homeschool mama interview / homeschooling

an interview with homeschool mama Bonnie Way, the Koala Mom blog

Peering into the lives of other homeschoolers is just plain interesting. It also gives us ideas for our own homeschools, our own children and families. It leaves us with a feeling of pride: this is our community, this is who we rub shoulders with, these are the benefits to homeschooling.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Bonnie Way!

Tell me about your children.

I have five children, three of whom are currently homeschooled. Sunshine just turned 11 and is doing Grade 5. Lily is almost 9 and is working a year ahead in Grade 4. Jade just turned 6 and is my eager beaver doing Kindergarten / Grade 1. Pearl is 3 and can sing her ABCs and count to ten. And Joey is 1 and keeps us all on our toes – or holding our sides with laughter at his antics.

What brought you to homeschooling?

I’m actually a homeschool graduate myself (I did grades 1 – 12 at home) so I always planned to homeschool my own kids. Then, because my husband and I were both in university finishing our degrees, we made the decision to put Sunshine in Kindergarten.

By October, I was so ready to homeschool. I spent an hour every morning dropping her off at school and an hour in the afternoon picking her up again. She came home grumpy from being away all day. We barely had time to do her little reading activities in the evening, much less any more homework that her teachers might send home! Packing lunches and snacks (without peanuts!) was a big stress every night. And I didn’t know what she was doing all day at school. There was suddenly this disconnect between what she did and what I did with her younger sister.

What was your educational/work background?

I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English before getting married, and then went back to school after having my first two daughters to earn my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Writing. I worked as an editor for the Alberta government for a year and a half before going on maternity leave with my oldest daughter, and never returned. Before my second daughter was born, I worked as a barista at Starbucks for six months. Otherwise, I’ve been a housewife, blogger, freelance writer, and occasional contract editor.

What are your goals for your children?

I want my children to love learning and to be lifelong learners. I don’t want them to think learning is something that happens only in a certain building, at a certain time, and ends when they hit a certain age.

My mom is an excellent example of a lifelong learner. When she was teaching my brothers and I, she was often more excited about what we were learning than we were. Her enthusiasm was contagious; she was always willing to learn along with us. After we graduated high school and went off to university, she returned to university herself to get a second degree, a B.Sc. in Kinesiology.

I’m also constantly learning, as a mom, as a blogger, and I want to show my children that learning is fun, that we need to be constantly growing and developing ourselves.

Do your children have present goals for themselves?

We’ve never really talked about goals, actually. This is something I should discuss with them! My oldest two did ask about university the other day, and we talked about where they might want to go to university in eight or ten years. I should sit down with them again to think more seriously about that and set some goals for getting there. Those goals may change in the next decade but it’s still a good idea to start. 🙂

What is your understanding of an education? And how do you include that understanding in your homeschool?

An education is about the whole person, not just certain subjects. I think one of the weaknesses of the school system is that they focus on “academic” subjects and learning that can be measured and tracked. So much learning is missed that way!

When my daughter was in Kindergarten, I didn’t know what she was learning. Once we started homeschooling, I knew what bookwork she was doing, and I could help her apply that to other areas. Math isn’t just about writing equations on a piece of paper; it’s also about baking and sewing and art and music and so many other things kids want to do.

Educating the whole person also includes the spiritual side. We don’t have a religion class; our faith is woven throughout everything we study, as I pick curriculum that supports our faith. Again, this way faith isn’t seen as something separate, something we do only at certain times and in certain places. Faith is part of our everyday, part of learning and living and being who we are.

What challenges have you faced?

One of my challenges has been getting my husband on board with homeschooling. Before our kids hit school age, he was very supportive of homeschooling. However, once they started school, he kept suggesting they should be in school. He had doubts and questions and wondered what Sunshine did all day — her schoolwork in Grade 1 took us two hours a day, at most.

When Sunshine was starting Grade 2 and Lily was going into Kindergarten, I was expecting our fourth daughter. We lived two blocks from one of the top-rated schools in the province, so my husband thought it might be easier if the girls went to school. I couldn’t imagine how I’d walk them even two blocks to school everyday with a new baby, or fit in all the volunteer hours required as a school mom. Keeping them home seemed easier to me! But he wanted to register them, so we did. I went ahead with homeschooling plans while we waited to see if they got off the waitlist.

In August, I had all our curriculum, so we started school a week early. I soon realized that Lily was working well ahead of a Kindergarten level. In fact, she was ready to jump into all the materials her sister had just finished the year before! She was two weeks into Grade 1 when the school called to offer her a spot in Kindergarten. I spent a franctic morning trying to figure out how to convince my husband not to send her to school when I realized the obvious: putting her in school would be holding her back. He agreed, and we’ve homeschooled ever since.

How have you approached or overcome them?

Homeschooling is challenging. I love having my kids at home, but there are challenges. I’m an introvert, surrounded by five kids all day every day. My husband’s attitude isn’t always supportive. The girls often balk at doing school work or ask to go to school (we still live close to a middle school).

For me, I think it’s key to know my reasons for homeschooling and to hold onto them. When I face opposition or doubts or snarky kids, I go back to the reasons we made this educational choice.

I also try not to make hasty decisions. We’ve changed curriculum and school boards, but I think about those choices for weeks before putting them into action. I talk with my husband and often with another homeschool mom. A bad week doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. It may mean I need to change a routine, an expectation, a subject, or just take a break (hey, school teachers get Pro-D days!).

What self-care strategies do you think are most important for long-term homeschool mama satisfaction and balance?

Find some supportive fellow mom bloggers whom you can call when the kids are talking back or your husband wants to know why the kids don’t know their multiplication tables yet or your mother-in-law asks when the children are going to attend a real school. You need a friend who knows what homeschooling is like, who can offer you a pick-me-up when you need it. My mom often called a homeschooling friend who lived just around the block from us, and I frequently call my friend Anna, who is also a homeschool mom, blogger, and author.

What are your favourite books?

I love Laura Schlessinger’s In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms (https://thekoalamom.com/2017/01/praise-stay-at-home-moms/). It’s an excellent resource about why SAHMs matter, and I often read it when I need a boost about my vocation.

Another book that I’ve found helpful with discipline (key when homeschooling!) is 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (https://thekoalamom.com/2016/01/1-2-3-magic-effective-discipline-for-children-2-12/).

I also like What a Difference a Mom Makes by Dr. Kevin Leman (https://thekoalamom.com/2012/09/book-review-what-a-difference-a-mom-makes/).

Also, This Is My Home, This Is My School  by Jonathan Bean is a picture book that EVERY homeschooler needs. https://thekoalamom.com/2016/01/this-is-my-home-this-is-my-school-by-jonathan-bean/ It’s hard to find books about homeschoolers, so this book makes me laugh and nod my head because it’s our life in print.

What are your favourite online resources?

Pinterest. When I’m looking for educational ideas to supplement our curriculum, I go to Pinterest. A friend and I have been creating a Canadian history unit study (https://thekoalamom.com/2019/03/canadian-history-co-op/) for our kids this year and we spent tons of time on Pinterest, looking up ideas to use both with our own kids and with all our kids in a bigger group.

I also go to Schoolhouseteachers.com (https://thekoalamom.com/2018/01/schoolhouseteachers/). There is an entire curriculum here if you want; although, I use their resources more to fill in our other curriculum. There are preschool materials that I’ve used to keep my younger kids busy while I’m working with the older kids. We also did a couple science courses when we finished our science curriculum early last year. 

What would you say are your favourite top five resources?

Coffee.

Homeschool planner to keep track of who is doing what schoolwork.

Computer for online learning, ordering books, and looking up resources, ideas, and support.

A set of good reference books, including an encyclopedia, dictionary, and atlas (https://thekoalamom.com/2016/08/essential-homeschool-reference-books/)

Fellow homeschooling moms (online if you can’t find a local group of moms to support your homeschooling efforts!)

Where can we find you on-line? What unique stamp do you offer the homeschool world? What resources do you have available?

I blog about homeschooling, motherhood, travel, books and movies, and more at https://thekoalamom.com.

You can also find me on https://www.facebook.com/TheKoalaBearWriter/, https://twitter.com/KoalaMomBlog, https://www.instagram.com/koalamomblog/, https://www.pinterest.ca/thekoalamom/, https://www.youtube.com/c/BonnieWay and https://mix.com/koalamomblog.

I offer the perspective of a homeschool mom who is also a homeschool graduate. Homeschooling is still a relatively new educational method and many moms, while attracted to it, face doubts. I feel that I can offer them the encouragement of someone who has been there, done that, and thrived because of it.

Along with four other moms, I’m a contributor to an anthology for moms called Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood (https://thekoalamom.com/love-rebel-reclaiming-motherhood/). We wrote this to encourage moms to embrace their calling to motherhood in a world that often looks down upon them for that. I’ve put together a printable journal to accompany the anthology, so that moms can write down about their own journey through motherhood.

Thank you for sharing with us your homeschool world!

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