Happy Planned Homeschooling (with Tawnya Vinyard)

Tawnya Vinyard Happy Planned Homeschool Podcast interview

Tawnya Vinyard believes that God created each of us homeschool moms unique with a special mission, and we need to stick together knowing we’re not alone. She brought that enthusiasm and encouraging perspective to this week’s Homeschool Conversations interview! We chatted about eclectic homeschooling, how planning can help you have a happy homeschool (no, really), and the importance of focusing on relationship in those hard homeschool moments. Listen in your favorite podcast app or read the full transcript below!

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

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Tawnya Vinyard Happy Planned Homeschool podcast interview

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Who is Tawnya Vinyard?

Tawnya Vinyard from Happy Planned Homeschool loves the Lord, her family, planning, and drinking sweet tea. She has a strong passion for momma’s in this homeschool community. Tawnya believse God created us homeschooling mom’s each unique, with a special mission and we all need to stick together knowing we are not alone. 

Tawnya is married to her highschool sweetheart and they have four beautiful children. They love all things outdoors and family game nights. This is their 7th year of homeschooling. Tawnya loves to share about their journey and connect with others. You can find her on Instagram and YouTube @happy.planned.homeschool and on her blog at www.happyplannedhomeschool.com.

Tawnya Vinyard Happy Planned Homeschool podcast interview

Watch my conversation with Tawnya Vinyard

Special thanks to this month’s podcast sponsor Friendly Sciences! Read my full review of Friendly Sciences here.

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Amy Sloan: Hello, friends. Today I am joined by my new friend, Tawnya Vinyard. Tawnya, thank you for being with us today.

Tawnya Vinyard: Thank you for having me.

Amy: Well, Tawnya is from Happy Planned Homeschool, and she loves the Lord, her family, planning and drinking sweet tea. She has a strong passion for mamas in this homeschool community. Tawnya believes that God created each of us homeschool mom, unique, with a special mission, and we need to stick together knowing you’re not alone. I love that so much. Tawnya is married to her high school sweetheart, and they have four beautiful children. I got connected with her this past fall on Instagram and just have so appreciated being able to follow you, and I’m so excited to get to chat with you today.

Tawnya: Yes. Thank you, I’m excited.

Getting Started Homeschooling

Amy: Can you start just by telling us a little bit about yourself and your family and then how you guys came to homeschooling?

Tawnya: Like you said, I am married to my high school sweetheart. We actually met in the sixth grade and then didn’t start dating until the end of 10th grade. We got married shortly after high school and then his job moved us to Colorado. At the time, we had two kids and they were six months old and almost two. Then, in Colorado, we also had a third and we lived right outside of Denver. What happened was, all of my friends were sending their kids off to preschool and [chuckles] we really couldn’t afford where we were at. We were just in this phase of life, so I was like, “I know my friend back home in Oregon, she used to homeschool.” I was like, “I’m going to call her and see if I can just do preschool at home.”

I did preschool at home. I bought letter of the week curriculum from Erica over at Confessions of a Homeschooler and I printed everything. I laminated everything. I was so set to just do preschool at home and then she’ll go to kindergarten. That will be free, and all the things. Well, I started working on it slowly. She was like, “Mom, what does that say? Mom, what does that say?” I was like, “Oh, this is like your ABCs, and this is that,” and she– next thing I know by December, she’s reading small Bob Books and she’s just turned four.

She literally was reading by the time she was four years old. The rest is really history after that. God just knew that we really needed to homeschool and we moved for my husband’s job quite frequently. We ended up coming now to California, is where we’re at currently, with another kid. We have four. We have Lily, which is my oldest, who I just talked about. Austin, who is eight. Dylan who is six and Emerson is four. We just have homeschooled ever since.

Amy: Wow. I love homeschool preschool. I finished preschool with my fifth last year and I’m going to miss that stage because it’s such a special time to get to be with them. I think sometimes we can put all this pressure on like, “Oh no, I’ve got to do preschool.” But it can just really be such a sweet time with those little kids, and they’re so eager to learn.

Tawnya: Yes, it was fun.

how homeschool preschool

Outside the Homeschool Philosophy Box

Amy: How has your approach to homeschooling changed and developed over the years?

Tawnya: Well, considering we never considered to homeschool, like I said, my daughter was an early reader, so by the time we wanted to send her to school, she was testing at second grade. Then everything else was behind, and she would have been that Chatty Cathy that never was quiet in class and got in trouble. We just took it slow. We read a lot because that’s what my oldest wanted to do. We slowly fell into the Charlotte Mason style. As I continued to have kids, and as I continued to slowly start researching what homeschooling was and what was out there, I really leaned towards the Charlotte Mason style. I love the philosophy behind it.

I really loved the Charlotte Mason philosophy as well as the classical philosophy when it came to homeschooling and how you really learned through books. Then with the classical, you learned every four year cycle. You had a four year cycle. We did that, we jumped all into the classical approach with a little twist of Charlotte Mason, but then we really didn’t love all things. [chuckles]

We found that we don’t fit in a box. That’s not how God created us to be at all, so we do a little bit of everything now and I’m okay with that. I’ve accepted that. It’s okay. The freedom that we have as homeschoolers is you don’t have to fit in a box.

We still do use the classical approach because I do love it. We dive deep into a time period for the whole year, but when it comes to science, we’re more of a unit study family. We’ll do a unit study when we feel like it, and we’ll just change it up and do it as we go. For everything else, it’s more of a Charlotte Mason style and an eclectic style. We have just learned, I, as homeschool mom, have learned it’s okay to be us, and not compare to everyone else.

Amy: Yes. Oh, I love that so much. I’m a second-generation homeschooler. Coming from that perspective, I think I’ve always just thought outside the box. I wasn’t expecting our homeschool to look a certain way. Isn’t that after all why we homeschool? We want to be able to follow this unique path. I love to be able to take principles and then apply them in a way that works best for my family. I love that.

Tawnya Vinyard Happy Planned Homeschool podcast interview

What are some of your favorite parts about homeschooling?

Tawnya: I honestly have fallen in love with teaching my kids how to read. I know that’s so daunting to so many people. [chuckles] With my first, because she read so early, I really didn’t teach her. I thought, “Oh, I got this down. This is so easy.” I told her what that said and she just knew it for the rest of her life, super easy. Then my son came around and it was completely the opposite. We were in the “SSSSS AAAAA MMMM” stage for so long. It was hard at the time, but then to see him and how much he grew. Once that lightbulb moment clicked, it was beautiful.

Throughout the years, I have just really loved teaching my kids how to read. I’m on the third kid now and we are a little bit past the phonic stage, but she’s still pretty slow. She’s, like I said, only six. It’s just fun to have that one-on-one time with them and to see them just really pick up reading. It is very important in our homeschool because if you can read, you can do anything.

Amy: Yes. If you can read, you can figure anything else out. [laughs] Has there been a particular phonics curriculum that you’ve used that you’ve enjoyed?

All About Reading

Tawnya: We have always used All About Reading, because it’s always worked. We just have never switched. We went through a lesson a day, where my son took time and did a lesson every two weeks. My daughter is at the stage where she can do almost about a lesson a week right now. We just go very slow when we need to go slow and pick it up when we need to pick it up. It’s not anything like, “You have to get it done within this year.” We just take it at their pace. Because she started, I want to say, last year. At the end of the year, she really wanted to learn how to read and she was five. Actually, just turned five. Then we dropped it for a little bit and we picked it up this year and I think we’re on lesson 20. We just take it at her pace.

Amy: That’s another one of those great benefits of homeschooling, just being able to adjust your schedule for each child. One of the things I say to my children over and over again is, “You cannot get behind.” They’ll start worrying because, “Oh, I was supposed to do this lesson this week, or this page today, and it’s taking me too long.” It’s like, “No, that’s why we homeschool.” We can just sit here, until you truly understand it, because that’s the goal, is to truly understand what we’re learning, not just check boxes and move forward without understanding. What are some of the challenges that you have faced while homeschooling, and how have you learned to overcome those challenges?

20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling

Challenges of Homeschooling

Tawnya: I think bouncing off of what you just said, how you remind your kids, “We can’t get behind.” I have to remind myself that, I’m a very type A personality. I like order. I like structure. I like things a certain way, [chuckles] that’s just who I am. Being public schooled, I expected like, “Oh, we have to finish the book.” How many lessons? I divided it in how many weeks, and I just get them done. I have to remind myself we’re all uniquely and wonderfully made, and it’s okay not to check all the boxes. Oh, that’s definitely been one thing that I really had to struggle with, and remind myself, we have this freedom in homeschooling, and that’s why we homeschool.

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Amy: Oh, that’s such an important reminder. That will be an encouragement and for other moms to hear it too. It’s like, we know that, we hear that all the time, but sometimes we just need to hear that true stuff again, [laughs] because we forget it. We start freaking out.

Tawnya: Speakingto myself sometimes.

Happy Planned Homeschool

Amy: I have loved the title of your blog, and your Instagram handle, Happy Planned Homeschool. I can imagine there could be a personality, maybe someone who’s not quite type A like you, and then they’re thinking, “I don’t see anything happy about planning.” [laughs] I would love for you to deep dive that a little bit for us. How do you plan in your homeschool, and why do you call it a Happy Planned Homeschool?

Tawnya: Back in the day, I will admit, I used to plan all the things by the hour per months out, four kids later, it’s not feasible. [chuckles] I honestly believe whether you’re a type A or not, being a planner is more like dreaming. I just take the time now, and I will write out a few goals I would love for us to get done this week. I really go back to how I want the atmosphere to be in my home. I feel like as moms we get to– Your house is not that fun when mom’s cranky. My planning process now looks a lot different. I just take about an hour on Sundays, or even Fridays, depending on what we have going on over the weekend.

I’ll just sit and spend time with the Lord. I will see what we have going on with curriculum. I’ll go through all the books, I’ll see what we accomplished last year. I’ll literally just write down what I would like to accomplish in my planner per subject. Then when it comes to the week, I will jot down what we actually accomplished. I’ll record keep per day. Now with this, when you have those bad days, you can look back and see how much you really accomplished. Even if you don’t love to plan, when you have those bad days, you can see that you are doing more than you probably think you are really doing. I think that’s important, and that’s where the happy part comes in, because that gives you that joy that you need to feel as a homeschool mom to keep going, and fill your tank up as well.

Amy: I just wish we didn’t live on opposite sides of the country. [laughter] I think we’d be such good friends. That’s exactly how I approach our homeschooling. It’s planning, it’s a big picture plan, because if you start with these, the bigger picture and the ideas and the goals. You have that good foundation, that structure, that a plan gives you, without the straight jacket, or that feeling of being behind or whatever, like we talked about earlier.

Tawnya: We’re in our seventh year of homeschooling, and it took about six years to get here. I will not lie. It’s just that part of– I have my oldest who loves history and my other son who is my STEM kid and who can tinker all day long, and I want to be able to encourage them to do those things. Life happens, the kid gets sick, you can wake up on the wrong side of the bed. We can technically get all of our history done in one day, if we wanted to. Why not do that some days, and craft the other days.

Homeschool Planning

Tips for Staying Organized as a Homeschool Mom

Amy: Yes, totally. [laughs] Tawnya, what are some of your tips for staying organized as a homeschool mom?

Tawnya: If you’re not already organized, don’t go to Pinterest. [chuckles] Let’s start there. [laughs]

Amy: Wise words. [laughs]

Tawnya: You need to know how you work in your household and what flows in your house. Do you homeschool in a homeschool room, or things like that. Just make a small list of what’s working, what’s not, and then try to accomplish what’s not working.

Then to stay organized, it really is just an upkeep of a weekly reset, is what we call it in our household. Making sure things are put back. We don’t have a homeschool room. We homeschool in the living room, dining room area. Making sure books are put away at the end of the day, or the weekend, is when we really do a hard reset. We dust the bookshelves, and just the upkeep of it. If you do it slowly, or a little bit each Sunday, then you can. It’s not this big task at the end of the homeschool year in the middle of the summer.

Amy: That’s a really good point. I like that too. Sometimes in the middle of the week, like on a Tuesday, or Wednesday, I look around our living room and I have a little mini mom meltdown. I’m like, “Why is there stuff everywhere?” [laughs] I like your advice of doing a hardcore reset, once a week. We’re living life with a lot of kids often– a lot of subjects, a lot of books, at least at my house. It’s just not realistic to try to expect our house is going to look all pristine all the time. If we’re actually getting a lot of work and learning done, there’s going to be creativity everywhere. [laughs]

Tawnya: I honestly do it when seasons change too. Maybe I’ll shift some things, and I’ll think about what worked this last season, and what worked not. What did, or did it work? I believe that it’s important to also do it per season. Sometimes you’re busy. Besides 2020, we had soccer before, and baseball, and we were gone a lot, but then other seasons were slower. Maybe we do have more books on the bookshelf and things like that. You look at your homeschool curriculum that way, why not your space. That’s what your atmosphere is going to help create that space and bring it all together.

Amy: That’s really good.

Tawnya Vinyard Happy Planned Homeschool podcast interview

What Tawnya Vinyard is reading lately

Tawnya, in season three, I’m asking each of my guests the same two questions. I’ll ask you. My first question for you is just, what are you reading lately, either for yourself or with the kids?

Tawnya: I’m honestly just finishing Sally Clarkson’s new book Awaking Wonder. As well as It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst. I’m actually re-reading that one right now.

Amy: I am familiar with the first one, but not as much the second one. What is that about?

Tawnya: As women, we want to plan all the things, and we want to get all the things done. However, life happens, it doesn’t always look the way you might think, but God has a plan. It helps, especially with what happened this last year, 2020. We had some family things that we thought we were going to move, and then we didn’t. It’s just been a good reset for me.

Amy: Oh, that is an encouragement. I’ll have to check that one out, whenever I start having– all of my plans seem to be falling apart around me. I’m always reminded of my comfort in life and death. I’ve been thinking about the Heidelberg Catechism a lot recently, I belong body and soul to my Lord, Jesus Christ. Just thinking if can I rest in His sovereignty, and rest in who I am in Him, then it puts them all in perspective. I really don’t have that much control over a lot of this stuff. When I start trying to take the control, and then freaking out when things aren’t going my way, it just leads to a lot of bad places in my mind.

Tawnya: [chuckles] It’s very true. I’m right there with you, though.

Tawnya Vinyard Happy Planned Homeschool podcast interview

Tips for a Homeschool Day Going Wrong

Amy: Tawnya, if you were talking to a mom and you were giving her advice, so what tips would you give for that homeschooling day that just seems to be going all wrong?

Tawnya: I would say get off course. We always prioritize relationship in our homeschool more than the actual bookwork. If you are struggling over a curriculum, get outside, go ride your bike to the park or ride around the neighborhood, take a walk. Don’t make it educational, just literally take a hard break, and really just focus on the relationship. Filling that child up or children up. If you can’t get outside, we like a good board game and we try to make board games not like– all board games are educational, but my kids don’t know that. We’re not going to get Sum Swamp out to play, we’re going to get Catan or Ticket to Ride or something more fun that they enjoy. Monopoly’s my son’s favorite, so something like that. Whether it could be an hour outside playing a game and then have lunch, take a break, and then you can come back to it. A hard break on bad days always seems to work.

Amy: Oh, that is really good. What you had to say about not choosing an educational “game” made me laugh.

Tawnya: I’ve been there.

Amy: Because that’s always the temptation, “We’re going to go have fun with this math game, kids.” They can see through that. I had Cait Curley on the podcast in season two, that was another one of her pieces of advice. She’s big into gameschooling and she was like, “Don’t tell your kids it’s an educational game. Don’t tell them this is part of school.”

Follow Tawnya Vinyard Online

Tawnya: I am @happy.planned.homeschool on Instagram, YouTube, and also I have a very neglected but loved blog at happyplannedhomeschool.com.

Amy: Fantastic. I will have links to all those places in the show notes over for this episode at HumilityandDoxology.com. Tawnya, thank you so much for talking with me today. It was really nice to get to see your face in person.

Tawnya: Thank you for having me so much, Amy.

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

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