Community,  Q + A

Q + A with Leah Massey

What is your name and general location?

My name is Leah Massey.  I live in the Metro Detroit area of southeast
Michigan.


How many children do you have and what are their ages?

Our oldest, Sabrina is 20 now.  I call her Rookie Woman.  Tyler, our Man
Cub, is 9.  Anara is our youngest at 4.  Her personality has gotten her
the name of Tiny Tyrant. 🙂

 

What are the main reasons you chose to home educate?

I originally started thinking about home education when Rookie Woman was
about three years old.  I realized she was just starting to get really
fun as her personality started blossoming.  When I considered the fact
that I was expected to turn her over to the school system and then sit
on the sidelines of her learning and life…that seemed ridiculous!  She
was thriving with me, I loved teaching her and most importantly I knew
that nobody would care about her as much as her Dad and I would.

What started as a fairly selfish motivation (I wanted to hang out with
my own child) has become an increasingly strong conviction that home
education provides the best preparation for real life in an environment
of higher morals.


 Do you follow a specific method or style of teaching?

No.  Seeing as my kiddos never stop changing, I feel like my approach
must change along with them.  We split our time between parent-led and
child-led learning in a Charlotte Mason-inspired environment.

Over the years, we’ve done school-at-home (our very early days where it
didn’t occur to me to school any other way), unschooling  (the halcyon
days of homeschooling an only child with a very loose schedule), Calvert
(which I ended up heavily editing because it felt too restrictive), Oak
Meadow (a lovely curriculum we’ve used multiple times over the years,
which was a nice blend of structure and freedom), until we have ended up
where we are now.

Our approach now focuses on having long-term strategic plans that are
the framework for our peaceful daily rhythms of learning together.  If
our lessons can’t be finished by lunchtime, then I’ve done something
wrong.  Afternoons are for rest, work, and individual play/exploration.
We accomplish plenty most days in sustainable way that leaves us ready
for the next day’s lessons.


 What is your favorite aspect of homeschooling?

I love just *living* together.  I love that each day we choose to
immerse ourselves in living, loving and learning together.  I treasure
the time I have with our kiddos to show them what a healthy marriage
looks like, what it means to be a family, how to work through challenges
on a daily basis, and to model life-long learning.  It has less to do
with the education part and much more to do with just living.

 

 What is the most challenging thing about home educating?

Caring for the caregiver.  I find it hard to make time to be alone and
recharge my own batteries.

Home educating is valuable, worthwhile work, but it is also demanding
work.  When I remember to make time for myself – and defend it – I am
much happier, content and enjoyable to be around. I need time alone to
regroup, and that can be difficult when the entire family works and
learns at home.


 What is your family rhythm like?

Most weekdays start in the same way.  The kiddos take care of the dog, I
supervise Man Cub while he makes the family smoothies and sets out
breakfast for himself and Tiny Tyrant, and I have Tiny Tyrant gather our
first few books for the day.  We may listen to a piece of classical
music and look at a picture from a great artist on the laptop while the
kids eat.  I usually do some basic tidying of the kitchen/living room
while they get through their breakfasts.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday are Mom-school days, while Tuesday and
Thursday are typically Dad-school days. I write while my husband
schools.  Whoever is teaching, we always start off gathered in the
living room reading from a Burgess Book for Children.  Currently it’s
the Seashore book.  I’ve tried mixing it up, but mutiny ensues!  That’s
pretty much a non-negotiable beginning to the day’s reading – it sets
the tone and smooths over rough edges we may have first thing in the
morning.

We’ll then read aloud from several books, some for narration, some for
discussion, some just for the pure joy of it.  We weave math in through
Life of Fred, math games, and moving math so the kiddos and work body
and mind together.  Drawing, nature study, and lots of Legos feature in
our days as well.

Most days we are done with lessons by lunch time.  The kids have some
play time, lunch and then go off for “chill time” in their rooms.  They
don’t have to sleep, but they have to be quietly alone to read and
regroup.  During this time I am usually cleaning or writing and quietly
regrouping myself.

 

How do other people react to your choice to home educate?

That is actually a very interesting question.  This is an area that has
changed greatly since I first started this with Rookie Woman almost 20
years ago.  Back then, home education was not nearly as common as it is
now.  At that time I had many people ask if I had a teaching degree,
others who looked horrified and shut down the conversation, and a few
wanted to know more — mainly out of curiosity, not because they were
interested for themselves.  I still viewed any explanations I was able
to give as a good thing.  I know I was able to clear up a lot of
misconceptions back then, and maybe even planted a seed of interest in
some for the future.

The attitude towards homeschooling has shifted noticeably since then.
Now I get many people who say things like, “Oh! How awesome is that?
Your kids are so lucky!”, or, “My sister/neighbor/friend homeschools.”
Home education has become much more “normal” to many people, and I think
that’s great!

As for our extended family, we did not get too much resistance when we
started with our oldest.  They had lots of questions, and sometimes you
could see the objections on their faces, but I am grateful that it never
caused any rifts.  In the end, the resulting well-adjusted, polite, and
educated kids kind of speak for themselves.

 

 How do you plan your homeschool year and what curriculums do you use?

At the moment, we do not use any set curriculum.  We schedule our school
years based on trimesters.  We plan three 12-week trimesters to be
covered in 40 weeks.  This gives us a buffer if we want time off for
vacations, sickness or the unexpected things that always come up in life.

I use the curriculum provided by amblesideonline.org as a starting point
for my planning.  I weed out things we don’t want to read, add in many
more things that we want to study, and then we just chug along learning
together at whatever pace is working for us at any given moment.  The
result is basically year-round schooling — our start and end dates
don’t really matter, we just keep living and learning.  This is a system
that is working well for our family for now.  But as always, I remain
open to adapting according to what the kiddos need…and what I need too! 🙂

I don’t plan each week out in detail.  I use the outline I have come up
with for each trimester and then take each week as it comes.  I have
found that as long as I have rhythms in place for our family life and I
see the children making progress, I am better off recording what we
accomplish as we go along.  This has given me much more peace and joy in
relation to our education than any amount of planning ever did.

 

 

 How do you make time for yourself?

As I mentioned, that is an ongoing struggle.  I think most homeschool
parents can understand that.  I have found that more important than
getting out on my own for something fun, is changing my mindset on an
ongoing basis.

I have put real thought and effort over the last year into appreciating
small moments, scheduling little windows of time throughout the day, and
really focusing on myself for those spans of time.  I frequently tell
the kids that while I am doing dishes or prepping lunch I am taking
quiet time for myself.  I listen to an audiobook, music or a cooking
show on my headphones, take some focused, deep breaths and just complete
the otherwise mindless task in a mindful way.  I’ve found that
announcing ahead of time that this is *my quiet time* decreases
interruptions.  And I have become like a territorial bird defending this
little bubble of quiet.

Also, unless I have to go somewhere in the morning, I have shifted my
shower to the kids’ chill time.  If I focus on my time management, I can
usually take a quick shower, take a 40 minute power nap and still get
some more work done before everybody is up and loud again.

All these little tactics add up to a strategy that keeps me mostly
sane.  Mostly. 🙂  An occasional date-night with my husband or a solo
afternoon to clean undistracted are also way up on my list of ways to
rejuvenate.  (I know…cleaning!  And yet the satisfaction is real!)

 

 What insight or advice can you share about being a home educator?

1.) Trust.  Trust yourself.  Trust your children.  Trust the process. —
You and your children are fully capable of making a success of home
education.  You must hold on to that belief on the days and weeks when
the wheels fall off!
2.) Rhythms trump schedules every time. —  Establish peaceful rhythms
for your family as a framework for your life and lessons. Schedules can
fall apart, but rhythms just seem to bend gracefully in the winds of life.
3.) Listen.  —  Listen to what your children’s words and actions tell
you about what they need right now.  Listen to what your body and mind
are asking for.  Listen to nature and let its sounds soothe you.  When
we listen carefully, we find direction for our family and homeschool life.

 

Thank you Leah for sharing your journey with us! You can find Leah on Instagram at @ourhabitathome and at her website ourhabitathome.com