Shelli is the senior editor of home / school / life magazine. She has written a weekly newspaper column on motherhood, homeschooling and daily life since 2009, and she blogs at mamaofletters.com. She’s also a photographer, avid reader, nature lover, green pinky gardener, wife, and mother to two beautiful boys.
Me in 100(ish) words: I am an introvert whose idea of heaven is a quiet walk through the woods with a camera, a journal and a jug of sweet tea.
How I started homeschooling: Before my eldest son was born, I had never heard of homeschooling, but then I met a family in our neighborhood who homeschooled. I may have thought it was a bit crazy at first, but it didn’t take long for the idea to sink in. You mean I could have the creative and meaningful job of directing my child’s education? I could teach him what I thought was truly important, let him go at his own pace and cater to his deep interests? Why wouldn’t I want to do that?!
Honestly, I don’t remember who suggested it first—my husband or me. He was supportive of homeschooling from the start because he is a college history professor, and he encounters a wide range of students. He has had homeschooled students in his classes, and he says they are some of the brightest, and they usually want to participate!
So we decided before my son reached school age that we would homeschool our children, and they have always been at home. My husband is very much involved, too.
My homeschool style: At least for now, we are project-based or Reggio-inspired homeschoolers. “Project-based homeschooling” is a specialized way of mentoring a child so that they will become self-directed learners, and Lori Pickert coined that term. I have written about this extensively on my blog. Though we are mostly child-led, there are several subjects I think are essential for children to learn, so we will learn them in a way that suits my children’s learning styles and abilities. I draw my resources from different places, so I guess you could call us eclectic homeschoolers too. Storytelling also plays a big role in our homeschool, and this is something I love to write about and encourage other parents to do.
What a typical day looks like in my homeschool life: I’m a (somewhat) relaxed homeschooler, and our current schedule has slowly shaped itself over time. This is a typical schedule on the days we are at home:
- Whenever the boys wake up (between 8 and 9:30 a.m.) we have breakfast.
- After breakfast, I do formal lessons with my seven-year-old. (Reading 4x a week; math and Spanish alternate, 2x week each.) This lasts 1 to 1.5 hours. (On days when we don’t do formal lessons, we read books, do projects, play educational games, get outside, or go on field trips!) • Depending on how much time there is before lunch, I may help the seven-year-old with one of his many projects, or he will work on something by himself. We may continue after lunch, if he wants to.
- 12:00 p.m. is lunchtime. We usually watch a nature documentary together at lunch. • After lunch, the boys usually play. Sometimes I join them, but they are getting more and more independent. (Some days we meet friends for play dates in the afternoons and get home at dinnertime.)
- The afternoons and early evenings is mostly free time when the boys play, watch television, play on their digital devices, eat dinner, take a bath, etc. I do chores, work, and very occasionally…nap! Of course, daddy is hands-on and likes to play with them, too.
- Our evening routine is long, but I consider it an extension of our homeschool. At bedtime, my husband will read to my seven-year-old from whatever series my son is into, and I’ll read a storybook to the four-year-old. Then we switch places, and I make up a story for my seven-year-old, and my husband will tell a story to the four-year-old. (He’s also known to sing Christmas songs all year round at our four-year-old’s request!) Talking, answering questions, and snuggling happens, too. If I’m lucky, I say goodnight before 9:30 p.m. and have an hour or so to myself to work and read!
Favorite readaloud: Currently I’m reading the original Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder to my seven-year-old. He loves them as much as I do! For a storybook, my favorite is The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen.
Favorite driving music: I have forgotten. For the last several years, I’ve been listening to my children chatter away in the car.
Things I like: Hiking, being in nature, writing, photography, reading, gardening, coffee, sitting on my porch sipping ice tea on a warm, spring day.
Guilty pleasure: I eat chocolate everyday.
What I love about homeschool life: I love the culture we have fostered in our household that respects questions, inquiry, and creative pursuit. I love that there is no one here who will discourage my boys when they want to “walk to the beat of their own drummer.” I love that I can tailor my children’s education to their interests and abilities, and I love the flexibility we have. My husband works at home, so on sunny afternoons after his work is finished, we might go hiking at a state park or go shopping when there are fewer people at the mall. I love all the interesting people we have met through our homeschool network. These people care about children, education, nature, and respecting one another! Homeschooling my children has turned out to be the creative job I was always longing for, yet I never knew it existed until now!
What I love about home / school / life magazine: Without a doubt, I am excited about the people I’m working with, and the potential to build a meaningful community of homeschoolers who share that one, important commonality: that we love our children and want the best education for them. The magazine is jam-packed full of creative resources that will appeal to homeschooling and non-homeschooling families. Readers will want to keep them on their shelves for reference!