Wednesday, February 12, 2014

homeschool Q&A

In one week I've been asked three HUGE homeschooling questions.
I feel honored and kinda blown away every time someone even asks me.
I don't have it all figured out and I feel like the verdict is even still out on whether I should even be asked'm still in the thick of it and not sure if all my 'philosophies' will even stand up after all is said and done and my kids are 'done'.

But, after all that, I'm still gonna take a shot at answering.
Just know that deep down, I do not feel like I have all the answers!
I'm nervous every time I sit down to answer..I do not want to be wrong!

So, rather than email/text/facebook them back privately where I'd have the chance of being wrong quietly, I'm going public with the answers.  Because that totally makes sense.


We homeschool and love it.
That my friends, is the extent of my expertise.
Now that we're all adjusted in our expectations:

Here are two older posts that might need to be referenced:


I am not an expert.
Those people are smart and write books and speak at conferences.
Those people have GREAT things to say and I say go and listen to them and go and read them.

I'm a HUGE proponent of always having my hands and eyes on some sort of book that has to do with some sort of subject about homeschooling or education.
It's like my own little personal conference going on in my home all the time.
Or like my own little pep rally.
Someone hand me some pom poms!!!

Even if I disagree wholeheartedly with what I'm reading, it solidifies what I do believe.

If you need a place to start:
anything written by John Gatto is amazing.
anything written by John Holt is mind blowing.
(neither of those are strictly 'homeschooling' books, just learning philosophy books, I eat that stuff up!)

Would love to see what you are reading, my fellow homeschoolers/educators!  Leave your fav's in the comments!  I'll try to put together a reading list if there's enough response.

this video: IndoctriNation

And I'm about to offer something crazy!!!!!!
If you post a comment that you want it, I will send you a copy of IndoctriNation - whether you are a home schooler or not, I want it in your hands.  It's such an amazing story.  I would LOVE to send some to teachers!!  Information is powerful, whether you believe the info or not....

I mean it - tell me and it's YOURS!
For. Reals.  No rules, just say you want it.

Let's review:
I'm not an expert.
Keep your nose in books.
Let me know you want the video.

moving on to the Q&A


"I'm struggling with school.  Bottom line. Not feeling confident about curriculum, not feeling like they're learning a whole lot, we're all a little bored, and I'm really tired of checking boxes!  Problem is, not sure where to go from here but still feel confident my kids are learning what they need to.  Oh, and on top of it all, I have one that has no focus.  Help? Ideas??"

I was digging in some old messages on facebook and found this message I wrote to KATIE who was just starting her journey a while back.  Going to start with this and then answer it further after the message:

#1 - You will NOT know what 'it's' supposed to look like until you just start doing it, fall on your face for weeks, get up a bunch, try different stuff and get back up again -
I don't mean that to be discouraging, I mean it to be RELEASING. We rarely have a 'perfect' day - but by golly, we have perfect weeks or months often -
my biggest advice, when it comes to what it looks like is: Teach your kids to LOVE TO LEARN. If they love to learn and you forgot to teach them something, it's not a big deal because, they love to learn, they'll just go figure it out when they need to know it.
#2 - Try to do as many subjects together as possible. Lots of curriculum are designed for this
Our Science (Answer in Genesis is awesome, simple but great and covers many ages) is together.
Our History is together (we are doing American History - I used the third grade history textbook from Abeka Publishers but mostly we just use the table of content and each time we move on, I just hit up the library, we read a lot, do a few internet searches for crafts and THAT is History - and dude, my kids can rock it in history!)
Our Bible is together (sometimes we go through a curriculum, right now we are reading missionary stories)
We do Bible everyday but only two days of History and two days of Science a week (we only do a four day week)...on average. Some weeks we punch out 6 Science Lessons and no History or visa versa or something like it.
things you can't do together as much:
Math - I love and have recommended to many many people and many of my friends use Teaching Textbooks (GREAT for your older kids and first year homeschooling because it's all computer based and doesn't need you for much - this is what I'd tell you to do)
Language Arts - I'm terrible to talk to here because I want to put in a lot of effort here, it's the most important in my opinion but if it's just important to you, then I'll overwhelm you. I use this:
it's expensive on the surface but if you look at it and are intrigued - I'll just call you - if you look at it and your eyes cross...just discard it!
For your first year: Sometimes I suggest a put together curriculum but for your kids and their age span - I don't know, that might be expensive and even more overwhelming....

That message is old but most things still very much look like that I still stand by what I wrote.

So, Jessa...
You chose a curriculum and that took a lot of work and thought and I'm pumped you even made the decision because that alone can be a block on the road of home schooling.  I've been in the home schooling world since I was in the fourth grade and the curriculum thing regularly overwhelms me.
But you overcame that and chose something....nice job.

'cept now you have it and it ain't workin'.


This is hard to swallow, I know... and unfortunately (but it's good, it really is!) is just part of the process.

It's also a beautiful freedom that we have.

I'm sure there a few thousand teachers that wish they had this freedom and could just chuck the curriculum they have and do something else but can't because some other 'powers at be' won't allow that.  Instead they just have to be bored and watch the kids NOT learn, which makes me so sad and I'm sure it does them too.

It will take rolling up your sleeves and researching all over again.  Tough love.  Getting up after something doesn't work is not easy or's tough...and worth it.

No one can choose for you (der).
BUT, talking with lots and lots of other home school mama's and asking what they use will get you started!

Jessa, for you specifically, and others who are relating to what she asked:
An all inclusive curriculum is not for you.
You are going to do so much better by selecting your curriculum one subject at a time and one child at a time.
Like me ;-).

Start with the subjects you're most bored in and research until something just smacks you in the face.
Pray over it - He'll lead you right to it.
I have so many stories that end like that.

One of those two older posts up at the top talk about choosing curriculum and how personality and family dynamics play a's personal and will take 'falling down' a few times to figure out your own preferences.

Also, this is where conferences and curriculum fairs are so invaluable.

Talk to the vendors....all of them ;-).

Can't go?
Then just spend a few minutes on this website each day:

For the child that has no focus.
Something I know a lot of moms do is schooling in small increments of time throughout the day.
Rather than a solid 3-4 hours in a row, break it up into 30 min chunks throughout the day.

I have kids that can focus, for the most part, but we still do chunks of time with breaks because I can't focus for that long ;-).

You canNOT fight personality.  It will squash them and I know none of us want that as a parent.
Lack of focus is more often than not, a personality trait.  Work in that frame of mind and ask lots of moms what they would do.

Would LOVE some comments on this post as to what you do with kids that struggle focusing!


"...So my question is, do you have any good tips/tricks for keeping the 3-4 yr old busy during my schooling time with M? The school says I'll need about 3-4 solid hours/day to teach him (since it's kindergarten, there will be less independent study). Other than books, coloring, puzzles, playing in her kitchen, etc which last her about 10 good minutes each. :) I have craft ideas and "busy toddler book" type stuff I can do, but they still take a good amount of my attention. I'm planning on doing some preschool studies with her, but she'll need my attention during that time as well. I saw your awesome post on the busy basket for the older kids! That was genius. Anything like that geared toward the younger kids? "

1.  Keeping a 3-4 yr old busy.
Good luck.


I remember many a day where I had Nora and Sophie blocked off in a play room (they could see us) and instead of playing with the bazillions of toys we left them with, they just screamed their cute little curls off their heads making sure they didn't forget we'd trapped them in and they. did. not. like. it.

I have chills down my spine just thinking about it!!!

What you are about to do is challenging, it just is.
But it is possible and can even be fun and it!

The concept of a busy basket is the trick with toddlers.
Except it's not one basket, it's several.  Like a lot.
Stuff like this.

It will take some time on your part to put together but it will be so worth it!
I found that each basket/box/bag I made like that would last somewhere in the 10-30 min range depending upon what it was. (which is just a developmental thing, it's a good thing!)

They do not have access to all the boxes all the time.  I'd let them choose but only from a select few.
Some of the boxes can just be toys too.
One of my boxes just had rice in it and I'd have them just play with rice (messy...some of these just are.  the pail of water with toys in it was always their favorite and always lasted the longest but was always a mess!)

Also, I know she is young but do not underestimate her ability to share you.
A 3-4 year old can very much grasp that 'mommy is busy but it will be your turn for my attention in a minute'.  I'm not saying that is a pretty lesson for them to learn, but do not underestimate that it can be taught and grasped....that is a personal opinion and can be tossed at any time ;-).

2. You did not ask this but I have to say it.
(warning: another tossable personal opinion coming your way)

3-4 hours with a Kindergartner!!!!???? THAT IS CRAP.
No I'm not.
You will NOT need that and he will not want it.
I'd say if you had a 1-2 great hours a day...and not even all at the same time, you'd be totally rocking it at that age.
Shoot...throw out how much 'time' and just focus on one day at a time.  Each day will look different.

Schools need 3-4 hours a day because #1 - they are dealing with crowd control for part of the day, #2 - they are dealing with LOTS of learning styles and need to make sure they have time to hit all of those, #3 - it's annoying to only drop your kids off for an hour or two (sort of joking....sorta)

YOU do not and M does not need 3-4 hours of one on one educational time a day.
And even the 1-2 hours you will need do not need to be in one solid chunk.
Mix it up.
Break it up.
Add it all up over the course of the entire day.

This also means that the toddlers busy baskets don't need to last as long and they will be more effective!

I'm going to follow this up with something though:
You MAY need 3-4 hours a day with a Kindergartner.
Genius level children may be what God has called you to raise.  In that case, you SHOULD do 3-4 hours a day, maybe even more....and you should rock it.
But, make sure that is truly what God has called you to, not what you have called you to.

I promise this will make sense very soon after you dig in and start......

Oh...and I don't mean to be mean, I mean to be encouraging and real.  You can't see my face or hear my voice so I need to type that out!  I can say something shocking and sarcastic in real life and everyone 'gets it' and laughs, I type those same words out and I'm a, let's pretend we're in real life, K?


 "I flirt with homeschooling now and then.  It scares me though.  We are in a great school district now but with every move we could land a terrible one so I always have homeschooling in the back of my mind.  I was wondering how you came to the decision to do it and also where you find your curriculum?"

What brought me to my decision to home school:
Um...this one is different for every. single. person.
How about we add this to the comments too!?

My short answer is:
God told me to.
I love it.
I can, so why not?

I could probably write an entire book on ALL the reasons but those are the top three.
The fourth reason is simply this:
I hate the public education system.
I do not hate the teachers, please don't put those words in my mouth/heart.
But, when you really research the history of education, you'll hate it too.
It's set up to produce a mass of society that does not aspire to dream or achieve or create.  Kids do this in spite of the system and that is awesome, but that is not what the system is set up to produce.  I hate that.
(I am not looking for a discussion on this, please do not comment about it here, I will politely delete it)

Going to share one more reason, not sure where it falls on the list but it relates directly to your question

Lydia would have started preschool and Kindergarten in Nebraska, switched schools in Virginia and switched again to here in California.
Three schools by the time she was in the 4th grade.
And so goes the story of every military brat and a whole lot of other kids who's families just have to move.
As if learning isn't hard enough as it is.
As if moving isn't hard enough as it is.

Not having to switch schools and having education be a constant in their lives is such a peaceful thing in our home.  I love homeschooling for a lot of reasons, but this one is GREAT.

Their lives upturn and spin all around when we move, but this part does not.
This part is a constant and known.
School is a chunk of peace in our lives and I love that.

Those two older posts up there will help a little with this.
The message I cut and pasted to Katie up there will be helpful.
the website:, will be helpful.
Conferences will be really helpful (first time home schoolers usually get to go for free!)
Other home school moms you know will be invaluable (try to ask as many as you can!)

But, Staci, if you have questions that are more specific and beyond the scope of the past posts....or if anyone has questions that are more specific, I would be honored to take a shot at answering them. Message me however, I'll answer.

Me too.
It's ok to be scared - I'd just encourage you to pray pray God's will, not your own.
I'll be asking Him to speak to you through the veil of your fears.  That His will will be so apparent and so clear.
That's hard, I know.
I'm praying with you and although it's hard, His voice is stronger still and can be heard!
Actually, I just prayed that for all of you who are relating....

Gosh, I so desperately want to put on a cape, fly in and rescue each and everyone of you.  As if there is something I could even do!?
Just sos you know!

I'd also give anything to have you ALL in my living room talking about this face to face.

I'm going to end with a plug for being in a home schooling community where you are.
Being new in groups is hard.
I know.
I am actually an expert in this!

Tough love?
Get over it, get in there.  You're not new forever.  Just for a little while.
And the camaraderie of people going through what you're going through every day will blow you away.  It's addicting and beautiful.
Home school groups are full of very opinionated, learned, deeply caring, loving people.

Not saying other people aren't cool or that I don't love them too, just saying that I DO love home schooling communities.

There are the occasional odd groups out there - not saying it's always an easy process to find the right group, just saying it's always worth it.

OH. MY. GOSH. this was long.

Did you make it down here!?

If so...don't forget:

What are your favorite homeschooling books?
How do you handle your home schooled children that struggle with focus?
Why did you start homeschooling?
AND let me know if you want a video!!!


the Knights said...

You rock.
Thanks for your always-encouraging words...ones that have gently shoved my family in the right direction!
I'm going to google the Indoctrination movie right now ;)

Beccy said...

I had a kid who was stubborn and decided he wasn't going to learn or do school. So we played. The book Playful Learning by Bruehl came along at just the right time. This blog post helped me settle down and just go with it a lot...
I love learning, so that was something I felt I could confidently model for my kids.
I lack structure in my life and have found Classical Conversations community helpful. My boys are thankful for the structure, and I am thankful for the camraderie and accountability.
My friend Holly is a great help. :o). Especially since I haven't made it to a conference yet. And she gave me a bunch of books to read at the outset of my journey.
We started homeschool because we wanted the consistency and flexibility to dovetail with my husband's deployments and military moves. We still homeschool because of the people we have met, the way kids of all ages play so well together, because we love hanging out with our kids so much...

Julie Pearson said...

I want the Indoctrination video! Thanks for the post Holly. I think I may copy and paste your blog onto a word document so I can save it in a file to look at any time I want. Then I don't have to search for it later when I want it!

Amy said...

I'm curious about the video...

Kt said...

Great post Holly! Makes me wish I could homeschool full time but right now we are comprising with Blended Home Study. I have some tips that help attention/focus. I'll post them tomorrow when I'm on a.regular compute..

Beckysblog said...

Just started reading some

Id love the video

Tawn & Ton said...

Ok. I can do this. It's a good thing we're easing into this homeschooling thing with a blended school (it's an awesome Christian UMS school), otherwise I may go a little crazy with the newborn, toddler and kindergartner! But it's given me something to think about for the near future... it just may be possible for us to FT homeschool someday. I am interested in the video too!

I guess we'll see how much time he'll need for kinder. The school takes care of the curriculum, grading, testing (which they don't hold highly), etc. So I'm basically going to do "extended homework" with him the other 2 days. If we get through it in an hour and he still wants more (he kinda loves learning... like a lot), I'll definitely use some of your tips for extra learning opportunities (library books, Netflix, field trips etc)! Thank you for putting in so much effort to teach us newbies!!

Just thinking out loud... I wonder what the financial impact would be for a year of homeschool curriculum/supplies/activities...? Can't be too much more than the $2,000 I'll pay in tuition this year for one child at the private UMS school...

Staci said...

Holly, you rock! Thanks for this. I'm going to read through the blogs and the links and I'm sure I'll have more questions!! ;)