I came across Kathy’s blog a while ago and found her experience in simplifying her life very interesting.
In many ways we have also done this, in others we haven’t. Irrespective, I find her views to always trigger new thoughts. Besides, I loved A Simple Life when I was a kid (for those of you familiar with old British comedy) and in some ways Kathy’s push for a simple life reminds me of this.
And of course, a simplified life combined with homeschooling makes for a good read – I had to ask her more about it.
How many children do you have? What ages? Are they all homeschooled?
We have twin boys that are five years old. Yes, we do homeschooling in the sense that they are not and have not ever been enrolled in a formal preschool or school. My approach is as much a reflection of my personality, which is pretty relaxed, but curious. We do community activities, classes, museum, and zoo trips.
How long have you been homeschooling?
I started doing educational type things when they were three. I would use resources, like flashcards to learn letters, online games, and apps. They help in the garden and the kitchen. They play Minecraft together, and I have no idea how they do all of that!
Why did you decide to start homeschooling?
I actually never thought it would be something I would do, but it was my work for McGraw Hill Education, a textbook publisher, that opened my eyes. I saw a documentary about the success of the schools in Finland, and I started asking questions.
A large part of my marketing consulting work with them allowed me to interview teachers, and administrators in public, private, and charter schools. I attended talks intended for administrators, and listened to many educational experts. The part that was so startling for me was how much of the focus became about testing and data. Many of the teachers I met were wonderful, but frustrated. You could see how much they cared for their students, but the system is clearly broken.
I realized that the days were gone where a child could follow their passions, because frankly if it is not a tested subject there is no funding for it. The amount of resources that need to be focused on things other than education is a huge drain on the system, but the focus on learning things just to check it off some arbitrary list is what made me decide we would do anything we had to to keep the boys out of the public school system.
How would you describe your approach to schooling at home? (Unschooling, School at Home, eclectic, etc.)
I would say it is homeschooling and eclectic for now. At five they need time to run, and explore the world. To experience it and learn through play. Once they begin reading more it will change to a learner driven path, with core subjects and the addition of subjects they are interested in.
They will attend a homeschool Kindergarten program that is a few hours a day, two days a week this fall. There are two reasons for this. The first being that I want them to have friends to learn and play with, and the second reason is that I work from home.
I read the book Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich and that led me to read about the Acton Academy in Austin, TX. As fate would have it our paths would cross a couple of years later, and I began work with them as the Lead Evangelist for the Acton Academy in Austin. After being in hundreds of broken schools over the years, I have seen one that is as remarkable as it is rare. It is the only school I would consider allowing my children to attend when they are old enough.
The single best thing is freedom. It is the freedom and awareness that comes with having your children home. You see nuances and challenges as they arise, and for young children this is especially helpful. The bonds and trust we grow together now, will be a safety net as they get older and strike out on their own.
What is the single worst thing you have found about homeschooling?
I would say the only negative is where to start. I stressed about it since they were 18 months old, as I saw the state of our educational system. I now know, that no one has all the answers and as long as they and we are learning and growing everyday, we will be just fine.
What words of advice do you have for someone just starting out, or thinking about starting out?
I would say to simplify your life first and then decide how you want to homeschool. It is similar to career planning in my mind. How do you see an ideal day? If you see yourself being a teacher, than try a classical homeschooling approach. If you don’t want to be the teacher, look into unschooling or co-ops or a school that has all of the things that are important to you. The wonderful thing about starting now, is that many others have gone before us and have blazed a trail. You no longer have to choose school or homeschool. You can create your ideal day and experience and go from there. You can even start your own school.
What do you enjoy doing to create a bit of ‘me time’ in your day or week?
I like to take my camera and go for a hike. I have many interests, but getting behind the lens of my camera allows me to really see what is around me and appreciate its beauty.
Do you blog? If you do, what is the address for that?
I blog at Live Small Love Big, where we tell our story of downsizing, so that we could explore working and homeschooling.
What would you like people to know about you?
There were times that I was unsure I would ever be a mother, but after years of struggle with infertility and one fateful trip to the Czech Republic, we were able to realize our dreams and become a family. Parenthood is the ultimate responsibility and my greatest joy.
There is never a better time to design a life for your family, that reflects who you are together. It will impact your children for generations to come, so take a moment today and reflect on what you really want out of this life for you and for them. If you want to homeschool or your child is asking you to, start exploring your options. There is no one right way, just begin.