Friday, October 17, 2014

What It Looks Like Returning To Homeschool

"Don't you have so much extra time now that your kids are in school?"
This was asked several times during that first month our kids attended the church's school two years ago.  I think most of the people asking hoped to see relief from my apparent weariness.  After all, it seemed logical that relinquishing the homeschool would free up some time, right?  But the answer was always a laugh and a "no."

First of all, we were in the middle of moving our family from one place to another almost monthly.  Our home was expanding and we had incredible opportunity to live in other people's homes, free of charge, for almost an entire year.  With a family of seven and trying to keep everything clean and unbroken, it was also quite stressful.  The baby and (for the first year before going into kindergarten) preschooler missed their siblings so much while they were in school.  Family dynamics completely changed, and I think it was roughest on the younger two who were left behind.  It might have only been two kids at home all day instead of five, but their needs didn't change.

A couple of the children thrived academically in school.  One who needed a little positive peer pressure really excelled in new areas and it was incredible to see.  One loved trying out a traditional school for the first time and did well.  Another just didn't thrive in the school setting.  The noise and atmosphere of a classroom was too much and concentrating on anything was almost impossible.  Our younger one joined the school in kindergarten last year and absolutely loved her class, but I got several calls throughout the year saying that she was crying because she missed me.  I watched our family dynamics change.  Our kids had become so used to being with only their peers all day, that they almost forgot how to get along with their siblings.  We had never encountered that problem so consistently before.  By the end of that second school year, all four children asked to go back to homeschooling.  I found my heart warming back up to the idea, too.  We were finally moved into our home and the dust settled enough to where it felt feasible.

Goofing off while reading history lessons to little sisters.

While they finished up their year at school, I spent every spare minute preparing for their return to homeschool.  I was desperate to do it well.  The last year that we homeschooled wasn't excellent.  We had outgrown our home and I was in a swirl of postpartum depression.  I wanted the return home to be beautiful.  After lots of research, we finally chose to invest in Sonlight curriculum.  I was drawn to it in years past, but didn't have the funds for it at the time.  Indulging in it this year, and signing the children up for sports and dance, was still less expensive than the school tuition we had been paying.  The lack of text books and abundance of good literature chosen for the Sonlight curriculum really caught my eye.  Their Instructor's Guides are also a massive perk.  Lesson plans are already laid out and even scripted, and all I have to do is follow them.

Being eight weeks into the school year, I'm familiar enough with the program to know how to tailor it to our family.  I have swapped out some of the older kids' readers for books on how to raise our new Anatolian Shepherd puppy.  The older two and younger two are broken up into two different "cores", (convenience and togetherness all in one!) and each child has their own individual math and handwriting/spelling lessons for their specific level.  

Learning how some seeds (green beans, in this case) hitch rides to find more space for new plants.
We also get the week's lessons done in four days to allow us a "Homestead Day" on Fridays.  This started as an idea and ended up turing into a self-made curriculum.  We all look forward to Homestead Day, and I can't wait to share more about it very soon.

Over the last eight weeks, I've watched sibling relationships naturally re-bond.  Our child who struggled in school for two years has quickly caught back up to grade level.  Those of us who hated school and struggled to retain lessons because of the boring textbooks are now reading ahead because the books are so interesting, and in turn attaining more of what's being read.  The wild card toddler is actually so much more peaceful.  I think just being around his siblings more, and watching them work on their lessons, has encouraged him to find things to engage in during school time.  There's no denying that homeschooling requires a lot.  I am definitely excited for bed at the end of the day, but seeing the fruit in just the few weeks we've returned to homeschool has made it so worthwhile.

The sun is almost up.  My morning chores need to get underway and it's almost time to start this week's edition of Homestead Day.  Happy weekend to you all, and so many blessings!


  1. This was so encouraging to read! We just started homeschooling (with Sonlight) this year. For a number of reasons, the last couple of months have been a difficult season for our family, and the temptation to "simplify" our life by sending my son to school has definitely been there. Reading this made me glad I stuck with homeschooling.

  2. I think the sibling relationships are sooooo important! I have gotten many comments on how my older children will take care of the younger children's needs in public without being asked ie putting on shoes, dishing up food etc. When i sent my oldest to school, he would come home, detune from the social craziness, sit with us for supper, argue with his younger siblings. Needless to say, they missed him all day and wanted to play but he didn't know how to play with them anymore. Yes, homeschooling is hard and crazy and....the list goes on but the plus' outweigh the negatives for sure.

  3. i think it is really great how kids get to spend more time playing and their "good" hours of the day together while homeschooling. there are things i miss about traditional school, but i am really enjoying their relationships being tightened while being home. i love that you guys are doing a friday homesteading day - that is way too cool!

  4. I homeschooled my kids for one year (after public schooling till then), then we moved, and I was pregnant with my fourth and my husband was deploying. I thought it would be less stressful and easier for everyone if the kids just went back to public school. Oh my goodness. I was SO glad when that year was over! Three different times of getting out the door in the morning with a newborn, for one thing, was exhausting!! Not to mention all the drama...
    I like Sonlight's literature choices, but I didn't personally enjoy the whole curriculum. It almost seemed that in their attempt to be "twaddle-free" they went too far on the other side of it, mountains of reading (and we LOVE reading!) with details that aren't necessarily important, ie, Simon Bolivar's tutor's name, etc. I guess if my kids are ever on Jeopardy... Now, in our third year back to homeschooling, we're using a self-designed program that's pretty similar but more reasonable, I think. Still tweaking it as we go, but I think the kids are learning a lot.
    I would really love to know more about your homestead days! Sounds really cool!!

  5. So nice to hear that your transition back to HS has gone well. I've also experienced the difference between kids who know how to interact with other aged kids and those who don't...what a difference it can make!

    Also, my goal is to switch to 4 day school weeks as well, but we're not quite there yet. Could you explain a bit how you go about doing that? Do you still do 5 days worth of lessons or just condense them somehow? Thanks for the encouragement/inspiration to keep going! :)

  6. I am so looking forward to hearing about Homestead Day!!!!!! Thanks for this post. I enjoyed reading it. Love the pics, especially the beans :)

  7. I'm new to your blog and I'm already hooked. Your story of living in the trailer is so appealing to me. My husband and I are currently dreaming of selling our home and doing whatever it takes to get a spot in the country. The idea of storing or getting rid of most of our things sounds so minimalist and nice. Thank you for being brave and sharing pieces of your life with us!

  8. Also a new reader here! Just want to tell you that I am already so encouraged by the tone and heart of your writing, even in these two posts. I am only in my second year of homeschool and have used Sonlight so far, which I am really pleased with! Praying abundant grace and joy over you and your little ones and am excited to hear more about your homeschool year...and about homestead day (fabulous idea!)

  9. Katie, it's so good to see you back in this space and THANKS for sharing about your journey these last 2+ years. There are so many perks to "traditional" school, but at the heart of it all, it seems every time we think about, we're pulled back home. Seasons come and's great to see that you guys are getting a rhythm back. can't wait to hear more :)

  10. When I had my fifth I spiraled into depression and anxiety. It was such a hard year. I finally feel like I'm in a groove with this homeschool thing for the first time ever. I have an 8th, 6th and 2nd grader and a preschooler and toddler. But for preschool I'm all about letter sounds, art and lots of playtime.

    It's nice to hear your perspective. I've often wondered. I live in the foothills of LA and we can't afford private and public isn't so great here. I have one kid that I don't think he could handle school. I think it would crush his unique spirit. But I've wondered. We do a homeschool charter so that I can have money for music lessons and amazing curriculum. I've been really liking it. We are on our third year.

    So glad you are blogging again.

  11. So thankful you shared this! Really love and appreciate your honesty and vulnerability!! So refreshing!!

  12. Hi Joy!

    You said you're using a self-designed program similar to Sonlight. Which one is that if you don't mind my asking?



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