No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.
You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.
You read your unread books, or even reread your favorites. You pick up the guitar again and get better at it, instead of taking up the harmonica. You finish the Gordon Ramsey Masterclass you started in April, despite your fascination with the new Annie Leibovitz one, even though it’s on sale.
I’ve discovered I have over 200 blog posts in draft in various stages of completion… dating back to 2010 (!!!!!)
I’m going through them, killing off what doesn’t work, making beautiful those that do.
Here’s one I wrote over a year ago on becoming a homeschooling mama, and that tremendous transition.
I hope you find it useful!
Hey party people,
Six months in of homeschooling: what is it like? Did it measure up to what I thought it would be? Was it harder? Easier? Am I ready to quit? Do I miss school? What kind of homeschooling do I do? What are my surprise resources?
I felt like it would be enjoyable to sit down and share my thoughts and feelings about all of this. A little note for the time capsule of right here, right now. This moment, only once.
So, honestly, I can hand-on-my-heart swear:
This has been the best six months, EVER. Hands down, it’s been my most joyful parenting experience for me of my life so far. I was NOT expecting this.
I went into this purely as a 6 month trial. I decided to do it because it was something I’d always wanted to try, even since before babies. We also were considering moving to an area that didn’t have Waldorf/Steiner schooling options. We thought now would be a good time to try it, and if it didn’t work we’d happily re-enrol in a school (probably Steiner).
I had major doubts about how it would work. Mostly, that revolved around trying to know whether it would just kill me as an introvert, company owner and creative soul who loves nothing more than alone time. I wasn’t sure how I would go with juggling my own needs with running my businesses and homeschooling.
I recognise I am in a remarkably privileged position.
I’ve worked for the last 13 years to create income streams that provide us with more than enough income without having to work long hours. That was always my goal, and how I’ve set up my businesses. In 2004 when I first started blogging and exploring how to build a business, my goal was always front of mind: Make an income so that when I DO have kids, I never have to go to work and can just be with them. I was 22 at the time, and didn’t have kids planned for the next 5 years, but it was an obsessive, burning fire in me. What I wanted was crystal clear in my mind. That kind of fastidious focus and determination has paid off. My businesses HAVE to be Family-Focussed, or they need to be fucked right off and replaced with something that is.
So, yes. I’m privileged in terms of homeschooling because we don’t have financial concerns, and my co-parent is at home with us as well. I know those can be two big stressors for a lot of homeschooling families.
I still had concerns however about how I would manage to cram it all in, when I already felt like I was moving pretty fast through the day to get it all in. And if it would just crush me and give me anxiety because I LOVE ALL THE ALONE TIME.
Before I made the decision to do it, I talked to a bunch of my mates who homeschooled. I’m grateful that I know so many peeps who do!
I also joined a stack of Facebook groups for homeschoolers and asked for advice in there as well. All their support and sage advice helped make the leap so much easier.
Mostly, they reassured me that:
it was entirely doable
I didn’t need to sacrifice my whole self in order to do it
I could still build in self care and time for my business.
We talked to our children about homeschooling, what it meant, what it would look like, and whether they would be interested in doing it.
It was a resounding YES from them, and so we leapt into the great unknown.
Those first few weeks felt like a fragile kind of elation, like a baby bird just taking wing for the first time.
I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, but we threw everything at the wall to see what it all looked like and felt like. Mostly, we were all just floating about on a great cloud of freedom. Suddenly… we had TIME together.
Time to go dance in the autumn leaves and inspect them up close.
Time to walk through the hills at a leisurely pace.
Time to go watch the sunset every day from the hill just above our suburb.
Drunk on joy and moments and each other.
Each evening, I would fall asleep early, exhausted to my bones. I felt like I had started a new job in a new industry with a steep learning curve. And I had! I spent any time that wasn’t homeschooling dedicated to learning about homeschooling… books, forums, videos, curriculum.
It eased as the days, weeks, months fell away and I found my rhythm and dance with homeschooling.
Most of all though, I felt like I had my eyes scrubbed clean and I could see
just how much my children had already grown. just how little time I do have with them before they will fly this nest of ours. just how much I want to be there, soaking up every moment with them.
Something even bigger happened:
I can barely explain it. I can’t say it was homeschooling. I can’t say it was anything but this:
I feel like I was given a parenting uplevel by the angels.
I felt like Divine Mothering Love was pouring over me, and through me to my children. It washed into every part of me, healing the disconnected mother in me, repairing the places where I felt frustrated before. Suddenly I went from the cranky mum trying to shake her kids off at bedtime to escape to the lounge for Mummy Time In Front Of The TV to being that mum who stays to sniff their heads and laugh a little longer with them. I became pierced open to all the loveliness and joy of childhood in a way I hadn’t been able to before. It was so real and powerful that each night I went to bed and prayed that it wouldn’t end.
Again: I can NOT claim that this was caused by homeschooling. I don’t know what in the holy fuck caused it. I only know that it happened, and I could cry right now just feeling how grateful I am that it did, and that it stayed.
I was sitting on my toilet (YEP) yesterday actually… and looked at the dreamboard that I have had sitting on the toilet door for 18 months… and realised with a start that I had called this in.
Along this whole path, I feel so grateful for all those that had already walked this path, and shared it with me, whether in books, forums or friendly chats.
Useful Books For Parents To Read
I immersed myself into reading about homeschooling… I thought I’d share the ones I found the most helpful!
Beverley Paine’s collection of books and booklets. I met Beverley years ago at an Unschooling Convention and was touched by her wisdom and grace. That echoes through in her books.
As most homeschoolers do, I bought a stack of resources and curriculum. Some worked great for us, others didn’t.
I thought I would follow an all-in-one Steiner curriculum much more strictly than I have (i.e. at all). To me, it has just felt a lot more alive + exciting for all of us to use a range of learning resources and adapt them as we need.
A basic outline of some of the resources we use for different subjects:
English – Reading Eggs (bought the whole kit with books, workbooks and software). One of my kids has developed an obsession with audiobooks – Borrowbox which is a free audiobook lending service provided by our library system has been invaluable. (Check if your local library offers it too!) The Alphabet by Reg Down was a fun intro book to letters as well.
P.E. – Horse riding lessons! BEST P.E. LESSON EVERRRRRRRRR!
Every subject – We do a lot of readalouds together, and created a Libib library catalogue of our home library (1200 books and counting). We registered as a homeschool with Scholastic and in the GREATEST WET DREAM OF MY LIFE, I now get sent those adorable book catalogues a bunch of times each year and fill any gaps we might have in our home library. I don’t follow their curriculum closely, but find that Build Your Library has good book recommendations.
This has been one of our most surprising “textbooks”.
I read it out to them over dinner, discussing each one, finding their country on the globe, doing further research on the people we are really fascinated by. It helps having Google Home too for dinner time research, we just say “OK Google play the music of Maria Callas” and listen as our little robot plays us her opera music from 70 years ago. Ostara begs to read more stories. She says it’s her favourite because “it is full of stories of girls doing brave things and it makes me feel good.” I just saw they are bringing out a second volume thank goodness… it’s been a revelation for all of us!
Things That Weren’t As Useful As I Thought They Would Be
Buying all-in-one curriculum. I made the typical rookie error of buying a lot to try and work out which one was best before realising that none was the right answer for us.
Borrowing books from the library. I thought we would be there a lot more, but honestly, I much prefer just buying the books. Less stress about losing them amongst the great piles of books teetering everywhere in our home, and having to finish them on time. The library HAS however been awesome in giving us a subscription to a bunch of digital services including Borrowbox so weeeeeee! WIN!
Want to know even more about our homeschooling journey?
I’ve had a few questions about how I do record keeping for homeschooling. Even though I’ve got one back at a school now after two years learning at home, I’ve still got one homeschooling. And if there’s one thing I freaking lurve about homeschooling, apart from being able to spend so much glorious time with my kids… it’s being an organisational fruitcake. I actually really enjoy the record keeping process!
I know it can feel like a chore sometimes to do homeschool records. I thought I’d share with you what I do… I find it quite enjoyable and I love that they double as amazing memory keeping of our lives. I’ll look back at these few years of homeschool records with SO much pride, joy and gratitude!
Check with what your state needs!
One thing I wanted to mention before I dive into my methods as well… your homeschool reporting requirements will change from state to state, country to country.
I know some people can feel pissed about having to do reporting, but I feel grateful that I live in a place where homeschooling is legal and has a fair amount of personal freedom. I know some countries in Europe homeschooling is illegal. And I’m also grateful that governments do check to make sure that every child gets access to education, whether that’s at home or school.
Again: Check with your state/country about the rules + reporting!
At the start of each year + term…
I also write a Google Doc of learning goals + ideas for that year.
Instead, I find it way more useful to buy these Student Goals PDFs from Teachers Pay Teachers. They are from an Australian teacher, and breaks down the Australian Curriculum into easy to understand goals and skills to develop.
Then I look at what resources I could use for all those areas, but I tend to add things in and take things out all the time, as I find them, love them, use them or find they aren’t working anymore.
I also ask my kids what THEY want to learn about, and we talk about how they might want to learn about it. (Like: books, documentaries, excursions, internet research, art projects, science experiments etc.)
You can read my free ebook hereabout doing a more project based homeschooling model. I do less time homeschooling than I did when I wrote that ebook, as I relaxed into seeing how much they were learning. I did however add in a more structured literacy program instead of a whole word approach, as that worked better for one of my kids. That’s the thing with homeschooling – methods, timing and resources change all the time. It’s the beauty of it! Complete customisation!
Here’s how I keep track of all the things we learn:
I keep daily lists in my planner (I use a Happy Planner – the biggest size) of what we did that day for homeschooling. I tend to write in the tasks as they happen, or shortly after as I have a fairly shit memory. I also take photos of activities as we do them and print the photos at the end of the week to add into the planner. The photos help remember anything I’ve forgotten.
The planner ends up becoming a really beautiful memory-keeping scrapbook of our days, weeks and months.
It’s probably overkill in terms of my actual homeschooling reporting requirements, but it works for me, and helps my brain feel across everything.
Plus, my kids enjoy seeing their learning adventures celebrated like this.
I do a quick weekly reflection on a card insert (it’s green in the above picture). I write on the back what worked that week, what didn’t, and what I want to change going ahead.
Homeschool legislation often requires that you do have regular teacher reflections, so something as simple as this can help.
If you’re looking for a guided resource to help you document your kids’ learning activities and your own reflections, Beverley Paine’s diaries are excellent. All of her stuff is!
I’ve met Bev years ago, and she is a glorious soul. She’s really one of the grandmothers of home education in Australia, and I so appreciate her and her work!
I also create lists of books we are reading through.
For a while there, I used a printed Reading Log that I created:
This year I don’t want to spend as much time documenting how much we read, as I know that we definitely read enough! I just keep note of the very best ones, and the ones that correlated well with learning a specific curriculum item.
I gather all our “learning evidence” in foolscap folders that I file things in daily.
Examples of learning artefacts:
Here’s an example of a learning artefact:
It was just starting to move into Spring. There is a curriculum area just on knowing the seasons of the year. I thought it would be beautiful to go on a walk to spot the incoming signs of Spring. We took an Instax camera with us to document.
Once we came back, we made a little book, and my kid wrote in it and illustrated it. And the whole thing covered so many subject areas: science, P.E., art, photography, writing + spelling. I love when projects can do that!
Then I pop all the artefacts in the foolscap folder once my kids are finished with enjoying them.
Then, at the end of term, I put the folders into a file box labelled with the term + year.
I also like to put together a list of what activities we did that term as a brief synopsis. Sometimes I did on a piece of paper, sometimes I did in Google Doc.
It’s really nice to look back over everything you do in a term – it always made me feel excited to see how much we’d covered and learned!
Then I put the file box in the cupboard with the rest of the year’s boxes.
That way, once it comes to doing a yearly report (which is compulsory in our state), it’s pretty simple for me to fill it out. I don’t have to remember anything – it’s all documented for me.
You’ll find a recordkeeping rhythm that works for you and your family (and what your state requires). What works for me doesn’t mean it’s the one right way. There’s never just one right way… just the one that’s right for you right now!
All these memories are such a happy place for me. Even if we didn’t need them for records, I’d still want to keep them anyway.
Start of a new school year in Australia, and one of my kids is trying out a new school. We’ve been homeschooling for close to two years now, and have been loving it. But then we checked out a little independent school and fell in love, and she wanted to try it out. It’s two days in, and so far so great.
It’s a big adjustment to all of us though – we all have to find our new routine in it all. We are still homeschooling one kid, and she is having to learn how to play independently for a few hours a day. We are still working out our schedule, and I’m looking for where to carve out some work hours.
I’ve had a snotty teared Start Of School Year Mama Meltdown (TM).
It must be a thing, right? I always feel panicked that I don’t have my optimum routine down pat on Day One! I don’t feel like I’m totally organised to be a school mama. And I don’t feel on top of our homeschool curriculum and work/life schedule either. But Mr D keeps reminding me… we have time, Leonie. Just take it slowly. One thing at a time. We will work this out too, just like we always have.
So here I am, at my little bamboo desk, chamomile tea on hand. Crafting out some time to create and write. Because if I don’t, it all becomes a bit too much. This life thing is INTENSE, yeah?
After we dropped off one kid to first day of school yesterday, we took the other one on a celebratory breakfast at a cafe. Then we strolled down to the river and watched fish glint in the water for a while.
The best thing I’ve learned from my parenting journey so far is to let go of the belief that things have to be a certain way. Let go of any cults of belief that there is only One Right Way to raise or educate a child. And instead just do what is right for you and your kid. And so often what is Right changes over time too, and what is Right differs for each kid too!
I’m just going to keep turning up. Keep doing the right thing for me, and for us. In whatever way that looks, whatever name that has. And trust in the great beauty and wonder of it all. That my kids will get what they need out of these experiences. And that we will too.
That doesn’t really have anything about what I wanted to talk about today, but I felt like I couldn’t NOT say it, yeah?
But then, that’s what we’ve always done here together: deeply personal with a touch of business/goals/life shenanigans.
I wish we could sit for a cup of tea in the grass and you could tell me about your intense life too.
Here’s what else I’ve been thinking of lately:
Now my Academy has closed to new customers + will formally retire in October, I’m in a place for the first time in eight years I can create something completely new outside of the Academy container.
E-courses! Group coaching! Books!
All the creative possibilities!
And there’s some ideas brewing there, but I must admit, for the first time in a loooong ass time I am feeling timid. Timid of jumping back in that creative saddle again, giving birth to a whole new vision.
I know it will happen, I just have to trust that I can ride the wild donkey… I’ve done it hundreds of times already! It’s gotta be muscle memory, right?
Now that spending is not an option for me, I just redirect my energies elsewhere. I’ve definitely managed to be more productive in the process.
Plus, I am REALLY enjoying the process of reading all my unread books at last. The only hiccup is that with some books, the reason they are unread is because I started them and they were shit. And I popped them down, hoping they’d improve over time, or that maybe I was just in the wrong mood to read them. Upon picking them back up, they are still shit. I forced myself through one of them just to finish it.
From now on, I will give a book twenty pages to improve, and if it doesn’t, it will go straight to my Book Release pile (these usually end up with a friend or charity).
The incredible thing I’m discovering is that SO many of the books are PERFECT for where I am right now. I’ve already read 50 books in a month, and feel like I’m giving myself a mini MBA as I’m doing it. My levels of knowledge + confidence are HUGE compared to where I was a month ago.
So – possums – if you’ve got books on your shelves… READ ‘EM!
They are there to help!
How am I, really?
I have a friend who says: “But how are you REALLY?”
And you know that you can let it all drop down and just be as you are. Just tell the truth, and let it be enough.
How am I, really?
Up and down. Around and around.
Life – in parenting, marriage, ageing parents and the rest – is filled with days of contentment and gladness, and days of complication, pain and mess. As Glennon Doyle would call it: “it’s brutal and beautiful – it’s brutiful.”
I want to cultivate grace and stoicism in all of it.
And fortify myself with lashings of time with myself and creativity. Those two things are the best medicine I know for all that ails me.
Plus I keep on thinking of what my darling Deb says:
Row, Row, Row Your Boat really gives you all the messages you need for your life. There’s so many layers of deep meaning in it! Listen:
Row, row, row your boat Gently down the stream Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily Life is but a dream.
Research shows that 80% of people don’t set goals, 16% think of goals, 3% write down their goals and just 1% write down their goals AND regularly review them. And it is that 1% that sees the highest amount of success in all areas of life: from career to health to relationships. Not many people take the time to set their goals – they just hope life will miraculously take them there. The time spent in dreaming up and planning your year ahead can make all the difference. Setting goals is building a sail for your boat so you get to set the direction for where life will take you, instead of being buffeted about by the waves and tides.
Your workbooks tend to divide life into different elements – why is this important? Which areas are often overlooked?
When people usually think of goals, they think of maybe 1-3 goals. Usually generic ones like: lose weight, stop addictive or damaging behaviours, reduce debt or earn more money. Basically, it’s crisis management goal setting – only setting goals for the places that are most negatively impacting them. The workbooks instead take you through a guided process of looking at every area of your life instead of just the ones that are on fire. Most people neglect to set goals for their families, relationships, self care, home, time management, creativity and so much more. It’s the holistic approach to goal setting that means you’re not just putting fires out, you’re actively building a delicious dream life that fits you.