Grammar and History days each week and 2 Math and Science days each week. The 5th day is usually our errand or appointment day and we just fit in what school we can.
Is there a specific area you love/ specialize in/ stands out about your family’s way of doing school?
One of the reasons I became a nurse was because I enjoy learning about health and the anatomy and physiology of the human body. I really enjoy getting to teach these subjects to my kids and not just in a formal setting. Bringing things up throughout the day as they come to mind or in answering questions like, “Why can’t you buy pop tarts for us every morning?”.
Another area I am interested in is “homesteading” (for lack of a better word)- doing as much as we can for ourselves. We don’t live totally by this mentality; We don’t live off the grid. Also, because of our location on a lake, the land use ordinances for our town don’t allow us to keep livestock. However, we are able to do things like hunting, fishing, barbering, baking bread, homeschooling, canning, foraging, cooking, sewing, gardening, etc.
What would your experienced self tell your newbie self?
I think I would tell my newbie self that it’s okay not to do EVERYTHING in the curriculum. Try to see the bigger picture. Just because there are 10 long division problems, doesn’t mean she HAS to do all of them if she understands how to do them. I’ve learned that it is less exasperating for us both to allow her to skip the second half if she can get the first half of the problems correct.
Another thing I would suggest is to know yourself and choose a method of homeschooling that fits your personality. When I first started, I asked for curriculum advice from an experienced “free-spirited” homeschooling mom. She suggested that to save money, I could just buy the child’s curriculum kit and skip the parent kit. Thankfully, I knew myself enough to know that I needed the parent kit, which had a detailed teaching plan. I didn’t know the best way to teach the material, since I hadn’t had much experience with teaching. Even after teaching for a while now, I still buy the parent kit because I am more comfortable teaching that way.
Do your kids have opportunities for team sports?
Our kids have played several sports through the “rec” department of our town (tee ball, softball and basketball). My daughter has also done a summer basketball day camp as well as a drama day camp. I know frequently there are opportunities for parents to get involved with their kid’s teams as well, which is great. My husband has been able to be Emily’s basketball coach for several years, and assist with Ethan’s team.
How does your philosophy of education play out in your day to day life with your kids?
If I had to put it into words, I would say that it is just living life alongside your kids and involving them in what you’re doing. If something out of the ordinary happens in my day, I try to pause and call the kids to come and I share it with them. At our house, we have a TON of wildlife all around us. This helps us with learning Zoology. If I see the osprey or the eagle fishing, I’ll call the kids over to watch out the window with me and learn their habits. (Skip this next part if you have a weak stomach ) The other day, I noticed a spider web between two posts on our front porch and the spider was sitting in the middle, waiting for breakfast. A little while later, as I was sorting the raspberries I had just picked out of our garden, I came across a small insect eating a berry. Instead of squashing it, I called the kids over and threw the insect onto the web. The kids were fascinated watching how the spider gets his meal. It can be something as simple as what to do if you burn your toast- don’t throw it away, just scrape off the charred spot.
My son has a big interest in learning how things work and in being a helper. I try to make it a point to involve him in any hands on projects. Yesterday, I had him squash the raspberries for our jam recipe. Last week, we grabbed a stepladder and his tool box and changed the burnt out light bulbs on the back deck.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has been overcoming my perfectionistic tendencies and I am still in the process of learning to be okay with a messier house during the winter homeschooling months. I am a big fan of chores. I grew up in a family of 7, and my mother was not a huge advocate of chores. I honestly don’t know how she got all of her work done, mostly on her own. My husband and I implemented chores when our kids were pretty small and it took a lot of extra time to teach them how to do it at first. However, one they got the hang of it, they have been such a huge help to me. Also, they are learning things they will need to know later in life.
“I may not be the best mom, but I am the best mom for my kids”.-a saying I heard once that has been an encouragement to me on many occasions!
Unique things for our family
Some things I just learned as I went along. For instance, to save money, I didn’t buy preschool curriculum. I started with Kindergarten material and, depending on the child, worked through it at their pace. Another thing was that since my kids are 4 years apart in age, the curriculum was revised during those years. To avoid having to buy a completely new parent kit for both of my kids, I just buy double the workbooks when I order my daughter’s curriculum. This way, I don’t get stuck with outdated books in-between kids. Also, to help get the kids community focused, we visit a local nursing home once a month.
I am also always on the lookout for educational materials, not necessarily textbooks. These are things like a bird field guide, a book on rocks and minerals, binoculars, a microscope I had as a kid, a magnifying glass…things to help fuel their curiosity for learning about the world around them.
We have chosen to hold our school session at the dining room table. I find it is helpful for me to be able to squeeze housework in “between the cracks”, like dictating a spelling word test while I am filling the dishwasher. I also have fun educational activities available for them to use in case they can’t go further in a subject and I am on the phone or something. It is just workbooks or flashcards that I have accumulated over the years that I keep in separate bins near their schoolwork storage area.
Christy’s Favorite Resources
1. Maine State History Museum. They hold special free events there like Bug Mania and Earth Science Day, which the kids absolutely love.
2. Another place we love to visit is the Waterville Opera House. We pay a few dollars per person to attend plays for kids like “Treasure Island” and “Hansel and Gretel”.
3. We also love our local library, because it is a great free resource. My kids love to read and the library has saved us a good deal of money on books. They also loan out audiobooks, movies and even a State Park Pass.
4. Something I grew up listening to that I feel is a big help in the character building department is Patch the Pirate. The kids love to listen to the stories and songs and they are entertaining even for adults.
5. Friends and Family have also been a big help to us. My dad was a teacher and principal and Dan comes from a family of teachers and coaches and they all have been very supportive and a huge resource to ask questions of and bounce ideas off of.
6. We have also been given a lot of supplemental educational material as well. The kid’s favorite thing we were given was the Liberty’s Kids series. It is an animated series that teaches about the American Revolution.
7. Last year we started La Clase Divertida (“the fun class”). It is a fun way for kids to learn Spanish and includes crafts, some Spanish cooking and puppets. It is a video series we bought separate from the Abeka curriculum that we use for the rest of the subjects.