Laurin W., California, USA
What is your greatest struggle when it comes to homeschooling?
Oh boy, I have a lot of them! But I think my greatest struggle when it comes to homeschooling is checking off the school day’s “to do” list, and resisting the temptation to put that accomplishment (or lack there-of!) ahead of the real goal.
The mission statement of the co-op that we are involved in is “To know God and make Him known.” I think that sums it up pretty well. We have the privilege of learning about everything around us. The incredible, intricate design of the human body. The wonderous planet Earth. Twinkling stars in the sky. The sun. Animals. Oxygen. Water. Gravity. Whenever I have had doubts about the existence of a Creator, I always go back to the reality of these things. I remember being a teenager and rolling my eyes whenever my parents stood in awe of the ocean or marveled at a sunset – and now I’m the one constantly pointing out these amazing wonders to our kids!
God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, can be seen and understood from what has been made. Even if I have some unchecked boxes at the end of the day, the hours learning about everything from multiplication to Mars to the migration of birds is time well spent.
If you could go back in time, what would you change or do differently?
I try not to think about that too much or I would probably drive myself crazy! I would definitely want to reclaim the hours I’ve spent wondering if I’m doing enough. I probably was, and I wasted time and energy that could have been better spent doing something (anything!) else. I came across the book, Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie, a few years ago and wish I would have heard about it before even starting our homeschool journey. Now I read it every year before we start the fall semester – it’s a quick read and offers very valuable encouragement and advice!
How has your homeschool adjusted since the COVID-19 Pandemic? Please feel free to elaborate.
Since we were already homeschooling, our day hasn’t really changed much since the pandemic. I want to try to think more about how we can use what we do during our day to try to reach out to other people during this time. Why not take advantage of handwriting time to come up with a letter to a neighbor? Or use a fine arts lesson to draw a masterpiece to send to the kids’ great-grandma (instead of adding them to the towering piles of schoolwork around the house!)? These are things I haven’t been consistent at doing yet, but I’d like to make them habits!
I have missed our outings, activities, and play dates with friends most of all, but have also been thankful to have free afternoons to play in the backyard, read for however long we want, and bake or cook together. These are things our girls often ask to do, but have been hard to squeeze into our pre-pandemic days.
It has definitely made me re-think signing up for activities – I listened to a podcast recently where an author was talking about how she gave her kids the option to choose “one or none” when it came to activities. She said that people would give her strange looks when some of her kids, during particular seasons, would say that they weren’t involved in any activities at all! But, especially after seeing the benefits over the past few months of being home more, not having to rush the kids into the car every day to be somewhere at a certain time is sounding pretty good!
What are your thoughts on the growing diversity, or perhaps lack of, in your homeschool community?
Every person is unique so, in a sense, every family brings diversity to a homeschool community. We are blessed to live in California, where we benefit from the natural diversity in our state. I have learned so much from every fellow homeschooler whom I have had the privilege to know. Everyone uses different curriculums, varying routines, and tips they have picked up along their journey – and I love that I can learn about those firsthand and integrate some of it into our family’s own homeschooling plan.
Now that we have gotten to the heart of the interview, tell me a little bit 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?
First and foremost, I’m a sinner saved by God’s amazing grace of sending Jesus to die for and rescue the world. This is an indescribable gift for us to receive!
The Lord has also blessed me with an incredible husband, Ben. We both grew up in San Diego and went to undergrad at Texas Christian University, but at different times. We met twice! Once at a TCU recruiting event in San Diego while Ben was a college student and I was still in high school. I remember meeting him and thinking he was cute, but didn’t think I would ever see him again. Little did I know then, I ended up going to TCU and we met again two years later at a similar recruiting event. We started dating long-distance and got married two-and-a-half years later. Grad school for both of us took us to a small town in Texas, and then we lived in Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, and Tennessee over the next eleven years.
We have three girls who were born during that time – they are now ten, seven, and four. We never thought we would homeschool. We started praying about it though, when our oldest daughter started pre-school. We encountered some challenges there that led us to realize, with all of the time we were putting in trying to make everything work at her school, we could probably just do it ourselves. Over time, we enjoyed reclaiming the hours that would have been otherwise spent at school away from our family.
Being at home has also allowed us, while still recognizing and addressing struggles, to celebrate the unique strengths of each of our kids that, in our experience, were often overlooked in a traditional school environment. God has been so good to give us the direction, support, training, and friends that we have needed to not just give up on homeschooling altogether on those hard days!
How do you find balance and time for self-care in the midst of daily life as a homeschooling parent?
I definitely struggle with finding balance and can easily start feeling weary (and impatient, and grumbly, and…) when the demands of family, school, the house, etc. etc. etc. seem to stack up. My husband is great at giving me an evening a week to leave the house (even if it’s just to sit by myself in the car for an hour). But honestly, I would probably accept an endless amount of “me” time if that were possible! It has taken me way too long to start to realize that the rest and satisfaction that come from thinking about myself are never enough, and don’t last. I often have to remind myself that I have a choice: when I feel like I need a break, I can either focus too much on that, or choose to be thankful for all of the reasons (kids, homeschool, dinner, the house) that make me feel like I need a break! The times that I ask God for help to focus on other people seem to be the times that are truly the most refreshing and full of joy.
In a perfect world, what would your ideal homeschool day look like?
Oh in a perfect world! Of course it would start with coffee. And someone else making breakfast. Everyone, with a happy heart, would say “Yes Mom!” to whatever I asked of them. Our girls would excitedly start their math lessons, commenting throughout about the joy that learning mathematical laws brings them. As they got out their spelling packets, one of them would yell, “I don’t know what Ramona Quimby is talking about – spelling is my favorite subject!” Hearing the announcement that it was time to go to the beach, everyone would change, find their flip flops, and be buckled in the car in less than three minutes. We would take a picnic (pre-packed by the kids of course) and spend the afternoon reading, playing in the sand, and watching the sunset – all of which would be done without any whining whatsoever. ☺
But in reality, what does your typical day look like?
I read a long time ago in some baby book the obvious advice to follow a predictable schedule – and if you’re not a scheduler (that’s me), at least try to follow a routine. So we follow a general routine – we try to put God first by reading our Bible and listening to a song that goes along with our Bible verse of the week during breakfast. Math, since it can often be the most time-consuming and usually goes best whenever everyone is most well-rested, comes next. At the beginning of this year, we started using CTC Math, which we enjoy and sometimes combine with Life of Fred books. (I never would have guessed how much my girls love and often talk about a quirky little guy named Fred!) After math, everyone is ready for a little break. Then we practice our Classical Conversations weekly memory work that includes specific facts about math, Latin, science, English, history, and geography. Then, despite eating a full meal less than two hours earlier, everyone is usually ready for a snack.
Spelling and writing are next on the list. More food is next. After lunch, we try to get outside in the backyard. Then one of my favorite parts of the day – reading. I read aloud and anyone else who wants to can as well. I LOVE when I walk in on our girls reading aloud on their own or to each other. That leaves the rest of the afternoon for playing, some chores, gardening, audiobooks, and cooking. Oh except for those days when it’s 4:30pm and because of various delays and interruptions, we’re still not done with school!!
How has your homeschooling changed over the years? Do you subscribe to any particular homeschooling philosophy?
I feel like I’m constantly tweaking our homeschool routine based on the different ages, stages, and needs of our kids. We have been a part of Classical Conversations ever since we started homeschooling – that has probably been one of the only constants! The classical method has served our family well, and I myself have learned (and can sometimes actually remember!) more than I feel like I ever did growing up in school.
What are your best homeschooling memories thus far?
I think one of our best homeschooling memories was at the library! My dear friend, Monica, set up a tour with a librarian. He showed us the book drop room! Until then, I think my girls thought that books we put into the slot tumbled down a hole with Alice into Wonderland. I really do think, though, that the best homeschool memories are the daily ones. Baking cookies to take to co-op for our aspiring chef’s weekly presentation. Sitting and listening to our new reader as she sounds out the words in a book for the first time. Holding our four-year-old in my lap as she colors shapes. Not stressing (too much) about bedtime when everyone wants to play a boardgame with dad after dinner on a school night. I am so very grateful for all of these blessings!
Finally, do you have any wisdom to share or tips to pass on to those new to homeschooling?
Oh wow. The best wisdom I could share is to pray. For our kids, for guidance, for strength, for patience, and so many other things we need as moms and teachers. There are so many times during the day that I feel like I’m just not cutting it. And it is true – on my own, I am not enough. But that’s not true with God. When we seek Him and ask Him for his perfect wisdom, He promises to give it to us. I think that is amazing. We get the honor of being a part of the process of raising our kids, but are not in control of the product. I’m so thankful that we can pray and trust the Lord for that part!