• leighmcswan

How We Homeschool

Our first official homeschooling blog…here it is! Before we dive into what 3-4 weeks of homeschooling has looked like for us, I have to share a little piece of advice that ultimately saved my sanity and allowed me to lean into our unique way of homeschooling. Use this (and every other blog post you read on the subject) as inspiration only. Don’t try to duplicate what we do or use it as a ‘curriculum template.’ I caught myself doing this when I first started homeschooling the boys and it left me anxious, feeling inadequate and putting unnecessary pressure on my kids.



Homeschooling, like all things holistic, should be customized to what works for you and your family. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ approach in my opinion. As long as your kids are engaged, curious and happy, you’re doing it right. Here’s the most important piece- you should be happy homeschooling your kids, too. If you’re not, change it up and find your happy zone. Does this mean every activity or adventure goes to plan without big emotions- absolutely not. Sometimes things just don’t work out. There will be days when your kids are feeling big emotions deeply and the day isn’t teachable- that’s ok. Spend that day connecting, slowing down and tuning into the needs of your child(ren). Removing rigidness and allowing for flexibility has also been a way for me to continue enjoying the process.



We take an ‘unschooling’ approach to educating our kids. This means we remove things like testing, chairs, grades, the 9-3 model and instead allow the kids to move freely, come to their own conclusions, discover new methods, and learn and grow at their own pace. We celebrate failures, spend more time on areas the kids are interested in (versus trying to ‘catch them up' in areas they struggle) and listen closely to what piques curiosity.



We prioritize fun and mental/emotional well-being over everything else. Some days are us lounging on the couch with Nat Geo on or going for a walk around our property and the days events that I originally planned go out the window.



Other days end up going into the evening because the kids continue exploring and want to continue learning, discovering and have the best questions that we explore together. Sometimes teachable moments are spur of the moment. Sometimes we have time to dive deeply into those moments, sometimes we don’t. Homeschooling has taught me to be ok with less and its taught me the value of doing less to learn more. Again, happiness and fun (for me and the kids) is the goal every day. It’s also taught me Jump Math pairs well with burgers, fries and a sun-drenched patio.



The other aspect of my approach to child-led homeschooling is embracing the simple. You’ll notice as you read through this blog that learning happens effortlessly with day-to-day activities so long as you’re bringing attention and intention to those activities. A lot of our days are spent doing day-to-day things like cooking, cleaning, shopping, working around the house and taking care of things outdoors like chopping wood, stacking it, cutting the grass and so on.



We bring the boys into every aspect of our adult lives that they find interesting. Sometimes that’s going to the post office, paying bills, helping us with our businesses and checking out our stock market portfolios. It’s extremely child-led and works well for us.



Lastly, I want to highlight that not everything we do is captured and recorded. I try to snap photos when possible but I’ve also discovered the joy in being free from my phone and fully engaged with the kids, learning and exploring alongside them. The days I’m fully disconnected are the best days and as much as I wish I had those moments documented, I’m grateful that I have the connection and time with my children, just the 3 of us. That being said, not everything we have done over the last 3-4 weeks is in this blog post. Nor will everything we do in the coming homeschool blogs will showcasing all of our experiences but again, use what we do as inspiration, find the simplicity in it and create something that fits you and your child(ren).



I decided to organize the content in the following way since you may be coming here looking for one particular topic or subject. These subjects may evolve over time, but this is currently how we’re set up and how I plan a loose schedule*. You can also find links to some of the resources we use when it applies.

Math- Jump Math

Science- Pinterest, online searches, day-to-day life

Social Studies (this includes geography, history and politics)- Teachers Pay Teachers, The Library

Language Arts- The Good and Beautiful, Gratitude Journals, Nature Journals

Music- YouTube, free exploration (independent play/learning). They also do an Art & Music camp some weeks which is run by a family in our HS community.

Arts & Crafts- Pinterest, Grandparents** and The Good and Beautiful

Spanish- YouTube

Homesteading/Nature Bundle- anything and everything: repairing, renovations, gardening, cooking, fermenting, etc. I purchased a fantastic bundle with multiple content creators contributing resources in September. Unfortunately this bundle is no longer available, although it may be again. Keep an eye on a homeschooling Mama I adore, Monique Willms (on Instagram monique.willms AKA Wonder House Creative). She makes really great printable resources that I often purchase. One of my favourites is her Scientific Method worksheets. We use them every week.

Sports- this happens all the time in my house! It doesn’t get scheduled for that reason. It just happens. The kids are in Muay Thai which they do 2 times a week. In the winter they’ll be in skinning and snowboarding lessons. In the summer they do swimming and soccer. They also play everything under the sun at home. The homeschool community I’m a part of typically has an event once a week which we work into our schedule depending on the day it’s being held. Use Facebook to find a group in your areas- there are so many!

**My Mom helps me out with this one when she’s with the kids or comes for a visit. Arts & Crafts are the bane of my existence so I don’t do them too often with the kids. Luckily, other people can pick up what I lack and that’s been extremely helpful. If you don’t have someone who can help you in the areas you dislike or struggle in utilize YouTube and allow those ‘subjects’ to be more free-range (example: I have tons of craft supplies the kids can use at their leisure but you won’t find me leading a craft too often).



I’ll break down how the week looks (on paper, not necessarily how it unfolds) since I found it extremely helpful and inspiring to see how other family’s planned their ‘lessons.’


The Week, at a glance:


Monday and Tuesday the boys go to a fantastic day camp on a farm. They’re with a ton of friends, exploring nature, caring for animals and building things like goat ramps.



It’s almost exclusively outdoors so the learning opportunities are endless. They come home happy, exhausted and full of stories… it’s a great combo. On those days we take the rest of the day to connect as a family. We’ll typically spend time reading together, play an after-dinner board game or just relax, cooking dinner together and that’s it- super simple.



Wednesday


Morning (inside, outside, doesn’t matter, whatever the weather permits and wherever they kids want to be).


1. Gratitude Journal


2. Read Aloud. We’re currently reading The Wild Robot Escapes. Past books have included Harry Potter, Charlotte’s Web, A Wrinkle in Time, The Wild Robot, Tom Sawyer and more.


I allow the kids to do whatever they want while I read to them. They’re free to draw, play with Lego’s, lay down, close their eyes, jump on the trampoline… whatever feels good for them at the time. This is typically 20 minutes or so. Sometimes they want a turn reading but it’s typically me reading to them.


3. Jump Math. I love these workbooks so much. My kids enjoy them too! This is very much independent work. If there’s a concept they’re struggling with, I’ll do a mini lesson. If your children are just starting to learn the fundamentals of mathematics (adding, subtracting, multiplication and division), I highly recommend getting an abacus. This was the only tool my kids required to learn the basics. It was something I purchased before homeschooling but it was one of the best resources. You can find them second hand for a few dollars too. We haven’t felt we needed to purchase any other tool. Everything else math related can be found in your home (often in the kitchen!).


Afternoon


4. Language Arts. I’m usually fully present for this subject with my kids since it’s not an area they’re strong in. I follow the Good and Beautiful curriculum for this because it tells you exactly what to say to your child. This is perfect for green homeschoolers! I will say that the G&B curriculum is faith-based but if that’s not for you (I choose to skim over the religious teachings and replace certain ‘powers’ with Universe or Mother Nature), it’s easily avoidable. An aspect of G&B language arts is poetry. This has helped my older son with flow. He quickly became a better reader, pacing himself appropriately since we introduced the poetry readings.


5. Music or Spanish- whatever they feel most inclined to do that day. If one child wants to do music and the other Spanish, it’s easy to accommodate those desires. I found a YouTube channel on YouTube Kids with easy Spanish lessons. We will watch a section of a long video and practice those words, writing them down on paper and sticking them to objects etc.


6. Independent Reading for 20 minutes. This is really important for me because this is the time I use to plan for the next day or week. I’ll print off resources, save videos, research plans or ideas and build from there based on what my kids are interested in. During this time, it doesn’t matter to me what they’re reading. The love of reading is a value I want to instil in my boys so it’s just about building a relationship with literature and creating a habit of reading daily on their own. They can read chapter books, little kid books, magazines, comics, the ingredient list of something…I don’t care! Whatever interests them is good enough for me.



Thursday


Morning


1. Gratitude Journal.


2. Read Aloud.


3. Science. This takes up the whole morning and often runs into the afternoon because the boys are obsessed with science. It’s very hands-on. It brings in almost every other subject and we have a blast with it. Whenever we do science, we have the best conversations and I can see their ideas coming to life. This is why we spend so much time here. If nothing else gets done, it’s fine. I know they get a lot out of a day of science.


Afternoon


4. Social Studies. Right now we’re doing a Mexico unit (as per the kids request) that will be approximately a month long. Each time we do social studies we’ll explore the Mexican culture, the geography, history, economy and of course the traditional cuisine. I purchased a package from Teachers Pay Teachers, which is a slide show that we base our lessons upon and often leads to more questions and in-depth research. You need an account for TPT and there is a fee for certain packages but most are very reasonable. I love this resource because you can search by topic and age.


5. Independent Reading.


Friday*


*Friday’s are more relaxed, I see how the kids energy is, what they’re drawn towards and I remove the pressure from myself by allowing them to lead the day for the most part.


Morning


1. Gratitude Journal.


2. Read Aloud.


3. Homesteading/Nature Bundle. This is a favourite of mine. We have a bunch of homesteading-related books in our homeschool room and they’re responsible for sparking ideas and new projects. Currently we’re learning about sourdough, refinishing a used table we bought off of marketplace and finding a use for all the apples from our apple tree.

Afternoon

4. Free range! Whatever they want to work on, we do that! Sometimes there’s lessons from earlier in the week we didn’t finish, so we'll do those. Or we’ll do a craft or continue with homesteading or the nature bundle. Other times they’ll want to do more Jump Math (their favourite subject).


5. Independent Reading.

6. End of Week Clean-Up. Before we say goodbye to the homeschool room for the week (depending on how much use it got), we do a big clean up; organizing the books, taking out the garbage, wiping down the table, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning the windows etc. This is THEIR space and their responsibility. Although we have a fantastic woman who cleans our home for us, she doesn’t do the kids rooms, their bathroom or the homeschool room. I’m a big believer that kids be responsible and take pride in their space(s). This in and of itself is a life lesson I have always instilled in the boys. And no, it’s not always their favourite thing to do but cleaning has to be done and this Mama isn’t a servant to her kids! My happiness is a priority to me!


Alright, in no particular order, here’s all of that rolled up into about 3-4 weeks.



All things APPLES!


’Tis the season, right?


We utilized a few of the units from our Nature Bundle and explored apple anatomy, germination, pollination, grafting of apple trees, the {extensive} varieties of apples and used the app Seek to identify the apples we have on our property. We cleaned them up and then brought them into the kitchen. These homegrown apples became apple crisp, apple sauce and apple butter.



All Things Thanksgiving!


Sadly I don’t have too many photos to share but we learned about the origin of Thanksgiving, American vs Canadian Thanksgiving and got into some deep conversations about the history of this holiday. It was a heavy topic but I’m glad we discussed it. We went to a pumpkin patch to pick out some decor for the front porch, the kids helped me plan and prepare for our family dinner (we always host) and I pretty much gave them independent busy work with free printable worksheets and activity sheets like word searches, crosswords, word scrambles and colour by number sheets.



All Things Science!


Our first science experiment sadly succumbed to a fruit fly infestation…we attempted to make a gluten-free sourdough starter from scratch and it was going really well until day 6 when we woke up and saw a bunch of fruit flies had made their way through the cheesecloth.


However, it was a great teachable moment and we saved our scientific method worksheets so that we could go back and edit our materials list to include triple layering the cheesecloth instead of doing a single layer to avoid future problems!


The other experiment we did was The Dancing Popcorn Experiment (you can search online and on YouTube for demonstrations) which the kids loved. It was really easy, minimal equipment and materials and allowed us to continue learning about the scientific method.



All Things Social Studies!

Here’s how we’re currently doing social studies, after creating this plan with the kids I loved the idea. It got my wheels turning and eventually this will evolve into what I know will be one of their favourite things we do this year.

After returning home from Mexico, naturally the kids wanted to learn Spanish and had a newfound interest in the country. As I mentioned above, I purchased a package from Teachers Pay Teachers and used that to create the foundation for what we used as an entire month of content. We touched on everything about Mexico and created a passport. The kids made their own and put all the information about Mexico in there.



This led to us purchasing the Little Passports subscription (just one month to start). We’ll use the fun gear that comes in that kit to continue learning about different countries, a new one each month. The kids will add to their passports as they ‘travel the globe.’ I’m sure this will lead to us coming up with new craft ideas, new recipes and lots of decor in the homeschool room!


We haven’t opened our Little Passport boxes yet but I’ll share my thoughts in next months blog post and if I like the kits I’ll have a discount code for you.

All Things Sports!


Finding an amazing homeschool community with kids of various ages has been one of the best parts of homeschooling. The kids have met a TON of new friends, I’ve met amazing women who are like-minded, parent similarly to us and who have the same intentions with raising their kids. I love getting together with the community, it’s so good for everyone’s well-being.


Sometimes the sporting events are small (like baseball a few weeks ago) and sometimes they’re larger (like soccer last week with 20 kids) and sometimes they’re reallllly big like track and field tomorrow with 40+ kids.



All Things Homesteading!


This is such a broad topic and I love that it encompasses so much of our lives. Homesteading happens all the time, weekends and weekdays. For us it involves a lot of activities outdoors around the house and in the kitchen. It can also be grocery shopping, visiting the library so I can work in peace while they read or draw and everything in between.




I hope you enjoyed this blog post and it has inspired you to discover the teachable moments you can have with your children whether you homeschool or not.


I would love to continue doing monthly recaps of your adventures if this is something you’d enjoying seeing here. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.


If you're looking for more right now, be sure to check out my video with my Top 5 Tips for New Homeschoolers.


Big love,


Leigh



*Scheduling the day, week or month may not be the right approach for you. Play around with schedules and see if it helps or hinders natural curiosity and learning. I decided to create monthly, weekly and daily schedules to avoid overwhelm and to feel more prepared. My schedule is extremely flexible. If there’s an opportunity to do something with the homeschool community (such as a sports game), we do that instead. Other times, I may need to get my hair or nails done, so that day is out the window too. Grace and flow- we’re not racing with any kind of timeframe, we’re blazing our own path.


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