Jessica Bartolini her husband, Tony, and two kids share about health and kids’ yoga while traveling the country. They currently reside in Rhode Island and have found homeschooling there over the last year an enriching experience. They offer inspiration and a glimpse into their on-the-road homeschooling experiences on their site and AimforBs YouTube channel.
What inspired you to start homeschooling?
We were in Alaska at the time where there are a lot of homeschoolers. And my daughter’s year in kindergarten hadn’t been great so we decided to give it a try and we never looked back.
What are some of the benefits you have found with homeschooling?
Family connection is probably the biggest gift of homeschooling. We spent 7 years living next to my folks on their hobby farm and it was such a wonderful time for the girls to spend quality time with their grand parents and other extended family.
We have the freedom to make time with family a priority. The other gift is having the freedom for my girls to explore a variety of interests and ways of learning, including opportunities to learn while traveling. Other pluses are not having to deal with the pressure of exams and grades and peers.
Finally, it definitely has made it easier to move to a different state which we have done twice now and will be doing again soon, because of my husband’s work.
What has been a surprise in your homeschooling?
The journey of how we homeschool. We started out doing Waldorf curriculums and then tried other things before naturally evolving into a more child-led, self-directed approach. I also continue to be surprised how the girls will quickly absorb something when they are ready both in terms of their individual brain development and their personal motivation. This saves hours of tedious work at trying to force learning.
I remember starting to teach cursive to my daughter when she was 8 and then letting it go because she was struggling with it and because I wasn’t even sure it was necessary. And just this year, at 14, she decided to learn how to right cursive out of her own curiosity and it took her less than a week to learn and she was writing letters to her grandparents in cursive during the quarantine.
Remember how many hours of dittos we did in school to learn how to write cursive? We’ve had similar experiences with math and reading. It’s not always easy to trust that they will learn what they need in their own time but it sure is helpful in so many ways if you can.
Do you feel there is a stigma to homeschooling and have you had any family respond adversely to your decision to homeschool?
Living next to my parents for 7 years did have some challenges in that regard. For the most part, my parents are very open-minded and were supportive. But anytime we were having a challenge with it in some way or other, they would immediately switch to the refrain of how going to school would be better.
The thing is there are challenges with any path you choose. Its just that when you’re taking the path less trodden and there is a challenge, its easier for people to automatically assume it’s the wrong path and that the better path is what the majority is doing, what is considered the norm.
There’s no reflection on the fact that there are many people on that path who are having even greater challenges than we are. When there is a challenge, its not a time to give up, it’s a time to reflect, get strategic and change course a little this way or that. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I would let them have their say without reacting. And I was always open to the possibility of having my girls go to school if they wanted to. In fact, we went on a few school tours because they were curious.
But, ultimately, they always chose homeschooling. A couple of times, I set a limit: No more input about our homeschooling please. Because I felt like it was stressful for the girls. I did the same around parenting differences as well and would interrupt with: I’ve got this. My parents are now completely on board with our homeschooling because they see what confident, capable, passionate and compassionate human beings my girls have become.
What tips can you offer those who are considering homeschooling?
Have faith. Always stay open to the many different possibilities for schooling and growth for your children. Trust that your children have an inner sense for what path of learning and growth they want to take AND be there to guide and support them with your own wisdom and experience. Its a dance for the whole family. Be open to change and growth with your children and yourselves.
Hang in there and enjoy those precious moments of connection. If homeschooling becomes a source of stress and disconnect between you and your child then reevaluate, change directions, listen to your child’s feelings and needs, listen to your feelings and needs. Maybe it is something you need to drop and then come back to at the right time. Be flexible and trust your own family’s journey with it.
There is no one way. There is no right way, only your family’s unique way. And as long as you make unconditional love and connection with your children the priority, you can’t go wrong. You will find the way that is right for you.
What curriculum do you use or have used that you enjoyed and why?
I loved the Waldorf curriculum when my girls were young because it really established a foundation of creativity for the following years of learning. We tried a hodge-podge of other curriculums along the way but nothing that stands out. My girls continue to pick and choose from all the amazing different learning opportunities that are out there these days.
What state do you live in? Can you offer tips for homeschooling in your area? Any good groups you can share for our readers who may be moving and/or live in that area?
We have been in Rhode Island for under a year and I can’t say enough about what a wonderful support the EnrichRI group here is!