Finding Freedom and Flexibility in Your Homeschool Plan

Homeschool Conversations podcast finding freedom and flexibility in your homeschool plan leigh nguyen

Have you ever wished you could talk with seasoned homeschooling moms who have graduated a kid or two? Moms who could help you figure out what really matters at the end of the day and remind you that it really is all going to be ok? My hope is that today’s Homeschool Conversation provides that needed perspective and encouragement for you!

Leigh Nguyen shared a wealth of wisdom and practical advice for both new and veteran homeschooling families. Leigh began by sharing her journey as a homeschooling mom, highlighting the initial aspirations and challenges she faced. Now, with 2 of her children graduated and 1 still in high school, Leigh emphasizes the importance of avoiding comparison and perfectionism while still planning with purpose.

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Avoiding the Homeschool Comparison Trap

Leigh advocates for embracing one’s own family culture and understanding the “why” behind your unique family’s homeschool. By uncovering their family’s vision, goals, and values, homeschooling parents can create a customized educational experience tailored to their children’s needs and interests. This process involves prayer, open communication with spouses, and a willingness to adapt based on individual inclinations and children’s personalities.

One key piece of advice Leigh offers is to put on “blinders” and focus on what works best for one’s family, rather than succumbing to external pressures or comparisons. She encourages parents to follow their instincts and lean into their preferred educational approaches, whether it’s classical, eclectic, unschooling, or a combination thereof. Moreover, Leigh underscores the importance of being bold in one’s decisions and unapologetically pursuing the homeschooling path that aligns with their values and goals.

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Homeschool Morning Time

Leigh also emphasizes the significance of Morning Time—a cherished ritual in her homeschooling journey. Morning Time serves as a unifying activity where the family comes together to engage in various subjects and discussions, fostering a sense of connection and intellectual growth. Leigh also stresses the value of incorporating real-life experiences, such as financial literacy and practical skills, into the curriculum to prepare children for adulthood.

Flexibility in the homeschool plan

As Leigh reflects on her homeschooling experience, she acknowledges the need for flexibility and adaptability. While routines provide structure and stability, she advises parents to remain open to adjustments and shifts based on evolving circumstances and children’s interests. Leigh’s approach to homeschooling prioritizes relationships, laughter, and lightheartedness, emphasizing the importance of enjoying the journey alongside academic pursuits.

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Big Picture Homeschooling Goals

In considering the ultimate goal of homeschooling, Leigh encourages parents to envision the young adults they want to raise and work backward to determine the experiences, values, and skills needed to achieve that vision. By focusing on character development, spiritual growth, and lifelong learning, homeschooling families can cultivate well-rounded individuals equipped to navigate the complexities of the world.

Transitioning to the teen years, Leigh shares insights into tailoring education to individual children’s strengths, interests, and aspirations. Whether it’s pursuing drone pilot licensing or delving into advanced literary analysis, it’s important to nurture children’s passions and providing opportunities for growth and exploration. Parents also need to adapt their goals and routines as children mature and assume greater autonomy.

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Advice to new homeschool parents

In hindsight, Leigh offers words of wisdom to her younger self and new homeschooling parents, encouraging them to laugh more, be lighthearted, and cherish the moments spent with their children. She underscores the significance of building routines while maintaining flexibility, finding joy in the journey, and embracing the imperfections and challenges that come with homeschooling.

Through thoughtful reflection, intentional planning, and a spirit of grace, families can navigate the ups and downs of homeschooling while fostering a nurturing and enriching learning environment for their children.

Key Takeaways

  1. Embrace Individuality: Recognize that every homeschooling journey is unique, and what works for one family may not work for another. Embrace your family’s distinct culture, values, and educational philosophy.
  2. Avoid Comparison: Resist the temptation to compare your homeschooling journey to others. Focus on your family’s goals, needs, and aspirations rather than trying to emulate someone else’s approach.
  3. Plan with Purpose: While it’s important to have goals and plans for homeschooling, remain flexible and open to adjustments as needed. Strive for balance between structure and spontaneity in your daily routines.
  4. Prioritize Relationships: Cultivate strong relationships within your family and community. Incorporate activities like Morning Time to foster connection and intellectual growth among family members.
  5. Follow Your Instincts: Trust your instincts as a parent and educator. Choose homeschooling methods and approaches that resonate with your values, beliefs, and children’s individual needs.
  6. Encourage Exploration: Provide opportunities for children to explore their interests and passions. Tailor the curriculum to align with their strengths, talents, and aspirations, fostering a love for lifelong learning.
  7. Maintain Flexibility: Stay adaptable in the face of changing circumstances and evolving children’s needs. Be willing to adjust routines, goals, and strategies as necessary to accommodate growth and development.
  8. Focus on Character Development: Prioritize character development, spiritual growth, and life skills alongside academic learning. Prepare children for adulthood by instilling values of integrity, resilience, and responsibility.
  9. Find Joy in the Journey: Approach homeschooling with a spirit of joy, laughter, and lightheartedness. Cherish the moments spent with your children and celebrate their progress, no matter how small.
  10. Embrace Imperfection: Accept that homeschooling, like parenting, is not always perfect. Embrace the imperfections, challenges, and setbacks as opportunities for growth, learning, and resilience-building for both parents and children.
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Listen to the full podcast episode “Finding Freedom and Flexibility in Your Homeschool Plan with Leigh Nguyen,” Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology Season 9, Episode 9

Leigh Nguyen little by little homeschool

Leigh Nguyen is the host of the Little by Little Homeschool podcast. She never meant to homeschool, but here she is, 12 years and 2 homeschool graduates later, with 1 more to go! She spends her days learning how to live a more simplified and intentional life with her husband, James, and their teen and young adult children. Her heart has become fiercely passionate about encouraging homeschool moms to stay the course and to, little by little, thrive in this season of life.

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

Homeschool Conversations Video Interviews Podcast HumilityandDoxology.com Amy Sloan

Amy Sloan: Hello friends, I am so excited to have Leigh Nguyen here with me today. She is the host of the Little by Little Homeschool podcast. Leigh never meant to homeschool, but here she is 12 years and two homeschool graduates later with one more to go. She spends her days learning how to live a more simplified and intentional life with her husband, James, and their teen and young adult children.

Her heart has become fiercely passionate about encouraging homeschool moms to stay the course and to little by little thrive in this season of life. I am so looking forward to our chat today. I always give the formal bios, but then I would love to just hear you share a little bit about yourself, your family, and how you guys got started on this homeschooling adventure.

Leigh Nguyen: I’d love to share first. Thank you so much for having me today, Amy. I’m excited to talk. I love to talk to homeschool moms. My kids always knew when they were little, if I ever met like a new homeschool mom or something, they’re like, “Okay, let’s get comfortable. We’re going to be here for a while though.” I love it. Yes, my name is Leigh. I’ve been homeschooling my three kiddos. Like you mentioned, did not plan on homeschooling. It was a big shift that God put on our hearts, well, my heart first, and then I approached my husband about it and he was very surprised because it was not something that we ever planned to do, that it was part of my personality even.

He didn’t think that it would ever come on the radar, but he said, “Okay, let’s try.” He trusted me in so many other ways with watching me as a mom and he’s like, “Well, let’s go ahead and try it.” Pulled our kiddos, our two oldest out of school after a couple of years. My youngest, I say he’s my great experiment because he’s been homeschooled all the way through. It’s been fun. We just got started from just God, just this nudge and me just saying, okay, we’ll check it out and being obedient. All these years later, I am so glad that he called us to this and that we obeyed and that we have stuck through it. It’s been such a blessing to our family.

Amy: I love to hear that story and just how you’ve seen God’s faithfulness. You stepped out in faith, thought it was a little crazy idea and it’s been good for your family. I would like to ask if you’ve noticed any changes in your own thoughts about homeschooling, your approach to homeschool philosophy, both individually as a family. Then since you have been homeschooling now for a while, I’m sure you’ve seen shifts in the homeschool world at large. What are some of the things you’ve noticed inwardly and then be more externally as well?

Leigh: It’s a good question. When I started homeschooling, basically it was just school at home. All I knew was the public school system. To me, that was education, and that’s how education had to occur. Therefore, I just modeled that at home. I only had one friend that was homeschooling, and she leaned towards– now I look back because I didn’t even know there were different styles of homeschooling. I didn’t even know there were different possibilities of doing it. She leaned a bit more towards classical, and I just looked at what she was doing, and I was like, “That’s a little too much for me right now.”

Just jumping in and went to a homeschool convention, and this curriculum was on my mind, and we have to set up the day, and we have to set up a schedule, and everybody has to have their own. Now my oldest two are only two years apart. I was like, “Well, they each have to have their own science and their own history and their own geography.” Obviously, the language arts and the math needed to be their own grade level, their level that they were at.

I just started off with just the school at home. I can look back now and see that I moved more towards a traditional homeschool than a little bit more eclectic. Now I would say I’m like eclectic/Charlotte Mason/unschooling, which I guess is maybe a little bit eclectic, just pulling in what’s going to be best for my family. I am now just homeschooling my– I don’t want to say ‘just’ because it still is homeschooling my oldest, but it feels like just after juggling multiple kids for so many years and now having just him.

He is in 10th grade, and so we’ve got a couple more years left with him. I have seen the shift, and I feel like the shift has been similar with the homeschool because really I would imagine from what I have seen and what I’ve heard way back, you just got some books and you just did the school at home and some families maybe had a little bit more freedom, and they would be a little bit more open to maybe not sitting and doing bookwork all the time thing.

I feel like I’ve seen overall a shift and maybe you’ve seen it as well, just a bit more traditional of school at home and then moving towards just feeling a bit more free to be able to follow our own way of doing homeschool. Just, what fits us and being okay to do that. I think social media has been a big resource for that. I feel like the same shift I’ve seen is now because there’s a lot of information, a lot of resources out. As I mentioned, when I started homeschooling, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know that there were homeschool books. I think a couple of years in, maybe, I found a homeschool blog.

Maybe I was on Pinterest probably and looked up some things and found things, but there wasn’t the social media. I couldn’t go on Instagram and find some account and watch the beauty of a certain style of homeschool and be like, “Wow, okay, that’s possible. I see that this mom is doing it, and I’m inspired to follow that.” I think a lot of the information, the resources, podcasts, YouTube, tons of books, there’s just been a lot of resources that help us moms to be able to follow our path when it comes to homeschooling. I feel like I’ve seen a similar progression that I have seen in my own personal homeschool.

Amy: I think a lot of times we are down on social media and there can be a lot of downsides, negatives to that comparison trap and all that. I think you bring up a good point that especially for a mom who’s just starting out, maybe doesn’t know anyone else homeschooling, maybe all you really have in your mind, the only thing you can envision when you think school is your own personal experience, which for most moms was in a traditional, sit down, do your workbook situation.

What a joy to be able to get a peek into the many different ways homeschooling can look for many different families. I think it’s really opened up the imaginations of moms to think, “Oh, well, I could do it that way, or I could take this idea from here and that idea and then make it our own unique homeschool.” I think that’s really great.

Leigh: I agree that social media has it’s good and it’s bad. There’s times where you start to see that it’s having a negative effect. I say, just delete it then. When you are in a space of being receptive to getting inspiration, then it’s definitely a really great source and being able to connect and be able to even connect with the person who’s behind the account and send them a message and ask, “Hey, where was that book from?” Them give you an answer. Then you could go and use that book for your own kids and it’d be an awesome experience for you guys.

Amy: I think that’s always really fun and I’m sure you enjoy getting DMs and I do as well. It’s always fun to connect with people that way. I actually find that sometimes I learn more or if not more, I learn in a different way. I’m challenged in a different way by people who homeschool differently than I do just because they’re coming at the same thing from a different perspective. Even when I’m not necessarily going to change the way I’m doing things, just by seeing it from a different point of view always helps me as a homeschool mom. I think we can learn a lot from one another. Leigh, what have been some of your favorite parts of homeschooling over the years?

Leigh: My most favorite part– well, okay, maybe they are all tied. The first one would be the freedom. I didn’t quite realize growing up what a free bird I was. I look back now, I’m like, “Oh, this all makes sense.” How I was in my childhood and teenage years and college and beyond like, “Okay, this makes sense.” Freedom just to be able to create our own “schedule”, because I don’t always think we need a schedule, just a routine. We get to live our life. I enjoyed that so much, being able to come up with our own schedule and being able to change as needed and learning flexibility and learning problem solving.

I learned a ton of flexibility and problem solving as a homeschool mom. I would say freedom would be the first thing. The next thing would be not missing out on my kids, on their childhood and their teenage years. We just get to spend a lot of time together. I know that some people think that’s a terrible thing. It’s not always easy because it’s never easy to spend 24/7 with somebody else who maybe thinks differently than you and wants to do different things and wants snack time at a certain time or wants a certain snack and you don’t have that certain snack or doesn’t want to do their math work.

There’s always going to be those challenges, but just not overall missing watching them grow up. We just have all the hours of all the days of watching them and being a part of that and them not necessarily being separate from us. Even if they go to programs or co-ops, it’s just overall is we get to choose what we put our kids into. If it’s not serving our family well, we can then decide not to do that. They weren’t gone. They were here. I was able to speak into them and for better, for worse, sometimes during the teenage years it might be like, “Okay, mom’s annoying. She’s around.” They always come around.

I see that they come around to mom, but I’m just like, “I just enjoy spending time with you.” They’re like, “Okay, mom.” I’m like, “You’re taking this for granted.” My 16 year old right now sometimes is a little like that. I’m like, “You’re taking this for granted. You’re going to look back someday and be like, ‘all right, she wasn’t so bad.”‘ Know why I’m like, “Hey, how you doing?” While he’s doing his schoolwork. I’m like, “Because I love you and I care about you.” I would say just not missing out.

The last one would be that I feel much more confident and less concerned about my children launching out into the world because I know that we’ve laid that foundation. I know that we have been faithful to what God has called us to do, my husband and I, and we know that He’s faithful. Now our kids, they’re going to make their own decisions as to the past and the things that they’re going to do later on in life when they are out of our home after they launch. I know that we have spent that time. I haven’t missed it. I don’t have regrets of missing that time.

I have regrets of, I’m not a mom of the year, it was not a perfect motherhood. I do have some regrets and things I have apologized for, and there was a lot of that, but I can look back now and say, I’m so glad we spent the time on that foundation, especially that biblical foundation with them. They know what they believe. They know why they believe. They know what other people believe and why they believe those things.

They feel grounded in that, much more grounded than I was going out into the world. I feel like they understand the world a bit more, and we’ve done all that we can. Obviously God has been doing all he can in them, but ultimately, it’s their decision. I feel good about that foundation that we’ve laid with all these years of homeschooling.

Amy: I think that’s going to be encouraging to a homeschool mom listening that you weren’t saying, “Oh, I did it all perfectly. I was the perfect homeschool mom. I never made any mistakes. My children couldn’t have asked for a better mother.” That wasn’t it at all. You see that even through the mistakes, through the repentance and the restoration of relationship, through the work of the Lord in their hearts, you’ve seen that it’s still been worth it and profitable.

Sometimes we can get in our heads that it has to be done perfectly or we have to be the perfect mom in order for this to count as a successful homeschool experiment or whatever. That’s not it at all. It’s seeing God’s grace at work often through our weakness, but that is also part of the joy of homeschooling.

Leigh: Good. I’m glad that’s an encouragement because none of us are perfect. We all know we have our moments. I had moments of anger and having to deal with the mom anger and just the frustration of everybody always being here and the constant needs of everybody. Then you put the education on top of that and it just takes it to a whole new level, especially when you have people saying, “Are you sure you can homeschool? Are you going to homeschool through high school? How are you going to do that?’ They’re not prepared for the world. They’re not going to be socialized.”

All those things. That weight comes on our shoulders as moms because we just want so much for our kids and we just care for them so much. They are, I say, and I didn’t quote this or anything, but they are our hearts walking out in the world and it just feels heavy on us. Now, my husband would be a bit more like, “Eh, they’ll be okay. We lay this foundation, we do these things, and I’m not worried.”

I’m like, but it’s a mom, dad thing, I think, and we balance each other out, but we’re not going to be perfect. I think that’s also a key point too, is that our kids see that we aren’t perfect and we have these relationships where you mentioned the reconciliation and the restoration of relationships, and they learn how to do that within a family unit. I think a lot more when you are around each other 24/7.

Amy: Definitely. Those are a good segue into maybe some of the less beautiful parts of homeschooling. What have been some of those challenges that you’ve faced over the years and how have you sought to overcome those challenges?

Leigh: I would say the first challenge for me was not having a lot of alone time. I tend towards being an introvert, not using that as an excuse to be able to just go off on my own, but just needing that space, just that headspace of not somebody needing me for every moment. My husband when they were younger, worked some different shift jobs and then he changed careers and was building his business. A lot was on me for many years. That takes a lot.

How I worked through that, it was, I was a stickler about bedtime. I was like, everybody is getting to bed on time. Even as they got older, as teens, I was like, “You don’t have to go to bed at seven o’clock at night. By this time, 8:30, nine o’clock, everybody needs to be in their rooms and turn your lights off by this certain time,” because I just needed that space to breathe. I would turn like no music on, no nothing. I just needed to decompress. I would say just that alone time was difficult.

I had to accept that this isn’t a season of life where I’m going to get a lot of alone time. I think some of that comes from our culture saying, send the kids off to school, then you can be home alone and you can do whatever you want when you want to do it. Now that I am in this season of life with two. My older two are 19 and 21. Twenty-one-old lives and works in a ministry. She’s out of the house right now. We’ll see where God leads her and what comes next.

My 19-year-old owns and runs his own business and he’s living at home right now. He’s here, but he’s in and out. I saved some dinner for him and he heats it up when he gets home thing. This is his home base. It’s really day in and day out. My 16-year-old, who’s like, I’m a little more independent. He just got a job and I’m finding myself now, I’m like, I do have that time to create my day and it’s taken 21 years to get there, but it is a season of life and I had to just accept that this is where it is.

It wasn’t always easy. Lots of prayer and just lots of God just changed my heart to be okay with this, not having that time. Then I guess my challenge was just wondering, am I making a difference? Every single day, day in and day out, up at night with kids and this one’s sick, this one went to bed, this one had a nightmare, breakfast and homeschool lessons and just getting to all the things, maybe the baseball. We did not overextend our schedule, but still, it was just one more thing to do.

All the meals to make and all the cooking and the cleaning and everything. Just wondering, am I making a difference? This day in and day out just felt mundane and monotonous. You just are like, every day is the same sort of thing. There’s different scenarios within it, but it’s all the same. Just knowing if what I was doing was making a difference. We don’t really know until they are older and we are older and we realize, yes, that did make a difference.

It did make a difference to be there for them and to homeschool and to have that time. I just see that the fact that we homeschool, we are there with them day in and day out and they get to see us and they get to see our highs and they get to see our lows and really get to know us. I would just say, we don’t know. We just have to be faithful to what God’s called us to and trust his faithfulness to be able to get to that other side.

Amy: It really is walking by faith. That conviction of things not seen, right? You can’t see what’s been promised, but you work by God’s grace, moving towards that goal. Then you begin to see little tiny bits of fruit growing. That is an encouragement as well.

Leigh: I think it’s important to note that you will see, it’s not that you have to wait to the end. You’ll start to see little glimpses. Maybe there is a certain character trait that you are working on. Say you have a child who’s become prone to lying and you’re working through it, and you start to notice that even though they did something wrong, they admitted it. You’re like, “Yes, okay. The time and the effort.” Maybe it’s routines. Maybe they’re really sloppy and their room’s a disaster and you’re just slowly working on that.

Then one day you walk in, you’re like, “Oh, their room’s cleaned up. They know how to do it,” and they do it. Look for those little breadcrumbs, we’ll say, right? That gets you, “Okay, yes, we are getting there.” Then the full harvest is seen later as they get older.

Amy: I’m still waiting for that fruit of a clean bedroom. I don’t know.

Leigh: Listen, I was that slob. I bring that up because I was that slob all through high school and my mom was like, “Oh, I don’t even know.” I went to college and there were no phones. I had to take a picture and then get it developed and then go home on some break and show her what my room looked like. She was like, “Oh, is this your roommate’s side?” I was like, “No, that’s my side.”

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I think she about fell out of the chair because it was neat and clean. I think it was the fact that I had such a small space and she was like, “Oh, okay.” Because I did a lot of cleaning. I did a lot of helping out at home, even though I was in school, I didn’t do it during the day, but on the weekends and stuff, I helped my mom with cleaning. She’s like, “Okay. She was watching and learning and she did apply it when she had the opportunity to be on her own.” I’ve been neat ever since. It might take a few years, but you’ll maybe get there.

Amy: I love it. Okay. We, Leigh, as we think about our life as homeschooling moms, we start off the journey with these grand ideas and these goals, or maybe we’re entering a new season of homeschooling. Our first time we’re going to be having a high schooler, a middle schooler, and we think, “All right, I got it. It’s a new homeschool year, a new season. This is the year I’m going to have it all together. It’s going to be great.”

We have our checklists and this ideal, amazing homeschool plan, and then real life happens. Okay. I have been there many times. I’m sure the listeners can relate to that as well. I’m sure you can. How do we avoid comparison, perfectionism, while also still planning with purpose. The answer isn’t just to throw up our hands and be like, “Well, I guess I shouldn’t plan anyway.” Then do you have any big picture questions you think we should be asking as we’re thinking about our homeschooling goals and plans?

Leigh: This is such a great question. You could ask my husband right this moment, “What’s the number one phrase I would use all during the homeschool years?” He’d be like, I’d be like, “This is the week.” I’d say on a Sunday, “This is the week. Everything is going to go according to plan. We’re going to get all our schoolwork done, all the chores. This is the week.” Then at the end of the week, you’re like, “This was not the week. There was this and there was that.”

I guess I just had to come to the point, which just became a joke between us. I was like, “This is the week.” Sometimes I get to the Sunday and be like, “Guess what? This is not going to be the week. I’m already looking at it and there is a lot of puzzle pieces to put together.” I would say the first thing would be sometimes we just need to put our blinders on. Whether this is online, like we were talking about, online can be great and it can be a negative sometimes. When it’s a negative, turn it off, delete it, don’t even pay attention to it.

Also in person, we just had to put our blinders on and say, what even my friend or what that Instagram account is doing, it’s great for them. Let me do what’s great for me. Just ignore. Sometimes there’s some seasons where we have to ignore somebody because we’re not ready to receive maybe some inspiration from them. That’s okay. We just have to recognize that. I think really what we need to do is we need to uncover our own family’s culture. It’s important to us and our family and it’s okay. It doesn’t have to be what somebody else’s culture is.

What is our why for homeschooling? What is our vision? What are some goals that we have? Then pray on those things. Talk to our husbands, make sure they’re on the same page. They might have some input that they’re seeing from the outside, but inside, they’re in the group, but they’re on the outside, maybe not in the day to day that you’re carrying through. Then don’t ignore what maybe your natural inclinations are. Maybe you are a bit more of a free bird. Maybe when I mentioned freedom, you’re like, yes, that’s totally me. I want to be more free in my homeschooling. Then do that.

Don’t compare yourself maybe to a mom who purchased a box curriculum or is doing something more classical. She’s doing what’s best for her family and going to meet their goals. You need to do what’s best for your family and meet your goals. The thing that sometimes happens in that though, is that kids don’t always want to fall into the way we want to do things. Maybe we’re a bit more free and we have a child that thrives better on more of a routine and something a bit more predictable. I think at those times is when we get to stretch ourselves and we get to then work with them and find what’s going to help lead them to success because they’re just a child.

They don’t have that maybe ability to be able to shift and become suddenly more free. They just need that structure and you might be surprised, they might grow up and be a lot more free and be like you, but just at that season, maybe they just need a lot more structure or just a routine or something predictable. A lot of kids really do thrive off of predictability, especially when it comes to homeschool. They know this is what we’re going to do. All three of my kids are like, what is required of me during this time so that we can do this. Then I can go on and play because my goal was always to get things done in the morning and then let them have just freedom the rest of the day.

I would just say, put your blinders on, just follow what you need to do, what you’re, I don’t want to say follow your heart, because that’s totally not like biblical what I mean. If your inclination is to maybe do a little more unschooling, a little more Charlotte Mason, maybe it is to do more traditional, more eclectic, classical road schooling, whatever it is, it’s okay to do those things and then adjust as needed. I was mentioning with maybe the child that needs a little more routine, adjust for what they need, just knowing that God created us all with just different personalities.

It’s fun to watch how that comes together, husband and wife come together and create that homeschool that just seems to fit them. You look and you’re like, “Oh, that’s totally them.” Knowing that you doing totally you is okay. Just like your friend is totally okay for them to do. Like I mentioned earlier, my friend was a bit more classical and they did that for many years. I was a bit more eclectic and just a little bit more free with things. Our kids had such a great time together. We got along so well, could talk about so many things.

I think that’s the beauty of homeschooling. We can encourage one another, not to feel less than, and I say also to be just bold in your decisions. This is how we are going to homeschool, just do it and don’t be worried about what others are going to say, what they’re going to think. Don’t look to others to compare yourself, look to them for inspiration. I was mentioning, you can look on Instagram and be inspired, but if you’re not feeling inspired, turn it off and go outside, go on a field trip, go do something fun, just with your kids.

Your last part of your question, I would say the main big picture question that we should consider is who are the young adults we want to put out into the world? Because we get so focused on the five-year-old, eight-year-old, the 11-year-old and you have all the year olds all the same time, if you have multiple children and everything that’s going on. Who do we want them to be? We can’t make them who we want them to be, but what experiences, what biblical foundation do you want them to have? What literature do you want them to read? How do you want them to spend their time? What are some skills you want them to have? Then just reverse engineer that. How can you start doing that now?

That can be things even when they’re five years old, teaching them to sit and listen to a Bible story and talk about it. That’s teaching them to have their own daily devotions and maybe they can’t even read. You read it. You talk about what the hell is that? Maybe a child’s Bible, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, talking about it, having a little conversation. It might last about two minutes, but that sets them up then for later on when they are old enough and you can provide them maybe with a devotional book to go along with their Bible.

I guess that would be the big question, who are the young adults you want to put out into the world and how do you get there? What experiences, what is everything that you want to provide for them in order to get to that point?

Amy: Yes, I love that question. That’s one of the questions, I phrased it a little differently, like what human do you want to raise, right? I think that’s such a valuable question to start with. A lot of those answers aren’t even going to be academic related. Some of them will be, of course, maybe you want a child who really understands how to think deeply about ideas or can understand the way literature across generations talks to each other. I know a lot of things end up being broader in one sense, but a lot more foundational to your family culture.

In our family, raising children who love the Lord’s Day is a really core value for our family. We have arranged our family’s schedule throughout the week so as that to be the most important thing. That then trickles down. When you start with these big ideas, that trickles down in decisions you’re making about other things and impacts other academic areas of our homeschool. It’s a lot more, I guess, of an eternal perspective, of thinking about we’re not just raising kids, we’re raising adults. These are going to be humans one day who are just living their lives. That’s really important.

Leigh: I love that. That is one of your core values. That’s such a good point of when you have those core values, you arrange things around it. Probably with academics, you’re saying, we aren’t doing any type of homework. Maybe you’re in a co-op and so homework and stuff can’t happen then if you have some work that’s due. Maybe you have a co-op on Monday morning. Therefore, everything has to be done beforehand or chores and all that. I love that. I love when families lean into what’s important to them.

Amy: Now that you’ve graduated two children, I’m curious how that is impacting your perspective as you homeschool your third and final teenager now. Are there things that you have changed? Are there things you were like, “Oh, no, that was great. I definitely want to keep that the same.” How do you craft this sort of individual education? Because each child, I’m assuming, has been different while also fitting that within those big goals, those big family ideas that you talked about.

Leigh: This is a great question. One that I’ll tell you a story. My husband said, we started the homeschool year and he’s like, so what all are you doing? Because I’m definitely much more relaxed. Whereas with all three, I’d be like, we do this and then we got to be here and then we got to do this and everything. I had to be a bit more organized, not that I’m not organized with him, but I am just more confident. I’m more relaxed. I’m happier. I’m less stressed about homeschool because I can see that over the years as I became more like that, it still has worked and they still have grown into amazing humans, as you said, and they have that foundation and then just leaning into that with their personality.

I definitely am more relaxed about it. Some of the things that I have definitely kept is Morning Time for lack of a better term. I think everybody knows what Morning Time is. I have done that for probably almost all the years. I didn’t know about it in the beginning. I said, I started off and I was like, everybody has to have their own science and their own history and their own geography. We didn’t do a lot of group things. Then as I began to realize, this is a lot, it’s a lot financially also to purchase separate for everybody, but it’s a lot with time and it’s just was frustrating to me to have to do so many separate subjects.

I just then I realized, “Oh, there’s this thing called Morning Time.” As I began to find resources probably again on Pinterest way back in the day, but always Morning Time, even my high schoolers all the way through, even when they were taking college courses online, that was still also a staple of our day. Maybe they wouldn’t take as many college courses online because I wanted us to set aside that hour and a half in order to do Morning Time. We would do a lot of different subjects and we’ve had a lot of great conversations, a lot of great, we’ll say, discussions and formal arguments about things, but it’s been really good for them to interact with one another.

Morning Time, definitely. Still doing things like theology and biblical worldview, which just gets bigger. You move beyond just the Daniel in the Lion’s Den story, like I mentioned earlier, and we are studying just the biblical world. Currently right now, just going through a book from Summit Ministries with him, and it just is breaking down just the different areas that, I think maybe there’s about six different worldviews, six different world main worldviews, and it’s just a chapter for each one, and we’re just going through and just having conversations, and I’m learning a lot too.

I don’t know. I should have mentioned that earlier. Some of the great things about homeschool is just all the things that I am learning now, relearning, but also maybe learning for the first time. One other thing that we definitely still do is something like finances, consumer math, that kind of thing, as they are in the high school years, and just talking about how do you spend your money, how do you save your money, and all of that stuff.

Then you mentioned about the individualized education, and it’s just really looking at kids at their natural bents, their gifts, talents, and abilities, and their interests, and then how can we incorporate that into our education, because there’s so much more to education than we even think, and we often don’t think that something is education. My 16-year-old is currently going through a course. He wants to get his drone pilot license. I’m like, that’s a part of homeschool. That’s not a separate part. That is part of what we’re doing, and that’s what he’s interested in.

Were the other two interested in that? Absolutely not. What they were interested in, I focused in a bit more on that, and that’s definitely something during the teen years, and when we have goals as a family, I found that some of those had to be slightly adjusted. Some of my family goals were that we were going to do things together as much as we can, family meals, and when they were younger, it was three meals a day, seven days a week that we were always together. Then as they get older, especially the teen years, they’re working.

My 16-year-old actually just started a new job, and he’s not going to be here for dinner like two nights a week. It’s knowing that it’s okay. We’ve had that foundation where he was here for all 21 meals, so it’s okay if he misses a couple of meals with us, and we still just have that foundation. That kind of thing is like stretching of the goals, but however, some of our things are when you apply for a new job, for this job, they’re like, when can you work? When can you not? We have church on Sunday mornings, so that’s a non-negotiable.

Looking at what are the non-negotiables, and then what can we give a little bit on? Just really looking at what are they really interested in? This can go, I know I’m talking about teens, that’s where I’m camped out right now, but younger kids, whatever they’re interested in, say it’s science, say they’re interested, now it’s the spring, and watching the trees bloom, and maybe you were going to study the stars or something, well, they’re really interested in what’s going on in their backyard.

Maybe put aside that study and just really, this is a great time, let’s look for the new life and the plants and the flowers, and maybe plant a garden and watch the green beans come up, and just shifting as to what they’re interested in, because I have found that when they’re interested in something, they will just soak it in, they will absorb it, and then all of a sudden you’ll find out they’re like, on to the next thing.

You’re like, “Okay, we’re done, right?” Then you realize, oh, they’ve absorbed all that they wanted, that they need at this point, and they’re ready to move on to the next thing. I think it’s fun and it keeps things, instead of homeschool becoming monotonous and boring and just every day doing the same thing. We get to switch things up, and that goes back to the freedom that I enjoy as well.

Amy: Yes. Oh, I love that. If you were going to go back and talk to yourself as a new homeschool mom, what would you want to say to yourself? Maybe any new homeschool moms can listen in.

Leigh: Yes, this is something that I was probably told by moms who were further down the road than me. It’s going to be the same stuff and you’re like, oh, okay, yes. Just things like laugh more and just be more lighthearted with my kids. Now there is a time where that’s not appropriate, where there’s some discipleship or discipline that needs to take place and laughing at that time is not really good, but just to be there in the moment and to enjoy them.

With those times of discipleship and discipline, they understand that we care about them. They don’t always when they’re younger, don’t always understand that we’re trying to keep them safe within an area, keep them in the guardrails, so to say, and they don’t always appreciate that. As they get older, let me tell you that they do, but just to laugh more. I would say, take the pictures, but then put the phone away and it doesn’t need to be there. I know the phone is a big distraction. When I started homeschooling, there was no cell phones.

The internet was barely off of dial up internet and there wasn’t that distraction. I found that through my years of homeschooling, it became a distraction as I had access. I’m like, oh, I used to have to almost dial up to check on Facebook, but it’s right here. Then Instagram comes along and all the other things that come along with it. Take the photos, take the videos just so that you can remember and then put the phone away knowing that memories can happen without having to take a photo, without having to take a video and then go on the field trips, go outside, take the walks.

I would tell myself not to be so serious, but again, that goes back to that weight on our shoulders and we just feel this heaviness and we want to do right by our kids. We want to set them up for success because we care about them so much. That’s what I would go back and tell myself and any new homeschool moms now.

Amy: That’s probably a good thing even for us old homeschool moms to hear too. Leigh, here at the end, I’m going to ask you the questions that I ask all of my guests. The first is just, what are you reading lately?

Leigh: Let’s see, I do a lot of reading with Morning Time. If I listed all those books, it’d be a lot. The book that we just finished up, so I’ll give the read-aloud book that we just finished up was White Fang by Jack London. I’m glad for my family, I’m glad that I waited till high school because there was some tense moments, dogs fighting, that stuff. It also really tied in well to what I was mentioning, that biblical worldview book that we were reading because I know a little bit of Jack London’s worldview that I already knew.

I’m talking to him through conversations. Are you seeing this in his writing? That was neat. Instead of just reading a book just to read it. This is the part that I enjoy with the high school years is being able to get in a little bit deeper and looking at the author and what are they saying? Then that can tie very easily into, okay, what about media and movies and TV and songs? What are those things? That’s a long answer too. White Fang is a read-aloud we just finished up for homeschool.

I do a lot of reading with homeschool. I have a huge stack of books that I want to get to. I’m like, “This summer, this summer I’m going to get to all of them.” Book that I’m just about finished up is Forever Strong by Dr. Gabrielle Lyon. I always have some type of, we’ll say like nerdy health book or something like that. She’s just talking about muscles and building muscles and strength, but not just to be strong or to have your muscles to show, but just for longevity and being able to do the things that you want to do.

Amy: Those sounds really good. In fact, I’ll have to look up that book about strength too and see if it’s at my library. I remember actually in my own high school years doing a research paper on naturalism and nihilism and the works of Jack London. That when you were saying that about White Fang, I was like, “Oh, that brings back some good memories.”

Leigh: Maybe you can come be a guest speaker or something in my homeschool.

Amy: I’ll show up at Morning Time tomorrow.

Leigh: Yes. Perfect.

Amy: The final question I like to ask all my guests is what is your best tip for helping the homeschool day run more smoothly?

Leigh: I would say it’s, I have found for me and I have found overall for moms to have a routine, but be flexible, knowing that things are going to come up and not to beat ourself up over the day not going perfectly like I’m saying, and you’re saying. We’re like, “This is the week, this is the year, everything’s going to be perfect.” It’s not because we aren’t perfect people. There’s always going to be things. I found that the more that we are in a relationship with other people, the more things come up and things like other homeschool families have needs and how can we help them out or even non homeschool families? How can we serve others?

Having a routine and being flexible, I always liked having a starting time and an ending time. My kids enjoyed knowing that this is the time. Does it mean that they were doing homeschool that whole entire time? Now, when they’re in high school, it might’ve been that whole entire time, but when they were younger, it wasn’t. Just knowing these are the expectations that moms has.

I think that reduces a lot of meltdowns and a lot of just tears, issues that have come up if kids know exactly what is expected of them. Having that routine, we’re going to get up, we’re going to have breakfast. We have to have these many chores, this certain list of chores done that we’re going to start off, maybe do Morning Time or start off with some math lessons and then go into Morning Time. Just having a routine, but knowing that it might go off track and that’s okay. Everybody will be fine in the end. I promise.

Amy: That is a really great tip. Leigh, this has been so delightful to get to chat with you. Please let everyone know where they can find you all around the internet.

Leigh: Yes. I also have a podcast. If you’re listening to this on a podcast, you can just pop over Little by Little Homeschool and you will find it. Really everything is housed at littlebylittlehomeschool.com. You can get to the podcast from there. You can get to different resources I have. You can get to social media all from littlebylittlehomeschool.com.

Amy: Fabulous. I will have links to all those places in the show notes for this episode, which you can find at humilityanddoxology.com. While you’re listening, if you would take a moment to leave a rating and review, make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast so you don’t miss future encouraging homeschool conversations. Leigh, I look forward to listening to your podcast more and to chatting with you again. Thank you.

Leigh: Oh, you are welcome. Thank you for having this. It’s been a blessing to me as well.

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