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.

 

Our Relaxed Homeschool: What We Do & How We Do It

When I meet new people and they learn that we homeschool, often the first thing they say is, “Oh! I could never homeschool; you must be so patient.”

Our Relaxed Homeschool

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I immediately admit that their assumption is far from accurate. I have begged and pleaded. I have bribed. I have yelled. Yes, I have even broke down and cried unconsolably.

If I were trying to do school at home, I would not have the patience either. But that is NOT what we do. Instead, we have a gentle, relaxed approach. For this reason, it has been 10 Years & We’re Still At It.

Our Relaxed Homeschool Schedule

The way we approach education here changes with the tide. I have thus learned to enjoy the ebb and flow, the seasonal change. We homeschool year-round to accommodate for our relaxed approach. 

Primary Grades

In the primary grades, we followed a Charlotte Mason approach. Our lessons were short (no more than twenty minutes for each topic) so our academic part of the day only came out to around 3-4 hours per day.  We tried to always have academics finished by lunchtime, and would save art, music, and handicrafts for the afternoon.

MONDAY – THURSDAY

  • Literature
  • Geography
  • History
  • Math
  • Copywork/Dictation
  • Foreign Language
  • Art Appreciation
  • Music
  • Handicrafts
  • Life Skills
  • Daily Walk

FRIDAY

  • Literature
  • Music
  • Foreign Language
  • Group Activities
  • Field Trips
  • Nature Study
  • Daily Walk

Intermediate Grades

We are still heavily influenced by Charlotte Mason now in the intermediate years, but I have also become more comfortable with an Unschooling approach. We don’t really do tests, quizzes, or worksheets. We believe that learning happens all the time, and for us, it rarely happens in tightly defined areas like “spelling” and “geography”.

We live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise and using conventional schooling on an “on demand” basis. The interests of my children dictate our course map – the texts we read, the projects in which we immerse ourselves, and whether or not they take a course (in-person or online). The activities are chosen and engaged in freely by the learner. They were not dictated to the learner through curricular mandate to be done at a specific time and place.

In three areas, however, I do take a more hands-on approach to influence and guide their choices – Math, Mandarin, and Music (or M³). Learning a new language doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and lots of practice to master the vocabulary, grammar, and nuances of a foreign language.

Our Relaxed ScheduleIn many ways, math and music are like languages. I thereby expect my kiddos to complete four math lessons each week, practice their instrument and either work on Mandarin homework or practice vocabulary daily. In this way the material stays fresh in their minds and they become increasingly fluent or skilled.

Using our homeschool planner (I have used both a paper planner and more recently an online planner), I list the lessons I expect each of the kids to accomplish during the week. They have the freedom to choose when those lessons get done. I have outlined my 4 steps to intentional planning previously and I still do this. It helps us to see the big picture and to know how to make adjustments in how much is reasonable on a day full of obligations away from home.

DAILY

  • Literature
  • Music
  • Mandarin
  • Math
  • Fitness (Swim Team, Hike, etc.)

WEEKLY

  • History
  • Geography
  • Science
  • Nature Study
  • Writing
  • Passion Projects (Art, Aviation, Coding, etc.)
  • Service Learning (Scouts, Volunteering, etc.)

Our Curriculum ChoicesOur Curriculum Choices

In some subjects, we utilize curriculum – math, languages, and history. In other areas, we do not – science, geography (we learn mostly through our travels), literature, and fine arts. We pick and choose what suits our interests and our goals. I thereby spend a significant amount of time reading other homeschool blogs, doing research, and putting together course outlines.

Over the years, we have tried a lot of different curriculum materials. I have written about many of them here and here. We keep coming back to our favorites:

Math

Singapore Math (elementary years)

Life of Fred (middle and high school years)

Mr D’s Math (high school years)

Languages

Better Chinese (foreign language)

Writing With Ease (middle school)

Cover Story (middle school)

King Alfred’s English (high school)

History & Geography

Story of the World (elementary and early middle school)

The History of the World (middle and high school)

North Star Geography (middle and high school)

~ ~ ~

HomeschoolwithoutcurriculumAre you an Unschooler or just want to learn more? Find inspiration from the iHomeschool Network bloggers Homeschooling Without Curriculum.