Today’s guest blogger is my friend Lynna Sutherland from Homeschooling without Training Wheels. Check out how she homeschools her seven children!
Tell us about your family.
We live in beautiful central Virginia just south of Richmond with our seven children ages 11, 9, 8, 6, 5, 3 and 1! Next year five of them will be “school aged” (though over time I’ve developed more of a relaxed approach to early learning and only directly “school” the oldest three).
How long have you been homeschooling?
We have been homeschooling since “the beginning” which I think I’m calculating to be about seven years now.
Tell us briefly about your homeschooling approach.
Up until this year, I would have said perhaps “Classical” or “Traditional”. But things really changed for us this year and all year I struggled to think of what I could call our homeschool approach. I finally came up with “Family Schooling“. It’s not just about being at home as a physical location, but about being together as a family. As much as possible, we learn whole-group and most of our learning is based on conversation and interaction together. This tends to blur the lines between school and the rest of life … and that is just fine with us!
Year-round homeschooling or traditional calendar homeschooling?
That is another one of those questions I have struggled to answer this year! For the first several years of homeschooling we were involuntary year-round schoolers, meaning that things like pregnancy and childbirth created natural breaks and we were doing well to finish one “year” in September just in time to take a week or two off and start again. 2015 was the first time we finished a “year” in June and had the option of taking a break. We ended up spending the Summer doing all of the things we (I?) wished we could have fit in during the year, like more science and learning to read music and play the recorder. The summer was so wonderful, we all enjoyed it so much and were all so engaged. When the school year started up again and the “traditional” approach felt so crushing in comparison, it highlighted for us that we needed to make some changes. Now our “regular” school is a lot more like our approach last summer! So, will we take a Summer break? I guess not because our “regular” school is not that different from what “Summer school” would look like!
Tell us about your homeschooling routine.
Last year our homeschooling routine looked very different. There was a lot more planned/structured time and a lot less free, open time. We attempted to start-up with that kind of routine again this year, but it wasn’t working. About halfway through the year we came up with a more simplified schedule. I thought at the time that this would only be a short-term plan and that as soon as we could, we’d get back to the “real thing” but it hasn’t worked out that way at all. We just kept simplifying! Here’s what our schedule looks like now (roughly).
Monday is house cleaning day.
Tuesday through Thursday look something like this:
- Breakfast and some chores
- Bible time: We gather in the living room, take turns reading aloud from the Bible, discuss what we’ve read and pray together
- Morning time: This depends on a great deal on what we’re studying. It doesn’t follow any particular pattern or schedule. It almost always involves some kind of reading aloud (usually while the kids draw, color and knit) and sometimes a hands-on activity.
- Free time
- Straightening, littles down for naps
- There are a few on-line activities that the oldest four children participate in, so we fit them in where we can. If they haven’t been completed in the morning, we do them in the afternoon. Generally, one person is using the computer while the others have free time.
On Tuesday afternoons, during this time, we do Latin with friends. On Wednesdays, during this time, we have Poetry Tea Time.
- Clean-up time
- History: An on-line program that we do together as a group (It fits well at this time of day once we’ve gotten the downstairs straightened and want to keep it mostly that way for when Daddy comes home!)
(Note: Our Summer routine will look almost exactly the same, minus the History and Latin.)
Complete the sentence: Our homeschooling happens mostly at …
Believe it or not, mostly at the television! No, I don’t mean that I just let the kids binge watch Wild Kratts on Netflix all day and call that “school”. But, since our goal is to do as much schooling as we can whole-group, since a lot of our educational materials and opportunities are on the computer, and since most of the kids are still on the younger end of the spectrum, we’ve adopted a Digital Morning Time method. Other than this, we do a lot of “school” sprawled out in the living room, the kids drawing, coloring or crafting while I read.
What have you picked for your curriculum next year?
A: I’m afraid I don’t have a very interesting slew of information to share here as I’m not planning to purchase much curriculum for next year and most of it isn’t grade-oriented. We also do most all of our schooling whole-group, out loud rather than separately in written form. Here is a rough outline:
- Bible – Bible reading, discussion, and prayer
- Language – read alouds, silent reading, various writing activities
- Math – life, read alouds, hands-on exploration, and KhanAcademy.org for review
- Science – life, read alouds and YouTube
- History – Veritas Press On-Line History
- Latin – Latin for Children C (Classical Academic Press)
List three books about homeschooling that really impacted you.
I think that Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie is the only homeschooling book that I have read, but it definitely had an impact on me!
Your family is going on an unplanned trip, not much time to pack, you must homeschool the kids while traveling and you can only take five of your homeschooling resources/books with you. What would you take?
A Bible, my laptop, an HDMI cable, my phone, and a Nook. If it “counts” I’d take a Bible and a Nook for each reader. We could accomplish 99% of what we regularly do this way.
If you had the chance to start homeschooling all over again today with the knowledge and experience you have now, what would you do differently?
I’m sure my answer to this question is the same that many other mothers would give. I would start a lot slower, keep things a lot simpler and relax and enjoy being with my children a lot more. I would recognize that there is no such thing as “just” reading and talking about what we’ve read. That is education.
Awesome-sauce, as usual! Family-Schooling… love it! You are such an encouragement girl. I am totally thinking about getting recorders for my girls. Let me know if you do and if it’s doable without any musical training lol. Thanks for sharing!
First, great job homeschooling so many! What an encouragement to others. Second, I love that you are ebbing and flowing with what works depending on what goes on in your family (like having a new baby). I can’t imagine that this would be anything but wonderful for your kids. They will learn all kinds of life skills this way, like life doesn’t always follow a schedule! lol Thanks for sharing your wonderful story! Blessings!
Thanks, Carri! I completely agree. “Learning” happens all the time, even when the “curriculum” doesn’t make it off the shelf for the day!
Lynna’s family schooling module really intrigued me. I love how her emphasis is on the family unit (first) and then learning. I can see how the learning comes natural this way. When you have varying ages of children, I love to see when moms are able to incorporate learning strategies that promote learning while nurturing the sibling relationship. Lynna does this like a champ…and with 7 children. You go girl! You’re doing an awesome job!
Angel, thanks! You are a dear. Honestly, it was mostly out of necessity that we came to this approach, but it’s been such a blessing!