An Extraordinary Time: Homeschooling Yesterday and Today

When the kids were younger, you would often find us on the beach with Papa, meandering about the woodlands, or strolling along on the Deschutes River Trail just a stone’s throw from our home.

A common query from strangers was, “No school today, kids?”

“Nope, we’re homeschoolers! The shoreline is our school today!” the kids would shout in unison.

In shock or dismay the examination continued. “Oh, but … how can you,” they stammered. “I mean, you will still spend time learning, won’t you?”

image of a grandfather walking along the shoreline at low tide with his two grandchildren, text overlay reads: "an extraordinary time: a look at homeschooling yesterday and today"

Classrooms Today

We’re living in a most unusual time and I don’t mean just due to the worldwide pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. We are living in a time where most people consider learning to be directly associated with a small space inside four walls.

With pencils,
worksheets,
textbooks,
calculators,
whiteboards,
desks,
structure,
routines,
bells,
tests,
and grades.

Stop and picture a typical classroom today. In your mind’s eye, you likely see a group of children gathered by age as the primary criteria. At the front of the classroom, an often overwhelmed and overworked teacher delivering a prescribed lesson at a prescribed pace. A tight set of curriculum standards, assessment measures, deadlines, and accountability governing them all.

How is this scenario considered the gold standard for all students?

A specific, narrow definition of success that is taught early and reinforced often. A place where the pressure to perform and the fear of failure chip away at a child’s mental strength almost daily, exacerbated by the potential of that failure happening openly in front of their peers.

The One Room Schoolhouse

Growing up, my favorite television program was Little House on the Prairie. I loved Laura’s spunk and pictured myself as her regularly. I also loved the one room school house and wanted more than anything to be a school teacher just as Laura aspired to be when she was growing up.

While I never had the opportunity to teach in a one-room school, I cultivated this idea when I made the decision to homeschool my children in 2006. Homeschooling provided the means to surround my children with learners of all ages. More importantly, we were not confined by the walls of the classroom.

Last week, I binge watched Anne with an E on Netflix. I loved the series so much. I had of course read the books years ago but the actors in this version really touched me, especially Miss Stacy.

Miss Stacy, the forward thinking, fierce, and compassionate young teacher (portrayed by the actor Joanna Douglas) who brought new life into the Avonlea schoolhouse. This was me! This is me!

Back on the stream bank, among the ripples, wildlife, plant life, physical exertion, and fresh air … we observed, we experimented, we asked questions, and we learned.

None of what we were surrounded by matched the accepted definition of the best possible “modern” learning space. None of it looked like what learning was supposed to look like. Yet this was our classroom.

Homeschool Spotlight

Around the world, classes have been suspended and schools are locking their doors. In Arizona, the remainder of the school year has been cancelled and Oregon is considering the same decision.

Parents have suddenly found themselves thrust into educating their children at home. Parents are now desperate for activities and educational experiences to occupy their time. There is now a global spotlight on homeschooling.

While it is wonderful to have so much attention on homeschooling, we must be careful to recognize that most of us aren’t actually homeschooling. Even veteran homeschool families like myself. Not fully.

We are all isolated from the world around us. Home educated kids don’t spend their lives at home the way we have been asked to right now.

Six months ago, homeschoolers would be at the library, the swimming pool, an art gallery, at the beach, at the park, or exploring a museum. They would be at Tae Kwon Do, dance class, music lessons, or at drama school.

They were interacting with all the different people in all those different spaces, and the balance this gives is incredibly important to a homeschooling lifestyle. Right now, they are not doing any of this.

image of two high school students seated at a dining room table with a laptop computer and working collaboratively on a project

Homeschooling Tomorrow

I’m hearing from a lot of parents who are struggling. Admittedly, I am struggling. These are extraordinary times. Nothing about this is normal, homeschooling included.

Not surprisingly, families have reached out to me to inquire about homeschool. They are curious about our story and desire to learn more. While the present situation is challenging for everyone, I want to encourage you.

The curriculum we have used has changed as the kids have gotten older. Today, they are both dual enrolled at the community college and taking courses full time on campus (though spring term all their coursework will be delivered online).

Homeschooling has provided us with a rich life experience. Through it all, we have always strived for five things:

meaningful work
good books
beauty (art, music, nature)
ideas to ponder and discuss
imaginative play

It is uncertain where we will be six months from now. When we begin to return to some measure of normalcy, I hope some of you will choose to continue homeschooling. I would be delighted to go tide-pooling with you.

Time After Time: The Blessings of Homeschooling

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think of you
Caught up in circles, confusion
Is nothing new
Flashback – warm nights
Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories
Time after …

~ Cyndi Lauper, Time After Time

Time After Time: Blessings of Homeschooling @EvaVarga.net

Exploring Chinatown in San Francisco

Homeschooling is not easy. There are days I get caught up in circles of confusion – not knowing which direction I should proceed. She wants to learn Chinese? How am I going to do that?!

There are days when I am totally stressed out, irritated beyond words, and I just want to throw in the towel. You haven’t finished your math lesson, why are you still on Minecraft?!

Days when I fear we are falling behind their peers and I feel like a failure as a teacher and as a mom.  There are plenty of moments when I question myself and second guess my decisions.

Time after time, I am asked whether we will continue to homeschool through the middle school and high school years. Despite the obstacles and frustrations, I truly believe that homeschooling is worth all the rough patches.

The suitcases of memories we have made as a homeschooling family will be cherished forever. This life is truly a rich life and we have been blessed in so many ways!

The Blessings of Homeschooling

Time with Family

One of the blessings for which I am most grateful is the opportunity to spend more time with family. We have recently moved back to Oregon and now reside again on the southern coast where both my husband and I grew up. Here, we are surrounded by family and childhood friends.

With family in such close proximity, we are able to include them in our outings. Most recently, we met up with my dad for breakfast and then drove to Dean’s Creek Elk Viewing area, located northeast of Reedsport. Here we spent time watching the elk graze in the meadow and listen to Papa as he shared with us his wisdom.

We are also able to meet their dad at work regularly for lunch dates. When he has business meetings or conferences away from home, we are able to accompany him.

Time After Time: Blessings of Homeschooling @EvaVarga.net

Our excursion to Machu Picchu, Peru

Time to Travel

Not being tied to a school schedule, we are able to travel during the off season. We have thereby made it a tradition of traveling abroad in the fall when rates are lower and crowds are smaller. Last year, we spent three weeks in Ecuador and Perú. The year prior, we were in China. This year, we will be touring the ruins and museums of Italy and Greece.

Time to Explore

We are also able to try new hobbies and experience classes that may not otherwise be available. One of our most enjoyable experiences was a week-long sailing class. This coming year, we look forward to trying our hand at wood carving.

Time to Pursue Passions

When we discover a handcraft or activity we thoroughly enjoy, we are able to pursue our passions with gusto. In a series of guest posts, my daughter shares her first passion project, Fly Tying.

Time to Bless Others

My children and I have been volunteering in a variety of venues since they were toddlers. Homeschooling affords us the time to bless others as we share our skills and talents. Volunteer Opportunities for Kids abound. You just need to know where to look and don’t be afraid to ask.

Time After Time: Blessings of Homeschooling @EvaVarga.net

Accompanying their dad on a business trip in Las Vegas

Time to Connect

Related to time with family, homeschooling also allows us the time to connect with others with shared interests. When my daughter wanted to learn more about fly tying – we sought out local fly fishing enthusiasts. These encounters and relationships open doors.

Time to Reflect

Homeschooling allows each of us to reflect on what we feel is important.  I feel confidant that my son is passionate about playing piano because we have celebrated it in our home. He has never felt he had to stop doing what he loved in order to fit in with others.

Relatedly, my children have been able to take as much time as they need to grasp a difficult math concept. Working at our own pace and not feeling pressure to keep up with the Jones’ is another blessing of homeschooling.

~ ~ ~

Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time is one of my most beloved songs. It has been selected by many in the industry as one of the best love songs of all time. Though it was written about romantic love – the opening stanza reminds me of the joys and tribulations that we face as homeschooling parents.

HomeschoolGiftsThankfulHomeschool Gifts: What I am Thankful For is a link-up sponsored by the iHomeschool Network.

Homeschool Picture Day

We have never taken the ‘traditional’ school photo – whereby the kids stand on the front porch, backpacks slung over their shoulders, and dressed in their favorite new outfit.  We’ve never gone shopping for new school clothes. In fact, we’ve never registered our kids for school.

While other kids stand outside to await a yellow school bus to rumble to their stop, we are sitting down to breakfast as a family. After our meal, we wish Dad a good day at work, and then head out to a favorite serene area of wilderness.

homeschool picture day

Our Homeschool Picture Day

It is here, surrounded by the wonders of our Earth, that we capture the passage of time with our annual “Not Back-to-School” photo.  Each year, we’ve selected a new location – some new gem that we discovered earlier in the year.

We pack the usual lunches, towels, and swim suits.  We also carry along our nature study bag which includes our journals, a few field guides, pencils, watercolors, and even a water quality testing kit.

 

2014homeschool pic

We spend the day playing – wading, swimming, exploring. We talk about our plans for the upcoming year. What books we want to read. What excursions we would like to make.

We pull out our sketch books when something captures our interest – perhaps a frog, snake, or mosquito larvae.

homeschool pic2014

Generally, when selecting the location for our Not Back-to-School excursion, the kids choose a river. It is one of our favorite ecosystems – likely because it offers so much. We’ve also spent the day at a lake as well as a beach.

 

Do you take back to school pictures?

It’s Student Photo Week — check out other bloggers’ homeschool student photos!

nbtsbloghopcalendar2014

 

 

Our Homeschool School Room

This is perhaps one of the hardest posts for me to write because we don’t really have a school room or room dedicated to homeschool. We live in a modest sized home and like most homeschool families, our lifestyle of learning is evident in the decor of our home.

our school room

As I will explain more in the near future – we have a very relaxed approach to homeschool. My kids and I also have many interests. As a result, we tend to have projects and activities – in various stages of completion – strung about and on display all the time.

Like most homeschool moms, I also adore books. I regularly scour second hand stores for classic titles and even old textbooks. My shelves are double stacked and there are still piles of books in front of the book cases.

Most of our formal schooling – when we are home – takes place here in the living room. The kids and I stretch out on the couches as I read aloud. We squeeze around the coffee table, sitting criss-cross on the floor, to work on our history timeline or map work. Larger projects are spread out on the floor.

schoolroom

In the center of the photograph, you can see my secretary desk – a gift from my husband when we first began our homeschool journey. It is made from the wood of a black walnut that my dad sawed on his mill. It is the perfect size for the kids’ laptop and for journaling or correspondence.

This photograph doesn’t show it, but the hallway is strewn with posters that correlate to our current studies and a few projects the kids have recently completed.

One of my favorite areas of our home – and the one that elicits the most comments – is our Our Cabinet of Curiosities. This is where we can display our nature collections, field guides, and nature journals.  

Looking for Inspiration?

If you are new to homeschooling or just need a little something new to kick-start the new school year, then check out the Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas!  This amazing, resource-filled e-book download is full of ideas and inspiration for the novice or seasoned homeschool family (including a chapter I authored on Inquiry Science for Middle School) for just $10.99!  Click HERE to buy or for more information.

Big-Book-promo-2
You can also see how other homeschool families set up their homeschool “rooms” at the Not Back To School Blog Hop from the iHomeschool Network.

Come back often to visit new additions all week this week. Next Monday we will be sharing student photos. Grab a button so your bloggy friends can share their hard work, too.

nbtsbloghopcalendar2014

Don’t Homeschool Without The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas

Whether  you are a new homeschool parent or a veteran, there are times when you just need a new idea or inspiration. The Big Book Of Homeschool Ideas is the perfect resource for those times. 55 homeschool moms share their expertise on 103 topics!

This post contains affiliate links.

big book homeschool ideas

Written by homeschool moms with years of experience, The Big Book Of Homeschool Ideas addresses 103 topics that affect homeschooling families. Some of the topics include:

  • homeschooling from pre-school to high school
  • subject specific ideas and resources
    • science
    • history
    • math
    • language art
    • fine arts
  • character development
  • homeschooling a large family
  • homeschooling during a move
  • homeschooling special needs students
  • budgeting & time management
  • tips for handling homeschool critics
  • field trip ideas
  • and much more!

The book is a whopping 500+ pages!

Get this amazing, resource-filled e-book download (including a chapter I authored on inquiry science for middle school) for just $10.99! Click HERE to buy or for more information.

Buy-it-now - Big Book of Homeschool Ideas

Homeschooling State by State: A Nationwide Linkup and Giveaway

When you first begin the homeschooling journey, finding the resources you need can be overwhelming. In an effort to alleviate some of the confusion, I have been writing a series of posts to help new homeschooling families navigate the waters in California.

Homeschooling in California

These past couple of weeks I have been talking about homeschooling laws, how to choose curriculum, finding co-ops and communities, and field trip opportunities in California. If you’re looking to start homeschooling or you are looking for more support and you live in California, I’ve gathered some great resources for you!  Just click the links below for laws, field trips, support groups and free resources!

If you don’t live in California, no worry!!  I haven’t been alone. There are nine other homeschoolers across the nation that have joined together to help bring you resources for all 50 states, plus a HUGE Homeschooling Giveaway with over $1400 in prizes!

StatebyStateHomeschooling State by State is Brought to You By:

Follow our pinterest board for all things homeschooling in the USA!

Enter the Linkup Here:

Are you a blogger? If you have written a post regarding the homeschooling laws and resources in your state, join in!  Add your link to the inLinkz Link-up below and your link will show up on all hosting blogs!

Prizes

Giveaway Information

To get you off on the right foot this school year, we’ve gathered some of the best curriculum and supplies in a HUGE giveaway!   The Homeschooling State by State giveaway is divided it up into 3 huge prize packs worth over $450 each!

Special Discount Codes

A couple of our sponsors have reserved special discounts just for our readers. Magic House Pencils – Get a WHOLESALE DISCOUNT with FREE SHIPPING on any order over $9.50!  Click the wholesale button and use code: wholesale88 for 5 pencils and 1 lead refill for only $3.95! Lessontrek Lesson Plan Tool – Get 50% off a year subscription!  Use code JULY50BLUE at checkout.

PreKPreK – 1st Prize Pack $450 Value!

$25 Amazon Gift Card Alpha Phonics Package $80 Value Rock N Learn Sight Words DVD 3 Pack Handwriting Practice: From the Bible! Books 1,2, 3 – Brookdale House Children Learning Reading Program – Whether your child is 2 years old, 3 years old, 4 years old, in pre-school, kindergarten, or in early grade school, this system of learning to read will help your child become a fast and fluent reader. Magichouse Pencil Pack $60 Value! All About SpellingAll About Spelling Level 1, Deluxe Spelling Interactive Kit Character ConceptsLevel 1 Preschool Basic Curriculum $90 Value! In this 36 week course, preschoolers will not only learn 12 basic character qualities, but see them applied by the Boyer Cousins, people from the Bible and real people in American history! Christian Preschool Curriculum eBooks

2ndUpElementary Prize Pack (2nd grade+) $500 Value!

$25 Amazon Gift Card Beautiful Birds – Shining Dawn Books Butterflies Flutter By – Shining Dawn Books Elementary Bible Study eBook Bundle – Grapevine Common Sense Publishing – Learning Language Arts Through Literature Teacher & Student Book – An exciting and different approach to language arts learning. The Fun Spanish – Brookdale House Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades Collection – Introduces children to seven different composers, dating from 1685 to 1828 (Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini and Schubert). $170 Value! Birch Court Books Book Pack, Wisdom and the Millers, School Days with the Millers, and The Daisy Chain. We Choose Virtues Parenting Cards Geography of 50 States – A Helping Hand – Student learns US geographical regions, geographical features, and how geography helped shape history. Homeschool Diploma Heritage History Set $90 Value! Enchanted Homeschooling Mom has donated her US State Study & Christmas Around the USA printables. Homeschool Astronomy – A Full Semester of Computer-based Astronomy Lessons! $80 Value!

AnyAgeAny Age Prize Pack $510 Value

$25 Amazon Gift Card Charlotte Mason – Shining Dawn Books Lessontrek planner year subscription $60 Value! Magichouse Pencil – The Smartest Pencil in The World, No Sharpening, No Clicking, Just Write. $60 Value Pack! Southern Hodgepodge Chalk Pastels at the Beach Raddish- Kitchen Science Box CTC Math Online Program 12 Month Family Membership – An interactive online math tutor that provides over 57,000 interactive questions and over 1,367 animated math lessons. $300 Value!!! Keyboarding for the Christian School – Computer curriculum using Bible verses and excerpts from Christian authors for lessons! Squilt – Music Appreciation Made Easy

Enter the giveaway here:

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