As I wrote this list, I realized that a lot of it may not seem like homeschooling. It’s hard as a homeschooler to separate out what is “school” vs. what is “life” or “parenting”. We travel a lot. Partially that’s because we homeschool and can go off-season. Is that school? I think as I’ve gotten more experienced, I no longer really care about the distinction of school and life. This is what we do. School. Life. All of it mixed up together.
- We read. A lot.
*Reading is the foundation of our homeschool.
*In the younger years we read stack and stacks of picture books. I planned preschool and kindergarten around themes (Letter of the Week or Five in a Row inspired) and mostly we read books together and called it school.
*We always have a read-aloud longer book going. This is more challenging with older kids and busy schedules. We don’t read a chapter book aloud every day, although I’d like to. But we do read something all together most days.
*We always have a current audiobook for the car. We’ve shared so many fantastic series this way. (Gregor the Overlander, Sisters Grimm, The Frog Princess, The Children of Ashton Place, the Sixty-Eight Room series).
*We visit the library frequently. I have never limited the number of books the kids can take out or had any requirements for what they have to read or limits to what they can read.
*I always take a book with me. Everywhere. And the kids have developed the same habit.
- We play a lot of games.
*Board games: Risk, Catan, Qwirkle, Clue, Monopoly, Ticket to Ride.
*Card games: Blink, Swish, Fluxx, Capitalism (or Feudal Wars), Spit
*Car games: Twenty Questions, Find the Thimble, Would You Rather, I Spy
- We watch a lot of movies together.
*When the kids were little we watched a lot of Magic Schoolbus and Bill Nye. Schoolhouse Rock and Carmen SanDiego. (Also Dora and Diego, Land Before Time, and, yes, Elmo).
*We often watch family movies. This also has gotten harder as they get older. What appeals to a 14 year old boy is often not ok for an 8 year old girl (or she isn’t interested). But we find some that everyone likes or we split up and watch in different groups. Recently we’ve enjoyed in various groupings: Dunkirk, Jumanji (the Robin William version), The Matrix, Brave, Ocean’s Eleven (and Twelve), Logan Lucky, Now You See Me, and Beauty and the Beast.
*Sometimes, especially in the doldrums of January and February, we will have a popcorn lunch and watch a movie or documentary together.
- We travel as much as we can afford (and have vacation time for).
*We’ve been able to take the kids on lots of shorter trips (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Roanoke, Charlottesville, Annapolis, Pittsburgh).
*And lots of longer trips. We’ve done a three week road trip to the Southeast US including Nashville, New Orleans, Atlanta and places in between. We’ve been to New York many times. We’ve done Chicago. We did a ten day, approximately 2000 mile loop of California last year. We’ve done a road trip to Boston/Rhode Island/Connecticut. We’ve been to Niagara Falls and Toronto. And we did a trip to Iceland and Paris.
*Many of our most memorable family stories and jokes come from travel together. I love the exposure to new places that travel offers but even more I love the shared experience we have as a family.
- We spend time outside.
*We don’t do formal “nature study”. But we do try and go on hikes semi-regularly. We used to go fairly often to a local wetlands. That’s another thing that has been harder with a high-schooler, but I’d like to find a way to get back to it.
*Even when we don’t intentionally go on a hike, we go for walks together. If the weather is good, the kids spend a fair amount of time roller blading or biking or scootering or playing their made up game of bike/roller-blade/ basketball.
- We do art.
*This ebbs and flows. Sometimes I am more intentional about planning an art lesson or project. Then months go by where I just don’t get to it. But our home is rich in supplies (paints, pastels, markers, pencils) when the mood strikes.
*We drag our kids to museums. Sometimes they like it. Sometimes they don’t. I think more often than not there is something they like, even if they are surprised by that fact.
- We try really hard to use the amazing resources in this area.
*We are very lucky to live outside Washington DC. We tried for a long time to go downtown monthly. Again, that’s something that has gotten harder with older kids but we do still go. We’ve been to Mt. Vernon, the National Gallery, Air and Space, National Museum of the American Indian, the Botanic Gardens, American History, Natural History, the Renwick Gallery, the Building Museum, the Portrait Gallery, the American Art Museum, the Spy Museum, the Newseum. We’ve biked along the Potomac, toured the Capitol (and got to go into a chamber in Session), been to the top of the Washington Monument, toured the Library of Congress, seen the pandas (and other animals we like more) at the National Zoo.
- We go to live theater and concerts.
*When the kids were very little I had season tickets to two very good local children’s theaters (Imagination Stage and Adventure Theater). We’ve seen some fantastic plays at both. We’ve gone as a family to see big musicals at the Kennedy Center (usually as a family Christmas present). I’ve gone alone with John to the Folger Shakespeare theater to see some wonderful productions. And he still talks about seeing Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet in a broadcasted version at our local movie theater. We’ve also been to some live music events, both big and small.
- We listen to a lot of music together.
* I consider myself tone-deaf so it’s been important to me that the kids learn music from someone else as I know that’s something I can’t teach them. Two take piano lessons and one started trumpet this year. So we hear music daily in our house.
*We also listen to a lot of music during the school day. Hamilton. Pentatonix. Adele. Broadway musical soundtracks. Sara Groves. David Wilcox. The Piano Guys. Eddie from Ohio. Different kids have different preferences and both H. and I have different tastes. Sometimes everyone is listening to their own thing, but more often we take turns what’s playing in the background.
- We also do math and spelling and grammar and history and science and Latin.
*We aren’t unschoolers. I’ve become way more laid back and flexible than when I started this journey 10 years ago, but I’m still too much of a box-checker and planner to unschool. We do all the traditional schooly things, just not necessarily in a schooly way.
*What I’ve realized is that the biggest things I’ll remember from the traditional school subjects are the times we worked on it together. Sometimes I hand a kid a workbook and just check the answers. But more valuable are the times when we’ve struggled together on a hard word problem or hard Latin translation.