When I first started homeschooling, back in 2012, I didn’t know where to start. I had one friend I knew in person that was planning to homeschool, but her oldest child was the same age as mine, five, and entering Kindergarten. It was like the blind leading the blind.
Eventually, I was able to attend an in person homeschool park day, and eventually, over the past 8 years, I have developed friendships across the ten or so homeschool groups that we belong to. Many times, these in person friendships have been a lifeline. Having someone to reach out to in times of exasperation or in times of accomplishment or joy cannot be substituted.
However, no matter how many people I spoke to in those early years, my mind struggled to conceive of what homeschooling looked like on a daily basis. But what do you do all day? I would ask in person or in a homeschooling forum on facebook. Back in those ancient times, I struggled to find any blogs with the answer to my query. I told myself that the moms out there homeschooling must be too busy actually doing the work of homeschooling to take the time and write down what they’re doing. So, I turned to the next best option: books. I placed holds on books all over the Bay Area, and read any and every book that had anything to do with homeschooling. In those early years I read:
Home Education (Mason); Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling (Holt)
Homeschooling Our Children Unschooling Ourselves (McKee); Free to Live: Create a Thriving Unschooling Home (Laricchia); Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through The Dark World of Compulsory Schooling (Gatto); So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling (Whelchel); Homeschooling For Excellence (Colfax)
The Unschooling Unmanual (Gestel); Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education (Aldrich); Free to Learn (Oldfield); A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century (DeMille); Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Agenda of Compulsory Schooling (Gatto); The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Wise Bauer); The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom (Griffith); Free To Learn (Gray). (You can see more about books here.)
The books were enough to settle for myself the why of homeschooling. At the time, just after my husband and I were recent law school graduates, I needed a solid foundation for this atypical approach to education that went against everything I thought I knew to be true about how things should be done.
As time went on, and to this day, for more often than grasping for the whys of homeschooling, I am looking for the how. How, on this day, when it’s raining outside, or when one of my kids is recovering from a cold, or when the February blahs set in, how am I going to not only teach my kids something they’ll need to know, but how am I going to inspire the ever elusive goal to love learning with their whole minds???!
What facebook did for connecting homeschoolers into forums for discussion, Instagram is doing for the widespread sharing of ideas. A search for the term “homeschooling” is associated with 1.7 million posts, “homeschoollife” returns 518,000 posts. The number of accounts with the word homeschool is too many to count.
One of my favorite aspects of Instagram, as opposed to other forms of social media, is that because it represents a highlight reel of sorts. A vast majority of the posts in the homeschool community are inspirational examples of what other families are doing in their particular homeschool on that particular day in that particular season of life. One of my good friends, a homeschool mom of 7 recently shared a cooking project that one of her sons was doing for his language arts curriculum. Another friend shared how her daughter’s rock collection was on display at their local library.
In addition to personal friends and other homeschooling moms’ personal accounts inspiring our homeschool, I have also found a lot of inspiration from larger homeschooling accounts. These accounts include both those moms that are still homeschooling one or all of their children, and those with moms whose children are now homeschool graduates, onto the next phase of life. These accounts share daily or weekly encouragement and ideas for how to inject sparkle into our homeschool day, or how to reflect on how far we have come. Sometimes these positive posts are just the cure for the February doldrums.
Instagram accounts I adore include:
@juliebravewriter — she’s a veteran homeschooling mom. Her 5 kids are now grown adults with successful careers & relationships.
@homeschoolunrefined — an account run by two homeschooling moms (plus another in the background) who share traveling stories and life tips.
@mamasnak — a dear friend who ended up becoming a full time RV family. She posts about RV life, gluten free recipes, and “free schooling!”
@childoftheredwoods — another real life friend who runs an inspiring and uplifting account about Montessori & peaceful parenting.
@pepperandpine — a Muslim mama, she posts incredibly creative hands on unit studies and Waldorf inspired content.
@adriennemeschelle — a working artist and homeschool mom of four. Her artwork is breathtaking and her girls are all overflowing with personality.
Additionally, during our “quiet time” in the middle of the day, while the younger children are napping, I will often listen to a podcast in order to have a metaphorical lunch for my mind. My absolute favorite podcasts include:
A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief, Julie Bogart
“Getting Wild + Free With Greta Eskridge (02/11/2019)
“Susan Wise Bauer on Homeschooling Culture & Rethinking School” (09/18/2017)
“Back to Homeschool: Maximizing the Perks of Home” (04/9/2018) — listen especially for the part about how we don’t have yellow school buses, we have brown UPS delivery trucks that bring wonderful surprises inside of brown boxes!
Homeschool Unrefined, Maren & Angela
One of my favorites due to Maren & Angela’s laid back, casual approach, especially in their “what’s saving our homeschool” segments, where they share what “hacks” are making homeschooling easier on a daily basis.
Over At Alicia’s, Alicia Hutchinson
“Q&A Feeding a Large Family” (10/31/2019)
“Should We Dare to be a Different Kind of Family” (10/18/2019)
Living Joyfully, Pam Laricchia
“Don’t Aim for Perfect with Sue Patterson”
Child of the Redwoods, Aubrey Hargis
Aubrey is a dear personal friend, and her laughter is absolutely infectious & endearing. Her insights into Montessori pedagogy & peaceful parenting bring joyful comfort.
HSLDA Homeschool Talks, various
Mike Smith is a respected colleague. We have worked together along within a group of other homeschooling agencies in California to oppose various restrictive homeschooling regulations over the years. HSLDA is the only nationwide agency that legally defends homeschooling, and maintains a staff of Supreme Court barred attorneys that trevail the country (and sometimes even abroad) to defend homeschooling families.
“Balancing Work and Homeschooling” (03/11/2019)
“Celebrating Black History Month: An Interview with Joyce Burges” (03/25/2019)
“State Senator, Homeschooling Mom: An Interview with Patricia Rucker (06/11/2018)
In addition to instagram and podcasts, the world of online courses has recently exploded, especially here in Silicon Valley. In addition to individual publishers and curriculum companies offering courses, there are now companies dedicated to online offerings.
For example, Reading Eggs now offers free bonus material specifically designed for homeschoolers, which includes lesson plans and supporting activities for Kindergarten through second grade. Our oldest took an online writing class last summer through Brave Writer called Middle School Writing Projects— it was life changing for our homeschool!
Outschool, Athena’s Advanced Academy, Online G3 (for gifted learners), and the completely free website Khan Academy are commonly recommended organizations that offer classes on almost any topic conceivable. My children have also done coding through the websites Bitsbox, Scratch(through MIT), Code Combat, and we have received free lesson plans from a googlecomputer science program.
Local homeschool list serves will even circulate information about online courses on some of these sites in order to garner enough enrollment to keep the courses live. Two recent examples include a course on the stock market and another on how contracts work–both important real world skills that aren’t necessarily even addressed in the typical public school curriculum.
This semester, I even found an online homeschool conference offering talks by a wide variety of speakers that I was interested in hearing from (Homegrown Generation).
The internet continues to bring us more and more opportunities, and with the help from others within the homeschool community, we can cherry pick the best resources that work for our children and ourselves!
Do you have a favorite online homeschool resource? Please feel free to share in the comments!