Homeschooling in BC (Q&A with four BC homeschool moms)

After having three kids in four years I feel pretty strongly that I will be chanting ‘Freedom Five’ as I eek closer to being home ALONE and they are ALL at school. I have certain plans to enjoy a boozy lunch with my mom bestie, Netflix binge, and spend way too long making a dinner without extra ‘help’. Maybe I’ll even fold laundry, I don’t want to make too many plans though.

But there has been something on my heart. Homeschooling. I know, it kinda cramps my Freedom Five Agenda, but it does sound kind of appealing. No rush to get everyone up and out of school. Customizing learning to what your child loves (I know I always wished I had a more customized education for my interests). Getting to pay one on one attention to how your child learns. Off season family vacations. No crunch for homework each night. I know there are downsides too, but I’m still at that ‘getting more info’ stage. However, I would like to blame Angi Martin, homeschooling mom of 7!, for her mega awesome instagram feed. She definitely has something to do with brainwashing me that homeschooling is doable and maybe even enjoyable.

I know homeschooling isn’t for everyone. I’m not here to convince anyone that there is one right or wrong way to do anything. I’m just here to ask questions and share information. If this is something up your alley then maybe you’ve had questions about it like I have.  I asked some fellow British Columbia Bloggers who are also homeschooling to answer some Q&As for me. They are all at different stages and have different approaches to homeschooling. I found all their feedback very interesting.

Introducing……

sarah scottSarah from Sarah on Purpose.

She has been homeschooling her 9 and 6 year old (and 3 year old thrown in the mix) for about four years. In her words, she started homeschooling “for a menagerie of reasons, but the ones that have endured are; we wanted to have the time with our children that normally a teacher would get at school, we want to give our children the opportunity to experiment with various things and choose to pursue what they are passionate about.” Also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

bonnieBonnie from Koala Bear Writer.

She has two girls aged 7 and 5. She started homeschooling this September. Something she had always planned on because she herself was homeschooled.  She also has a series of interviews on her site from her fellow homeschool graduates. Also find Bonnie on Facebook and Twitter

teresaTeresa from Capturing the Charmed Life.

She homeschools her kids aged 14, 12, 9 & 6. She has a post detailing why she started homeschooling here which all began with reading a book on homeschooling. However, she read it to help her find some reasons NOT to homeschool. Also find her on Facebook

jennyJenny from Ruminating Mommy.

She homeschools her 8 year old daughter, Ava. She has been homeschooling since late October after finally deciding to give it a try since her daughter kept asking to be homeschooled. Also, find Jenny on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Why is homeschooling ideal for your family?

S – 1. My husband does shift work and we like to take advantage if his days off to explore the world we live in together. 2. We live rural. 3. Each of my children gets to work at their own pace.

B – I love being able to spend more time with my daughter and less time driving her around to school. This year, we also moved in January, so having her at home for school meant there was no awkward transitions between schools halfway through the school year.

T – Get to be with my kiddos, socialization stronger & academics individualized. Can travel. More cohesive family. Kinder kids.

J –  Right now it’s ideal because it’s what Ava wants, and I’m home with our 3 year old anyway so there was never any schedule or work shuffling to make the change. Ava is very creative and thrives at home where there isn’t time stress, she can guide the day, and we have the freedom to do what we please with our days together.

What’s the biggest misconception that people have about homeschooling?

S – Probably that my children’s education is inadequate.

B – That it’s not “real” school. I feel like homeschoolers aren’t taken seriously because we don’t do school from 8 am to 3 pm or because I don’t have a teaching degree or because we do it at home instead of in another building.However, I feel like my daughter is getting a better education here, because she’s not distracted by all the other kids in the class (she’s very social). And I think a lot of time is wasted at school; it doesn’t take seven hours a day to learn what needs to be learned in elementary school (or even in high school).

T – Socialization myths, hilarious. Everyone talks about them not having enough social contact. Hahaha. I rarely have days at home all day

J –  That a homeschooling day looks like a classroom day – and that we need to cover the same material as the school curriculum to have a successful student. Most people ask about ‘socializing’ the child and I find that term insulting. Kids can have lots of friends, activities, and playtime outside of a school setting.

What’s your least favourite part about homeschooling?

S – Probably the same as any mother… Making lunches.

B – When my daughter doesn’t want to do school. We have a lot of great days together, but every once in a while there’s a day when she just doesn’t want to do math or reading or handwriting. Then it’s a struggle to motivate her without everything turning into a power struggle.

T – Goofy questions about socialization. Commentary about why it doesn’t work.

J – Right now I don’t have much downtime because my younger daughter is still so little.

What’s your favourite part?

S –  My favourite part is the shared learning.  We get to read stories of historical characters together… My son and I are both learning about photography… I love learning with my kids

B – Seeing her “get” something new. Earlier this year, she was learning “doubles” in math (like 2+2 and 5+5) and for a day or two it was a struggle. Then on about the third day it clicked and she was whizzing through her doubles problems. It’s also been fun to see her doing better with reading and growing more confident and starting to read on her own.

T – Honestly, so much. It’s like parenting to its fullest.

J –  I feel good about our decision especially when I see Ava happily being creative  – making her own videos about scenes she creates, building things with found objects, sewing her own designs etc.

How do you pay for all the supplies needed?

S – Some of it is out of pocket and some through a government grant.

B – We are enrolled with a school board, so we get government funding which we used to buy our curriculum. I had some leftover funding after that which we used to pay for my daughter’s violin lessons and swim lessons. I also collect ideas on Pinterest for crafts and science activities and sometimes print free stuff off various educational blogs.

T – I’m able to afford it. I get 0$ from gvnt.

J – We receive funds to buy supplies, and beyond that, we pay for things ourselves.

How do you make sure you are meeting BC standards?

S – We report to a distance learning teacher and send samples and photos of our work.

B – We have a supervising teacher who meets with us twice a year to review my daughter’s work and ensure that we are keeping up with the BC outcomes. She also sends us the list of learning outcomes for Grade 1, so I can review those and make sure that we’re doing something to meet each one.

T – I don’t. I’m a registered homeschooler.

J – We have created a plan for the year with our teacher and in that Ava will meet the standards

What does your typical schooling day look like?

S –  Wake up. Breakfast. Chores. Get cracking with math. Then social studies. And language arts. Tuesdays we have science and Gymnastics. Fridays are Art and creative writing days.

B – After breakfast, we start with math. After math, my daughter likes to take a break. I’ve started using a timer that beeps after 10 minutes to call her back to her next subject, otherwise, she tries to extend her breaks as long as possible! After math, we do handwriting or spelling, religion and science, or reading. While my oldest daughter is working on her school, my younger daughters are often sitting at the table with her, either colouring or playing with play dough or other toys.

T – 9-1230…kids independently get going. Im available for help all throughout. 1-2 as well. And tonnes of other reading besides.

J –  On the weekends I prepare the exercises, printouts, activities, and projects for the week. I have an idea of what I’d like to cover each day, but I’m flexible and plans change depending on everyone’s moods and interest. (I know what we need to cover by the end of the school year but the pace is up to us.) Every day is full of creative time and playing at the park, and my husband takes the girls on adventures when he gets home from work.

What has been your favourite/most creative lesson/activity?

S – We have been doing famous artist studies and creating art work based on the work of the artist we are studying at the moment. That has been super fun!

B – We went to the Zoo for a field trip. I had the girls take along notebooks, because my oldest daughter was studying animals and habitats in science. So we wandered through the zoo and she took notes on a few of the animals in her notebooks. I’d ask her about the animal’s habitat, what it ate, what sort of shelter it had, and whether it was a mammal, reptile, bird or fish. They traced some animals from the signs. It was a lot of fun

T- Travel to east Africa 2012 (we had a field trip to a school, ha) and west Africa last fall (we didn’t get ebola ha)…yes, we brought the kids. Oh & other travel too.

J –  I enjoyed our week spent on learning about Ancient Egypt – I planned lots of crafts. Ava had lots of questions, and we read many books together.

What concerns did you/your partner/your kids have about homeschooling?

S – I guess my biggest concern was am I doing enough? Are my children learning enough? Have I submitted enough information to our teacher? I have mellowed out a lot.

B – I think our biggest concern has been finding social opportunities for our kids. When I was homeschooled, I wasn’t involved in any sports or clubs or the local homeschooling group, so I was very lonely. Our oldest is a social butterfly who loves seeing friends, so we’ve talked about ways to get involved in our community or with other homeschoolers

T – None when we started. A book convinced me before I started.

J –  My husband and I both worried that we wouldn’t be able to keep up the level of learning that she would have at school. Watching her learn at her own pace has cancelled those concerns because she’s more open to learning without the stress of expectations.

What is your time-commitment like? (How long does it take to plan out curriculum, prepare lessons, do provincial paper work)

S – School takes 2-3 hours a day… Planning is for me is something that happens mostly in a weekend at a conference at the end of April and then I spend an evening here and there planning things like science experiments or art projects. I rarely fill out provincial paperwork. I just have a Facebook album that I post pictures to with explanations for my teacher.

B – We spent an hour or two a day on school. I purchased a lesson plan along with my curriculum, so in the morning I glance at the day’s lessons (which takes about a minute). Math is our biggest subject and takes about fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the lesson. Her other subjects take around 5 minutes (unless she stretches it out). So without breaks, we could be done school pretty quickly.

T – A few weeks in summer i mull through it. And a few days before the annual curriculum fair in April.

J –  I spend a couple of hours each weekend preparing for the upcoming week, and I keep notes on what we cover/what she does. Every week I submit her work to her teacher and the teacher takes it from there.

What have you learned about your kids, yourself, your family?

S – I have learned to let go of perfection, but to strive to improve.  Breaks are ok and are often necessary to be productive.  Coffee soothes my soul.  Too much stuff makes mama squirrelly.

B – I’ve noticed that my oldest daughter really likes things that are hands-on. Math has been her favourite subject, because it came with a kit of manipulatives for her to play with. We also use money a lot for counting. So she gets to “play” with pattern blocks, elastic bands, weigh scales, coins, linking cubes, etc. This year, it also seems to me that my girls are playing so much better together. I think something about being around each other all day has gotten them better at getting along and coming up with games together. I really like spending time with them and the flexibility we have to visit friends, go on field trips, take classes, etc, because of homeschooling.

T – Seriously, a tonne. It’s a huge undertaking & unconventional lifestyle. Totally worth the effort.

J –  I’ve learned just how creative Ava is, and having her home has allowed me to learn more about her. Now we can have in depth conversations during the day rather than quick chats on the way to/from school. I didn’t think that I had the patience to teach Ava but I do, and I’ve realized that Ava has a lot of my traits and interests.

What kind of unforeseen challenges have you faced or mistakes have you made when you started homeschooling?

S – Unforeseen challenges… well it’s really hard to keep a house tidy when you are all living in it all the time.  When I first started I made the mistake of comparing myself to others.  Which is weird since one of the reasons I homeschool is to individualize my children’s schooling.

B – None that I can think of (yet!). 🙂

T – Losing my temper. Every parent has done this, we homeschoolers just get more opportunities. I’m not a perfect parent, no one is though, so I’m sure I’ve made more mistakes than I’m aware.

J –  In the first couple of months I structured the day more and based it on a classroom setting. When I relaxed into the homechooling thing our days became flexible, and that’s how they are now. My challenge is having a newly 3 year old who wants my attention all of the time, and homeschooling at the same time. Plus siblings tend to bicker and my patience is stretched in those moments.

How do you support your kid’s social interactions? Sports/team activities?

S – My children and involved in a homeschool co-op, gymnastics class, art class and we have play dates. They also attend Dallas Tennis Lessons which they adore!

B – Both my older daughters are in gymnastics and two dance classes. My oldest daughter also does catechism classes at our church. We go to a mom’s group twice a month, where my kids get to play with a lot of other homeschooled kids. And we get together regularly with other homeschooling families for playdates.

T – They have waaay more extracurricular activities than when the oldest was in school. 6-8 a week each. But that’s a more recent thing as we r in a new community

J – Ava has lots of play time after school with friends from her former school and other homeschooling friends. Right now she isn’t on any teams, but my husband takes her to the pool, ice skating rink, and indoor rock climbing. If she wants to sign up for art classes, sports, etc then we’re happy to do that for her.

Lots of moms are concerned about homeschooling cutting out any and all time they might have to themselves in the day, how do you deal with this?

S – I have mandatory quiet time around here… my children are threatened with extra chores if they bother me during quiet time.

B – Like I said, we spend an hour or two a day on school. That’s about the same amount of time I used to spend driving her to and from school. So I haven’t felt like I’ve lost time to myself. My girls play really well together, so I can work while they’re playing. And I get a bit of time while they’re in classes.

T – Yup. They can be concerned. You have to eke out time. Be intentional.  My husband is a huge help in this. I only seriously began writing after I homeschooled though. Because I had to make time for me. And I did what I wanted to do. My life is way more focused than it has ever been. So thankful.

J –  Before homeschooling I didn’t have much time to myself in the daytime anyway because I took care of my younger daughter. My personal time is usually in the evening when the girls are asleep. My husband is great about making time for me to go out to coffee shops etc so I can have down time after school some days. (He’s just as involved in Ava’s homeschooling when he’s home from work.)

How do you find time to blog amongst homeschooling?

S –  When you love something you find time for it… usually during the above mentioned quiet time or in the evening.

B – Our computer is in our main room, so it’s easy for me to multi-task. While my daughter is on a break from school, I can pop onto the computer to promote a blog post or write an email. Then I can call her back to do her schoolwork. Some of her subjects—like handwriting, spelling, and religion—she can do a bit more independently (depending on her attitude that day), so I can keep working on the computer while she’s working and then respond quickly if she needs help. I prioritize what needs to get done and try to make the most of the times when they are playing nicely together.

T – Make it.

J –  I’ve always blogged during my quiet time which was mostly in the evenings. Now I blog in the evenings or late afternoon when my husband takes the girls to the park or to do activities.

Anything else you’d like to add?

S – Homeschooling has given me the opportunity to watch my children grow and develop.  It’s not always easy and it has challenged me to let go of a lot of silly standards I used to hold myself and my children to.

B –  Find a supportive homeschooling network. It makes such a difference to have other homeschooling moms around you. I know my mom was supported by a couple homeschooling friends when she started homeschooling me, and I’ve loved being able to talk about homeschooling with my friends. There are Facebook groups and homeschooling blogs, but being able to meet other homeschoolers in person and talk with a mom over coffee is such a huge boost.

T –  You should definitely do it. And I have an unschooling mindset. I don’t fulfil an education the way convention expects. Wayyy more freedom.

If you have more questions for these bloggers about homeschooling, please share in the comments below. Or just leave a comment anyways, I always love to hear from you! 😉

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