Home sweet school

A glimpse into the whys and hows of a homeschooling family here in Richmond.

I’m a homeschooling mom.

(Cue images of ladies wearing denim jumpers.)

My kids have been schooled at home since pre-preschool.

(Cue images of weird, unsocialized homeschoolers.)

We shock most people we meet out and about during the day, after they ask the kids what grade they’re in, how they like school, or why they aren’t in school that day. My seven-year-old has already gotten used to the questions and responses, and my five-year-old just hides behind his big brother. Then the questions turn to me: Don’t you go crazy? How do you do it? Why do you do it?

There are some pretty stock answers that apply for us as a family when asked why we homeschool. We want our children to have a Christian education but cannot afford private school. We feel that kids are having to grow up too fast, and we’d like our boys to be able to stay kids for as long as they can. But the core of it is that we feel that this is what God is asking us to do as a family. Now that we’re doing it, we continue because we love being together, because we see how well the boys are learning and how each can go at his own pace, and because we want to remain the primary influences in our sons’ lives.

I’ve been homeschooling full-on for the past three years, and through some bumbling and trial-and-error, we’ve found a curriculum that works well for us. There are so many options for homeschool curricula–all the way from a full-boxed curriculum with everything laid out for you (including what to say and when to say it), to do-it-yourself with a library card and card catalog. The Internet is full of ideas and articles, groups and sites willing to help you on your way to discover your child’s learning style and your own educational “philosophy.” Homeschool conventions also give you plenty of chances to look at curricula and get some hands-on experience. I decided to go with a curriculum that follows a philosophy that I really lean towards, Charlotte Mason combined with a classical education format, so I know that my boys are getting everything that they need to learn and I’m not leaving anything out. And although the law requires me to submit “evidence of achievement” to our school division’s superintendent, we don’t have worry about Standards of Learning tests. Put simply, I am in control of what, how, and when my children learn.

— ∮∮∮ —

I decided this year to do six weeks of school followed by a week off, with a larger break at Christmas. This allows us to go easy when we get hit with sickness in the spring. As of now, we’ve been doing school for three weeks, and we’re already feeling the rhythm of our days.


We aren’t early risers, but we have more to do with my seven-year-old in second grade and my five-year-old doing kindergarten, so the boys are out of bed at 8:00 AM. Breakfast follows, and I let them play while I have my coffee. I’ll organize or plan a bit more before we get started around 9:30(ish).We start all together with prayer, devotion time, reading a book, and saying the pledge of allegiance (which is part of our second grade curriculum this year).


Then I divide and conquer. I can’t work most subjects with the boys together. They both need individual attention for writing and math, and nothing gets done if I try to do history and science with them both either (my mom is our official science teacher this year, coming once a week to do fun experiments with the boys–she has infinitely more patience than I do). So I work with one boy while the other does what individual work he can. This is perfect for my older son who is a more independent spirit and loves to read. It’s a training exercise for my five-year-old who cannot stand to be by himself for longer than it takes to go potty.


We come back together to read again and do some cool activity associated with one of their lessons. Perhaps. If no one cried that day (including me). The bulk of our school work is finished by lunchtime, and we use the afternoon to run errands, play with friends, go to the gym (PE, y’all!), or play soccer or softball with a homeschool league.

In theory, I’m confident enough to think we can homeschool through high school. In practice, we’re taking it year by year–to make sure it’s right for each of the boys and still working for us as a family.

Because it is hard.

I LOVE being with my boys, but I am with them 24/7. We get on each other’s nerves a lot. I yell a lot. We’ve all cried at some point or another. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done…but it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done. It makes me a better mom. It makes me take care of the issues that come up instead of trusting that the teacher will work on it. Whether or not I do it nicely or the right way is another thing, but it forces me to work on them.

Also, I am an introvert living with three extroverts (husband included) who do not need a second alone. That makes it hard, too; I just don’t get breaks.

But the times we are working well together and the boys learn something new from me and they run and hug me because they’re so excited, and the times that we can just skip school because we want to all play at the river, and the times that we can call it a school day because we were all cuddled on the sofa reading books together–those all make it worth it.

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Leigh Miller

Leigh Miller is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to two boys. She also sings, takes pictures, and has very little interest in denim jumpers.

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