5 Confessions of an Imperfect Homeschool Blogger

When I first started blogging, I used my blog as a platform to share with friends and family our adventures in homeschooling. We were the first family in my social circle to make the decision to homeschool and our decision was not without criticism.

I wanted to show those that doubted just how wonderful our homeschool journey was and how much the children were prospering. Like many, I wanted to be uplifting – not a whiner or complainer. I wanted to be inspirational. This meant that I posted often the fun projects the kids would undertake or when something cool or exciting was happening. It also meant that the content on this blog was pretty upbeat and focused on mostly uncontroversial topics.

Over time, as I evolved from a hobby blogger to a professional homeschool blogger my approach became more focused. While this is all good, I find myself struggling to stay caught up with the rapid changes of FTC regulations, engage in social media, create pinnable images, and develop good SEO while simultaneously navigating our own homeschool and family life.homeschool teen giving a presentation with text - confessions of an imperfect homeschoolerI haven’t been posting very often recently and this is mostly due to a changing season in our homeschool journey. As the kids have gotten older, I am less involved in their learning. They have become more independent and less reliant on me for planning activities and outings. As a result, I find I have less to share.

So, it’s confession time. Here are my five confessions as an imperfect homeschool blogger.

Our Imperfect Homeschool

1. We have fallen off the bandwagon, or at least changed our approach

I have hinted at our changing educational style in an earlier post, Our Relaxed Homeschool. We have always had a gentle approach to education. In recent years, I have become more hands-off. When we moved back to Oregon we lived with my in-laws for a few months. This was a huge distraction. It is hard to stay focused on algebra when Judge Judy is reprimanding a plaintiff.

Additionally, to offset the change in my husband’s income (one of the sacrifices we made to move back home), I began to take on more work outside the home. I began substitute teaching and home tutoring. I also began work with VIPKID. Along with my volunteer obligations (Scouts and swim team previously), I am strained. I have to admit, I let school slide into a bare minimum.

I have essentially thrown out Charlotte Mason’s principles which were so successful with my daughter. I have now adopted an unschooling approach to my son’s education. I’m still grappling though with whether to continue with a relaxed approach or adopt more of a schedule. I fear he takes advantage of me and spends more time playing Minecraft (yet I know it is educational too) than learning.

For a several reasons, we also chose to partner with an umbrella school. There were just too many positives to not give it a try. I haven’t talked about this much yet but I will.

I know there are seasons for everything and that children are individuals. But it does make it hard to have material for a homeschool blog when we aren’t doing more than Odysseyware, Life of Fred math, piano lessons, and occasional nature studies.

2. I don’t fit into my local homeschool group

In the previous two communities in which we lived (Bend, Oregon and Redding, California), we connected with a great community of like-minded homeschoolers. We were not a part of Classical Conversations, though a thriving CC community existed in each, but we had a circle of homeschoolers with children of varying ages with whom we were able to enjoy the benefits of an informal co-op which included activities like STEM Club, book club, Writer’s Workshop, and Roots & Shoots.

Here, I really am a misfit. Most of the homeschool families in this area are involved in a very exclusive homeschool co-op (they require participants to sign a specific faith statement) or utilize an online charter school (K12 or Connections Academy). My style of homeschool education looks more like radical unschooling in contrast to the homeschoolers around me.

homeschool teen playing Minecraft with text - confessions of an imperfect homeschooler3. My son does not like to read

He has never enjoyed reading – I know this is in part due to his nystagmus. There are books he has read over and over again (thank you, Roland Smith!) but it is very difficult to get him to read much of anything. I could write an entire post about my son’s distaste for reading. In fact, I probably should. Perhaps it would help me to come to terms with it.

I know it is okay not to love reading  but I also harbor a fear that I have failed him. Fortunately, he has always enjoyed listening to audio books. However, he presently listens to speed cubing and tech reviews, Minecraft gaming videos, and air crash investigations on YouTube rather than literature.

4. Teens are fickle

In the summer of 2016, my daughter was passionate about potentially beginning her own Boba Tea business. She spent many hours researching recipes, designing a logo, and developing a business plan. Most impressive was her willingness to undertake a market research poll of our local community at the farmer’s market. Through her efforts, she made the realization that starting a Boba Tea business would distract from her ultimate goal of becoming an engineer and the schooling required to achieve it.

The following summer, she became intrigued with tiny houses. Her new goal was to build a tiny house prior to graduating high school in an effort to reduce her own carbon footprint and save money on living expenses while in college. She again spent many hours researching and designing her home (you should see her Pinterest board). Ultimately, she opted to put this project on hold for as artist, she also dreams of a large studio space.

Youthful vigor and enthusiasm is wonderful. Channeling it and following through with their visions is an entirely different ball game. Their interests and passions change. While this is certainly a great life lesson, it makes it difficult to blog about their successes.

5. My daughter wants to skip high school and just get to college

My daughter began dual enrollment courses in the fall of 2016. She started out with just one math course but has gradually increased her course load. She is now taking a full load of courses at the community college and is loving every minute. I will be sharing more of this experience on the iHomeschool Network blog soon.

Both of my children have always had a passion for learning. This passion and enthusiasm is still there, but it is reserved for the things they are truly passionate about, not the things I select for them or that the state deems required. While meeting with a college advisor from the four year university where she wishes to transfer she exclaimed,

“I want to do pro-school now! I wish I could just jump past high school.”

Whether we are engaged in an lively family discussion about current events, meandering about the ruins of an ancient temple, or sequestered in our little corner of the house with our mobile device and tuning out the outside world, I know we are learning. Above all, I believe instilling a love of learning and a curiosity about the world is the most important thing. And that is exactly what we are doing.

After all, we are just like you — imperfect homeschoolers. And I, I am an imperfect homeschool blogger.

 

Finding Our Groove: A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool

Many will ask, “How do you juggle everything? How do you structure your homeschool day?” For our family, a routine is key to a successful homeschool experience.

Before I launch into what we do with our homeschool day, let me describe the constants – the routines around which we plan our week.

adayinthelifeOur Homeschool Routines

The kids have always participated in an ‘after-school’ sport in the evenings, first Taekwondo and now Swim Team.  The other constants that have always been in place are private lessons for Mandarin and Music (piano and violin) as well as Roots & Shoots and Sons of Norway (Barnesklubb).

Last year, I started STEM Club and Literature Circle which have both been a great benefit to our homeschool.  Planning hands-on science labs takes a lot of planning and preparation time. As I am accountable to others, I follow through rather than put it off for another day. Literature Circle, while significantly less planning time, provides the opportunity for the kids to have an audience for their writing as well as talk about literature with their peers.

adayinthelife2

Finding Our Groove

This year, there are significant changes to our homeschool schedule and routines.  The biggest change is Mandarin. In the past, we have met their teacher at his home for one-on-one lessons on Monday and Thursday mornings. But, a las no longer.

He and his wife have welcomed their first child just two week ago. As she will now be staying home with the baby, and he recently completed his doctorate, he accepted a full-time teaching position at Marshall University.  He is an incredible teacher and thus we have committed to continue working with him.

Marshall is in West Virginia, however, and we live in California. Thus, we will no longer meet at his home but via Skype. To further complicate matters, with the time difference and his course load, our lessons are now in the evenings.

We have also added Youth Symphony and River Oaks (a retirement home where my son volunteers weekly). I never anticipated that music would account for such a large part of our lifestyle.  I love it – I am just surprised.

 

fall 2014

As before, during the school year swim team is in the evening (whereas in the summer it is early morning).  Significant this year, however, is that my kids will be swimming in different age groups. Our evenings are now more intense than ever.

It has been a struggle to balance everything. We had to make tough decisions. Last week, I had signed the kids up for 4H and we were excited to bring archery back into our routines. When the dust settled, however, we realized we would have to let 4H go. Our mornings are free – we can still incorporate archery. It just won’t be in conjunction with 4H.

Our evenings our chaotic. We cherished our family meal times but I don’t know how to make that happen consistently anymore. We are even discussing adopting almuerzo estilo mexicano, with our mid-day meal as the large, family meal. Patrick’s work schedule is demanding, however, so it is not likely he will be able to come home consistently.

Our new schedule, which begins in September, will take some time for us to become adjusted. Until then, a day in the life of our family is anything but predictable.

Big-Book-promo-2

Looking for more ideas for scheduling and planning your day? Check out the Big Book of Homeschool Ideas where you will find tips for:

  • Managing Your Home While Homeschooling
  • Managing Multiple Ages
  • Homeschool Time Management

nbtsbloghopcalendar2014

You can take a peak into the routines of other homeschool families by visiting the Not Back To School Blog Hop from the iHomeschool Network.

This is the last week of the 2014″Not Back-to-School Blog Hop“.  Check back again to see the newly linked posts and grab a button so your bloggy friends can share their hard work, too.

 

Starting Over, Starting Fresh :: 2011 Fall Schedule

Over the past few months, we have undergone significant changes in our lives.  We have relocated and started upon a new adventure in Northern California.  As such, we have been evaluating our schedule looking for areas of improvement.  We’ve openly discussed what we liked and what we felt needed to change.  The following highlights some of the areas in which we have chosen to make changes – some are simple, some more complex.

  • New nature journals … a spiral notebook with larger pages
  • New writing journals … simply a new composition notebook – I asked if they wanted a separate book for science but they said no
  • Mandarin … I did my research before we moved and sought out a Mandarin teacher from afar.  This was one area I didn’t want to leave to chance and I wanted to continue our studies with as little interruption as possible.  Our new instructor has years of experience teaching in China and here in the United States.  Coincidentally, as we sat down with him and his wife, we discovered that they are acquainted with MeiLi’s former teacher. It is indeed a small world.
  • Buddy … who has requested to go by JiFu … is now studying Mandarin as well.   
  • In the past, I have enjoyed swimming with Masters at noon.  Unfortunately, the Masters team here meets only at 5:30 a.m.  With a husband that works in administration and thereby has long hours, this doesn’t work for me.  I’ve thereby moved my workout to 8 a.m. to assure it gets done – in doing so, we have discovered it does not disrupt our ‘school day’ as much as it did in the past.

We have revamped our schedule and have dedicated a day of each week to the subjects that are important to us.  I haven’t “scheduled” music practice or Mandarin homework / home extension activities.  Doing so made felt very restrictive.  As it is now, there is a block of time each day whereby we do our formal lessons and upon completion, we are free to relax, investigate things of interest, go to the pool …  I do expect the munchkins to practice their growing music and language skills daily. However, the time in which they choose to do this is up to them as individuals.  Of course, I generally have to remind them.  😉

  • This year, we have also decided to partner with a public school and take part in an ISP.  The  Public Independent Study Program  is the legal equivalent to enrolling your child in public school. Shocked?  I know I am.  Essentially it is a “home study” program offered by the school district. The benefit to us is that they provide support and guidance as well as a weekly enrichment day.
    The enrichment day is the primary reason we decided to pursue this option.  The kids have an opportunity to participate in a variety of rotations taught by certified teachers along side other homeschool students.  During the enrichment day, I can volunteer or have the day free to myself.  Imagine?! What I could do with a day to myself?  As I am a certified teacher, I may also have the opportunity to take on a paid position and teach one of the rotations as well but I am only pondering that possibility right now.  
    Thus far, the coordinator has been VERY flexible in allowing me the freedom to continue doing things as I have always done.  What has been great is that she provides another perspective and pulls additional resources that I can use if I desire.  The only true requirement is the bi-monthly meeting whereby we discuss/evaluate our endeavors.  During the meeting, though, I am required to provide tangible evidence (photos, writing samples, etc.) of our work and how it meets state standards.  I was essentially doing this already so it is not an issue. 
  • Another major change is music instruction. In Central Oregon, the munchkins were taking piano lessons in our home once a week.  We absolutely loved our piano teacher and knew it would be difficult to find someone that teaches in a similar style.  One of the other deciding factors regarding the ISP is that the kids had the option to take violin or guitar lessons.  MeiLi – inspired by her Taekwondo instructor – chose violin while JiFu chose guitar.  Best of all, an instrument is provided free of charge!