How We Do School

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I grew up in a family of educators. Both my parents as well as close family friends and several aunts, uncles, and cousins were public school teachers. Lesson plan, students, and attendance were words I understood at a very young age. I knew the inside of a classroom before I took my first steps. I eventually went on to get my teaching credential and earn a Master’s Degree in Education. I even taught high school for a few years before having children and “retiring.”

Despite my own educational background, I chose something different.

FishPapa and I decided long ago that we wanted to educate our children at home. While I have much respect for my friends who are teachers, of which there are many, I chose to go against the grain. I won’t say homeschooling is the only way, but I will say I think it’s the best way — for our family.

And many of the tips and tricks I share here at LifeasMOM are geared for the homeschooling family because that is what we are. It’s a lifestyle and a schooling choice that I love and one that has greatly blessed our family.

However, a few months ago, I polled my readers to find out how they did school. Turns out, the readership here is pretty evenly split between homeschoolers and public schoolers, with a healthy handful of private schoolers thrown into the mix.

I think that’s pretty cool!

You see, I’ve walked in circles where it is controversial and polarized, this homeschooling vs. public school thing. I’ve had conversations that made my stomach turn, talking with people on both sides of the question. My feeling? Reasonable minds will disagree — and they will do it in a respectful way. And they’ll still like you when it’s over.

Appreciate the Differences

However the girl next door chooses to educate her children, I can still learn from her. That’s the beauty of sharing our lives as MOMS. We get to learn from one another and then see what works best for our families. We can apply good parenting principles in a myriad of ways.

I’m a firm believer in a parent’s right to choose and guide her child’s education, even if my fellow mom chooses something different than I do.

Over the coming months, I’ll be sharing different moms’ stories on how they’ve chosen to educate their children. It’s amazing to see the wealth of experiences and perspectives. I hope that reading these women’s stories will help YOU find your own groove.

Stories from:

In the meantime, how do you do school?

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  1. “However the girl next door chooses to educate her children, I can still learn from her. That’s the beauty of sharing our lives as MOMS!”

    Absolutely! I am a homeschooler and can’t imagine anything different for us, but I don’t think homeschool moms are better or worse than any other mom. Just different! Now, if I could learn how to plan & cook healthy meals that EVERY member of my family would actually eat, THEN I’d be a superhero! (I did get points for bravery — and an award certificate from one of my daughters — when I squished a ginormous bug today, though!)

  2. I call what we do a “hybrid” of public and homeschooling. We are working through a Charter school that uses the curriculum- which is what I wanted anyway but couldn’t afford. This way we get all the materials and I pay nothing! We do 4 days a week at home and then go in once a week for one or more core classes at the Learning Center with a class of up to 12 kids and a teacher. There are other families near-by doing the same program, so we co-op history, art and science- what isn’t done at the school and then do math and language arts individually at our own pace.

  3. My son is only 2 1/2 and both my husband and I work full-time. We have chosen to put him in a daycare where kids are set up by age, and even by half-age based on size and ability. He is currently moving into the PreK 1 class soon. I contemplated moved him to a new setting closer to me, at 3, but love this daycare and how they structure their activities based on the kids’ developmental ability at that age. We already call it school and school it is. He is learning so much! It doesn’t hurt too, that his mom is an educator. He loves shapes, alphabet and numbers, knowing them all already (numbers only 1-20 so far).

  4. I am really looking forward to reading these upcoming posts. I think I’ve mentioned before I’m a newbie to home schooling. I just finished my 1st year with my oldest. I can’t believe she’ll be in 1st grade in the fall, YIKES! This Saturday, I am actually going to the OCEAN’S Home Schooling Conference with my hubby and in-laws and I am looking forward to going to the classes and ordering school books. I agree, for our family…it is the right choice. I was public schooled, the hubby did both but mainly home school and it works for us.

  5. My children have gone to daycare, then attended an excellent, private Montessori school, then attend the public schools. I think, for us, public school offers so much more than I could ever do at home. They love school, have made great friends and I can’t imagine schooling them any other way. It works for us.

  6. I began “officially” homeschooling for kindergarten this month! We have a baby due in September, so we needed and early start and, after taking a bit of a break from our preschool routine, we have found the return to routine to be most helpful. I have been excited and anxious and I appreciate you sharing your lessons learned and that you are continuing to learn them. Thanks.

  7. I am SO excited for this!!! We have made the decision to HS our son next year and I have been so attacked by many! Thank you so much for all that you do with this site and for your encoragement!

  8. It sounds like we both have very similar backgrounds!! Many members of my family have been teachers (mom, grandparents, aunts and uncles), and I have my Master’s in Education and taught Middle School and High School, too! Although I feel pretty qualified to teach my kids, we have chosen to put them in public school for now. This was our first year (son was in 1st grade) in public, and we were so pleased with his teacher, school environment and level of education. We do supplement a lot, but we just call that parenting around here: field trips, vacations, special projects (mostly science related) and tons of learning opportunities. It’s the stuff that makes my heart sing!

    I think that no matter the school choice, the parents NEED to be involved in educating their children. If my child starts struggling or failing, then that is MY responsibility, and one that I am happy to shoulder!

  9. I am also enthusiastic about this topic. My daughter is 4. So far she has been at home with me. She knows her letters, #’s, some spelling, & even a little addition & subtraction. I’ve also tried to incorporate some spanish even though I’m not fluent. My husband and I have struggled greatly with the question ‘to home school or not to homeschool?’ We still have not decided, but I think she’ll end up going to public school. I am very curious…do you use a curriculum OR kinda make it up as you go? I need directions for everything…I don’t even cook without a recipe!! Thanks for always having the PERFECT, TIMELY topics for me!

  10. We homeschool! 10, 8, 6, 3 and 1 year old! Well, I guess we don’t really school the 1 yr old yet! We use a hodge podge of different curriculums. I’m amazed at how different each child is and how they seem to need different types of curriculum, esp. in math! We are going to try a coupoke of new things this year that I am excited about!

  11. That is a great way to put it! I homeschool right now as that seems to be what works best for us at this time. In the future it may be different, but so far that is what we are doing.

  12. We homeschool our 4 boys 9, 7, 4, and 2. I never thought this would be the path that I would take but I am so happy that it is. We lived in NY and in a very liberal town and the school was too liberal for my taste and my husbands. So I took the plunge and started home education. Let me say that first year with a very independent little boy was hard. After that was first year things got better and I love teaching my 4 at home. They are all so different in how they learn. I think that was the hardest thing to figure out about each of them.
    Thanks for doing this series. I love to hear how others teach or even supplement when the kids go to public schools.

  13. My husband and I are both licensed music teachers (although I am currently substitute teaching). Our two boys (going into grades 1 and 4) are currently in public school with plenty of informal supplementing at home. However, I am keeping a close eye on how drastic cuts to education funding here in Indiana are affecting education. I fear that as our local elementary cut art classes a few years ago, music is not far behind. I am watching class sizes grow and seeing teachers’ aide positions cut. Even though my boys have had some wonderful teachers and I am pleased with who they will have this fall, I am at the library with a couple of homeschooling books in my stack. I have researched homeschooling before and plan to keep a very close eye on the situation in the local schools this year while also educating and equipping myself so that we can bring the boys home if need be.

  14. Although I am currently completing my teaching degree, there are times I’ve wondered whether or not to homeschool my son, who is now 5. However, he really enjoys riding the bus, meeting new people, and the whole “school” package, so for now he’ll keep going to the public school.
    I’d like to see some information about supplementing? If I believe correctly, supplementing is kind of like adding homeschool elements to my son’s public school experience? This summer we’re trying Hooked on Phonics Kindergarten, and he is inhaling it! So, any information on how to piggy-back on his public school curriculum would help! Thanks for a great blog!

  15. My daughter, an only child, just finished her freshman year of college. We did it all, with the exception of public school. She’s gone to Christian schools, I homeschooled for a year and she completed her secondary education @ a University Model School (half Christian school/half home school. There were advantages and disadvantages with all. She’s a lovely, well rounded, educated young woman. The biggest advantage @ the UMS was the World View/Western Civ class. Amazing! She learned how to think and why she believed what she believed in this class. Her writing skills, as well as communication skills are stellar. We also found our biggest disadvantage at this same school. The math program was severely lacking and we lost a lot of ground there. She is still lacking in college because of this deficit. As bright as she is, she missed out on many scholarships and academic advantages in our area/state (TX) because she wasn’t in the top 10% of a public school. I wonder if we chose wrong sometimes because of this? Any yet, watching her, seeing her heart and hearing her bright thoughts, I know that the Lord will use her.

  16. I am a public school teacher, having just finished my 7th year of teaching. I have a 2 year old son who attends daycare during the school year and is home with me in the summers. The fall after he turns 3, he will start attending the Christian school at our church, which starts early, with 3-year old PreK.

    As other posters have stated already, the most important thing, no matter how you school, is parental involvement. Being in the public school setting, I deal each year with un-involved parents. It really affects the children negatively when parents are not involved. If parents show through their actions that school events and situations aren’t important, how can I as the teacher, convince the students that school IS important? So parents, be INVOLVED!!! Your children will thank you for it.

    1. We have the same problem at my son’s kindy. It is so disappointing and you can tell it really distresses the teachers.

  17. Our daughter attended public school until the 7th grade. The move to junior high was not good to say the least! Throw in teachers who really didn’t care, we pulled her out of the school system after her first quarter and made the huge leap to homeschooling.

    She is now going to be a junior in high school this fall. It was the BEST decision we’ve ever made! I truly wish we would have started homeschooling right off the bat.

    If you are one of those wondering if it’s a good choice, I encourage to you take that leap of faith! Time invested into your child is priceless 🙂

  18. I’ve done public school, private school and homeschool. This will be our 15th year to homeschool and for our family it is absolutely the best option.

  19. I did all three–private, public, and home school–growing up. My preference would lean toward private or home school, but I am excited to find out what other people have come to prefer and how they make it work! Thanks for putting together this series!

  20. Looking forward to this series… my oldest is 3.5 & I daily go back & forth regarding home education or public education for my kids.

  21. Wow Jessica what a great series. We have done all three as well. I have three teenagers and they are all currently in Private Christian school. My two oldest switched from Public school to private in 6th grade and my youngest in 5th. We love it but if I had the chance to start over I would strongly consider homeschooling. I feel like I am missing out on so much time with them, especially with my oldest going into her senior year! Gasp! Looking forward to this one.


  22. My children are in public school. But I guess you could say I’m both because I also teach at home where I think the public school comes up short. I am in a position where I have to put them in public school but that does not mean I have to accept that as my children’s only education. I feel it is important that I offer my children what the public school doesn’t. I’m doing good so far my oldest OS going into 5th grade and he started in kindergarden badly I had to pull him out cause he wasn’t ready. The next year I out him in again and he struggled. Now with the work I do and the school he is on the honor roll and is doing great.

  23. Looking forward to reading more.

    Chloe is three and John is two. I just (today really!!) ordered Before Five in a Row. We’ll be starting it this month; our first home school curriculum!

    I’m so excited! What a privilege to educate my little ones! I’m excited about my choice but realize (like many others) that it is my best choice for my family and each family is different. {and my choice may change depending on seasons and events}

  24. My son is not even 2 yet, but DH and I have already decided how we want to educate him. When he’s school age, if we can afford private school (or if I can work at one for cheaper tuition, as I am a teacher, too), we will send him to a classical school. Otherwise, I will educate him (and following children) at home using the classical method/model.

  25. My husband and I decided to homeschool starting this fall. I am a full time nurse and my husband is the stay-at-home dad. So, my husband will be doing the teaching in our homeschool. We decided we will plan the curriculum together and he will be the one educating the kiddos. We are very excited and this is something we really prayed about and God has shown us that this is the path for our family. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to the upcoming posts about this subject.
    Shelley 🙂

  26. We just finished our 8th year of homeschooling. Three years ago we graduated our 1st child and this year we graduated our 2nd child and next year will be the 3rd. We will have our 4th child for 5 more years. When he graduates I am having a retirement party for myself I think I will have deserved it by then and will at that time celebrate 13 years homeschooling and 26 years as a stay at home mom. I will be in the process of considering what I will do after they have all graduated over the next 5 years.

  27. I taught public school junior high and high school math for 8 years and am now happily retire to stay at home with our two kids…hopefully more 🙂 I really enjoy your blog and that you homeschool. I get closer to homeschooling my kids everyday, for a multitude of reasons. This fall and group of moms in our housing complex (married student housing) are going to do JOY School. (Each mom teaches a week). We are really looking forward to it.

    I’m excited for this series, I’ve been looking forward to it since you announced it on facebook and/or polled readers a while back.

  28. We do a combo. homeschool/small group. My twins will be in first grade next year and will go 2 days a week to a group with 7 kids total and a teacher. (They have been in this group for 3 years already with just a few changes in the group composition.) I will then homeschool at home the other 3 days. We generally stay on pace with the whole group and meet as moms to choose the curriculum. It’s been a great option for our family. I also have a 4 year old that will be doing 2 mornings of preK with a similar group of 6 kids that will hopefully turn into her kinder. class next year. She goes on the 2 of the days I am at home with my oldest 2. I also have a one year old. I have no idea how that is going to work next year when I lose his morning nap. I’m hoping to read some suggestions on that front!

    I’m looking forward to this series!

  29. Oh I long to homeschool my children (7 and 4) and pray for a change of heart from my husband who is dead set against homeschooling every day. I can see the bad behavior (amongst other things) that the oldest is picking up, and the boredom he endures from being way ahead of his class in many areas. How I wish I could just have my babies home. We are in a very liberal state, which of course doesn’t help, as my children have been exposed to many different things on a larger scale than if we had been in a more conservative state (my opinion). Praying for my husband to see that homeschooling will not turn our children into anti-socials, and will not jeopardize their chances at a “good” college. And, I even have a Ph.D. degree, and still he thinks that the teachers at school with a 1:20 ratio will provide a better education. Don’t get me wrong – we like our teachers, but I can see so many more cons in the public school sector (in my area), and private school is out of the question (there are only 2 in the area, and neither my husband would allow).

  30. We homeschool our 14, 12, 10 &6 yr old boys and our 8 yr old girl. It has been an adventure for sure. We are heading into high school age with the oldest next year and that is making me nervous. Thankfully, I have friends who have done it and are willing to share! This peek into your homeschool sounds very interesting.

  31. Thanks so much for this Jessica. We are really trying to decide between public and homeschool right now. I am not the most organized person, so I have fears about homeschooling. But at the same time I am really proud of where my 3 year old is in his learning and I so enjoy teaching him, so maybe I am not as delinquent as I thought. Hard choices. I had private and homeschool while my hubby was all public, so we very open. Thankful for any wisdom.

  32. We homeschool. We had already decided on it for our family, but John Taylor Gatto’s books encouraged us even more. We do kind of a delight-directed/interest-led approach, using some of Sonlight’s curriculum as a loose base.

  33. I think I could write a book about the trials and tribulations of school choices. My son is very bright, but has some auditory processing issues. Had up and down years (largely teacher dependent) in elementary and then fell off the cliff in middle school. Luckily our district has an independent study school that provides structured work and weekly meetings with the teacher. This one-on-one worked so well for him. I did lots of home supplementing plus different tutoring programs to get him through before, but now he is really independent and thriving. I always knew homeschooling would have been a good choice for him, but as a single parent just wasn’t an option.

  34. Like you, I’m a homeschooling mom. I was homeschooled (K-12th grade), so I’m sure that has played a majoy role in our decision to school at home.

    My husband, who attended both public school and Christian school as a kid, is devoutly pro-homeschool as wel.

    For us, it’s an issue of making sure our children are taught the Biblical principles we feel are essential to raising godly children, as well as avoiding (yes, protecting!) them from all the moral junk in our culture.

    I have friends who homeschool, friends who use private schools, and friends who send their kids to public school. It’s not an issue I argue about (since I don’t like to argue in the first place!).

    Homeschooling IS an issue I feel strongly about, though. As my husband has said many times: For us, there is no other way!

    Enjoyed this post!

    Kristy @ Homemaker’s Cottage

  35. I am very excited to read this series. We are praying for the Lord’s guidance in our schooling decision for next year. We have done a year of homeschooling and a year of Christian school. While I liked the fact my child was in a classroom structure, sadly there were many things I did not like about the Christian school. I want to homeschool, but with 2 other little ones running around, I feel torn as to my time between teaching and tending to the little ones. How do you manage teaching your older children, and still keep your younger ones entertained or busy?

  36. Last year was our first year homeschooling our 3rd grade daughter – and it was wonderful! She spent the first years of her education at a Christian school. It was a great school, but she was just not thriving. After much prayer, we decided that she needed to be homeschooled. And she blossomed! We will continue this year as well. My son, on the other hand, will be attending a Christian Kindergarten. That is what he needs this year. We just pray year by year!

  37. I had a private Catholic education in New York City, and always wondered what I would do for my kids as tuitions sky-rocketed. I am not gifted for teaching, and I don’t enjoy it at all. When I had 2 learning disabled children, I was even more stumped. Daycare failed them when I started working, and public kindergarten…well, let’s just say it REALLY failed my daughter, who had Down syndrome. I even considered home schooling, but it was not an option just due to finances.

    So when a local charter school opened, with a theme of sustainability and nature, I knew it was a perfect fit my creature-loving child. She went to first grade there and thrived. She’s not up to her grade level, but improved a great deal, and is ACCEPTED. She has friends and everyone loves her. This is the perfect path for her (and me). Let’s see if it work for daughter with autism in another year as well.

  38. We chose to send our son to a private school. Our son gets is a very smart boy, but often gets frustrated quickly. We thought the small class size & more 1-on-1 attention would be beneficial for him. In addition, we wanted him to have more of our beliefs in Christ instilled in him, so his school is a private Lutheran school (even though, we ourselves are not Lutherans). He will be starting Kindergarten in the fall, but has just finished a year of preschool at this school & has flourished! I would love to homeschool, but I know God has not granted me with the patience to do that!

  39. We send our son to a private school right now, but expect that we will send him to public school at some point – will it be Intermediate school, middle school or high school? That is something that remains to be seen. My daughter will follow in his footsteps.

    When we chose our daycare, my concern was in finding a daycare that focused on play – I feel there is so much that can be learned through play and that there are enough years of formal schooling that kids should be allowed to be kids too.

    I have a lot of respect for homeschoolers. I don’t feel like I could provide a full education for my children at home. I don’t feel like I “know” enough to teach them all of the upper level courses that they would get at a Public/Private school. I think that the only way I would have the confidence of meeting all of their needs is to “team teach” with other moms who have a strength in subjects I don’t. That there are parents out there that have this confidence is amazing to me. I think that teaching one subject would be a lot of work, I think teaching everything to your children would have to be an extraordinary workload.

    I think homeschooling has come a long way recently (has the number of home schooled children increased over the past few years?). I know that I have seen that local community centers, science centers, and more offer days for homeschoolers to come together for “gym” class, science labs and more…I think programs like this are important, to provide some social interaction for the kids and a chance for the learning to extend beyond mom/dad.

    I once intereviewed a candidate for an internship that had been homeschooled through his Junior year and then went to high school for his Senior year. He told me that he went his Senior year so that he could “have a class rank” and a GPA to help him win scholarships for college. We only had a phone interview, but I got the impression that he was really arrogant – I don’t know how much was his personality vs his education – but it made me think twice about how important it is that home schooled children have social interaction.

  40. Homeschooling is not for me but I admire the moms that can do it. I’ve met a few outstanding homeschooled kids in the past that were more confident than the average kid in public school and could have real conversations with adults at a young age.

  41. We send our children to public school-this coming fall my oldest will be in 1st grade and middle child in prek. I like the socialization they get there and am not a great teacher. We are also in a small town, so activities are limited, but they are able to be involved in more things at school. But, I also supplement at home, starting this summer, as a way to keep the kids busy, and to teach art since our art program was cut at our small town school. We are also starting the oldest with music lessons at home. I have actually taken to helping my middle child learn her letters and my oldest loves to learn, so we are doing some workbook work along with drawing projects and reading books. I also have a few field trips scheduled to take them on.

  42. I think homeschooling is a very couragous thing to do – something I know I don’t have the expertise, patience or the qualifications to do. However, I taught my son to read at just 4 (he learn 120 sightwords plus all his letter sounds so could read some books). I also taught him colours, days of the week, numbers, to write his name, use scissors and the alphabet (by name) before he went to school. This gave him an excellent head start and consequently he is above expectation (terrible phrase) for all his subjects. I regularly teach him science ( we recently cover energy, photosynthesis and atoms) and handwriting at home alongside his schooling. He is also learning french, swimming and tennis after school.

    Homeschool has crossed my mind – I have loads of questions though – How do you ensure a balanced education? For instance I’m useless at maths and would be a terrible maths teacher – how do you overcome this when home schooling? How do you manage to teach science, maths and languages if you have no formal training (like me)? Do you buy a curriculum? How do you ensure you have taught them at the correct level to pass recognised qualifications? Do they find it difficult to go on to college when the teaching method and technique is total different i.e. not one-to-one but in a lecturer theatre? Do girls receive the same teachings as boys? How do they get to try the same range of subjects like they would at school?