If I can say anything, and if you take anything away from this, it’s that, do not be afraid that you have ill-equipped your children or have made some sort of unfixable mistake, because you haven’t and you aren’t, and what you’re doing is good and holy work. I think that your children, regardless of if they can see that now or if they see it in 10 years or 30, the fruits of that will be shown, whether in this life or the next. So thank you for the work that you do and for the way that you pour into this next generation, because it’s a gift to all of us.
Early on in my homeschooling journey, pretty much everyone in my world told my husband and I that we were making a huge mistake. Homeschooling was weird, and it was unfamiliar to them. Of course, most of us are afraid, or at least skeptical, of things that are weird or unfamiliar to us.
Well, I actually didn’t know anyone in my personal life who was homeschooling. I read some blogs; I read some books, obviously; and I just had this very strong hunch that we should do this home education thing. So we did, right from the beginning, with our oldest, Audrey, and I’m so glad we did. I loved it. Not every minute of it, let’s be clear. We’ll talk about it. But now that my oldest kids are adults, I am so grateful for the time I got with them during all those growing-up years.
I’m Sarah Mackenzie, a mama of six, and author of both Teaching From Rest and The Read-Aloud Family. This is the Read-Aloud Revival.
Today, I have a treat for you. My oldest, Audrey, who’s 20 years old right now, just finished her sophomore year at Franciscan University in Steubenville as an English major, and she’s joining me here on the show.
Now, Audrey and all five of her siblings have been homeschooled their entire education. She’s the oldest. She’s 20. We also have an 18, a 16, a 10, and twin eights, and there were some rocky years in there. When Audrey was 12, sixth grade-ish, I also had a 10-year-old, an eight-year-old, a one-year-old, and twin newborns. It makes me tired just to describe it, three babies age one and under. We’re going to talk about it. Not much school was happening that year, folks. We’ll talk about the impact of that.
Now Audrey is 20. She’s a grown-up. She’s a truly wonderful grown-up, if I do say so myself. She asked to come on the show to reflect on homeschooling. Sometimes she joins me at homeschool conferences, and she’s sort of inundated with questions, so this isn’t entirely new territory for her. We’ll be at the conference, and people will stop her at the booth or in the hallway, or sometimes in the bathroom, to ask her, “What was the most helpful part or the least helpful part of homeschooling? What did we do in her homeschool that she’s glad that we did? What was not so helpful?” She said, “Hey, why don’t we record a podcast, and I will just share all the juice there?” I couldn’t wait to have her.
Audrey, welcome, welcome to the Read-Aloud Revival.
Why don’t we start by having you tell us a little bit about your grown-up life so far, what you’ve been up to?
Yeah. Life has already taken a few unexpected turns. I graduated high school in 2020, which was, of course, in itself quite the adventure. There was so much unknown about whether or not universities would even be in-person and open. Then throughout freshman year, there was just a constant conversation of whether or not we would be allowed to stay in-person. It was just a reality that we all had to face. It was certainly not how I imagined the first year of my adulthood to be. Thankfully, all was well, and I was able to be in-person and have that experience freshman year. I attended a private Christian university in our hometown.
But at the close of that year, I was offered the opportunity to go to Austria with Franciscan University, and through some prayer and discernment, really felt like that was where I was being called. The following fall semester, I transferred to Franciscan and spent my very first semester with them on their remote campus in Gaming, Austria, where I traveled to eight countries, had the honor of meeting His Holiness Pope Francis in Rome. Maybe we can put the picture from the Vatican News in the show notes.
Oh, yes. Yeah, good idea. We’ll do that.
I just grew so much as an individual as well as in community with such wonderful fellow Catholic students and faculty. It was such a difficult decision to step out and do something so new, but I can confidently say that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Yeah, it was definitely a leap of faith kind of a year. It was one of those things where I know Dad and I had lots of conversations about, it was a weird time in the world to send your child off to Europe and then also to have you switching universities, and did we make a mistake. But it’s one of those things where, at the end of it, you can see God meeting you all along the path, all the different places along the path to help you become the person you’re becoming.
Thinking back on your homeschooled years, I cannot tell you how many people asked me how you were going to survive college, having been homeschooled. How would you fare in the big, wide world? Would you be able to handle it? I think people have a different idea of maybe what homeschooling looks like than what it actually does. But you’re traipsing all through Europe and doing all kinds of travel.
Anyway, one thing that’s been a really delightful surprise for me in parenting is, I tell people all the time now, “Yes, it is hard when they grow up and leave. You miss them, but it’s also this particular kind of joy.” I just love watching you fly. I love it when you call me from school and give me updates on what’s going on. I love it when you come back and visit. I love it. It’s a different kind of joy that I didn’t know was coming, because we hear a lot about empty nesting or it’s so hard when our kids grow up and leave. But there is a particular kind of joy that accompanies it that I didn’t know was coming, so I feel like that’s been really fun.
Then your younger sister, who’s graduating right now… In fact, when this podcast airs, we will have just graduated her from our homeschool. She’s heading off to the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, which is about as far away as you can get and still be in the same country from where we live.
If anyone is listening and is just thinking, “Oh no, I’m homeschooling. Are my kids going to be able to manage life in the world?” my thoughts there are that if you’re homeschooling with this wide view, not to keep your kids tucked away… Really, I talk to homeschooling moms all over the country all the time. We are homeschooling to help our kids love God and love others better, and so we’re engaging with the world in a meaningful way, because the world looks a lot more like homeschooling than it does like a classroom, where you’ve got 25 people all of one exact age in one controlled setting doing the exact same things. That system is never replicated again in our kids’ lives. That’s not really “normal.” It’s just a lot more normal to be living in a family life and engaging with a range of ages and kinds of people in the real world, which is what we can offer in homeschooling.
Okay, I’m like, “Ooh, stepped on a soapbox.” Let’s get off there. I’m getting offtrack.
Let’s start with some questions, because I asked on Facebook and got lots of questions from mamas who want to pick your brain. I have a few of my own questions too. I think we’ll just get to as many as we can in the next half hour or so, and then if we need more time, we’ll just have to have you back for another episode. How does that sound?
One of the questions I saw over and over again is, what was most helpful for you to know heading into college?
I’ve spoken with a lot of women at conferences about this, and I just sense there being a certain urgency about what topics they should cover and what sort of content is necessary when you are sending someone to university. I think I first want to just establish that there are gaps in everyone’s education, and there is not a way for every student to study each aspect of science, history, literature in great depth. Some people have greater knowledge than others on specific topics. I think that really tends to cultivate a beautiful classroom experience when you have many perspectives and many strengths throughout students, and so this is something natural and to be expected. There’s not going to be a way for you to impart a topical knowledge of everything onto your students. Rather, I think the goal here should be to give them this heart of a learner and this curiosity about the world.
That said, a couple of key things do come to mind, the first of which is knowing how to write an essay, and the differences between the different types of essays. Regardless of if you’re studying English like me or you’re going into the STEM fields, everyone I know in college has to write many, many essays, for better or for worse.
Just knowing those differences, like analytical versus persuasive versus research, and how to do those well, is just a really good skill to go into college with.
That’s really helpful to me too, because I know that, especially if you’re listening and you’ve got kids in high school or coming up into high school, one of the questions you have in your mind is, “Oh no, I’m running out of time. I only have a small amount of time. What do I focus on?” Hearing you say, “Hey, how to write an essay is a really good thing to focus on.”
I generally recommend IEW, the Institute for Excellence in Writing. They have several different programs on teaching essay writing. Their newest Structure and Style for students is Direct Your Student. I’m doing that with Audrey’s 16-year-old brother, one of my high school students right now. No matter what field you’re in, you do a lot of writing in college.
Yes. The second thing would be being able to read and engage with content, to stay curious, to keep that wonder about the world and to have questions. It doesn’t matter what you’re studying; if you are able to read the materials being provided, whether that’s a textbook or a novel, and then being able to engage with it, it’s just so important.
Then, lastly, I’ve already mentioned this, but just instilling that heart of a learner. This really stems from faith, I think, and just cultivating a genuine awe and wonder about the world, and just a longing to taste and see the goodness of the Lord and His creation. This was really cultivated for me in prayer, of course, but as well as following interests.
A lot of times I would tell you that I was interested in a topic, and you would just provide a bunch of books on it. You might not know a lot about marine biology, but I was really interested in that in middle school, and so you just got a few books and put them out. That gave me the ability to follow that wonder and explore that. Even though that’s not really something that I’m studying anymore, I was able to cultivate having interest and following different passions of mine.
Hearing this, you’ve got, on the one hand, how to write an essay. On the other hand, I think what you said was being able to read and engage with content of all different kinds. If you’re listening to this, you are already doing this, because you are probably reading aloud to your kids. If you’re listening to this episode, I would bet that you’re reading aloud with your kids some. This idea of giving our kids practice asking open-ended questions, engaging with what they’re reading, putting out books and resources that they’re interested in, this is all very doable.
You have five younger siblings that are… Well, I guess I’m, as of next year, only homeschooling four of them. Weird. I don’t think I’ve ever said that yet before. By next year, they’ll be 17, 10, nine and nine. This is a breath of fresh air for me because I’m like, “Oh yeah, this feels very doable. It feels like there’s a lot of breathing space around these important things.”
Yeah. Then a little bit more practically speaking, got to know how to do laundry. Got to know how to keep your spaces clean. Just really basic things that I’m sure are already being instilled in family life. Biggest things-
Clean can have a different definition for everyone.
Yeah, it’s true.
Audrey has a different definition of clean than I do.
Yeah. No, that is something that is just very specific to each person, but just knowing how to take care of your things well, whatever that looks like for you.
Then one of the biggest things I noticed was how to manage time well. Outside of class, you determine the way that you spend your days, and being able to do this well and with intention has been so helpful for me. One of the things that you did to help me with this before was making checklists of my day that just allotted certain amounts of time for certain things, so I could get a grasp for what was doable and what was realistic, and also how to take rest in between tasks, how to carve out time for prayer, for eating, other things outside of academics that are also so important.
I also would just assure you that this is something that you learn as you go, and it does takes a bit of figuring out on your own when you go to college. It’s good to remember that while high school may be the end of your child’s time under your roof, it’s merely the beginning of the rest of their lives as adults. Ultimately, you give your kids the tools and then they do the building. You don’t have to build a life for them. You just have to supply the equipment for them to build a flourishing life.
Oh, wow. That’s so beautiful.
If you are listening to this and you’re like, “Okay, I know I need to help them with time management,” one thing that worked really well for us were spiral notebooks. If you want to just see, it’s a very simple system my friend Sheila taught to me when I was very overwhelmed with three tiny babies and wasn’t getting much school in. If you go to readaloudrevival.com/spiralnotebooks, you’ll find it.
But as you got older, and I think you mentioned this then, Audrey, is you kind of transition as you get older to, instead of me giving you a daily rundown, you’re in a co-op class where there’s an essay due in three weeks or something. That’s not so much a daily spiral notebook thing. It’s more like, “I have this due in three weeks.” You need to learn how to back that up into smaller, doable chunks of time. It would feel very overwhelming.
I remember there being some days where we’d sit down and go, “Okay, so this task, how much time do you think this is going to take?” and we’d write the estimated amount of minutes. In general, humans are really bad at estimating how long things take. I am really terrible at this myself. But it does give you a reality check, because most of us think we can accomplish more in a day than we can. That’s why we’re so overwhelmed, because our to-do lists are epically long. I think as homeschooling moms, we do this for our kids too. We think they can accomplish more in a day than they can do well. So yeah, that’s really interesting.
Okay, so here’s a question from Tara. She wanted to know, was there a big learning curve entering the college scene from a homeschooling one, or were you able to jump right in?
No, I didn’t feel like it was a big learning curve for me as much as an adjustment to the next right thing. Although, I am the oldest of six, so I do think my disposition is naturally one ready to jump into things with great amounts of determination.
This is very true.
I also spent all of high school taking classes from our local co-op and then senior year of high school doing a part-time dual enrollment program with a local university, and I think that really helped with having me adjust to having external deadlines in teachers other than my mom. I can’t recommend Running Start, dual enrollment, whatever it is that’s available to you, enough, even if it’s just one class or part-time, because that really helped smooth that transition-
That was really helpful for me as a parent too, because I was a little nervous. Did I give you all the skills you need to be able to take notes in college? Well, I didn’t really know until you took a college class. It was helpful for you to do that while still in high school, still at home, still where I could help guide you. So yeah, that’s a path that we’ve chosen with all of our older kids so far. You did one year, I think, of dual enrollment, right?
Then Allison did one class her junior year, and then she took a couple of classes her senior year. Then our third coming up the pike is going to take his first one this next year. It’s a nice way to tiptoe into those waters.
Yeah. It felt like a very natural adjustment for me.
Okay. Yeah, I remember actually sitting in a Running Start meeting with you. It was an informational meeting, and the person explaining the program made a big deal about how, if you are going to do Running Start, you have to manage your own time. You leaned over and you said, “So basically like homeschooling.”
Most of the homeschooling moms I know have too much going on to do all the handholding for our kids when they get older. What I’m trying to say is, your kids might be more prepared for college classes than you think they are. That’s what I’m trying to say.
Mackenzie wants to know if you feel prepared for life. She writes, “Are you comfortable living on your own? Are you ready to take on the responsibility of real life outside of your parents’ home? What helped you with those things the most?”
Are we ever really prepared? I never expected to come into-
… adulthood during a pandemic, or to transfer to a university and fly across the world alone to a tiny Austrian town where I would live in a centuries-old Carthusian monastery. But when the time came to do all those things, God’s grace was poured out in abundance. There were so many unexpected twists and turns even in those adventures, missed trains, long days, minimal sleep.
I think perhaps the focus should be less on how to make kids unbreakable, but rather to cultivate hearts that are hopeful in the face of fear, joyful in suffering, and persistent in moments of despair. I don’t think perfection is the goal, but just a willingness to arise again and again, even after mistakes are made, because they will be.
I don’t know anyone who feels prepared for motherhood. We might think we’re prepared for motherhood, and then we become mothers and we’re like, “No, I was not prepared for this.” I feel like that’s true with all of the big transitions in our lives, marriage and children. There are things we can do to prepare, but that question of were you fully prepared for everything that was thrown your way, I love what you said, Audrey, about not worrying so much about making our kids unbreakable but helping them face obstacles with courage. Instead of thinking of how can I clear every obstacle for my child’s path, how can I help my child face obstacles with courage and virtue? That’s a really beautiful perspective.
Yeah. I think we miss the beauty of the Incarnation. If we become untouchable, we’re going to miss the One who came to touch us and to be with us and to walk side by side as we go through difficult things and as we grow. I think we want to stay tender and soft and open. Pope St. John Paul II says, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness.” I think that is one of the best gifts you can do is to instill this disposition in your children. The sweet part about this is that you really don’t have to add anything in to instill this in them. Life provides many difficulties on its own.
That’s for sure. That’s for sure.
Your children will look to you in these moments and see how you walk through these things and learn from the way that they see you do it.
But to answer the question, I guess I did not feel prepared for life, in the sense that no one could have prepared me for the things that I walked through. But I don’t think we will ever be ready to step into the challenges of life, and I think there’s something to that; that when they come along, thanks to the grace of God, we do what we must and we learn as we go. That dependency on Christ is incredibly beautiful, I think. I believe you can really trust your kids to that mercy and grace too.
The other thing that comes to mind for me as you’re talking is that this is one of the gifts I think books actually give our kids, because every story is about a character who has to overcome obstacles. That’s what a story is. If there’s no obstacles or conflict, there’s no story. When we share stories with our kids, we are basically giving them the opportunity to bear witness to someone facing obstacles that seem insurmountable. There’s almost always a point in a story where it seems pretty impossible that the main character is going to succeed. We get this experience again and again and again of watching somebody face seemingly impossible odds, and still face those obstacles with courage, become who they need to become in order to get to the end of their story, basically.
That feels like it’s one of those slippery fish. It’s one of those things that’s hard to quantify when it comes to preparing our kids. It’s not about how to… This isn’t particularly about how to run a dishwasher or how to do algebra, but it’s soul forming. It feels to me like something that has the capacity to strengthen us for all the things that are coming down the pike that we don’t know are coming.
Yes. I think there’s a lot of emphasis on reading stories to walk a mile in another’s shoes. I think that teaches us not only empathy, which is what I think people are often referencing when they say that, but also resilience, and the ability to walk through hard things and to keep walking anyway, which is what you get when you sit with a character for a story and see them walk through difficulties.
Yeah, that’s right.
Kim LaRue asks a question that I’m very excited to hear your answer for. She wants to know, “What did your mom focus on that made you crazy but actually helped you, and what did she spend way too much time on that you wish she skipped?”
This is a good question. I took three or four years of Latin, and to be honest, this is something I’ve carried with me long past I would’ve ever dreamed. I’m at a university that-
This is not where I thought this answer was going to go.
I’m at a university that is quite classically based, and so the integration I have seen of Latin with philosophy and theology and literature has been so surprising to me. I do not remember very much Latin, and I certainly could not translate much for you, but I think learning it at such a young age did build a great foundation of language for me. I think at some point I would love to dive back into learning more of it. But man-
… would my 11-year-old self be disappointed.
Yes, she sure would. She gave me a lot of earfuls about Latin.
Okay, so backstory here is that you took three or four years, is what you said, right? I think that’s right, of Latin-
Against your will, because you did not like it at all, and reminded me frequently that you did not like it.
I had a very good friend in our co-op who would teach it, and she was awesome, and so it just seemed like way too good of an opportunity to pass up. But she was done teaching it pretty much by the time your sister came up through the pike, and I was not convinced that I wanted to do so many more years of this really difficult subject that we were not enjoying, so I dropped it. Now you’re making me second-guess that. I’m wondering, “Hmm. Maybe I will…” I wasn’t going to do Latin with the younger kids, but maybe I’ll rethink that. I’ll just put that in my pocket for now, think on that.
As far as what I wish we would’ve skipped, I’m a fairly Type A person, so to be honest, there isn’t much I would say I wish we would’ve skipped over, because you are far more relaxed than I am. I think, if anything, things could have been more intense, but I also-
At least, there could have been more worksheets, right? I could have at least given you more worksheets.
I also want to emphasize that I do not feel like I missed anything, by any stretch of the imagination, which brings me to a really important point, which is this, that God knew exactly what He was doing when He gave you your kids. He had your heart in mind when He fashioned theirs. I think it’s good to remember that He’s going to use all that you bring to the table and all that your kids bring to the table to create a beautiful masterpiece within the context of your home.
It has been a great gift to me to have a mother so opposite me because I did not used to be someone that you could describe as easygoing or laid back, but now that’s often one of the first words friends would use to describe me. I think so much of that was cultivated through being educated and mentored by someone who had this different perspective and offered a softness to my very determined spirit.
One of the things that I feel like I repeated to you ad nauseam growing up was, “We’re just going to go with the flow,” because you really wanted to know exactly how things were going down for the day, for the hour, for the meal, whatever we had ahead of us. Because we had so many children, and so many of them were babies, a lot of the time I couldn’t really tell you with certainty how things were going to go down, so I would repeat to you constantly, “We’re just going to go with the flow,” which I think you probably hated. Did you hate it when I’d say that?
I did, but actually a really beautiful experience happened when I was at school recently. I was part of a ministry team, and one of our leaders prayed over me and she said, “The very first image that came to mind was a river,” like my presence was a peaceful current throughout. The “go with the flow” has come back to me anyway.
So often, as homeschool moms, we worry that who we are is going to mess up our kids, like we’re not enough, we can’t do enough. We see our glaring weaknesses and flaws, and worry about how those are impacting our kids.
It’s just so beautiful to think that, just as we know that God works all things together for good for those who love Him, this goes right back to that idea that we are constantly revisiting around here of Jesus feeding the 5,000 on the hillside. There’s not enough food to go around, and the disciples want to send the people away. Jesus could have just instantly fed everybody, instantly had enough for every person on that hillside to eat. Instead, He looked at the disciples and said, “Well, bring me what you have.” They bring this small basket from a little boy of bread and fish, and that’s it. That’s all they’ve got for 5,000 people.
That’s what He’s asking us to do every day in our home schools. We don’t feel like enough. We know we don’t have enough. We’re right when we think, “I don’t have enough for these children” and “I am not enough.”
I remember worrying so much about those years with babies, which I’m going to ask you a question about in a few minutes. There was so little actual academic school going on. I was so tired and so overwhelmed and worried that I was making some big mistake. Really, what He was asking me to do at that time was to bring what I had, and He made it enough. That’s what we have to do every day in our home schools.
This is an interesting question from Katie. She asked, “How did you create a circle of peers to do life with?”
This question made hair on the back of my neck stand up, because when you were middle school age, seventh, eighth grade, I realized that all of the friends and families in our homeschool group that we were so tight with, they were all putting their kids in public high school, which is fine, but that’s not what we were doing. You were going to have no friends. Zero people in our life were going to homeschool high school.
This did not seem like a good idea for a lot of reasons, and I just really worried about it. I just prayed like crazy. It was a real… Angst is probably not an exaggeration of a word of how I felt about it. I was very worried, and I thought, “Well, if we can’t find people to do this next section of life with, we might have to switch gears.”
Anyway, how did you create a circle of peers to do life with?
We joined a co-op local to us. It required a bit of driving time for you. It was about 45 minutes every Thursday morning that we would go to this co-op, and there was already an established group of girls there. There was about five of them, I think, who were all friends, and they had all been friends since they were like three. I was coming in in the eighth grade and a little bit nervous to join an already established group, but they were very welcoming and they very much just brought me in. I think it was really helpful, too, that we were in the eighth grade and we weren’t halfway through high school. That was a gift, I think, to be a little bit younger.
We just started. We did a book club. We had swing dances, hung out at people’s houses. This required a lot of sacrifice from all of our mothers, who would chauffer us around the town because we all lived on opposite corners of the city. It was such a beautiful gift, I think, to have those girls who shared the same faith that I practiced. That was how I found friends in high school, was through that co-op, but it was much to the love of our mothers, who would make the treks out for us to have those gatherings.
Yeah. I remember being kind of jealous when I’d hear of other people having these really large or robust homeschooling groups. I still am kind of jealous sometimes. I guess part of the homeschooling journey for me has been having to lay down my ideas of what I thought it should look like and then just accepting what it did look like, and then making those trade-offs.
When we switched from our old homeschool group… Well, it was pretty much fading because, like I said, a lot of people were putting their kids in high school and there weren’t too many of us left. I switched to a new homeschool group. It did feel like, “Oh, we’re starting all over.” It was not close by. My kids were making friends that did not live close, which is only a problem until everybody can drive, and then it’s not nearly as much of a problem anymore. It feels eons way. I know. If your oldest is 12, you’re like, “No one is ever going to be able to drive.” But there will come a day when your oldest child will be able to do your grocery shopping for you. I promise that day is coming.
It’s the first thing I had Audrey do when she got her… Do you remember that? You came home with your license, and I handed you-
… a list. I said you could get yourself a latte too when you did it.
So it worked out. I was happy. It worked out.
Anyway, yeah, it’s a shift, I think. It might look differently than you think it should or than you expected it would. And pray, because God provides.
Also, He might provide in a way that doesn’t feel like your solution. I remember Sally Clarkson’s kids talking about there being some lonely years there, and now in adulthood they can look back and go, “Oh, God was doing something on purpose during that time.” I think sometimes we think what we think our kids need. He knows them. He knows what they need better than we do.
Yeah, and He’s always working, in even ways that we can’t see.
Chelsea Andrews asked, “Did you ever wish you were in public school?”
I didn’t. I think that this has to do with my disposition a little bit because I very much enjoy working independently and in a peaceful, quiet environment, so the appeal of public school was never there for me. Because I had such wonderful friends throughout high school from co-op, my social butterfly heart was contented. But I do know that this isn’t the same experience for all of my siblings.
Yeah. You never asked to go to school. I think we did ask you if you were interested in going to high school during those times before we had found the new group. You weren’t interested. Our second, your younger sister, was definitely not interested.
Your brother, who’s now, at the time we’re recording this, is 16, he did for years and years and years, wanted to go to school. That’s hard if you’re listening to this and you have kids who are begging you to go to school, or who are mad at you for keeping them homeschooled, but you feel led to do that, to keep them homeschooled. I know that the kind of education he needed would be more likely to happen in our home with our small teacher-to-student ratio. The ability to learn things at our own pace, I just knew that’s what we needed.
That question of did you ever want to go to school, there’s a little bit of anxiety underneath it. What do we do if our kids want to go to school? I don’t think there’s a hard and fast answer to that.
I think maybe something that’s underneath this question too is an anxiety about, what if I make the wrong decision and my child holds it against me? That’s just part of parenting. We can say that about any part of parenting, whether it’s the church that we attend, or the kind of diet that we feed our kids, or the place we choose to make our home, or the place we choose to have them educated. There’s no guarantees. We bring our basket. We bring what we have, and He makes it enough.
I have friends now, too, who have been homeschooled and didn’t enjoy it. Some of them were put in school and some of them were made to stay homeschooling, and they all just have different perspectives. Some of them were happy that they were pushed to stay home, and some of them wished that they had been pushed to stay home when they weren’t, a variety of experiences and perspectives.
I really don’t think that there’s a cut-and-dried answer one way or the other. I think you can really trust that mama intuition and that instinct that you have because there’s so much wisdom in that. Ultimately, this may feel like such a big decision right now, and it is an impactful decision, but it isn’t something that will really determine their path in life necessarily one way or another.
Yeah. Drew, who’s the one who asked to go to school for years and years, now will say he’s really glad he was homeschooled, and that does help, I will say. It’s a relief, but it took a lot of years to get there.
Here’s a question that came in. Do you feel that in your home school, connection was fostered over curriculum? What bonded you to your family and created a sense of being seen, heard, and loved, especially in the midst of crazy homeschool days?
There was always a mentality that curriculum was serving us and that we weren’t serving the curriculum. The goal was to learn and not to finish the textbook. That was very evident by the way that we used the material. Sometimes we would do all the math problems in the math book, and sometimes we would only do half of them. It just depended on what I needed at the time. There were also days when we would set it aside and do something else.
There was space created for rest, and also encouragement on days that we needed to really press in and do hard things too. There were times when lessons went unfinished because I needed to have a heart-to-heart with you. I think a lot of that came from you just meeting me where I was that day. Again, with that mama intuition, I think you know when your student needs to be challenged and to be pushed to finish something that’s really hard, and also when they need to have a rest and to walk away and to come back later. I think using the material, using the curriculum in a way that was really serving our relationship as mother and daughter, but also as learner and teacher, was just through the way that you met me where I was and saw what I needed and helped me to walk into that well.
Can we talk about grammar? I did not teach grammar. I assumed you’d pick up a lot of it naturally through lots of reading. We started a grammar curriculum or two here and there. Usually, we’d drop it because I was overwhelmed with babies, and it just got… Something had to give, and so that was something that gave.
But you’re an English major. I remember when you said, “I think I want to be an editor,” I thought, “Oh no, maybe I should have taught a little bit of grammar.” Should I have done that differently, or would you have benefited from that? Talk to me about that.
I do think it would’ve been helpful to have done a few years of foundational grammar in middle school and early high school, not only because of being an English major, but because college work is very writing based, as we were talking about earlier. In the beginning, I did receive a lot of markings from professors on my varying use of punctuation, but it really wasn’t something-
Commas, I bet.
It really wasn’t something that was a huge setback. Through trial and error, I have really figured it out and found my way, and this isn’t really something that I struggle with much anymore two years into college. But I do think it would have been helpful. I know that a lot of curriculums do start grammar from a very young age. I don’t know if you need to do something quite so extensive, as just a couple of years would be helpful just to set up some basic rules, again, for just how writing based many schools and universities are.
This brings up something that goes beyond grammar, I think, which is we’re all worried about our kids having gaps in their education. What if I forget to teach my kids something important? We all have gaps in our education.
That’s actually one of the delights of a learning life, because as an adult, when I get to learn about something I know nothing about… For example, sometime over the last year, I can’t remember exactly when it was, I read The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys, which is a historical fiction novel set right after the Spanish Revolution in Madrid. I knew nothing about the time period, the politics, the people’s lives, nothing going in. Learned tons during that novel. Then because my curiosity was piqued by reading the novel, I went and did all kinds of reading and hunting down of more information about that time period. But I didn’t feel mad. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I can’t believe this wasn’t covered in history.” It’s like, “Oh, I can’t wait to learn about this.”
Something you said early on was that helping our kids have that curiosity, the ability to read widely and engage with content of all different kinds, and then the curiosity has been more helpful to you than the actual subject matter. I think that’s the way you put it. That feels freeing to me because I know that there are things like grammar… I remember you saying, “Man, I cannot figure out how to use commas,” and I got you one of those cheapy $5 or $8 workbook things on commas. Do you remember this? I just-
… bought it off Amazon or something. Yeah. You did it in like a week over your summer break and were like, “Oh, that worked. I got it.” So we can fill gaps. Sometimes they’re easier and less painful to fill them at the time of need.
The metaphor that comes to mind for me here is when you’re scrubbing a pan if you make lasagna, let’s say, and you’ve got all that stuff that’s stuck to the pan. You could take it to the sink and you could scrub it and scrub it and scrub it, and it will take you a while and a lot of elbow grease to clean it; or you could just fill it with water, let it soak, and come back in an hour and it will be much easier to clean.
In some ways, I think when we fill academic topical needs early because we’re worried about making sure they have everything they need later on, it’s kind of like scrubbing that pan instead of just waiting until we see a need. You were like, “I don’t know how to use commas, and I’m trying to write these college papers.” I’m like, “Oh, here. Here’s a comma book.” I don’t think that’s always the best way to go, because like you said, it would be really helpful for you to have had more basic usage kind of punctuation and things like that. But I do think we can shed a lot of our stress about gaps and “what if I’m forgetting to teach something?” What you’ve demonstrated, I guess, is that you are, as an English major, able to fill a lot of gaps that I left wide open.
One thing I’m thinking about as we’re talking is that there were years in there, especially that year when I had three babies age one and under, that was a crazy year, three babies age one and younger, 12, 10, and eight. I didn’t do a lot of teaching with you in the traditional sense that year, or the next, or the next, actually. It was audiobooks. It was online math. I was pretty terrified I was ruining your education.
I’m curious what you remember about school those years. I’m also curious about the impact of those very light years. We all, in homeschooling, have a year or two or five where we’re like, “That was a struggle bus. That was a survival year.” I’m curious about the impact of those struggle-bus years on your education.
To be totally honest, I do not remember what school looked like during these days.
That’s because there wasn’t much of it. I don’t remember much from those days either. It’s all a little fuzzy.
I really have no particular memories of school or what we did at this time. What I do remember is how much I loved having baby siblings and how much fun it was to take naps with them asleep on my chest; to read books to Clara, who was one at the time; to help you feed the twins and put them to bed. It was my favorite thing to come downstairs and to help you rock the twins to sleep. While, yes, this was a couple of years, I really think I grew closer in relationship with my siblings and with you than I did educationally, and I found this to be just as valuable, if not more so, in the end.
That is such a balm, because I know a lot of people listening today are in a struggle year or a survival year or a “this is not our best homeschooling” year. Whether it’s babies or it’s illness or it’s a move or it’s finances, or whatever your particular burden is that you feel like is giving your kids a less-than-optimal education, there’s a lot of learning that you just mentioned and a lot of… Learning is not even the right word for it. It’s so much richer than that.
I think in those years, the connections with my siblings were really rooted and planted deeply. Our bond as a family was something that was really shared and has continued to grow throughout these past few years, even as we are able to do more and more as they’ve gotten older.
Just one final word of encouragement to all you mamas out there, is just that you are doing good and holy work, and that if you are even listening to this episode, it just shows so much about the way that you care and the way that you desire to pour into your children. That is not something that will be missed and not something that will go unfruitful in any way. Your children are so blessed to have a mother who will pour into them and who wants to cultivate an education that helps them to thrive and flourish in life.
Thank you for all the work that you are doing, because it is good and it is holy. You are the hands and the feet of Jesus. It matters a lot for our generation and for the generations to come, these seeds that you are planting. Thank you for being faithful to the calling that He has placed on your life. It is a gift to all of us.
I cannot tell you what this conversation with Audrey meant to me. She, like I said at the beginning, is the one who suggested it, and it has given me so much peace and hope for continuing along this road. I know it feels hard, and I know you wonder every day if what you’re doing is enough. Here at Read-Aloud Revival, we are rooting for you. We’re walking alongside you on this path. I, for one, am grateful to have the Read-Aloud Revival community at my side for this journey. Thank you for being here, and thank you, as Audrey said, for doing this work. It’s a gift to all of us.
I’m taking just a few weeks off from new episodes while we get a Very Special project ready for you. That’s a capital V and a capital S, Very Special. We are launching a publishing imprint here at Read-Aloud Revival. It’s called Waxwing Books. We’re making a line of picture books that your kids will love to read, and that you’ll love to read aloud. The first is written by me and illustrated by the incredibly talented Breezy Brookshire. More on that very, very soon.
Make sure you’re getting email updates so you don’t miss it. You can do that by going to readaloudrevival.com/subscribe, or by texting the word BOOKS to the number 33777.
For now, let’s go hear from the kids about books they’ve been loving lately.
My name is Erin. I’m three years old. I live in Ohio. I like Charlotte’s Web.
My name is Miles. I’m five years old.
Speaker 5 (46:50):
I live in?
Speaker 5 (46:55):
What’s your favorite book?
My Father’s Dragon, when he found his mommy.
Hi, my name is Maddie. I live in Texas.
Speaker 7 (47:09):
And I’m how old?
Three and a half. I love Lola Dutch because of [inaudible 00:47:20]. I love Little Sap. I love [inaudible 00:47:20].
Clare Walker (47:22):
Hi, I’m eight years old, and my name is Clare Walker. I’m from Sugar Land, Texas. My favorite book is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I like it because I like how the writer, J.K. Rowling, how she makes me want to jump in the book and do magic. And whenever I want to sleep in, and my room gets really bright, I could just make it dark.
Kids, thank you so very much. I love, love, love hearing your messages. Your kids can leave a message to be aired on a future episode by going to readaloudrevival.com/message.
Now, like I said, there are not going to be any new episodes for a few weeks, but we are going to re-broadcast a few of our favorites, so keep an eye on your podcast feed, and definitely keep an eye on your email for that special news I cannot wait to share with you. In the meantime, go make meaningful and lasting connections with your kids through books.