I often have mothers ask me how we homeschool in a small space and balance working. Early on I asked my wonderful homeschooling neighbor for advice. I read many books on the different methods and even order samples of curricula to evaluate.
The book that made the greatest impact is and one I highly recommend is Unschooling, by Clark Aldrich. He is the founder of the Acton Academy in Austin and his philosophy is a great fit for my family. It is about using a few digital resources for core learning and they rest is project based collaborative learning.
I had just begun working freelance as a freelance educational consultant in Urban School Districts in Texas when the boys were two, and knew there was no way I would put the boys in public school. I love the access to so many experts and learned how we have stacked the deck against teachers. I honor the teachers that in the face of such bureaucracy continue to be leaders of learning. I learned too much about the inner workings of administrations and the business side of education to think this was a good option for our children. I conduct trainings for teachers on new curricula and lead talks in various educational topics.
This is how our homeschool experience has evolved over the past three years. I do not have all of the answers, but we are seeing success and this is what is working for us. The key as my longtime friend and homeschooling mom of four will tell you, is keep it simple and fun, the rest will come in time.
I also wondered how in the world, I could homeschool and work. My friend does this by teaching another child in her homeschool as a private teacher which is allowed in Texas. Women entrepreneurs will find a way. This system of natural learning is as simple as it gets and it has worked.
I have access to the most up to date curricula and guess what? I don’t use any of it. After you wade through all of the research, you will find that formal school should not even start until well after age 5. That and of course self directed learning is best for all students.
Our twins just turned five, and I have been working with them on things in a natural way. They cook with me and learn about measurements. They garden, yes, even now in our small Townhome. We started seeds on the windowsill and they chose their plants. They are responsible for checking on their seeds and plants, and help me make a menu to highlight their food.
I joked with my husband about our micro farm, but we are sans animals at the moment. We talked about having horses if the fertility treatments did not work. I would still love to have some, maybe some day. We have always had dogs, but just before we moved here we had to say goodbye to my oldest living dog and friend, Alex. She was a lab mix and was 17.5 when we left us, we miss her daily, and someday will add back to our animal population. The boys love animals, we had three dogs when they were born. We laughed about the two infants and the geriatric dog family. We love caring for my in-laws animals and stopping to give apples to horses down the road from their place.
I recently had the boys try an online math assessment software which is game based. They breezed through Pre K content and into the 2nd grade content until they were bored and asked to stop. We did. They can write their names – sometimes all the letters are written correctly, sometimes not. They are both reading early rebus readers. They are great at Lego building, art, and very coordinated.
How did we do this? No formal daycare, preschool, or formal lessons yet. I did buy those fun flash cards with shapes and numbers. I use them as an activity when we feel like it or have them in my bag if we were traveling.
They play lots of games on their Nabis, or our tablets, and got a Wii this year. We go to the Zoo, The Thinkery in Austin, attended Sea World’s Homeschool Field Instructional Day, and do occasional nature classes and story times.
I taught elementary music another lifetime ago, so I am just beginning piano with them in a very relaxed way. They have always had access to instruments, and when they show interest I teach them something new about that. They have ‘played ” the piano since they could sit in a highchair – just making their own music. They can recognize movements in classical music and sounds and photos of the instruments. We sing scales, and intervals in the car and make up our own silly songs. I do not plan any of it.
We read to them often, sing songs, and play. The use their imaginations to have independent play throughout the day. I do think having a twin sibling helps with imaginative play. They always have a friend to play with. We have a box of dress up things and they often become a super hero to save me from one thing or another.
We spend a lot of time at local parks and outside play here at home. We are looking forward to the pool being warm enough soon, as they are both strong swimmers. I taught them to swim the same way I homeschool. Immersion is key in learning.
Next year the only thing we will add is a two morning a week Montessori Homeschool Class that includes music, art, literature, and just being with friends. I have found some great homeschool enrichment opportunities in the Austin area. Using a class will be good for the boys and it is a great way for me to work on a project I have scheduled for the Fall.
That is as simple as it gets and it works. It does not require any more room than normal living. Lessons happen everywhere. We learn on the go. They just turned 5 in March and would be going to public Kindergarten if we were not going to homeschool. I think the takeaway here is to homeschool how you live. I was more stressed about whether I was doing it right before we downsized. Now I have all of this found time and the stress about homeschooling is gone.
For us our boys are happy, well adjusted, sweet boys, that love to learn. What more could a mother want?