Homeschooling Q & A

Thankyou for all the questions you had about homeschooling and our family! I hope that I have covered most of them here.

lola homeschool

What kind of homeschooling do you guys do? Curriculum? Unschooling? Relaxed?

Relaxed. I don’t think we fit exactly into one ‘homeschooling box’, we’re not total unschoolers, yet we dont’ follow a rigid curriculum or timetable. We go with the flow, swap and change, do what works best for our family right now, as well as for each child. My eldest works best with a little guidance, being given things to do, or at least suggestions of things whereas the middle one is much more of a self-starter. But that is the joy of homeschooling, that you can tailor how you do things to each individuals needs. It doesn’t have to be a ‘one size fits all’.

Do you feel like you need time to yourself?  Are the kiddos always at home or are you part of a bigger group that sometimes watches them? 

The short answers are.. yes and no….. Time to myself is something of a luxury, it doesn’t happen very often {unless you count evenings when kiddos are in bed and G is at work} – time in the day to myself is amazing, I treasure it as it only happens once or twice a month if I’m lucky. The past year or so while G has been back at college re-training AND working a part-time job, means he’s not about much. So it’s just me and the kiddos all day everyday. I’d love a day a week to myself to focus on work, but right now that isn’t possible, he gives me an afternoon or morning here and there, and I’ve learnt to work like crazy when it does happen! Honestly though, I’ve never known any different.  When Lola did her nursery year, I had a baby at home anyway, so I’ve never had any time when I haven’t had at least one kiddo at home with me all the time. For me, this is normal, crazy yes, but normal! I’ve built this blog and my business up while homeschooling three kiddos – as crazy and stressful as that has sometimes been!

Do you worry about socialising factors with homeschooled kids? 

Not at all. It seems to be one of the first questions people ask, and sometimes I think maybe they visualise us at home all day every day, never seeing another soul. We don’t spend all day every day at home, we attend several homeschool groups, the girls attend art clubs, history groups, rainbows/brownies/guides, gymnastics and Lola is a volunteer at our local museum. Add into that meet ups with other homeschooling families and play-dates with friends and it’s a wonder we are ever home at all!  We try to balance days out with days at home, some weeks my lean more to one than th

Socialisation is defined as ‘the adoption of the behaviour patterns of the surrounding culture; “the socialization of children to the norms of their culture”. Frankly, we didn’t want our children to simply learn to conform – we want them to think outside the box, think freely and for themselves. School doesn’t teach children about the real world – this article says it all perfectly. 

How do you plan and how do you choose what learning areas/subjects/topics you cover?

Teamwork… sometimes I’ll think of things that the girls might enjoy learning about, sometimes one of them asks to study a topic… sometimes a visit sparks an interest and we’ll embark on a project, or we’ll come across some online resources that catch our attentions. We try to follow, encourage and build on the girls personal interests, if there is something that they are interested in, it’s my job to facilitate that – providing books, trips, resources that will help them.

Do you have a plan set out which they work to?

Not really… we don’t use timetables, or have set times for certain subjects.  We kinda go with the flow… the bigger two girls both have maths programmes that they are following, we do lots of creative writing together, work on projects, lots of arts and crafts together – but we take each day as it comes. If we’re in the midst of a project, then we may do nothing else for days on end. Other days we’ll sit and do more writing, or maths, or science projects.

How do you manage teaching 3 such different age groups and finding time for eldest if/when your youngest need more attention?

My youngest is almost five now, so it’s not as difficult as when she was a baby. She loves to join in on project work the bigger two may be doing most of the time – today we were learning about the digestive system, and she was happy to sit and listen, try the activities we were doing – it’s surprising how much of the information goes in! If I’m helping one child out, the other two will often play together, or sit at the table with some crafts, colouring, lego etc

As for teaching different age groups, for individual work, such as Maths, then they have their work at their level, and I work one-on-one with them. A lot of the work they do is project based, and that can be geared to be suitable for all ages. The eldest can go to some extra research/activities on the topic at a higher level. I know that topics get repeated over the years – so some of what Lola learnt when she was 6/7, we’re now doing again – Kiki joins in, Lola works at a higher level, and Baya listens in too… in a few years we’ll be repeating it all over again with Baya! So it’s not as hard as it may seem, because so much can be done all together, I’m not lesson planning for three separate ages.

How do you stay sane? Serious question!

I love being able to so much time with my kiddos BUT that’s not to say they don’t drive me nuts sometimes. Spend 24/7 with anyone and you’ll start to annoy each other. Winter times the hardest, when the weather isn’t great and we can’t be out in the garden, or at the river or park… being cooped up in a small-ish house together for days on end can be very testing. My girls are big enough, that I can nip upstairs and hop on the elliptical in the middle of the afternoon if I need some ‘me time’ and a little space. Half an hour, headphones on, music blaring, running off the stress is great! Making sure G takes them out for a morning here and there, nipping out to the shops by myself, watching a movie in the evening. Taking time to yourself is so important – a happy mama makes happy kiddos.

We never seem to have the money for groups and activities… Every week I have to put them off. Do you have a “home ed” fund you pay into?

I don’t have a separate fund, I just account for groups into our weekly budget. The home ed groups we go to, as well as the kiddos other clubs {gymnastics, art, history, rainbows, brownies, guides} are important to us, so I make sure that we have enough for them. After bills and food, they are our next highest priority. I budget weekly, so at the beginning of a week, once I’ve paid any bills I need to and bought groceries, I put aside the money we need for any groups that week. They’re one of my nonnegotiable, the kiddos love their groups, and homeschool groups benefit me as much as them – a few hours to drink tea and catch up with other mama’s is much appreciated!

I have recently had no car and found public transport hard work and expensive so groups are hard for us right now. How do manage not driving? Also we never get up early in the mornings and I find it hard to know where to start sometimes, I need inspiration. Where do you gets yours?

First, not driving does make things tricky sometimes. I live right in a town centre, so mostly I can walk places we need to go day-to-day. All the kiddos evening/weekend clubs are within walking distance – admittedly that’s not always fun when the weather’s bad! We’re lucky that we also have a homeschool group that meets a five-minute walk from the house. One other group we go to requires a train ride, but that’s only once a month so the cost is not too bad. Public transport can get expensive, we have a family railcard which helps, and we rarely plan more than one trip a week that would require traveling to, to help spread costs. The girls are used to walking everywhere, and will happily walk to places 4 or 5 miles away. There are times it’s tricky, and I’m lucky to have some lovely friends with big cars who give us lifts once in a while when we need them!!

We are not early morning people either. There was a time I thought we should be, that we needed to get up and get working first thing. But that just doesn’t work for us. We usually wake around 8/8.30am, by the time we’ve had breakfast and gotten dressed it can often be 10am. Usually in that time, I will check in on emails, blog posts, messages, orders, etc and think about our plan for the day. Once we’re all ready, we’ll start working on whatever it is we’re doing that day.. projects, maths, reading, etc.. Some days we get more done than others. Generally though, we will do work and projects from late morning on, and then after we’ll play or do crafts or go to the library. My kiddos all seem to be night owls, and will often sit reading, drawing, sewing, creating at night-time, sat in their beds! I don’t think it matters when you get up and start going – just find what rhythm works best for your family, we’re all different!

homeschool books

What materials, programmes etc are you currently using?

Maths
Lola – Math Mammoth
Kiki – CIMT
Baya – Mathseeds

English

Lola – Free reading – working her way through some classic novels {this site has some good lists}, she likes to write stories and poems, and is currently working through Excavating English.

Kiki – Reading Eggspress – she’s a new reader, and loves this site so much. I don’t ‘force’ her to write, but she’ll happily write stories with a little help! We don’t have set spellings, rather if she asks, I’ll tell her, through reading and writing she’s picking it up pretty quickly.

Baya – Reading Eggs – seeing Kiki use the site, she couldn’t wait to get on, it’s a really fun way to learn to read, it works on phonics and sight words, and I’m amazed at how fast she’s been picking it up.

Science
The girls wanted to learn about our bodies, we’re roughly using this curriculum plan, we tend to do one or two big sessions each week, as opposed to a little each day as it’s written as. It has some great links to resources, games and activities. As I said, I’m only using it as a rough outline, some topics we’re spending longer on – for example, when we came to ‘digestion’ we did a mini project all on food and nutrition before we went any further.

History
We’re reading The Story of the World, which we have loved. It’s written in an interesting way, not dumbed down, I’ve learnt lots too! We have the accompanying activity book, which gives further reading suggestions and craft ideas. The books do not have a bias towards one continent, but explain history as a worldwide story and in sequence, my girls love it!

Geography
We’re reading Around the World in Eighty Days and studying each country as Phileas Fogg travels to them… we’re using atlases and the internet to research a little about the countries, the National Geographic Kids site is great. We also have a kids multi-cultural cookbook we picked up in a charity shop, similar to this one, so we can sample each countries cuisine!

Do you use computers/ipads?
We do use computers, the littler two girls both use the reading eggs/reading eggspress sites, Baya also uses Mathseeds. For projects the girls will use the laptops to research topics, watch videos on Youtube etc While I think too much screen time can be bad, and the girls are supervised while online, the internet really does put the world at their fingertips – they can find out about anything they want! We are also signed up for some online courses this year. The girls also love writing stories and poems on the computer, as well as using PicMonkey to create fun images!

What about transitioning them to high school/college?
The girls know that if they ever wanted to, they could try school. It is also a possibility as they get older, especially as they come towards the time they would be doing exams. Our local college lets students sit their GCSE’s as external candidates, so they could, if they wanted to do them, study at home and just sit the exam there. There is a nearby school that accepts flexi-schooling, which could be useful in a few years..the option is always there. I also know a few people, who were homeschooled themselves, and went straight to college or university at 18 and 21. We’re flexible, and will see what the girls wish to do as they get older.

Pros and cons?

Pros

  • No school run ;) seriously though, we are NOT morning people and I can’t imagine anything worse than dragging my kiddos out of bed so early
  • Kiddos can study what they are interested in
  • They can work at their own pace
  • You can work WHEN you want and WHERE you want
  • Flexibility – if you’re sick,tired,plain just don’t feel like it, you can have a day off
  • Chances for many more field trips
  • You get to spend so much more time with your kiddos – parents I know with children in school, complain at how little they see them. They are little for such a short space of time, I don’t want to miss out on any of it.
  • No ‘busywork’ – so much of what is done in schools is to just keep kiddos occupied, plus 1 parent to three kiddoss is a far better ratio than 1 teacher to 30 kiddos.

Cons

  • Financial Implications – homeschooling generally means one parent needs to be home all the time, often forgoing a wage. I’m lucky in that I’m self-employed so I can work from home. Plus, we get no help with costs – homeschool groups, trips out, workbooks etc Plus I have three kiddos home all day who want to eat all day long!
  • Time Constraints – homeschooling takes a lot of my time up, fitting in running a house and a business on top of this can be stressful
  • Being not the ‘normal’ – any activity that isn’t mainstream draws attention, questions and funny looks sometimes. I’ve grown adapt at judging whether a person will be positive or not if I tell them why the kiddos are not at school.
  • Being together ALL the time. I love my kids. SO much. But this is the hardest part. As I mentioned above, G has been working long hours, and sometimes 7 day weeks the past year. Meaning it’s just me and the girls, all day every day, with no break for Mama. It is hard, sometimes I crave peace and quiet so much.

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30 Comments

  1. February 18, 2014 / 10:16

    this is SUCH a good post Polly! it makes me feel inspired and a bit sad at the same time. Inspired as I feel like this is the way I would ‘like’ Wilf to be educated also and sad as I just don’t feel it is an option for us (due to me wanting to open a bricks and mortar shop in the near future and work away from home). Although I’ve been told there are childminders who home ed and will take your child to groups so maybe that’s something to look into..

    Really interesting post and wonderful to see how education can be so fun! xx

    • February 18, 2014 / 10:25

      Thanks Fritha! There are childminders who are happy to home ed, might be worth a look into! I guess it depends on schools near you – here they are awful, so not even an option. If we had steiner/montessori schools, then I might have considered them, but nothing close by so home ed it was. Its’ wonderful, but hard, and I have had to put a lot of my dreams to one side for now.

  2. February 18, 2014 / 10:56

    This is so interesting. I’m really interested in the idea of home schooling (or alternative schooling). I think I may struggle to convince the husband, but it’s something I’m thinking about nonetheless. x

    • February 18, 2014 / 11:56

      There is such an increase in families opting out of mainstream schools, I certainly think alternative schooling is worth a look – there is nothing else here other than the state run primary schools, so we were very limited in our choices

  3. February 18, 2014 / 12:11

    This is a great honest insight Polly, loved reading it :)

    Zoe xx

    • February 18, 2014 / 18:19

      Thanks Zoe! x

  4. February 18, 2014 / 14:04

    I love this post, Polly! Homeschooling is still something I go back and forth on. I only have my one little girl (for now, still not sure if we’re going to expand the family!) and this year I am starting some preschool homeschool sessions with her. She’s only three, so they’ll be low key and fit for her pace, but it’ll give me an idea of how it goes if we decided on homeschooling. Part of me really loves the idea, part of me is terrified that I’m not up to the challenge. Luckily I still have at least a year to decide!

    • February 18, 2014 / 18:21

      There are still {after 7 years} many times I’m terrified that I’m not up to this!! I think it is so hard to step away from the ‘norm’, but I don’t regret it one bit. It becomes a way of life, and I can’t imagine not having the girls home all the time now!

  5. February 18, 2014 / 14:31

    I come from a homeschooling family–my Mom now in her 19th year of homeschooling! And it’s funny to me how the question about “socialization” is still so common. Do people really think that the only possible way for kids to interact with other human beings is in a standard classroom setting?

    • February 18, 2014 / 18:23

      I think some must! I once had someone ask if the girls minded having no friends?! I was so shocked!!

  6. February 18, 2014 / 14:33

    What a fantastic post, we had a big discussion about this topic on the group on Facebook and so many mums had so many myths about home schooling. One mum who does home school wrote something similar to this and really opened up others eyes.Thanks for this its fab and I will send anyone asking about it here.

  7. February 18, 2014 / 14:38

    I love hearing how home ed works for different families so thanks for sharing! Talitha loves Mathseeds and Reading Eggs too. They’re such good resources. I knew since before conception that I wanted to home educate any children we might be lucky enough to have. I felt confident that I could do it and fortunately all the work I’m inclined to do is pretty flexible. It took a while for Laurence to come around but now I think he may even be more excited about all its possibilities than I am! Money is still a factor for us but we both feel you pay in different ways no matter what choice you make. There’s no perfect option without risk.

    • February 18, 2014 / 18:25

      Mathseeds and Reading eggs are great aren’t they? Baya loves ‘playing’ on them. Money is a factor for us, I wasn’t working when I got pregnant with Lola, so we never had my income to miss, we have sacrificed things {such as foreign holidays, new cars, etc} but I feel it’s a sacrifice worth making.

  8. February 18, 2014 / 15:00

    though i can’t really relate to this (wasn’t homeschooled, don’t have a kiddo), it was really very interesting and insightful to read!

    • February 18, 2014 / 18:27

      Thanks Laura x

  9. February 18, 2014 / 18:12

    This is such an interesting post! I love the idea of a flexible ad one in one approach to learning but I know that I am not the type of person to be able to facilitate this. Amazing that you have chosen to do this and can juggle home schooling with three girls! X

    • February 18, 2014 / 18:28

      Thanks Lori – it is incredibly hard work – I think the lack of ‘me time’ and space can take their toll if you’re not careful, but it’s fun too!

  10. Kimberly
    February 18, 2014 / 18:45

    I loved reading this post! I am wanting to homeschool my four year old daughter next year and reading this gave me so much inspiration. I tend to get funny looks when I tell other people about teaching her at home and they all start in about the whole ‘being social’ speech that only school can bring. Thanks so much for posting this..I have made my mind up even more to homeschool.

    • February 18, 2014 / 19:30

      Hi Kimberly. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this post and that it inspired you! If you have any other questions feel free to get in touch :)

  11. Francesca
    February 18, 2014 / 21:10

    Hi Polly, I’m a bit of lurker here although We follow each other on instagram, but wanted to say thank you so much for this post! I loved the socialisation link, some great ideas there for those times when you have to ‘defend’ your home ed decisions from those less informed! I totally agree with you that the lack of free/ personal time is the hardest part but we are having so much fun ( mine are 6, 4 and 18 months) that I couldn’t imagine them at school. It’s also a bit tiring having to explain your decision every time you meet someone who is a bit shocked that you are home edding ( ‘how will they learn to read? How will they make friends?’, Or my personal favourite ‘ but isnt that illegal?’!!! ). It’s always good to have a Positive reminder about why we homeschool and to have a peek into other peoples routines! xxxx

    • February 19, 2014 / 12:56

      Hi Francesca! Thanks for commenting, and so glad that you enjoyed the post! The socialisation link is a great one, I get so tired of having to explain myself all the time to people! xx

  12. Kahler
    February 18, 2014 / 21:54

    Thank you so much for putting this together Polly I really enjoyed reading it and it has given me great inspiration and positive vibes that we definitely are on the right track :)

    • February 19, 2014 / 11:49

      Thanks Kahler :D

  13. February 19, 2014 / 11:38

    I am constantly in an internal argument with myself as to homeschool or not – my little man goes to Steiner two mornings a week and he loves it and I know they encourage so many of the things that are important to me – like natural, outdoor play etc but if we have another child (which we plan to do) it will be a financial strain and I feel I am capable of homeschooling but I just don’t know what to do. I find reading your blog really inspirational :) My little man is 3 – he won’t be doing lessons at Steiner till he is 6/7 – if I was to start homeschooling when do you think would be an appropriate age? When did you start teaching your eldest to read/write etc – we do basic things now – natural/forest school type things at home – painting, drawing and basic counting/maths but not sure when would be a good time for the rest

    Laura x

    • February 19, 2014 / 11:49

      I would have loved a steiner school nearby, though realistically there is no way we could have afforded it for three kids.

      My eldest did the nursery year, we started homeschooling when she was four. In the beginning with her, did some phonics {jolly phonics} lots of fun maths games,puzzles, painting, crafts etc. That was it for a couple of years. She learnt to read at 6, I never actively taught her other than doing phonics, but we read to her and together lots, and she just picked it up. Writing just kind of came, honestly I don’t see the point of endless hours of practice for no reason. When she was learning to write, lots of sensory practice [nurturestore.co.uk has some great ideas] such as writing the letters in a tray of sand, or painting them etc

      I think Baya at four does more and is more advanced than the others were simply because she sees them doing things and wants to join in. She sits and takes part in lots of our projects – she’s actually really enjoying the science we are doing – but I wouldn’t have done a project like that with Lola when she was four.

      If you did start homeschooling, I say just keep doing what you are doing for now. Let him lead the way, make it fun, see where his interests go.Lots of reading, puzzles, forest school type stuff. My girls surprise me sometimes on how much they know even though I haven’t ‘taught’ them it!

  14. Josie
    February 19, 2014 / 17:58

    I’m considering homeschooling or at least certainly not discounting it as an option so this is really helpful thanks!

    • February 19, 2014 / 18:30

      Glad that this was helpful, feel free to ask if you have any other questions I didn’t answer here!

  15. sara
    February 22, 2014 / 08:23

    Hi longtime lurker here..i have home schooled my 2 littlest girls for the 2 yrs now..we love it..no time limits and no pressure..my main focus is that they enjoy it..i do have a list of things to do and we work through them through out the year..its just so nice to do what we want.
    I have lost a few friends over my decision to remove them from school..they think i am mad,crazy etc..but i am not i can assure you of that..we agonized for months over it..and finally i did it and felt so relieved straight away..
    We make the most of our local resources..and have had some school friends around to play and been to their parties..so they are not isolated..we have a large family with my 2’s neices and nephews being the same ages..
    I just wish i had home schooled my older 4 children..but you live and learn..
    Great post by the way..
    sara

  16. February 25, 2014 / 21:14

    Thanks so much for this post! I am so pro-homeschooling, although my OH is not convinced. Schools around us are pretty good, but I just dislike the whole system, and feel that it treats kids as clones and not as individuals. I actively want mine to question the system, without being rude about it, but I fear they will be treated like nuisances! Stories from many teacher friends of mine are also discouraging me. We have decided to put our two in infant school when the time comes, and if we are unhappy by the time they go to juniors, then we have agreed to have another conversation about homeschooling. I just find the whole idea of it so exciting and with some much potential!

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