What Homeschooling Looks Like

            There’s no one way that homeschooling looks or doesn’t look. There’s no perfect ideal and certainly no perfect moms! Beware of the trap of comparison which leads only to discouragement and disappointment. What homeschooling should look like is finding the rhythm that works for you and your kids. Having said that, I will give some general conclusions about what homeschooling looks like from my own experiences with our kids and the feedback I’ve gotten from the homeschool community.

  • It does not look like traditional school. It might even look a little unorganized because everyone is not learning the same thing at the same time. We don’t sit in desks, say the pledge, and listen to announcements. When people come to our house for the first time and see the room where we keep our school supplies, they sometimes ask, “Is this where you do school?” Well, yes and no. We do school all over the house. In the morning, they grab their daily checklist and their workbox and find a space to work. I am available, not lecturing or teaching in the traditional way, but as a facilitator. When they come to a new concept, I introduce the concept, pulling out manipulatives as needed. As soon as kids are able to read and write, this is how we roll. If I have a child in Kindergarten or first grade who is not yet independent, I am more directive in teaching them, but as they grow in their reading ability, I encourage them to be self-learners, to take ownership of their work. After we finish independent work, have lunch and play outside, we spend the afternoon reading together or pursuing individual interests, and that happens in our living room. The longer I homeschool, the more it grows on me that real learning is happening all the time. I am more aware of our lifestyle and less concerned about where we do school or our “school hours”.
  • It looks like reading. A lot. I really can’t say this enough. They just read a lot. Why? Because they can. They have time, they have space, and they are curious. If kids have free time, not cluttered with schedules, not distracted with screens, they are natural learners. Children are born with an innate curiosity. We belittle them when we try to cram information into their brains. This child is a person, after all, not some cog in a wheel. If they have the freedom, if they have the world at their fingertips, they will reach out to grasp it.
  • Sometimes it looks messy. This verse of Scripture comes to mind. “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean.” Maybe if the house was empty part of the day, it would be easier to keep clean?! I don’t know, but when lots of little children inhabit one place continually, the 2nd law of thermodynamics is in full force! Papers, pencils, books, devices, Lego’s or Lincoln logs for the littles, math games… kids like to spread their work out! Often they are working on projects. To be inquisitive, to have ideas, to explore is not usually a neat endeavor! In our home, we try to keep things picked up. The kids have chores. We put school work away before dinner, but during school hours, the house looks lived in! I have often felt, especially when we had mostly young kids, that the focus could either be school or the house, but not both. Summer break is a good time to focus a little more on the house and to organize spaces that get neglected due to the priority of school work. 
  • More time (than traditional school) spent doing life skills. Again, because our “school” is a home and not a building, home and school often mesh together. We usually have at least one hot meal together. Since they are here for a lot of meals, they have learned how to cook. Because they are here three meals a day, they’ve learned to clean up, too. These skills take lots of practice. They are here when I pay the bills, when I go grocery shopping, when a neighbor needs help. They feed our animals and put them out every morning. Our older boys have learned how to sell items on eBay. They respond to offers, manage orders, and ship out packages during the breaks they get in their school day. Occasionally my husband is home during our school time and he can sometimes be found in the garage building things with wood. Whenever he is working on a project, you can bet he has one or two little people “building” a project beside him. We have a family tradition of canning our own applesauce every fall, and the kids always participate. I count it as a day of school. It is a life skill. They know how to process applesauce from start to finish and that happens not by doing something one time, but by being there, doing it, year after year.
  • Targeting struggles. Homeschooling allows time to focus on problem areas until mastery. We don’t just move on to the next concept to keep up with the scope and sequence. When my child is struggling with, say, long division, we take it slow, and work through it until he is confidently mastering it. I’m not concerned about test scores or completing the state requirements. As their mom, my expectations for them go deeper than that. I don’t care what the other kids are doing. I want my child to be competent in long division so they can function in the adult world! I want them to know how to stick with something until they get it. As they wrestle through their own struggles, I want them to learn sympathy for people who struggle in other areas. I care about their character, and sometimes character is built by struggling and conquering. I want them to be challenged-whether academically, physically, socially, etc.- at the level that they need, and I feel that, as the parent, I have pretty close tabs on where their challenge level is-what is enough and what is too much.
  • A close-knit homeschool community. In my opinion, it’s hard to succeed in homeschooling without a circle of close friends. We are blessed to be part of an amazing co-op. Our kids have had these friends since they were very young, some of them from the time they were born! Because families are involved in co-ops, meeting up at people’s houses is frequent, and the kids have formed close friendships. Homeschoolers also meet up to take advantage of empty places… like Bounce U or skate parks or birthday parties in the middle of the day. Last year, one of the moms in our co-op organized a group of girls to participate in the Lancaster County Envirothon contest. They met every Thursday to learn all the birds, mammals, insects, trees, and flowers native to our area. Our daughter was one of the girls in this group. She and her friends won first place in the competition, competing against many public and private schools! Our oldest son participated in a biology lab that another mom organized for a group of kids. They met up a few times in the year and dissected frogs, perch, and earthworms.

  • Being OUT, making friends with people of all ages from various backgrounds. I think its safe to say that homeschoolers as a whole tend to seek out local events and be very involved. Though they may travel to and from these places with their family unit, they are not confined to one group of kids or one place. They interact with the working world. They see what happens out there all day. I remember thinking as a kid, “I wonder what is going on in the world while we are here in school.” Community activities, shopping, errands, markets, library classes, guided nature hikes…these are regular occurrences. Homeschoolers are out! Kids learn to ask questions as well as talk with adults and other children of all ages and many diverse backgrounds. They learn to make friends with anyone, any age, any where.
  • Frequent encounters with living things. Because home is not sterile, kids are naturally in close relation with raw materials and living beings of all kinds. Beautiful flowers, baby babbles, people working, birds singing, fabric, music, food, smiles of old folks. Are the monarchs are on the milkweed yet? When do the Dark-eyed Junco’s first come to our patio in winter? The rabbits are burrowing their nests… soon there will be bunnies hopping around the yard! We watch for things like these every year. Elderly neighbors need help walking out to get their mail, tree services are cutting the tree down next door, the baby entertains everyone with gummy smiles.
  • Spontaneous ideas. Homeschooling looks like kids suddenly get swept up in an idea or something they want to try and having the freedom to do it right then. When the idea strikes… why wait? It looks like kids experimenting, building forts, making up their own games, writing and acting out skits, playing in the rain. “Mom, can you show me how to knit a scarf for my American Girl doll?” “Mom, look we made our own stilts. Watch us walk with them!”
  • Hard work. Lest I be accused of sugar-coating, I must concede that homeschooling also looks like HARD work. Being with children can be exhausting! Children are fountains of energy. They are little sinners just like us. Sometimes they mimic our flaws and it stings! Some days the toddler throws up, the teenager talks back, and you end up crying with your fourth grader over fractions. Yes, homeschooling looks like hard work. But when you really love something, it is always worth the hard work to do it. It is a kind of hard work that is freeing and beautiful, and for those of us who homeschool, it is absolutely WORTH IT.

If I could draw a word picture of what learning looks like for any person, I think this verse encapsulates it for me.

For precept must be upon precept,

precept upon precept,

Line upon line,

line upon line,

Here a little, there a little.”

Isaiah 28:10

This is how homeschooling has looked for us…slowly building on concepts, a little here, a little there.

Think about how we learn as adults. Isn’t this it? We are curious. We have ideas. We discipline ourselves to pursue them by forming habits. We build on them, adding to the foundation as we go. Here a little, there a little. With time, it becomes a lot.

Meet Melissa

Meet my friend Melissa! Melissa and Ryan live in Pennsylvania. Ryan owns his own business. Melissa stays home with their kids and enjoys being a Nail Specialist for Color Street Nails. They have nine children and have been homeschooling for ten years.

Today I interview Melissa, a friend who I have been homeschooling alongside for 10+ years. Join us as we talk about getting started, sports, the high school years, and more!

Hi, I’m Melissa, wife to Ryan for eighteen years, homeschool mama of nine. I have been homeschooling for ten years. I pray that my journey can be an encouragement to you! Enjoy a little sneak peak into our family!

What does a typical day look like for you?


This is a tough question to answer, because if I’m honest, we don’t have a typical day. With 9 children, a dog, a cat, and let’s face it, me, I never quite know what emotions, physical issues, heart issues, or outside interruptions will be a part of my day. And that’s ok. That’s what makes life all about the journey and not the destination. Those aspects of our day are just as, if not more important, than the academics we
might accomplish. Those have to get done too, but they do.

I do have an ideal day, though, and my ideal day begins with my quiet time and exercise before my children awake for the day. My oldest children rise early to have a quiet time and then work on math while they sip tea with me – I call it our math lab. I told you, ideal. The rest of my children rise a bit later, and we share breakfast together before cleaning up and then gathering again around the table for
scripture reading, hymn study, and a few other family time studies. Then each child moves into their independent studies while I work with them in groups for particular subjects. The littles have school time first and then scamper off to play while my older students continue their studies throughout the morning. Our main schooling is done by lunch time after which we spend time out of doors and pursuing
enrichment studies in art, nature study, handicrafts, extended research, journaling, free reading, and other activities to continue to feed our minds and spirit.

The truth is, some days a lot of this does happen. And some days, very little of this happens. But every day, no matter how much measurable learning happens on paper, we are learning a little bit here and a little bit there. About life, and growing together in our relationships. Throw in our outside involvements in co-ops, sports, field trips, nature hikes, trips to the library, and days just spent with family and friends
and homeschooling life feels lovely and full.

What attracted you to homeschooling?


To be honest, I had never entertained the idea of homeschooling and certainly did not plan to educate my children at home. I graduated with a teaching certificate, taught in the public school for a couple of years before starting our family, and my kids were going to be the salt and light when they started school. God had different plans.

As a mother, I never wanted to put my kids into day care – I wanted to hear them say
their first words and cheer them on as they took their first steps, to be present for the everyday miracles of watching my child grow and learn. I started to realize, even though I was afraid and felt terribly inadequate to teach my kids to read, that I wanted to be the one to do just that. I also was faced with some strong messages from respected individuals in the homeschooling world, challenging us to consider the value of discipling our children and educating them from a Biblical worldview versus battling the secular educational system and the many hours they would spend away from our home. They could be salt and light, but that was a high expectation for my kindergartner who would still be navigating their own beliefs and establishing their foundations for years to come. On this side of the decision to homeschool, we have discovered huge benefits for our family relationships, flexibility that this lifestyle provides, and the ability to not only teach from a Biblical worldview but also tailor our education to meet the needs, gifts, and passions of each individual child. God led us to homeschooling and we are grateful for the blessings we continually find in teaching our children at home.

Have you hit any road blocks? What were they and how did you handle it?


Math. We have tried, particularly with my eldest child, 5 different math curriculums. Math is not her strongest subject so we were on a hunt for that magic curriculum. I learned that there is not necessarily a perfect curriculum, and instead we landed on one that is manageable for me time wise, and meets her learning style needs through video instruction in small increments, making it less overwhelming for her.
In fact, we now use this curriculum (Math U See) for all of our children. Through our journey with so many math programs, and not wanting my student to have any gaps in math instruction, we went “backwards” several times. In order to continue her progress and to help her meet her high school math requirements in preparation for college (she is now in 9th grade), we have continued to do math through the summer. Besides “catching her up” this has actually worked well to keep her moving forward and spending less time in review and getting back into math each year. In fact, all of my children now do math through the summer (about 3 days per week).

Another road block we faced was the desire of our oldest child to attend school. I know some families approach each year with a question mark about who will stay home and who will go to school. For us, we had made a decision for our family that homeschooling was the best option for us as a whole. We were not, and have not been completely against using other forms of education if it would become clear we
needed to make a change, but we have committed to stay the course and homeschool through high school. When my oldest hit junior high she was desiring strongly to attend school, and she was respectful about her approach and request to do this. So, we entertained and explored the idea. We asked her to evaluate why she wanted to attend school – what she was looking to gain? In the end, after many discussions and research into several alternate schooling options, all which took time, she came to the conclusion on her own that she really didn’t want to go to school. She realized the benefits of being home and determined she really just wanted to pursue a few outside and additional studies and activities. To be honest, I don’t know if we would have followed through and allowed her to go to school. We never had to actually make a final decision, but the process empowered her to think through, explore the options, and feel as if she had a say in the decision.

How do you teach multiple ages?


Teaching multiple ages can definitely be a challenge, but particularly for large families. For a long time I was striving for the ideal situation where we would all sit down and do school together in as many subject areas as possible. In reality, that didn’t work well for our family for several reasons. Up until the last few years we have always had an infant and toddler with somewhat unpredictable schedules. Even still, I now have an almost 16 year old going into 10th grade and a 4 year old preschooler, so spanning the ages isn’t realistic for more than some basic family time (hymn study, scripture reading, prayer). Not only that, getting everyone going the same direction physically, and in in the same room ready to listen and learn at the same time is a challenging feat in our house. And quite frankly, it just doesn’t fit the personality of
my family. While we love doing daily life together, and portions of our schooling, my children haven’t always wanted to learn the same things or read the same books or study the same topics. I’ve had to let go of this a little, but have come to embrace our diversity and value our shorter large family time.
Truthfully, I have really loved teaching my crew in smaller groups for certain subjects. For example, my youngest 2 daughters have done the same math and reading for the last couple of years. I grouped my oldest 3 together for writing and grammar . Next year I plan to have my 9th and 10th grader do the same history, literature, and Bible while my 6th and 7th grader will also share these subjects. To make things a
bit more streamlined, for my middle school and younger students I do choose a similar path for the year (such as our history time period) so we are all generally learning similar things in a few areas. Working in small groups with my children also freed up some of them to entertain younger ones so my teaching time was less interrupted. I didn’t always assign or schedule this job, it often happened
organically, but it was invaluable and encouraged friendships among my children as they played with and cared for one another in smaller groups.
Approaching our learning this way (in smaller groups) has allowed for us to continue to enjoy learning together but also afforded the opportunity for my children to have some choice in what books or path their learning will take each year. Particularly in science, I have given them choices in which topics they wish to explore. One of my children is extremely interested in the medical field and has chosen books and
courses of study that are already preparing her for a future in nursing or even as a doctor at a young age. For us this has reinforced the beauty of homeschooling and the privilege and opportunity we have to guide our students as they pursue their God given interests, passions, and talents.

What would your experienced self tell your newbie self?


Homeschooling is not a destination and you likely won’t figure out a perfect system that can be replicated with each of your children. Instead it is a journey, an opportunity to do life with and disciple your children with a goal of instilling in them a love of learning, pointing them to their Creator and Savior each step of the way. Be open to change, but also go with what is working and don’t get too distracted by what
others are doing or the next best thing. Meet each child where they are, challenging them to grow but not putting expectations on them (or yourself!) that are devised by the world’s standards. Rest in each day, taking time to truly see the little things and find joy in the day to day learning (beyond the books) knowing that it compounds into a lifetime of wisdom. And finally, pray your way through.

Do your kids have opportunities for team sports?


Yes, they do! Most of our children have begun pursuing a sport around age 9 or 10. There are so many opportunities to participate in local club sports and later in school sports when they reach junior high and high school. One of my daughters has also participated in Girls on the Run at the local elementary school starting in 3rd grade. And depending where you live, there are other opportunities through local recreation centers, gym facilities, and stand alone specialty businesses such as Lancaster Archery.
The “why” behind making this a part of our children’s school age experience is multifaceted. I was very involved in sports, playing through high school and college and then continuing to coach for 9 years after that. Even today I return to my alma mater to coach at camps. For me, I learned so much about life, teamwork, and myself through playing a sport – an experience I’m happy for them to have as well. While
we don’t require our kids to pursue a sport, many of them are athletically inclined and have found a sport in which they do well and they love. As part of our homeschooling philosophy it presents yet another opportunity for them to grow as a person and pursue their interests and passions. In addition, and really
something I hadn’t put much thought into before we got involved in community and school sports, we have both individually and has a family been able to rub shoulders with people who are much different than us. This has provided many opportunities for conversations with our kids, but has also allowed us to build relationships with unbelievers and people from varied walks of life.

Melissa’s Favorite Resources

Math U See

IEW Fix It! Grammar and Writing

Veritas Self-Paced History

Mystery of History

Well-Trained Mind: Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer

God’s Design Science (Answers in Genesis)

Reading Made Easy by Heart of Dakota Publishing

Window on the World book review by Tim Challies

Melissa’s Favorite Read Alouds

Poppy Tales From Dimwood Complete Collection Books 1 Through 6 (#1 ...
The Wingfeather Saga — Andrew PetersonKingdom Tales   -     By: David Mains, Karen Mains
In Grandma's Attic - (Grandma's Attic (Numbered)) 3 Edition By ...
Rush Revere and 3 Book Series Set:Rush Revere and the Brave ...

Have questions for Melissa? You can contact her at kemegroff@yahoo.com.Remember, though, moms are busy! Response time may be delayed, but she will try to reply as soon as she can!

Meet Bev

Meet my friend Bev! Bev and Mark live in Massachusetts. Mark teaches high school math in the local public school. Bev stays at home with their kids. They have six children and have been homeschooling for six years.

Bev and I connect to talk about her experiences homeschooling her children. We talk about a typical day, homeschooling with littles, getting started, keeping perspective, and more.

Hi! I’m Bev, wife to Mark for almost 14 years, homeschool mama of 6. I have been homeschooling for six years. I pray that my journey can be an encouragement to you! Enjoy a little sneak peak into our family!

What does a typical day look like for you?

That is a trick question.  I could answer what it looks like now, but that would be misleading.  Honestly, our daily life looks different every year, depending on the unique season that we’re in.  Throughout my homeschool journey, I had had 3 babies and we have moved 4 times. One of those moves was temporary housing for 2 months.  It’s been quite the journey.  We try to keep a daily “flow” to our days, but I try to be realistic while planning our schedule so that I can succeed, rather than setting myself up for failure.  My older kids are getting older and gaining some independence, so they are responsible for waking up and doing their morning routine (dress, brush teeth, make bed, eat breakfast) before we meet for our morning time at 8.  Together we read the bible out loud, and sing the hymn of the week and recite the scripture of the month that we’re working on.  (Ephesians 6:10-20 and Come Thou Fount). Then they do independent work from 10-12, lunch from 12-1, and I work with them on parent directed studies during the littles nap from 1-3ish.  

Is there a specific area you love/ specialize in/ stands out about your family’s way of doing school?

I love to read aloud to my kids.  Sometimes I read so much my throat hurts! We LOVE the outdoors.  This past year we took a challenge of 1000 hours outdoors.  We got outside every day, rain or shine.  It was pretty amazing!

Have you made mistakes and what did you learn from them?

Yes. haha.  I am far from perfect.  I always say that the hardest part of homeschooling is my sin.  And my kids sin.  If we were perfect, life would look a lot different.  But that’s also the reason I LOVE homeschooling.  I can reach my kids hearts in a way that I wouldn’t if we had less time together.  I always love when, after a hard morning, the afternoon is spent snuggling on the couch being reminded that love covers a multitude of Sin.  The Lord is faithful and if we continue to approach the throne of grace for wisdom, He is faithful to give it abundantly.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Expecting my 4 year old to homeschool, in a seat, and color for 5 hours straight, and follow all my lesson plans without interruption. And oh yeah, the baby would sleep for 2 hours on cue….blah blah blah.. OR more honestly, expecting my children to fall into the “quintessential”, picture perfect model of what I thought homeschooling was “supposed” to look like. My son listens to read alouds upside down on the couch (as long as he’s not distracting his siblings). My kids argue. My daughter struggles to read. And THAT. IS. OKAY.

How do you teach multiple ages?

From the beginning, I’ve always tried to grow independent learners.  I really learned this out of necessity, from the years that I was pregnant and unable to function as much as normal.  When I didn’t have the energy to do much, I saw my kids raise their own bar and take ownership of their education.  I saw firsthand how much they were able to accomplish on their own. I also require my littles to play independently for a bit in the morning if I’m helping the older kids, and after a bit I allow them to watch an educational show, a spanish movie, or play Khan Academy Kids.  I often don’t need to use technology, because the littles LOVE sitting on someone’s lap while they’re doing their spanish lesson, or dancing along with their typing program and just living life watching their siblings learn.  I always joke that my youngest kid will be my most intelligent because they’re along for the ride!

What would your experienced self tell your newbie self.

Don’t stress over curriculum.  There is NO perfect curriculum.  Just find something you enjoy, whether it’s a box curriculum or an eclectic mix of books from the library and just start learning!   

If your oldest child was a preschooler, where would you start?

READ BOOKS EVERY DAY and teach him to memorize scripture! EARLY.  It’s never to early. Teach them obedience and character.  They will learn math LATER.

Bev’s Favorite Links

www.simplycharlottemason.com – This is where I began my home-school journey! Simply Charlotte Mason offers a free curriculum guide (K-12) with GREAT resources to home-school using Charlotte Mason’s philosophy!

Christian Light Math – I cannot recommend this math curriculum enough!! It encourages self-learning, teaches fun facts along the way and is effective to provide a solid foundation in Math.

Veritas Self-Paced History – This is our first year using Veritas History, and we LOVE it!

Kids History with Pipo – A great video resource for Ancient and Medieval history.

Khan Academy Kids – Khan Academy is a free educational app for the littles. The organization also offers many free programs/tutorials for higher level learning.

Starfall – Another great Educational app for the littles.

DanceMat Typing – Typing program. The kids love it. It’s silly, slightly annoying, but effective 🙂

BBC Salsa Spanish Videos – Free Spanish “episodes” that the kids watch weekly (if not daily) before the begin DuoLingo in 2nd grade.

Duo Lingo – Free Spanish curriculum.

Xploration DIY science – One of my kids favorite science shows.

Magic School Bus on Netflix – Rainy Day Science show. 🙂

Seeds Family Worship – Great CD’s with scripture verses made into fun songs! A great way to hide God’s word into the hearts of your children!

Bev’s Favorite Read-A-Louds

The Trumpet of the Swan - Wikipedia
The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh: Milne, A. A.: 8601405204585 ...
Mr Poppers Penguins, Richard Atwater, Florence Atwalter, Robert ...
Pinocchio, with eBook (Tantor Unabridged Classics): Collodi, Carlo ...
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 100th Anniversary Edition (Books of ...
Stuart Little: White, E. B, Williams, Garth: 9780064400565: Amazon ...
A Little Princess: Burnett, Frances Hodgson, Tudor, Tasha ...

What is one thing that you want people to remember?

When you’re 80 years old or on your death bed, what is going to matter most?  Are you going to care if you finished your math book?  OR that you switched history curriculum for the 5th time, and started over each time with Ancient History? Or that your daughter didn’t finish the writing program?  You want to do WELL. You want to be faithful in your pursuit, but really, remember what matters MOST.  Love your kids. Laugh often.  Teach them character.  Memorize Scripture. Talk about the Lord and HIS faithfulness. And they will be JUST fine.

In my life, for some reason, I always thought that you had to polarize opposing realities. For example, something couldn’t be really challenging and really amazing at the same time. But I’ve come to realize that’s not true. Something can be the hardest thing you’ve ever done AND the most profitable – simultaneously. I have once shared the struggles of homeschooling and had people question why I keep going. Because it’s hard. And because it’s wonderful. Just because it’s hard doesn’t make it bad, and just because it is easy doesn’t make it good. That was a freeing lesson to learn.

Have questions for Bev? You can contact her at Beverlykrans@gmail.com. Remember, though, moms are busy! Response time may be delayed, but she will try to reply as soon as she can!

Our family visited Bev and Mark in Massachusetts on Vacation

Bev and I posing just as we were leaving to go home.
The guys taking the kids creek stomping.
Crazy pose

Our Interview

Hi! I’m Sheri. This is my husband Nelson. We have been married for 20 years and live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We have eight kids and have been homeschooling for ten years. I’ve been spending my summer interviewing homeschool moms, collecting their stories and resources. I’m excited to share them in hopes that they will be an encouragement to people who are thinking about homeschooling or are already homeschooling.

To start things off, here’s our (unedited!) interview. My husband does NOT like to be in front of a camera, but out of support for me, he graciously agreed to it. We are a little stiff at the beginning- be patient with us, we were nervous!- but we warm up to ourselves by the end! We discuss what attracted us to homeschooling, a typical day, and how we teach multiple ages.

What attracted you to homeschooling?

When I was a 4th grade public school teacher, I had a student who entered my class in the middle of the year. His name was Brad. He had been homeschooled up to that point. From the comments I heard in the faculty room, “his poor mother had just delivered her sixth baby and had finally put them all in school”! Brad amazed me from the start. He began to unravel all the pre-conceived ideas I had about homeschooled kids. Not only did he ace every assignment I gave him, he would finish early and sit in his desk reading books. He would read the likes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Chronicles of Narnia series, totally engrossed! Not only was he an academic scholar, he was a leader in our class. His confident, fun-loving, inquisitive personality attracted everyone him. Everybody liked him. My whole class which, the first half of the year had been a raucous bunch of average students, became inspired to be something better the second half of the year. Kids really do influence the general atmosphere of the group. As I observed Brad, I wondered about his mom. Maybe she was overwhelmed and had lost her confidence. Maybe she had hit a rough spot. One thing I knew for sure, whatever she thought she wasn’t doing well at home, she was doing better than I ever could for him in a classroom setting with 20 fourth graders, even with my best efforts! My experience with Brad and my overall teaching experience in schools made me wonder if we could offer something as good, if not better, at home.

What does a typical day look like for you?

This has changed over the years (as it should!) depending on seasons of life. Even with those changes, over time our typical day has looked roughly like this.

8:30 Breakfast/Morning Time

9-10:30 or 11 Independent Work. Our kids grab their checklists and get started on their work. I am available to help, especially for those who are learning a new concept, but they are mostly self-directed. The younger kids who have less work may finish earlier and the older kids with more assignments sometimes finish later, give or take.

Break for outside play and lunch

1:00-2:30 or 3 Nappers go down. We gather in the living room and everyone does some quiet reading, about 15 minutes. The youngest child who no longer naps might be playing with Lego’s or something quiet on the floor. After giving them a few minutes of their own quiet reading, they put their books down and I read aloud to everyone. With my large age gap, I usually do one reading for everyone, then different readings for different ages. I also use this time to work individually with kids in areas where they need help.





How do you teach multiple ages?

When I had all young kids, the work of getting started was much, much harder. Those were the foundational years. Choosing curriculum, becoming familiar with the curriculum, teaching someone how to read for the first time, doing school with a toddler or baby at my side-all these things made the beginning a test of perseverance. As we got going, I had more and more kids who were reading. Reading opens up a whole new world for a child and I encouraged them to be self-learners. Each year as our oldest, Ty, was moving ahead, I had to learn the material and the best way to use it, but after that, as other kids progressed, I was already familiar with the content. Over time, I no longer had to learn the curriculum, it was just execution, so that was helpful too.

As of right now, each of our reading kids have a daily checklist that I make for them at the beginning of the year. With this, they can take ownership of their work and come to me for help as they need it. The only difficulty with this is when 2 or 3 kids are starting a new math concept on the same day!! It might be helpful to know that their history is an online self-paced program and their science is covered in our read aloud time. Experiments with science happen as a group or are covered in co-op. My direct teaching is spent most with the next budding reader. First I teach them to read with short 10-15 minute lessons a day. Once they can read, we start writing. I’m pretty old school. We use a manuscript tablet and I teach them a new letter a day until they are ready to copy simple words. When they can write, we start math. Other subjects for this child are covered by all our read-alouds. This may sound simplistic to someone who is starting out, BUT as with anything, every endeavor gets easier with time. The kids can do more and more for themselves as they grow and I am there to inspire and assist.

I think some people wonder how a mom can cover so many subjects and ages well. For example, maybe you’re a literature person and that comes easily to you, but how can you teach other subjects that don’t come as easily to you. I think there are two good answers to that.

  1. As you learn with the child, you become better at that subject. When I started math with out oldest, I used a very hands-on, teacher intensive program. I loved the research and philosophy behind it-using games and manipulative to teach math with everything revolving around the base ten system. I used it with Ty until 5th grade. The year he was in 5th grade, I had three students of school age. Teaching three separate math lessons was becoming less and less doable. I had no choice, but to pick another curriculum that the kids could do more independently. BUT I had learned so much from teaching Ty those first several years that even though our kids moved to more of a work book style material, I was able to pull out those games and manipulatives every time they started a new math concept. I had gained a better understanding of math and was able to do a better job teaching it to the rest of my kids.
  2. At times when I felt that I wasn’t able to provide the best option for one of our kids in a certain area, I out-sourced the subject. For example, in history, I discovered Veritas Press and loved what they had to offer through their classically based, chronological, self-paced history programs. I felt that our kids could get more out of these classes than I was currently able to provide them at the time. Also, as Ty has entered high school, we have out-sourced many of his classes. Last year he took Geometry and Civics/Geography from teachers at a local homeschool co-op.
Teaching Mom how to rip-stick.
Afton age 7
Jenna, age 11

What is your biggest challenge?

One challenge for me has been valuing relationships over progress. This is still a struggle for me today and something I am continually working to improve. I am a task-driven person. I love to check things off my “to do” list. I’m an introvert. I love to be alone to read, reflect, write. Being the mother of eight children, as you can imagine, I am rarely alone! When I am spending time doing something fun with my kids, I find myself starting to think or work and not enjoy. Since building relationships is one of our top reasons for homeschooling, I have to remind myself to stop, to listen, to play, to have fun with them. I don’t want them to remember Mom as always being there, but not engaging. Investing in them IS the reason I am homeschooling, not the list of work I am trying to complete.

My biggest challenge, however, has been my own personal discouragement. This may or may not be true, but many times I have felt that if you do what everyone else is doing, even if it stinks, you have few critics, and if you do something different from what everyone else is doing, even if it is VERY good, people are quick to criticize or question. On our tough days…and there are some tough, lonely days, especially when the kids are all young…I’ll be honest, I was jealous of friends whose kids went to school. They didn’t have to forge their own way. Their path seemed neatly laid out for them. They had more time to themselves, or so it seemed. I thought “Are we dumb?Why did we decide to do something that’s SO hard?!” I would question, “Maybe the critics are right…why am I doing this to myself?!” One homeschool mom and author Cindy Rollins wrote, ” I felt that sending them off to school was the one place I could send the kids where everything that went wrong wasn’t my fault.” If the truth be known, I was my biggest critic. Maybe other moms feel this way too.

BUT when the tough day ended and I stepped back to look at the big picture, I realized a few things. I realized that I really like who my kids are becoming. I’m happy with a lifestyle that revolves around our family. Yes, we have our flaws and bad spots, but we are close. I’m proud of how my kids are doing in their studies, and I think they have great friends. I love that we are not confined to learn in one space, that we’ve had the opportunity through field trips to experience many different places and people. I’m glad for the good kinds of pressure they have in their life and the bad kinds of pressure they can avoid. Does it matter what anyone else thinks, if it’s not true? I know who my kids are. I am really proud of what we do. Great accomplishments are often formed in hard places.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Teddy Roosevelt

Sheri’s Favorite Resources

amblesideonline.org Ambleside is my main resource for most of our work. I love the high standard of excellent books, short lessons, emphasis on nature, art, music, and foreign language. I would caution that this site can be very overwhelming if you try to do everything on it. If you see it as a feast of beautiful ideas and pick only what appeals to you, you will love it!

Read Aloud Revival Other than Ambleside, this is my go-to book list!! Sarah Mackenzie is a homeschool mom who will help the whole family fall in love with books. I also listen to her podcast. It’s excellent!

Rightstart Math This was the first math curriculum I used at the beginning. It uses games and manipulatives, all revolving around the base-ten system to teach math. One negative-it could use more written practice, in my opinion. It is very teacher-intensive so I wasn’t able to continue it with all of my kids, but continue to use the methods I learned from teaching it with my kids when they come to new concepts.

Singapore Math Simple, lots of practice, slowly builds on concepts. All our elementary kids use this and it works well for us.

Veritas Press Self-Paced History Courses These are awesome!! Actors teach from historical sites. Maps, questions, games are all interactive and review the content. Kids love it!

Seterra Online, interactive geography maps. Learn the world, one click at at a time!

Apologia Great science resource! For the most part, our elementary kids all do the same science together each year and we loop the content. I read it aloud to my kids or they read together in groups.

The Smiling Homeschooler Podcast Todd Wilson has reminded me that: relationships matter most, its ok to have a messy homeschool room, and that home is the best place to learn!

Simply Charlotte Mason Art Prints These are lovely!!

Sheri’s Favorite Read Alouds

The Wingfeather Saga — Andrew Peterson
EB White Treasury: Charlotte's Web / Stuart Little / The Trumpet ...
Melendy Quartet Ser.: The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright (2008 ...
The Complete Tales Of Winnie-The-Pooh
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Amazon.com: Little House on the Prairie: Little House, Book 3 ...
The Little House AUDIO series read by Cherry Jones. She does an excellent job on these!
Rush Revere and 3 Book Series Set:Rush Revere and the Brave ...
We buy the audio books and the kids listen at night in bed. They love them! They know more American history than I do from playing these over and over.

Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.

Deuteronomy 32:2

Why We Homeschool Part 2

Our reasons for homeschooling were longer than I could list in my last post, so here’s the continued list!

5. Time

One of the reasons I think homeschooling is producing unique, quality individuals is this right here. They have time to pursue and develop their interests. As soon as they finish their “school” work, which by the way takes waaaaay less time than a full school day! (Think about how much time is wasted riding the bus or getting every student on the same page at the same time with all their pencils sharpened or taking 20 first graders to the bathroom or gaining classroom control or . . . ) Our kids are quick to get to the learning that they care about the most, their passions! Our oldest, Ty, spends his free time playing drums and developing his blog where he reviews video games. He and Luke, our second son, love basketball, so they often do basketball drills or play each other one on one. Luke plays his guitar or teaches himself new ways to solve the Rubix cube. Jenna, who loves drawing, will do drawing lessons via YouTube or look for craft ideas on Pinterest.  Brinley, taking her inspiration from the British Baking Show, searches the cupboards for ingredients to bake something new. Our animal lover, Afton, takes off outside to check on our barn animals or halter our calf. Sometimes any one of them can be caught in a corner curled up with their favorite book. Our youngest are still developing their interests. When kids are not herded from the bus to school to after school activities, they have more time to develop their skills, more time for the things they enjoy.   

Baking her own bread!

6. Efficiency

Many things double up in homeschooling. Here’s just one example, but I could list many more. Remember in elementary school learning how to write a friendly letter? There’s the heading, greeting, body, closing, and signature. Remember filling out worksheets on these and writing a sample friendly letter? What’s wrong with just writing real letters?! Often! Sometimes I hand our girls a copy of our extended family’s calendar of birthdays and assign them to send out birthday cards as part of their school work. Friendly letter practice and birthday cards from our family all in one. 

7. Safety

As I was writing this article and asking for input, someone mentioned the issue of safety, and in particular, bullying. And to be honest, it never occurred to me. The worry or fear of a school shooter has never crossed my mind in the safety of our home. There’s always sibling rivalry and spats, but bullying is never allowed. I am here, hands on. I am in touch with the needs and emotional state of each of my “students” in a way no one else can be.

8. Home as a place of life and activity 

I love that our home is always bustling with life. When I walk through our neighborhood during the day and see empty houses, it makes me sad. What is it out there that is so much more attractive to call us away for so many long hours from the beauty of home? I realize I am being a little idealistic here and many of us have no choice in providing the basic needs of family other than to work long hours away from home. But, if you have the choice, and if you were the child, would you rather live and learn in the beauty of home or in the confines of a building?  What if the world was your classroom rather than the classroom your world?  If COVID-19 has had one redeeming quality for me, it has been to see people, (including children!!) out in the middle of the day, working, playing, learning! 

9. Faith

Throughout history, good parents of every faith pass down their values to their children. As Christian parents who operate from a Biblical worldview, we see homeschooling as a prime opportunity to share our faith with our kids. We want something that goes deeper than church on Sunday. Discipleship requires time. We want to guide them as they find answers to life’s most important questions. Where do I come from? What do I believe about the world around me? What is my purpose?  We want them to be exposed to other faiths and thoughts while also drenched in the faith we espouse. Before they leave our home, we want them to have read the Bible through for themselves. We want for them to love the thing we love the most- a personal relationship with the Creator. We want to share with them the hope of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus that has become the driving purpose of our lives. We want to inspire them with stories of great men and women of faith. This kind of discipleship takes purpose and time.

Of course, as they grow, they make their own choices. They form their own beliefs about God and the world. As parents, we hope that they will find the same unshakeable faith that we have, BUT may it be with clear understanding and full freedom! As they study other religions and belief systems and compare them to the gospel message of the Bible, we pray that God’s Word will emerge in their hearts as the true, life-changing, hope of the world. 

“And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.” Psalm 12:6

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Why We Homeschool

Every family chooses homeschooling for different reasons, so if you are thinking about homeschooling your child(ren), ask around to get different perspectives! Homeschooling is unique because it is adaptable. It can be customized to meet the needs of individual children and can developed around the needs of individual families. 

Here are a few reasons why we love it!

1. Relationships

When your kids don’t go to school, (surprise!) you end up spending a LOT of time together! This may be both absolutely wonderful and utterly exhausting depending on the particular moment or circumstances! As a whole, however, thinking about ALL the time we have spent WITH each other…living, being, learning … remembering all the places we have been together, whether literally through field trips or figuratively in books – we have built something deep, something lifelong. We have built relationships.  We are making investments into the people we love the most. 

2. Sibling friendships

Our kids have invested in friendships that will outlive their elementary/high school years.  A sibling relationship is a lifelong friendship. Since my kids have grown up together, it would make me so sad to think of them all going separate ways and not knowing each other in the way they do now. 

Now, don’t lose me here! Our kids have friends outside our home. They have friends in many different circles.  At our most recent pediatrician visit, the doctor asked my 15-year-old son if he has friends outside our home. Ugh, really?!!  I care about my kids, okay. Yes, they have friends!! They have regular friends that they chat and hang out with. They are or have been involved in many different groups and community events from Cub Scouts to intramural sports to homeschool co-ops to art classes to camps to music lessons to drama presentations to church activities. They have friends. BUT when they get up each morning, not rushed, not harried, they eat breakfast together. When they finish their independent work, they build forts in the back yard together. After lunch, we go amazing places in the books we read together. Roots run deep when you spend a lot of time with someone, and a sibling will be a friend for a lifetime. 

3. Flexibility

This right here was almost number one for us when we started out. Nelson worked swing shifts at the time, so if our kids had gone to school, there would have been several days a week when they wouldn’t have seen dad at all. Homeschooling allowed us to flex with his schedule to maximize our family time. We can whisk away for a day or overnight trip, take an early weekend, do school at night, or change it up as needed. 

Field Trip with our Co-op to Washington D.C.

4. Interest-based/Individualized

We are not a factory here. Why do our kids have to be learning a certain pre-determined material at the same time and at the same level? Why are we putting our kids into a one size fits all mold?!  Our kids are highly unique individuals!  What if my son suddenly becomes obsessed with learning to play the guitar and spends every spare moment teaching himself to play from YouTube? That’s exactly what happened with our second son Luke. He is a hands-on learner. As soon as his independent work was done in the morning, he spent all his time learning to play. Now he is able to participate in the worship team along with my husband who also plays guitar. What if the kids want to spend more time studying  a certain topic because it interests them? Isn’t that where real learning happens-when you want to know about something?

As parents and as educators, we do have goals and high expectations for our kids, and we realize that these expectations change, depending on the child. I would go so far as to say, though, that my expectations and my interest in my children’s success is much higher and more personalized than any school district’s or teacher’s. Why? Because they are mine! I want their education to be tailor-made, completely individual. And I can do that because I know them best.

There’s so many good reasons why we homeschool. These are some important ones, but there are many others. If you want to know more reasons why we homeschool, check out Why We Homeschool Part 2!

Our Story

Hi! I’m Sheri, wife to Nelson for 20 years. We live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. My husband works in law enforcement and I stay home with our kids. We have eight children and have been homeschooling for ten years.

I started this blog to encourage current and prospective homeschool moms by sharing the stories of homeschooling families. I’ve been spending my summer interviewing moms and asking them to share the stories of how they ended up homeschooling. I can’t wait to share them with you here in the next few weeks and months! Here’s our homeschooling story.

When I first entertained the thought that maybe I would like to homeschool, I knew almost no one in my circle to ask. Literally almost no one. Our oldest child was three years old and school was just around the corner. Decisions were looming!! 

Prior to staying home with my children, I was a public school teacher. After making the decision to stay home full time with our first child, my priorities in life changed. I adored our son and wanted to show him the world! I began to think to myself, “Maybe I want to do what I have been doing in school…just with my own kids.”

Although I had enjoyed teaching, I had felt so limited by administrative work, state standards, professional requirements, paperwork, etc. I wanted to explore with my students and to develop in them a hunger to learn about the world around us, but THAT is not easy to do in a classroom! 

As my ideals were evolving, I read every book I could find on homeschooling. My interest was piqued! The freedom to learn by interest, to explore the natural world-not cooped up in one space, to spend more time reading good books together – these possibilities were calling to me! Although I looked for other homeschoolers to ask for help, there just weren’t many in my circle at that time. I found a few brave souls who were ahead of me, and they were my lifeline. I questioned them about everything. There were also a few other local friends who were of the same bent as I was. Our oldest children were all entering preschool. We met up, five of us, and plunged in together. We ended up meeting in each other’s homes every week with our kids. Our excitement grew each week as we exchanged ideas and talked life learning. This small group eventually grew exponentially and became a homeschool co-op which we still attend today!

After ten years of homeschooling our kids, I have experienced several different stages, many highs and lows. And I am still learning new things. Together we have visited many places-literally in field trips and figuratively, in books. Our times on the couch every afternoon reading together will always hold a special place in my heart. We have learned and lived through so many important moments. So far, with four of our kids I’ve cried through long division…and survived!!! 
 

It isn’t easy homeschooling multiple kids on multiple levels. It especially wasn’t easy giving up a career and the prestige that comes with a title. On occasion my kids fight, and, yes, it drives me crazy!! I have even threatened to put the kids on the next school bus that drives by! Without a doubt, I would have quit – and almost did more than once! – without the encouragement of family and friends. 

Through the highs and lows, I am SO THANKFUL to have had this experience with our kids. The time with them has been WORTH it. It is not easy, but I can honestly say that I absolutely LOVE what I do!

For the mother is and must be, whether she knows it or not, the greatest, strongest, and most lasting teacher her children have.”

HANNAH W. SMITH

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Why I Started This Blog

Recently I have run into so many parents who are considering homeschooling for the first time. With the uncertainty in our country due to COVID-19, some parents feel that homeschooling might be a better option. I have talked to many other parents with budding preschoolers who would like to homeschool, but just don’t know where to start.

I started this blog to share Our Life Homeschooling. By this I mean not just our family’s personal life, but “our” collective lives as homeschoolers. In this blog I will be interviewing and sharing experiences of families in their homeschooling journeys. Often homeschoolers are put into a box with a cookie cutter view of what we do, but as a group, we are so diverse. Just as every person, every family is unique, the way each family homeschools varies widely.

I write mostly to moms, because moms are my circle, but dads are welcome, too! If you have questions or are considering homeschooling as a choice for your family, I’m glad you are here!

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