Homesteading and Homeschooling (with Elsie Iudicello)

Homesteading homeschooling homeschool conversations podcast elsie iudicello wild and free charlotte mason classical education
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What a delight to have Elsie Iudicello on today’s podcast episode! Elsie is a homesteading, homemaking, homeschool mom of four pursuing a classical Charlotte Mason home education in Florida. You may also recognize her from her writings and participation in the Wild and Free homeschool community. We discuss the value of being connected to the land, the challenges that can arise from homeschooling, the purpose of education, and more. It is an encouraging, inspiring conversation you won’t want to miss.

Be sure to check out all the other interviews in our Homeschool Conversations series!

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Homesteading homeschooling homeschool conversations podcast elsie iudicello wild and free charlotte mason classical education

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Who is Elsie Iudicello

Elsie Iudicello lives in South Florida with her husband, four young boys on a farm full of animals. She is a writer, farmer, speaker, teacher, and seeker of adventure.  She is passionate about encouraging homeschool moms, reading beautiful books, cooking for big crowds and raising her boys to be men of God. You can catch her on Instagram, in monthly articles at bewildandfree.org and you can read more from Elsie at Farmhouse Schoolhouse.

Watch my Homeschool Conversation with Elsie Iudicello

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Amy Sloan: Hello, everyone. Today, I am joined by Elsie Iudicello, who lives in South Florida with her husband and four young boys on a farm full of animals. She is a writer, farmer, speaker, teacher, and seeker of adventure. Elsie is passionate about encouraging homeschool moms, reading beautiful books, cooking for big crowds, and raising her boys to be men of God. You can catch her on Instagram and monthly articles at bewildandfree.org, and you can read more from Elsie at Farmhouse Schoolhouse.

I’ve been following you on Instagram, and I was actually trying to wrack my brain, figuring out how I originally started following you, and I don’t know, but I really enjoy your content there. I’m really excited to get to chat with you today. Here at the beginning, I gave the formal bio, but tell us who you are, your family, and then how you got started homeschooling.

Elsie Iudicello: I was born and raised in Miami. I am super Cuban. Whole family is Cuban. My great-uncle was one of the leaders of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and Eleanor Roosevelt, after he was captured, helped negotiate a release of our family and the families of other prisoners, so we are extra Cuban. My husband is from Pennsylvania. He is Italian, little bit Russian, so ample opportunity for sanctification for our family.

We met in college and spent a year together working in a student ministry, and then he went to Honduras for nine months, and we ended up writing letters back and forth. We actually fell in love over Snail Mail, which feels out of place for our generation, but that’s what happened with us, and it was really great.

Amy: Oh, that is so romantic. I love it. Did you guys always know that you wanted to homeschool, or is that something that came later on?

Elsie: No. The school we went to was the first time I really started meeting homeschoolers, and I was very, very, very confused by the whole idea. The church that we went to was rife with homeschoolers, and I was very curious about them. I was, at the time, getting my secondary education certificate from that school.

I would ask them questions here and there, and the vocabulary of their lifestyle just became, how do we say that in English? Like an earworm, where it was just constantly playing in the back of my mind as I was doing all my certifications and things. We didn’t go in thinking that we were going to homeschool but is what ended up happening.

Amy: Now, how has your approach to education or your thoughts about homeschooling, in particular, grown and changed over the years? How old are your kiddos now?

Growing into a homeschool life

Elsie: My eldest is in high school. He is a freshman this year. My youngest has special needs. Numerically, he’s 10. I think he’s more maybe eight emotionally. Like everybody else, I rolled into homeschool with a lot of my own educational baggage, and I had to unpack things and decide what I was going to keep and what I was going to put on the shelf, and what was going to go in the garbage.

I don’t think I started out with any one particular philosophy other than this one lady that I had read a little bit of. Charlotte Mason was her name. Someone handed me her book when I was teaching my last teaching job. There were things that she was saying where I was like, “Wow, that feels really intuitive.” Things that I was naturally thinking and very confused about when I was sitting in those education classes because they were presenting something that was not this.

This explains why I always felt a little at war within myself, but that took a long time to develop and understand, a really long time.

Gradually implementing Charlotte Mason ideas

Amy: How did you begin implementing those Charlotte Mason ideas, then? Did you try to implement them from the beginning, or did that grow over time?

Elsie: Definitely grew over time. I was a little confused when I first started because I love reading. I read all the time. By the time I was seriously getting into it, I had started to really read what she was writing, and I kept seeing a lot of people saying that they were Charlotte Mason, and then I’d hang out with them, and I’d be like, “Did I misread? Am I missing a volume?” because it wasn’t the same thing.

Then there was a professor that I had in college for our rhetoric class. He had us read Quintilian. I’m not a passive reader. I argue with books and write in the margins. I’m a wrecker of books because I have conversations with people. On the first page of Quintilian, it says, “Que” at the top, like, “What?” I was confused, but I remember hearing things in that book and then hearing things in Charlotte Mason and being like, “These two things belong together.” Classical and Charlotte Mason belong together.

It wasn’t until we tried to actually put flesh on our homeschool with the people that we lived with that we were like, “Okay, this is how we get this off the page and into our home.” It was a little heartbreaking because I was super idealistic, and I wanted the whole page to come in the house. I wanted every word to be in the house. There was a lot of dying to self and a little death of little dreams here and there but little by little.

That was a grace that my kids started out as babies. I didn’t have to have it figured out right then and there all at once. We’re still piecing together little things as we go along. It has been a lot of learning, a lot of mentoring from people far away. We live in a place now where we have a large homeschool community, but when we first started out, it was crickets. There was no one around us. That hurt. That was hard.

Amy: I think that’s really encouraging, though, for moms to hear your story because I think so many of us, whether someone is inspired and motivated by Charlotte Mason philosophy or whatever it is that, we come in with these ideals and these grand and glorious visions of what it’s going to be. Then we try to bring that into our actual home with our actual embodied souls who are right there with us.

Last season on the podcast, I talked to one of my oldest friends. Actually, she’s the leader of my in-person book club. I twisted her arm and got her on the podcast with me. I loved what she said. She said something about, “I had to learn that I couldn’t have all of my educational–” She didn’t call them the babies or the– whatever, the ideals. She said, “I had to learn that sometimes that wasn’t what love looked like right here.”

I thought that was so beautiful because if we’re motivated by love and the love of neighbor and love of God, these real humans, we’re able to then take the ideals and the principles and apply them in a way that blesses our family rather than becomes a burden, and that’s so important to remember.

Homesteading homeschooling homeschool conversations podcast elsie iudicello wild and free charlotte mason classical education

Education doesn’t end when they graduate from our homeschool

Elsie: I think in the last year, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own self-education and the things that I have learned from Charlotte Mason and how valuable they have been to me. There were things that I was looking at, where I was like, “Man, I don’t know if I’m ever going to get to this with my own kids.” This weird feeling of panic settled in like, “I’m going to lose my chance.”

Then I thought, “That’s so arrogant of me. Here I am, at the age that I’m at as a mother with all these kids at this point in my life, and I’m still learning. What makes me think that the final bell rings for them at 18, and they’re not going to keep learning or keep searching things out for themselves?” That’s a very humbling thing, too. It takes a lot of pressure off because you’re like, “Okay, they’re going to continue learning. They’re going to continue with this. There’s a lot that they’re going to be getting for themselves in their own self-education.”

Amy: God doesn’t say he’s going to continue working and completing the work in them until they’re 18, and then they leave your home, and time’s up. No, he’s like, He’s going to be faithful to continue that good work for the rest of their life. That is a big relief as a mom.

Elsie: Absolutely.

A few of Elsie’s favorite parts of homeschooling

Amy: What have been some of your favorite parts of homeschooling?

Elsie: The things that didn’t go my way would probably be number one. I don’t know, I’m a maker of idols, truly. It’s astounding, and I don’t even realize I’m building them until they’re already halfway above the ground, and then I’m like, “Look what I did. How gross.” My kids are great at breaking idols and smashing them with large, heavy objects.

Usually, anything that doesn’t come my way, because I have somehow managed, again, to make an idol out of it, kids come, smash it down, and they start their self-education. They start digging. They start learning and really doing it in a way that I never would’ve thought to do. It turns out being so wonderful. I’ve often been my own worst enemy in homeschooling, so definitely, the times it didn’t go my own way.

Then reading. Reading together, it has been one of the greatest gifts of my entire life. I think of all the places that we have been together and the adventures that we have shared and the commonalities, the things that have woven us to one another, how that’s affected our relationships. There’s times where we’re in situations in real life where something happens, and one of my kids will look at me, and they’ll just have to say one word, a character’s name or something, I’m like, “Yes.”

It’s this little secret language that we have from all this time that we’ve spent together. I think about how formative that has been for my kids. My angry, little boy that just needed to meet Picket Packslayer, my other boy that is a beauty seeker and how his world changed when he met The Count of Monte Christo, and the boy that didn’t chores, and no matter what I did could not get him to understand and see the value of chores.

Then what changed his mind? It wasn’t a great lecture for me. It was just meeting Edith Nesbit and the Waterbury children and The Railway Children, and all of a sudden, it’s like a light bulb went off, and he wanted to be with us and wanted to help out. Just, it has been amazing.

Amy: Well, that’s one of the beautiful parts of homeschooling, for sure. So much of that, what I’m hearing is not something that you’ve done and created and forced in on your children, but it’s like, you’ve provided a stage, and then it’s given space for the Lord to do this cool work in your kids and with you as a community and a family. I love to hear that.

Elsie: One of our favorite ways to hang out, honestly, is just reading. 9 times out of 10, if we’re around each other, and everyone is hitting a spot in the day where things are wrapping up, someone is going to say, “Let’s get–” Right now, we’re reading Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Once and Future King. If there’s any pocket of space in the day where they sniff it out, and they’re like, “We could do this now,” they’re like, “Let’s read. Let’s have time together.” It’s the best.

Homesteading homeschooling homeschool conversations podcast elsie iudicello wild and free charlotte mason classical education

Overcoming the challenges of homeschooling

Amy: I love that. These are great parts of homeschooling. Also, homeschooling can sometimes be hard. Could you share some of the challenges of homeschooling and then ways that you have sought to overcome those challenges?

Elsie: I’ll share an old one and a recent one. The recent one is, it’s really interesting when your children start getting older, and you start sometimes being at odds with one another over things. You, all of a sudden, realize that you have to teach your children how to have good, healthy interactions and responses to people that are in authority, especially when they’re at that age where they’re wanting to challenge authority.

I prayed about it and talked to my husband. I’m like, “I just really feel like instead of being the voice across the room that they’re responding to, I want to be in their corner helping them. My voice next to them, helping them and encouraging them in their responses to the person across the room.” We’re still homeschooling, and he’s still doing things here, but we have been inviting a lot more different voices into his life, mentors, and people. That has been so healthy and so good.

I understand it when people are like, “I’ve seen the village, and I don’t want it raising my children.” We don’t live in isolation. We’re meant to live in community and fellowship and with a village. If you’re choosing to unshackle yourself from government education, then what are you going to be, not shackling yourself to, but what village are you joining? What community are you building up around you?

I had a much older homeschool mom ask me that question when my kids were ooh, little, little, like five, and six, “Who are the adults in your life? Who are the people that are going to be speaking in your kids’ lives when they hit puberty when they’re teenagers? Those are such great, great years, and you really want to make sure that you spend a lot of time in their corner, and not just as their sole primary teacher.” I’m so thankful for that advice because that has been so life-giving for that relationship.

Amy: I’ve seen that in my own family as well. My oldest is now 17, or maybe by the time this recording comes out, he’ll be 18. I don’t know, speaking into the future self. I have teenagers, high schoolers, tweens, and then elementary, and I have seen such a value in them being able to learn from godly wise mentors both in academic and non-academic ways.

Then with my oldest, as he has begun taking some steps out into the collegiate world, I have loved being able to still be his mom mentor, to still be the safe family where he can come and be like, “Look at this crazy assignment I just got. This essay, though. How do I even approach this as a Christian and within the realm of this assignment, a constraint that’s given, but to be able to still be able to talk to them through some of those things?”

I have other friends who haven’t been able to outsource classes. That hasn’t been in the family budget, but just because you can’t outsource a class doesn’t mean you can’t still incorporate some of these mentors. Maybe it’s a grandparent that can meet, even over the computer, and talk to them or someone in the homeschool community or at church.

There’s lots of creative ways to bring other ideas, both the positive influences, which should be, obviously, most of them, and also, some may be challenging ways while they’re still at home, and you can have those discussions together.

Elsie: Absolutely.

Homesteading Adventures

Amy: Well, I would really love to talk to you a little bit about your adventures homesteading. Before we started recording, you were mentioning you were chasing a pig. I’m just fascinated by this whole idea. I’m like, “I can barely keep my children fed, let alone homeschool them, and you’re running a farm, too. It’s so cool.” I need to know, how did you decide to pursue this homesteading adventure, and tell us what it looks like in real life. I have a feeling it’s probably not what we might envision in an Instagram reel.

Elsie: No, all those homesteading accounts start to congeal into one impossible woman that doesn’t exist anyway. It’s the same thing with homeschooling. We build an Instagram monster of all of our insecurities, and then we think everybody is that monster. We started homesteading because we loved it, but we were farmless farmers for a really long time. That’s the best way that I know how to put that. We just didn’t have land for a really long time, so it was a lot of dreaming.

It was a lot of learning while we were in the waiting room, like learning how to make sourdough bread or canning or just any little thing that we could do. Researching, reading, doing as much as we could. Neither one of us grew up on farms. I grew up in Miami’s very urban. My grandparents had a farm. They were both from the countryside of Cuba. Hearing their stories, that resonated really deeply with me. I had a very active inner thought line as a child.

Just could never stop reading, ever, and was always very drawn into pastoral books were my bread and butter. I loved them. Between my grandparents and all the books I read, I just grew up really yearning for that. Then my husband, his time spent in Honduras, and then obviously, when he came over and started spending time with our family– We butcher a pig every year for Christmas for Noche Buena which we celebrate on December 24th.

After he did that with us a couple of times, he was like, “Wouldn’t it just be so cool if we started doing this?” Eventually, we did find our farm in a piece of land, and it was only after multiple cross-country moves and having our hearts broken, and just a lot of loss and crazy things. We ended up here, and we were so exhausted and beaten down that we couldn’t even get started right away.

It was really just, we threw some chickens in the back and called it good. The kids were really, really little. I was recovering from a really terrible accident that left me with PTSD. I was really sick. This farm was built one millimeter at a time. We didn’t really have a lot of mentors. YouTube is an incredible resource. We learned a lot of stuff on YouTube. We started reaching out to anybody that we could, visiting farms and helping farmers, had hunters come over and teach us how to butcher.

We love pigs. We have a lot of pigs. I think we’ve got 20-something pigs right now up back there. We have goats that are due any moment. In fact, I went out there just before we recorded to take a look at my one goat, who’s named Queenie, as in Larkside to Candleford. She’s spiteful. I feel like she could potentially give birth while we’re recording, just to stick it to me. And a lot of chickens and meat birds.

What does that look like in real life? It looks like a lot of failure. It looks like death. It looks like toil. It looks like those verses in Genesis after the fall where God is telling them just how awful it’s going to be working the land. That is truly what it looks like, except for the moments where you suddenly have the clouds part, and there are these moments of redemption that are so beautiful and so incredible that you’re just left in complete awe of the Lord and His creation.

I am oftentimes really sad by how much working knowledge has been lost. There’s a lot of things about the modern food culture and just culture in general that just make me very, very, very angry. The farm is a place where I get to exercise all that out and start learning. We’re very communal. We really love having people here. It sounds crazy, but we invite families over for butchering days. Sometimes people hear that, and they’re like, “Ew,” but they actually love it.

No one likes it when the shot is fired. That’s a sad moment for everybody, but it’s over in a second. We read Wendell Berry’s poem, For the Hog Killing right before, and afterwards, everyone gets to work, and it’s like those first few chapters of Little House in the Big Woods when they’re processing that pig, and there is joy, and there’s playing because we know this pig is meeting its purpose.

It is going to be sustaining and nourishing people. We’re working hard together, and we’re learning a skill with our hands, and every pair of hands is valued and matters, and it’s really great. That was long. Sorry.

Amy: No, I love that. I love the connection that this has given you both to the darkest parts of Genesis 3, the real results of the fall, like death, thorns, and thistles, failure, all those things, the toil and the sweat of your brow, but also, the connection to the city garden. These hints and glimpses we have of God redeeming and bringing life out of these very same difficult situations, I think that’s such a beautiful thing.

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I was talking to someone recently who actually they’re very skilled professional in a very highly technical field but just started a very small, little homesteady farm with their family while also continuing to work in the technical field. I was asking what they had learned the most from, it seems, two very disparate callings to pursue simultaneously.

He actually said that one of the things that’s changed the most for him is he feels like he understands the Bible in a deeper way, being more connected to the land, and all the pastoral imagery of scripture is suddenly making so much more sense. I think that’s something we have lost, pastoral imagery of scripture but also just of literature in general. We were a pastoral community and culture for thousands of years. It’s only recently that we’ve been a few steps removed from that, so it is really interesting.

Homesteading homeschooling homeschool conversations podcast elsie iudicello wild and free charlotte mason classical education

How can homeschool families find connection to the land while living in a city?

It makes me want to find ways to include those same valuable truths and those valuable attitudes in my life here in the suburbs with a tiny, little postage stamp wand. That would be my next question for you. Those of us who God is not currently calling to or blessing with a homestead where we can have chickens and pigs, we would get in big trouble with our HOA if I did that.

What are some ways that we can still pursue these ideas or teach our children to have a connection to the land and to nature and to creation around us while living in a city or in the suburbs?

Elsie: It’s like anything else in life that you want to pursue when you homeschool. You got to get out of the house. It is going to require some driving and some effort. I don’t really think that there’s any simple substitute for it, but there’s certainly a lot of opportunity, I think more than you realize. Like I said, we have a lot of people that come onto our farm.

We go on vacation from time to time, so we have friends that live in those HOAs, where they’re like, “We can’t have pigs, but when you’re on vacation, can we come over and feed your animals?” and that’s awesome. We have other friends that are part of CSAs or different farm shares where they will go and participate in those things.

I think that the postage stamp thing, I remember one of our early living situations when I was incredibly sick and bedridden. We just didn’t have a lot of space. It’s funny how we went to the same park every other day, and we would sing the same song on the way to the same park, we would eat the same snack, and we would tell the same stories, and play the same games, and it was okay because, for my kids, that wasn’t boring or monotonous. For them, that was a life-saving security that they needed in a time that felt really unstable.

They loved that repetition. That became their place. There’s a lot of value in having just a small corner of the earth that is yours, that you visit over and over again, but it’s yours, and you know the names of all the plants, and you know the names of all the trees that are in there, and you know their stories. Maybe you planted one of the things that are in there, and you get to watch it grow.

I think sometimes we think, “Oh, my child has to have this connection with nature.” When we hear that, we think of amazing things we see on Instagram.

I’m in awe sometimes of the things that I see from friends that live in California where I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. Florida is flat as a pancake. Have my kids ever been in a hike-hike? They’ve been on a death march in the swamp. Have they ever climbed a mountain?” That’s something that I would love for them to have, but then I’m like, “Wow, we get to go to the beach. This is incredible. We still have little things that we get to do here.”

When I lived in the Midwest, and I first got there, I was like, “Wow, this is a lot of corn,” but then we started going other places that I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, I never understood what a prairie really was.” I couldn’t even build that in my mind. I don’t think I ever saw the sky. Really, truly, until I came out here, there were so many beautiful things about the Midwest that I was not expecting.

It’s really just loving the area that you’re in and not overcomplicating it. Being okay with something small and knowing that, if anything, God is a God of taking small things and multiplying abundantly more than we could ever imagine. Some of my sweetest nature interactions to this day didn’t actually happen on our farm. They happened in our 900-square-foot home with a tiny backyard.

Amy: I love that encouragement. One of the trees that has a very dear place in my heart is a weeping willow tree, randomly. It’s because when I was four years old and my family, we lived in a townhouse in a different state and obviously, not very much land around. I don’t have very many memories from that time. I remember the weeping willow trees, and I remember breaking my collarbone. That’s pretty much my memory.

I remember, though, we would walk around this little lake, which, in my head, is a big lake, but I’m sure if I saw it now, it’s probably just a little drainage pond. It was surrounded by weeping willow trees. My mom would walk me around, and she would sing the “Alice The Camel Has 10 Humps “song. I don’t know if you know that song. It’s a counting song. We would take the weeping willow branches, and we would make necklaces and crowns out of them, so I have always longed to have a weeping willow tree.

Still haven’t had one as an adult. All that to say, sometimes it’s those simple things. I will never forget that tree. There’s something connected in a simple way, but it was a relational story, too.

Elsie: I’m always astounded. Young children never need as much curriculum as we think they do. We hear about something, and we’re like, “What book can I buy? What program can I buy? What thing can I buy to establish this relationship?” Especially when they’re that little, they’re really just looking for things to love. That’s all. They’re just their little hearts looking for the next thing to attach their hearts to.

I think the vast majority of the time when the boys were especially little, and we were thinking about, “Okay, what nature thing should we go to next? What other things can we do to–” I was always thinking about it from what educational thing while I was still in my traditional school detox mode. My boys were really asking, “What are we going to love next?” When I finally made that shift to thinking about what are we going to love next, wow, that changed everything for me because the pressure was off.

It wasn’t like, “What am I going to teach them about?” It’s, “What are we going to love next out in nature or in our home or people in our community?” That was wonderful. That’s when we really started learning together. I’m a big fan of people that make the most of every millimeter of their postage stamp because that’s what builds relationship.

Encouragement for the homeschool mom who is feeling discouraged and overwhelmed

Amy: Yes, definitely. Well, Elsie, you’ve mentioned and alluded that there have been times and seasons, as a mom, that have been really challenging. I know homeschool moms who are listening to this right now, many of us can relate to being in a season where we’re tired or discouraged or overwhelmed. Maybe something within our own hearts, or maybe the situations are just really difficult, and it can feel overwhelming to try to still be what we think of as a good homeschool mom in the midst of that.

We wonder, “Are we failing our children?” That’s the big question. We sometimes worry in those times. I was wondering if you had any encouragement or things that you would want to say to a mama who was in that situation.

Elsie: It’s going to sound terrible, but the encouragement I can give you is that you’re going to fail your children in some way. It’s unavoidable. You’re going to fail them in some way, so rather than sitting there and letting those demons prey on you late at night, when you’re laying in your bed, grieving all the things that you didn’t do that day, all the missed opportunities, all of the things that haunt you, that you let tear you into pieces, realize that, “Okay, I’m going to fail my children.”

Rather than put all my energies on worrying about the big, bad “what if,” put your energy into building a relationship with your kids that can recover from things. Like I said, there have been several seasons in our life where mental illness has been a horrible beast in our home, and it’s been really difficult to try to get a handle on how to mother and how to homeschool, and how to do all of these things while still wrestling with PTSD and all of the other offshoots of that that end up happening.

Again, it really just comes down to the relationship and what we have inclined our hearts to. Discouragement is horrible, and it’s especially horrible when you’re isolated and lonely. Unfortunately, I think when we hit the peak of our hardest time was also the moment in our life story, love story where we were also at our loneliest. That just made everything really, truly extra painful.

I know it’s hard because this requires vulnerability, having to put yourself out there again, especially if you’ve been hurt by your family, hurt by a church, hurt by a homeschool community, or whatever, and it really stinks to try again, but the fact of the matter is you need to be built up, and you need encouragement. I think, for myself, when I was bedridden, the only activity I was allowed to get up, they said I could get up once a week to do something.

I chose Bible Study Fellowship, BSF. That’s what I did. My husband would drive me to BSF, and I would go, and I would study scripture and be with these other women that encouraged me and loved me, and that meant so much. God used that so much in my life, and I don’t really like being vulnerable. I’m not a very emotional person.

My husband, Jeff, is the weeper of the two of us. I am always super uncomfortable if I start getting anywhere near cheery, and man, did I ever break down in that class, and it was something that I really needed. You, as a mom, need relationship in your life. Be vulnerable, ask for help and do whatever you need to get those relationships in your life, and then again, focus on building those relationships with your kids. Read together, and go outside and play.

I do this thing every year before I start homeschool planning. It’s going to sound weird, but I ask my kids to show me their dream house, where they want to live when they grow up. Sometimes they’ve made it with play dough, or they’ve drawn it, or they’ve built it with sticks, but it’s like this little peak into their hearts and the things that they really value and the things that they love because you better believe they put that in their house.

A little girl that loves horses is going to build a stable in her future dream home. A little boy that loves farming is going to have a 5,000-acre ranch. You get that little picture into their hearts, and that is always so helpful for me to start out the year not thinking about what did we not do well last year, what are we going to accomplish this year, but rather, who is this person that I’m spending all of this time with, that I am loving, that I am called to disciple and bring up.

I would just encourage you greatly, focus on relationships for yourself, for your kids. Don’t lose sight of who they are when you’re stacking this huge list of all the things you feel like you should be doing. That’s the fastest way to lose sight of your kids.

Amy: Yes, because what would it profit us to check off all 27,000 things on our to-do list and lose the relationship with our kids? That’s not what any of us want. That’s a really important and good reminder. I think it’s easy, we say this, and then we’re like, “Yes, relationships first. Homeschooling is about relationships,” and then we freak out about the checklist or whatever.

There are things, obviously, we want to do, and to be faithful in that, but to make sure that we’re going back again and again to that relationship and that love of the real people in our homes, I think, is such a good valuable reminder.

Elsie: I believe it firmly enough that I would even go so far as to say that if you were in a place where you were truly ill and really, really struggling, and you have to choose between being their mom and their teacher, be their mom because you’re the only one they got.

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What Elsie is reading lately

Amy: Yes, really good reminder. This has been such a great conversation. I want to keep chatting with you. I’m glad to get to know you a little bit, but I better move on to the final questions that I have for all of my guests. The first one is just what are you personally reading lately?

Elsie: I’m about to enter the last year of my 30s, and as my gift to myself, I am just rereading only my favorite books. I did that the last year of my 20s, and it was so great, and I’m doing it again for the last year of my 30s. It feels totally decadent because I know everything is going to be a hit, there will be no misses, and even better, I get to experience them again with, for some of them, 10 years of life experience tact on.

I get to see it from a different perspective with kids that are getting older and a longer marriage and all of those things. Right now, I’m wrapping up The Count of Monte Cristo. David Copperfield is next. That’s one of my top three. Who’s coming next? I’ve got a lot of Thomas Hardy on the list. Frankenstein, Persuasion, Till We Have Faces, The Scent of Water. I picked 40 for 40.

Amy: I love this idea so much. I’m going to steal this idea.

I’ve been wondering, I was like, “What should I do?” I wanted to do something meaningful and fun in the year leading up to 40, but I couldn’t think of anything. I’m like, “This is it. I’m going to pick my favorite books.”

Elsie: I have so many friends that are like, “I’m going learn a language. I’m going to do this.” I’m like, “How do you have the energy to do that?” I’m in that special armpit of motherhood right now, where I have teens that don’t drive, and it’s like, I’m in the car so much and all of those things. I’m like, “I don’t have the energy to go learn a whole new thing. I’ve got all these other things I’m learning with homesteading, and I just need something that’s a hit that I can that I know, ‘This is reliable. I’m going to have a good time doing this.”

I was like, “I’m going to reread all of my favorite books. I put together the list of 40, and I started a month early, just to give myself a little head space, and it’s going to be a great year.

Amy: That is so fun. I think you picked a good Jane Austen. My daughter and I actually did a little mini– she wanted to do her own little podcast, so we did a little mini-podcast. We read through Persuasion again together and discussed it because we both agree that Captain Wentworth is the best of all the Jane Austin heroes.

Elsie: He’s the best.

Amy: He’s the best.

Elsie: Hands down.

Elsie’s best tip for helping the homeschool day run smoothly

Amy: Oh, my goodness. Final question is, what would be your best tip for helping the homeschool day run smoothly?

Elsie: [laughs] Oh, my goodness, best tip for helping homeschool day run smoothly.

Amy: Ish.

Elsie: Ish. There are two small things that come immediately to mind. The first is to never be afraid to hit the reset button. I think sometimes we look at our schedules, and we just forget that our kids are human. If you have more than one child, if you have more than two, if you have more than three, if you have more than four, the odds of someone having a bad day are just– there’s the chance it’s going to happen, so don’t be afraid to hit the reset button on the spaces.

We do that a lot with our kids. Whenever we finish with something, I’ll say, “Reset,” and they’ll put the stuff away in that room that we were just in, and then we’ll move into the next room, and we will get a scene change. My youngest has special needs. When he was really struggling learning how to read, I could not do reading at the dining room table, and then say, “Okay, that’s over. Let’s do history,” and expect him to be able to continue in the same space. He needed to actually break away from that.

Even if it’s just moving from the dining room table to the couch or from the couch to the tree outside, not being afraid to hit the reset button, that helps a lot.

Then I think having a definite close to the day. We started with morning time for years, which actually, we don’t do morning time in the morning anymore because it doesn’t bless us. We do it at lunch now. We switch morning time with lunchtime. Morning time is lunch now.

Having that actual close to the end, where we would get together and talk about the things that we all learned. Especially as the kids are older, and we’re not all doing the same subject at the same time anymore, it’s such a good way to come together at the end of the day and button things up and be on the same page, and it gives the little kids something to look forward to. It helps remind the older kids of younger, precious things that are really beautiful and worthy.

The other day, my youngest shared something, a picture book that we had read, and my eldest was, “Oh, we read that,” and guess what? After dinner, he went and got that book and read that picture book. I was washing dishes, trying not to cry. Having that little family time at the end of day to look forward, to connect with dad when dad comes home. “What did you guys do today?” “Hey, here’s what we did.” We just talked about it. That has been really helpful for us.

Amy: I love seeing the older kids want to bring out a favorite thing for the younger one. My 12-year-old recently had this crisis moment, where she was like, “All of these picture books, we’ve never read with Isaac.” She took a piece of paper and went into our picture bookshelf and was writing out a huge long list. She was like, “These are the most important ones. Mom, can this count as some of my reading time for school?” She’s not a big reader.

She’s like, “Can this count as some of my reading time for school if I read these to Isaac?” I was like, “Sure, sounds like a great idea,” because again, it’s also the relationship of the two of them.

Elsie: It’s the relationship that they’re having with each other. I love that.

Find Elsie Iudicello online

Amy: I love it. Elsie, where can people find you all around the internet?

Elsie: Argh, I hate the internet. I try to avoid it in a lot of spaces but Instagram, on occasion, my blog when I’m in a season of, “Yay, I feel like writing.” I’m not in that season right now, but you can read a lot of stuff from when I was in that season, especially when the kids were younger. Then I do like to write for Wild and Free. That’s another place where you can find me.

Amy: I will have links to those places in the show notes for this episode over at www.humilityanddoxology.com. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I look forward to seeing Queenie’s goat kid.

Elsie: Me, too. Thank you, Amy.

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

Homeschool Conversations Video Interviews Podcast HumilityandDoxology.com Amy Sloan

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