I decided to put together some FAQs so that I’ve collated answers in one place and don’t forget anything! Although I love (and will continue) to respond to direct/private messages, it’s also nice to know that by capturing it all in one place that I won’t forget anything. So, without further ado, here are some FAQs that I get all the time:
Introduction: Who are you? Why do you homeschool? Will you homeschool forever?
I’m Elisabeth but everyone calls me E. I have 3 children: two girls (8 and 6) and a boy (4). We focus on elementary-aged homeschooling and lean heavily (though not exclusively) to a Montessori approach.
My husband was homeschooled so it was always an educational option for us. I was apprehensive at first but when our family experienced a one year move to Texas during what would have been my oldest child’s Kindergarten year, it felt like the perfect “experiment” year. When she declared homeschooling “the best thing about our move to Texas” (and I strongly agreed), I knew we could homeschool longer term. Now that I’m committed, I see a significant number of benefits for our family. To rattle off my top 5 reasons: 1) my children learn at their own pace, 2) they can pursue their interests, 3) we are able to meet the needs of our neurodiverse child, 4) sibling relationships are incredibly strong, and 5) my children participate in 2-3 extracurriculars but still get plenty of sleep!
I will say, we are taking it a few years at a time. Right now, I feel committed to elementary homeschooling for all the children but I have no particularly strong feelings about homeschooling beyond that. It will be a well considered decision between my husband, each child, and myself how long we continue to homeschool.
I can be found on Instagram here: @mchomeschool I also have a Facebook page for those not on Instagram (though I do recommend Insta because I can’t post stories on Facebook).
Were you a teacher before? What is your background?
No, I was not a teacher. I was a molecular biology major/science nerd in college and had no aspirations of teaching anyone. I absolutely love learning though and I feel like teaching my own children is definitely something I feel called to do. I still work PT in the biotech industry and I have no plans to discontinue that work.
Why do you focus on elementary homeschooling? Why don’t you also homeschool your preschooler?
One thing that makes us a little unusual is that I don’t homeschool preschool and our children have all attended play-based preschool (when it’s not a global pandemic). In addition to homeschooling, I also work part-time and I just don’t have the hours in the day to devote to both preschool and elementary homeschooling. Also, if I’m being completely honest, I’d say preschool isn’t my favorite age to homeschool but I adore elementary school!
I’ll never forget the time that I saw a mom at preschool drop off (my oldest was 3) and she was dropping off her youngest and then walking home to do school with her older children. How liberating! Don’t get me wrong, I love my preschooler but I feel like it’s very difficult to focus on both ages for me personally.
I attended Montessori schools as a child. In some ways, it was a very easy choice because I’m simply replicating my elementary school experience. In other ways, it’s been a real learning process for our family because my husband was homeschooled but with a somewhat different approach. So I guess Montessori homeschool is how we put it all together! Once we got started, I grew particularly enamored of Montessori math. I have at least one “mathy” child and the Montessori method has allowed me to present concepts to her that are very complicated but made approachable by the materials.
Where (physically) do you homeschool?
I have a small dedicated homeschooling space. It’s a small landing off our second floor. I’ve always had one and it’s really important for me psychologically to even just have a few dedicated shelves that I can keep organized (in our 1st home, it was literally one shelf). For us, it’s helpful to have that boundary between school and other aspects of our lives. I also found that practically speaking, it was impossible to have play dates without a dedicated space because so many of the materials look like toys. They are so appealing but of course I don’t want them misplaced or damaged.
How do I get started?
Ok, this is the most popular question and also the absolute hardest to answer. I’m going to focus on my answer on children ages 5 and up since that’s my focus as a homeschooler. Although it’s hard to recommend something super specific, I recommend a few steps:
- Assess your child’s current knowledge – examples below
- Do they know their letters? Are they reading CVC words? Are they reading blends?
- Do they know place value? Can they do operations?
- Once you assess, the child’s current knowledge, you will at least know where to start! So now you have to pick curriculum. I highly, highly recommend beginning with a hybrid of Montessori and Montessori-friendly curriculum. In my humble opinion, it is nearly impossible to jump into a full Montessori elementary curriculum with no experience. Trained Montessori guides spend years making their materials and preparing lessons! And Montessori curriculum is not “open and go” where it tells you exactly what order to teach every lesson, etc.
- For us, we focus on Montessori math/language/geography and use Montessori-friendly curriculum for other subjects. For more about our curriculum choices, you can read here: 2019-2020 Curriculum Choices
- Once you know which Montessori subjects you’ll be focusing on, get some albums and a scope and sequence. Albums are the curriculum manuals for Montessori learning. For whatever subjects you’re using Montessori, you’ll need albums.
- For a full review of albums and recommendations, please see this post: Elementary Album Review
What is an important piece of advice you’d wish you’d known before you started?
I would tell myself not to buy anything until I had a clear conceptualization of what lessons it enabled and how that lesson fit into the scope and sequence. I wasted a lot of time/money buying things that 1) turned out not to be core Montessori materials and 2) materials that didn’t appeal to my children. It’s so easy to see hundreds of materials in a classroom and forget that those are meant to appeal to 20+ children. You simply don’t need all the same things; you only actually need what will be compelling to your children.
How do you build confidence in your homeschooling? How do you battle self-doubt?
Well, I still battle self-doubt so I’m not going to claim any expertise here. But I will say that once I got started, I realized that the children were learning so that gave me a little confidence. Also, what I’m about to say is extremely controversial but I live in a state that requires nationally standardized testing (it’s not turned into anyone, you just have to keep it on file) and I love it! It’s very comforting to see that my children are learning year over year and to have an accurate perception of their current knowledge. The biggest struggle for me is feeling secure that they really know something that I think they know. I always wonder, did I give them a hint? Did I signal something to them that helped them solve that? With the tests, I can see the progress in front of me.
I treat the tests like an annual “performance review” for myself. I can see where we need to do additional work and where we’ve done really well for the year. It’s been very comforting to know that they actually know what I think they know!
The test we used is called the “Woodcock Johnson” and it’s administered by a local homeschool mom. It’s an excellent adaptive test so it can move up/down to meet the child’s abilities. Thus you can see where you child is in each learning domain without limiting them to just a test for “Second Grade” for example. I know that “testing” is a horrifying word to some homeschoolers but I think it’s very helpful.
How do you build community? What do you do so that you and the kids get outside interaction?
When we started homeschooling, I was not confident enough to “go it alone” so I signed up for a national homeschool organization that met once a week. We participated for two years (we moved so we tried two communities) but I quickly realized it wasn’t for us. We would do the one day with our community and then go home and do our Montessori thing for the rest of the week. It was more memory-work/Charlotte Mason focused and didn’t allow my children time to explore their interests; we learned hundreds of years of history in a single 12 week period but they learned nothing in depth about it! Anyway, I think we’re getting off track…but I needed to find something else.
First, I joined homeschooling groups on social media. I joined Montessori groups (both general and focused on elementary) and I joined local homeschooling groups Facebook and social media pages as well. Then, I started searching and posting. After a little bit of searching, I have found a great local engineering class and we also sometimes see other homeschoolers at the city library’s theater shows. But none of these local people do Montessori so that’s where the Montessori-specific groups online come in. Between Facebook and Instagram, I have followed and gotten to know many wonderful Montessori homeschoolers.
Second, my kids participate in a lot of extracurriculars (soccer, dance, swimming, and gymnastics). Because we spend the morning doing school, they have down time from 12-3:30 and then they participate in activities in the late afternoon. We would never participate in this many activities if they attended public school but because homeschool provides so much free time, they’ve loved making friends and joining groups.
Where do you find your used materials? Where do you find your new materials?
Literally anywhere I can! There are Montessori resale groups on Facebook and I search craigslist in my city, my mom’s city, my in-laws city, etc. I will snap it up wherever I can get it. I’ve been collecting things for five years!
Honestly, I’ve bought very few things brand new but what I have has come from Ifit or Alison’s Montessori and has been high quality. I’ve also gotten some things from Montessori Outlet; the quality is lower but if it’s a one-off item and not meant to be used with other materials, I think it’s fine.
What do your weekly work journals look like?
So I have an entire Instastory on this (you can access it even if you don’t have Instagram) and it’s called “Journal Q&A”. If you go here and scroll through the stories (in the circles under the bio), you can see it: Mchomeschool Instagram.
I also show a version of them in this blog post: Daily and Weekly Rhythms Blog Post
How do you plan a year? A week? What is your normal schedule?
- Daily/Weekly Schedule: Daily and Weekly Rhythms Blog Post
- Tons of information about yearly planning, what we use, etc. can be found on this section of the blog: Curriculum Planning Posts
What do you use for ________ [fill in the blank] subject? What about the Great Lessons?
Here in the curriculum planning posts, you can see what we over the last two years if you scroll down to the “What Curriculum We are Using” section: Curriculum Planning It literally goes subject by subject and tells you exactly what curriculum we’re using.
Great Lessons are all covered in a TON of detail here on the Great Lessons tab including resources, books, etc. : Great Lessons
What about math? I hear you’re obsessed with math? What do you use for math?
I am obsessed with math but that’s because I have a mathy kid and I find it’s the hardest subject for many parents to teach. We use Montessori math as our spine and then our oldest uses Beast Academy as her enrichment.
If you look at this blog category, you’ll see all the math posts I’ve ever written: Math Posts Also, number talks…I wrote an entire blog post and did four separate Instastories on doing math enrichment called “number talks” in the homeschool setting. As far as I know, I’m one of the few homeschoolers actively doing this so I want to specifically call your attention to these resources: Homeschool Number Talks
Do you do reviews? Are you open to collaborations?
Yes, I frequently do reviews on Instagram of products I’ve used and loved. I always note whether I purchased something with my own money or was provided it in exchange for something (my review, photos to be used on Etsy, etc). I am open to collaborations and would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment below or message me on Instagram or Facebook.