Our homeschool mom this week is Gwen Little from Mrs. Cool’s Little School. Gwen shares her amazing insight from 3 years of homeschooling her only son who started out in public school.
1.How many children are you currently homeschooling? How long have you been homeschooling?
I am homeschooling my only son. We did not set out to be a home school family. Sometimes the most amazing things just fall into your lap. Or in my case, my kitchen table. We began the third week of fourth grade and are now in sixth grade.
2. Have your children always been homeschooled? Why did you decide to homeschool?
He was actually enjoying public school through the third grade but due to changes including the Common Core, which took away the majority of his resource time, he began to struggle at a whole new level. He suffers from several learning delays, speech delays as well as ADHD. It was a difficult decision to pull him but after exhausting all plans with our public school we decided we had nothing to lose. He was stressed out and becoming very depressed. Nothing a fourth grader should ever experience. So, we began homeschooling on what we called a trial basis. We figured we would give it a year and then see how everyone felt about it. It is now, three years later, and I am happy to report that all of that one on one time has seen mad success. He has overcome obstacle after obstacle and is almost completely current with the typically developing curriculum. His only continued delay is in Math which he has made leaps and bounds improving in this year. He could not read or write when he began homeschooling and had several language delays. He now loves to read. He writes the most amazing stories and has an imagination that is beyond words. His speech has drastically improved! I am so grateful he can now express himself completely.
3. How would you describe your style of homeschooling?
I would say we are a great big mix up. We started out with very structured curriculum. I think its extremely helpful for a new home school teacher to have this sort of organization and assistance. I used Abeka our first year and the day to day lesson plans and carefully laid out, well everything, took away a lot of the pressure. However, by the second year I had learned things about how my son learns that caused me to change things up. He retains information better if a physical activity is included so we started adding a lot of experiments and educational games. He also needs to be able to move around a lot so we began taking more and more field trips and studying at our local parks and outside as often as possible. We also discovered that he is super visual so we added a lot more art. Even note taking contains drawings and “Word Art.” We also began including a lot more videos and other forms of media. We also do quite a bit of student guided learning. If my son develops an interest or has a question we will pursue it and yes, we use class time to do it. I think any home school will find itself an ever-changing journey because the student himself is ever-changing.
4. What does a typical day in your homeschool look like?
Is there such a thing as a typical day? LOL Well, we usually begin classes between 9:30 and 10 am and we break for lunch around one. Depending on the level of focus we achieve we can be done as early as three or as late as five. We have all the same subjects as they study in public school. We also do coding and Life Lessons as well. Life Lessons include learning how to cook or care for your home, pet, or property. We take courses on developing character and critical thinking skills. We are a Christian family so we have daily Bible Study and we take time to show compassion and love to our community. We visit the nursing home, the animal shelter with food donations, we do a lot of random acts of kindness, we donate to the needy, we learn how to value each and every life and we study kindness. We believe that we can change the world for the better one moment at a time. Mostly, we have fun. We try to develop a genuine love of learning. We encourage creativity and play. At the end of our school day we are both usually pretty relaxed. We do not have homework or papers to write for the next day.
5. What kinds of tools or curriculum do you use to homeschool?
We began with Abeka but we have been all over the curriculum world. I hate to admit it but we actually do change curriculum often. If something isn’t working for my son, after giving it an honest try, we will move to something else. I order my books through Christian Book. They offer a wide variety. We also use our local library for supportive materials a lot. We also use several online options such as Khan Academy, code.org, and PBSLearningMedia. We actually use YouTube lessons and Ted Ed Talks more than I ever would have imagined in the beginning. We even use Netflix documentaries. We also use the world itself. Local museums, local speakers, historic sites and on and on. Literally, the world is our classroom.
6. Do you have a motto, quote, or scripture for your homeschool? Why did you choose that one?
In the beginning we always said we would homeschool using faith and fun and we have stuck to that. But there is a scripture we stand on. We teach him now and when he grows up and heads out into the world he will be ready. He will have learned not only Math and English but how to be a good man. How to value life and the hearts in everyone around him. He will know how to be strong and tough and disciplined and how to own self control and be successful. He will hopefully be unafraid to step up to a challenge. Unafraid to stand up for what is right. All the while he can cook himself a meal, do his laundry and fix a flat. That is the goal. We take every step with God in the lead and homeschooling is just one among many. We want to offer him more than public schools are allowed to anymore. Faith inclusive learning.
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
7. Is your spouse or other family members involved in your homeschooling?
My husband had far more confidence than I did that I would be able to homeschool successfully. I was so worried I would let my son down somehow. Coming from a long line of teachers I was fully aware of the impact this position had. It scared me. I can now say, it was the best thing that could have ever happened for our son. Without my husband’s belief in me though, I doubt I would have dared leap off that cliff and spread those wings. My husband works during the day while we are doing curriculum but he answers questions and keeps us inspired.
8. What is your favorite part of homeschooling? What is your least favorite part?
My favorite part of home schooling is seeing that it makes my son happy. I love that he can enjoy an education based specifically around his needs and desires. I love that home schooling encourages his faith and moral development. I love the flexibility it offers as well as the opportunities to spend our time together. My least favorite part about home schooling is the looks you get, and the comments you hear which try to make you feel less than you are. I think there is this great miscommunication being handed around where people somehow think homeschool parents are lazy or crazy. Well if we are crazy its the best kind of crazy you can be! Crazy creative. Crazy in love with our kids! Crazy about our families! The very last thing you will find on a homeschool Mom’s list of attributes is lazy. This is hard work. It is very self sacrificing work. It is in no way ever easy. I had a very successful professional career which required sometimes upwards of 60 hours a week. That was cake compared to this. That said, I wouldn’t trade it for the world because it is also sincerely the most rewarding work you can find.
9. What is the best piece of advice you were given about homeschooling? What advice would you give to someone who is considering homeschooling?
The best advice I was given about homeschooling was that I could do it. I was just about swallowed up in doubt at the idea of it but I was also a desperate Momma who knew her son needed a change now. My husband’s encouragement that I could do it made all the difference. So my advice to someone getting ready to try it is this…
If you weren’t at least a little scared to start, than this job probably isn’t for you. Your fear comes from your love for your child and your genuine desire to give him or her the very best this life has to offer. So keep in mind as you go that no one knows your child the way you do. No one else will never ever give up on him or her no matter what. While public school may push them aside or move on ahead of them, you don’t have to. You can give them time to learn. As much or as little as they need. One on one time spent with your child while laughing and learning is absolutely priceless. It is a gift. You don’t need to worry about actually being a professional teacher. Every Mom already is one. You can teach him History just like you taught him to use a spoon. With a gentle hand and lots of consistency he will learn. You don’t need to know who the 10th president was or what the capital of North Dakota is because you will have curriculum which not only gives you the questions but the answers as well. You may very well learn right beside of them. I have. You will unlock things inside of him or her that you had no idea existed and then you will treasure these discoveries and help your child become who God meant for him or her to be. No conforming to what the Education System says he ought to be. He or she can be whoever he is meant to be and that will undoubtedly lead to happiness and self confidence. When you see excitement in a subject you can grab a hold of it and keep right on it, digging ever deeper until your little student is satisified because you aren’t worried about racing through curriculum so you can be ready for the 36 tests they have this month. You can teach for the sake of learning instead of the sake of a test score. It’s easy to memorize and hold information long enough to get through the test but real learning takes its sweet time and it sticks for a lifetime. Also, fear not, your child will have friends. There are co-ops galore and home school groups everywhere but in reality he would do just fine by stepping out his front door and hanging out with the neighborhood kids. The same ones he hung out with after school before he began homeschooling. He will always have a teacher who believes in him. It won’t be easy. I won’t lie. But it won’t be harder than you can manage and it will be worth it. Leap, sweet girl. You have got this.
10. Finish this sentence: Homeschooling is…..
Homeschooling is a mixture of wonder and awe. A seeking of questions and answers. An opening of a door that leads to a greater and wider world than you’ve ever known before. An opportunity to see the world through the eyes of your child. An unexpected blessing that changes your life and opens your heart. And also a lot of hard work but seriously, the rewards are priceless.
Author Bio: My name is Gwen and I was born and raised in a small town in Maine but I now live in East Tennessee with my husband and son. We are a “modern” Christian family full of techies and creativity. I would love to have you join me on my journey on my blog at Geez, Gwen! or follow me on Facebook or Twitter!