How we homeschool
We are a family of five with three girls aged 5 years, 3 years, and 6 months who we have decided to home educate.
When I tell people we homeschool I get a lot of questions like, ‘How do you know what to teach them?’, ‘Do they send you the work?’, and ‘How is she liking her lessons?’, which make me think that people don’t really know what homeschooling is all about. Before I knew much about homeschooling myself I thought the name was pretty self explanatory and that homeschooled kids just did ‘school at home’. In reality, most of the time our learning looks nothing like a school day. We take a natural learning approach and so most of what is learned in a day comes about just from our day to day life. So what does a homeschool day look like?
With young children our days look a lot like this:
The girls really enjoy art and we do a LOT of it. There is paper, pencils, crayons, oil pastels, chalk pastels, charcoal, paint, glue, sticky tape, scissors, craft supplies, and play dough always available to them to use whenever inspiration strikes. They are constantly back and forth from the art shelf throughout the day, and I also try to set up an open-ended art activity for them once a day.
Some of our days also look like this:
They learn about the world around them by being in it. We notice changes in our environment and talk about the seasons, we collect things from nature, we spot insects and birds, we learn about looking after plants by tending to our herb garden. There is so much to see and so many questions to answer.
Spotting insects in the back yard has lead to learning about life cycles, habitats, insect anatomy, predators, natural defense mechanisms, and much more…
Learning isn’t divided into subjects as it might be at school, and there is often literacy and numeracy skills being practiced in many different ways. For example, we currently have a small worm compost which the girls are observing. Along with all the learning you would expect from that, there has also been drawing, writing, and even maths (recording the days it takes an apple to decompose using tally marks, predicting how long it would take, calculating how many days are in 6 weeks so she could write her prediction in days).
We also do a lot of this:
We read a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction. We look up answers to our questions. We read many stories and sometimes dress up and act them out, or use them to inspire some art. They also love audio books and listening to stories online at Story Box Library.
Everyday ‘chores’ are learning opportunities. When cooking they are learning about measurement, fractions, and time. Even sharing out grapes is maths. This is how my 5 year old first learnt about odd and even numbers!
I am always amazed at the questions they come up with and the things we end up talking about. Just by answering their questions, or if I don’t know the answer then helping them find it, we have learnt much more than I would have thought to teach them at this age. We are often discussing different countries, cultures, and languages, history, biology, technology, religion, and science.
A question about how much a sheet of stickers would cost when we went to the shops sparked a conversation about money, identifying, sorting, and counting the different coins, skip counting, and finding different ways to make up one dollar.
And of course, the most important thing at this age, PLAY! There is a lot of time for imaginary play and free time every day.
And sometimes, it even looks a bit like school. In our home there are always materials available to encourage an interest in literacy and numeracy, and my 5 year old is very interested in both. The difference is we have no set time when it must be done. I have woken at 6am to find her practicing her writing, or let her stay up a little later than usual because she was busy doing maths. We will often find her sitting quietly with a book working on some numbers, skip counting with her abacus, or making numbers with cuisenaire rods. And there are many questions of ‘what does this say?’, ‘how do you spell this?’ and ‘what does this word mean, I heard it in this sentence’. She is free to use what is available whenever she likes, or even not at all. There is no time constraints, schedule, or pressure.
Homeschooling is not always in the home either. We are learning wherever we go. We may be talking about things we see while driving in the car, learning and playing with others at our homeschool group, taking swimming lessons, visiting friends and family, going to the museum, art gallery, or the many other interesting places we have around us. Homeschooling also isn’t done just by the parents. Although we are ultimately responsible for their education, we are also lucky to have very supportive family who enjoy being involved and sharing their interests and abilities with our children.
Our homeschool days are just like your normal family days. We have fun together, we play, we take our time, we ask questions, and the learning just happens naturally. All the ‘work’ is going on behind the scenes. I am observing them to see what they are interested in and how their learning is progressing, thinking of ways I can extend their learning, researching different learning materials, preparing art activities, etc. I am aware of the curriculum and what they would be doing if they were at school so if I feel there is something they should be learning I can easily set up an activity or provide some materials that might spark an interest in that area.
Hopefully, that gives a clearer picture of what a lot of homeschool families actually do. Of course every family is different, but for most of us homeschooling doesn’t mean sitting down to do written school work from 9am-3pm every day. I’m pretty sure kids in school don’t even do that! For us, homeschooling is a whole different lifestyle. We learn through life from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep at night. We are able to explore each child’s interests and learn at whatever pace suits us. Most of all we are having fun and loving learning, which is why we know this style of education is right for our family.
I so adore and enjoy this post! Looking forward to following your blog!
Love this post! So inspiring.
Thank you Amy 🙂
Very informative… Really do wish we had the resources and means to home school… but for us, it’s not really an option. As I’ve mentioned in a comment on another post of yours, although our kids will be going to conventional school, I plan on still having a very active role in their learning time at home. For now, I try to approach much of our time as a family the way you do. And your blog has been so inspiring!
Thank you Yanic!
So inspiring! Just how I’m trying to create school for my kids…..though yours looks much more successful. Lol
Thank you Tara. I’m sure you’re doing great!
My homeschooling is less arty. Art is my weakness so I send her to kindy 1 day a week and she does her art there. Our day is full of different things. But she has to do maths reading writing,spelling and a puzzle for 15 mins a day. Also she can do unlimited apps on her tab. We mainly do outings. My daughter is in in prep next year and is 4. I am going to send her for a while to see how she likes it. She is reading at a grade 4 level and is currently doing grade 3 maths. I think she will be bored. But will enjoy the social interaction and also it will be tough in class for 6 hours. I am going to continue the home schooling. As I dont want her to go backwards.
Hi Sara, thank you for your inspirational yet realistic blog.. was wondering if you can share about your resources like the books you use in the above… looking for toddler interactive books is always my headache!
Hi Jenny! I’m doing posts on all the resources we use but hadn’t thought about books. I may do a post on our favourite books too!
The ones that we’re using here are:
Next year we definitely homeschool our daughter. We are all excited.
Do you need to tell the government or register as a homeschooler?
Yes, where we live you do when your child is 6 and a half 🙂
Hey, how does it work in Australia as kids get older? High school etc?
You can homeschool as long as you like 🙂
I’ve heard about homeschooling too but never actually imagined how parents could actually go about it. It seems to me like a very fulfilling activity but not much of an option for working parents.
I’m glad to have come across your blog, this might influence me to do homeschooling too in the future. 🙂
Thanks Gelene 🙂
Just wanted to say what an awesome post. We had discussed and discarded the option of home school but it may just have made its way back on again. Thanks 🙂
Hooray! Glad to have helped 🙂
Thanks for the picture of what your day looks like. I’m a homeschooling mom too looking to add more “real life” into our day!
We have a 4 year old, 2.5 year old and an 11 month old. I follow your blog because I am considering homeschooling our children. I would like to leave art supplies out like you stated above. I am just wondering about the practicality of it. Can you explain how you have it set up? Do you have to worry about paint and such getting on the carpet? Do you have a piece of plastic or something down? What about the kids? Do they end up with paint and such on their hands? Do you need to clean them up before they move on to different play?
Thanks heaps for all you do!!
I have a post on how our art shelves are set up over here that might answer your questions? https://happinessishereblog.com/2014/10/learning-spaces-art/
Perfect, thank you!!
I am pregnant now and I plan to home school my daughter. I am happy to see your blog. Thank you!
What a brilliant blog you have! 🙂
Could you tell us more about the books in your photo? I’m thinking my 6 year old would adore the book in the second picture with the rain cycle.
Hi Charlotte, that’s a great book. It’s this one: http://www.bookdepository.com/How-the-Weather-Works/9781848771956
Thankyou thankyou thankyou. This blog speaks directly to my needs right now. You are providing a wonderful platform for me / us to connect on home schooling. thank you.
Hi I’ve been interested in homeschooling or unschooling. My daughter is young so we have a few years. One of my concerns is the cost financially. How do you homeschool when public school is free. What if you don’t have big means to afford supplies (art supplies, games, reading material, etc.) have you found a way around this or have any advice? Thanks!