A second generation homeschooling family is not as unusual these days as it used to be. Homeschooled children are growing up and starting to homeschool their children! I think it gives us some unique advantages, as we are not as tied to traditional school as our blueprint of the way school should be done. It also has given me a great chance to think through what I believe about children and education long before jumping in and starting to homeschool, which is a luxury not everyone has.
Hi, I’m Nelleke, and I was homeschooled for most of my school years. My husband Stephen was also homeschooled for several years. And now we homeschool our boys.
Tell us about you and your family.
My husband and I have four boys, aged eight, almost six, almost four, and one. We are blessed to live in beautiful rural Prince Edward Island. I love reading, cooking, and baking, and blogging at Education is a Life, but my passion is homeschooling. I love making plans and executing those plans. I love learning alongside my children. Most of all, I love what Charlotte Mason called “spreading the feast,” laying out a great variety of ideas to feed their souls and minds using living books.
I have been attracted to Charlotte Mason’s philosophy for years (since I was a teenager!) but rediscovered her when my children were young. As a second generation homeschooler and also having worked for a small business selling homeschool materials, I was quite familiar with the overwhelming curriculum choices that face new homeschoolers. Charlotte Mason helped me cut through all of that by leading me to think first about what I believe about children and education. What I believe informs what I do, and a true philosophy leads to good methods and informs my curriculum choices. Charlotte Mason makes me feel like I’m home. I don’t think I’ll ever learn so much about education that I’ll move on from what she has to teach me.
How long have you been homeschooling?
I came into motherhood fully intending to homeschool from the beginning. However, I begin “formal” lessons at age 6, so in that sense, I have been homeschooling for two years now. Of course, learning has been happening around here much longer than that!
Year-round homeschooling or traditional calendar homeschooling?
When I began homeschooling, I planned to do year-round homeschooling. Certainly, even now we are not at all tied to the traditional school calendar. And yet, I’ve come to embrace the value of a good break in the summer. Prince Edward Island has long winters and cold springs, and we grab the chance to enjoy the warm summer days. This summer, we have turned off the screens and are focusing on a simple chore routine for the whole family, time to play outdoors, and opportunities to read for fun. I’m also hoping to get out for some field trips to historic sites and beautiful nature walks.
As the summer progresses, I will begin to ease back into our school routine. I aim to start our curriculum early enough to be done around the end of May, as that is when the weather warms up around here, and attention (the boys’ and mine!) begins to wander. We usually work six weeks on, one week off when we’re in full school mode.
Tell us about the routine of this second generation homeschooling family.
- The After Breakfast Routine: We do a Bible reading and narration, review our Bible and hymn memory work, and pray. Then we do chores together, and the boys play for a while.
- Tea Time: We regroup at about 10:00, when we all sit at the table together with our drinks and snacks. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays we read poetry. We focus on one poet per term, so we read at least one poem from that poet, and then the boys choose their favourite poems from our stack of poetry books. On Tuesdays, we do picture study, focusing on one artist per term. On Thursdays, we do composer study. That sounds fancy, but really we just pick a composer and watch performances on YouTube!
- School Time: After the tea cups are cleared away, I sit down with my oldest son for his lessons. We start with a history reading and narration for 20 minutes (from a living book). Next, we do a math lesson for 15-20 minutes. By this time he’s ready for a break for piano practice, and then we do a literature reading and narration for 20 minutes. The other boys play or look at books (or yell and run around… that happens, too.).
- Afternoon: Our afternoons are mostly free, except that my oldest still has one ten-minute reading and narration in natural history and five minutes of copywork to complete anytime before four o’clock. My second son also often comes to me for a reading lesson or some math. Sometimes (I try for weekly, but don’t always succeed) we do an art lesson or a nature journal entry. At four o’clock, the boys clean up the toys and are allowed to have screen time (usually Minecraft) while I cook supper.
- Bedtime: We always end our day with a read-aloud with the whole family. When Stephen is home, he reads. When he’s not, I read.
This routine will change soon as my second son turns six and begins his schooling. That will be interesting!
Complete the sentence: Our homeschooling happens mostly at…
The dining-room table and in the back yard.
What have you picked for your curriculum next year?
I am continuing to use Ambleside Online, as I have from the beginning. Ambleside Online is a free book list based on the curriculum Charlotte Mason herself used in her schools. It eliminates most of the hard work of finding living books for myself and allows me to get on with homeschooling! My oldest son will be going into Year 3, and my second son into Year 1. I am substituting Canadian history for American, of course, and it has been interesting finding living books for that on my own.
For math with my oldest son, I will use Singapore Primary Math three days a week. If he finishes his lesson before 20 minutes is up, he will do a few minutes of DreamBox (best online math program ever!) to build fluency. The remaining two days, I will sit down with him with an MEP teacher’s manual (a free program) and do some one-on-one math exploration with him. I also try to inspire him weekly with stories of mathematicians and great ideas in math history. This year we’ll use Mathematicians are People, Too for that. With my second son, I will be using Miquon Math, a great hands-on curriculum using Cuisenaire Rods.
List three books about homeschooling that impacted you.
- For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer MacAulay. I read this book as a teenager, and it’s the one that first got me interested in Charlotte Mason!
- Home Education by Charlotte Mason. I remember the feeling of coming home I had as I pored over this book when my oldest was about three years old. I would recommend this to anyone with young children.
- A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason. I began to read this book with a study group, and it is a goldmine. I think that any homeschooler who is interested in Charlotte Mason’s methods should eventually read this book. It’s great to start with companions and study guides, of course, but you will find so much more when you finally go to the source!
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 5 of your homeschooling resources/books with you. What would you take?
(I’m going to assume that I can take my Bible and hymnal anyway and choose five on top of that. OK?)
- A read-aloud for my younger children. It’s so hard to choose, but I think I’ll go with my volume of The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter. This will provide many days of read-aloud pleasure, and when it’s done I can just start over again!
- A poetry book. I’m tempted to choose an anthology so I can have more poems at more levels, but so far when my children choose, they always seem to go for books by a single author. So I will take A.A. Milne’s Now We Are Six.
- A math resource. Family Math by Jean Kerr Stenmark and Virginia Thompson will provide activities for all ages to explore math concepts.
- A good, thick, living book on Canadian history (Here’s hoping our travels take us to places that will bring our studies to life!). If I was going today, I’d choose Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence by Esther Averill, a wonderful out-of-print living book based on Cartier’s own logbooks.
- A nature journal and pencil crayons. I know that Charlotte Mason recommends watercolours, but for traveling, I think I’ll go with the less messy option.
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?
It’s really hard to say. I’m just getting started here! I don’t have any big regrets so far, though of course, even second generation homeschoolers make mistakes! One thing I find is that I tend to get unbalanced when it comes to “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life,” emphasizing the academics (Life) too much at the expense of good habits (Discipline). But I keep working at it. This process in itself is part of the Atmosphere of our home and is valuable as such. I’m not sure if I would do better at it if I were to start over.
Do you want to teach your kids independence and responsibility?
Nelleke Plouffe lives on Prince Edward Island with her husband Stephen and four boys. She has been homeschooling from the beginning and doesn’t ever plan to stop until she has to. Charlotte Mason is her inspiration.