I have the privilege of learning from so many homeschool mamas as I walk alongside them to encourage them & help them show up on purpose in their homeschools (& lives).
In this series, I offer an opportunity to peek inside the life of a homeschool mama just like you.
So join us! (& if you’d like to contribute to this series, email me at email@example.com).
Join me in welcoming Britt Acciavatti, an eclectic homeschooler of three kids, who values nature, connection, intuition, presence, and play, and writes homeschool love notes to herself.
So let’s chat with Britt Acciavatti, an eclectic homeschool mama of 3 kiddos.
Tell me when and why you began homeschooling.
When Covid hit and we entered the summer of decisions, I came across a Facebook post of an acquaintance sharing her plan to homeschool for the upcoming school year. I had an instant intuitive hit, a yes, this is right for us, so we gave it a go. We are 3 years into our adventure, and it’s by far been the most transformative decision we’ve made together as a family. My kids are now 5, almost 8, and 9.
What keeps you homeschooling?
Aside from the major one of giving us more time together as a family, the thing that keeps us homeschooling is the clear evidence of how beneficial it’s been for our kids.
We’ve been able to witness the unique ways each of our children is blooming.
At home, they have the space and freedom to be themselves, to discover who they are, what they like, and what feels important to them. The kids have the chance to have more agency and autonomy over their days. They’re able to nurture their strengths and process their challenges without rejection, shame, or ridicule to contend with. The relationship they have with themselves, each other, and with my husband, Tom, and I, feel like the most important and solid foundation for them to be able to build upon.
That, and I truly enjoy that magic of being with them and learning with them all the time.
Tell me about your greatest challenge.
It’s a combo pack: worry and fear.
And that would be my answer even if we weren’t homeschooling. It’s a constant practice to stay open, to trust the process, and to see what’s actually in front of me and meet the moment.
What are your top 5 self-care strategies?
a. Mindfulness and therapy for self-awareness, which lets me know when I need a break. But do I always listen? I hope to continue improving by heeding the call!
b. Self-compassion, a practice I’ve learned in therapy. I can’t effectively care for myself if I am constantly berating myself. Self-compassion is a prerequisite for being able to receive self-care and not just “do” it.
c. Yoga and meditation. Yes, really. I feel so well cared for and so at peace after I give myself time for this. I used to practice every day, often twice a day. It’s very easy for me to slip out of this habit, and I’ve slowly been making more space for it because it’s that transformative for me.
d. Researching and learning something new just for me. That included cooking, baking, gardening, and sewing.
e. Curling up by the fire or with my heating pad and a book with something sweet to snack on with some beautiful smelling incense; nurturing all of my senses.
What are your favorite 3 resources for homeschooling?
c. Instagram. I’ve made so many special connections with homeschool families and mentors across the world. I’ve gotten wonderful ideas and inspiration from certain accounts and hashtag searches. It’s helped me learn about many fun homeschool programs and curriculums I wouldn’t have found otherwise.
d. Clubhouse is almost like a live podcast you can join. I highly recommend the Honey I’m Homeschooling rooms for homeschool and unschool support.
Do you have 3 favorite read-alouds?
The House at Pooh Corner, The Hobbit, and Charlotte’s Web.
How do you find time for yourself alone?
It’s been more of a challenge since moving from our home state.
We’re not too close to family, so Tom and I are on all the time. He’ll often keep the kids busy after dinner, so I can unwind with some quiet moments.
The kids also started going to an outdoor education program together every Monday. It’s been great to have that big chunk of time to myself once a week.
I try not to fill it with too many chores and errands…
Who are you outside your homeschool mama identity?
An introvert who likes alone time.
I was an only child for 11 years until my sister was born; I know how to be alone comfortably!
I’m creative in my own way: a writer, a singer, and I follow the wheel of the year, the cyclical and sacred ways of nature.
What is your most aligned homeschool philosophy?
I call us eclectic homeschoolers.
We are heavy on literature, nature, self-directed learning, activities, and play. We are inspired by a lot including the Brave Writer lifestyle, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, and a dash of Waldorf.
I have gone through times when I felt bad that I wasn’t sticking to a certain method. Like I wasn’t unschool-y or Charlotte Mason enough.
For me, having to work at “being” is counter-productive and distracting to the true essence of our homeschool. We just do what works for us; it has phases and rhythms.
Melissa Wiley coined the term Tidal Schooling. A sort of waxing and waning rhythm of homeschooling, and that felt true for us.
Britt, what is your favorite thing to do with your kids?
Read together and chat, laugh, dance, hike, make art together, watch Lord of the Rings with my son, have deep late-night conversations with my oldest daughter, and snuggle with my youngest.
What advice would you give a newer homeschooler?
- Know your “whys”, make a list of them, and keep them close by for the hard days.
- Do get inspired by others further along the journey, but don’t try to replicate anyone else’s homeschool.
- Do listen to the wisdom of veteran homeschoolers you connect with, not just the ones living through the same stage of life as you.
- Find a mentor. There are so many great ones out there, including Teresa! We can’t do this homeschool thing alone. Well, we can, but it’s an awful struggle.
- Do get excited about it all and then try not to be disappointed when reality sets in and you can’t do everything you thought you would.
- Stay curious, open, and honest with your kids. It’s their homeschool too! Their needs, desires, and ideas are of utmost importance.
- Don’t worry about needing to mold them. Just nurture who they already are and watch them grow in ways you couldn’t have guessed.
Can you tell me a story of overwhelm in your homeschool journey?
During our second year of homeschooling, I started noticing early symptoms of peri-menopause, mainly but not limited to hormonal mood swings.
We were also in the middle of moving out of state. It was affecting our everyday life with my short fuse and bouts of melancholy.
I just didn’t feel like myself, and I knew I needed help and support.
I researched, I talked to other women about it, I went back to therapy, I adjusted my habits, I reached out to peri-menopause coaches (yes, they exist!) and herbalists, I went on Lexapro for a while, and I got my own personal wellness plan going.
It meant that homeschooling looked different for a while, mostly reading and playing together.
It didn’t feel like we had any rhythm for a time, but the kids were okay and learning and watching their mother take care of herself.
Focusing on my health caused some hiccups in the regularly scheduled program in the short term, and ended up helping us in the long run.
Tell me about tools you’ve used to deschool.
Self-awareness helps me notice when I start slipping into the ‘land of should’, the patterns and conditioning of my traditional school experience.
The best tools by far have been conversations with other homeschoolers.
Like in any good friendship, our pals are able to hold space for us and help us step back to see the bigger picture. Books and podcasts are also my go-tos when doubt creeps in.
The kids’ reactions and responses are also sensitive indicators. When there is conflict or resistance, it’s usually a signal to me to pause and get to the root of what’s happening with them and myself.
Going against convention is hard, and like anything that is truly beneficial for us, deschooling takes practice and commitment.
You can find me sharing some of our homeschool adventures and love notes to myself on Instagram @homeschoolingtheacciavattis.
(I have plans for a website for my longer-written pieces to live in, but that is in the works.)
One of Britt Acciavatti’s favorite quotes to live by is by the most magnificent Shel Silverstein. It’s called “The Voice”.
My friend asked me how grief has influenced the way I show up as a parent. So, I just began writing.
It’s made me more aware and in touch with my own mortality, that I and everyone I love will eventually die. Some would call that morbid. I don’t see it like that. It brings me closer to touching, feeling, seeing, and tasting life.
Because I lived in chaos for years, I relish the mundane. I know what living in chaos for years feels like.
I do, sometimes forget the lessons grief has taught me about myself, especially on my tough days. Living with grief showed me that I can lead, that I can take charge, that I can care for those I love and endure holding them in their final breaths. That I am strong and brave in the face of uncertainty. And that’s not to say I am unafraid, but only that I do it scared. I know that I am not intimidated by the dying process. Now it’s not to say I’m not afraid of losing people I love, of course, I am. I don’t want that and yet, I’m grounded in the reality of life and death, and also of rebirth.
Because of this, I count how many years I’d have left with my children if I were to be diagnosed with cancer at my mother’s age, 43. And the closer I get to reaching it, the more perplexingly young it feels.
I know, deep in my bones, there is nothing more important than loving my children.
So, I will stay in the embrace longer, listen a bit deeper, and stay and talk when I want to go and rest because I only wish for more of that with my own parents. More of that kind of time together.
My parents owned businesses and toward the end of their lives, they often worked opposite schedules. Time together was less, and even more so when I spent the last year of all of us alive living abroad. I missed my dad’s birthday; I missed our last Christmas as a family of four.
As we began our family, I remember asking Tom why life is like this.
We’ve chosen partners, chosen to have kids, and then we have to spend most of our time away from each other. You see people in the office more hours a week than you see your newborn when all we want is just more time together.
And I know it’s the reality that cannot be changed for many, that often both parents work or single, exhausted parents do tirelessly, sometimes multiple jobs. It pains me in a way of looking at it “after death.” What was it all for? (rhetorical) I’m using my own lens and experience here, watching my parents work so hard, stress so much, and enjoy less than they deserved.
When my father was dying, he told me he had no regrets. And I believe him. And I also know that it could have been better.
So, that is my journey. To make it better in honor of my parents whose time on this earthly plane ended very abruptly. And to make it better for my own family, just in case I should have the same fate. To heal the pain that comes from losing half of my immediate family within a handful of tumultuous years when we thought, we assumed we had so many good ones ahead of us.
From 2003 until 2009, in my early twenties, my parents were sick and dying with no real reprieve.
We tried to squeeze the missed opportunities into whatever time we had left, while simultaneously trying to live a “normal life”. You’ve heard that phrase, “you could get hit by a bus tomorrow”…so try not to focus on the fact your mother is dying…I hated when people threw that line at me, including when my own mother repeated it in hopes of alleviating some of the guilt I carried for trying to do typical spread-your-wings-and-fly early 20s stuff.
Everything felt wrong. Living was painful, no matter what I chose.
So, I stop at least once a day, and usually more, to really see my children, study them, look into their eyes and connect with them. Because in the very end that’s all you can do and it’s all you want more of. So I close the book I am reading when they ask for me. I sing to them at night and read to them in the morning. And I delight in their interests, their thoughts, their ideas, their feelings even and especially when they’re different than mine. I choose more time over more things. We moved out of a big money-guzzling house and into a small farmhouse in a more rural area.
We chose to live a completely different life than the one I grew up with.
I’ve made these choices while times are good, while it makes us happy and we can enjoy it when there’s no panic to generate more time, and more memories. These choices have been made so my kids know there is nothing, nothing more important in this world, in this life than my relationship with them. So if Goddess forbid, my time draws near, we have all the warmth and connection we intentionally created to hold us up and surround us. And though I know in my human condition I would always wish for more time, it is my hope that we could reflect on all the ways we lived and loved well, together.
If I could liken how grief has influenced my parenting to a quote, it would be this one:
“Wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”J.R.R. Tolkien
How I’ve supported myself living and homeschooling with grief.
- Therapy. A lot of it.
- Talking and writing about it, journaling.
- Finding a spiritual practice. I started with yoga and then was able to move into meditation and beyond that.
- Letting the sad days be sad days without trying to will them away or deny them. We still need space to grieve from time to time even long after our loved ones have died.
- I used to search for a lot of blog posts, and other people’s writing on their experiences with grief. Instagram wasn’t what it is now for support and I’m not sure it even existed yet when my parents died.
- Retreats! I was lucky enough to attend a Motherless Daughters retreat in California hosted by writers Hope Edelman and Claire Bidwell Smith. It gave me wonderful community, support, and other tools to cope with my losses.
Supportive Books that Help Homeschool Mamas while Grieving:
- Mother Daughters by Hope Edelman
- Motherless Mothers by Hope Edelman
- Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith
Instagram accounts to Follow:
My sister is a psychotherapist in New York City. She shares and writes about grief, and she offers webinars specifically for integrating grief.
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- Tell me more about your homeschool mama retreat.