Meet the Team

Meet the Team: Cate Olson

home/school/life blogger Cate Olson talks about her eclectic homeschool

Meet Cate Olson, who you'll be seeing regularly on the home | school | life blog. We're thrilled to have her on board, and we've asked her our favorite list of questions so you can know a little more about the person behind the blog posts.

 

Me in 100(ish) words:

I am very outgoing, cherish time alone, and I laugh often (and loudly!). My husband and I live with our three daughters (ages 15, 10, and 6), one son (age 13), and a bottomless pit of energy trapped inside the body of a Goldendoodle in Milwaukee’s northern suburbs.

 

How I started homeschooling: 

I came to homeschooling reluctantly.

When we moved to Milwaukee, my husband and I chose an idyllic suburb close to downtown known for its excellent public schools. Our eldest attended elementary school for three years, during which time I happily embraced my new life as a suburban mom: coffee klatch, playdates, and a leadership role as classroom mom.

Soon, though, I grew tired of the exhausting routine, much of which seemed to have so little purpose. First grade homework? Full school days for a six-year-old?

At that same time, my son was enrolled at a somewhat nontraditional preschool and among his classmates there happened to be a few kids whose families homeschooled. For the first time I heard words and terms like “unschooling” and “classical education.” 

My interest was piqued and I read unceasingly about every homeschooling style under the sun. After a few books in I came to the conclusion that these people were all nuts.

Except they weren’t. These new friends’ kids were great. And smart. And friendly. And interesting.

By the time the school year ended my husband and I knew we wanted to give homeschooling a try. We haven’t looked back since.

 

My homeschool style: Pretty eclectic. 

When our oldest daughter first came home, I was a disciple of Susan Wise Bauer and everything she recommended, we owned. 

However, over time, I have grown more confident and now we are much more relaxed.

A lot of what we do looks like what a classical homeschooler might do, but some might think we trend to the more unschool-y end of the spectrum.

What I know is this: my children learn complex things. They are curious. They are interesting, thoughtful people who are engaged in the world around them. Most importantly, they think independently and don’t mind standing athwart societal trends and asking “why?”.

 

What a typical day looks like in my homeschool life:

Our school day starts when my two youngest climb into bed with me. I keep a read aloud on my bedside table (we are currently making our way through the Harry Potter series). We have only one, very strict criteria for our read aloud, and that is that all three of us must enthusiastically endorse it so that we are all excited to gather in the morning.  I also keep whatever the girls are reading aloud to me on my bedside table and after about an hour and two cups of coffee, we’ve started the day with an engaging story and both little girls have practiced reading aloud.

My older two kids rise on their own schedules and start on their work on their own. As they need help, I carve out time with them.

After reading is over, I hit the books (phonics, grammar, or math) with one of the little girls as the other prepares herself breakfast. Or I help them both eat breakfast. Or I wash dishes while they fix their own breakfast. Or whatever. The bottom line is that, generally, after a couple hours, I have worked through our core subjects with the little girls and by lunch time we are done with schoolwork for the day. 

Our afternoons are often spent outside the home in different classes (we are fortunate that Milwaukee has a vibrant homeschooling community) or music lessons or tackling things we are interested in working on at home like reading a history book, working on an art project, or baking a cake.

 

Favorite read aloud:

Even though this is my third or fourth time through the Harry Potter series, I am still thoroughly engaged; what an incredible testament to the world J.K. Rowling created.  Also lately I have particularly loved the Penderwick books. Charlotte’s Web is also a favorite, along with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Gone Away Lake, and many, many others.

 

Favorite driving music:

I would keep my radio tuned to XM’s Symphony Hall most of the time, or maybe talk radio, but my kids much prefer local pop stations. Thanks to their influence, I can sing along to all the latest Justin Bieber has to offer, and have grown to actually kind of love Taylor Swift.

 

Things I like:

Sunny days. The sound of birds chirping in the spring. Freshly baked bread. Singing hymns. The first sip of coffee in the morning. Falling asleep in midst of a thunder storm.

 

Guilty pleasure:

Hey, I’m Wisconsin born and bred. Throw a stein of dark lager (that’s a style of beer, people) at me, and I am a happy, happy woman.

 

What I love about homeschool life:

The rhythm of our lives. I see the world around me racing to this and to that and I sit back in wonder and stare, bewildered, wondering if people feel happy and fulfilled when they never even have time to breathe. 

 

What I love about home/school/life magazine:

First of all, it’s beautiful. But better than that, it’s really, really smart. I read my first issue and ideas of homeschool co-ops swirled through my head, and at least two books made a list of books I want my kids to read. I can’t think of any kind of homeschooler who wouldn’t benefit from the mix of practical and high-minded ideas shared in both the magazine and on the website.


Meet the Team: Patricia

Meet Patricia Zaballos, a columnist for home / school / life magazine. She has written her column, The Wonder Files, since our second issue. She has homeschooled three children. One of them has already graduated from college. A second is in college, and her youngest is still being homeschooled. She says she has spent twenty years teaching herself how to write, and if you've read any of her work, you'll know she has mastered her craft. Her columns are a favorite in the magazine not only because they offer comfort and guidance to homeschooling parents but because they are so beautifully written. She also writes on her blog Wonder Farm.

Me in 100(ish) words: I am a writer, a knitter, a beekeeper. A greedy reader of essays and memoir. An aspiring photographer. A vegetarian for 29 years and a wife for 26. I’ve known my husband since we were eleven, but we didn’t date until our last year of college, when I chased him down because I know what I like. I'm the mother of three kids, aged 22, 19 and 13; nothing has defined me as much as being their mama. I love little in life more than gathering around a table to eat, drink and talk. If I like you, I will cook for you. And if I really like you, when I laugh at your jokes I will sometimes snort.

How I started homeschooling: When my oldest was three, a friend asked me to go with her to visit and interview some homeschoolers she knew. The family was warm and wonderful, but I remember the mother saying that the year before, when one of their daughters had gotten very ill, they had done little in the way of formal homeschooling beyond regular trips to the library. At the time, being a recent elementary teacher, I thought: That's crazy!

 (Of course, I totally get it now: Homeschooling allows you to focus on what really matters as a family, it keeps you close during difficult times, and you can learn an awful lot from time spent happily reading.) Anyway, crazy as what they were doing seemed to teacher-me, I couldn't get homeschooling out of my mind. I read all I could find, and started taking my young kids to a local homeschool Park Day. Soon there was no turning back.

My homeschool style: I’ve never found a prevailing style that felt like a fit for us. We found our own way. We’ve had a regular time of working together most days. My kids’ learning has always centered on their interests, but I guide them too. They have a say; I have a say. We start with what they’re worked up about and move out from there.

What a typical day looks like in my homeschool life: It’s changed from the days when all three kids were at home. (Now one is in college and one has graduated and is making a career as a cinematographer in New York.) Still, from the beginning our days have almost always started with me asking, What do you want to do today? 

The kids would offer suggestions, I’d offer mine, and they’d be off, either with me or on their own. I read aloud lots, always. The older two loved making things; my youngest is more of an idea guy. He’s been designing games of one kind or another since he was small, and he tells me about them. Big chunks of our day are devoted to simply talking. Our time together tends to go for three hours or so, with time for reading, computer-surfing and trampoline-jumping along the way. Ideally, we have three or four days home each week, plus a variety of activities outside the home on other days, and some afternoons. Every Thursday has been Park Day with our support group—for seventeen years! That’s sacred.

Favorite readaloud:  Frances the Badger books by Russell Hoban when my kids were little because Frances’ parents were such wise badgers. Also, the Alfie and Annie Rose books by Shirley Hughes. The Milly Molly Mandy stories by Joyce Lankster Brisley with my daughter. My boys particularly liked the The Great Brain books by John Fitzgerald, and Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books—and my daughter and I enjoyed them too. And Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events books have served as an epic literary subtext for my kids’ childhoods.

Favorite driving music: My kids and I have always been such audiobook fanatics that we hardly ever listen to music together in the car. When I’m on my own: Conor Oberst, Wilco and other alternative folksy stuff. Give me strummy guitars and lyrics like poetry and I’m a goner.

Things I like: Funky shoes, laden fruit trees, hip restaurants. Quirky indie romance films. Spicy condiments, knitting lace, honeybees. Dancing with my husband. Essays with collaged bits that come together at the end. Old churches. My family of five around the kitchen table.

Guilty pleasure: The Indian dive where I eat every Wednesday night before I go to write, where they just smile and write down my chana masala and roti order, and all I have to say is hello.

What I love about homeschool life:  That there has always been so much time to watch my children unfold before me, and so much freedom to allow that unfolding. This sounds like hyperbole, but I mean it: the grand joy of my life has been helping my kids become who they want to be.

What I love about home/school/life magazine: That it exists! Eons ago, when my oldest was three, I looked for a magazine like this. One that spoke to a range of homeschoolers, covering a variety of approaches, and not pushing a single agenda. And was it too much to ask for beautiful layouts, fonts and photos? Apparently it was. It’s been a long wait, but I’m so pleased that home/school/life is here now, and I’m delighted to be part of it. 


Meet the Team: Rebecca

Rebecca is home / school / life magazine’s Curriculum Junkie columnist, and you'll be reading her first column in our Fall 2014 issue. Her writing appears in various national publications as well on her blog steampoweredclassroom.com. She is a community herbalist and interested in all aspects of sustainable, intentional living. She lives, laughs and learns on a small farm near the Adirondacks with her husband and three boys and a bunch of sheep, chickens and goats as well as their cat, dog and an unassuming pet shrimp named Weaver. 

 

How I started homeschooling: When my oldest son turned three he announced his plans to become a scientist. He asked to begin school “immediately.” Seeing our farm as a perfect laboratory, we took on a hearty curriculum of worm hunting, puddle splashing, cloud gazing and dandelion picking. Our days were such glorious fun it never crossed our minds to stop!

My homeschool style: Learning at our place is usually messy and all-consuming. I do my best to adhere to a child-centered approach. The key detail is that my sons are driving their learning process. They are empowered and encouraged to help decide what themes we will explore together. This means lots of art, hands-on science, hours of reading, creative writing, walks to grandma’s and ample opportunity to seize inspiration from life, as it happens, all around us on our farm.

What a typical day looks like in my homeschool life:  We generally start out over breakfast discussing the day ahead. Each of us shares our goals. Some of these are practical—math, using the microscope, bike riding. Many are big—find dinosaur bones, practice wizard skills, construct a robot. My oldest son and his dad do barn chores while the little boys and I clean up and prepare the homeschool room for the morning. The boys play till around 9, giving me time to do chores, think about dinner and do some writing. When we begin homeschooling, we usually start with whatever major theme we are working on. For example, right now the boys are interested in Ancient China. We’ll start off with a lesson that involves all three boys; this includes a family read, craft, travel video or some other hands-on project. Mid-morning everyone is able to enjoy some free time while I work one-on- one with each boy on math, handwriting and other age-specific tasks. We reconvene for lunch, which we make together and try to eat outside. Afternoon is spent doing science/nature studies. We take a walk most days and I usually go out with some specific goals in mind: find 3 signs of spring, hunt for monarch caterpillar eggs or tell me what you smell in the air. These walks ignite our imaginations; the formal science studies we do when we return home are fueled by these walks. Free time to play, read and run follows and takes us on into nighttime when dad is finally home. Stories of the day are shared with him and we eventually fall asleep tired.

Favorite readaloud:  This is easy! Absolutely anything from Andy Stanton’s series of Mr. Gum books. These books are hilarious, imaginative, well written and full of zany creative fun. My whole family loves these books. The humor will appeal both to children and adults and they are perfect for reading aloud.

Favorite driving music:  Like most moms,I can barely remember the last time I had a turn at the radio! I think, way back when, my first choice would be anything by the Dave Mathews Band. These days we listen to a lot of They Might Be Giants’ awesome tunes for kids. Our family’s favorite is Here Comes Science. My middle son is also a fan of Woody and Arlo Guthrie. I consider this fact my crowning achievement as a parent.

Things I like: Road trips and coffee, walking in the woods, Christmas time and wood fires. I love dirt roads in New England and any time spent with my family. I really like my chickens too.

Guilty pleasure:  Expensive wool socks. They really are the only thing I splurge on for myself. I have only two pairs, but how I do revel in this secret little luxury.

What I love about homeschooling:  All hours of the day our house buzzes with creativity: storytelling, picture drawing and science experimentation. I love the generous stretches of time homeschooling provides to explore whatever most lights up the eyes of my kids. I’m grateful that my middle son is home to feed his dog and that my youngest, not yet school-aged, is home with his big brothers learning from them all of the time. I’m so very thankful that there is time in the morning to read stories together while we are still in our pajamas. Picnic lunches in the middle of the week are awesome fun. I really could go on and on!

What I love about home/school/life magazine:  The homeschooling movement is rich with people from all kinds of backgrounds; we all homeschool for a range of different reasons. I love that home/school/life magazine brings each of us to the same table. This really is a magazine for all kinds of homeschoolers, which provides for a fun, fresh exchange of worthwhile ideas and resources.


Meet the Team: Lisa

Meet Lisa Hassan Scott, one of our new bloggers. She is an American who married a Scotsman and has been living in Great Britain for 18 years. She's a Yoga teacher, breastfeeding counsellor, writer and home educator with three children. She blogs at www.lisahassanscott.co.uk. We asked her a few questions so that you can get to know her better.

 

What a typical day looks like in my life right now:  My eldest daughter recently chose to go to high school, so the rest of us get up early with her to have a family breakfast and walk her to the bus stop. It’s a great way to get fresh air early in the day, and is especially good for helping the younger children to focus on the work we do together when we get home. Sometimes we stop at the Post Office or the greengrocers, but we always make it a longer walk and talk about the nature we find along the way. At home I normally make myself a cup of coffee while the children get a snack, then we do letter and number work, read together, go through our moth trap and record what we’ve caught overnight and plan the rest of the day. Later in the day we might go out to home ed groups, meet up with friends, or scoot to the skate park. I always try to have at least 10 minutes of quiet time for reading, writing and Yoga, but that doesn’t always work out.

Favorite readaloud:  We recently finished all the Little House on the Prairie books and are now working our way through all 12 of the Swallows and Amazons series. But my favorite read aloud, especially for slightly older children, is Uncle Dynamite by P.G. Wodehouse—such witty and clever writing.

Favorite driving music:  I haven’t chosen the driving music in our car for nearly 12 years!

Things I like:  Language, nature, enthusiasm and a have-a-go attitude, compassion, cooking, running and cycling, Yoga and meditation, writing and alone time.

Guilty pleasure:  Margaritas.

What I love about homeschool life:  freedom.

What I love about home/school/life magazine:  The focus on learning as a family culture.


Meet the Team: Idzie

Meet Idzie Desmarais, one of our new bloggers. Idzie is a grown unschooler, and she's the author of the popular blog I'm Unschooled. Yes, I can write. She has published her articles in various magazines and has spoken at home education conferences in North America. We asked her a few questions so that you can get to know her better.

 

Me in 100(ish) words: I use a lot of labels to describe myself, so I suppose I could start there! I’m a grown unschooler and unschooling advocate, a (confusedly) queer 20-something woman, a green-anarcha-feminist, a cook and baker, a writer, blogger, and speaker. I’m an INFJ, in case you’re into the whole Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator thing, an introvert, and someone who values intuition very highly. My dream in life is to help build a small intentional community somewhere both rural and wild, and live there with assorted family, friends, dogs, cats, goats and chickens.

How I feel about my background as an unschooler:  I feel very positively about it, which is why I’ve spent so much time combining my love for writing with my interest in self-directed alternative education, specifically unschooling. I feel that by growing up unschooled, I really got the chance to learn, grow, and develop at my own pace and in my own way. I credit unschooling with making the anxiety issues I’ve always dealt with much easier to bear as a child, and with helping me grow into a much more confident and competent person than I might otherwise have been.

What a typical day looks like in my life right now:  I get up, and almost instantly get on the computer to check email and messages, and go through my various feeds, reading articles on education to try and find some good ones to share on my unschooling Facebook page and other social media haunts. After that, I’ll eat something, do some work around the house, and probably get back on the computer to do some writing or editing. Right now it’s just me and my sister at home, since my mother has gone back to school to pursue her passion for building, and my father works full time, so we pretty much keep the house not-too-messy and make sure that things are running as smoothly as we can make them! Once my father arrives home, I usually go with him and our big hairy Irish Wolfhound cross to the dog park, and then, along with my sister, help make supper. We both like to try new things and don’t tend to do things half way when tackling food stuff, so we make some pretty good meals! The evening will then be spent watching TV as a family, writing, or hanging out with friends, depending on the day. My mother has just gone back to school this fall, so we’re all still adjusting to the new schedule, and my sister and I are still adjusting to not having a car on weekdays. Still, we’re finding a flow that seems to work, and I’m doing better with writing productivity and selling my work than I ever have before, so that feels pretty good.

Favorite book(s):  That’s a tough one! I’m a big fan of fantasy novels, and I can say that current favorite authors include N. K. Jemisin, Kate Elliott, and Tamora Pierce. I also really love the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett. When it comes to books on education, I like 101 Reasons Why I'm An Unschooler by ps pirro and Life Learning: Lessons from the Educational Frontier edited by Wendy Priesnitz.

Favorite driving music:  Once More With Feeling from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Great Big Sea, the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack…

Things I like:  Food! Cookbooks. Fantasy novels. TV shows (especially Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, and Orphan Black). Dogs and cats. Goats and horses. Big gardens. Downpours in the middle of a hot day. Snuggling with my furry family members. Hiking. Sunflowers and forget-me-nots. Curling up with a good novel. Going on roadtrips with friends. Unschooling conferences. The satisfaction of completing a difficult new dish. Folk music. Singing.

What I loved about homeschool life:  The lack of pressure and rushing. Being able to spend as much or as little time on a subject as I wanted to, and as much or as little time as I wanted out with people or home with just my family. Being able to learn purely for the joy of it, and not because I was trying to cram for a test… A whole lot of things, really!


Meet the Team: Tracy

Meet Tracy Million Simmons, one of our new bloggers. She's a mother of three teenagers, a farmer's market manager and a writer. You can view her author page at TracyMillionSimmons.com and read her blog at Living and Learning in Oz. She's answered a few questions so that you can get to know her better.

 

Me in 100(ish) words:  I tried to leave Kansas in my 20’s, but was drawn back by the wide open sky and the assured change of season (sometimes we get multiple seasons in a single day!) I’m a reader, a writer, a people watcher, a long-walks taker, a “fresh and local” foodie and manager of the local farmers market. I used to spend a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Finally, I have come up with the answer: Always growing! Whether sharpening my skills at word craft or strategizing a better method of keeping my husband’s law office accounts in order, my gig as a homeschool mother has taught me that who I am is a journey, rather than a destination.

How I started homeschooling:  The hubby talked me into a homeschooling trial when Munchkin #1 was still… well, munchkin-sized. I tackled the experiment with gusto, and when I looked up she was 18 and on her way out the door for her first day of school… at college. My second and third munchkins (now 16 and 13) have remained unschooled, to this point, as well.

My homeschool style:  It’s a family affair, a continual collaborative adventure. At various times in our journey, I have referred to our family’s method of education as child-led, project or passion based, unschooling, homeschooling, and just plain living life.

Favorite readaloud:  We simply like reading together. Great books, read together at the kitchen table have been the one constant in our homeschool journey from the beginning. From The Paper Bag Princess (Robert Munsch) to the On the Shoulders of Giants series, from Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) to The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (William Kamkwamba), we have joyfully read ourselves hoarse many times over the years.

Favorite driving music:  I tend to listen to an eclectic mix of 60s-70s-80s-90s pop and classic rock hits with selections from the MP3 players of my kids mixed in. The only music I tend to actively avoid is contemporary country music, though occasionally you’ll find me humming along with a twang, as well.

Things I like:  Chocolate, sunsets, storms, books, kittens, the smell of lavender, homegrown tomatoes…

Guilty pleasure:  Life is too short to bother with guilt; if it gives you pleasure, embrace it.

What I love about home/school/life magazine:  I love the glimpses into the lives of others who are joyfully raising children. I enjoy articles that make me think about my own processes and connections with other homeschoolers that make my world feel a little bit bigger.


Meet the Team: Amy

Amy is the editor-in-chief of home/ school/ life magazine. While her mission in life is to stop people from pluralizing with apostrophes, she finds that writing and editing are easier ways to keep the family supplied with fishing lures, yarn, and chocolate. She homeschools her two children with lots of help from her fabulous husband (and magazine co-publisher), and the whole family pitches in for magazine deadlines. She is also the editor and founder (with her family) of Atlanta Homeschool magazine


How I started homeschooling: School wasn't a good fit for our daughter, who was in second grade at the time. We kept trying to help her change her learning style so that it would fit the school's teaching style, and one day it occurred to us that changing the way she was taught would be a whole lot easier than changing the way she learned. Boy, were we right. She has bloomed, and homeschooling has worked so well for our family that when our son hit kindergarten age, we didn't even consider putting him in a traditional school.

My homeschool style: We call it classical, Dude-style, because we do build around Latin, history, and literature, but we also are easily distracted by rabbit trails and take lots of snack breaks. (We also sometimes go to the grocery store in our pajamas.)

What a typical day looks like in my homeschool life: We always start with morning time, including some music practice, knitting, and readalouds. (Lots of readalouds.) After that, it can really go anywhere. My twelve-year-old O is studying Latin, medieval history and literature, chemistry, creative writing, and U.S. geography this year (all her picks), so she'll usually do some work in those subjects during the day. I hang out with her in case she needs a hand. My six-year-old T is obsessed with mazes and math manipulatives, so many days, we just let him go to town with whatever he's interested in. We try to learn a new poem every week or so because I am kind of a poetry geek, and the kids love to get all dressed up and do recitations, so some days I am the audience. O is very into learning how to make her own clothes, so she spends a lot of time sewing and knitting in her "studio" (that's the corner of her bedroom with her dress form and her sewing machine). T and my husband usually play some chess or build a marble run—or, on very messy occasions, combine the two. There are days when the kids just want to paint or make a movie with their stuffed animals or read a new book, so that's what they do.

Favorite readaloud: Anything by Eva Ibbotson, Mo Willems' Pigeon books, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the Melendy Quartet, The Wee Free Men

Favorite driving music: If we are not listening to audiobooks, we like to sing—loudly. Some of our favorites: The Beatles' Hard Day's Night, Dead Milkmen's Punk Rock Girl, Trout Fishing in America's Eighteen Wheels on a Big Rig, Mason Jennings' Lemon Grove Avenue, the Jackson Five's Rockin' Robin

Things I like: Knitting, road trips, the smell of new books, the smell of old books, good cheese, star-gazing, waterfalls, playing bridge, clean sheets that I didn't have to wash

Guilty pleasure: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and salted caramel ice cream

What I love about homeschool life: I get to hang out with my favorite people all day long. And seeing my favorite people genuinely engaged with their lives and directing their own educations is pretty awesome. No one ever complains about being bored around here.

What I love about home/school/life magazine: I'm a lover of magazines, and since we started homeschooling five years ago, I've been sad that there isn't a truly smart, fun, readable homeschool magazine out there. Homeschoolers are some of the most diverse, interesting, thoughtful people I know—I think it's time for a magazine that reflects that.


Meet the Team: Shelli

 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!


Meet the Team: Suzanne

As our resident Book Nerd, Suzanne will be introducing you to must-read new books, classics you might have forgotten about, and enough reading material to ensure that you will never, ever run out of titles for your reading list. (In fact, if we're running behind deadline this first issue, it's totally her fault for recommending Drood.)

 

Me in 100-ish words: I'm a nerdy forty-something ex-software-engineer homeschooling mother of four (ages 15, 13, 11, and 8). I live in north metro Atlanta with my husband, all those kids, two cats, and a dog. I also do some baby-sitting for friends, so on any given day there's an assortment of toddlers and preschoolers wandering around and getting underfoot. I'm terrible at housework (the rest of the family isn't much better), so we undergo periodic shortages of things like clean laundry and groceries, but there is always fresh reading material in the house. We recently sent the oldest kid off to the local public high school (he was homeschooled exclusively through 8th grade), which has me thinking about the next chapter in my life—though I do have a few years to go as a stay-at-home mom and most days what I hope comes next is a nap.

How I started homeschooling: When my oldest child was 3, I went to the library and checked out every book I could find on homeschooling, then put them all on my to-read stack next to the bed. About halfway through the stack, I turned to my husband and said, "I think we could do this." A couple of books further down I found The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, and I turned to my husband and said, "This is how we're going to do it." I ordered a box of curriculum from Rainbow Resource and off we went!

My homeschool style: We started off as secular classical homeschoolers, but have grown away from that a little bit over the years as we've discovered what works best for our family. We have a fairly structured day, mostly because I'm not sure how else to fit everything in.

What a typical day looks like in my homeschool life: Make sure the kids are up around 7 a.m., so we can start with a read-aloud (snuggled in Mom's bed) at 8. Then we go downstairs to the dining room table for math and language arts (handwriting, spelling, grammar, lit, and composition). After lunch there is more reading aloud, followed by history and science, which we take in turns (one kid per day). Everyone who isn't doing history and science has independent work or reading to do. We try to finish up around 2:30 or 3 p.m. Friday is our day off for errands or just goofing around.

Favorite readaloud: I couldn't possibly pick just one!  I adore Diana Wynne Jones—right now we're reading Charmed Life (vol. 1 of the Chronicles of Chrestomanci). Howl's Moving Castle is another good book to start with, if you'd like to give her a try.  Also see: Eva Ibbotson, Understood Betsy, M.T. Anderson's Pals in Peril series, 101 Dalmatians (the original novel), the Narnia series, Harry Potter (of course), and I could keep going but I should probably stop...

Favorite driving music: It's a tie between Cowboy Mouth's Are You With Me? and the Refreshments' Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy.

Things I like: Doctor Who, musicals, Georgia Tech (go Jackets!), screwball comedies, Agent Dana Scully, chocolate mousse, Jane Austen, cross-stitching, Disneyworld, road trips, and checking out so many library books that I have to make two trips to the car.

Guilty pleasure: Daytime court shows.  I want to be Judge Marilyn Milian when I grow up.

What I love about homeschool life: The freedom to set my own daily, weekly, and yearly schedules, so that my kids and I can spend a rainy day reading together in our pajamas, or plan a road-trip to visit Grandpa in the fall without worrying about the school calendar.

What I love about home/school/life magazine: The sense of community that I get from connecting with other homeschool parents, near and far, as we walk this path together.


Meet the Team: Amy Hood

We're super lucky to have the talented Amy Hood as our Art Start columnist. (If you have ever fretted about creating a passion for art in your family when you feel less-than-artistic yourself, you are going to love her column.) Amy also writes an awesome blog and is the creator of the {Art Together} ezine.

 

Me in 100(ish) words: I’m restlessly creative and have a strong need to express myself both visually and in words. I’m always trying to stretch and learn new ways of doing so. I’m definitely happiest when I’m learning something new or sorting out a design challenge or problem. I also love sharing this passion with other people, both kids and adults. I hope to inspire creativity and confidence in artists of all ages, and I believe we are all artists.

How I started homeschooling: We homeschooled our eldest through first grade, and then he and our middle child began schooling at a local charter school. After three years, I withdrew my middle child to homeschool him. Currently I have one child in school and two (my nine-year-old and five-year-old) at home.

My homeschool style: I believe the polite term is “eclectic.” I would say we’re all over the place. I want to follow my kids’ interests, and I trust in their inherent ability and desire to learn. That said, I do insist on math every day.

What a typical day looks like in my homeschool life: I’m up early to get my oldest out the door and on the bus, and I ask my 9yo to be ready to start the day (dressed, fed, and brushed) by 8:30. I like to begin by reading aloud, then we move onto math. After that, the days diverge. We might do project work, read in subject matter, attend an activity, or head to the art room. We’re at the library quite a bit too.

Favorite readaloud: Anything. Last year we read many of Roald Dahl’s books aloud, beginning with Boy. This past fall we read The Sword in the Stone. Reading aloud is a treasured part of our rhythm, even though my 9yo is a strong reader on his own. Nothing beats starting the day by cuddling on the couch together while I read. And when I’m really tired, my son takes over for a chapter, which is also really nice.

Favorite driving music: Depends on the day! It’s fair to say my musical taste is also all over the place. On the first warm spring day with the windows open, I’ll want Dropkick Murphys or Van Halen. Lately I’ve been rotating between The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, Of Monsters and Men, and Imagine Dragons. If I’m driving on the way to a race, it’s got to be the Beastie Boys.

Things I like: Reading, embroidery, writing, paint on my hands, knitting, drawing, coffee, popcorn, warm sunshine on my bare skin, the beach, dancing to 80s music, tide pools, running by myself (especially at sunrise in the summer), fresh flowers on my table, candlelight in winter, birds at the feeder, deer tracks in the snow.

Guilty pleasure: I keep a supply of Justin’s milk chocolate sea salt peanut butter cups on hand, but I don’t feel guilty about it. Life’s small pleasures are necessities.

What I love about homeschool life: I wish I could say the relaxed schedule, but having one child in school means we don’t get to take full advantage of that. I love that my son is more excited about what he’s learning now that he’s not in school.