I got a lot of blank stares when I told people we were going to start homeschooling this year…
I know they were all thinking, “How on earth is she going to do that when she has a homestead, a blog, an essential oil business, and baby #3 on the way?”
Trust me, I kinda thought the same thing…
Because I’m a homeschool graduate myself, many folks thought homeschooling would be an obvious choice for our family.
I actually agonized over it for months.
Although I had always *planned* to homeschool my kids, when I found myself staring down the barrel of our first year of Kindergarten, I was petrified.
Could I REALLY do this?
Maybe I’m just too busy?
Could I give my daughter what she REALLY needed by keeping her at home?
But after many long, back-and-forth conversations with my husband, we decided to go for it. And while I’m far from an expert homeschooler at this point (let’s see… we’ve been doing school for about two months now…whoop whoop…) I am so, so thankful we chose to take the homeschooling plunge. I know with every fiber of my being it was the right choice for us. Here’s how we came to the decision to homeschool here at The Prairie Homestead—>
Note: I realize the topic of homeschool vs. public school can open up a lot of debate. The purpose of this post is meant in no way to condemn or criticize anyone who chooses to send their child to public school. I wholeheartedly believe homeschooling is NOT for everyone, and each family must weight the pros and cons and decide what is right for them.
Why We Chose Homeschooling
In a nutshell? Because I can’t imagine a better classroom than a homestead.
The cycles of nature…
Life and death…
The rewards of hard work…
The chance to work alongside Mom and Dad and ask questions (lots and lots of questions…)
The flexibility to explore topics that interest you…
The ability to learn science and math (and everything else!) in a real-world environment…
An intimate connection and understanding of the food you eat…
And dirt… Lots and lots of dirt.
Does it really get any better than that?
I never thought much about it before, but as I’ve watched Prairie Girl and Prairie Boy grow, I’ve been astounded at the sheer power of play. I am completely and utterly convinced kids are like puppies: they need lots of unbridled time to run, and play, and explore. Otherwise, you end up dealing with a lot of nervous energy and
chewing, er, hyper behavior. I’ve watched our homestead turn into a magical playground for the Prairie Kids as they take advantage of every square inch of the property. As I watch them play outside for hours on end, it makes my heart full and completely confirms how much I love this lifestyle.
The toys in their rooms collected dust this summer as they spent countless hours exploring the homestead together. They’d meander down to the chicken coop to look for eggs, then mosey over to the dirt pile to do some digging, then run up to the swing set to cool off, then trample over to the garden to check for ripe tomatoes.
By the end of each day, they were tired, extremely dirty, and incredibly satisfied.
I watched in amazement as my five year old learned plant identification, animal husbandry, food production, weather patterns, and simple math skills, all without cracking open a single book or me having to drill her with facts.
That’s when I knew I wasn’t ready to plunge her into a classroom environment for eight hours a day, five days a week. I would be taking her out of her hands-on learning paradise so she could learn about farm animals and plants from a book. Hmmm…
My husband and I are also extremely passionate about teaching our kids the entrepreneur lifestyle. As someone who was previously indoctrinated the only way to make a living was to work for someone else, one of the biggest realizations I’ve ever had came when I realized we could put our natural skills and talents to work, be our own boss, and build OUR dreams– not someone else’s. What better way to teach our kids to think outside the box and break out of the industrialized mindset than to work alongside us in our family businesses?
So I finally had my answer– it became clear we would homeschool.
And away we went… *Gulp*
My Homeschooling Style?
If I had to describe my homeschooling “style” in two words, it would be “laid back.”
There are SO MANY different methods, schools of thought, and curriculums out there it will make your brain hurt. Just the number of homeschooling blogs alone is enough to make you go cross-eyed… I started out trying to “research” online a bit, but quickly realized trying to absorb everyone’s ideas at once wasn’t going to work for me.
I wholeheartedly admire the moms who rigorously map out their school plans each week with graph paper, spreadsheets, rulers, and highlighters.
But that’s totally not my style… At least not right now.
Although I’m pretty particular about my time management (I have to be, considering how many balls I have in the air at any given time…), I don’t do well with super-rigid schedules. Our life requires a good amount of fluidity and flexiblity, so I quickly tossed the highlighters and spreadsheets and decided to go with what would mesh with our life.
Because of all the different pieces of life I juggle, my days have to stay somewhat structured, but I do “structured” in my own way. I prefer to schedule out chunks of time, rather than being a stickler about an exact time on the clock.
My own homeschool experience was very traditional. We started each day at 8am sharp, and continued until all the day’s assignments were done. And you know what? It worked well and I credit it with teaching me how to stick with something until it’s completed and hold myself to a task without getting distracted.
But I’ve come to realize there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and you don’t have to model your homeschool after a public school environment. I’ve done a good amount of reading on the unshchooling method, and while I like some of its tenants, I wanted something in the middle– a hybrid between unschooling and a more traditional format…. Something with enough structure to reinforce the lessons we want to teach our kids about discipline and responsibility, but with enough wiggle room to foster creativity, play-based learning, and project-based learning.
What Homeschool Looks Like for Us Right Now
It’s fluid and relaxed, and it’s working well for us at the moment.
After we eat breakfast (usually something fast like a puffed pancake or oatmeal), and the kids do their chores (this includes letting the chickens out and taking the scrap bucket outside), I make myself something hot to drink and we settle down on the couch.
As soon as our farmhouse remodel project is complete, we’ll have a designated school area. Nothing too fancy, just a table and a cabinet for supplies, but for now, the couch it is. So yeah, right now my schooling stuff is crammed into a corner of our bedroom and it’s driving me craaaaazzzzy… Plus, trying to have a two year old do “art” projects on the couch or living room floor is slightly difficult, to say the least. But this craziness shall soon pass…
I bring down a toy (usually blocks or legos) to occupy Prairie Boy if he’s not outside helping Daddy work on the house, and Prairie Girl and I start with her reading lessons first.
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We’re using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and it seems to be working well so far. Prairie Girl already had a decent handle on letter sounds before we even started this year, and this book is doing a wonderfully unintimidating job of showing her how to blend them into words. She’s starting to really recognize words on signs or in other books, and comes to me all day long announcing her latest revelation of what word starts with what letter.
Several times per week, we’ll add in a few pages in the Kumon Rhyming book. I discovered the Kumon books when Prairie Girl was in Preschool, and I love them. I noticed she was having a hard time grasping the rhyming concepts in the 100 Easy Lessons book, so decided to add this one in for a little added support.
After that, we jump over to math. We’re using the Kumon Simple Addition and Telling Time workbooks right now. Usually just a couple pages in each. They aren’t anything fancy, but I’ve seen her penmanship improve, as well as her math skills, as we’ve worked through them.
Depending on the day, sometimes I’ll pull out our Counting to 100 poster and we’ll go through counting by ones and tens, or we’ll play with the Unifix cubes for a hands-on approach to simple addition, subtraction, and estimation. Prairie Boy usually joins us if there are Unifix cubes involved. He’ll build towers or sort them into piles by color. Their favorite project so far has been guessing how many cubes it would take to stretch the length of my foot. It was a lot, which they thought was hilarious. (I have big feet.)
And then we shut the books, and the real learning begins.
This is the part of the day where I really don’t get hung up on structure. Sometimes we’ll sit on the couch and read a pile of library books. Sometimes we’ll do a craft project (holy moly– I’m convinced Pinterest has every craft idea known to man…). Sometimes we’ll watch a video related to the latest serious of questions Prairie Girl has been asking. Today she was asking how paper is made, so we found a couple short videos on YouTube, which she watched with complete fascination. Her next request is to check out some library books on what causes hiccups and sneezing, so I have that on my list.
We did a mini weather unit the first month of school, since she was asking non-stop questions about rain, snow, thunder, and clouds. I checked out dozens of age-appropriate library books about weather, and we supplemented them with short YouTube videos. Wyoming’s weather changes frequently, which gave us plenty of real-life experience in analyzing clouds, wind, fog, and rain. We added in some crafts (rainbow paper chains, clouds made from cotton balls, and swirly wind-catchers) and experiments in the kitchen talking about solids, liquids, and gases.
As the rest of our day progresses, the learning continues.
They learn about tools and measuring as they “help” Daddy work on our new house.
They learn about fractions as they help me measure ingredients for supper.
They learn about animal husbandry as they care for the chickens, cows, cats, and goats.
But I have to say, my favorite outdoor classroom is, by far, the garden. The learning opportunities there are so rich. They’ve learned about food production, the life cycle of plants, the importance of organic matter in the soil, and so much more, all with their own hands. Even when I’m in a hurry, I try to make a point of stopping to explore and encourage the wonder in their eyes as they hold a squirmy worm in their palms, taste a dirt-covered carrot, count the legs on a roly poly bug, or ask which plants or leaves are edible.
And that’s pretty much what homeschooling looks like for us right now. It’s a little unorthodox, but it works, and Prairie Girl is trucking right along on all the “proper” Kindergarten milestones.
I fully expect the structure of our school days to morph heavily as the years progress, but for now, we are having a blast. And the best part? They love to learn. Except to them, it’s not “learning” it’s just life. And I am starting to think that’s exactly the way it should be.