Welcome to the fourth of my series in which we meet real-life homeschoolers who give us a glimpse into their families and school lives. I’ve had this series on my heart for a while, and the more I find myself telling people that we’ve started homeschooling, that I’m not a super-patient person, and that I’m not at all phased by socialisation, the more I want to show what homeschooling really looks like.
Today, we meet Mariel from Charlotte Mason In Santa Monica.
1. Tell us a bit about your family.
My family consists of me, my husband, and our four year old daughter. We live in an urban beach area. I teach full-time at a public elementary school. My husband is the stay-at-home parent, and he plays drums in a band; he also taught public school before we had our daughter.
2. Who does the majority of the teaching?
I do the majority of the teaching. We have a flipped schedule. My husband lets our daughter play, and takes her to co-ops, and I come home from work and do academics in the evening.
3. How long have you been homeschooling?
3 1/2 years. I started teaching our daughter when she was a year old. I know that probably sounds insane to some people (and perfectly reasonable to others). I had intended to begin “schooling” our daughter when she turned 6, but she showed an interest in academics earlier. I followed her lead.
4. What led you to choose homeschooling?
So many factors. Here are four…
1)When she was a year old, everyone around us started talking about preschool, and I started looking into it because it was what everyone was doing. But I discovered that the preschools that did things the way I wanted them done cost an arm and a leg. If my husband and I both worked, we would have had to hire a nanny to take our daughter to school and pick her up, plus pay preschool tuition. We couldn’t afford that lifestyle.
2)I have relatives on both sides of my family that homeschool. Because of them, I had a VERY positive view of homeschooling. I loved seeing what they were doing with their children, but it wasn’t something that I had originally considered because I didn’t think we could live on one income.
3)Recently, in a staff meeting, my principal stated that lawsuits drive education. That will not be true of my child’s education. Teaching has made me 100% certain that I don’t want my child in the public school system.
4)Our daughter is now advanced in reading and math, and because we have experience in public schools, we know that public schools aren’t equipped to challenge students who are advanced.
5. What is your homeschooling approach? (Unschooling, eclectic, etc.)
I love Charlotte Mason’s methods, and that is our primary approach, because I believe in – among other things – spreading a feast, short lessons, and that the physical act of writing and the mental act of composition are separate skills. I also believe strongly that children under age six need to be running, jumping, twirling, climbing, and should not be made to sit at desks holding pencils. That said, I don’t believe that children should have to wait until age six to be taught if they express interest earlier.
We’re also doing Classical Conversations, which is not Charlotte Mason, but does have areas of overlap. Our daughter is only four, it’s all very relaxed right now, but we’re year-round homeschoolers, and we school weekends too. I also like Melissa Wiley’s Tidal Homeschooling approach: “We have high tide times when I charter a boat and we set sail with purpose and direction, deliberately casting our net for a particular type of fish…And we have low tide times when we amble along the shore, peering into tide pools and digging in the sand, or just relaxing under beach umbrella…Our family enjoys both kinds of learning—the heady adventure of the well-planned fishing trip, with a goal and a destination in mind, and the mellower joys of undirected discovery during weeks at the metaphorical beach.”
6. What does a typical school day look like for you?
In the morning, my husband and daughter drive me to work, and I use that time to read aloud a chapter of a book. (We’re currently reading Charlotte’s Web.) While I’m at work, my husband lets her play and be a four year old. He also takes her to weekly daytime activities like Classical Conversations, a home(pre)school co-op called Little Explorers, and Church Mice. She also has ballet one afternoon a week. When I come home, I make dinner, and then we do three or four things like 5 minutes of piano, playing Classical Conversations memory work CDs, doing a reading lesson and/or math page, doing a page of Spanish, watching Song School Latin or an educational video on YouTube, listening to a hymn or classical music, playing a game, playing outside, reading a book, or doing some sort of project.
7. What response did you get from friends/family when sharing your decision to homeschool?
Everyone in my family has fully supported us, and even told us we needed to be homeschooling. Friends of course asked about socialization, and how long we were going to do it, to which we respond, “All the way through.” They also said that we must be so patient, and that they weren’t patient enough to homeschool, and that I must know what I’m doing because I’m a teacher. The public education system has wrongly made parents feel like they don’t know enough to educate their own children.
8. What has been most surprising and/or rewarding about homeschooling?
Three things come to mind…
First, homeschooling has provided me with a contrast from teaching public school. At work, I’m mandated to administer lots of assessments and 100 minutes of PE per week, and reading, writing, and arithmetic have to fit into the time that is left over. At home, my child’s education isn’t driven by tests or lawsuits.
Second, I’ve loved teaching my daughter to read. It was systematic and it required consistency. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve loved it. I’m amazed at the way she uses the rules she’s learned to figure out new words. She surprises me all the time by reading things I didn’t know she could read.
Third, I love learning, and homeschooling means I’m always learning something new.
9. What has been most challenging?
Compared to my full-time job, this is easy. I don’t mean for that to come off as glib. Trying to engage and instruct and assess thirty students, resolve conflicts, communicate with parents, and keep administrators happy is so much more challenging than teaching my own child.
10. What advice would you give to parents considering or just beginning their homeschooling journey?
1)You do know enough to teach your own child.
2)You don’t need a schoolroom in your house. Learning happens everywhere.
3)Utilize your public library and free online resources.
4)Children learn social skills by interacting with people. Your family, friends, church, and community are people.
5)Homeschooling by nature is unconventional, so don’t think that your homeschool has to look like anyone else’s.
Thank you, Mariel, for giving us a glimpse into your homeschool life.
Find Mariel online in these places:
If you would like to be featured in this series, please contact me by leaving a comment or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.