Our Homeschool Rhythms

/ 1:07 PM
I'm currently in my fifth year of homeschool (Willms Grove Elementary). Looking back it's been so interesting to see how much my teaching style has evolved. Though I know that our homeschooling days will continue to change and grow as my kids do, I feel like we're at a place where the flow works well for us all.

When I first started homeschooling I was SO zealous. I had been teaching junior high for the past 6 years and I set up our home like my classroom. Right down to laminated subject cards on the wall that showed my wee little 5 year old what we were doing all day. In my teaching career I always preferred to be extremely prepared. Over the summer I would have all of my units developed 100% and have photocopying of handouts done for the first 2-3 months of school all stacked and ready to go the first day of school. In that preparedness though I had a lot of freedom to roll with rabbit trails when I or my students felt inspired.

Still, I carried that expectation into my homeschooling and I the middle years teacher who shuddered at the very thought of subbing in a kindergarten class planned out a bunch of units for kindergarten for my own child.

I was SO prepared. Had set up so many organizational systems in our home. That style of homeschooling lasted me about a week. Ha!

Slowly as we moved through out our days I learned that though I could set up a home like a public school classroom the question begged to be asked, "Should I? Is that the best use of home educating?" My answer was no. I actually didn't want to just do school at home. I wanted to explore how specific and freeing that home educating could be.

My style of teaching has always been very thematic and that started to naturally come through as well. If I could summarize my eclectic pedagogy (method and style of teaching) it would be something like this...

Our days consist of daily rhythms of foundational practices that provide stability and progression but then are built on by an overarching theme or "one thing" that is explored multi dimensionally and ties in all other subject areas. 

Sounds so fancy when I use my big teacher words! I'd love to share what that looks like for us.

Rhythms

Our daily rhythms are the practices that happen most days and give us a base start to our day or things to go back to when we're not engaged in pursuing our "one thing". 

Math | Though I vary how we work on math (often with manipulatives, etc for my kinesthetic learner) we do math every day. I used to create my own assignments and handouts or compile various things to work through and found that it got to be tedious and that math was something that I was OK with using a developed curriculum for. It's sequential and progressional and requires it to be worked through in somewhat of a certain order. 









I researched a lot of homeschool math curriculums and saw so many things I liked. For my kids though, I settled on Bob Jones University. It most closely matched where my kids were at and I really like what I would describe as the spiralling nature to it. It's constantly coming back to previous skills learned and building on those and and every chapter has a full summative review that includes skills learned in all previous chapters so information is kept fresh in their mind. 

Copy Work | To be honest when I started homeschooling I thought copy work was a waste of time. lol. But I've since come around. Both of my kids are learning/mastering cursive and so their copy work is all done in cursive right now. Often I will also give them a scripture verse to write out. It's a really calm and chill part of our day. We listen to music and write. For cursive we use the Handwriting Without Tears workbooks and love them. 


In addition, sporadically throughout our week Typing practice is added to these times. I think it's really important for kids to have the skills and mechanics to get their thoughts on paper/screen quickly and efficiently. Correct typing form is so important for that. We've used Keyboarding Without Tears and liked it. We are currently using Typing.com.

Read Aloud | I read to my kids every day. It is not uncommon for us to have 30-100 library books out at a time. We stock up on everything from picture books to reference books to chapter books. In the morning our day typically starts with each child choosing a picture book for us to read together. In the afternoon we read from a novel or listen to an audio book. 


So many of our "rabbit trails" come from these times. I love when inspiration comes naturally and it often does during these read alouds. For me it often comes through the illustrations. So much of our art time is influenced by the books we've read and the styles of the illustrators. 



I also find that our read alouds also spark inquiry  with my kids. Reading ignites questions and we fully utilize the freedom we have to explore those questions and find answers. Though we don't fully unschool, it's often these inquiry based explorations that most resemble unschooling for us. The kids are engaged because they had a genuine question and care to know the answer. 

One Thing

This is the fun part for me! 

Here's how it typically works for us. We read something that sparks an interest in myself or the kids. I then look for ways that we can incorporate it multi-disciplinary ways. 

Examples work best to show our flow. 

One of our read aloud books (can't remember which one now) started an intense interest in all things Viking. Vikings are no where in the grade level outcomes for SK at my kids ages but we don't limit ourselves to the provincial curriculum. 

What I typically do first when I see this kind of interest is compile books and resources. I utilize the SK interlibrary and request books from all over the province. We use getepic.com and the Epic app to put together ebook collections that we can access right away. I also love Hoopla Digital and eLibrary (both through our local library) for accessing digital content from our home. 

I'll also put together a playlist of educational videos on Youtube for the kids to watch. They IMMERSE themselves in the theme, reading and watching allllllll the Viking things. 

Not Viking immersion but from our Arctic Study - artist Ted Harrison

For our afternoon read alouds I will then find a historical fiction to do with Vikings. A large portion of our Social Studies is based around historical fiction. So much can be learned about way of life of people groups and times in history through these. It's an engaging and humanizing way to learn. What I mean by that is that kids can relate to characters in the story and therefore understand how history affects people. 

Also within the discipline of Social Studies we will explore the geography of the area we are immersing ourselves in. So for Vikings we started a study of the Scandinavian countries, analyzing and recreating maps of the area, of trade routes, of influencing factors and power shifts. Viking culture also lent itself well to discuss exploration and colonization and the foundations of Canada. Religion was also a topic of conversation as it played such a major role in their conflict and the eventual end of the Viking age. 

Our writing projects also tend to fall under our "one thing" studies. While studying Vikings we also read a lot of Norse Mythology and the kids were introduced to the elements of myth and wrote their own myths to explain natural phenomena. 

We also look for other ways to write or represent knowledge gained and one way we enjoyed is using the Comic Strip Creator app to develop comic stories showcasing the Vikings. They had to draw their own backgrounds for their pictures and then build Lego characters (Vikings) and props (like Viking ships) to use in their pictures. Rather than drawing they used these pictures as the base of their comic strip and added speech bubbles and narration in the app. 

Notice Spiderman was the original inhabitant of the island these Vikings raided ;)

For Science we looked at how the Vikings navigated the sea using the stars. We also explored the various biomes of geography they explored and what made them choose to settle in some areas and not in others taking into account weather, food supply, etc. 

Art is so easy to incorporate within different cultures. We did everything from simple drawings of Vikings on artforkidshub.com to studying depictions of Norse gods and Scandinavian architecture. So many great channels to engage in! 


Random tidbit: Viking helmets didn't have horns but because of a popular opera depicting helmets with horns the visual has stuck! Totally historically inaccurate though (except for maybe the odd ceremonial headgear?). 

That's a synopsis of how we flow with daily rhythms and a "one thing" theme. Our themes can last anywhere from a day or two to months. Vikings and the Solar System have likely been our longest lasting themes. Other themes we've immersed in this current school year have been the Arctic and the Inuit, Gary Paulsen and outdoor survival, women in science, narwhals, rocks and minerals and Gerald and Piggy :). 

Winter Survival obsession sparked by reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
*extra children are homeschool friends the Krupkas ;)

"Making" is another over arching theme that has been integral to our school days but I'd like to spend a whole post on how that is evolving to look in our home. It's such a brilliant mix of life skills and spending time creating rather than just always consuming. I love it!


Sorry that was long - I hope I did it justice. I feel like there's so much to say! You win a medal if you made it this far! lol. 

Another daily rhythm... charcuterie boards for lunch! lol. 

What do your days look like? Are you fully curriculum based? Unschool? A mix? Do you follow a certain theory like Charlotte Mason? I'd love to hear in the comments or on FB!


~ Monique









































I'm currently in my fifth year of homeschool (Willms Grove Elementary). Looking back it's been so interesting to see how much my teaching style has evolved. Though I know that our homeschooling days will continue to change and grow as my kids do, I feel like we're at a place where the flow works well for us all.

When I first started homeschooling I was SO zealous. I had been teaching junior high for the past 6 years and I set up our home like my classroom. Right down to laminated subject cards on the wall that showed my wee little 5 year old what we were doing all day. In my teaching career I always preferred to be extremely prepared. Over the summer I would have all of my units developed 100% and have photocopying of handouts done for the first 2-3 months of school all stacked and ready to go the first day of school. In that preparedness though I had a lot of freedom to roll with rabbit trails when I or my students felt inspired.

Still, I carried that expectation into my homeschooling and I the middle years teacher who shuddered at the very thought of subbing in a kindergarten class planned out a bunch of units for kindergarten for my own child.

I was SO prepared. Had set up so many organizational systems in our home. That style of homeschooling lasted me about a week. Ha!

Slowly as we moved through out our days I learned that though I could set up a home like a public school classroom the question begged to be asked, "Should I? Is that the best use of home educating?" My answer was no. I actually didn't want to just do school at home. I wanted to explore how specific and freeing that home educating could be.

My style of teaching has always been very thematic and that started to naturally come through as well. If I could summarize my eclectic pedagogy (method and style of teaching) it would be something like this...

Our days consist of daily rhythms of foundational practices that provide stability and progression but then are built on by an overarching theme or "one thing" that is explored multi dimensionally and ties in all other subject areas. 

Sounds so fancy when I use my big teacher words! I'd love to share what that looks like for us.

Rhythms

Our daily rhythms are the practices that happen most days and give us a base start to our day or things to go back to when we're not engaged in pursuing our "one thing". 

Math | Though I vary how we work on math (often with manipulatives, etc for my kinesthetic learner) we do math every day. I used to create my own assignments and handouts or compile various things to work through and found that it got to be tedious and that math was something that I was OK with using a developed curriculum for. It's sequential and progressional and requires it to be worked through in somewhat of a certain order. 









I researched a lot of homeschool math curriculums and saw so many things I liked. For my kids though, I settled on Bob Jones University. It most closely matched where my kids were at and I really like what I would describe as the spiralling nature to it. It's constantly coming back to previous skills learned and building on those and and every chapter has a full summative review that includes skills learned in all previous chapters so information is kept fresh in their mind. 

Copy Work | To be honest when I started homeschooling I thought copy work was a waste of time. lol. But I've since come around. Both of my kids are learning/mastering cursive and so their copy work is all done in cursive right now. Often I will also give them a scripture verse to write out. It's a really calm and chill part of our day. We listen to music and write. For cursive we use the Handwriting Without Tears workbooks and love them. 


In addition, sporadically throughout our week Typing practice is added to these times. I think it's really important for kids to have the skills and mechanics to get their thoughts on paper/screen quickly and efficiently. Correct typing form is so important for that. We've used Keyboarding Without Tears and liked it. We are currently using Typing.com.

Read Aloud | I read to my kids every day. It is not uncommon for us to have 30-100 library books out at a time. We stock up on everything from picture books to reference books to chapter books. In the morning our day typically starts with each child choosing a picture book for us to read together. In the afternoon we read from a novel or listen to an audio book. 


So many of our "rabbit trails" come from these times. I love when inspiration comes naturally and it often does during these read alouds. For me it often comes through the illustrations. So much of our art time is influenced by the books we've read and the styles of the illustrators. 



I also find that our read alouds also spark inquiry  with my kids. Reading ignites questions and we fully utilize the freedom we have to explore those questions and find answers. Though we don't fully unschool, it's often these inquiry based explorations that most resemble unschooling for us. The kids are engaged because they had a genuine question and care to know the answer. 

One Thing

This is the fun part for me! 

Here's how it typically works for us. We read something that sparks an interest in myself or the kids. I then look for ways that we can incorporate it multi-disciplinary ways. 

Examples work best to show our flow. 

One of our read aloud books (can't remember which one now) started an intense interest in all things Viking. Vikings are no where in the grade level outcomes for SK at my kids ages but we don't limit ourselves to the provincial curriculum. 

What I typically do first when I see this kind of interest is compile books and resources. I utilize the SK interlibrary and request books from all over the province. We use getepic.com and the Epic app to put together ebook collections that we can access right away. I also love Hoopla Digital and eLibrary (both through our local library) for accessing digital content from our home. 

I'll also put together a playlist of educational videos on Youtube for the kids to watch. They IMMERSE themselves in the theme, reading and watching allllllll the Viking things. 

Not Viking immersion but from our Arctic Study - artist Ted Harrison

For our afternoon read alouds I will then find a historical fiction to do with Vikings. A large portion of our Social Studies is based around historical fiction. So much can be learned about way of life of people groups and times in history through these. It's an engaging and humanizing way to learn. What I mean by that is that kids can relate to characters in the story and therefore understand how history affects people. 

Also within the discipline of Social Studies we will explore the geography of the area we are immersing ourselves in. So for Vikings we started a study of the Scandinavian countries, analyzing and recreating maps of the area, of trade routes, of influencing factors and power shifts. Viking culture also lent itself well to discuss exploration and colonization and the foundations of Canada. Religion was also a topic of conversation as it played such a major role in their conflict and the eventual end of the Viking age. 

Our writing projects also tend to fall under our "one thing" studies. While studying Vikings we also read a lot of Norse Mythology and the kids were introduced to the elements of myth and wrote their own myths to explain natural phenomena. 

We also look for other ways to write or represent knowledge gained and one way we enjoyed is using the Comic Strip Creator app to develop comic stories showcasing the Vikings. They had to draw their own backgrounds for their pictures and then build Lego characters (Vikings) and props (like Viking ships) to use in their pictures. Rather than drawing they used these pictures as the base of their comic strip and added speech bubbles and narration in the app. 

Notice Spiderman was the original inhabitant of the island these Vikings raided ;)

For Science we looked at how the Vikings navigated the sea using the stars. We also explored the various biomes of geography they explored and what made them choose to settle in some areas and not in others taking into account weather, food supply, etc. 

Art is so easy to incorporate within different cultures. We did everything from simple drawings of Vikings on artforkidshub.com to studying depictions of Norse gods and Scandinavian architecture. So many great channels to engage in! 


Random tidbit: Viking helmets didn't have horns but because of a popular opera depicting helmets with horns the visual has stuck! Totally historically inaccurate though (except for maybe the odd ceremonial headgear?). 

That's a synopsis of how we flow with daily rhythms and a "one thing" theme. Our themes can last anywhere from a day or two to months. Vikings and the Solar System have likely been our longest lasting themes. Other themes we've immersed in this current school year have been the Arctic and the Inuit, Gary Paulsen and outdoor survival, women in science, narwhals, rocks and minerals and Gerald and Piggy :). 

Winter Survival obsession sparked by reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
*extra children are homeschool friends the Krupkas ;)

"Making" is another over arching theme that has been integral to our school days but I'd like to spend a whole post on how that is evolving to look in our home. It's such a brilliant mix of life skills and spending time creating rather than just always consuming. I love it!


Sorry that was long - I hope I did it justice. I feel like there's so much to say! You win a medal if you made it this far! lol. 

Another daily rhythm... charcuterie boards for lunch! lol. 

What do your days look like? Are you fully curriculum based? Unschool? A mix? Do you follow a certain theory like Charlotte Mason? I'd love to hear in the comments or on FB!


~ Monique









































Continue Reading
Sometimes I'm such an information hound - always reading, researching, learning and breaking things down and then repackaging to deliver and teach that I forget how helpful and encouraging it can be to just hear someone's story.

I was reflecting recently and realized that even though homeschooling is something I had never planned to do it's become something that I can't imagine my life without. It was a twisty route to get here but it's quite literally a perfect fit for my personality and goals. It is such a major part of my purpose, passion and brings so much joy and satisfaction to my life.

Let me tell you how we got here, to being 5 years deep in Willms Grove Elementary.



Going way back - I loved school. I knew very early on that I wanted to be a teacher. I often spent time in the school system working with younger grades and assisting teachers in our school and taking advantage of work programs where I would also teach. I excelled in the public school system academically and athletically. Even as a student though, I could identify that often I did well because I knew what the teachers wanted and I could tell them what they wanted to hear.

It was a no brainer for me to attend U of R and get my education degree and I jumped into teaching Middle Years with both feet as soon as I convocated. I loved teaching Middle Years but as any beginning teacher can attest to, all romantic notions of being an educator fly out the window very quickly. You often start to sense a bit of an "us vs them" sub culture between teachers and division administrators making decisions about how and what you teach.

Teaching in the system often left me feeling like I was teaching with one hand tied behind my back or  like I was constantly having to jump through hoops in order to meet the needs of my students. I am by nature not a hoop jumper, I like to get to the heart of things quickly and efficiently.

Even in all of that, as my husband and I discussed wanting to start a family we were pretty sold on the idea of him staying home with kids and me returning to teaching. We knew without a doubt that we wanted at least one parent to be home raising our kids.

When we had our first child all of that flew out the window. There was no way I was leaving my baby! Ha. I resigned my position but homeschooling still wasn't even on my radar. I had known 2 homeschooling families as a kid and I thought they were weird and fear based. Just being totally honest. I felt like they lived in a world of conspiracy theory and I wanted nothing to do with it.

As I had my second child and they grew, the topic of homeschooling came up and it became something I seriously considered. I struggled with it. Thinking I had a lot of great memories of school. Then wrestled because I have a lot of terrible memories from school as well.

The first question someone will typically ask a homeschooler is "What about socialization?" and so I worried about that angle, wrestled with it but ultimately realized that ALL of my terrible and traumatic experiences in school were social experiences. I also realized that my children weren't in school then and were very social beings!



My son though did struggle with anxiety at times in large groups. I felt like the collective opinion was force him into it, leave him and he'll get over it. We had tried that in several situations and it did so much more harm than it did him good and we dealt with the setbacks for months.

That struggle is not they why of us pursuing homeschooling but it was definitely an added bonus to choose a path that allowed us to nurture and guide him through overcoming that anxiety. I'd say he has made a 170 degree (not quite 180 degree) turn around and is a confident, engaging and fun loving child!

So, what were our why's? We had a few key ones at the beginning but now our list has grown considerably!

1. Solid Foundation - I taught in a school where my first year I had 34 grade 8's in my classroom. I couldn't even walk to the front of the classroom there were so many desks! We felt like it would be a good idea to at least start homeschooling so that they'd have one to one instruction in the foundations of reading, writing, and math. Our initial commitment was till grade 3 (but now we'll go forever).



2. Freedom - I wanted to experience teaching without any hands tied behind my back. I wanted the freedom to encourage a love for learning in my kids. I wanted the freedom to discover their unique learning styles and let them run with that and also to be able to uniquely challenge them where they are not naturally inclined. I wanted that freedom to engage their interests, to learn outside of 4 walls and a desk.





It is not rare for us to feel inspired by something we've read or the weather and to do an about face in our plans and follow adventure. We spend hours paddle boarding/kayaking the river and examining turtles and ecosystems in the summer. In the winter we might be building shelters and surviving in the wilderness while pretending we're in a Gary Paulsen novel. Our days very often get totally rerouted when I see an interest/inquiry sparked in our morning read aloud time.



3. Time - This was a big one! I wasn't done being with my kids during the days or them being with each other. That first 5 years is all the evidence we parents need to back up "the days are long but the years are short" idea. As wild as they are sometimes I LOVE being with them everyday. Honestly, a lot of our time has been spent building characters (in all of us) that can be healthy and enjoyable to be around all day every day. You're forced to work through the head butting and the communication struggles.

We also didn't feel like we could send them somewhere to spend 6 hours a day in a desk if we had the option not to. I knew from my experience how hard it was to manage the spectrum of abilities in a class of 20-30 and often how much "busy", extra work, or reading I handed out for kids who were done very quickly and waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. I knew that if you gave me any kid of any ability, with one to one instruction, schooling would take about half the time as it would in a large class.



Spending less time traditionally "schooling" gives us so much more time to be active, to play and to explore the world around us.

I highly value  as well all the moments that I get to be present for. Seeing them light up in understanding or curiosity. Seeing them catch onto and apply new concepts in math. Hearing them read their first words or listen to the well constructed story they just wrote.

And let's be honest... I LOVE not having to leave the house before 8 am. The other day as I sat enjoying my cup of coffee at 9 am still in sweats, I thought to myself "How did I get so lucky that this is my life?" I've been a die hard night owl forever, rarely going to bed before midnight and so these slow mornings are so much more my speed!


There is so much more to our homeschooling journey but I feel like this is a good synopsis of what got us at the very least started. I love to talk about the home educating life so if you ever have questions please don't hesitate to ask! I'd also love to hear your journey! So message me or leave it in the comments on the blog or on facebook :).

Also... it's not all roses people! If you want to read about how hard homeschooling is, I wrote it about twice HERE and HERE





Cheers!

Monique











Anyone else out there that secretly or not so secretly wants to live in Stars Hollow?

Cause I do. But just because it's fictional doesn't mean I can't wear the t-shirt!

I was inspired by Chalk Full of Love's adorable "Stars Hollow Fall Festival" sweatshirt and mugs. Click the link - are they not adorable? I wanted something with more of a year round vibe though and in a tee so I endeavoured to be crafty and whipped this cute tee up!




 First off I went in search of a good fitting "drapey" tee (which is a feat in itself, right?). I scored this one at Ardenes for 70% off so yay!


Next up I created a cut file on my silhouette. I used the font Magnolia Sky for the script and Franklin Gothic Book for the "established". For once in my life I didn't over think it and it came together super quickly! I just measured roughly how much space I wanted it to take up on the shirt (8" x 6") and stayed within those parameters. I did google when Stars Hollow was established and it is 1779 so you're welcome ;)



I'm a huge fan of using freezer paper to create stencils for use on fabric. It's cheap and simple. Just place the freezer paper on your cutting mat (shiny side down) and load to print. Set your machine to cut slowly so you don't tear the paper. 

Once you peel the parts you want the paint to go in you're at the tricky part. It's not overly hard but it is annoying to transfer the stencil to the shirt. I tried the transfer paper but it was just too sticky and hard to manage so I just peeled the majority of the stencil and ironed it onto the shirt and then went back and added all the little centres to "o's" and such and ironed those on. It's a little finnicky but still worked fine. 



Once you have it ironed on, place a cardboard piece inside the shirt (to avoid paint seepage) and start painting it in. I used 2 parts folk art white paint mixed with 1 part fabric medium but I have never used fabric medium in the past and it worked fine. This time I just happened to have it on hand. 

I did 3 coats of paint letting it dry in between. Then I let it dry overnight and heat set it in the morning with an iron (after peeling the stencil off). 

I felt like the tee would be best showcased in a white gazebo like they have in the centre of Stars Hollow... so I crashed an elderly care home to use their gazebo lol. Don't worry, I asked if I could!



If you need me I'll just be at Luke's Diner sipping a cup of Joe with my bestie Loreli ;)

xo
Monique

Stars Hollow Tee

by on 12:00 PM
Anyone else out there that secretly or not so secretly wants to live in Stars Hollow? Cause I do. But just because it's fictional doe...
As you may or may not know, one of my jobs is that I'm a weekly columnist for our local newspaper. I have the privilege of writing about fun, creative and low cost ideas that you can do with your family. After writing the column for the last 9 years every week it sure stretches me to keep coming up with creative ideas!

I was able to follow through immediately on one of my ideas and take some pictures so I thought I'd share it here! I have to keep my column at 350 words - so here it is, short and sweet!


Lately every where I look I see ads for various subscription boxes popping up. The marketing idea is great. You sign up for the subscription and either pay monthly or for the year and every month a surprise box is delivered to your door. It is filled with an assortment (of often themed) products for you to use. Some times they are samples of products so that you can try them out and decide if you’d like to use them in the future. The idea is catching on and I’ve seen these boxes themed for a wide variety of interests including make-up, hand lettering, seasonal decor, pet treats/toys, educational activities, STEM activities, and art supplies. 

I love the idea of it. I think getting a box full of surprise gifts every month would be so fun. For all you gift givers out there it’s actually a genius way to gift things to yourself because you’d never know what was in the box! Ha. Though I appreciate the not having to shop and fill the box myself the costly aspect of these subscriptions is that you are essentially paying someone else to shop plus paying shipping. 

My idea then is to create my own surprise boxes for my kids that can “show up” at our door. I like to look at the money saved as how I’m paying myself to do the shopping (and I like shopping so that’s all good!) 

Seeing as we’re headed into warmer weather my first box will be a “Spring into Summer” theme.  First up, find a cute box to package your goodies in. Some great themed items to include could be self tying water balloons, a cute beach towel, bubbles, fruity gum, new sunglasses, a rock painting kit, an inflatable beach ball (or pool float), a new water bottle, new flip flops, and side walk chalk. 


A lot of items on the list are things that I would need/want to buy for my kids going into a new season anyways so packaging it all up into a themed box just makes it fun for everyone!


Since this is my blog I can expand... you'll see that I went for a yard game theme.

In the box I included a bocce ball set, a horseshoe game, sidewalk chalk, some apple sauce squeeze things and 2 packs of Hubba Bubba (because my kids both jus recently learned how to blow bubbles ;) ).




I slipped the package onto the doorstep and waited until they found it at recess. They were so excited to find a package for them and tore into it immediately. The package was a hit and we got to play a game of Bocce Ball right away. 

 What would you put in your surprise "subscription" box?


DIY Subscription Box

by on 11:36 AM
As you may or may not know, one of my jobs is that I'm a weekly columnist for our local newspaper . I have the privilege of writing abou...





Personally I've been "formally" homeschooling for 4 years now. My kids have been homeschooled their entire education so technically I've been schooling at home for 9 years. 9 years of spending all day, er'y with my kids. There's never been a season where they've gone to school, preschool or day care. That means we've put in some serious hours with each other!

In my adult life I have been consistently keenly aware of self care and my mental health. I don't want to just survive my life - I want to thrive. Very early on in having kids I realized that as a social introvert being with people all day drains me (even people I love so very much) and that alone time recharges me. When you homeschool - alone time has to be an intentional thing.

If I had to boil down the most crucial ingredient in our family's plan to make sure I get alone time I'd say it is my husband's dedication to fathering our kids and partnering with me in our children's education.

When we decided to homeschool it was a decision that both of us made with a lot of thought. There was never an assumption that it would only affect my life as the homeschool teacher. We were both going to have to invest in this.

Thankfully we started some of the routines early on and they have just become a rhythm in our life. From day one, my husband has be primarily responsible for the kids bedtimes. If I was nursing, I'd nurse and pass them off. It's been great as this has always been guaranteed time he has with them for bonding. This is especially crucial for us in seasons of life where he works until 5:30 pm and the kids were going to bed at 7:00 pm. Bedtime is their time. For me it means that I have a good hour where I am not answering questions, making snacks or directing my kids. It is a much needed break after doing that for the previous 8-10 hours. Sometimes I am just SO tired of talking!



I don't know about you but even with their dad 3 feet from them my kids will out of habit still seek me out. My answer in these times is typically "You have a dad. Use him." lol. It can be VERY easy for us moms to just continue with the flow of the day and without thinking just keep doing all. the. things. for our kids. I have to be intentional to redirect them to my husband so that it reinforces that we are a team and sometimes you just need to ask dad.

For me this is also the hour that I often leave the house. Not sure about your kids but even though they are 9 and 7 they still act like every bedtime is the first one we've ever done. Brush your teeth! Get your PJ's on! Wash your face! Get into bed! Stop coming out of bed! That's our nightly soundtrack. It gets old. So, I excuse myself and either hop in the hot tub during bedtime routine, head out for a walk or grab a decaf coffee and peruse the aisles of Walmart just cause I can. It's amazing what that hour does for my mental health!

On the topic of bedtime - that has been another sanity saver for us. We have enforced an early bedtime for our kids. For most of their lives up until last summer they were in bed by 7 - 7:30 every night and asleep shortly after. My husband and I are both night owls so that meant that we typically had from then until at least midnight of just us time. We can hang out, play games, work in the yard, work out, write, or just chill and watch T.V.  It also meant that for us we couldn't go out often in the evening as a family (as pushing them past their bedtime was not a good idea for us) but the long term benefits far outweighed the times we chose not to go out. Individually we can easily go out for a couple of hours and do so weekly. I play tennis weekly and attend a ladies connection night and my husband plays basketball weekly. We've even been known to hit up movies at the theatre on our own cause who talks to anyone during a movie anyways?

For those of you that are morning people I'm guessing that you can get up before your kids to have some alone time. I seriously wonder what that is like - my kids can sense I'm awake so I've never gotten more than 5 minutes on my own in the morning!

As soon as I felt my kids could manage I spent the summer teaching them how to make breakfasts. I wanted them to have a range of healthy food they could make independently and once they learned I left that responsibility on them. For me this means that I can take my time to have a cup of coffee and maybe read a bit while they make their own breakfasts and eat. I like it!

I'm pretty lucky in that my husband only works 2 blocks from home. This means he's able to come home every day for lunch. Since I don't love working out at night and I'm really not a morning person I've been working out over the noon hour for the past couple of years. I love it because my husband is there for them to field questions from the kids (read less interruptions for me) and it flows well with our homeschool day for them to have a break.

As fortunate as I am that my husband has a 9-5 ish job with lunch hours at home and all weekends off, this didn't happen by accident. We live in an industrial town where the majority of jobs are shift jobs. Because of the "yes's" that we have said to things like making daily family time a priority and having weekends to spend together it made it easier to be intentional and say "no" to job offers that didn't line up with our goals. My husband has turned down many jobs over the years (many that offered a lot more pay) that would have required him to work 12 hour shifts and thus greatly affect our schedule. We both decided that those jobs wouldn't work for our family and our personalities. On the flip side, I have friends whose husbands work shift and then have regular 4-5 day stretches off that work fantastically for their families. My point is not that one is better than another but that it pays to be intentional with your choices.



I have a lot of other passions and interests that are outside of homeschooling. I've found that making sure I have time for those things promotes thriving in my life. Alone time is great but being alone with nothing to do would be more annoying to me than not having the time at all.

I love photography and thus run a photography business. At my max I take 2 clients a week in the evening. It gets me out and using my creativity while also providing extra income. Sometimes I just need to build something. If my husband isn't around or we want to work on a project together, we'll hire a babysitter to hang out with the kids so we can work without being disrupted. Some of my friends have had great success in working out a childcare swap. They make an agreement with another family with similarly aged children and pick two nights a month where they swap childcare. They put parameters in place that work for them like set hours, and feeding your kids before dropping them off and it allows them to have a "free" date night once a month.

One practice that I'm terrible at keeping consistent is having a set quiet time each day. We've done it periodically and though it takes some effort to define the boundaries of it and get my kids accustomed to spending that time alone each day it was worth it when we did it. Even half an hour in the middle of the day where every one goes to their own corner can be a great "reset" for everyone.

Though I'm not great at staying consistent with quiet time I've found that now that my children are old enough for independent reading time that I really make use of that.

There's obviously no set way to make sure you're getting what you need. We're all wired so differently! My hope is that in some way this post can give you a few ideas on how to make time for yourself and at the very least emphasize the importance of taking care of yourself as a homeschooling parent. If one thing is clear to me, it's that getting "me" time is more about recognizing the value of it as family and being intentional to make it happen than it is about actually finding the time.

 I'd love to hear how you incorporate self care and "me time" into your homeschool routines! Please comment with them - then we can all learn from each other!

~ Monique

* All images in this post done by Crystal Lee Photography *






Thanks so much for your wonderful feedback on Part I! In case you missed it you can find Part I here. If you want the Coles Notes it can best be summarized in my sentiment "Homeschooling is the hardest and best thing I've done."

Most things in life that are worth doing are not easy. Homeschooling for us is very worth doing. I find that a lot of times when families are facing the choice of whether to homeschool or not, looking ahead can appear to be a series of hurdles. Many well wishers including myself might say things like "Oh, it'll all be O.K. You'll be fine! You can do this! You just figure it out." And, they're right! But I also get that it can seem daunting and sometimes it's just nice to have an honest look at the hard things and how other families have worked through them. It might not be how you would work through them, but at least you'll know that it can be done.

Onwards to the hard things!

Going Against the Flow

When you choose to homeschool you make a major family lifestyle choice that is opposite of probably 99% of the population. It can feel as though you are literally swimming against the stream. The reality for us however is that I feel more like we jumped out of the stream and are adventuring all over the place. Up hills, down some valleys, through forests, in the ocean and through the fields! Like I said in my previous post, I refuse to adopt an "us vs them" mentality. Our decision to school our children is not a rebellious act or some type of "rage against the machine". It is a lifestyle we chose because we felt it was the best use of our time and energy for these years that our kids are in our care.

That said, I run into a lot of families that feel very misunderstood and don't have a lot of support from people in their circle. Some homeschooling parents find themselves in a mode of constantly defending their right and ability to guide their child's education. I am subject to these types of interrogation occasionally and can see how it would be exhausting. Well meaning bystanders often feel it is their responsibility to keep homeschoolers accountable by grilling them on how they socialize their children, whether or not they have them in outside activities, on who tests them to make sure they actually know what they're supposed to know, and whether they put in the standard 6 hour school days because if you homeschool you better be keeping up with what the schools do.

Because I have an education degree I find that I get a pass from a lot of those conversations. However, I understand that they occur and that they are not valid. I love when people dialogue in an effort to understand, I don't love it when people use these conversations to push an agenda or to attempt to undermine a homeschooling parents ability.

When I do come up against a conversation that is more of an interrogation and I can see that the person isn't in it for understanding but rather to push their ideas on what I should do I have a few options.
a) I steer the conversation elsewhere. I don't actually OWE anyone an explanation for our choice or a daily itinerary.

b) If it's someone who I am in relationship with and this is a recurring thing I will lovingly create a boundary. It might look something like this, "I appreciate that you are concerned about our family and our children's education. We have given this a lot of thought and we are committed to doing this and doing our best at it. I won't continue to have this conversation over and over again though. So, if you feel you need to discuss homeschooling with me it'll have to be about ways you can support and encourage us."
Tough to actually say to someone you love? Absolutely ... but WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.

c) I can still choose to answer their question out a place of sharing freely and to promote understanding all the while understanding that I do not need their approval.



One Income

When you choose to homeschool you are taking on a lifestyle that likely results in living off of one income or at least necessitates that one parent is home during the days (or some block of schooling time). We live in a culture where that is definitely not the norm. There can often be a pressure for bigger houses, newer vehicles, more stuff and constant entertainment and extracurricular spending. Homeschooling requires sacrifice. Sacrifice can be hard. I also believe though that sacrifice is good for us.

In my opinion, it is a very first world thing to believe that we can and should "have it all." Whether we are being intentional about it or not, we are all constantly making choices. I have found one of the most helpful principles for us that we live by daily is "I know the things I have said a big YES to and therefore it makes it easy to say NO to anything that does not line up with or competes with that YES."

So, for example, we have said yes to homeschooling. That means that I don't work full time outside of the home. It also means that we aren't in the market for a newer, bigger home because the added financial burden would require me to work full time and sabotage our plan to homeschool. It means we remodel this home.

It sounds so simple but it seriously brings so much clarity to our thinking and to our financial plan.

I'd love to share a few more strategies that have really helped us.



The first is that any time we have transitioned to less income (like when I went on mat leave), we gave ourselves at least 6 months of practice time before the transition date. So, for 6 months prior to leaving work we started to put my ENTIRE paycheque into savings immediately. Then, we would practice living off of my husbands income. The first month we inevitably WAY overspent. But that was O.K. We expected it. We would just draw from savings what we needed and tried again next month. By the end of that term we had learned to live off of one income and also ended up with a pretty large savings account!

Another piece of advice - get a financial planner. We preferred one that was not affiliated with any particular bank and thus we felt unbiased in regards to the investments and such that they would offer. We love the financial team we work with. They help us manage everything from our investments, our mortgage, our cash flow, our tax planning, our life insurance, etc. They understand our goals and do everything they can to help us meet them. (Message me if you want a recommendation for a great team.)

Because you homeschool also doesn't mean that you can not work outside the home. I myself am a photographer and it works great with a homeschooling schedule. It allows me to plan sessions for evenings and I can use my time at home during the day to deal with all the admin and editing. I have other friends who homeschool during the day and have an evening job. If you want to make it work - you can make it work.

Interestingly enough this post didn't really have anything to do with the obstacles involved in our actual day to day schooling of children but I think they are two hurdles that often seem really daunting to families.

I had wanted to go even further and tackle "getting time on your own" and what we do with that need to get out of the house as a homeschool parent but I think it'll require it's own post!

Again, if you have any more hard stuff you want addressed don't hesitate to comment!










One of the statements I hear the most frequently when people learn that we homeschool is "Oh, I could never homeschool..." followed by

  • it would be too hard for us to all get along all day. 
  • we would butt heads too much. 
  • my kids wouldn't listen to me. 
  • I need to get out of the house.
  • teaching is too hard. 
These are all perfectly relatable statements. I know that because they were all true for me as well. 

Homeschooling is HARD. 

I hope I didn't lure you in with that title question and you thought I was going to write a post about how easy homeschooling is. I wish I could but it just wouldn't be truth. I can't really think of much about homeschooling that is easier than sending my kids to school. Except that whole getting every body dressed, fed and out the door by 8:15 am EVERY SINGLE DAY. I don't know how y'all do it. What kind of sorcery is that?

The truth for me is that homeschooling is hard. But if there is one thing I've learned in life, it's that most things worth doing aren't easy. And for our family, homeschooling is very worth doing. 

I feel like this is a good time for a disclaimer ;). I don't think homeschooling is the best fit for every single family. I am a former public school middle years teacher - I love schools. I am a BIG fan of teachers! You should say "thank you" to your child's teacher tomorrow - seriously - just do it. I don't agree with every facet of how the education system is run, but I in no way ever adopt an "us vs them" mentality. I didn't agree with those same things when I was a teacher in the system and I know the majority of teacher's are doing their best for the kids in their care. 

That said... when people ask me how homeschooling is going, rather than launch into a 30 minute speech about the highs and lows of my week I typically answer with "Homeschooling is the hardest and best thing I've ever done."

Let's talk about some of those hard things shall we?

The Head Butting

I think some people assumed that I chose to homeschool because my children and I all were perfectly amenable and had perfectly complimentary personalities that made me think "We can absolutely be with each other 24-7 for years on end." Um - no. I am an assertive person who is strict (yet fun) and who is also a social introvert. My son is quick, efficient, doesn't like to waste time ever, likes to push boundaries and isn't a fan of anyone teaching him anything ever. My daughter believes that "more is more", loves to dawdle, loves to draw 17 pictures on her paper before doing any work and loves to talk non-stop and then freak out if you ask her to stop. There is plenty of butting of heads that goes on in our day. 

I get that it can be a bit much for my kids to have me giving them direction on all the things - every day! Brush your teeth, go get dressed, make some breakfast, get your math book out, let me teach you how to divide and so on and so forth. 

How we work through that is by spending time usually each day (and usually not planned) on character development. For all of us. As much as they need to learn to be kind, manage their behaviour and try to do their work without complaining, I need to learn patience, to talk less and to encourage more. Being with each other as much as we are necessitates that we rub off each other's rough edges a bit. Part of our homeschooling days are making ourselves the kind of people that we can spend all day every day with!






Blurred Lines

Mom ----> Teacher ----> Coach ----> Principal 
Child ----> Student ----> Athlete

Now, we don't assign official titles or anything in our home but each of us operate in many different roles during the day. When you're in public school those roles are a bit more separate and don't run into each other that much. When you're homeschooling you get blurred lines. It has definitely been a learning curve for us to deal with me being both mom and teacher and them being both my child and student as well as student and siblings. 

At public school you can't stomp off to your room crying if you don't feel like writing six sentences at that moment. In homeschool you can't slack off and hide in a corner shuffling your papers and hoping the teacher is too preoccupied with the 27 other students she's teaching to worry about whether you've even started your math. Your teacher is 2 feet from you and knows exactly what you're doing at all times. Your sibling being your classmate cane result in some epic meltdowns.

Kids will push back more with their parents. We've all seen it. It's a compliment really, we're their safe place. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that on more than one occasion I have slapped my teaching certificate on the table and stated "People used to pay me to do this. People used to send their kids to me to do this. Now, sit down and let me teach you this!" lol. 
Not my proudest moments. 

Though there are blurred lines, you settle into it. You realize that you get to be some sort of hybrid teacher/mom and student/child and you make it work for you. My kids can't slack off. They can't slip through the cracks. If they have a meltdown about having to revise their descriptive paragraph I can just grab a cup of coffee and say, "Let me know when you're ready to get back to work. I've got no where else to be." Or, if they're willing to talk we can get to the heart of the issue. I can speak life to the frustration that they're feeling and can reinforce our daily mantra, "You can do hard things." Being classmates with their sibling creates an environment where they learn to work through issues, build family relationships and develop strong bonds. My kids deep, joy filled friendship with each other is one of our greatest homeschooling rewards. 

And being teacher/mom is the best when you get to see understanding light their faces, creative ideas flow from their pen, when science is floating on the river sneaking up on turtles and getting to snuggle together on the couch while you read your historical narrative. 


What do I teach?

I get that taking on sole responsibility of your child's education is a daunting task. I may have been a teacher but I had never been an elementary teacher. Kids for the most part knew how to read by the time they got to me. 
I really had no clue where to start with my own kids in their first years of school. But like any new job you take on, there is going to be a learning curve. You figure it out. And you don't need to have it all figured out before you start. You will learn and grow with your child. It's actually one of the things I love about homeschooling. 

We have the freedom to pursue interest based learning. That means that in grade 2 my son spent 3 months learning about the Solar System (which was not in the SK curriculum for that year). We got so in depth and learned so much! I was just as fascinated as he was! 

I can't count the number of people who have said to me, "But surely you won't attempt high school right? Like, that stuff is hard. You can't do that." 

a) I don't do well with people telling me what I "can't" do. Ha! #Icandohardthings
b) If I wasn't teaching my kids those things I'd be teaching your kids those things. (My cop out answer).
c) If I can successfully understand things like Physics and high school maths as a 15-17 year old I can DEFINITELY understand and teach it as an invested 40 year old who has spent the last 14 years homeschooling their child. And so can you! Even if you didn't do well in public school, people change and grow and if you WANT to learn something, you can. 

There are more "hard things" that I'd love to weigh in on and give encouragement on. This post is getting a little lengthy (even for me) so I'll do a Part 2! I'd love to hear your comments (here or on Facebook) about what you'd like to hear about!

So whether you're a homeschooler, a public schooler or a mom of toddlers say this over yourself today - I CAN DO HARD THINGS. 


~ Monique




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