Place and Space

In my high school journals, I often wrote about where I wanted to be when I grew up. Looking back on these entries with the distance of a decade, and the knowledge of what I’ve pursued in life, I am in awe that my essential self is still the same. It’s comforting, but it’s also empowering. It means that the person I became at 17 is still the person I am proud to be – just with more experience and more tools for how to accomplish the things I used to dream about from inside the decorated, forest green (my favorite color, then and now) walls of my high school bedroom.
From my high school journal: “When I think about ‘what I want to do’ when I graduate, I think of these things: I want to be the most approachable English teacher at an independent high school for unconventional young people, and I want to have a cabin on a lake with bookshelves everywhere filled with books, and I want to wake up every morning and find the passages I underlined in all my favorite books and remember what it felt like to be that age and read those words for the first time.”
Today, I live beside a river in a cottage full of books. I teach English at an independent high school for pretty cool young people (that’s you guys), and every morning, I wake up and flip through the passages I underlined ten years ago in my favorite books. I think about what it felt like to be 17 and reading those words for the first time.
In college, I learned about the concepts of Place and Space. Place was a physical location, while Space was an ambiance that could be evoked in a building or room. In a Place, one performed their public persona; in a Space, one could be their most private, interior self.
This reminded me of my high school bedroom – that place where I had engaged in journaling, daydreaming, painting, drawing, writing, singing, dancing – activities and rituals that gave the place a certain ambiance; that made it into a space.
I am writing these words in my office, the front room in my cottage. My desk faces the yard; the trees; the mountain. This is the room in which I design curriculum for the courses I teach through Oak Meadow; chat with students; communicate with my faculty peers; read submissions for my poetry journal; write these blog posts, and a hundred other outward-facing things.

Photo by Naomi Washer

On the ceiling of my office is a drop-down ladder that leads to a secret loft; intimate, with slanted walls. I can stand upright in the center, but otherwise have to crawl. Pillows and cushions line the floor. One wall is a balcony, overlooking the living room below. Against the railing are my bookshelves. Photographs of places I’ve lived and the people I’ve known line the slanted walls. On the exterior wall is a tiny square window looking out to the mountain and the yard, just above where I sit at my desk in my office below. Up here, I am curled into a nest; I am closer to the mountain; I have my books and mementos and journals scattered around me. Below, the office is light, bright, and open, inviting all the work I do that connects to the outside world. Above, I enter the interior space of my mind – the space where I dream up creative projects and muse over the big questions of life and the world, my beliefs, my values, and who I feel myself to be.
Photo by Naomi Washer

The place of my office and the space of my loft are both necessary for the work that I do as a teacher and a writer. But I have to wonder if I would have ever discovered that these were the best places and spaces for me if I hadn’t dreamed about them in high school.
High school is not only the time when you begin to state your goals and ambitions – it is also a crucial time to dream. It is the most important time in your life to ask essential questions about who you are, what you believe, and what kind of path you see yourself pursuing in life.
By “path,” I don’t just mean career. Careers are your public persona – your exterior self. You will accomplish great things in the public places of your careers – I’m sure of it. But if you allow yourself the space of interior dreaming, musing, and questioning, then you will also become a person you’ll be proud to be – someone who lives by the virtues you believe in.
Photo by Naomi Washer

You can’t know where you will be ten, fifteen, twenty years from now. If you did, that would take away half the fun of the discovery. But what you can do is think about the kind of place you want to be in; where you can be productive by offering your skills and knowledge to your community.
And you can think about the space you want to have around you: what kind of weather and landscape make you feel grounded and at home? Do you want trees and mountains around you, or skyscrapers? Do you want to live on the road, in a tiny house, an apartment building in a big city, or a rambling old country house on a farm? If you ask yourself these questions now, you’ll find out what kind of person you are, and the kind of person you’ll be down the road, when the dust has settled, and the air has cleared, and you open your eyes: what do you see?

Intention – Part One

Whenever a group of people are united in their intention and move forward together, manifestation is the natural outcome. By working together with your children, step by step, day by day, you will manifest the greatness that is within your children and yourself, and you will create new opportunities of growth for your family. – Lawrence and Bonnie Williams
Autumn is near and soon we will enter into the month of September. Many of your children have begun (or will soon begin) their Oak Meadow coursework. As you begin to guide your children in the next step of their educational journey, it is important to take a moment to reflect upon what it is you, as the home teachers, are providing for them. At the most basic level, you are helping your children with the learning process in the areas of language arts, mathematics, social studies and science, as well as in the creative arts. As we all know, offering these subjects as learning tools are very important. However, if you wish to make the most of this school year, you will need to recognize that you are doing more than just helping your children become knowledgeable in these areas. At a deeper level, you are enabling them to express their inner potential. The academic and artistic subjects are just the focal points you will use in the process.
What do I mean by “expressing one’s inner potential”? I am referring to how we take what is inside – what is not visible – and express it outside of ourselves, so that the whole world can see it. The process of transforming the inner into the outer is called manifestation. Oak Meadow believes that in order to manifest our children’s education successfully, certain steps must be followed. We need to have clear intention with our process and our goals. We need to clear time and space for focused learning. We need to give attention to the process. We also need to assess our progress daily and make adjustments.
For those of you who are in your first year working with Oak Meadow’s K-3 coursework, you have been provided with the book, The Heart of Learning, written by Oak Meadow’s founder, Lawrence Williams. If you have not yet begun reading this wealth of information, I highly encourage you to start now. For those of you have read it in previous years, I recommend that you reread it, particularly chapter 8 (“Working with Creative Tension”), chapter 10 (“Focus, Process, and Relationship”), and chapter 12 (“Creating Boundaries and Clear Communication”).
Rhythm is also an essential part of the learning process. We each have our own unique rhythm; however, this unique rhythm is but a minor embellishment upon the major common rhythms that we all share as human beings. The major common rhythms are a result of many factors that originate from within our bodies, such as our heartbeats or sleeping patterns, as well as from our external environment, such as the day/night rhythm and the seasons. If we are to be effective teachers, we must understand these rhythms and know how to use them in the learning process. Oak Meadow’s former Social Media Coordinator, Amanda Witman, posted a lovely article on “Rhythms, Routines and Rituals” in Oak Meadow’s blog. If you have not yet read this selection, you might like to add this to your beginning-of-the-new-year readings.

12 Ways to Support Student Independence and Autonomy in Learning

Homeschooling parents often ask how they can help their children learn to work independently. Independence is a skill that grows slowly and needs to be nurtured over time. Students need opportunities to repeatedly practice and gain confidence in their capabilities. They also need to know they can trust that an adult will be ready and available for support when they need it.
Here are some ways parents and teachers can foster independence in children.

  1. Have them help plan how to set up their homeschool space. “How would you like to organize your space? You know yourself well; what would work best for you?”
  1. Let them pick out their own supplies. “What do you need? What do you like?”
  1. Give the student control over what they will learn. “What would you like to study? What are you interested in learning more about?” Help them understand educational requirements and encourage them to come up with ways to meet them.
  1. Help them develop the range of possible options. Listen when they have suggestions. “What other possibilities could we consider? Can you think of anything else?”
  1. Support different ways of demonstrating knowledge. Brainstorm possibilities with the student, let them choose, and then hold them accountable for their choices. “How would you like to share what you’ve learned?”
  1. Encourage them to use a planner or calendar. Provide one and show them how to use it. “You’re very capable. Let me show you how you can remind yourself what needs to be done.”
  1. Keep the schedule flexible. Let them tell you what they would like to do when. “What do you need to accomplish today? How will you make sure those things get done before tomorrow?”
  1. Encourage them to play outdoors. Playing on their own can help foster a sense of independence in children. “Go play outside! I know you can keep yourself occupied. It’s fun to be independent. If you need my support, you can ask.”
  1. Let the student define their own goals. Don’t demand perfection. Ask questions like, “What standards do you have for yourself?” “How accurate do you think this needs to be?” and “Are you satisfied with your progress?”
  1. Guide them; don’t direct them. Don’t tell them how to do things. “I trust you to figure that out on your own. Let me know if you need help.”
  1. Ask open-ended questions. Listen attentively to the answers they offer. “What do you make of this? What are your thoughts?”
  1. Let them learn from their attempts. Don’t correct them right away. Ask them, “How did things go? Could you make it better somehow? What do you think?”

What other ways can you think of to nurture independence in your homeschooled child?

Shedding the Schedule Shackles

1Mama in the stocks
It’s that time of year when many home teachers feel overtaxed in balancing home schooling with holiday events and activities. Oak Meadow’s K-8 teacher, Michelle Menegaz, shares whimsical words on beating the over-scheduled blues. So read on… and don’t get shackled by your homeschool schedule!
Ever feel shackled by the stockade of your child’s schedule? Do you feel locked up by all the appointments and lessons and experiences you so lovingly planned? Has the sweet scent of the spicy and free autumn air been replaced by the smell of your car’s heater? Do you wonder if you have traded the freedom of homeschooling for the incarceration of enrichment? Are you becoming a prisoner of your own choices?
I have. I do. I am!
So, well, hmmmm…how interesting. What to do? You could just blog about it and present some answers you have no intention or ability to implement. You could revamp your entire curriculum, choose a different path, or just decide that you might as well send the kid to school since you are tied to the school schedule with all those after school lessons anyway. You could just accept it and carry on.
Or…you could try this. Slow down. I did not say give up your activities (though that would be the logical, but not pain-free choice) and stay home.
Just slow down. Take longer over the basics. Remember when parenting was about feeding, comforting, and wiping…lots and lots of wiping? Guess what – it still is. If you can find even one or two times a day to sink more deeply into cooking breakfast with your child at your side, or ponder the weather with your children as they careen around the kitchen, or wipe with purpose and pride while deftly handing your child a rag so he can wipe pridefully, too, you may find that time actually ssssstttttrrrrrretttttches a bit. Just a bit, but in that short sweet moment, you may catch a whiff of holiday spice. Breathe it in and savor it before you rush off to whatever is next. There is magic and power in that small piece of time, which can sweeten the rest of the day.
Do this as often as you remember, but not more.

Homeschool Rhythms

What do you think of when you hear the term, homeschool rhythms? It could mean many things, but for each family, the homeschooling rhythms will be unique as they segue into personal school lessons and extracurricular activities. As you establish a rhythm for your family, keep in mind that it should never be a burden, nor end up as a forced schedule. It is meant to be a sequence of simple activities that is beneficial and frees the home teacher from constant decision making. The most significant goal in creating a homeschool rhythm is to use it as an aid in bringing quality to your family life.

Rhythms within each day, week, month, season, and year are an important aspect of the homeschooling family. The daily rhythm could be as simple as doing morning chores, eating breakfast and engaging in circle time activities before diving into schoolwork; taking a daily walk after lunch, before beginning the afternoon lessons; setting the table and helping with dinner preparations; and settling in for the evening and reading a chapter book together as a family.

Weekly rhythms could consist of painting on Mondays, baking bread on Tuesdays, visiting extended family or friends on Wednesdays, enjoying family game night on Thursdays, and helping to clean the house on Fridays.

The monthly rhythm might include taking a full moon walk with the family or choosing a specific day each month to do a service for others in need. The yearly rhythm might focus on seasonal festivals, holidays, birthdays and other special events. Perhaps your family enjoys sharing seasonal poetry or songs together, or reading stories and books that correlate with the yearly holidays and festivals.

As a homeschooling family, it’s important to live fully in the moment. However, maintaining a balance between the present moment and the scheduled activities is the key to a vibrant and healthy family life. An essential part of this balance exists between active and quiet times. It offers times alone and times to share with others. It also provides times to focus on the family, as well as work at building community with other families and community members who share similar values.

Here are more articles about finding your homeschool rhythms:

Organizing Your Homeschool Day

Many parents wonder how best to organize their time when using Oak Meadow or other homeschooling curriculum. There is no one right way to approach homeschool planning, so go at it with an open mind! Try something that appeals to you, then fine-tune your process as you discover what works well for you and your children.

It can be helpful and calming for children and parents to have a predictable daily routine. Start by sketching out a typical week. First lay down the daily basics. When does your day begin? When do you and your children normally rise in the morning, eat meals, and tuck in at night? Do you have specific habits that help your children “get ready” when they wake up in the morning or wind down before bedtime? Time for meal preparation and cleanup is also important.

Be sure to preserve space for these important daily rituals. Plan sufficient time in your day for necessary housework. What daily tasks are needed to keep your household gently humming? Can some be done by or with the help of a child? Are there responsibilities that can only be handled by an adult while children are otherwise occupied? Setting aside time for these things in your routine helps ensure that they will not get pre-empted. When enough time is available for housework and other essential tasks, academic learning can then proceed in a relaxed and unhurried way.

Perhaps you are already aware of a default rhythm as you and your children go about the day. If not, tune in for a few days and observe any patterns. When thinking about your schedule, consider the default rhythm that is already happening as well as any changes or habits that you’d like to foster. Remember that you can choose how firmly or loosely to adhere to your routine. Some children need by-the-clock structure to feel calm, safe, and centered. Some families need an element of flexibility in every single day to accommodate regular moving pieces or unknowns, but having a default schedule helps even very flexible families stay on track with their priorities. Having a well-thought out daily routine lays the foundation for success in all other daily endeavors.

Activities and Down Time
After you have mapped out the daily basics, think about your family’s outside commitments and how they fit into the week. Be sure to factor in travel and transition time before and after out-of-home activities. If an activity conflicts with the fundamentals already in place in your schedule, consider whether it would be best to shift the timing of a basic component on that one day, or in general across the entire week. You might find that as long as dinner happens within certain range of time each day, nobody complains. Or it may make sense to have dinner or naptime happen at the same time every day to cement the routine.

Some scheduling adjustments are best avoided because the change upsets the family’s routine enough to cause more stress than the activity justifies. This can bring up challenging questions about priorities and how to best meet the needs of everyone in the family at once. Keep in mind that a great plan on paper is sometimes not a good fit in practice, and this may not become apparent until you’ve given it a try. Homeschool scheduling is an ever-shifting process. You’ll make adjustments along the way as you discover what each person in the family needs most.

Exercise, fresh air, and expansive time in nature help tremendously to balance the focused attention that is often needed for academics. Plan daily time for free play or other unstructured activities, ideally at the same time each day. Down time is also very important. Many families find that a daily mid-day period of quiet time helps both children and adults recharge and recenter themselves, so do your best to set aside time to make this a habit.

There are many possible ‘right’ ways to organize your homeschool day, week, month, and year. Your family’s schedule will reflect its uniqueness and individuality. With a solid approach to planning and scheduling, homeschooling doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

With household and family routines and the less flexible activities in place in your schedule (even tentatively), the next step is to make regular time for academic planning. Some parents prepare their academic plan monthly or even yearly, but it is important to revisit it regularly and to include your child in the process. Set aside a dedicated time each week to look over your homeschooling materials and curriculum and figure out what needs to be accomplished in the coming week. Make a list of materials needed and gather them together. Set things up so that you feel as prepared as possible before the week begins.

As children get older, consider sitting down with them once a week to look at the coming week’s plan and discuss what needs to happen and when. Sometimes our children have insights into their own habits and capabilities that will help ensure a successful plan. In time, students who are in the habit of a weekly planning session may be able to manage it on their own, or at least begin a to-do list themselves before finalizing it with a parent.

Visual tools can be very helpful. Some families create a weekly assignment sheet with checkboxes so that each student can easily see what needs to be done and mark things off as they are completed. For others, a large chalkboard or whiteboard is the best tool for listing daily or weekly assignments, along with reminders of other important weekly responsibilities or events.

Preparing your schedule is like laying out a custom patchwork quilt. Continue moving the pieces around until they fit together just right. Over time you’ll hone and create a good flow for each day.

When the fundamentals are in place in your schedule, and you’ve included time for planning and outside activities, it’s time to work out in detail how academic time will be spent.

Identify regular times for focusing on academic learning and practice. It may take some trial and error to figure out how much time you need to block off for academics in each day or week. If you are unsure, start by reserving more time than you think you need, particularly if you’re still figuring out each family member’s inner rhythm.

In the younger grades (K-3), many families start their day with Circle Time. This can become a wonderful ritual that everyone looks forward to. It is an opportunity for sharing a verse, poem, song, or story as a family. Some families also integrate yoga, dance, a thought question, or the cultivation of gratitude. Circle Time can be as long or as brief as your child can tolerate – just long enough to be a positive experience. If it’s not working well, change it!

For older children who have outgrown the concept of Circle Time, devise another way to connect each morning. Use that opportunity to discuss the plan for the day. This might be as simple as chatting over breakfast or checking in with each other en route to a scheduled morning activity. Make it a point to touch base with your child in some way each morning to go over the day’s plan and affirm your connection with each other.

Each Oak Meadow curriculum lesson is designed to be completed over the course of one week and contains an assignment summary in each subject, which can be used to create a checklist for each lesson. Some families choose to do something in every subject every day. Other families prefer to use block scheduling, focusing exclusively on one or two subjects for a day or more at a time, or “loop scheduling,” where you attend to subjects one by one in a chosen order, returning to the top of the list once you’ve completed the loop. You can read more about these different approaches here. You might come up with another approach that will work even better for your child.

Consider how long your child can focus before he or she needs a break. Students and parents both benefit from the opportunity to switch gears when needed. Academics can be strategically woven around active play and down time to make learning time as efficient as possible. If you believe you will need more time for academics than you have in your schedule, consider ways to multitask. Depending on the ages and abilities of your children, you may be able to overlap different kinds of activities.

For example, you might have a period of time during which a child is working on academics in the kitchen while you prepare a meal. Or you might have a focused academic session with an older child while a younger one naps. If you have multiple children with various needs, consider engaging extra hands—a neighbor, grandparent, or friend—to help you succeed.

One of the great joys of homeschooling is having the opportunity to follow a custom-fit schedule. There are many good possible ways to organize your homeschool time, so go ahead, make a plan, and give it a try. Do the best you can, allow for flexibility where needed, and trust in the process. You’ll soon figure out what works best for your family!

10 Ways to Include Heart in Your Homeschooling

1. Maintain your focus when giving your attention to your child. In today’s world, most of us find our attention divided, scattered in all directions. Giving your full attention to your child is one of the best ways you can support his or her learning.

2. Use humor as much as possible. Be silly, tell jokes, let your children know you delight in their laughter and smiles!

3. Understand your child’s individual learning style. What kind of learner is your child? Does he or she process information best in a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic way? Do you have multiple children with different learning styles? Figure out how you can make learning most easily accessible to each child.

4. Establish rhythms that are comfortable for you and your child. Rhythms and routines encourage a predictable and comforting flow to life and learning.

5. Slow down. Allow time for spontaneous discoveries, whim-driven creations, and heartfelt conversations. Remind yourself and your child that life is worth taking time to savor. Homeschooling allows us the flexibility for that, so why not?

6. Practice good self-care. Expect your children to do the same. We are most ready and able to do our job (as parents) and learn new things (as students) when our fundamental needs are well met. Make sure you and your child both have enough sleep, physical activity, healthy nourishment, emotional support, and opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation.

7. Be gentle with your child and yourself. Ride out the challenges with grace and optimism. Understand that some days will be easier than others.

8. Stay sensitive to your child’s perspective. Even wishes that cannot be accommodated can still be validated. Your children may have insights into their own selves that can help you better understand how best to support them on the journey.

9. Do your best and let that be enough. There is no such thing as “perfect” homeschooling! Lead by example as you accept yourself and your shortcomings. Show your child that making mistakes and rising up to try again are essential parts of learning.

10. Let love lead every interaction you have with your child. Let your love for your children be unconditional, so that they are free to explore and experiment as they learn, without fear of rejection. Let your homeschooling journey begin and end with love.

Rhythms, Routines, Rituals

Rhythms, routines, and rituals help us stay centered and on track as homeschooling parents. They enable our children to relax and feel secure because they know what to expect each day. A thoughtful routine allows us to focus our energy in one area at a time, knowing that other essential areas will not be neglected. Establishing a rhythm removes some of the guesswork, giving us a ready answer to the question, “What comes next?”

Well-established rhythms help us manage the ebb and flow of homeschooling and free our remaining energy to deal with the unexpected. We can focus on schoolwork knowing that there is time set aside for outside play. We can make a last-minute visit to the park knowing what time frame will still allow us to get dinner on the table. We can go about our day confident that routine tasks will be remembered and taken care of.

It may take some time to uncover the rhythms, routines, and rituals that work best for your family. Keep trying until you find your way. Once you have some ideas, post them someplace visible in a form that everyone can understand (with simple words or pictures for younger children) so that the whole family knows what to expect.
Here are some ideas as you seek to find and refine the rhythm that works for you:

Morning: Observing daily rituals and following a routine helps to center and calm us as we begin the day. It can be as simple as first opening the curtains to let in the morning sun, feeding the cat, preparing a cup of something delicious, and then sitting down in a favorite chair for a contemplative moment before the day’s work begins.

Modeling a morning rhythm for our children by having one for ourselves is a powerful example. Some children wake slowly, while others greet the day with every ounce of exuberance. How can you support your child’s inner rhythm and incorporate it into your expectations for the day?

Circle time is a time-honored tradition in Waldorf-inspired education and is part of Oak Meadow’s curriculum for younger learners. Some families begin with an opening verse, read a poem, share a song, do a fingerplay or game, and end with a closing verse. Oak Meadow curriculum contains content and ideas for circle time.

For some families, this will feel just right. For others, circle time may need to feel very different — shorter and more active, or more fluid and less structured, or with completely different elements. The exact content is less important than the act of sharing a ritual to focus your attention together as you start your day. Some families incorporate stretching or yoga into their morning circle. Some find other ways of sharing and connection. With some trial and error, you will figure out what works for your family.

Daily and Weekly: What is your family’s energy like on Mondays? Some families like to jump in and start the week with a burst of fresh motivation. Others regularly need post-weekend transition time and hit their peak productivity mid-week. Does it work best for you to work intensely and then rest thoroughly, or sprinkle learning and play together in a more spontaneous way?

Daily routines are one way to ensure that everything gets done and nothing is forgotten, which can be a great help when there are many tasks and needs to keep track of. Housework can be done with the children’s help. When everyone is working together as a team, it can help motivate participants who might be reluctant.

If your family is quite busy with outside activities during the week, consider blocking off one day each week in which you all stay home. If there is a day when nobody has to go anywhere, it allows the opportunity for uninterrupted down time and relaxation. You might even declare this a “pajama day” to honor children who prefer their pajamas and would love a celebrated reason to stay in them once in awhile.

Are your weekends different from your weekdays? Do you have any recurring components to your weekend, such as a late brunch, a family activity, or the observance of faith traditions? If your week already has a predictable basic rhythm, start with that and build around it.

Homework, Housework: When are your children most focused and ready to learn? When do they seem to need rest or down time? When do they burst with physical energy and need to play outside? When are they drawn to be quietly independent?

Keep a thoughtful eye on the emotional state of the household and be willing to be flexible. You might find that the order of activities matters most, rather than the exact start time of a recurring activity. The best routines are the ones that can sway and stretch as needed to accommodate the shifting needs of the family.

Oak Meadow’s curriculum is designed with flexibility in mind. One lesson can be completed in a week if desired, but there are other approaches that also work well. Some families spread lessons in all subjects evenly through the week. Others choose to do “block scheduling,” which might mean focusing on one subject per day or one subject per term. One of the most wonderful things about homeschooling is its inherent adaptability to the needs of those involved.

If you have multiple children, you may need to arrange your day so that they get your one-on-one attention at different times. You may be able to arrange for older children (or another helper) to engage with one child while you work with another. If that is not an option, a mother’s helper (perhaps an older homeschooler or a retired friend) can be a boon.

Can weekly chores be scheduled for a predictable day? It may work best to start (or end) your week with a family effort to tidy up the house. It can be helpful to pin a weekly activity to a particular day (such as Tidy-Up Tuesday). Another example of a chore that can be simplified with a recurring weekly theme is meal planning. The less time you have to spend thinking about what comes next, the more easily you can dive in and accomplish it.

Evening: Do you have a ritual for gathering the family for dinner? This might mean having children take turns setting the table, lighting a candle once everyone is present, and observing a quiet moment of gratitude before beginning the meal. Some families enjoy a tradition of word or number games over dinner, and others take turns telling what they learned or enjoyed about their day. Even young children can take pride in helping to clear the table after the meal.

In the evening, do you foster a sense of calm as the day winds down? What would that look like in your home? In some families, evening can be somewhat chaotic, with a parent arriving home from work, older children going to and from evening activities, a kitchen flurry that hopefully results in a good dinner, and everyone’s energy in fragments after the long day. As parents, we steer the family ship. Ending the day on a calm shore is a gift we give our children and ourselves.

Making It Happen: Experiment with what you imagine might work for your family, observe the results, and make adjustments through trial and error. Ask your children for their ideas and suggestions. If you get stuck, consider a Homeschool Support consultation with Oak Meadow’s experienced teacher.

There are no right or wrong ways to do this. Continue to embrace the things that work, and gently let go of the things that don’t. By incorporating routines and rhythm into our homeschooling lives, we help ourselves and our families remain centered and keep our homeschool plans running smoothly throughout the year.

How Do You Do It All? – Part II

“I don’t know how homeschooling families do it all.”
“I like the idea of homeschooling, but I could never do it all.”
“I can’t even imagine how you do it all.”
“How DO you do it all?”

Do it all?!!
In Part I, we explored the academic side of “doing it all” — finding support, planning carefully, and keeping expectations realistic. In Part II, we take a look the equally

Photo credit: Lugo Family. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Lugo Family. Oak Meadow archives.

important non-academic side of things: running the home, the importance of routine, getting your own needs met, and staying connected as a family.
Homeschooling families are particularly sensitive to housework and other issues because we tend to spend more time in our homes than families who spend their days out at work and school. Do all you can to simplify housework or make it more efficient. Finding ways for each family member to help out as part of the daily routine can help to ease the load.
Make chores a regular part of each child’s day and learning. Plan meals in advance to simplify grocery shopping and meal preparation. Foster independence. Older children can help younger ones accomplish routine tasks. Limiting each member to one cup, one bowl, one plate, and teaching everyone to wash their own after meals can simplify dishes. Even small children can help sort laundry if clothing tags are marker-coded for each family member (one spot for the oldest child, two spots for the next-oldest, etc.) Does all the underwear really need folding? Choose your challenges wisely and let go of the rest.
Routines and Rhythms
Are you worried about feeling overwhelmed? Predictable rhythms help families stay on track and thrive. Routines help ensure that the important things get done automatically without being bogged down in deliberation or negotiation. Establish set times for academics, rest, housework, and play (but always keep your expectations flexible). Take the time to post a plan for your day and week that all family members can reference. Use pictures instead of words so non-readers will know what to expect. Revisit and adjust your plan as you get a sense of what works best for your family.
Predictable rhythms can help family members feel a sense of pride and ownership in the home. In our family, we light a candle at the dinner table; the child whose turn it is to set and clear the table also enjoys the privilege of lighting and blowing out the candle. Weave together work and play, rest and responsibility, throughout the day to keep everyone feeling refreshed.
Down Time
In many households, time feels tight and everyone always seems to be on the go. Many families fill all or most of their children’s available time with academics, enrichment, and social activities. These things are important, but unstructured time is also very important in a child’s development and deserves a fair share of each day.
Photo credit: Brenda Callahan. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Brenda Callahan. Oak Meadow archives.

Let your child have regular periods of time without structure or expectations. Set up indoor and outdoor spaces for safe open-ended creative play and investigation, and let children follow their whim, however “aimless” it might seem. Boredom is to be embraced; spin it as an opportunity, not a burden. Children who are not accustomed to unstructured playtime may need compassionate adult encouragement, but they will figure it out.
Self Care
Homeschooling depends on strong, healthy parental involvement. What do you need? Be sure you get what you need to recharge regularly, even if that happens piecemeal. Fit in little forms of self care throughout the day — fresh air, exercise, rest, healthy eating, a change in scenery, social support, and some time devoted to relationships and/or hobbies. Many of these needs are possible to meet with children, and your children will learn self care from your example.
Many homeschooling parents also find it essential to have some time completely alone or in the company of adult friends. If you have multiple children, even going out with “just the baby” can be a nice break. Also give your spousal relationship the nurturing it deserves. It is very important to nourish ourselves so that we are able to meet the needs of our children.
Parenting and Staying Connected
Parenting is an integral part of homeschooling, in contrast to the division between parenting and education that occurs in conventional schooling. Take the time to address parenting issues promptly as they come up. Dovetail life skills and interpersonal skills with academic skills. Reassess daily where your child is most in need of support, and let that guide your approach for the day. Persistence, consistency, patience, and gentle repetition are valuable parenting investments that will pay off over time.
Homeschooling allows for constant physical presence, but emotional connectedness is an additional layer that deserves thoughtful care. Make it a point to regularly to connect with your child (and your partner) in ways that matter to both of you — without dividing your attention or multitasking. A little one-on-one attention can go a long way. If that is not possible, the book The Five Love Languages of Children can help you identify the kind of attention that will go the furthest with your child.
Express appreciation to your children, your partner, and the adults who help support your children, for their roles in your homeschooling endeavors. A set the expectation that you deserve appreciation for your own efforts. Successful homeschooling is a collaborative effort in which every family member plays a part. Make opportunities to celebrate yourselves and your accomplishments as a family whenever you can.
Working and Homeschooling
If you are balancing working and homeschooling, staying connected can feel like a super-sized challenge. (Many families do succeed at this, even with both parents working regularly.) Oak Meadow’s curriculum is designed to offer many opportunities to be flexible with schooling around other scheduling demands.
If you are splitting your time between work and homeschooling, use any flexibility you might have to keep things flowing as smoothly as possible for you and your family. Consider enlisting the help of a loving friend or family member, another homeschooling family, or a homeschooled teen to help nurture your child’s learning while you are working. Or get outside help with housework and other tasks so you can focus your attention directly on your child when you are available.
Aligning Your Expectations
Photo credit: Wolf-Frazier Family. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Wolf-Frazier Family. Oak Meadow archives.

Successful homeschooling families discuss and list their priorities, and focus on the top ones while letting the lesser ones go. Focus on your family’s highest priorities and make peace with the rest. Take care of yourself and nurture the connections within your family to avoid burnout. Make sure everyone in the family gets sufficient down time.
There is no one right way to live a homeschooling life, and (thankfully) there are many right ways to “do it all.” What elements and outcomes are most important to your family? Do not be afraid to align your expectations to your family’s capabilities. By tuning into your own family’s needs and crafting a personal definition of what “doing it all” means, you will succeed.

How Do You Do It All? – Part I

“I don’t know how homeschooling families do it all.”
“I like the idea of homeschooling, but I could never do it all.”
“I can’t even imagine how you do it all.”
“How DO you do it all?”

Do it all?!!
What does that mean? What exactly do homeschooling families do all day, and how do parents manage the needs of their children along with their other responsibilities?

Photo credit: Tania Spencer. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Tania Spencer. Oak Meadow archives.

Every family is different, so there is a wide range of possible responses to those questions. Here are a few insights into some possibilities.
Incorrect Assumptions
How do you find the time? Those who have not navigated homeschooling firsthand may have some incorrect assumptions about what homeschooling requires. They might think that, like a classroom teacher, the homeschooling parent must teach on their feet while their children sit at desks for five or more hours a day. It’s understandable that some would think this; Western culture doesn’t give much support for other models of learning. But homeschooling brings a great deal of flexibility.
Get Out and Socialize!
How do you meet your child’s social needs? Some people make the assumption that homeschooling happens entirely between parent and child at home. But this approach would exhaust many parents and bore many children!
Spending time with one’s parents is not equivalent to spending time with one’s peers. Institutional (public or private) school allows students to interact conveniently with numerous other students over the course of the school day, making school seem like a sort of one-stop-social-shop for same-aged children.
In contrast, most homeschoolers spend a good deal of time socializing out in the world, interacting with their community in various ways and learning from myriad interpersonal interactions. It often doesn’t take much effort to find a social niche through activities, hobbies, or interests shared between your child and other community members. Sometimes it takes persistence and creativity to make these connections.
If parents were the only source of social engagement, homeschooling would be a dull (and exhausting) proposition, indeed. And many parents would find it to be completely unsustainable. It’s a good thing there are other options!
Community Support
How do you teach everything? Many parents find support and relief in local homeschool groups that meet formally or informally to share teaching, learning, resources, planning tools, and ideas. This can help the load feel lighter. Some groups have parents take turns leading or organizing cooperative classes that shift with the needs of the students. If you have hard time finding a homeschooling group in your area, check with your local library (historically a great connecting hub for homeschoolers) or ask the state Department of Education if they can provide a list of contacts.
Photo credit: Phyllis Meredith. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Phyllis Meredith. Oak Meadow archives.

If there is no group near you, reach out and start your own! Your librarian, faith community, or local school officials (if they are supportive of homeschooling) may be able to connect you with other homeschooling families with similar needs. You might hang some posters, publish a blurb or ad in the local paper, or see if your town hosts an Internet bulletin board where you can post an inquiry. You can also reach out to find local families through Oak Meadow’s Facebook page.
Some parents also engage tutors, enroll their child in select classes, or cultivate mentor relationships to help with subjects they are less comfortable teaching.
Yearly Planning
How do you ensure your child meets long-term goals? One important aspect of the homeschooling version of “doing it all” is academics. Planning is key, especially if you have an eclectic approach that draws from a variety of sources to round out your curriculum. Your town or state may have an outline available that reflects grade-appropriate expectations. Oak Meadow offers a complete curriculum package for each grade level, making it easy to ensure that your child is getting all of the essentials each year. Our grade overviews also provide a great scope and sequence to follow for those who are designing their own curriculum.
Setting and reaching yearly educational goals may sound like a tall order, but there is support available. Talk with other parents to find out what they have done, or connect with them via social media channels. Oak Meadow’s distance learning school gives parents professional planning support throughout the year, and support is also available for unenrolled families.
If your state requires end-of-year documentation, it’s important to have a good system in place for collecting that documentation so that you or someone else can make sense of it at the end of the year. The first year of documentation is usually the hardest; once you have gotten through the first year’s submissions, subsequent years will be routine. If you are in the U.S. and unsure what your state requires from homeschoolers, check the HSLDA website.
If you expect your child will experience a stretch of homeschooling followed by a stretch of public schooling and you want your child to be on target for smooth academic entry into the public school, you may want to take the public school’s academic pace into account when planning your year.
Weekly and Daily Planning
How do you stay on top of all of the details? How can you manage the day-to-day and still meet your goals by year’s end? Careful planning is important to maximize your time. Your plan will depend on your expectations, your style (relaxed or structured), your child’s personality and preferences, your ability or willingness to be flexible, and the pace expected by your state or local authorities.
Here is where the concept of “rhythm” comes in. A short burst of quality academic engagement with your child will have more benefit than hours of detached disorganization. Take some time to observe your family’s natural patterns. When is each family member’s energy the highest, attention span the longest, interest in learning the most engaged? What non-academic tasks are essential in each day and need to be planned around? Allow these insights to inform a general daily rhythm that will help you get through each day and accomplish the year’s goals in day-sized bits.
Photo credit: Tania Spencer. Oak Meadow archives.
Photo credit: Tania Spencer. Oak Meadow archives.

Think also about your weekly and yearly commitments. Consider pockets of time in your week that can be used for academics. Craft a weekly rhythm that honors this ebb and flow. Some families enjoy diving right into academics first thing Monday morning and taking it easy on Fridays. Others find it works best to go slow on Mondays and hit their stride midweek.
Some families homeschool six or seven days a week; others four or five. Some homeschool year-round, while others focus on academics only through the traditional school year and take summers off. Some families take a break from academics for the entire month of December. You have the freedom to make your homeschooling schedule fit your family’s lifestyle.
Aligning Expectations with Reality
What does “doing it all” mean to you? Homeschooling is a process of constant revisiting and adjustment. Don’t be afraid to do some trial-and-error to find what works best for you and your child. If you try a particular approach and it feels overwhelming, adjust your expectations and try again. Ask other parents what works for them. Ask your children for their input. You may be surprised at their thoughtful responses! Phone counseling is available from Oak Meadow for those who would like experienced guided help creating a homeschooling rhythm. Keep your expectations realistic and trust that you can do this!
In Part II, we will explore the non-academic side of what “doing it all” means for homeschoolers.