an interview with homeschool mama: Jen MacKinnon, Practical by Default

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 Jen MacKinnon.

Tell me about your children.

I have two children, one boy aged 17 and one girl aged 15.

What brought you to homeschooling?

I wasn’t planning on homeschooling my kids. I knew I didn’t have the patience for it; besides, homeschooling families were weird!

A primary teacher recommended homeschooling to me because my son could read and write but his classmates couldn’t. She outlined her problems of trying to keep him entertained and out of trouble while teaching the other 30 plus kids in her class. I laughed and laughed and yet… here I am.

They say never say never and that is the truth. I am so thankful for that teacher who didn’t have time to teach my son and gave us the chance to try out homeschooling. We’ve never looked back!

What was your educational/work background?

I’ve been working since I was 15 in numerous fields, often juggling more than one job. I have worked in several roles from management down.

What are your goals for your children?

My main goal is to teach my children how to learn. If they can ask questions, research and reason out the answers, there is nothing that they can’t learn.

Do your children have present goals for themselves?

My daughter loves to bake and decorate cakes. She also has a love of drawing. My son likes to write books although no one is allowed to read them. 😉

An example of her handiwork.

My teens don’t know what they want to “do” when they graduate. I am okay with that. I am pretty sure I didn’t know at 17 and I am not always sure I know at 38. As long as they have a love of learning and are brave enough to try new things, I figure they will get there. After all, the fun of living is learning!

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

That is a great question.

I think my understanding of education is that it is a never ending journey. We are always learning no matter how old we are. Making learning fun and practical is key for me. We take what they are learning in our homeschool and make it useful. Showing them how what they learned is applied in day to day living. For example, my children both cook. Learning how to double or divide a recipe is important for life. This allows them to see the value in education.

What challenges have you faced?

Returning to the workforce was the hardest challenge I ever faced. Finding childcare, overcoming the guilt, trying to learn my job all over again, doing interviews and feeling like I was the only mom trying to juggle my career, teaching my kids, being a mom, wife and daughter. It was so hard.

How have you approached or overcome them?

I started a blog. I focused on helping working moms find balance in their lives. Sharing my own journey of what works and what hasn’t along with learning from others has been a massive help. I started an online community filled with working moms in all walks of life, from all around the globe, in all kinds of situations. It has become my favourite place online to get inspiration, encouragement and motivation to keep going. Having a tribe of moms who get it and get you is vital for my success.

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

I have 2 rules: 1. Keep it simple. 2. Start small. Self-care isn’t always bubble baths and candles, although if that’s your thing, go for it. It can be as simple as breathing deeply for a few moments, reading a joke and laughing hard. Start with 5 minutes of whatever you need. Maybe reading your favourite book. Dancing in the kitchen to your favourite song or walking around you yard. Whatever recharges you and brings you joy. Work your way up to 30 minutes a day. Even if you have to break it up over your day.

What are your favourite books?

I find this question hard as I am not a fan of most homeschooling books. As a mom who works, I think it is important to read a book and let it spark ideas on how you can make it work for you. One of my all time favourite homeschooling books is “The Well-Trained Mind”. I use it as a resources list and planning guide. The second is “The Homeschool Highway: How To Navigate Your Way Without Getting Carsick”. I love how down to earth the author is and provides practical advice that makes you think.

What are your favourite on-line resources?

I love using online curriculum and planners, along with the library and Amazon. I “pull” from tons of resources to create a program that works for each of my children and meets their needs. I use Facebook Groups for research and reviews on blogs and Amazon to help me make my choices.

What would you say are your favourite top five resources?

1. Coffee. No I am not kidding. Coffee is my comfort food and is a pause for me when things get stressful. When I want to connect with my teens, food and drinks are a must. We meet at the table with food and a favourite snack to talk.

2. Planners. Because I have so many moving parts I must keep track of all the things. A planner is a must for me and right now I use a combination of an offline paper planner and an online planner. This seems to change each season of my life to reflect my needs at the time. My system for setting it up does not.

3. Internet. I use the internet daily as part of our online programs, allowing us to research, to connect with other moms, work and more.

4. The library. Our library hosts so many great activities and a variety of ages and times. Perfect for the busy mom. Its a great way for the kids to learn and make friends. And of course books. Books can help us not only learn so much about the world around us but allow you to learn about any topic you want.

5. A tribe. For me, my tribe is online. I can jump into the group, bounce ideas off of others, get great advice or options and a push to think outside the box. Don’t homeschool alone, finding your group wherever that might be is a great resource!

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

You can find me online at Practical, By Default Solutions For The Working Homeschool Mom. I help moms by providing practical tips for balancing career, home & homeschooling every week.

You can learn more about me and my 13 year journey here. You can learn more about our online community and sign up to get a free workbook to help you find balance here.

Jen | Practical, By Default at Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram /Twitter / Google plus

Thank you for sharing with us your homeschool world Jen!

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