As part of our onging “How We Homeschool” series, we reached out to the Leaman family in Pennsylvania to share why they decided to homeschool, what struggles and surprises they have encountered and what curriculum they have tried and loved. Ashley Leaman and her three kids run Home is Where the School Is on Instagram.
Making the Decision to Homeschool
What inspired or encouraged you to decide to homeschool? A lot of it comes from my own school experience. I went to both a private school and a public school in my education years, and the experiences were equally unpleasant. I truly believe that not all children fit in this one size fits all box that the public-school system has become.
There are lots of different topics, and subjects we have covered that I have learned just as much as they have about. We can sit down as a family unit and just dive in. It’s been the biggest privilege of all.
How long have you been homeschooling? (name of kids and ages would be great!) I started homeschooling when my middle daughter Harper (now six and a half) was a toddler! We started with “tot schooling” which is basically just a cutesier way to say pre-k. As she started approaching Kindergarten age, I started discussing the possibility of “seriously” doing this with my partner.
We have been homeschooling as a family ever since, and plan on homeschooling our son Nash (18 months) as well. My oldest daughter, Chloe, (10 years old) is in public school. Due to nationwide shut downs, she has enjoyed jumping right in with us. Following their lead is really important to us, and we plan to homeschool for as long as it works for our family which right now is at least until Nash is through elementary school.
Surprises and Rewards of Homeschooling
What has been a surprise benefit of homeschooling? Honestly, learning WITH my kids! There are lots of different topics, and subjects we have covered that I have learned just as much as they have about. We can sit down as a family unit and just dive in. It’s been the biggest privilege of all. I think a lot of times children look at “grown-ups” like we know EVERYTHING, and should be able to answer their questions at a drop of the hat. I feel showing my children the process in how to learn something will benefit them for a lifetime, because they will see the possibilities are endless!
How has family, friends reacted to your decision to homeschool? Surprisingly our family’s reactions were mostly positive! I was nervous we would have been met with a lot of resistance from family members, but at least for my family they were used to my rebel ways. Hahaha. We have been fortunate to have nothing but encouragement around our decision, because I know there are families out there who have met with such resistance.
Homeschooling in Pennsylvania
What does your typical day look like? Well our family has lots of interesting dynamics (as I like to call them) going on! I work a full-time night shift job, while their Dad is a stay at home dad. By the time I get home around 7 a.m. they are up and ready to go for the day. How I ever got “morning” children I will never know. It’s not my genes, but it works in our case. We usually start after breakfast with our read aloud for the week and then move onto reading/phonics, and writing. After we tackle that we move onto whatever unit we are studying right now.
Right now, we are studying the human body so we will either do an experiment, watch a video, read a book, play a game, etc. We end with math because it’s an online program and Harper can do it while I sleep! I usually have one or two pre-planned activities for them to do with Dad while I’m napping. Within the next few months, we will be adding in a “circle time” for Nash to learn as well. Either way, we are done by lunch time at the latest. I’ve realized over the years that a lot of learning happens in the most “un-academic” settings. Everyday does look very different for us, which I like to show on our Instagram, Home is Where the School Is. We have embraced rolling with the waves instead of trying to fight them.
Don’t get caught up on schedules, lists, getting through a lesson by this day or that. It’s the quickest way to feel burnt out, defeated, and stressed.
What Works for Them
What tips do you offer parents who are considering homeschooling? Before you research what type of curriculum you want to do, or what -cop ops you want to sign your kid up for find your WHY. Having a why either written down somewhere (mine is in my planner), or at least in the back of your mind is crucial. Homeschooling is tough. It looks great on Instagram feeds, and social media, but it is one of the hardest- yet rewarding, things you could possibly do.
I can’t even tell you how many times I thought about what a relief it would feel to just send my daughter to school and call it a day. The reason I chose to homeschool written down has helped me push through. Also, don’t get caught up on schedules, lists, getting through a lesson by this day or that. It’s the quickest way to feel burnt out, defeated, and stressed. It doesn’t help cultivate the learning environment that’s going to make your child want to learn.
What advice can you give homeschool parents who may need some inspiration?
Ask your kids what they want to learn. My greatest inspiration in coming up with unit studies is my kids! They are less resistant to “learning something” when they choose to learn it! Other than the main subjects (reading, writing, math) we are extremely child led. For example, last month I came up with a list of possible ideas of things to learn, and let them pick! We ended up breezing through the materials/resources I put together, because they were so eager.
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