Tanyell Cole, Tennessee, USA
Websites: lifebeyondthewalls.com and theboutiqueplayspace.com
Instagram and Youtube: @nontraditionalmommy
What is your greatest struggle when it comes to homeschooling?
I believe my greatest struggle with homeschooling is being responsible for everything when it comes to my kids. I know this sounds insane as parents “should” be responsible for everything, but I think there comes a sense of relief for parents who send their kids to public school. They do not necessarily worry about if they are learning everything they need to learn, they ultimately trust the school system to do this part for them.
The other struggle is having kids home 365 days, 24 hours a day. My husband and I do not have a support system so it’s just us in this thing, which leaves us parenting day in and out.
If you could go back in time, what would you change or do differently?
If I could go back I would tell myself to relax. I would spend more time marveling in my kids’ learning process and not be as stressed out about the process. I would create a schedule that was way more flexible, which I think would have prepared me to be more equipped now that I am more flexible.
How has your homeschooling changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
We had to actually school at home! My kids lost access to their co-ops and extra-curricula activities. We would typically homeschool at parks or other places and we were no longer able to do that. This disruption in our routine caused disruption throughout our entire schooling.
We relaxed a WHOLE lot on schooling and what was required to be done in a day. We had to find new ways to school (especially since daddy was home every day, too). This was probably the most relaxed school year we have ever had.
What are your thoughts on the growing diversity, or perhaps lack of, in your homeschool community?
I am not sure if the community is growing in diversity where we live. I believe diversity has always existed, it’s the segregation of the diversity that is hard. As a black homeschooler, I find it hard to find and locate other black homeschoolers because they are isolated and often times segregated from other homeschool communities.
As a black woman, what is one actionable thing a non-black person can do to combat racism?
Be open-minded. This means willing to listen, learn, reflect, on the experiences of black people. Be ok with feeling uncomfortable when having hard discussions and conversations.
Now that we have gotten to the heart of the interview, tell me a little about yourself, your family, and why you chose to homeschool. Do you work in addition to homeschooling your children or did you leave a career behind to do so?
I am a mom of 11 soon to be 12. I started homeschooling my oldest son when he was in the 6th grade, because he was not mature enough for middle school. It was HARD! He fought us tooth and nail, but my husband and I loved it.
So we decided we would homeschool our daughter who was 3 at the time from the very beginning. Our thought was to get her to 6th grade and then send her to school, but we all fell in love with it and now she is a Senior in high school and still homeschooling!
When we started homeschooling I was a stay-at-home mom. However, throughout our years of homeschooling, I have run a private practice for marriage and family therapy and 3 years ago we started a business full-time! So now I am a homeschooling mompreneur.
How do you find balance and time for self-care in the midst of daily life as a homeschooling parent?
There is no such thing as balance. Balance is an illusion. Self-care was me realizing this. There will be times where more energy and time is given to myself and other times when it is given to my kids, work, husband, and so on. But there will never be balance and being ok with that makes me feel good.
In a perfect world, what would your ideal homeschool day look like?
My kids grab their studies without being asked, begged, threatened, bribed or anything else and immerse themselves fully into them! LOL! For me it would be a day where everyone is on one accord with getting work done and I am not pulling my hair out trying to get someone to do their work.
But in reality, what does your typical day look like?
No day looks the same. Typically my oldest daughter will do her school work independently in her room. I will divide my youngest kids up into groups of two. One will do computer work while the other works one-on-one with me.
Once the first group is done I will move on to the next group. My middle son will typically do his work on the computer once the younger kids are done and then he will work with me. My middle daughter currently refuses to do anything that isn’t researched based and she feels she will use it in real life. So we find unique and interesting ways to get her school work in.
Math is usually bribed! My toddlers are usually entertained by whichever kids are not doing work at the time.
How has your homeschooling changed over the years? Do you subscribe to any particular homeschooling philosophy?
I am way more relaxed, flexible, and less worried. I have learned that learning is a life long process. You never stop learning. I have accepted we can learn in multiple ways and that there isn’t a cookie-cutter way to learn information.
I have accepted that google knows everything and my kids are growing up in a time where information is literally at their fingertips. This has changed my approach on how I teach and what I teach.
What are your best homeschooling memories thus far?
Watching my kids learn to read. I can honestly say I have witnessed all of my kids’ first! They didn’t come home from school and read to me, instead I saw the joy on their face when they read that very first sentence!
Getting to travel without worry. When my husband worked for corporate America we were able to travel with him all of the time, and now as business owners of two locations we can take our kids with us everywhere we go.
Watching my kids learn real-world life lessons has been huge, but mostly the biggest challenge is also the best part – getting to spend every day with my kids.
What are your top 3 favorite books to read to your kids?
Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney
Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy, by Jacky Davis
American Girl series of books
Finally, do you have any wisdom to share or tips to pass on to those new to homeschooling?
Breathe, breathe, breathe. It’s going to be ok!