Special Needs and Lifeschooling – Julie Polanco

For this episode, I enjoyed talking with Julie Polanco about lifeschooling and how beautifully it has fit with her unique family situation of dealing not only with multiple food allergies, but also special needs!

Julie Polanco loves Jesus and leads worship for the women’s ministry at her local church. But, her job is a 16+-year veteran homeschooling mom of four children, all of whom have food allergies and special needs, including ADHD, Asperger’s, gifted, sensory/regulation issues, and anxiety disorder.

Over the years, she has served on her support group’s board and founded and led a new support group for relaxed homeschoolers. She also teaches middle school science workshops for a homeschool co-op. She has graduated two from homeschool and recently became a grandma. Julie is also a trained Master Herbalist in western herbal practice and is completing formal training in aromatherapy. She has managed her family’s health, food and environmental allergies, and her own chronic illness for more than twenty years using a natural and integrative approach. She loves fermenting food, urban gardening, finding ways to practice better stewardship, and all things that align with God’s gifts to us through nature.

Here are some of the questions we discussed on the show:

  • Julie, you and I met online not too long ago, actually. And when you sent me a copy of your book, God-schooling, I knew I needed to connect with you, which led to you becoming speaker for our 2019 Lifeschooling Conference!
  • Tell us more about your book and why you wrote it.
  • Many homeschoolers bring the school model home because we all tend to just do what we know. I imagine the food allergies and health issues really helped shape your more relaxed educational philosophy?
  • The definition of lifeschooling is “the individualized process of discovering your child’s God-given gifts and talents primarily through real life experiences that happen within the context of your family’s unique situations and missions.” Is there a part of that definition that particularly speaks to you and share with us a bit more about how your family lifeschools?
  • How has homeschooling strengthened your relationships with your children?
  • How do you fit homeschooling with your family’s unique situation and responsibilities?
  • Has your family ever been tempted to quit homeschooling and how did you navigate through that time?
  • What are some of the gifts that you have seen early on in your children and how have you tailored their education around the development of those gifts?

If you would like to order a copy of Julie’s book, God-Schooling, you can find it on Amazon. Be sure to visit Julie’s site at JulieNaturally.com.

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to check out one of our most popular episodes, The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling with Karen Campbell.


Special Thanks to Our Network Sponsor -Overcomer Movie

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Character as Core Curriculum – Kathie Morrissey

Kathie Morrissey

Kathie Morrissey

On this episode, I talked to pioneer homeschooler Kathie Morrissey of The Character Corner. Kathie’s heart is that character be the “core curriculum.” I’ve been following her blog for a year or so and I’ve really loved learning from the wisdom she shares. Kathie is a true Titus 2 woman! One of my favorite resources of hers is the Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue curriculum, which we discuss in the show.

Kathie is wife to Alan, mother of eight children, and a homeschooling mom of 31 years. She and her husband have been married for 40 years, and their kids are grown up, with the youngest being 21. They also have 13 precious grandchildren.

Though her homeschooling days are behind her now that all eight of the kids have graduated,  She still stays busy running The Character Corner, traveling to conferences, speaking, and sharing encouragement on her blog.

Her goal in ministry is to help and encourage parents to be purposeful as they try to raise their kids to have Godly character, and a heart for God, while providing practical advice, tips, and encouragement from the things she has learned over 36 years of parenting, and 31 years of homeschooling.

When she’s not working, you may find Kathie playing the piano, reading a good book, or eating chocolate.  And twice a week, she takes care of her sweet four-year old granddaughter, Tori.

Here are some of the things Kathie and I talked about:

  • Tell us more about your homeschooling journey back in the early days of the movement. How did you start? What was it like to be on the forefront?
  • Many homeschoolers bring the school model home because we all tend to just do what we know. I know you put a lot of emphasis on relationships and character in homeschooling. Is there anything in particular that helped shape your perspective and educational philosophy?
  • What are some of the gifts that you saw early on in your children and how were you able to tailor their education around the development of those gifts?
  • You focus a lot on building strong character. As I mentioned before, we love your Little Lads and Ladies curriculum. No matter what our homeschool day looks like, this is one resource that I almost never neglect to do with my youngest who’s seven. It really just makes us more conscious throughout the day of his character and how to train him in it. Did you do this or something similar with your own children? What were some practical ways that you focused on character and what were the results?
  • I also love your focus on building strong relationships because that is really the heart of any character training we do. I read a really helpful article of yours recently called “How to Really Know Your Children Well. Share with us some of those tips.
  • As a “pioneer,” what do you see as one of the biggest problems in the homeschooling movement today?

You can find out more about Kathie and purchase her resources at www.TheCharacterCorner.com.

Lifeschooling and Books – Konur Papageorgiou

Konur - lifeschooling and booksI always love sitting down and having a good chat with my son, Konur. I feel blessed that we connect so easily on so many topics and this boy is wise beyond his years! On this episode, I wanted to talk with him about his lifeschooling journey in general, and then specifically talk about what books he feels have been most beneficial in his learning.

Part of my goal was to encourage moms of high schoolers to consider all that can be done through a lifeschooling approach, and that even kids who are headed toward college don’t necessarily need to have their high school years look “traditional.” I promised to put a link to this book, College Without High School: A Teenager’s Guide to Skipping High School and Going to College, in these show notes, so there you go! (Disclaimer: I am still reading this one, but so far I think it’s brilliant!)

One of the ironies about this interview is that even though our topic of discussion was books, we forgot to even mention that he and his friend, Emma Grace, are actually in the process of writing a book together! I guess that means we’ll just have to set up another interview when it finally comes out! 😉 Anyway, I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!

Here are some of the questions we discussed:

  • What are some of your favorite kinds of books to read? Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
  • I know you’re a history buff, so tell me what books have been most enlightening on that topic?
  • So, you are heading into a career in IT doing contract work, God-willing. Tell me what books have been most helpful from a business/entrepreneurial standpoint.
  • Lifeschooling is not the same as unschooling, but there are a lot of similarities. The definition of lifeschooling is “the individualized process of discovering your child’s God-given gifts and talents primarily through real life experiences that happen within the context of your family’s unique situations and missions.” We definitely fall on the “unschooling” side of the spectrum, partially because of our particular family situations. What has been your favorite part of lifeschooling?
  • The most important book of all is, of course, the Bible. Tell us a bit about your Bible studies and how just being in the Word so much daily has helped you in everyday life.

 

Homeschool Bravely – Jamie Erickson

Jamie EricksonOn this episode, I talk with Jamie Erickson about her book, Homeschool Bravely, and how moms can learn to overcome their fear in homeschooling, trusting that God will complete a good work in their children.

Jamie Erickson taught elementary school before becoming a mother. When her first child turned five she made the decision to homeschool her daughter. Four more children followed and she homeschools all five. Jamie is the founder of The Unlikely Homeschool and a popular education blogger. Her website, social media channels, and blog encourage and equip a growing tribe of more than 50,000 homeschooling mothers around the world. She has written for a number of homeschool publications and is also a co-host of the Mom to Mom Podcast.

Here are some of the questions I asked:

  • I was just recently introduced to your work and I’ve been enjoying your book, Homeschool Bravely. I address fear a lot on this show because I really think it is the root of so many of our “issues” as homeschool moms. So I appreciate your addressing this issue right at the start of the book. Why do you think there is so much fear surrounding the choice to homeschool and is that fear valid?
  • How did you first venture into homeschooling?
  • I love the chapter in your book, “Homeschool, Not School-at-Home.” You say, “‘Real’ school and ‘real’ teachers are all we know. So we use their plans, their methods, their benchmarks—and single-handedly sabotage our own efforts. We foolishly use the map of the traditional way but expect to end up at a better destination.” How did your homeschooling philosophy develop over time? Did you start with a “school-at-home” approach?
  • The definition of lifeschooling is “the individualized process of discovering your child’s God-given gifts and talents primarily through real life experiences that happen within the context of your family’s unique situations and missions.” In reading your book, I definitely saw some lifeschooling going on during the season when you had to take your daughter to regular cardiology appointments. We’re going to take a quick break, but when we come back, I want to talk more about that.
  • You had some great ideas for ways that children can discover their gifts and learn through “real life.” Can you share a few of those…maybe some you’ve had personal success with?
  • What are some of the gifts that you have seen early on in your children and how have you tailored their education around the development of those gifts?
  • I love this quote: “Your goal is really not to be a teacher, but a coach.” Explain this a little more.
  • How has homeschooling strengthened your relationships with your children? What do you say to the mom who thinks she wouldn’t be able to handle being with her children all day?

If you’d like to learn more about Jamie, visit her website at www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com. To read a free sample of her book, Homeschool Bravely, visit www.homeschoolbravely.com.

Unhurried Homeschooling – Ana Willis

Unhurried HomeschoolingWhat a joy to chat again with my friend, Ana Willis! Ana calls herself an “unhurried homeschooler,” giving a nod to one of her (and my) homeschool mentors, Durenda Wislon. (Both Durenda and Ana will be speaking at this year’s Lifeschooling Conference!)

Ana is the unhurried homeschool mom of 3, wife, health coach, social media and online marketing strategist, and blogger. She loves to encourage, inspire and empower moms to go from stressed to blessed by providing them with the tips, strategies, and resources they need to succeed.

Ana is the founder of They Call Me Blessed and Hebrew for Homeschoolers, and the creator of 5 Days to Your Best Homeschool Years, Grow Your Blog Partying in 30 Days, and the Beyond Blessed Life Planners. She also leads a vibrant online community for moms on Facebook.

Here are some of the questions I asked Ana on the show:

  • Ana, you and I have known each other about a year and we had the chance to room together at a blogger conference last year, which was so much fun! It’s been exciting watching your journey of moving into an RV full time and lifeschooling on the road! Tell us more about that. What are some of the advantages and how do you deal with the unique challenges of homeschooling in a small space?

 

  • How did you begin your homeschooling journey?

 

  • Many homeschoolers bring the school model home because we all tend to just do what we know. Is there anything in particular that helped shape your educational philosophy?

 

  • The definition of lifeschooling is “the individualized process of discovering your child’s God-given gifts and talents primarily through real life experiences that happen within the context of your family’s unique situations and missions.” Is there a part of that definition that particularly speaks to you and share with us a bit more about how your family incorporates lifeschooling?

 

  • How has unhurried homeschooling strengthened your relationships with your children?

 

  • I know you’ve had some health struggles recently. How have you navigated through some of those tough times?

 

  • What are some of the gifts that you have seen early on in your children and how have you tailored their education around the development of those gifts?

 

  • Tell us more about your community, Ana, and how you balance being a Proverbs 31 businesswoman with homeschooling and caring for your family.

 

 

And don’t forget, you can hear more from Ana this July at our virtual Lifeschooling Conference! Tickets go on sale in June, but you can sign up to be notified at www.LifeschoolConference.om by clicking “Grab my Free Ticket.”

Schedule or Routine?

schedulingDo you follow a segmented schedule, complete with time slots, or more of a routine in your homeschool? Or perhaps you relate to Christi’s description of a “rhythm”! On this episode, Christi Deason joins us once again, this time to discuss scheduling. While scheduling is definitely not natural for either of us, Christi talks about how her loose style worked for their family and I share my own experience with my style of minimal scheduling.

As is typical, we take some time for a few necessary rabbit trails, as well! (College proponents, watch out. We’re not anti-college, but perhaps we get a bit opinionated here!) Since scheduling involves curriculum, I cover a bit of what I’m doing with that, too. It’s not fancy or complicated, but it works for a wiggly, kinesthetic seven-year-old!

Here is the general outline we followed for our interview:

Did you follow a schedule or more of a routine? What did that look like?

Did you have it written out or did you use some kind of software?

What subjects went on that list, at what ages?

  • I tend to follow the “better late than early” advice
  • With my youngest, I always do Bible and character training daily, even if we get to very little in the way of formal academics
  • We also regularly do history, as Bible tends to dovetail well into ancient history
  • Science at this age is focused mostly on nature and animal studies, but we also incorporate any interests as they appear (today in our Bible doctrines, we talked about faith being something that can’t be experienced with our five senses, naturally leading into a science reading and discussion about the five sense).

What time did you usually start? Did you take certain days off?

  • We took off Fridays, birthdays, and of course…snow days! Being in the south, snow days are something to be enjoyed as much as possible, in my opinion!

What factors went into deciding the schedule (husband’s work, personalities, early birds/night owls, specific giftings…)?

Were there any years that seemed harder to schedule?

Anything you would change about how you scheduled or did your routine?

The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling – Karen Campbell

Karen CampbellOn this episode, I talk to one of my new favorite pioneer homeschoolers, Karen Campbell, about relationship homeschooling! Interestingly, I went to college with Karen’s daughter, Mollie, but didn’t know her very well and had no idea she had even been homeschooled. After connecting with Mollie on Instagram recently, I saw a few of her mother’s posts and was delighted to discover that she had homeschooled back in the early days, and that we were kindred spirits in our philosophies.

This interview did not disappoint! I enjoyed listening to it again myself, and I know it is going to bless you to hear Karen’s wisdom as she shares some of her experiences from the “pioneer days.” Here are some of the questions and topics we discussed:

  • Tell us more about your homeschooling journey back in the early days of the movement.
  • Many homeschoolers bring the school model home because we all tend to just do what we know. I know you put a lot of emphasis on what you refer to as “relationship homeschooling.” Is there anything in particular that helped shape your perspective and educational philosophy?
  • The definition of lifeschooling is “the individualized process of discovering your child’s God-given gifts and talents primarily through real life experiences that happen within the context of your family’s unique situations and missions.” Is there a part of that definition that particularly speaks to you and can you share with us a bit more about how your family “lifeschooled”?
  • What are some of the gifts that you saw early on in your children and how were you able to tailor their education around the development of those gifts?
  • You focus a lot on the relationship aspect of homeschooling. What were some practical ways that you focused on relationships and what were the results?
  • How did you fit homeschooling with your blogging ministry and how did your ministry impact your homeschooling?
  • You talk in your book about grace-filled parenting and I love some of the stories you share. Tell us a bit about how that applies specifically to the high school years?
  • We just did an episode on co-ops. I think many of the current co-ops end up putting the same strain on relationships that school does. What are your thoughts?
  • What do you see as one of the biggest problems in the homeschooling movement today?

Be sure to check out Karen’s excellent book, “The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling: When the One Anothers Come Home.” And also take some time to visit her site, ThatMom.com, where you will find many insightful blog posts and podcast episodes.

Prioritizing Relationships in Your Homeschool

prioritizing relationshipsDisclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

Christi Deason joins the show again, this time to chat about the importance of prioritizing relationships in the homeschool. We talk about the two priority relationships for our children, their relationship to God and their relationship to us, their parents.

First, the most important relationship for us to help cultivate is their relationship with Jesus. That should be our #1 goal, not academics!

Why should we prioritize relationships over academics?

  • The Bible has very little to say about academic instruction.
  • The Bible warns against prioritizing anything that has to do with prosperity.
    • “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36
    • Usually the primary purpose for focusing on academics is a concern about our children “getting good jobs” and being “successful.”
    • Very intelligent people who are morally bankrupt may become successful by the world’s standards, but they often do the most damage. As C. S. Lewis stated in his book, Mere Christianity (affiliate), “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

How do we properly prioritize their relationship with the Lord?

  • It happens naturally as we do life with them and they see our own walk.
  • We must be strong in our own faith!
  • Look for opportunities to make faith real and practical to everyday life.

This primary relationship depends on our parental relationship. We are a picture of Christ to them.

How do we cultivate that?

  • Treat them as individuals.
    • They are not our property or slaves.
    • They are our “brothers and sisters” in Christ!
  • Love unconditionally – “Love is patient, love is kind…”

Practical ideas for building relationships:

  • Have a weekly Family Movie Night.
  • Schedule in regular talk time or time just being together so talking can take place naturally (watching a favorite show, working on a hobby, etc.).
  • Take your children on errands and special outings one-on-one
  • Find good Bible study resources. Some of our favorites for helping our children develop their own devotional time were Kay Arthur’s Discover 4 Yourself® Inductive Bible Studies for Kids. Here are a few my children enjoyed:

Everything hinges on prayer and following God’s leading. Ask the Lord how you can better prioritize the relationships in your family, then listen as He directs!

Co-ops: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

co-opsWhat makes homeschool co-ops good? And what makes them bad or downright ugly? Are there certain things that we should look for when we try to find a co-op?

On this episode, veteran homeschooler Christi Deason and I tackle the issue of homeschool co-ops and try to answer these questions. When Christi was homeschooling her children, the landscape of homeschooling and co-ops looked different than it does now. We talk about what has changed and where we see problems developing.

It seems everyone these days who homeschools is involved in a homeschool co-op of some sort. In fact, in the survey we conducted before this interview, all the respondents except one indicated that they had been involved in a co-op at some point in their homeschooling. But is it truly necessary for all families to even be involved in a co-op?

Our opinion is, simply, no. What works for some, may not work for your family. And there is nothing wrong with being your child’s sole teacher! For the homeschool pioneers, this was normal. Remember, homeschooling is about freedom, and your children will be successful if you follow the Lord’s leading.

So how do you know if a co-op is right for your family? We give some suggestions to help you determine if a homeschool co-op is right for you and some ideas of what to look for. Here are a few tips:

  • Look for something small
  • Look for something with families you know and respect
  • If your children are young, keep it fun-focused (not academic)
  • Look for something with some flexibility
  • Look for something that fills a true need

Here are some other things to remember:

  • Pray first and ask God if this is the right direction for your family
  • Be okay with the fact that what works this year may not work another year
  • Always be willing to “shift” if things don’t work out

There are some great co-ops out there! Just be careful to pray first and be discerning during the vetting process. Know what you want and don’t settle for any homeschool co-op simply because you think you need to. At the end of the journey, YOU are the teacher and you and your spouse are the ones responsible for your children’s education. God will show you what is best if you trust Him.


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Favorite Homeschooling Books – How Tos

Favorite How To BooksOn the last episode, Favorite Homeschooling Books – Philosophy, we look a look at some of my favorite homeschooling books related to educational philosophy. If you missed it, be sure to go back and have a listen! It is important to form our own beliefs about education and develop/refine a philosophy.

Now I want to explore some books that have helped me with the “nuts and bolts.” Admittedly, I am more of a “learn by doing” type of person, but these books have given me some good ideas and a jumping off point for my own methods and ideas.

Some of the books on this list are ones that I have not read, but have reviewed enough to know they are gems worth reading! For example, “Learning in Spite of Labels” is directed at parents of special needs children and thus does not pertain to me. However, I know the author and her philosophy, and I’ve read enough excerpts to highly recommend it.

So, let’s jump in!

 

Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started Homeschooling by Mary Pride – This is my very favorite resource to recommend for brand new homeschoolers! What I love about it is that it really is what it says… “complete”! Mary goes through every topic imaginable with homeschooling, tackling learning styles, educational philosophies and methods (the 12 most popular homeschool methods), educating the gifted and special needs child, testing and evaluation, and many common questions the newbie may have. This book was my crash course one summer when my kids were young and I was still figuring things out! It was really instrumental in helping me being exploring my own philosophy of education and what I wanted for my children. Until I read this book, it had not even occurred to me to figure that out!

Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder by Mariah Bruehl – I’m not sure how I came across this lovely, inspiring book, but it’s one that you just want to pick up again and again. It almost has a “coffee table” book feel about it. The pages are those clean, smooth pages that show off photos so beautifully. Okay, I know… That may seem a silly virtue to start with. Content is pretty important, after all! But when you have exclellent content in such a nice package, it is hard to not get a little giddy. The photos and layout are inspiring… like holding somoene’s Pinterest account in your hands. But I suppose I should at least mention something of the content. 😉 I love that this book, while focusing on the importance of play, helps parents to gently guide their children’s play to help develop various aspects of the education by suggesting various projects and “playful learning spaces.” This can, of course, be taken to the extreme and we don’t want to interfere too much in our children’s imaginations, but I think the author strikes a good balance here. As I’m sure it’s apparent, I am inspired!

Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert

This is another book that helps the parent to guide the child in their learning. Though not as “exciting” as the previous book (dull paper and black and white pictures…snooze), it is still worthwhile for its excellent content! What stood out to me was the ideas of engaging with children and helping them take the next steps. The parent is taught how to help their child research ideas without taking over, how to praise with sincerity and honesty, and how to help the child document their progress. What I love about this approach is that we are building connections with our children by being involved and interested in their work. And by allowing them to take the lead, we are teaching them to be independent and affirming that they do have great ideas and that we believe in them!

100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy

This is one of those tried and true books that nearly every homeschooler owns, myself included. I must admit, though, that I have not read it in its entirety. I use it as more of a resource for researching curricula. But, like the Complete Guide above, it is a book that can be very useful for the new homeschooler in forming a philosophy of education and figuring out the nuts and bolts of what that will look like in their home. Cathy even has a chapter dedicated to helping you figure out what style and philosophy of education will work best for your family by going through a series of questions and quizzes. Many parents forget this crucial step and dive right in to choosing curricula! So I appreciate her attention to this important detail.

All Through the Ages by Christine Miller

I was very excited when I came across this book because it fits so well with a living books and story type of approach to history. This could probably also be put in the category of curriculum, as it really is more of a how-to guide to building your own history curriculum. It is divided into periods of time, with each period having a list of recommended books by grade level.

Learning in Spite of Labels by Joyce Herzog

If you’ve never heard Joyce Herzog speak, you need to find a recording somewhere and purchase it! Joyce is no longer speaking at conferences, but for those with special needs children, her wisdom is invaluable. If you can’t find a presentation to buy (or even if you can), then purchase her book. I’m not big on labels, and neither is Joyce, but she still recognizes the need for teaching that is specialized for those who learn differently, whatever we may want to “label” them. Her positivity and encouragement can be felt through hear writings, and her tips are practical and sensible. Though she is no longer speaking, I was privileged to hear her on a webinar about a year ago, and I will never forget her demonstration that helped those of us on the call understand what it is like to be learning disabled. (It’s also on pages 4-5 of her book.)

 

These are just a few books I would recommend to help you in your lifeschooling journey. I hope these past two episodes have inspired you, as they have me, to dig into some good books this year!