I’ll be honest right off the bat, Melissa is not an Australian homeschooler. She is however, an American homeschooling mum who loves to take her children on adventures every week and, when I heard that, I just had to find out more. Our own weekly adventures have been such an integral part of our homeschool this year and I was excited to hear that Melissa has recently written a book encouraging homeschooling families to make the most of many, many places available to visit and explore.
This post is part of our Real Australian Homeschools series. To see the full series, click here.
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Could you tell us a little about your family?
We’ve been married 20 years this October and have 7 children. Our oldest is 19 and living across the country for two years. My daughter is in her final year of school and is 17, then we have three boys ages 14, 12, and 10. My next daughter is 7 and my youngest is 2.
How did you begin homeschooling?
I actually asked my parents to homeschool me after one year of high school. I loved it so much that at 16 I decided to homeschool my future kids and began studying different ways to do it. I’ve homeschooled all of them all of the way through.
How would you describe your homeschooling style?
For many years at the beginning I researched methods and looked for the perfect one. I found lots and lots of things that I love and that I use, but no one philosophy that I use all of the way. We do a lot of Montessori and some Waldorf activities with the 2 to 5 year olds. I use a lot of Charlotte Mason and traditional ideas. I also use technology for somethings and we throw in unit studies here and there. Each year I look at the needs of each child and look through the resources I’ve liked and create a plan that looks different than other years.
What does a typical day look like in your house?
I usually wake up around 6. If I have a lot going on I will jump into my most important project for an hour, otherwise I will do my own morning routine. My oldest two take an early morning class and are back at 7:45. So I try to have breakfast ready right about then and wake up the younger children. We tend to watch an inspirational youtube video, a lecture or some other video that will give background for an upcoming adventure or something else we are studying over breakfast. After we eat and clean up the five younger children and I gather to do “morning school.” We don’t do the same thing every day for this, but tend to include things like memorization, flashcards, singing, poetry, a history lesson and read alouds. We have a large chalkboard in our living room and I write each child’s assignments for the day on it. They initial each thing as they finish. I can glance at the chalkboard and know right where each child is in their studies. I then do some one-on-one activities with the youngest two and bounce around to help the others who need help. A couple of mine take an online class and I help make sure all the technology is working for those as well. They also know that during the school year they only have me until about 12:30, as I also work for a personalized learning public charter school helping others with their children’s schooling. After I get the toddler down for a nap I tend to work from about 12:30 to 5. Much of this is at my home office, but I also go visit my families once or twice a month. A couple days a week I drop off the children to various classes and work from my laptop while they are in class. One afternoon a week one of my children has a tutor and once a month they have a music teacher that comes and leads activities as well. After I work I come back and spot check any work to make sure it got done when I was gone and then we roll into evening activities.
Could you tell us a little about the place of Adventures in your homeschool?
We have a group of friends that get together every Thursday and go on adventures. The moms meet up about every four months without kids and bring ideas, plan a schedule and decide who is going to be in charge. We each only have one or two we need to lead every four months. We often try to chose things that we can do in the afternoon so we can still get school work done in the mornings, but often do whole day activities as well. We are moving into our fourth year and still have only repeated a handful of them. It amazes me how many place we can go to learn from. We also do specific things to increase the educational value of these trips and try to plan them to go along with what we are studying to a degree or switch what we are studying to match trips.
What is one resource/curriculum that you have loved?
This year I am really loving The Good and the Beautiful. It is a newer program. We did the English last year and loved it. So this year we just started their history as well and have really been enjoying it.
What has been your favourite family read-aloud?
Oh my! We tend to read some type of classic or novel each month and exactly four picture books a day. Nap time and bedtime are impossible without two books read for each. Currently “Doctor Dan” is the most common pick for picture books as bandages are so very exciting. As far as novels we have loved so, so many. We are currently reading, “The Moffats,” and the kids have asked for the sequel. They listen to audio books at bedtime and the boys room usually chooses one of “The Little House on the Prairie” books. The little girls are choosing collections of fairy tales over and over right now.
What has been a particularly enjoyable learning moment for your family?
I love our mornings together. I love the books that the kids connect with and they want to talk about them. The books that bring up things to discuss and then the discussion takes up an hour of the day and I have to figure out what else to cut out as the discussions are where the connections happen.
What do you struggle with the most?
As they get to their last years of homeschooling and don’t want to join or get to busy for morning school. I struggle with letting them go when they indicate it’s time for them to make their own choices in how and what they learn. I always feel like, wait I’m not done and there is so much more I could be teaching you.
What inspired you to write your book, “Homeschool Adventures” and what do you hope people will take away from it?
After we had gone on our 150th field trip, I had photo albums of the kids doing all of these things on these different trips and I reflected on the strong understanding we had gained of our area. Our group had lists of places we had not gone on yet as well and I thought someone needs to collect ideas and share with others so that they can learn from all of these great places. I was then also asked to do a breakout session on the topic at a conference, so I began researching the benefits and how to strengthen the learning done on our educational adventures. I decided to keep going with the research and write a book on the topic.
You can find Melissa at LiveLearnWorkatHome
Melissa’s book is available in print or Kindle format from Amazon.