Is Hygge Homeschooling For You?

I’ve been coming across hygge homeschooling quite a bit lately in my Facebook feed. Come to think of it, it’s also something I think about often, now that the weather is colder. Candles, warmth and comfort sound enticing.

What is Hygge Homeschooling?

Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a Danish word that refers to a feeling of cozy contentment through enjoying the simple things in life. If you’ve ever enjoyed reading a book indoors on a rainy day you’ve experienced hygge.

In his book, The Little Book of HyggeMeik Wiking lists a few core concepts in hygge living. These include good, soft lighting, warmth, comfort, candles, small groups and good food amongst others.

I have to admit, it sounds wonderful! Who doesn’t like the idea of coziness and simplicity? Now, think of that concept and apply it to homeschooling. Sound good?

But, wait!

I know people who live the hygge lifestyle. Simplicity is the essence of their lives. Their homes are well lit, warm and cozy. They know exactly the right number of people to have over. Items in their home are well selected and there is always good food.

We all know homeschoolers like that as well, don’t we? Only, you may not be one of them.

While hygge homeschooling sounds good to me (on paper!) I know I am too eclectic and to some degree even disorganized to handle it well. Keeping an atmosphere of simplicity takes work and planning. The right food, the right books, pools of light… let’s face it. It’s not possible to have this for an extended time in my house.

If Hygge Homeschooling Appeals to You…

So what do you do if you are like me and love the idea of hygge homeschooling but are a bad combination of brilliantly eclectic, creatively disorganized and a control freak?

Here’s what you do:

  1. Keep hygge homeschooling days instead of weeks or months. Do up those days. Bake and read.
  2. Plan for spontaneous hygge days. I like planning and I also like spontaneity. If there’s rain in the forecast, keep some emergency hygge supplies and let your heart dictate how the day will go when it does rain.
  3. Don’t try too hard. Kids will bicker. Something will go wrong. The hygge warmth may be short lived. Trying too hard to make it perfect will only ruin it. So ease up.
  4. Read aloud. If nothing else, lighting some candles and reading aloud always works. Especially if you follow my rules for reading aloud.
  5. Finally, be yourself and let the kids be themselves. Where I go wrong often is that I try to copy someone else’s lifestyle and impose it on our homeschool. That’s never going to work. If hygge homeschooling is not for you, just admit it, move on and be thrilled with what you do have – a happy homeschooling family!

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Teaching Kids about Money

I recently came across this blog post about children and money. And it’s not just him saying it. I find this fascinating because I find that my children talk about money more than anything else – with the exception of God.

It clearly takes more than one conversation for them to learn everything to want to about money. Even simple things need repetition to sink in.

Recently I made an offhand comment about something being too expensive. So my youngest piped up that if he was president he would make things cost less.

Aha, I said, but how will you do that without taking money from the people?

I will never take money from people, mom, says my daughter who hates the very idea of taxes.

Ever the practical one, my middle son then wanted to know how much dad makes and how. Also, why does the business he works for pay him that amount and not less?

Conversation, not Textbooks

I bring this up because in this conversation, I can safely say we covered finance, ethics, economics and even some civics by the time we were done. Oh, and frugality. I ended up explaining to my youngest that my words had not been well chosen and it wasn’t that whatever we were talking about was too expensive. It was rather that I was not willing to pay so much for it because it didn’t hold the same value for me.

While we can bemoan that there isn’t the perfect curriculum in schools or even for homeschooling that teaches about money (there are – read on for suggestions) I think much of what our children learn about it is through conversation, not curriculum.


Of course there are the basics – the grammar, if you will, to cover with them. But it isn’t much.

Learning about money falls more significantly within the area of logic and rhetoric than grammar, which is perhaps why there aren’t enough “textbooks” or “curricula” about it and why they are more likely to be “skewed” in one direction or another.

Whatever your convictions about money, make sure you talk to your kids about them and talk often.

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Creatively Homeschooling When Your State Requires Testing

A question I often get after people read my blog concerns testing. It goes something like this:

I love the idea of being creative in our homeschooling. I like the concept of classical unschooling. But what if the state I live in requires testing? How can I still do what I want while living here?

So I thought I’d write this blog post to answer this specific question. I have by the way written about it in my book, so if you want more details, pick up a copy.

Here’s the straight answer: teach to the test.

If you live in a state that requires your child to be tested to ensure that you can continue to homeschool, teach to the test for a fraction of the week. There is nothing wrong with this.

Think about it this way. You have time on your side. You don’t have a huge bureaucracy micromanaging how you spend your days. It is not hard to come up with a schedule or a template that allows you to spend most of your days doing as little or as much as works for your family. You can be as creative and as eclectic as you would like.

Just make sure that you leave some time each week to teach to the test.

How to Teach to the Test

First, look up the laws for your state. Chances are, if you’re asking this question, you already know. But make sure you comply in that regard.

Then, get a general idea of how the test will look. Will you need someone else to administer it? Is the testing done in a public setting like a school or an exam hall?

And, lastly, what will we be testing? What is actually on the test? If you can buy sample tests like these SATs, you are all set.

Remember that the test will not be the sum total of your child’s education. You are still in control. You have the upper hand. But short of moving, if you want to make creative homeschooling work in such a situation, this is your best bet.

Oh, and don’t worry – homeschoolers handle testing very well indeed.

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“Don’t People Want a Break from Their Kids?”

One of my favorite things about running this blog is the interaction I receive on the Facebook page. Inevitably, every three months or so, I get a comment that accuses homeschoolers of being weird in one way or another.

Recently, it was this one:

Don’t people want a break from their kids? Having them around 24/7 seems a bit much.

These comments are nothing new to experienced homeschoolers, of course. And after a few years, we all develop some pretty thick skin so these barbs and arrows of outrageous questions just bounce off. But I wanted to address this question in a blog post for those of you who might be new.

So here you go. Arm yourself with these responses if you get asked the same question. (And please contribute your own at the end of this post by commenting!)

“Yes, I do want a break from my kids, but the answer isn’t sending them to a place where I have no rights and they have no freedom.”

Look, it isn’t new information that public school limits parental involvement in a child’s life. If anything, it is the family that becomes the satellite to the school. Not only that, the children themselves have no freedom when it comes to deciding what they want out of their own education. Why would you sacrifice your parental rights and the child’s freedom and curiosity on the altar of needing a break when that can be arranged just as easily by hiring a babysitter for a few hours or making other arrangements with family?

Also, children do grow up, you know. At some point, they are capable of taking care of themselves for a little while. But with the perpetual infantilization public schooling promotes, we would hardly know it.

“Our breaks are built in to our schedule.”

I take a nap every afternoon. My children know what is expected of them when friends come to visit and when I have things to attend to. They do not expect me to be holding their hands all day long. We get mental breaks and physical breaks from each other. We are people, too, and we all want to do things by ourselves. Surprise, surprise… even the children need breaks from being told what to do under adult supervision which they never get at public school. 

Homeschooling allows us to get more breaks than you would think.

“Just because we homeschool doesn’t mean we’re attached at the hip.”

It is the culture of constant adult supervision and surveillance that has inured us to this. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the constant reminders to talk to the kids when they’re little and faulty research that says the brain develops during the early years, with the push for more and more academic involvement in the preschool years, people have begun to believe some big lies. These include the lie that children cannot care for themselves.

I ignore my children. And it’s good for them. They take care of themselves for most of the day. I would argue it is only in homeschooling that we can take such a drastic step toward freedom and self reliance. Such independence is impossible in public school.

“No, actually… we’re just fine. We don’t need “breaks” from our family to keep it together.”

The idea of needing time apart is currently fashionable. While I do believe it is healthy to spend time doing something other than being with people all the time, I don’t think all of this obsession with “breaks” is healthy. Look, I get it. I’m an introvert and so is my husband. Interestingly enough, at least one of my children is also introverted.

We all get our needs met at home – even our need for breaks from each other. We’re perfectly fine being in the same room and not talking because we’re all working on something else. That is called being comfortable with each other without someone with way too much power telling us what to do every moment of the day. We’re also free to leave and go into the next room just to be alone. Try doing that in a public school setting and let me know how it works out for you.

“We get more breaks this way than we would were my kids in public school.”

Want to goof off for a day? Go to the park? Go to the museum? Watch a movie? Sick? Birthday? Vacation? Grandparents visiting? Moving? People in public school have no idea how much freedom homeschoolers get and how many more breaks we have – and by the way all this is done with less money spent per child and way more efficient education.

Instead of dancing to the tune that the school plays, we are free to make our own schedules and do what works for us. This keeps the family at the center of our lives rather than the alien institution of a school dictating things down to what we eat.

So, seriously, stop with the siren song of getting a break from our children. As homeschoolers, we get those – and way more.
Thanks, but no thanks.

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Does Your Suffering Have Meaning?

Yours. Yes, yours.

I know, it’s relatively light suffering, perhaps. But there’s no reason to brush it off as non-existent.

I’ll admit it. As a new homeschooler, I suffered.

Although my children had never been in public school, it took me some time to develop my convictions.

I suffered when other parents rejoiced when school started back up in the fall. On days that the children did not do as they were told, on days when school work was just too hard, I suffered.

There were days when we all cried.

Suffering in anything is a given. Suffering in anything worth doing is also a given.

The point is this: does it have meaning and do you know what that meaning is?

David Brooks, in The Road to Characterputs it quite succinctly.

For most of us, there is nothing noble about suffering. When it is not connected to some larger purpose beyond itself, suffering shrinks or annihilates people. When it is not understood as a piece of a larger process, it leads to doubt, nihilism, and despair.

But some people can connect their suffering to some greater design. It is not the suffering itself that makes all the difference, but the way it is experienced.

So as a homeschooler, even an experienced one, do you know why you suffer? Can you see the good that comes from it?

Those hard days, those days when nothing goes right, or even the days when everything seems fine but there is that nagging feeling, do you know why you do what you do?

If you don’t, it’s time you thought about it and developed some convictions. It is in these that you will be able to see the long term picture.

It is your convictions that will give you the strength to go on.

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10 Ways Our Homeschool Is Like Medieval Warfare

I love history. I especially love Medieval history. It’s my favorite time period. Now, don’t get me wrong – I do not wish I had been born in that time period. I wouldn’t last very long. But, I do love reading about the time and especially about medieval warfare. So here’s my way of connecting to that time period – through our homeschool. Sound far-fetched? Not really.

1. Our home is our castle and we protect it.

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Okay, so we don’t have high walls and a tower. Um, or even knights. Or rolling boulders, although those would be cool. But we do protect our time at home.

2. The kids wear this expression often.

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Need I say more? While working. While reading. And writing. In play. Let’s not forget while doing math. Whatever. That expression is as familiar as the back of my hand in our homeschool.

3. We confer medals and titles whenever we want.

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What? I’ve already established that I am the queen, my husband is the king and the children are… well, subjects. We confer rewards and dispense justice. And stickers. Don’t forget stickers. And certificates.

4. Half the time, it looks quite chaotic.

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… but we know what we’re doing. Even with adrenaline pumping. Yes. Yes, we do.

5. We kill English.

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This is an unfortunate fact. I mean, I try to save it. But alas! Murder and woe befalls it every single day. *sigh*

6. There is lots of time for free play and, more often than not, it ends up looking a lot like this.

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I don’t know how a nice quiet game of charades or Scrabble ends up looking like this, but that’s how it goes.

7. Clothes are often optional and fashion choices questionable.

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Sorry, kids. But you know it’s true. It’s great to homeschool, but not look like a homeschooler. You know what I mean. And you’ve been told far too often not to mix stripes with plaid. What’s next? Buttoning the top button and center parting your hair? Kilts?

8. Our books/pages are covered with sheet protectors

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Extreme measures are required when multiple children handle books, so I’m not apologizing. What’s next? Chaining them to the shelves? Hey, now that you mention it…

9. We start ’em young on life skills.

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See, it’s all about survival. So yes, Medieval soldiers learned to fight. We learn to fry eggs and make toast. Same difference.

10. We love our technology, too.

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Edward I refused to let his enemies surrender until he had launched 300 pound projectiles at them with his brand new trebuchet. If only he had an X-Box. Or a Kindle Fire.

So I’m just saying – if you’re a knight time traveling from the past or something, we’re just like you. We have this medieval thing down. And… about that trebuchet. Know where we could get one? There are totally people I want to throw 300 lb projectiles on.

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Time Linking – A Technique to Stay on Track

I write much about schedules, templates and other ways I use to stay on track, not just with homeschooling but also with blogging. I have many fingers in many pies, it seems. But if there is one thing that has helped me to stay on task with these various activities I undertake, it is this: time linking.

It works because it uses associations.

Associations are powerful drivers of action and memory. Ever feel compelled to eat or cook just because you smell food? Who can’t recall an exact memory from years ago because of finding oneself in a childhood home?

This happens because that place, that time has developed strong connections in our mind with a specific thing. We can use that same strategy to stay on track in our homeschooling.

How to Use Time Linking

If you think about your day, chances are you are doing certain things at specific times. For me, I have to write in the mornings. I work best that way. I can’t, for instance, pick up a book and read at five in the morning and I cannot write at seven in the evening. In my mind, each of those time blocks are linked with specific actions.

It’s the same with homeschooling. The hours between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. are the hours when we deal with difficulties the children might be facing and move on to more involved work in science or history.

We don’t do anything else during those hours. If we want to watch something that is related to those subjects, I still prefer that we wait until after 11 a.m. to get it done. It doesn’t “feel” right to turn on the television before noon. In my mind (and in my children’s minds) that time block is linked strongly with sit down work.

Customizing Time Linking

It is best if time linking comes together organically, but that doesn’t mean you can’t impose any structure. Take your normal day and see how it unfolds naturally. Then see if you can tweak it a bit.

I will warn you against getting started too soon on this. Toddlers seem to march to the beat of their own drummer, so if you try to impose time linking on a toddler or preschooler, it could be rough. We don’t do formal sit down work until the child is ready, which is much later. Time linking for a toddler works for nap times and lunch/snack times. No more.

Customizing time linking to your schedule will get things done, but keep you from feeling like you have to be the one pushing your children to get things done. Instead, it will begin to feel habitual and incorporated into your lifestyle.

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No, Homeschooling Is Not Elitist

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

“It’s bad enough that homeschoolers have removed themselves from society. It’s even worse that they bring their elitist attitude to look down on public schools.”

Well, it’s all find and dandy for you, they seem to say. You’re privileged. You can afford to stay home and homeschool. Not everyone can cloister themselves like you homeschoolers.

I’ve certainly heard it – especially on my Facebook page. So here’s my response to that nonsensical accusation of being elitist.

Many homeschoolers have jobs.

While the best case scenario involves one parent staying home to teach the children, this is not always the case. In my real life schedules post, I mention many different ways people find ways to make homeschooling work.

Some of these people have work outside the home.

Other homeschoolers have made the often difficult choice of lowering their standard of living or even moving to give their children the kind of education they would like.

You can call that a sacrifice, you can call that a decision, albeit a bad one, or you can call it conviction.
But what you certainly can not call it is elitism.

Homeschoolers live in society all day.

I used to be shocked at the accusation that homeschooling is elitist.

Then I realized that it was just the old socialization accusation.

It’s just that now it was somehow turned against homeschoolers to make us seem enviable as opposed to a people who needed to be pitied.

The point is this: how is it that people who send their children to be under lock and key, watched and supervised all day long, their intellect and behavior prodded and poked, call homeschoolers isolated? And worse, isolated by choice and therefore elitist?

Homeschoolers find themselves in society every single day. Just ask my children who are asked by any random number of people, as if they’re shocked to actually see children, “What?! No school today?” As in, what are you doing out here in public? Has no one locked you up yet?

Yeah, thanks for the privilege.

And, by the way, homeschoolers are more involved in meaningful public activities than you’d think.

Homeschoolers surpass public schoolers in tests every single year, but that doesn’t mean we sit around all day testing and memorizing.

We are not ivory tower academics, either, but you’ll find many of those in the very institutions you claim are not elitist.

If homeschoolers criticize public schools, it’s not because we’re elitist. It’s because we have found a way to educate that works – with lesser time and fewer of our neighbor’s dollars spent.

Surely that’s something worth talking about?

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Just Because It’s Different Doesn’t Mean It’s Worse

We have a penchant for the normal, the same. We love talking about the good old days. Often, this works to our advantage. We learn by imitation and we are most at home when things around us are habitual.

However, if we are not careful, the desire for sameness, for things to always be the way they were can be a big stumbling block.

I just got off the phone with a friend who is more than a little skeptical of homeschooling.

“But how will they graduate high school?”

“I will give them a certificate when they’re done with their course work.”

“Really?”

Yes, really.

Homeschooling is just that. Different. It is not worse because it is different and it might just be better.

I mentioned in another blog post that we are currently selling our house. To make it easiest for viewing, we have moved to an apartment.

Living in an apartment sure is different. But it is not worse.

I suppose it is normal to look back at times and places and things and see them as flat. That’s the nature of life. When it is not in front of us in all its topographic loveliness, when it is not great and wonderful and iconoclastic, it is easy to look at it and say it’s good.

But reality, as C. S. Lewis puts it, is always iconoclastic.

Eventually, we put our own thoughts over reality and it comes back to us as our own creation, in our image.

All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness. That is, in her foursquare and independent reality. – C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Homeschooling can be a little like that. New homeschoolers know this. And veteran homeschoolers remember this. It’s just different, not worse because it’s so.

So when you’re trying to tell someone who has no idea what it is, be sure to leave room for their surprise, their incredulous “reallys?” because they’re coming.

Remind them that just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s worse. Tell them to give it time. They might just get used to it.

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A Meditation on Seeing

The first hint that everyone is getting sick in our family is that the children can’t remember their multiplication tables.

Unfortunately, I don’t see the signs until I have a sore throat myself. I always wonder why they’re suddenly incapable of basic calculations.

I would make a terrible fortune teller.

Seeing What’s There

An odd thing happened while I was lying in bed this morning with my sore throat. I have mentioned before that we are currently in a time of transition.

Our small house is on the market and we are now in our even smaller apartment.

In my cold delirium, looking for my husband, I looked toward the wall of our bedroom. It took me a few minutes to realize it was a wall and not the corridor leading to the bathroom.

At first, I was confused. I stared at it a good three minutes before getting my mental bearings back and realizing my mistake.

I was in the wrong place, I realized. Actually, I was in the right place; it was just that the map in my head was wrong.

This is often true of homeschoolers, especially new homeschoolers.

How often, when we begin homeschooling, do we stop to revise our mental maps? How often do we get them wrong? Do we judge our children by how long they work through the day?

Do we overschedule them because we’re trying to remain true to the idea of public school in our heads?

Do we worry that they are not in lock step with the rest of the children on our block, our community, our cousins and friends?

That’s a bit like staring at a wall and expecting to see the hallway there.

Seeing what truly exists requires constant reexamination, at least in the beginning. It needs all our mental faculties.

See what’s in front of you, not what’s around or before. Change your mental maps. Welcome to homeschooling.

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