Welcome back to the Real Homeschoolers interview series! Join me in welcoming Annette from In All You Do. She is a homeschooling mama that has been married to her husband for 11+ years. They have 4 blessings (9, 5, 4 & 3) that they are raising to serve the Lord with all their heart.
Our oldest attended the preschool at our church, but when he reached Kindergarten age (5), we began homeschooling him. The others have never been to any schooling outside the home. We are now in our 5th year of homeschooling and I have a 4th grader and two Kindergartners. I work with our youngest on some preschool things as she’s interested, but I don’t push it much.
What would you consider your homeschool vision and priorities?
I want our home to be a fun learning environment where the kids want to learn. I had grand visions of all my kids reading by age 3, but I quickly gave that up when I realized some kids are just not ready. And…”what’s the point of homeschooling if you can’t cater to their needs?” So my priorities are for them to learn in the way(s) that are best for them – and that’s difficult with four kids. Each one of them excels at different things, enjoys different things and learns at a different pace. It’s been interesting to see the middle two developing this year and how that has changed our focus and priorities.
Do you follow a particular homeschool method?
Not really. I am a classical homeschool-minded person, so there is bookwork invovled. I need that structure for me to stay focused. But, we do a little bit of unschooling and Charlotte Mason method is starting to creep in on a few things too. Mostly, it’s relaxed.
What is your basic daily routine?
Well, we don’t have a really set routine. My oldest pretty much does his work on his own. He comes to me with questions on occasion and for me to give him his Spelling test/Dictation, but otherwise he does it on his own. He also does his Daily Bible Reading (2 OT chapters and 2 NT chapters each day) as well as some reading in a Bible devotional or book we are going through at the time.
The middle two will usually finish their breakfast and we start their schoolwork anywhere from 9am-10am, depending on when they woke up that day. My kids are typically early risers, so I don’t have to wake them. But, on the days they sleep in – I let them, because I figure they need the rest! Then we work on letters, a little bit of math, reading and maybe a fun activity for the day all before lunch. Once their schoolwork is finished, we are done. Most of the time that is before lunch.
I work on my blog in the afternoons, while the youngest takes her nap and the other kids play. We’re pretty laid back.
Resources and Ideas
What are your favorite homeschool books, web sites, or resources?
We are a ministry family, so our budget is limited and very tight on all fronts. And it is important for us to be frugal in our homeschooling choices. So, I am always on the lookout for free and frugal resources. My favorite sites to find free curriculum are Frugal Homeschool Family, Homeschool Giveaways and Free Homeschool Deals. You can also find great Bible curriculum choices and occasional freebies at Kids in the Word.
What are your all time favorite curriculum finds?
My absolute favorite curriculum has been Apologia. We love the Science curriculum and their Bible series is phenomenal. They are by far, my favorite finds ever.
What is/was your approach for preschool and kindergarten? What curriculum do/did you use?
- My youngest (3) loves puzzles and coloring. So right now, we’re using those to teach shapes, colors and numbers.
- My middles loved the learning shows that taught letters, colors and numbers as well as problem solving and more. I did some read alouds occasionally with them, but I never pushed anything with them.
- The boy (5) wasn’t interested in learning earlier than this year, so we began Kindergarten. After a few weeks of the four-year old standing, watching and answering the questions with him, I ordered her the same books and now we do Kindergarten with both of them.
- We use “A Reason for Handwriting” with them and “Horizons” for Math.
- I also use freebies from around the web to work on colors and incorporate books we can read together and do “fun” papers.
- The rest of the time we do some sensory bins and art projects when it strikes our fancy and anything other fun activities that I can sneak some learning into!
What advice would you give those going into the high school years?
PRAY! No seriously, I don’t have experience in this yet, but I already know from friends and our support groups that you need to be organized and intentional. Beyond that, I would pray. 🙂
How do you homeschool while keeping up with family, housework, etc?
Truthfully, most of it is put on the back burner, because school and family are my priorities. There are days (and possibly weeks) when the couch is litered with clean laundry that the kids wade through each day. I do try to keep up with the dishes, but our oldest has the unloading of the dishwasher as one of his chores, which helps tremendously.
I find that most of the housework gets done on the weekends when things are slower on the school front. And honestly, my husband does most of the deeper cleaning in the house, because I can’t use the chemicals and I have yet to convince him of more natural alternatives. I guess I can’t complain if it’s clean though!
What are your strategies for homeschooling with littles underfoot?
When I schooled our oldest, the little ones were still taking naps, so we utilized naptime to school the harder subjects that required my undivided attention (math, history, science) and he was able to learn to do the other subjects on his own, but was allowed to ask me questions as he needed. He would sit next to me and read aloud while I was nursing or rocking a baby to sleep. As they grew, he became more independent in his schoolwork, so that allowed more freedom with the younger ones in tow.
Now that I’m working on schooling the 4 and 5 year olds, I only have the 3 year old to contend with. However, she is an independent learner as well and loves doing puzzles and coloring in her Color Wonder books, which is nice so I don’t have to worry about her coloring on furniture or the walls (like her sister). However, if you’re looking for more tips, I wrote quite an extensive post on it here.
How do you handle a reluctant learner or whining about school work?
We are dealing with this right now with our two middles. However, most of the time my daughter is ready to do her schoolwork. Mostly because she has figured out that the sooner she finishes her work, the sooner she can go play. The boy (5), on the other hand, is my reluctant learner. He has yet to connect the dots when it comes to completed work and playtime.
We are making headway on that front though. Today he came and sat at the table ready to work without a fit. But, it didn’t last long when he realized there were still papers to be done. However…getting to the table without a meltdown is progress! I take those moments to stop and pray. And then I calmly approach the situation and him to try and find out why he doesn’t want to participate.
Sometimes we get some answers and sometimes we just have to ride it out and let him calm down on his own. Most often, we wait it out and he calms down. Then he finishes his papers in record time and gives one of those evil laughs that just makes you grin. Yes, it’s difficult and most days I want to throw in the towel when he acts this way. But, I know there is a learner in there somewhere and I can’t wait to find him!
What are your biggest challenges homeschooling?
TIME MANAGEMENT and making sure my children are retaining the information. My oldest is a Math-Science minded kid and loves to build and create things. He is not good at Spelling or Grammar, which is difficult for me as I excelled in those areas. So we are working on figuring out how best to help him retain the information he knows. And Time Management is difficult while running a blog from home. It takes quite a bit of time and trying to balance it all is difficult at times.
What is your favorite thing about homeschooling?
The freedom we have to take off in the middle of the week if we need to and travel to visit family when we want without having to take a load of make-up work with us. I can incorporate those times into our learning and work around them in much more feasible ways.
How do you respond to those critical of your choice to homeschool, or how you’ve chosen to do it?
I’m not sure I’ve really had to deal with this a lot. Mostly because our oldest is a little ahead of kids his age in many areas, so we avoid that question for the most part. Sometimes people are curious about the social aspect, but that usually goes away once they actually meet my children.
Occasionally some family members have pointed out things they are concerned with or notice and I do take those words and observations to heart. I talk them over with my husband and we really watch to see if it’s something we need to address or deal with and correct. Thankfully, we’ve not had anyone flat out condemn us or ridicule us – yet.
How did you deal with burnout or find encouragement?
SUPPORT GROUPS!!! I had a few close friends in OK who homeschooled that I could call on those bad days or when I didn’t know what to do. They were/are invaluable to me!! Since we moved to Indiana, I have not developed as close of friendships with the homeschool community here, but I do have a couple friends that I can talk to and bounce information off of when I need to talk or vent.
What would you go back and do differently as a mom and homeschooler if you could? What would you do the same?
I might start my middle two a little earlier than I did, simply because those early years are so important. They know a lot, but I do think they would be a little further along if I had worked more with them. I would also do my best to add more “fun and games” to the learning mix, which is difficult for me. But, I’m trying with the youngest one!
What would I do the same? I think I would not trade the preschool years of our oldest. He loved that time and learned so much there that gave him a great, solid foundation for learning and understanding. While at the same time, I wouldn’t change not sending our others to preschool. I know that seems strange, but it’s really the truth. Having the older one attend preschool gave me an “easy transition” into homeschooling since most of the foundation was already taught. I was able to sort of get my own idea of homeschooling and how we wanted it structured in our home as the others grew and are now of homeschooling age.
What is the single best piece of homeschool advice you were given from a more experienced homeschooler?
Listen to your kids!! If your kids are acting out, find out why. Are they bored? Are they more kinesthetic learners and need more hands-on activities? How can you make their learning experience more enjoyable? Listen to their needs and wants and evaluate them before you make any rash decisions.
What’s one piece of advice YOU would give to a new Homeschooler?
Don’t go it alone!! There are support groups in your area and online that can really give you encouragement on those tough days. Be in agreement with your spouse on this issue. I know this isn’t always possible, but PRAY about this decision before you try to do it alone. You will need the support and encouragement from your spouse and/or family during this journey – so do your best to make sure you are all on the same page. While no one else in our family homeschools, they are understanding and respectful of our decision. That makes a HUGE difference when you talk about your experiences.
Check out all the interviews in the Real Homeschoolers series as well as a complete list of the questions that were asked. Not all the answers were included, but I have been careful not to change anything about their answers other than grammar and structure for the sake of presentation.