Learning at Home: Are We All Homeschoolers?

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We’re all home schoolers

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Up until recently, I really knew very little about homeschooling.  Other than knowing a few folks in college that had been homeschooled (or kids who had gone on "homeschooling sabbaticals" abroad here and there with their families), my experience really consisted of one student I had my first year of teaching.  This student had been homeschooled for preschool and kindergarten — and I think had older siblings who also were. Because some aspects of our school and classroom were not working for them, they phased into a half-day thing in my classroom, which worked okay, but not great.  I liked them, though didn’t really understand where they were coming from much of the time.  Thinking back, I probably have a lot more in common with them now,  but yeesh, as a young first-year teacher with no homeschooling background, it was a kind of strange situation to work with!  

the girls & a caterpillar
Examining a caterpillar
Fast forward to now, when it seems like everywhere I turn (in real life and online), I discover or meet new or prospective homeschoolers. Interesting, fun, passionate type folks — people I love being around!  I am now starting to see the allure of doing things "our way" in whatever way works best for specific kids and families.  I love seeing what folks are doing and where they are going, because so much of it is applicable to my life too!  

I’ve always considered homeschooling a "fall back" thing that I could do, if all other options were not working, but not something I (at this point) plan on doing otherwise.  I had great experiences in public and private schools as a kid, and my grad school (a masters in early childhood/elementary ed) and previous teaching experience also influence my perspective, I’m sure.  I love being a stay-at-home mom, but I look forward to a time when I have time to follow my own interests, career-wise (sooner, rather than later).  And I’m admittedly also excited to eventually have a break from being the main go-to caregiver for my kids all day, every (week)day!  Perhaps this will change when I see them actually head off into the unknown wide world outside our home full time, especially if we encounter bumps along the way. Time will tell!  

pasta cups
Counting and sorting pasta
More and more, though, I am realizing how much I do have in common with many homeschoolers right now (and perhaps well into the future).  Many of my favorite blogs are written by homeschoolers — and they are brimming with fun ideas for projects and ways to organize your spaces and days in a child-friendly way.  Now that we are out of the "baby" phase, my goals for creating meaningful routines, work and play for my kids are very much what I see homeschooling to be about.  When I think about what I expect from a structured school experience, I still firmly believe that the foundation of what my girls will learn will happen during the hours they are home, or out and about in the world with me and our family. 

 In that vein, here are some of the ways that my girls and I approach learning here at home:

Creating an intentional daily plan:  This is a goal for me, very much in-process right now, and not always happening yet.  I had this ah-ha moment many months ago when I realized that the (albeit dreaded) lesson planning of my teaching days could translate into a more smooth, meaningful day for me and my girls.  Some parts of this, built up gradually over the past few years, have stuck — especially around our daily routines.  I will totally admit that other pieces, including the more intentional learning and teaching I’d love to be doing (projects and activities structured and guided by me) are still up in the air many days.  Ah well, work in progress!  They are still so little!    

using the magnifying glass
What are those little swimmers?

Following "sparks of interest" and "teachable moments":  I feel like this is one of the keys to encouraging curiosity and a lifelong love of learning — and one of the coolest aspects of being a parent.  I love seeing my girls get excited about something, and try my hardest to encourage and expand on their interests and questions when I can.  One example of this is Emma’s word wall, something we had up for quite awhile but is currently down (I’ve been meaning to resurrect it, however!).  Another was our butterfly project, where we raised butterflies from larvae to painted lady butterflies, ready to release.  In the spring, we planted seeds and watched their roots and stems grow each day.  Today, it was exploring the hundreds of teeny tiny swimmers (I am assuming bug larvae?  Fruit flies?  What else could it be?)  that I found darting around in the water of our "living basil" plants on the windowsill.  Emma ran to get the magnifying glass and Delia insisted on one as well.   A neat little science lesson, for sure!   

activity bags
Activity bags ready for action
Activity Bag Fun:  I love activity bags, and know many homeschoolers do to!  Check out this page (near the bottom) for a list of my activity bag posts.  Basically, they are self-contained activities, play and exploration based for toddlers and preschoolers, perhaps more structured math, reading, science-based games or activities as they get older.  Mine currently are geared for the little ones, but I keep meaning to pull out some more challenging things for Emma, both from my old teaching supplies and created from supplies and items I have around the house (phonics or letter games, counting, geometry or basic addition/subtraction activities, all depending on her interest, of course).

Going out in the world to explore:  I love taking the girls on outings, and there are so many incredible places to learn from in our city (and beyond!).  Museums, parks, art or gym classes, neighborhood walks, hikes, playgroups and friendly gatherings, the list goes on and on.  It take
s a fair bit of of effort sometimes to figure out what to do and get us all ready to go, but boy is it worth it when I see my girls eyes (and horizons) widening as they see and try new things, asking questions and taking it all in…  

Emma starts at her beloved preschool again this Friday, and we are all very excited about the new year beginning!  But we still have two years before she will be going to school "full time" (1st grade), and 4 years until Elsie and Delia reach that stage.  That’s quite awhile!   On rough days I will admit I am overwhelmed by that fact, but for the most part, I like the gradual pace that they will be introduced to the school environment and I am really excited about all the time we still have together, and all the projects, activities and outings we can try.   

***Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama

Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: 

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6 comments to Learning at Home: Are We All Homeschoolers?

  • I really need to read all your links about structuring your day, because we have nothing right now, and that’s where I trip up thinking about becoming homeschoolers (even unschoolers). I just feel like we’re so free-form we become stagnant and lazy too easily. So, thanks for the links and the thought they will give me!

    I am totally on the fence about schooling vs. not for the other reason you mention, too — having time again all day. Ahhh… Well, we’ll see!

    Thanks for this balanced post so I can think about how we could incorporate our homeschooling principles even if we do send Mikko to school.

  • Great post! I love your ideas about organising play activities into bags. It’s often useful to have something like that on hand for attacks of the “I’m bored”s.

  • I do a lot better with some structure to my day too. That’s the main reason I do the “weekly activity schedule” (posted on CNM on Thursdays) – not because I feel Kieran necessarily *needs* structured “learning” activities, but because having things on the schedule helps *me.* Plus, the teacher in me likes consciously incorporating learning into our daily life. (Read Alison @ Bluebird Mama’s post about quantifying learning – very interesting!)

  • loving the ideas of having a structured plan and activity bags; i’ll definitely be using those once we, too, are out of the baby stage!

  • Like your Emma, my daughter goes to preschool in the mornings. Still always on the look out for activities to keep her from asking for TV. Her dad is a TV addict and we have one TV in each room of our house plus the living room! Yayas or I really need to keep her busy to avoid TV temptation. I see that there are still some more activities we can do and I love that activity bag set-up!

  • Wow! There is SO MUCH information in this post! I think the most valuable thing for me is the idea of structuring days. It’s not something I enjoy doing, but I have certainly found that when I ‘plan’ a day or set goals I get a lot more done.

    Some of those projects look fantastic and I love the idea of activity bags. That’s brilliant!

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