Welcome to the next installment 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 mom of three, Tara, from Minivan Ministries.
1. Tell us a bit about your family.
I have 3 energetic and bright children. My son is 8. My daughters are 5 and 2. Technically my son would be in third grade. My daughter had a late birthday, so she really isn’t kindergarten age yet. She loves doing school with her brother so much that we decided to just go ahead and unofficially start her. Our kids are all different, so together they incorporate a wide variety of learning styles and interests. It’s an interesting challenge to have, but it also helps those who may not be strong in a certain area (like art or music) to at least develop an appreciation for it.
2. Who does the majority of the teaching?
I do pretty much all the teaching. I do defer to daddy on science matters as he has a biology degree. I want to make sure I am explaining the concepts correctly! Science we never my best subject! I also encourage my kids to share their work with Daddy when they deserve a pat on the back, or when they need an extra nudge in the right direction.
3. How long have you been homeschooling?
We have been homeschooling for almost 3 years exactly.
4. What led you to choose homeschooling?
My son attended public kindergarten for the first half of the year. I had considered homeschooling because we were not districted for a great school. Then he got into a magnet school at the last minute, and I thought that was the answer. He started kindergarten loving school and reading about 4 chapter books every day. Very quickly he hated school and didn’t have the chance to read. He came home tired and grumpy. Every day he would cry for me not to make him go. Then I discovered that, even though he could read chapter books, he was in a reading group with kids just starting to put words together. Not only that, but he was ahead in math. At school, however, he was still learning to count to 20 at Christmas. I had taught kindergarten and first grade in a public school for 10 years before we adopted my son, so I knew that I could do a better job at home. Plus I already had all the materials I needed. I couldn’t really think of a good reason not to homeschool at that point!
5. What is your homeschooling approach? (Unschooling, eclectic, etc.)
Since I was a public school teacher, I started out teaching my son that way. He didn’t want anything to do with workbooks. He loved to read up a storm and do hands-on projects. It took me a while to “detox” from the public school way of doing things. I still revert back now and then. I have ended up with a very eclectic approach. I took one of those quizzes and I was amazed to find that I was pretty much equal in all areas. I still have to work at being more relaxed and not being uptight about not getting things done in a certain time frame.
6. What does a typical school day look like for you?
What is a typical school day?! We actually do school from Tuesday through Saturday due to my husband’s work schedule. We have lots of outside activities. We go to a Bible study that has great classes for the kids one day each week. Another day we attend a homeschool co-op. We typically take at least one field trip each week. During soccer season, we also have to include games and practices. We usually only end up staying home one or two days each week. I am trying to get some more consistency, but all of our extra activities are so educational and important, that we aren’t willing to give any of them up just yet. (Maybe soccer in the spring?) I do make sure that, no matter what, we fit in the subjects that we need the most help on each day. That includes writing and math for my son, and reading for my daughter. My kids love to read so much that that is easily covered every day!
7. What response did you get from friends/family when sharing your decision to homeschool?
My friends were all surprised when we decided to homeschool because I had been a classroom teacher. I had never planned on homeschooling, so it was a shock, even to us! My parents were totally against it and still are. They gave the usual arguments about socialization and questioned how they would learn the higher level subjects when they got older. My mom finally admitted that our kids do get to do a lot more (field trip wise) than they ever would have if they attended public school. That is a big concession for her and a step in the right direction. I don’t think they will ever be 100% behind us, but that is okay. You just have to do what is right for your family, even when others don’t agree. God never promised us an easy life. I know my kids are way ahead of where they would be in public school. That is good enough for me.
8. What has been most surprising and/or rewarding about homeschooling?
The amount of quality time I get to spend with my children is priceless. With my husband’s varied work schedule, it also allows us to have family time that would be nearly non-existent otherwise. I am also floored by how much the younger ones learn from the older ones.
My son is a speed reader and he has time to read several large books every day. He loves nonfiction, so he is learning a ton. He would never have the time to do that in the public classroom.
We didn’t start homeschooling for religious reasons, but I have been amazed at how God fits into every single subject. My kids have learned so much about the Bible and how much Jesus loves them, mostly while doing school!
9. What has been most challenging?
The most challenging thing for me is to pair down what I want to do into a reasonable amount. There are so many fun choices out there and so much to learn, no matter how old we are. I always want to do more. We just try to make it fun. I have to work on being more laid back when we don’t get everything done that I had planned for the day.
10. What advice would you give to parents considering or just beginning their homeschooling journey?
I would say to just jump in if you are considering it. There is not a greater reward. It’s not always easy, but most great things aren’t. Find a good curriculum if you have no idea where to start. You can always change things up later. We love My Father’s World, but there are lots of good curriculums out there.
Thank you, Tara, for giving us a glimpse into your homeschool life.
Find Tara 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.