Soooo, typically I’m finding over the course of my almost 2 years of researching homeschool communities, curriculum, etc... that well, reformed/conservative Jewish families don’t ‘Typically” homeschool. This is not to say that Jewish families DON’T homeschool, cause well, the world is a melting pot and many families do many things they didn’t once do before... however, being Jewish myself and having a reformed Jewish upbringing with a “typical Jewish mom” I can confidently say Jewish families of my demographic strongly value traditional, hardworking, study study study school environments (well, at least mine did). This “hippie dippy Homeschool thing” is crazy as I’m sure my mom and Jewish family and friends think... that’s ok with me. I often walk to the beat of my own drum and happily instill that value into my girls as well... we are also the crazy family at our temple who owner a travel trailer, camp whenever possible, and opt for walking to the bathrooms in our shower shoes rather then a trip to the four seasons (don’t worry.. we enjoy those experiences too 😂🤪 just not in the budget so often) However, I’m seeing more often then ever before (thanks Covid) that Jewish families are coming out of the woodwork and considering a homeschool experience for their kids... maybe it’s not a forever choice, or maybe their waking up and seeing that traditional school is not the 1 size fits all solution... and there are other ways. Either way, a not-overly-religious jewish curriculum would be welcomed.. if it existed.
In a Facebook group I’m in I posted a question to the creator of the curriculum books if she’d be interested in a Jewish themed book- to which was an overwhelming response of “I’D LOVE ONE TOO!” Even from many non- Jewish parents... but open minded ones or even Christian families who value the biblical aspect of Jewish history and how it weaves into their own religious roots. Through this post someone shared the link I have here- https://ani-ve-ami.com/jewish-homeschooling/curriculum-by-age-or-grade/ages-six-to-ten-elementary-curriculum/. It is a Charlotte mason based curriculum but with Jewish studies. Being that we are reform and it was a bit too religious for us, meaning it includes Torah reading and Talmudic studies but it did give me some good ideas they do have a “Jewish daily life” section of their curriculum. However, it reminded me in terms of learning about Jewish history, culture, bible stories, prayers I’ve already done and continue to do much of this - I bought an awesome kids Jewish bible, along with a small prayers book both off amazon. We have the “who was Anne frank” book, we’ve watched “the number on great grandpas arm” from hbo - which opened doors to talk about culture and the holocaust, etc... but in general just surrounding our kids with other Jewish families whenever possible is important. Until Covid my girls went to Hebrew school — we are taking this year off since we don’t want them in any schooling environment at this time 😢 so yah, I’ll figure something out for them though... most likely it will involve a calendar for the dates, a book for the holidays, and embracing our “Jewish-ness” even more then before so that my girls continue to grow and learn as young Jewish kids.
So, back to the idea of a Jewish curriculum... sadly, it isn’t there yet.. we are going the unschooling/interest-lead route. It’s not 100% unschooling because we have a tutor who’s working with them 2x a week - for some reasons I can write about at another time. Thankfully though, there are many secular alternatives out there - just gotta do a lot of digging to find the path that works for you and your kids... and, if you are Jewish (but not super religious) homeschooling mom like myself, reach out. We can figure this path out together.. share ideas, books, etc... where there is a will, there is a way ❤️.
I won’t lie. I’m a bit bummed. I think most of us are quite bummed...bummed at the state the world, and specifically where our country is at right now. I know the majority of parents out there are bummed their children won’t be going back to traditional schooling and are freaking out over suddenly being thrown into this homeschooling idea, when it never even crossed their mind till about 4mns ago. I on the other hand, I have been dreaming of homeschooling my girls since Big Love began kindergarten, spent a few years deep diving into what this would look like for us, a year convincing my husband of my “crazy plan”, got my mom to accept it, told friends we are doing this, I researched museum days, homeschool farming groups, learned about local nature study days, local homeschool co-op/class options, joined Facebook groups and read posts till my eyes went cross eyed... only to have these loose plans come crashing to a halt. I just read this fabulously inspiring book called, “homeschooling gone wild” by Karla Marie Williams. She does an unschooling/interest-led learning with her 6 kids. She speaks through out the book about encouraging and seeking out ways to continue to dive deeper into the interests of your children... and here I am, wishing, wanting, begging my soul to do these things for them... but just can’t. I just can not expose my most precious people on earth to this virus. I find myself digging in my heels, unlike where I would normally be putting a big pair of wings on my children and watching them soar. I want to let them join their cheer teams, take the dance classes, go back to sewing school, take a knitting class, learn to woodwork, join the farm school, do all the things. But I just can’t. I won’t right now... so instead, I’m attempting to figure out how to combine what they are hinting at wanting with our countries own virus crisis. I’m not an expert at knitting, I don’t know how to woodwork, my kids won’t do zoom classes (I learned that through lockdown) - what do we do... yes, there are books and YouTube videos.. but nothing beats having a real life person guide you... I’d love to know, how are you all finding this new path..? Are you staying home and doing nothing..? Are you becoming the new expert in everything - so you can teach your children and engage with their interests..? Or, are you braving it out there and coming to terms with some of this and finding a way to be ok with it all..?
It’s been too long.. so sorry my sweet friends. My girls and I ended up sorta extending-ish our deschooling journey... summer has been relaxing, stressful, easy, hard, educational, informative and so much more - and its only about 1/2 over!! We’ve had some personal ups and downs... starting with all our vacations being cancelled due to Covid, then I received some pretty terrible news about a friend, then I was in a car accident!
so yah, back to the beginning ... I started this summer with the need to do “school”. I felt the need to work all our brains. So I thought, let’s do this! I started off strong and determined... but it felt confusing and disjointed. Why, well. it was my first go round at working 1:1 with each kiddo... it felt nice to spend time with them individually, but it also meant our day took longer to get going- so that was a mental shift I wasn’t totally prepared for. 2ndly my girls have this AMAZING tutor, Miss M. She has been working with Big Love since lockdown (virtually). She now comes to the house, they sit outside she with a mask on- across from each other and both my girls work with her 2x a week independently. I have her b/c big love needs some real help. Her tool bag (as miss M. likes to say) was pretty empty ... she had zero tools that worked for her to help with math, spelling, and some additional reading skills... and Bear, well, Being only in K is a blank slate. She needs to learn what + or - sign is.. how to build on her already growing reading skills, and more...and frankly, she just wanted miss m. To work with her too - so I said yes! So yah... it was kinda confusing. My girls did 2x a week with miss m. Then 2x a week with me...it was just turning into a hot mess express 🥴. So I put my work on hold and decided to get these FUN-SCHOOLING journals. Miss M. And I felt the girls should do some writing to help keep up the spelling skills and the journals have been awesome for that! Funny thing, I had bought some before - totally didn’t get it and gave them away 🤦🏼♀️ - oh well, live and learn. This time around I joined the Facebook group and really got a better understanding — a BIG HELPFUL TIP- JOIN THE DANG GROUPS! Join all the freakin groups you can find if you are even remotely interested in a schooling method, book, resale, location, all of the above. I have found this sooooo helpful! And you know what - when I realize a style or group isn’t for me...I remove myself from it! No harm no fowl. So yah, I bought 2 journals 1 for each girl - they are language arts inspired, super low key, age appropriate (since they are open ended!) and get them thinking!
In addition to all this crazy personal stuff, my semi-failed attempt to “summer school” my kids 😬, my brain kept returning to the concept of unschooling. A dear friend who also in light of Covid has decided to homeschool and diving right into the methodology and schooling belief of unschooling- which is a homeschooling style/belief that is complete child-led learning. It involves teaching your kids through their interests, through life experience and exploration rather then with a curriculum. I have ALWAYS been drawn to this idea as a general concept. I struggle a bit with the idea of letting my kids take complete control - but I do believe that learning really does happen the most and most effectively when it is done organically and with sincere interest. There have been MANY studies that show how we retain information when we are interested in it rather then just reading it in a text book... this concept is not limited by age. You might be thinking, ell if they aren’t being exposed to it, then they won’t know they have an interest in it... yes and no. Learning can take place and can evolve from anywhere- think about it... your kids watch a show - say octonots - and learn about narwhals - that leads you to the library for books, YouTube for videos, artwork creating sea creatures, it turns into a love for ocean life, it becomes a trip to the aquarium, maybe a scheduled private tour in a boat to learn about something else, and so on... how freakin cool and soooo much more informative and in-depth then a paragraph in a book at a desk in school. This could go on and on.
so I guess where I’m going with all this is that - I’m still finding my way... my girls are really happy. I’m really happy with how they are learning right now. We are grateful we have miss m. She currently takes away my fears and worries about the math/spelling/reading - I love the simplicity of the fun-schooling... per my girls request we purchased a smoothie journal- which includes math and writing and recipes - which they love... and all the rest is just coming together through books and shows and art and conversation. Our kids are WAAAAAAYYYYY smarter then we give them credit for and they have so much to say - if we take a moment to listen. It’s kinda awesome.
Its’s been almost 2 months since we officially pulled our girls from public school. I went through a whirlwind of emotions, expectations, highs, lows, impulse purchases, returning those purchases and so much more. I came to the conclusion about 2 weeks in that what we were doing was NOT right for us and it was NOT working. I was falling into the trap of “making homeschool like regular school” and that was the opposite of what I wanted to do. So I did what felt right, even though I knew my husband kinda had reservations ...I decided we ALL needed to do what they call in the homeschooling universe as “deschooling” it’s really just a mindful break from intentionally schooling. Often families who withdraw their children from their previous schooling environment like to take time directly after and deschool... it is a time to decompress and for everyone to put the memories and methods learned and taught in school into a box and leave it there, enabling both the parents and children an opportunity to see and do things in a new way. This time is not meant to be spent watching tv 24/7 or not learning at all, but rather to just explore and learn in a very loose, non- concrete way. Maybe head out and go to a museum, or hike, do art projects and explore new mediums, read tons of books, cook together, free play - lots and lots of free play. Some folks say that deschooling is just as important for the parents as it is for the child... as they have been programmed to have certain expectations for their children, learning methodologies they are used to, working at a much faster pace then homeschooling needs to be or that their child might be interested in moving at. It gives you a chance to see what kind of interest and learning your kids are most attracted to, etc... the all knowing “they” of the homeschool world suggest that you take as much time as you need/want to deschool but a general rule of thumb is 1 month for each year your child was in school... so if you stopped after/during 2nd grade... approx 2 months or more when deschooling, etc.. as there is no right or wrong answer to this experience. So, how do you know when it’s time? Time to resume educating and formulating a curriculum or following a learning style... to be honest, I’m not 100% sure - we’ve been at it about 2 months now and IM kinda ready to go for it. I’ve picked out, ordered and I’m organizing our curriculum - I’m excited to try it out and offer a bit more structure... and I often feel my girls are there too... my little one especially. I can tell that at the end of a day where they have done much to stimulate her mind she is often off the walls and bouncing and doing flips, etc... more so then she usually does. She’s much like a dog 🤣 she not only needs physical exercise, but mental exercise too! I do wonder if it is silly to start school back up when summer is here and we will 9hopefully) be doing some travel or exploring... but maybe that won’t matter? Maybe it will be good to have Something to work on when we are home...This deschooling time has been important for us and I think it is a wonderful opportunity to connect as a family. I’m excited though to see how everything comes together now that we potentially nearing the end...
Recently a mom posting in a Homeschooling Facebook group I'm in about how her kids are perfectionists and struggle with their art "not being good" or less then perfect in the child's eyes. As an artist myself and having 2 kids that at different times have both struggled with wanting it to “be just right” when they create something - I have found that by using examples, maybe pick an artist to study and look for versions of the same piece of art and how it evolved. Or, showing that nothing is perfect the first time around really helps. in my home, I remember when my oldest was younger she had a little buddy who has always been an AMAZING artist - from a young age he was rockin' it with his drawings... but my favorite thing was how his mom would put up ALL the different iterations of his artwork, I showed my daughter the photograph she posted - showing his progression... it really helped to open her eyes up to understanding that it takes TIME - you won't get it "Right" the first time (if there even is such a thing in art!)
Personally, I refrain most of the time showing step by step tutorials.. I 100% feel they have their place but for a kid who strives for perfection it might make it more stressful! When they "can’t do it correctly" from the get-go, even after emulating the artist steps that can be crushing and extremely frustrating... Yet, if your kids are those who can power through and continue to work at something and have a positive attitude about it - go for it! Because truly that’s part of the lesson that is important... how you have to work at something to be "good" at it. I know that art is not about perfection - but truly, as a creative you are ALWAYS striving to find your own version of more, of better, of "perfection" whatever that might be. I personally do not feel there is anything wrong with want to teach and show that growth and improvement at your skills is valuable.
If you find that your kids are stuck in the perfection rut maybe take a step back and find artists and art projects that showcase abstract art. Artists like Jackson pollock, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Picasso, get onto a website like the MET and look at artwork together .... something else to think about, get away from traditional forms of art like pen and paper or paint and have them study and practice photography, sculpture, or do collage work! Get a piece of cardboard and some old magazine and tell them to look for things that inspire them and cut and paste.... these are all types of art that can unlock their brain to see things as less then perfect. Also, rather then doing something with a screen as your guide - set up in-person subject matter— still life objects, be their model, or get a photograph to work from and ask them rather then emulate the photo - maybe collage on top of it. Art comes in all types of forms - not everyone is going to be good at or perfect at everything- that’s ok. Encourage them to get messy - I have specific art clothes they put those on and they know they can get messy - we paint with our finger, our feet even! Take a step back from the traditional aspects of art altogether and start over. Be Free.
A Phrase I have seen brought up in many threads online, a comment I have had thrown at me almost every.single.time I mentioned I wanted, and now AM homeschooling. While yes, right now- NO ONE is socializing - except for the people living within our own four walls... I’m not worried about my kids and their socialization. Everyone always says you need schools for our kids to socialization - but really, they have very very little time to do that naturally. Unlike when we were growing up - and had an hour (or longer) for lunch and recess, so places even had recess 2x a day, the school my girls went to they only have a total of 35mins for lunch and recess combined.. during which they are not allowed to sit with who they like and can only play with kids in their own grade. Then, during the school day they do everything else with the children in their individual class and there is not guarantee that they will jive with anyone in class or that the overall vibe in the classroom will be cohesive. Both my girls experienced this at some point already, as did I much of elementary school.
I have seen, know of, and can't wait to be a part of a community where kids who are homeschooled (when not in quarantine) get out and play and do things with kids of all ages, often for many hours a day or numerous times a week.. depending on their schedule, family life etc... they also make and choose more meaningful friendships based on likes/activities/ family friendships... rather then just the xx number of kids in their grade.. many of whom they might never even get to know due to class selection or friend "cliques". To be honest, even though we live in a small town with many lovely families I never felt 100% comfortable with having my kids go on playdates at this young an age without me there or really getting to know the family they are hanging with, nor do I love having someone's child I don't know well and they don't know me at my home. What if they had an accident, or were being unkind to my other daughter, what if they were afraid of our dogs, or rude to my husband or I... without knowing the child or the parent, how can I comfortably react to the many situations that could arise while watching their child - but due to the social norms of our town I had to adjust very quickly if I wanted either of my girls to have a relationship beyond the school playground with any of the kids in her class.
I know my girls will be well socialized and happy and well adjusted and I can now do this with likeminded people, or choose to have my girls interact and foster friendships with other kids and families I feel a connection with, or spend more time with family friends and prioritize those. Bottom line, my kids, just like the vast majority of other kids who are homeschooled, they will be just fine.
So I've been asked this question a lot in the last 1.5 weeks... it's still a bit early to really give a solid answer but I've been kinda 1/2 "homeschooling" since day 1 of virtual learning. But now, it got real- real fast! Im responsible for making all their educational choices, the rules, the decisions on what and how they learn and study something and I get to see things through from start to finish - or hell stop doing something because it isn't working. Some of these aspects Im still figuring it - and I foresee it will be a process that will have ebs and flows and will change as we all learn together.
However, I have learned something extremely valuable about my kids during this process... my kids are WAY more apt to learn something if it is not in a workbook. Yes, some subjects MUST be done in workbook - there is no two ways about it. I read not too long ago that when your kids are within the grades of k-3 subjects like math or even word study are the most impactful when taught hands on or as games... It really struck a cord with me and stuck with me. I've now done "game days" for math and WOW, I see it coming together. Great example, My little one has seen/heard us talk about place value with numbers and the other day I used a montessori approach to explaining it. They both "got it" but I could tell by the end, rather then really getting it - it had been lost on them both in some way and it ended with my older one feeling "not as smart as" her little sister (which is TOTALLY not true!) - So today, I found this game on pinterest using UNO cards and improved upon it a bit to help my girls and decided it was math for today. WOW what a difference. If you're curious - here's what we played.
Place value UNO war
Here's how to play. *You can play this with just the 1's place value, 10's, or go up to 100s or even 1000s!
Im going to preface this with - Im no expect, I haven't done this for more then a hot minute... but I will say that while I can be spontaneous in many ways - it usually comes with a good 4-12mns of research behind it. Im more of a person who gets an idea in their mind and BAM! It's happening. So yah, while I might not be walking the walk in full capacity just yet I feel pretty good sharing what I have found and why I'm interested in it.
Homeschooling seems to come in all shapes and sizes, where you live often determines if you have to follow any sort of "rules" and so on. In New Jersey, where we live - it is surprisingly very relaxed... you just need to write your school with a certified letter that you are withdrawing your kids and BAM! you're on your own... with that though means you get ZERO help from your state or town. That's cool though.. Im good with that. Other states have different rules and regulations so before you take this plunge, make sure you know what you're doing :)
Before I did this - I joined a few facebook groups for my state, and also the part of the state Im in (northern nj), along with joining groups that fit the "Style" homeschooler I felt I aligned with the most. There are a BUNCH of "styles" of homeschoolers out there.. Across my findings I stumbled across this blog and took the quiz they have - which helped to lead me along my path on understanding what is out there and having a better understanding as to the kind of schooler I would like to be.
So yah, after taking this quiz I went out and googled the S**T out of these findings -- leading me to learn that I am a "relaxed" charlotte mason- literature based, montessori, unit studies inspired homeschooler 😂. God help me!
But really and truly it did get me thinking - how do my kids learn and how do I plan to teach them... would and should I rely on workbooks and what did/does that look like... do I care if they did stuff on the computer and if so, how much of it would be online, do I want to join co-ops, or find places where my kids can take in person classes, and more.
I will note that before these past few weeks I had planned wholeheartedly to have a relaxed, modified "unschooling" approach - one filled with play based, adventures, meeting new people and making new friends, very little "workbook work" almost like a year of deschooling (a term often used when you take time to "forget" about your public school time) However I realized that while I will 100% incorporate free play and adventures, and travel - lots of travel! I do see the value of this year really figuring out how my children learn and focusing on being tight knit and together. We as a family will spend time with each other, we will of course do things and get out there and adventure, it's in my soul to do that but mainly to do a lot of connecting with ourselves... we will spend time with our existing friends and keep those relationships thriving, they will most likely have speech and tutoring, and my girls have expressed the desire to do certain activities and those will take time and dedication.
While Im a big mover and shaker- this forced at home experience is reminding me that it is ok to take time to adjust in our own way... that we will have many years and months to make new friends and try new things.
oThe first post is always the hardest.
This domain has reinvented itself a few times.. first as a renovation space, then as a new mothers blog, then as a short lived travel advice space... and now, as a place for us to share our journey - whatever that might be in overall learning, life, traveling, tips, ideas, websites, curriculum, and whatever else feels right.
Let me begin by saying, I’ve wanted to homeschool my girls since before I had my girls. I followed a couple from Ohio who like myself were photographers and they homeschooled their 4 children and I always loved and admired what they did, how they did it, how effortless they made it look... the closeness their family had and the flexibility it gave them as a family to travel and explore and so much more. However, when it came my turn for my babies to go to school- I let the social norm sweep over me... I felt I *had* to do what everyone else was doing - I didn’t know what else was out there... and honestly in the last 8 years since my big love was born SO much has changed! I continued to have my reservations as my 1st went through the early years of public school - even preschool something was amiss with her learning experience. As my free thinking, wiggly -moving, hopping and bopping little one entered kindergarten I started to really feel that maybe this isn’t for us, that there was something more for us. About half way through the school year I had made the mental decision that maybe this really wasn’t what I wanted to my family, maybe there was something we could do differently. I was scared because my big girl loves her school friends and at times the sense of community he school brings us is lovely but it still didn’t sit right for me . I started to really dig into homeschooling - what was out there, the different styles, curriculum, what was available for my kids in my area in way of activities, classes, how to find a co-op, other homeschoolers and so much more. I have a lovely local friend who homeschools and gave me so much insight as well as all my virtual friends across the globe who have given me confidence and ideas... I KNEW I could do this! I spent this entire year educating myself, my husband, opening my family up to the idea and gaining their support... I just had to wait out the school year to pull the plug.
Fast forward to today we are living in a world of stay-at-home orders and virtual learning - I spent 3 weeks in turmoil... do I do this, do I wait , I learned SO MUCH more about my kids in these 3 weeks then I ever had the opportunity to do before. I’ve realized that my big love might have some bigger issues going on that were overlooked at school, she just isn’t an “in your face” issue to the school system... So I’m taking matters into my own hands and we will get it sorted. My baby bear has a speech thing going on (they both do actually) and the school told me - she “didn’t qualify at this point” cause she was a late June birthday... 🤔however, it is proven that if speech is an issue to start early - not wait... but I had to wait to see if she would grow out of it — she’s not. She most likely won’t either. I also came to the strong realization that collectively we as a group, and that I, put too much faith into the schools to tell me about my children rather then really learning about them for myself. I knew stuff wasn’t sitting right with me and that something was up, but I was rolling with it. I was listening to everyone else tell me “if it was a problem wouldn’t the school tell you?” mentality... um, say what?! Why did I do that? Why did I let myself be led so blindly.. put all my faith into people who don’t (and shouldn’t) know my kids as well as I should know them. How could they?! Most schools/teachers have 20+ kids in a class some have families of their own with the own kids to worry about, how can they give my kids the attention they might need if there is something more going on... this is not to say our teachers aren’t wonderful, hard working, dedicated people - they just have too much going on, they have too many kids, guidelines to adhere to, red tape not to be crossed.. it’s not entirely their fault - it’s just the way it is. That’s ok. I just don’t have to do it if it doesn’t work for us.
So, I did what any “crazy” home bound parent would do... I withdrew my kids from school.
Hi, I'm Stacey
A newly minted homeschooling mom to two little girls, two crazy pups, professional photog. by trade and a big dream to share the world and all it has to offer with my girls by traveling and experiencing it all together. Follow our journey and learn from our mistakes and triumphs along the way.