Homeschool Interview with Jennifer Hutchins
Welcome to the January 2012 edition of the "Face of Homeschooling"! This is when I have the pleasure of featuring a homeschool mom and her family, just one little image in the mosaic of the homeschool world. This interview is with Jennifer of Little Homeschool on the Prairie.
Q. Tell me a bit about why you decided to homeschool.
A. It all came down to the fact that we just couldn’t send our oldest to kindergarten. I wasn’t able to stay home all day, every day until the girls were four and two. I just had that one year at home with both of them before it was time to think about school for the oldest. I wasn’t ready to give up my time with them so she could go to school.
Q. What curriculum approach/teaching style do you use and how did you determine it?
A. Ultimately, I feel that it’s my responsibility to minister to my family at this season in my life. I feel strongly about my role as a wife and mother, and I see my job as a teacher just being an extension of that. Most days, we follow a relaxed style of primarily interest-led learning. We spend our time learning, reading, crafting, cooking, playing, and working together. I try to capitalize on every teachable moment, and my hope is that the girls learn academic skills, as well as how to be a godly wives and mothers one day both by watching, listening, and living what they learn.
We use curriculum when it works for us, but we aren’t tied down to any one thing. I like the freedom to go with the flow and follow the girls’ passions. So, that means that we are moving at turtle speed through A World of Adventure and The Story of the World. We alternate between the two and spend as long as we like on the subjects that interest us the most. As we trek world history keeping our relaxed schedule, the girls still have plenty of unstructured time for play and opportunities for creative expression. Much of our learning is centered around books- real books, living books, library books…not textbooks. We also do a lot of hands-on learning activities like science experiments, practical math, arts and crafts activities, and cooking too. I think our subject areas are integrated and more meaningful that way.
And yes- sometimes I make them do math! My oldest is working through a math book on her own right now (I can’t tell you how happy that makes me:) while my youngest and I try to work on new concepts together a couple of times a week. We incorporate living books and practical math activities whenever we see a connection or sense an interest.
|Crafts and Cooking|
A. As relaxed homeschoolers, we don’t have to keep school hours. Learning doesn’t just occur between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. each day, but all day long. We take the time to focus on the little moments throughout the day when something grabs a child’s attention or sparks her imagination. And since we don’t keep a tight schedule, the girls have plenty of time throughout the day for free play, creativity, exploration, and learning.
The only disadvantage I can think of is that the girls might have gaps in their learning when compared to other same age peers. Here’s my answe: Really, it’s Mary Hood’s answer, but it’s a good one. I totally agree with her here:
"We all have gaps in our education. Nobody can make sure of that! Even if we plugged up every gap we could think of, new knowledge would spring up the next day. More important is focusing on character and developing a self-motivated, self-directed learner. I personally focus on skill development more, especially in the high school years. Help a child grow into an adult who loves to learn and has the tools to do so, and they can learn whatever they need to learn when it becomes important in their lives." - Mary Hood, author of The Relaxed HomeschoolQ. Tell me a bit about your family situation. Are you married? How many children? Do you work and how does that affect your homeschooling day and schedule?
A. My husband was my high school sweetheart, and we have been married for the last sixteen years. We have two girls who are nine and twelve, though I can hardly believe it. It seems like they were both babies just yesterday! This year we’ve scheduled all out-of-the-home activities on Tuesdays/Thursdays, so we are able to spend the remaining days of the week together at home (unless my husband is off work- then we like to go camping or travel).
Right now, I am working as an adjunct professor at a normal Christian college nearby. I can choose my class days and times and do so based on the needs of my family. My schedule changes each semester and I can add or subtract classes as needed to meet our family’s needs. The girls are able to go to work with me. Sometimes they take schoolwork to do. Sometimes they just relax with a book or listen to music. On my long day (Tuesday), the girls are able to take enrichment classes for homeschoolers right there at the college while I am teaching- so they love Tuesdays! Regardless of how the girls amuse themselves while I teach class, I know that they are always nearby. I like that.
The best part of me working part-time is that the girls see me interact and serve a diverse group of people. They also see me integrate the Bible and my faith into each of the classes I teach.
Q. What kinds of activities outside of your curriculum are your kids involved in and how did you determine what they would or wouldn’t do?
A. The girls both take homeschool enrichment classes every Tuesday at the college where I teach. We choose classes based on interest, availability, and our budget. Both girls typically take three classes per semester and are involved in one scouting type club that meets after classes. They both are free to participate in one sport per season as long as the team’s practice schedule doesn’t interfere with our family time. We are serious about limiting extracurricular activities to Tuesdays/Thursdays! Both girls also attend a church group and take piano lessons once a week. That keeps us plenty busy.
Q. What’s been the most surprising part of homeschooling?
A. It’s fun! When life is school and the world is your classroom, what’s not to like?!
Q. What’s been the most rewarding part of your homeschooling experience?
A. Seeing the girls develop a passion for learning.
Q. Share 3 tips for parents thinking of homeschooling their kids.
- Choose a style or approach to schooling that works for you and your children. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. Choose what’s right for your family.
- Make use of your local library. It's probably our favorite out-of-the-home resources, and living books make the best textbooks!
- Don’t try to do it alone. Utilize family, friends, neighbors, and other homeschoolers in your area for ideas, support, and encouragement.
Q. If you had to create a motto for your homeschool, what would it be?
A. Okay. I had trouble with this question, so I pitched it to my husband. He immediately answered, “Girls just wanna have fun!” I love it, so I’m going with him on this one :)