There are so many different ways homeschooling can work for individual families. Kaleidoscope strives to support each family in their homeschooling journey, and we understand there is not just one right way to achieve a well-rounded home education. In this “How we Homeschool” blog series, we will feature various homeschooling families and and give them a chance to answer some of the most common homeschooler FAQs themselves. By doing so, our goal is to help families see the variety that is available in the world of home education. This may help new homeschoolers get ideas for curriculum and the confidence to get started, as well as offer seasoned homeschoolers encouragement and inspiration to shake things up on their educational journey.
For our third installment of How we Homeschool, we talked to Jessica Cadeau, who is both a Kaleidoscope parent and our administrative assistant!
How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?
- I have 3 kids, ages 7, 10, and 12
In which community do you live?
- I live in the community of L’Anse Township.
How long have you been homeschooling?
- I am heading into my 7th year of homeschooling this fall.
Is there a “type” of homeschool parent you consider yourself to be?
- I’m pretty involved and hands on with the kids. We do all book work–no online classes. So this requires me to be the teacher for them. In a lot of ways, I find this very enjoyable. I know their strengths and weaknesses. I get a sense of the time of day that works best for them and even for which subject. I can tailor their schooling and try new tactics if something does not seem to be working well for their learning style. And one of my favorite things about being the primary teacher? I get an entire second education! I’ve learned mental math tricks I never knew before. My writing has become more polished. I get to be hands on with the science experiments right alongside my children. I’m even memorizing history events after teaching it for the third time!
What curricula do you use currently? Do you like it, and why or why not?
- We use a classical schooling method. Just prior to starting our homeschooling journey we discovered the book The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. It really opened our eyes to a new way to approach education. In classical schooling, the typical 12 years of education is broken up into three triviums: the grammar stage, logic stage, and rhetoric stage. In the grammar stage, your child is learning the basics of the working world around them. Memorizing things, exploring topics in science that interest them, etc. In the logic stage, your child begins to take these basic bits of knowledge and start to ask why or how. These are the years where your child dives deeper and uses logic to put the bits and pieces together and build a more comprehensive understanding of the world. Lastly, in the rhetoric stage, your child learns how to take all this knowledge and present it back to the world. These are the years where they polish up their speaking and writing, where they develop new ideas based on their years of foundational knowledge, and even argue for their beliefs.
These three triviums align so well with the maturation of a child that we felt it was a natural, logical approach to education that we had never heard of before. We are now nearing the end of the second trivium with our first child and our experience with it has been wonderful.
What curricula have you used in the past, and what did you like and dislike?
- We have used the Well Trained Mind book as our launching off point. It gives a wide variety of curricula suggestions that all fall within the classical schooling methodology. There are a variety of options for each subject and when we find one that does not work well for our child (Spelling Power textbook- I’m talking about you!!!) we simply try one of the other suggested ones. They also have a website with more current suggestions and many classical education bloggers have also shared their suggestions. My favorite thing about the suggestions in the Well Trained Mind book is that they chose books that were rigorous. They sought out books that eliminated the “busy work” and focused on cementing the core knowledge necessary.
- For any parents looking for specifics, here are some of the curricula we use with success
- History: Story of the World and we supplement with a lot of applicable library books and YouTube videos/documentaries.
- Math: Saxon
- Grammar: First Language Lessons (first trivium) and Rod & Staff grammar series (second trivium)
- Science: Elemental Science
- Spelling: Spelling Workout
- Writing: Writing With Ease, Writing Strands, various other texts and writing prompts that work well for each child at that particular stage.
How do you track your children’s progress?
- When you are the primary teacher it’s fairly easy to see when your child is struggling with something or just having a bad day. However, we do utilize tests to help us keep track. For math, history, and science there are tests built into the curriculum. In addition, every 2-4 years we do a California Achievement Test to check in and get a baseline understanding of how our kids are retaining the bulk of overall knowledge we’ve been working on. This helps us get a bigger picture understanding of comprehension that we can sometimes miss in day-to-day living.
How does Kaleidoscope fit into your homeschooling?
- Kaleidoscope offers us opportunities for social connection. It’s super important for the kids and I to know that we are not unique in our struggles as a homeschooling family. Kaleidoscope gives us a sense of community. It also provides us with an ability to expand our world outside of our home and try new things that otherwise would not be possible. If my child suddenly develops an interest in robotics and I have no clue how to even begin to teach something like that, I turn to Kaleidoscope. Often times there are classes offered that cover topics that I am unable or unwilling to teach at home. If there are no classes offered in that particular area of interest, then there are resources available so I can seek out someone in the community who does teach it and get my child signed up for it.
I honestly see Kaleidoscope as a stress relief valve. It relieves me of the pressure to be the one to teach my children everything that I want them to learn and everything they want to learn and I can instead rely on the support of community experts. In addition, it is beneficial for the kids and I to go and relax at the classes/events and do things that are very different from the core curriculum that we are working on at home. Lastly, the social time that not only the kids, but myself as a parent, are able to get with other homeschoolers is crucial to our mental well being.
Do you have any favorite homeschooling resources you’d like to share?
- The Well Trained Mind book has been pivotal for us with our homeschooling. We also enjoy online resources, such as BrainPop and Prodigy. Don’t overlook YouTube as a learning resource. We’ve found incredible documentaries on there as well as YouTube channels from teachers and science geeks (Backyard Scientist!) that truly capture our kids’ attentions. Lastly, we have a lot of fun with educational shows that help tie into what we are studying- Wild Kratts is great for the younger kids and Horrible Histories are simply hilarious and help the kids remember historical information. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve started reading a history lesson and the kids have cut me off to tell me the whole story and when I ask them where they have heard the story, it has always been from the Horrible Histories show!
What advice would you give to a parent who is just beginning his or her homeschool journey?
- Please don’t overthink it. When I first started I panicked over it all. I thought we had to approach it like public schooling with a million worksheets, tests, quizzes, lots of textbook reading, etc. What I quickly learned is that the best learning is achieved in a relaxed atmosphere and that learning doesn’t always have to look the way it does in public school.
- Each child is unique with how they approach learning and you need to experiment and figure out what works best for your child. Don’t be afraid to try something new if the old method is not working.
- Don’t push learning if they don’t appear ready. I learned this the hard way with my children. I often joke with my oldest child that he is the “guinea pig” for our homeschooling. We make a lot of our mistakes with him as we navigate this world. A famous case in point for our family is when I pushed the Spelling Power book on him before he was ready for it. The book said ages 8+ so I thought it’d be fine to start it at age 8. He simply wasn’t ready for it so after a lot of frustration and tears I realized I needed to back off. So I shelved the book and let him read as much as he wanted thinking that he would see properly spelled words while he was reading and that had to count for something at least. We picked up spelling again a year later and this time he flew through it at record pace. I was amazed at how quickly he progressed compared to just a year prior. Now, when I sense a child is not quite mentally ready I shelve the book and try again a while later knowing that we won’t truly fall behind because progress will go much faster when they are ready. It’s very similar to the logic of Finland’s approach to education where they wait until age 7 to start any compulsory schooling.
Why did you choose to homeschool, and how have your reasons changed over time (if at all)?
- My husband has an older brother who chose to homeschool his kids and we were so impressed by the maturity of the children that we were inspired to look into it. As we researched more, we appreciated the flexibility in tailoring a child’s education for their needs and interests. Now that we are 6 years in, the flexibility and the time that we get to spend learning things with them are our driving factors. There are very few more magical moments in life than when you see your child’s face have the “Aha!” moment with a learning breakthrough. I will never forget my children’s first steps and I will never forget the look on their faces after they read their first book to me.
Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your homeschool journey with us!
If you missed our last installment of “How we Homeschool,” check it out here.