Real Talk With 2 Homeschooling Mamas (Episode 156)
Sometimes it’s really helpful to hear what a day looks like in a homeschooling family. And, honestly, it looks like a million different things, depending on the family, and even depending on the day!
On the podcast episode here, I sat down with my dear friend Sarrah Lombardo and talked to her about her own homeschooling experience and what wisdom she’s gleaned from her past 2 years of homeschooling her girls after having them in traditional school.
Functional Education goes beyond a classroom, grade level, or score.
It is a lifelong approach to learning where the world is our school, and everyone is our teacher.
Gypsies At Heart
Last week we talked about what this next school year may look like for many of you, and this week, we get into the nitty gritty of what we do in our homes for school.
We first met the Lombardos last year at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta where we both were attending a Fulltime Families rally. We instantly hit it off with them, and our daughters adore each other.
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The quick backstory for their travels is that they intended to take off for simply a year to travel and do homeschooling (only because this was the only option, not because she wanted to). When they left, their eldest, Lillian (13) had been in a public school setting all the way up through 6th grade, and Chloe (7) had been in preschool. They’ve tried a few things, and we break down some options below for you.
You can check out the Lombardos on Instagram to continue following along on their homeschooling – and road-schooling – journey!
There are so many homeschooling options out there. It can get really overwhelming and easy to get lost in the weeds. In this episode, we addressed the fully online curriculum programs as well as the online classes you can take a la carte. In addition, a few more insights that can hopefully help you take a deep breath and gain a bit more confidence that you, too, can do this.
Homeschooling Online Curriculum
Sarrah’s first approach to homeschooling is relatable for many of you – she was apprehensive, overwhelmed, and wanted a “big fat easy button” solution that wouldn’t require her 100% of the time.
There are many online programs that are like this, where they follow the curriculum and simply have a virtual school. The Florida Virtual School and K12 are two examples of a fully developed school curriculum option. Sarrah tried TimeForLearning, and it just didn’t work for their family. They were bored with it, in addition to her realizing she didn’t want their learning to all be on a screen.
A pro/con to this approach is that oftentimes these full online programs are aligned with the traditional school curriculum, so you can essentially get public school at home. So, especially for families looking to have their children go back to a traditional school setting, these models can really keep them on track.
For those choosing to move away from Common Core and some of the standards of traditional school, however, you may find these programs too boring, unnecessary, or just not aligning well for your child.
It’s a great idea to try it out before you fully commit and see how much your child really gets out of them.
Off Goes the Lightbulb
While at the rally we attended together, we had a session on roadschooling, where parents could just talk and share ideas for what they do on the road and ask questions. In this session, a lightbulb went off for Sarrah, and she started seeing that you didn’t have to narrow down to only one curriculum; you could have a hodge-podge of learning based on all those things that interested her children.
And just like that, Sarrah had the ability to course-correct. Even though the school year had already started and she was nervous her kids would fall behind, she realized the only pending “deadline” of the school year being over was a self-imposed deadline of when a traditional school year ended.
Sarrah tried to mimic a school schedule at home when she started out, and, quite honestly, it was exhausting. Keep in mind a traditional school schedule is created around managing the herd, not a 1-1 approach. While there may be a full day at school, how much of it is clear instruction vs. getting kids settled, answering questions and managing not 1, but 10+ children, recess, study hall, lunch, transitioning between classes, etc. If you were to whittle down how much was actual full-on instruction, you’d be surprised how little time you can spend on a traditional curriculum and be on par with what they learn in a school traditional school setting.
With homeschooling, especially with our Functional Education approach, it often doesn’t fit into a semester exactly like a traditional school model. Maybe it’s taking advantage of a sunny day in the middle of the week to play, and doing schoolwork in the car on a Saturday travel day. Maybe it’s doing a little all year long, or, like my family, having our unschooling start in the womb and go on for life, without any breaks in learning.
How Do You Start Your Day?
Remember how much personality styles play into your approach when it comes into homeschooling – not just your child’s personality style and what works for them, but how your personality affects your own approach and interaction with your child.
For Sarrah, and for many, the morning is the key time to get the majority of schooling completed. However, that doesn’t mean you have to start at 8am. Start when it works for your family!
I loved Sarrah’s approach that the first thing in the morning is reading. This allows people to ease into the day at their own pace, get inspiration and motivation to start their day, and is such a great habit to do.
Recognize that you are dealing with just your own children. That means that, even if you’re fully scheduled out, you get to add in your own flexibility and grace. Your kids may not be into it one day, or you may not. That’s okay. You get to call the shots here!
You are not trying to figure out public education for a whole country. You are looking at what works for your children and your home.
Your Children can be a part of your support
Don’t underestimate the power of having your children involved in picking out what curriculum, programs, etc they want to do. When you work with internal motivation and bring in their interests, they are way more likely to not only do the work, but also retain it.
So if their math workbook is boring, but they love Monster Math online, maybe it’s time to switch it up – they are still learning, but they are retaining more since it’s in a format that isn’t forced.
Delight-led learning leads to much higher retention.
Also, if you aren’t excited about the curriculum, don’t expect your children to be. Crowdsource what other homeschooling friends love – and don’t just ask the parents – ask their kids! When you have a child who readily says a program/book/curriculum/etc is their favorite, you know you have a winner, and I’ve completely had other kids not only recommend things, but then teach my children how to navigate it!
The Core of Homeschooling
Oftentimes we whittle down to the essentials for homeschooling – Math & Language Arts. Science and the other subjects oftentimes are justified in the things we do, like the Junior Ranger programs at state and national parks, going to a science museum, cooking/baking, and other hands-on things like that.
Math and Reading/Writing are the most basic essentials we need to know, and it’s a great foundation. Sarrah spends the rest of the morning just in the Math & Language Arts, using curriculum and workbooks that support what they are covering, and letting the girls do some on their own and some with her. And then after lunch, the rest of the afternoon is more downtime of playing, creating, and experiencing life together…which, I might add, are all incredibly important aspects of learning as well.
This is a great option to open your kids up to things that may be beyond your area of expertise! Sarrah has done quite a few classes on Outschool with her girls, and, while I was hesitant on it because my introvert didn’t want to be on a Zoom call with a bunch of strangers, she helped me see how well they work with students.
On Outschool, the classes are usually smaller and can be way more interactive, however, part of the process is letting the teacher know about your child’s needs. Some work with kids who aren’t comfortable on Zoom, and some classes your child doesn’t need to interact at all. For Outschool, you pay for the classes, yet with the more individualized approach, it can really be worth it. Plus, you get a recording in case you missed anything!
Another option is Varsity Tutors, where the classes are free. Oftentimes these classes may have 100+ students watching – however, no one is on video so it’s more one-sided interaction.
The beauty of these classes and the “a la carte” approach of picking lessons is that it doesn’t have to all be you. Instead of plopping your kids in front of the TV for some free babysitting while you get stuff done, you can have an hour or two where your child is engaged and occupied, learning from someone else while you get a break.
Another option is looking for teachers and tutors online – I found an incredible Spanish teacher for adults and children on Fiverr (this is her here)!
Bring In The Grandparents
Don’t forget about your friends and family. Maybe you have a regular FaceTime call with grandparents for them to read together. Maybe you know someone who is working in a profession your child is interested in and they take the time to show your children, or let them shadow/apprentice for a time.
Adding in other friends to online classes your kids are doing, bringing in your friends and family to share their knowledge…these are excellent ways to not only enhance your child’s education, but also their relationships with your loved ones.
Some additional resources for you
- What To Do About School In 2020 (Episode 155)
- Why Are Snakes In Our House (Episode 154)
- What is Functional Education? (Video)
- Homeschool State Laws - HSLDA
- But What About Socialization?
- My Child Will Never Read
- Learn more about DISC Personality Styles
- Life Long Learners Come In All Personality Styles
- How can I be both teacher and student? Reach for the sun yourself! (Episode 74)
- Homeschool Rebuttals (Episode 61)
- History in a Distillery and other opportunities for learning (Episode 47)
- What is your internal motivation? (Episode 44)
- Your Credibility as Lead Explorer, Not A Teacher (Episode 42)
- What Type Of Thinker Are You? (Episode 43)
- Embrace The Struggle (Episode 41)
- Are You A Different Drummer? (Episode 39)
- Deschooling and the Myths of Education (Episode 40)
Your Weekly Challenge:
Sarrah’s final advice in this episode is exactly what I want to leave you with. Take a deep breath, parents, and recognize we are in a pivotal time in history with a lot of upheaval and unknowns. The rest of this year and the next is going to be us learning a new way of living, re-thinking our…everything.
Traditional school models are going to set a lot of the educational agenda aside as they are establishing new ways of doing things, spending more time teaching parents and children how to navigate online platforms and social distancing.
More than anything else, we need to be on top of our mental and emotional health during a time of flux. Not just the wellbeing of your children, but you as well. Your children are looking at you for guidance in more than just math. They need to see how you navigate life; how you handle the ups and downs, the unknowns and uncertainties, the fears and frustrations.
So, before you move forward with a plan for your curriculum, look at a plan for your life. What do you want your home life to look like? What is your relationship with your children? Your children will not be ruined by missing a week or two of school. What is most important to you and your family – what is your family vision?
If you don’t have a life to live, nothing else matters. The best thing you can do for your child is focus on the connection first.
My goal with homeschooling is to foster a love of learning, and to equip them with the critical thinking skills to learn things on their own.
Give your children opportunities to be fueled to move forward - and want to. Get to really know your family. The more you know about how they tick, what motivates them, and how to best support them, the better you can connect with others and see how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste