Flexible Homeschooling in Tennessee – Melissa S.

Melissa S., Tennessee, USA

What is your greatest struggle when it comes to homeschooling?

The hardest part about homeschooling for me is the financial strain of only one income. I try to contribute by being on top of a budget and finding deals, however, outside classes for the kids can become expensive. As far as teaching my children I find my greatest struggles are dealing with interruptions! With my 9 year old he knows how to listen and when to ask questions most of the time, my 7 year old likes to try and teach the lesson, and my 4 year old expects me to drop whatever I am doing at a moment’s notice to fix everything! The book lessons I can teach all three at the same time are few and far between. 

If you could go back in time, what would you change or do differently?

I spent way too much time in the early years with my first born trying to compare our homeschool with the families we met at co-ops and lessons. There is no doubt that the tips we learned during this time were valuable beyond words. I just wish I could have had confidence in our journey earlier though and so I wouldn’t have had so many sleepless nights worried that I wasn’t doing what all the other homeschool moms were. At the same time, being surrounded by experienced homeschool families and moms was and is an important part of our journey still.

 It is a great place to be when you can identify what paths will work for your family and what isn’t worth your time. 

How has your homeschooling changed since the Shelter-in-Place order was put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Please feel free to elaborate.

Our enrichment classes were cancelled and our music lessons have gone online. Our at home lessons have continued although we have spent more time playing in the backyard and working our garden. This is the norm for us because the weather is just perfect and we want to soak it up before the southern heat hits and everything outside stings!  We do miss the parks and the zoo trips we take in this weather. I have started to become overwhelmed with all of the resources that are suddenly available! I usually have to do a quick scan of them, compare it to what we are doing and walk away. I only search out the things that I feel my kids would enjoy now. 

What are your thoughts on the growing diversity, or perhaps lack of, in your homeschool community?

I think it is exciting. We live in an area with probably the highest number of homeschooling families in the state. When we first moved to this state, everywhere we visited (museums, libraries, etc.) had a homeschool club or classes. This opened our eyes to the homeschooling world and lifestyle. I hope the number of homeschooling families continues to grow, as long as those of us teaching are continuing to help children embrace learning and growing to make this world a better place. We as homeschoolers represent a movement. I hope we can represent it well. 

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 love to learn! I love to read and study about the world around me! Thankfully my husband is the same way and we hope to pass this love on to our kids. We love to visit used book stores, nature parks and go birding. I went to college and got a degree in Recreational Therapy. I worked up until our first child and just felt at peace with being a stay at home mom. This is where I am meant to be and I want to be! Our oldest son has high functioning autism. The first four years of his life were full of doctors visits, therapies, and trying to figure out how he communicates. When he reached school age I felt God was opening every door for homeschooling. We had total peace in our decision and have never regretted it. 

How do you find balance and time for self-care in the midst of daily life as a homeschooling parent?

It is a struggle daily to find time for self-care. Most days it is a deep breath in the middle of lessons or cleaning. I try to wake up before the rest of the house and on the days that happens everything seems to run smoother. Setting aside a time to check emails, catch up on texts and news helps as well. Coffee. 

In a perfect world, what would your ideal homeschool day look like?

My ideal homeschool day would be a day that my kids all play together after we quickly got through lessons. We would have long talks about life and read together. Instruments would be practiced without complaint.  

But in reality, what does your typical day look like?

After breakfast we start school at 10:00am. The 4 year old plays with his legos or magnet blocks in the living room while the older two start their workbooks in the kitchen. We work on school until noon and then in the afternoon they get to play while I spend more one on one time with the 4yo. Around 3 they go outside after practicing instruments and finishing any school work. At night we talk about any new concepts and try to watch an educational documentary or play a boardgame. 

How has your homeschooling changed over the years? Do you subscribe to any particular homeschooling philosophy?

Over the years we have attended co-ops and been a part of communities. This was very important in the earlier years. This is our first year taking part in classes that I am not required to attend. I miss the community but I am enjoying not having the pressure to fit in. My kids take classes for two hours on tuesdays this year as well as private music lessons and a couple of clubs. This gave me a chance to spend time with my four year old and grocery shop. Our homeschool philosophy is to be flexible as my kids grow. 

What are your best homeschooling memories thus far?

Our best memories have been family trips to museums when the kids can put together what we have talked about. I absolutely love it when they want to dig deeper into a subject. Of course when the lightbulb goes off and they finally “get” that hard concept is a favorite memory. I also absolutely love watching my kids get along with each other and look out for each other. I love watching them pick their hobbies, likes and dislikes, and even clothes based on themselves. Peer pressure is all around us, even for adults. I feel like homeschooling helps to keep that at bay for a little while longer. 

Finally, do you have any wisdom to share or tips to pass on to those new to homeschooling?

Do what works for you and your family. Figure out your teaching style and the work you are able to put into preparing for lessons before you purchase the material. Start small  with time requirements and work up if your kids are little. Visit museums and nature centers no matter how big or small. If you have a stubborn learner let them be involved in teaching. Do what works for you and your family. Did I say that already 🙂 ?

I’d love to get to know you! Are you a homeschooling parent interested in being interviewed? Or perhaps you would like to collaborate on a project? If so, send me a message.