Hey, friend! Grab a cuppa tea and pull up a seat. It’s time to meet fellow homeschool mama, Amanda Trumpower, and learn more about her journey into homeschooling.
Amanda is a writer, twin mom, and second-generation homeschooler from Ohio. In this interview, she shares with us what it’s like to be a new homeschool mom, how that differs from when she was homeschooled, and what she’s learned about prioritizing self-care. Amanda also chats with us about making time for her writing and so much more.
Come, let’s get to know Amanda!
Tell me about yourself, what you do, your hobbies, your family, etc.
I’m an author and a twin mom. (My boy/girl pair turn three in just a few weeks!) I’m a former children’s librarian with a deep passion for both mystery and fantasy fiction. Our homeschooling roots go deep: both my husband and I are second-generation!
What inspired you to create your own clean fiction for children & adults?
When toddler me preferred to scribble crayon lines left to right, declaring I was “writing a story,” my parents took it as a sign that perhaps my brain was wired for this work from the beginning.
They invested early on in excellent writing education, which I did in addition to regular schoolwork from grade school into college.
I write clean fiction for children and adults because regardless of religious affiliation, I believe most parents want good entertainment for their kids without having to screen it for foul language, excessive violence, sexual content, or even crass anti-family values. I deeply believe a story can be excellent and entertaining without these elements. I’ll spend a lifetime doing my best to provide families with just that.
How do you find balance and time for self-care as you do ALL of things?
I’m not going to pretend it’s always easy! Being tired is a real thing.
I’d say first, the behavior of your life partner is a huge factor. My husband is not just amiable to my work; he has dove fully in and partnered with me in every sense of the word. Whether that’s soloing with the kids so I can work a few extra hours, sending me off for a peaceful bath when I’m burned out, or just engaging with me in conversation about the work every waking hour, I can’t begin to quantify how crucial his support has been.
As cheesy as it sounds, my second priority is sleep!
I realized early on that I can’t keep up with all my responsibilities if I’m continually exhausted. Through experimentation, I’ve learned the optimal time for me to go to bed and feel fully rested the next day. I rarely nap when my children do, but if my body is a certain type of tired, I nap without question. I’ve learned what is “functional” tired and what is “critical” tired, and there is no way to come back from “critical” without sleep.
My third key is that I try really hard to keep my priorities straight.
I will always have a dozen things to do. So I don’t let that be the reason not to spend time with my husband. Likewise with my children. I believe that if I’m neglecting my family for my work, everything in my life will be wrong. They have to come first.
My fourth key is discipline.
My primary work hours are when my kids nap. As they grow older, this time is shrinking, but it is still there. For almost three years, I’ve worked during nap time to the exclusion of all else. Except for very rare occasions, I don’t do dishes, rotate laundry, cook dinner, or straighten the house. It was hard at first to ignore all these other demands, but now, my brain is trained that as soon as the kids lay down, it’s focus time.
My last key is grace.
I keep a pretty disciplined routine for work, so on the days when I am feeling burned out or exhausted or lost…I rest. I take a bubble bath during nap time instead of working. Or I take a NAP. I watch my favorite show or read a book or catch up on my Bible reading. I love what I do and my family has worked hard to create a good rhythm for everyone. If something is feeling off, it’s because it is. I listen to my body and rest appropriately.
Describe your homeschool style in 3 words
Consistent, organized, flexible
You are a second-generation homeschooler! Tell me about your experiences as a homeschool kid and how they compare to being a homeschool parent.
My mom had no intention to homeschool us. She was very content in her job as a science teacher at a private Christian school. But I’m left-handed and consistently wrote some letters backward, so she took me out after kindergarten to fix the problem herself. We fell in love with homeschooling and never went back.
I LOVED homeschooling. My mom ran it like a hybrid of traditional school and homeschooling: Every day, we had a schedule that we followed, complete with periods and timers and deadlines. But we also had flex days where we went to the museum, or the park, or on a walk, or to a service project. She helped us love the simple act of learning and instilled in both my brother and me the confidence to go out there and master whatever it is you’re passionate about.
As a parent, I have to remember that the goal is not to re-create my childhood; the goal is to instill in my children their own love for learning inspired by their passions. So if an activity I thought would be great is not going well, we change course for something else.
I also am experiencing the reality that what works for one kid does not work for another; my daughter is very happy to sit with flashcards, craft materials, and books. My son…largely wants to throw things! 🙂 My job is to figure out how to breathe life into their imaginations as individuals.
What made you decide to homeschool YOUR kids?
I have deep respect for the teaching profession–it was my original college major, and many of my friends are teachers–but I am a firm believer that you cannot have individual education in a classroom setting.
I received one-on-one instruction, personalized to address my greatest strengths and weaknesses, adapted to flow at my pace as my needs changed. How is one teacher supposed to do that for thirty kids? Yet this is the quality of education I want for my own children, so homeschooling was the only option I ever considered for them.
Were there any books or websites that helped influence your decision?
Believe it or not, I have not actually read much on homeschooling. I’ve mostly lived it. (I do like the “What Your X-Grader Needs to Know” series as an academic point of reference.)
What is your greatest struggle when it comes to homeschooling?
Letting go of my preconceived notions of the day to adapt to our reality. This is pretty much the definition of homeschooling, but I think we all struggle with this sometimes! Some days I think, “But I had such a great plan in mind!” 😀
How has your homeschooling changed since you started?
I started regularly doing learning activities with the kids when they were about 18 months old. It was wintertime, we were buried in snow, and I was bored out of my mind. So I made a binder full of learning activities from the Internet (organized by category with color-coded dividers, of course) and thrust them upon my poor, unsuspecting children. They were good sports and we passed a successful winter.
We’ve now graduated to a formal preschool curriculum: “God’s Little Explorers” by Stacie Ann Nelson. My twins are *at least* a full year too young for it, so I’m heavily adapting it.
But between 18 mo and almost-3, I’d say the biggest change I’ve made is just better adaptability: learning when to introduce a new activity, learning when to troubleshoot any friction we’re having, and then learning when to call it quits and try again later. We’re not going to instill a love of learning into our kids if we beat them over the head with it!
I also do more break times with lots of body movement!
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
Our journey has been short so far, but I was pretty unrealistic in my expectations at the beginning. No one was around to see me “fail” and the kids had fun destroying whatever activity I had worked so hard to prepare, so no harm, no foul.
But I would definitely ease up on my expectations a bit and just let the kids engage in the learning however they wanted. I was so excited to officially be a homeschool parent, I let my enthusiasm get the best of me. 🙂
In a perfect world, what would your ideal homeschool day look like?
Breakfast with Bible time. Song and dance time. Some sort of structured activity (letter exploration, early math, craft time). “Wild time” in our big, unfinished basement. Storytime with a snack. Free play while I make lunch. Naps. Some type of self-directed activity in the high chair while I make dinner. Dinner. Family playtime.
But in reality, what does your typical day really look like?
Lately? SO MUCH TV. (I’m prepping for a spring book launch. Whoops!)
Breakfast with Bible time. School songs on the TV while I clean up breakfast. A learning activity. Wild time in the basement…more TV while I make lunch. Naps. Snuggle time with my daughter because she always wakes up first. (Again, she wants TV. Lately, I’ve been working to reclaim this time to make it snuggling + books.) Dinner. Family playtime, occasionally a family craft, or my husband takes over so I can get work done.
What are your best homeschooling memories thus far?
- Leading a mini-homeschool coop with two other families. I love having four (!!!) three-year-olds running around, trying to instill some semblance of order.
- Being engaged with my kids in the morning with Play-Doh or letters or painting or whatever it is we’re doing that day. They call it “school time” and they love it so much.
- Watching my kids identify things we’ve learned (letters, numbers, colors) and feeling amazed at the brilliant little brains God designed.
Name your top 3 favorite books to read to your kids?
- Anything by Jan Thomas. She is our favorite author. My kids have at least two of her picture books memorized.
- Piggie & Elephant books. The concepts are simple enough for 3-year-olds to understand, and the speech-bubble text style means there are so few words on the page, my daughter might actually start to recognize them as a form of early reading.
- Oversized Look & See books, especially the ones made by Disney and Pixar since my kids know all those characters. Great for observation, child-led reading, and reuse.
What values or qualities do you hope to instill in your children?
An awe of the world God has created and a drive to go out and learn whatever sparks their interest.
Any thoughts on the growing diversity, or perhaps lack of, in your homeschool community?
Obviously, a large percentage of homeschoolers have (at least historically) been conservative Christians. I don’t consider this a problem because I am one myself, but I think the educational benefits alone make homeschooling an excellent thing for any family to consider, religious affiliation aside.
I love to see parents choosing to focus on their kids and customize an education just for them. Our faith is intricately woven into our daily education and that won’t change, but I’m happy to welcome other types of families who see value in this approach for different reasons.
How can we, as homeschoolers, lift each other up?
Don’t criticize another family’s style.
Unschooling, structured school like mine, curriculum or no curriculum…you are responsible for the education of your kids, not your neighbor. For example, I personally am not a huge advocate of 100% unschooling, but it is a smaller component in my approach. I trust that the families who have chosen to embrace it fully see a good reason to do so.
Finally, what tips would you like to share to help a new homeschooler thrive?
- A little organization will go a long way. Even if you want to embrace a free-form style, have some basic school supplies on hand and maybe 2-3 main goals for the year. Also, a loose flow to your day is very helpful.
- Find a community. This lifestyle is meant to be done in a community with others. Find a group to join (there are a bunch of Facebook groups) or start your own.
- Don’t make it more complicated than it is. Especially if your kids are young, you really can’t fail. Roll your sleeves up, try a few things, and see how it goes. You’ll have to adjust as you go along–we all do–but this is really just you getting to know your kids and teaching them some things along the way.
Thank you, Amanda, for doing this homeschool interview with me! It’s been a joy getting to know you and your journey.