Homeschooling Interview from Idaho with Laura

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Please introduce yourself and your family to us, and also tell us what country and/or state you are from?

My name is Laura. I’m married to my best friend, Arlen, and we have two little boys. Samuel is five and Timothy is three. We recently moved to Idaho, USA, and LOVE the beauty of God’s world we found here.

How long have you been homeschooling?

This is a hard question. For me, homeschooling is such a way of life, so I would have to say five years. I’m not really sure when you would count us “officially” starting.

Why did you decide to homeschool?

I have always wanted to homeschool. I have a lot of tutoring in my background, as well as teaching in a K-2 classroom in small school. I don’t have anything against public or private or any kind of school really, I just love the thought of watching each individual student and being able to place the tools in front of him/her that truly helps him/her come alive. This is harder to do in a classroom setting for many kids, so I just plan to watch each of my boys and follow their lead.

Besides all that, education is one of my greatest passions, and I love the idea of sharing the best of me with my kids — so it just made sense for me to homeschool them and learn, explore, and discover life with them.

What style of homeschooling does your family follow?

We are VERY eclectic in our approach and, based on my boy’s personalities, I bet we will have different methods going for both of them. I approach homeschooling in a holistic fashion like unschooling. My kids are always learning, and I try to make room for what piques their interest. Sometimes I even ditch whatever is on our schedule — homeschool or otherwise — and try not to disturb their play because they are in the middle of some serious learning they’ve contrived all on their own. 

We also do lots of unit studies, and I pull ideas from Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, and more. I’m currently learning about Thomas Jefferson education, and I’m sure I’ll pull some from there too. I really just like to learn about lots of the philosophies and apply the pieces that work best for our family set-up and for my kids’ personalities.

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Do you have a philosophy about homeschooling?

I feel like I could write a book on this topic, but it is something that is always evolving and growing as my children grow. The basis of our education is learning more about God’s world (both nature and all of God’s children) and His creation, developing a friendship with Him, and learning to hear His voice as He leads each of us.

I also believe that I’m in school just as much as my kids. My job is to study them individually, understanding their ages, abilities, and interests so I can give them the tools and resources they need to truly soar. I feel like, in education, everything should have a greater purpose and a real application that reaches beyond checking something off a list. I really want to help my kids know why they are learning something and, as much as possible, let them experience it in real-life ways, not just in books and on worksheets.

I think the last thing I try to keep in mind is balance. Spending time in nature, building life skills, playing, and even learning academics are all important parts of life. I feel like one of the best gifts I can give my kids is teaching them how to balance all of the demands life will throw their way.

What kinds of tools, resources, or curriculums do you use to homeschool, and why?

We really use a lot of resources as we are learning all the time. Our library is one of our biggest resources! We also like to go on field trips to the zoo, museums, farms, and more. And, we spend a lot of time in nature and playing. There is so much to learn from those two amazing resources. 🙂

As far as curriculum, we also use a lot, but we don’t use them all at the same time. I use most of these as spines to help me understand a subject and then build unit studies and activities for the kids. Samuel does them all; Timothy joins in when he likes. We also use lots of music and day-to-day experiences. I’ll try to share a bit with you by subject.

Bible: Betty Luken felts, The Bible in Living Sound, Bible Storybooks, My Bible Friends, The Big Picture Interactive Story Book Bible

Math: Cuisenaire rods, word problems, and solving math in real life. We are about to start using Miquon Math Labs, and I’m so excited. Samuel LOVES math. 🙂

Reading: It’s young to do formal reading, but my oldest is determined and he wants to read so badly. We have been using a Dick and Jane Anthology and are moving very slowly (at his pace) through the All About Reading Curriculum.

Geography: We like to read missionary stories. We have been using the Little Lights Series, but I’m saving up to get some activity packs from Heroes For Young Readers. We do these for our Saturday evening worship. We also follow Daddy on our map as he travels around the world from time to time. Oh, and Samuel really likes the activities in Beginning Geography.

Science and History: Science in the Bible,  and Mystery of History. Both of these are chronological, and we do them together. I use Mystery of History to build unit studies, and we love all of the experiments in Science in the Beginning. I usually let the kids play with the experiment materials after we do the science activities and make their own hypothesis and experiments. Samuel also really likes for me to read him the Pre-Level 1 (I think it’s called Elementary level now) books from Real Science 4 Kids. We often do the accompanying experiments too.

Other: I use the book Tinkerlab to get lots of art and messy play ideas. I also find Rainbow Resources to be very helpful when I’m planning unit studies or looking for specific resources.

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Are you the primary “teacher,” or do your spouse or other family members participate with homeschooling?

I am the primary teacher for now, but I won’t be surprised if Arlen gets more involved as the boys get older.

What does a typical homeschooling day look like in your home?

7:00 a.m. – The boys wake up and we snuggle and do morning devotions.

8:00 – Breakfast is followed by the boys’ chores. They go and play while I finish my chores, but I’m always happy to have them help. The morning is mostly free-play for them, but I try to make myself available to answer questions and pose challenges based on what they are doing. They often play outside in their mud kitchen, digging in the dirt with their trucks, or dreaming up all sorts of fun. 🙂

10:00 – Exercise Time – When chores are all done or by 10 a.m., I do my workout. Sometimes the boys join me, and sometimes we do workout videos for kids together. I get a good workout too!

11:30 – Lunch – I always finish eating first, so I read a stack of books Timothy pre-selects while they finish eating.

12:30 p.m. – Timothy goes to his rest time, which usually ends in a nap. Samuel and I spend five to ten minutes reading from Dick and Jane or building words with our All About Reading program. Then I read to him whatever books he chooses for a minimum of 20 minutes. He often picks books that go with our current unit study.

1:00 – I work on my computer and Samuel listens to stories on my iPhone — books on tape, Your Story Hour, or other radio programs. He LOVES this time and often opts to listen while he plays well after rest time is over.

2:00 – Timothy is up and we all hang out together a bit. On Thursdays we go on a field trip once Timothy is good and awake.

3:30 – Snack – I let the boys each pick a snack a week, and we all have fun preparing them together. This gives them a chance to be in charge of a cooking experience from start to finish. I choose the snack the other days.

4:00 – Homeschool Time – This is our official learning block where I have pre-planned activities. Samuel does all of the activities with me. I try to plan a few specifically with Timothy in mind, but I don’t make him do any of them.  I generally follow this weekly schedule:

Sunday – math, art, nature
Monday – science, history, or interest-led unit study
Tuesday – felts and catch-up
Wednesday – science, history, or interest-led unit study
Thursday – field trip
Friday – random or catch-up day

5:00 – I start working on supper, and they often like to help me.

What do you love the most about homeschooling, and what do you dislike the most?

I just love watching my kids learn, explore, and discover the world around them. I love that I can truly tailor things so that they can always be excited about learning. That is the best part. I also really enjoy planning and researching.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming just being fully in the saddle as mom 24/7, especially as an introvert. I feel like I miss some great opportunities because I just need a little space or feel a little overstimulated. But, I know no one is 100 percent on their game all of the time. I just need to extend myself a bit of grace. 🙂

Susanna
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Susanna is now a “retired” home educator of three precious, young, successful, adult daughters, whom she taught from preschool to year 12. She is married to Michael, and with much enjoyment she serves in her current role of homemaker. She is passionate about children’s ministries, teaching the kids at church, and being a support and encouragement to the international Seventh-day Adventist homeschool movement.

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