Education is a Life

Time In: An Encore Post, by Genevieve

Feature photo by Gretchen Phillips 

Dear readers, this post got such a great response when it ran, and we think it has such a valuable message, that we decided it would be a good idea to run it again!  Hope you enjoy.  – Miz Socrates

I believe that the parent-child relationship is one of the most important things on earth. I want to protect mine at every turn and with every interaction.

In fact, I once wrote a paper titled “Force Flowers, Not Children.” That is all well and good for a 20-year-old education major with no children of her own, but how do you get anything done without forcing? Children who won’t listen or mind are a danger to themselves and to others.

I am frequently asked questions about homeschooling, but upon closer discussion, the questions are not really about homeschooling but about parenting.

“My son refuses to do any school work.”

“My daughter defies me.”

“They are so disrespectful!”

How is it possible to have cooperative, respectful, obedient children with real, ingrained morals?


I’ll tell you the secret and it is the opposite of Time Out.

When your child makes bad choices and pushes every button you have, try pulling her in tighter with love instead of isolating her in anger.

Many behavior issues can be prevented before they become big problems with this method. Try spending some special time in with your child every day. Spend time in fun activities that your child enjoys.


“I wish I could,” you say, “but this kid ruins every activity. Why should he be rewarded when he won’t do his work?”

You just described the kid who needs time in most of all.


We can never truly control what another human does and the choices he makes, but time in gives you the opportunity to get deep into his heart.

My brother was once working as a barista. I don’t think he was very good at it. He told me that he was constantly resisting the urge to get sarcastic and hateful with customers. “Then I would think about you,” he said. “I knew how upset you would be if I treated people that way. I couldn’t bear to be a disappointment to you.”

He had internalized my value system. Decades later, those nights I let him sleep in my bed while I read chapter after chapter, the walks to get pizza in our matching shoes, the art projects, the games…. They are still paying dividends.


I have two grown children now. There is no one around to tell them what to do or to punish them. I have to trust the investments I have already made – all of the late night talks about the nature of the universe, the walks down our road with the dogs, discussions about Milton while we milked the cow, the tea parties, the beach trips.


They will always have free will. I know they will make some bad choices. Isn’t that part of growing up? So I pray, and I hope that 18 years of time in has been enough to mark my values onto their hearts, and that no matter how old they are, or how far away, they will always feel the tug of irresistible love that brings them back to the right path whenever they have strayed too far.

Are you willing to give this a try for a month? Is your heart telling you that time in is what your child needs in spite of what your head may believe?


If so, you should stop reading right now and go bake some cookies or color together or go to the park and swing.


Make some memories today, and give your child a little extra time time in.


Genevieveis a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .

Education is a Life

Homeschooling Through the Hard Times, by Georgiana

Let’s face it, none of us decide to classically educate our children because we want to make things easy, which is probably why homeschooling on the fly doesn’t come as naturally to us as, say, our unschooling counterparts. By nature, I’m highly inflexible and thrive on structure and routine. That’s not to say all classical educators are like me, nor do all unschoolers educate by the seat of their pants. But sometimes life dictates that we make adjustments — either adding structure to our school or loosening the reins — that would otherwise make us cringe.

For me, the need to change was precipitated by our son-in-law’s long-term illness. Between helping him with out-of-town doctor’s appointments and his eventual hospitalization, I had to let go of my idyllic picture of what our home school should look like.

Nine o’clock start, books open, pencils poised and ready

Sound familiar? Even if that’s not what your school looks like, I’ll bet you have a vision of what you want it to be. Then when circumstances beyond your control require a change, you get flustered. (Okay, hopefully you don’t actually get flustered like I do. I’m working on it!) Going through a year of relaxed schooling gave me a bit of insight for those unexpected seasons of life.

*Let go of your expectations.

Did you hear me? Let go. Really, it’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself and your children. Forget what homeschooling is supposed to look like because true learning can happen anywhere and in all kinds of circumstances. The van, the waiting room, Grandma’s house—all perfectly acceptable places to learn something new.


This can be especially cathartic when your family is going through a tragedy as opposed to a few days of interruption.

*Look into the What Your ___ Grader Needs to Know series, by E.D. Hirsch.

These books for elementary-aged school children are broken down by subject matter and cover a vast range of topics. History, math, language arts, science, fine arts—it’s all covered by grade level. Assign a bit of reading in each subject and you’re good to go!

*Have classic, age-appropriate books on hand.

It never hurts kids to have a few reading-only days. If you happen to have a bit of paper on hand, the kids can even write a summary of what they read.

*If all else fails and you’re simply trying to take the next breath without falling apart (I have been there, I know) then forget school.

Truly. It won’t hurt the kids to see that there are more important things in life and that tending to them is the right thing to do. If you’re going through an extended season of tragedy or grief, set a date in the future when you can start again. If that date comes around and you’re not ready, so be it.

*When it’s time to return to a normal schedule, don’t feel guilty about that either!

Routine can be a comfort and a good way to stabilize emotions that are all over the board. You’ll know in your heart when that time has come.

After more than two months in the hospital, our precious son-in-law passed away from a rare and incurable condition. I realized something important that I hope never to forget: all those days we missed school, we weren’t slacking — we were living. I wouldn’t trade a moment of the road trips where we dissed each other’s music or taking him a sandwich at the hospital because he was tired of the food. I wouldn’t trade a moment of just being there so he would know that we were all in this together.

It’s far better to fully live and experience the life in front of you than to second-guess yourself later on.

We all do the best we can with what’s in front of us each day. Sometimes that means holding deep and thoughtful Socratic discussions and diagramming sentences in Latin. Sometimes it means focusing solely on the people we’re fortunate enough to have in our lives. And sometimes … just sometimes … it means chucking the books completely and trusting that the commitment to the long-haul of home education will eventually produce fruit.

I’ll try to keep that in mind this week as I while away the hours during jury duty … and the kids are off frolicking with their grandparents.


Education is a Life

Education With Games, by Holly

Who doesn’t love a good game that helps you learn something? There are a plethora of games meant for education that can be fun, but there’s only so many times my kid can annihilate me in Constellation Station before I slide it under the coffee table.

How do you incorporate games that are fun for the whole family into schooling without it looking and feeling like a cop out?

We have a passion for the dark and dreary in this house. One of our favorite games is Gloom. How does this fit into homeschooling? Part of the fun of the game is to tell a story about the unfortunate circumstances your family members fall into. It works best if it’s a cumulative story and plays off of other families. Creative writing, without the writing.

Another great creative mind stretcher is Dixit. This one you can use to reinforce themes or concepts of a book by giving a card clue of the title.

The Timeline games encourage curiosity of the time surrounding the points of interest. When you see that the corkscrew was invented a hundred years after the cork, you might want to find out how they dislodged the plug before. I use this game with our history lessons by taking the cards from the time period we are currently studying and creating a separate deck. I have multiple Timeline games, but it works fine with just one smaller deck. Once a month we look at the cards from the years we’ve previously covered before playing a round with our specialized deck. By the end of the year, we’re pretty well acquainted with time span.

Honorable mentions for being fun to play and having some historical relevance are Guillotine and Sid Meier’s Civilization, the latter being useful for illustrating how military, economic, social, and scientific powers affect civilization outcomes. Ticket to Ride is good for a rudimentary geography lesson, but…

…Duluth seems to have gone south for the winter.
After Graduation

The Case for Independence, by Apryl

The question often asked by homeschoolers is “When do I start fostering independent work?” For our family, the answer has been “from the very beginning.”

Having a can-do attitude, fostering independence and critical thought, and having a good work ethic have been important to our family since our children were born. We’ve always raised our children with the idea that we are raising future adults, not perpetual children. This has obviously spilled over into our homeschooling philosophy and has served us  well as the girls have neared the end of their homeschooling journey.

I have recently gone back to college full time, and I have two high school juniors at home. Instead of automatically thinking about putting them in school, we already knew that they could continue homeschooling without a hitch. This was because they had been working almost entirely independent of me since 9th grade and probably 70% independently since the 6th grade.

Here are the things I’ve done over the years to encourage this.

1. Teach them that they are intelligent and capable humans.

From the very beginning, I never assumed they were unable to do something. I just assumed they needed to be shown how or given the tools to learn how. My toddlers helped clean their rooms. My preschoolers folded laundry and washed dishes. By school age, they could sweep, take out the garbage, cook simple things, do laundry and other minor chores. By the time they were eleven or twelve, there wasn’t a household chore they didn’t know how to do. This gave them pride in knowing how to work and take care of themselves and others.

Another thing we did was to never talk to our kids like they were babies. We had conversations about everything under the sun, avoiding baby-talk, and took the time to explain things they didn’t understand.   We tried to instill the idea that one wasn’t “dumb” or “stupid” if they didn’t know something, only uninformed.

2. Foster a desire to learn.

Our family is a bit nerdy. We delight in showing one another up with our random, pointless trivia knowledge. We engage in debates at the dinner table about every topic under the sun. The desire to prove Dad wrong has honed a strong desire in the girls to become knowledgeable in a variety of topics.  In a quest to outsmart their parents, they quickly developed mad research skills.

We also do things like watch documentaries for fun, and our vacations have always been culture and history focused rather than entertainment focused. These things make learning part of their lifestyle.

3.  We value education.

From the time they were born, the girls have seen the results of self-education. Neither my husband nor I have a college degree, but we have never stopped learning. Our home has always been filled with books, and my husband and I have never been afraid to tackle new tasks or hobbies. They’ve seen first hand the pleasures that educating oneself can bring, and they’ve seen how far their father has gone with his career by self-educating.

4.  Responsibility shirking is not allowed.

We’ve always taught them that when it is your job to do something, you follow through. Whether it is a job you agreed to do, school work you are assigned, or a chore you are responsible for, you do the work. Thankfully, we’ve had generally willing kids and haven’t had many issues from this.

5.  We demonstrated our trust in them.

Our kids know we trust them.  They are able to do things and go places without us because of that trust.  They also know that our trust is a thing that can be broken and that they can lose privileges over that broken trust.

As soon as they were responsible enough to be left home alone, they were.  We don’t hover and try not to helicopter parent.  Our family relationships have been built on the importance of trust, and that spills over into everything they do, including schoolwork.

As you can see, many of the preparations for independence had little to do with school work.

Here are a few directly school-related things that pushed them towards independence:

1.  I deliberately chose curriculum that encouraged self-teaching.

Texts that spoke to the student and did not assume that a teacher was giving a lesson on the topic were a priority. We did ditch some texts that spoke down to the student (there are several out there in the homeschooling world)

2. English, history and science were largely research and writing based.

From the beginning these subjects were treated more like ongoing research projects rather than lessons. In elementary school this meant choosing easy-to-understand books from the library and writing short papers on them (often only a paragraph or two) or making books about the subject (paper stapled together with pictures drawn or pasted in, and a few sentences about the topic).

In middle and high school the research projects got longer and required more thought. Science shifted a bit as they began to do lab science, but even then research played a large part in the process of learning.

My involvement in these areas was usually limited to a brief discussion of what was expected from them for the assignment and then suggestions for corrections or re-writes at the end.

As an aside, one of my children did end up needing a lot more guidance in writing, but even then I tried to encourage as much independent work as possible. Shifting to all non-fiction writing was the key for her being able to accomplish this on her own. Eventually, she has been able to work on literature analysis, but we do avoid assignments like “Write a short story about xyz…” and focus more on things like “How was the setting of this story integral to the plot?”

3.  Math is self-taught with help sought as a last resort.

Starting in middle school, I began moving away from teacher-led math.  Part of this was self-serving: teaching math was my least favorite thing to do. Their learning styles and mine were vastly different, and we often clashed during lessons. We’ve shifted to video lessons and relying on the internet when something stumps us. I also won’t hesitate to outsource this if the need arises.

4.  They are responsible for keeping their own schedules.

After age twelve or so, I gave them a lot of flexibility on when they did their work. I set due dates, they could choose how often or at what time to work on them. Yes, they were late on things sometimes. Yes, they missed out on doing fun things occasionally because they missed a deadline.

5.  They had input on what they were learning.

Each year while curriculum planning, I got their input on what subjects they would like to study and how they would like to study them. Sometimes I had to veto their ideas, but I tried to take their thoughts into consideration.

All of these things have culminated in a homeschool that is almost entirely self-taught.  This year, as juniors, my only real involvement in their school work will be reading one daughter’s English essays and occasionally helping with a tough math problem.  I will check in every few days to make sure they are on track to finish their year in a reasonable time.

While this has enabled me to go back to school full time, I also feel like it gives them a huge leg up for college.  They will begin college with the ability to self-regulate, study hard, and take responsibility for their own education.  After being in class with college students myself, I realize that they will be far ahead of the game.