In a former life, I have been a CPA, CFO, Bakery Owner, and a few other jobs with acronyms. I have always worked because I enjoy working. I enjoy having something that gives me a feeling of self-worth. I like having something that is mine and makes me feel like I’m contributing not only to our family, but to society as well.
After I had children I spent a lot of my time taking care of them, but as they have gotten older they have needed me less and I wanted to feel productive. So, I continued working while homeschooling. Is this a struggle? I’m not going to lie. Sometimes it is. I want to do all. the. things! I want to have this amazing enchanted, relaxed homeschool. But, how is that possible as a working homeschool mom?
The Failure of a Working Homeschool Mom
When we first started homeschooling I went full-steam ahead. I tackled homeschooling like I had every job I ever had. I was going to conquer all doubts and my children were going to be brilliant. We were going to go on field trips, learn to play several instruments, tour art museums, learn Latin and Greek, and ace every standardized test out there.
I know that sounds completely ridiculous, but it wasn’t to me. It was what it was going to be. I could see absolutely no other outcome. Oh, and did I mention that we would all be happy, well-adjusted, with clean clothes and homecooked meals? Now that I type that out I can see how completely ludicrous those thoughts were. And, it’s pretty easy to see why everything fell completely apart in the first 6 weeks.
I’m not going to sugar coat it. That first year was ROUGH. The oldest, a sophomore, quickly chose to dual enroll his next two years of high school. I think he was afraid that one of us would kill the other… I know my husband was. But, through it all, I knew there had to be a better way. I really wanted to relax our homeschool and still keep it enchanting and fun. Was that possible?
That’s when I discovered the Brave Writer Lifestyle and the lovely Julie Bogart. When I tell people Julie changed our lives, I am not exaggerating. Because of her philosophies of education, I was able to see a better way to homeschool – one that would allow our home to be calm, still add the enchantment I so craved and even allow me to continue working.
So, now that you know what saved our homeschool, maybe I should tell you exactly what the Brave Writer Lifestyle is.
What is the Brave Writer Lifestyle?
Julie Bogart is the founder of Brave Writer, a language arts company specializing in teaching your children to find their writer’s voice and express themselves in meaningful ways (all without screaming, crying and the pulling of hair). She wrote her curriculum based on what she used to teach her five children to write when she homeschooled them.
But, she didn’t stop there.
She also began to share her philosophy of homeschooling, which is where the Brave Writer Lifestyle comes in. What is the Brave Writer Lifestyle? To put it simply, it is a modern take on Charlotte Mason – a relaxed Charlotte, if you will. As Julie puts it, “Charlotte take your bun down.”
If you know Charlotte Mason, then you know she spent a lot of time trying to make educators understand that children needed to learn from the world around them. She stressed reading excellent literature, exploring nature and letting curiosity thrive. Brave Writer applies these same principles, but instead of strict habits and handiwork, the philosophy infuses moments of inspiration, enchantment, and awe.
Some of the parts of the Brave Writer Lifestyle you may have heard of are:
So let’s talk about some of these.
Poetry is not always the go-to literature choice for parent-educators. There are many different genres and styles. It is often lyrical and illusionary. So moms will have a tendency to veer from teaching it to their children. With the Poetry Teatime, we break the stereotypical ideas of poetry and get down to what is most important… enjoying the poems for themselves.
We start with the atmosphere.
Always have treats and tea (or if your kids don’t like tea, have juice or other drinks available). Food will make any subject infinitely times better! Use dishes that aren’t common. For example, we use china teacups. Most of these we have found at second-hand stores, but some are gifts from great-grandma or even my wedding china. Next, add mood lighting and decorate the table. If we have a theme, like a particular poet or holiday, we will decorate with that theme.
The next step to Poetry Teatime is to add the words. The kids choose their favorite poems and read them aloud to everyone while we sip tea and nibble on our treats.
Now, that I have them relaxed and in a “poetry mood”, we’ll practice a little fun poetry activity. These differ each time and basically are what inspires me at that moment. I try to keep the writing light and fun and sometimes it is as simple as a freewrite. At the end of Poetry Teatime, they can share their poetry or they can keep it to themselves. The choice is theirs.
Party School is another part of the Brave Writer Lifestyle, but it’s not the college-beer-bong-fest you’ve probably heard of before. Party School is simply having a party to celebrate the end of a particular area of study. For example, after a unit where we studied ancient Greece, we had a toga party. The kids made Greek foods, Chitons, and Himations, and we feasted around the table while telling Dad and a few cousins all about what we had learned.
We use Party School in our monthly book clubs. At the end of the month, the kids come together to discuss the book they just read. But, we take our book clubs a little further and add a celebration for the book. This involves themed food and activities. Some of us have even dressed up as British maids to reinforce a point or two.
Strewing is a fairly new term in homeschooling and it simply means leaving things out for your children to discover. So, your kid’s into space lately. How about leaving out a few books about space exploration, maybe a movie about NASA, or even some supplies to create a model galaxy. The options are endless. This is a part of child-led learning – taking your child’s curiosity and giving it room to grow and giving them ways to explore.
But, Can I Add All This Enchantment as a Working Homeschool Mom?
At this point in my sharing about how we homeschool, I usually get one of two responses. They are generally “I’m in love with this idea and want to start putting it into practice immediately,” or “This is entirely too overwhelming. There is no way I can do this with my kids.”
For working homeschool moms, the latter is the most common response. I mean we’re just trying to keep it all together and work on this “balance thing” we keep hearing about but often eludes us.
I get it. No, really I do. I’m working 2 jobs and trying to keep food in the fridge and clean clothes in the closet. How on earth can I possibly come up with a celebration for the book we read or an enchanting weekly teatime?
To put it simply, you don’t.
Didn’t expect that answer, huh? Well, it’s the truth. I would love to tell you that every week we sit around the dining room table sipping tea and reading Robert Louis Stevenson or Emily Dickinson, but it’s not realistic. It would be awesome to say I planned this amazing unit on Medieval Europe and we had daily hands-on activities that inspired my kids to build a castle from leftover Amazon boxes and duct tape, but that didn’t happen either.
But, don’t lose hope, because relaxing, enchanting homeschooling is in your reach as a working homeschool mom. You just have to have to rethink your goals and how to obtain them.
Step 1 ~ Find Your ONE Thing
Your ONE thing can be anything you choose. Do you want to start adding field trips to local historical sites? Do you want to incorporate Poetry Teatime? Would you like to start a book club with your kids’ friends? Pick just one thing to add to your homeschool.
Does this mean something else might get tossed? It absolutely could, but I’m ok with that. I know that adding enchantment can be far more educational than getting every lesson in that workbook completed.
Step 2 ~ Implement Your ONE Thing
Decide how you are going to incorporate your ONE thing. Make it realistic. If you want to add field trips, then make them a monthly excursion, not weekly. Keep them local. Find homeschool days at local historical sites or nature parks.
If you want to add Poetry Teatime, just do it once a month. Invite friends over. We invite our friends to our local library. I bring the tea and writing activity, the other moms bring the snacks, and the kids bring the poems. It splits the duties and we can all enjoy a day of poetry.
Would you like to start a book club? Then organize it with other moms who would like to host. Take turns each month having the kids over for party school. This keeps you from having to do a monthly book club, but your kids are still being inspired by great literature each month.
Step 3 ~ K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)
I learned this acronym in business school. It means that the most productive system works on the most simplistic principles. So, to keep you a productive member of the workforce and the homeschool, you need to find ways to keep things simple.
Don’t try to come up with everything on your own. I don’t always come up with the writing activity for Poetry Teatime, I get inspiration from others just like with Book Clubs and other strewing ideas. Find moms you can follow on Instagram or homeschool blogs who share how they created a fun book club.
Brave Writer now has party school ideas at the end of their language arts curriculum. Or you can use one of Literary Adventures for Kids online book courses that have all the hands-on fun outlined for you for each novel.
Whatever you choose, remember that your kids will be excited by the thought of breaking the mold for the day and doing something fun. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just different.
Step 4 ~ Relax!
This is the most important tip of all. RELAX. I’m very serious about this tip because I have a tendency to fail here.
Start by choosing a day where work or other responsibilities won’t interrupt your enchantment. Don’t choose a day to add lots of enchantment and hands-on activities when you know you have a big project due soon or when you have limited time before a meeting. Choose a day and time where you can focus on your kids.
Here’s the great thing about a relaxed enchanting homeschool, there are no rules and there isn’t a daily must-do list. Make things work on your schedule. Often people ask me how I have an enchanting relaxing homeschool every day. And, I tell them I don’t.
Some days are enchanting, but most are not. If every day was filled with exciting fun activities, pretty soon there would be nothing to be excited about. Most days we are doing our math, reading our book for book club, and working on copywork. But every so often, we throw in a poetry teatime, a party school, or an outside adventure and we step outside the ordinary.
The Bottom Line to Having a Relaxed Homeschool While Working
That’s what makes the Brave Writer Lifestyle work for working homeschool moms. The rules are simple. What works for your family is the best choice… always.
Find ways to add a dose of pixie dust to your day. Not every day. But every so often. Let your kids explore and follow them where their curiosity leads. But, remember that mundane has its place in your world as well. Some days you need to just follow the routine and relax in the knowledge that your kids are getting what they need to succeed. They will look back on their childhood and remember the amazing things you did to help them learn about the world around them. They will also remember that you were there working for them and with them.
And, really, that’s what a relaxed homeschool is all about.
Listen to this talk and other great tips from working homeschool moms at Practical, By Default’s Crushing the Chaos: A Working Homeschool Moms Conference.
Hi, I’m Dachelle. I’m a homeschooling mom of 3 in the South. I love chocolate and have been known to hide it from my children. I can often be found reading a good book (or even sometimes just an okay book) and enjoying a jar of Nutella — don’t judge. I blog, here, at HideTheChocolate.com when I’m not creating book clubs and making lists…lots and lots of lists (it’s an addiction). Learn more…