FAQ: “What do you DO all day?”

I think over the last year I’ve answered variations of this question about 80 times in interviews, emails, and readers meeting me in person.  I don’t share a lot about homeschooling here, because I figure most of you either don’t care or are offended by the idea of school choice.  However, since I have been asked enough that I’m tired of re-typing the response, I’m going to hit on a few basics today, and if you don’t care or are offended, you can feel free to head on over here and read about Winter 2012 Events.

Still here? Hello.  I’ve separated these out by questions, so find the one you’re looking for and read away.

Questions: “Why don’t you like public school?” “Do you hate teachers?” “Do you have a teaching degree” “When are you going to send your kids back to public school”
I love public education and think it’s the benchmark of a truly functioning democracy. I was public schooled, and I applied for school board because I love public education. I do not hate teachers. I think that like in any profession there are AMAZING teachers and there are some really horrible teachers, and everything in-between.  I respect anyone who can face 28-35 kids of various ability levels and make them learn even one thing in a day.  I do not have a teaching degree.  We opted to homeschool because it works better for our family right now.  My option to do this for my children does not negate or invalidate your choice to keep your kids in public school, just like someone’s ability to afford private school doesn’t make it wrong for your child to attend public school.  We’re all trying to do what’s best for our individual kids- and that might vary from child to child and year to year.  We always say that we’re “homeschooling this year”.  When this isn’t the right choice for our children, we’ll stop.

Questions: “Did you consider private school?” “We love our private school, did you look at it?” “Did you know about all the specialty programs at public schools?”
We looked at numerous private schools (I really liked Heritage Christian off Hoadly Road and know many families who are very happy at St. Thomas Aquinas off Route 1) but none of them were a great fit for our family.  The ones I really liked educationally made my husband uncomfortable doctrinally.  Prince William County has some great specialty programs, especially at the high school level. I encourage every parent to research and consider their child’s education, whether or not they’re selecting public school or not, because your neighborhood school is not a set-in-stone foregone conclusion.  We’ve also applied to Porter, one of two traditional schools offered by PWCS.

Questions: “What do you do all day?” “Do you just let your kids watch TV? Wouldn’t they be better off at school?” “How long does your school day take?” “What does a homeschool day look like?” “How do you do your days?”
Obviously, like any mom you ask about her day, this is GENERALLY speaking how our days look.  Do we have bad days? Of course.  Do we have sick days? Ugh.  Right now that’s all we’ve had for a month and a half.  But, generally speaking, this is how life works around here.

The kids wake up and get dressed and check on their pet rabbit.  Responsibility, people- it’s key.  Around 8:10 we sit down for breakfast and I read the day’s devotional and go over our schedule.  After breakfast we take my daughter to preschool. (“Why don’t you homeschool your daughter, too?” Because we think that it’s important to learn to function independently and to separate from mom. “What preschool do you use?” I’ll be happy to tell you next year when we don’t have anyone there.) When the boys and I get back home, we start work on our core curriculum of math, writing, spelling and reading.  I mark the pages they’ll start on the night before, so I can be teaching a new skill to one of them while the other works to the point at which they need some instruction or assistance.  After that we move on to science, history, or another subject depending on what we’re currently working on.  We pick up my daughter from preschool and when we get home everyone eats lunch while I read aloud.  We’re working our way through the reading list recommended by A Thomas Jefferson Education, which is a pretty good manifesto on how and why we do what we do.  Right now we’re reading Little House in the Big Woods, and next week we’ll pick up A Little Princess.  We generally finish one a week.  After lunch, we have recess outside if at all possible, and then we work on our memory component since my daughter participates in that, too.  Then the boys read to me and everyone is able to work on special projects until our school friends get home and we head outside to play. We are usually done with our “real work” and on to personal projects by 1:30 or 2:00. This may be art or music, a personal reading book, scout project, or whatever they’d like.  Frequently on Fridays, if the children have mastered their memory components for the week (we call this “grammar” in our Classical Conversations method) we’ll only do the morning work and enjoy a field trip or park day in the afternoon.
Same as above, but I have three little workers, so I include some Montessori-based stations for my daughter to work on and there’s no drop off/pick up at preschool.
Thursday is our “co-op” day where we attend a Classical Conversations Community.  Our day starts earlier on these days since I tutor (because parents are the teachers, our classroom instructors are called tutors) a class we try to arrive at CC around 8:30, which means being out the door at 8.  It very rarely happens, though, if I’m being honest.  Our CC day looks like this:
9:15-9:30 Opening Assembly (pledge, announcements, etc.)
9:30-12:00 Classroom Time (children work on new grammar, old grammar, geography, timeline, oral presentations, fine arts unit, science experiments and have a snack)
12:00-12:30 Lunch with friends
12:30-1:00 Recess
When we get home we still do math and reading, but that’s it for the day.

Questions: “You say you’re homeschooling them, but you’re on facebook all the time.  You must be ignoring your kids.” 
Amazingly, since the boys can read, they’re quite capable of working independently for chunks of time, just like your child is at school.  This leaves me pockets of time to fill in 20 second facebook updates or answer emails.  You’ll notice days where I don’t post anything all morning or am gone for hours at a time, and that probably indicates we’re working on something new or difficult where I need to be completely present and engaged.  Generally speaking, facebook updates don’t require more than a minute at a time, though.

Questions: “I’m thinking of homeschooling.  What curriculum do you use?” “What books do you use? Are they the same as the school system?” “Do you just do school at home?” 
There’s tons of curriculum out there.  What we use might not be for you.  However, we use Classical Conversations (which includes our timeline, geography, math concepts, skip counting, history, Latin, English grammar, fine arts, and science), Story of the World, Singapore Math, Sequential Spelling, First Language Lessons, Writing with Ease, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and fill in Science based on the unit we’re currently studying. Our reading is great books based, and we also use BOB books with our younger readers to fill in from Teach Your Child to Read.

Questions: “Are you crazy?”
Apparently not enough to commit.

Questions: “I don’t think I could do this.” “I’d like to do this, but I’m not sure I can.” “Can anyone do this?” “I think this might help my child, can I do it?”
If you want to, you can.  You taught your child to walk, talk, and not eat glue, you can certainly teach them.  I am not more patient than you, I am not more qualified than you, and I am not more zen with my kids than you, I just decide every morning that this is what I’m going to dedicate my time to.  If you have the desire to do it and are willing to commit to the task, you, too, can homeschool.  It’s not for everyone, but if you want to do it, you can do it.

Questions: “Do your kids kill each other?” “How do you socialize your kids?” “Aren’t your kids lonely and bored?” “Do you go out?” 
Our kids are actually really great with each other, although that was a transition because they’d lost a lot of their closeness in the 2 years of public school that we did.  I reject the idea that kids need to be “socialized” because I don’t necessarily want them to think like everyone else, however if you’re asking how we provide them with a social life, we have our co-op, scouts, sports teams, recess, play dates, park days, field trips, homeschool groups, and more.  They are not lonely, and very seldom bored, although I remember their being days when my oldest was bored even in public school.