This is a guest post from Sarah Faulkner. She is a homeschooling mom in Washington state. She has five kids, ages 13, 11, 9, 5, and 2. 

I like to hear about other homeschoolers. If you talk to my father, I am a complete failure.  If you just look at test scores, and talk to my kids I am doing just fine.  I have been homeschooling for 8 years.  I am an ENTP and have five kids.  My fourth has Autism/ADHD, and I think my third does as well (for ADD).

Honestly my life is hell, and I really don’t like homeschooling at the moment, but I feel public school is a long waste of 12 years.  Also, none of my kids wants to go to school.

Every time I get annoyed and find a reason to stop homeschooling, the kids step up so they can stay home.  They want to stay home because, “We don’t have enough time to go to school.  How would we get everything else done?”  My children highly value playing.

I have done it all in terms of different types of homeschooling, and it all comes down to how bored I get.  I tried a curriculum.  I got bored with worksheets.  I tried Montessori – Loved that but way to much prep work.

Now things look like this:

Math.We completely stopped doing school but the boys fell behind in math. I tried unschooling.  It seemed logical to do math that way.  They fell two grades behind.  So I require math.  We use teaching text books because it explains everything to them and lets them move quickly if they want.

English.  I just required it this year.  They (the two older kids) tested at 10th grade level.  They are learning English to learn the rules.  I have them doing Bob Jones (which they hate), because it is the hardest English program and I have met several kids who have done very well from using it.

Reports. This is how I teach history or whatever.  I think being able to answer questions, know how to filter information, and restate it is important.  I will tell them to do what ever subject they want, and however long they want to make it.  Then, I work with them on organizing and writing topical paragraphs.

Science. We do whatever I get excited about.  I love science. It is not hard for me to whisk them away for the day to do a science thing.

Social skills.  This is the last topic I feel is very important.  I suck at social skills, my oldest is an ISTP, so we suck together.  My husband is an ESFP.  He has taught me a lot about social skills and I have read a ton of books.  As you know, you can make it far in life by simply being like-able.  The way I see it, if I screw up this homeschooling thing, at least they will know how to manipulate communicate with people.

Electronics. I use to have a zero electronic policy.  Until I read this blog.  My boys thank you for Minecraft.  As young kids they fought horribly with too much TV and were bored all the time.  My oldest has free access whenever, and the other children are monitored but they do loads more than we use to.

Sleep. I think sleep is important. I do believe in letting wake up whenever. But I am not running a frat house.  The two year old goes to bed 7 pm.  The five year old 8pm, the nine and 11 year old can read in bed by 9 pm. The 13 year old by 10.  He doesn’t bother me, so I don’t care what time he goes to bed.  If I catch any flack I threaten them to go to bed at 7.

Reading. This is the number one thing I push onto my kids.  I don’t have set books they have to read – if they don’t like I book, I hunt until I find one they do like.  I figured if they loved reading then they would naturally learn.  My two oldest are at a 12th grade reading level.

 My nine year old does not read.  He can barely tell time and read numbers.  We are going through a large amount of testing to figure out what the learning disability is.  Mainly, so I will know how to teach him how to read.

Through all the testing everyone remarks how large his vocabulary and comprehension is.  This would be due to all the books on tape.  If he won’t read, he will listen.  I also find books for them to read by using Google to find “Living books for age __”.  Many great lists come up that way.  It is the Charlotte Mason method.

But not really the Charlotte Mason method because it required too much prep work. After all, my goal in life is to have success with the smallest amount of work possible.

54 replies
  1. galeforcewind
    galeforcewind says:

    I love this post! Unapologetically explaining what works for your family, and a lot of it through the lens of what you can handle and what works best for you. Thanks for the tidbits and humour.

  2. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    Yes! I am not the only mom who tries to do this the easiest way possible! Love the idea of Charlotte Mason, but who has time for that? I do not love teaching. at all. But my kids get a deer in the headlights look if I threaten to send them back to school, so I must be doing something right. I don’t have time for school either – way too constricting and no flexibility. Just plain not an efficient use of my kids time.

    • Caralyn
      Caralyn says:

      Social skills? Like you mean live life and interact with all, young and old, who come your way? Most homeschoolers have their kids in youth groups, sports, music, volunteering. Turns out homeschooling kids tend to have much better social skills than kids who are segregated by age and live by a pecking order hierarchy in school.

  3. jessica
    jessica says:

    I guess I have a few questions…

    Why do the kids need all the ‘school’ subjects?

    For example, I wouldn’t have my kids write reports…? and keeping up in Math at school-grade level, is that necessary?

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      The things that I feel that are important to teach to my kids are not school subjects at all. We don’t emulate school in my house, and threatening isn’t done here.

      But I think it is interesting to see what other people who comment here are doing, it lets me know more about them and their philosophy more than anything else.

    • mh
      mh says:

      I agree. School “subjects” are artificial and unnecessary.

      Great literature has philosophy, psychology, history, grammar, vocabulary, often economics. Science fiction is better still. And fantasy (i.e. Tolkein) is extraordinary.

      Just because schools do it doesn’t mean I automatically shun it… After all, I make sure the kids eat lunch.

      But most of what schools do is generic, irrational, and suboptimal for learning, so I think twice before inflicting something hokey like “social studies” on young children.

      History, economics, civics? If they’re interested, then great. “Social studies?” Come on.

    • Sarah
      Sarah says:

      I really struggled with what to teach the kids. I have a long list of things I feel will help them be successful in life, and one of them was to have a basic knowledge of subjects. It doesn’t have to be in depth, but I want them to at least understand on an 8th grade level.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        This is the difference between unschooling and homeschooling. I don’t teach subjects. My kids learn what they want to learn, I support and guide them, and I introduce interesting topics and material. I also don’t compare my children to school children, they aren’t behind, ahead, or in the middle. They aren’t even inside that particular box. It’s what happens when you are raising divergent little people who think differently. So unschooling fits us naturally as we are all autodidacts in my family.

        But in your defense, I don’t remember you ever saying you were an unschooler! You are a homeschooler, and traditional k-12 topics will be covered in this environment. You do what works for your kids. :) Maybe without threatening them though??? That’s the only thing I didn’t like.

        • Tracy Moore
          Tracy Moore says:


          YMKAS – Your first paragraph here is quite probably the most-powerful-yet-succinct description/explanation of unschooling that I’ve ever come across! Go make the pamphlets – I’ll be the UK distributor. ;-)

          I’ve been unschooling my two kids for some years now. Have read so much online along the way (Penelope’s posts being up there with the most awesome, in my humble opinion). But until now, I don’t think I’d come across an in-a-nutshell explanation of unschooling that does ‘it’ enough justice. By Jove, I think she’s (you’ve) got it!


          • Elizabeth
            Elizabeth says:

            I’ll throw in a John Holt quote while I’m making the pamplets!

            “Young people should have the right to control and direct their own learning, that is, to decide what they want to learn, and when, where, how, how much, how fast, and with what help they want to learn it.”

        • Bry
          Bry says:

          Elizabeth, I love what you are saying too. Do you have to worry about state or federal requirements or testing or anything like that for your kids? If so, how do you get around it?

          • Elizabeth
            Elizabeth says:

            Hi Bry,

            Since I live in CA and register as a private school I am exempt from state and federal testing. One of my best friends is in CA and she does her unschooling/homeschooling through a public charter school. She opts out of state testing for her kids when they try to require it, in CA you are allowed to opt out.

            Don’t most states allow you to opt out of testing requirements?

        • Bry
          Bry says:

          Hey Elizabeth, I was unable to reply to your most recent post so I am replying to this one.

          That sounds incredibly clever! So you were actually able to register yourself as a private school?

          I am not sure abt testing exemptions, that is something I for sure will be looking into.

    • Caralyn
      Caralyn says:

      Keeping up with math and language arts is important because you never know if your kid will need to go to school. My SIL swore her kids would never be in school, until she got a brain aneurysm and two brain surgeries. Or my friend who homeschooled her kids alongside mine – and then died of cancer. It’s much easier to make a transition during a difficult time if you’re not also struggling to keep up.

      • Elizabeth
        Elizabeth says:

        Well… that’s just two very horribly sad stories that I was not prepared to read this morning.

        I have had this conversation with my spouse, that if something ever happened to me that he would find a way to keep unschooling the kids. I’m pretty sure he has figured out in his mind how to make that possible and still work full time.

      • mh
        mh says:

        It’s true that those would be hard times to transition to compulsory school. The kids would be going through so much at that point – really tough to put them in school after the death of a parent.

  4. mh
    mh says:

    I am with you on simplicity! Thanks for your guest post.

    I’m laughing because my kids still like to be read to, so I capitalize on this by choosing literature with a historic setting (Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, or Beowulf, or Caddie Woodlawn, etc) or that we can use for leadership training (Adams’ Watership Down) or free enterprise (Kipling’s poetry, biographies/case studies of successful business leaders, Orwell’s Animal Farm). Because I’m reading them aloud, the kids can fiddle and do other activities while I read, we can handle all vocabulary and grammar, and tackle big themes. They read independently, for pleasure, but by reading aloud, I can simultaneously and painlessly tackle many topics of study (school “subjects?”), have fun, and often finish most of the scheduled day shortly after breakfast.

    My kids value time away from adults/parents, in a big way.

  5. mh
    mh says:

    Social skills! I laugh!

    The Super Bowl commercial gave me my new nickname: Left Shark.

    If there IS a correct way to behave, I am likely to blow it. Heh.

  6. AP
    AP says:

    Great post! I can understand why you have “subjects” you teach. I’d probably do the same thing. But I’m an INTJ so I’m all about planning, categorizing, organizing, preparing, and executing the plan. There are things to explore and accomplish and giving them “headings” is a great way to keep track. I would insist on civics, btw. It’s an important subject.

    I’d need help with the social skills part, too. I suck at socializing. Some days I care that I suck at it. Mostly, I don’t, though. ;) I’d love to see more guest posts from you.

  7. dcline
    dcline says:

    My brother has never been a reader. He probably did poorly in school because of this. Now he’s co-owner of several franchises.
    He worked has way into a job as director of franchise operations (with lots of driving) and started doing the books on tape thing. Now he likes to use books on tape and documentaries to get informed and make up for some of what he missed in school.
    Not wanting to read isn’t a learning disability it’s a learning difference and different people can do quite well.
    As an aside: his wife can polish off a 700 page book in 2 days and routinely upgraded to the newest Kindle as they came out. Teach him to find someone whose skills complement his.

  8. Charity
    Charity says:

    I am wanting to know what tests she uses to see where her children are at. This is my first year at homeschool and I’m always worrying that we aren’t doing enough. Don’t want to fall behind.

    Thank you for your blogs and passing on great information you find out there in the world.

    • mh
      mh says:


      Thank you for that comment. I want to be the first kind stranger to tell you that you don’t have to test your kids. The standardized school tests are fundamental time wasters that don’t accurately measure children’s knowledge. Or at least, that’s what the teachers say.

      You are almost certainly providing a better education through homeschool than what the compulsory schools provide, so relax.

      Depending on your children’s ages and your desperation to know how your kids measure up, have them take the PSAT. Compare their progress year over year.

      Or don’t.

      Only standardized kids need standardized tests. I’m raising cage-free kids, not factory-farmed.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Fall behind what, mediocrity? Inside the box thinking? Fact memorization and regurgitation? Can’t you just discuss with them what they are learning and gauge that through observation?

      • Trilby
        Trilby says:

        I hate comments like this. For the record, my 6 year old attends school. I’m not opposed to homeschooling or unschooling, and I enjoy this blog because I like to read about other opinions and experiences. But as someone who is currently sending my daughter to school, I find this comment rather insulting.

        • Elizabeth
          Elizabeth says:


          I’m sorry if my opinion bothers you, my twitter page is not for sensitive folks and I try my best to tone it down in my commenting here.

          I personally feel that traditional school is mediocre and uninspiring. It’s the system itself, not necessarily the people in the system. I’m in the minority here, right?

          • Trilby
            Trilby says:

            I guess I should have chosen my words more carefully. I’m not personally insulted, but I felt that the intent if your comment was to be insulting. And not just of the system, but of those in the system. As if traditional school offers no room for anything but mediocrity, in-the-box thinking, etc. I’m sorry if I misread that.

        • Melissa
          Melissa says:

          Why do you care that someone who is unfamiliar with your particular situation states that traditional school is mediocre? You must realize that people who unschool do so because they find something lacking with the mainstream.

          I guess I don’t understand why you’re offended. File this under “INTJ Problems.”

          • Elizabeth
            Elizabeth says:


            Intj problems indeed. Having people assign feelings and intent to my words comes with the territory. Often misunderstood.

        • Elizabeth
          Elizabeth says:

          I have moved around quite a bit and lived in really nice places with high ranking public schools. I’ve researched them, visited and observed, and spoken with teachers, gifted advocates, and administrators. Traditional school is what I mean when I talk about mediocre, standard, inside the box. I am a non conformist raising divergent outside the box little people I need something creative. I have always been left uninspired and bored with traditional schools. The kids and parents don’t seem to have any choices, they paid a million dollars for their homes. Some people are ok with this type of learning system. I am not ok with it. For my middle daughter who is academically inclined and is a people pleaser I beleive Unschooling is a must for her because she needs to know that in life you don’t get gold stars for mediocrity. She is very sensitive and I want her to be as successful as possible and free to not be in a box.

          When I share my thoughts here, it’s never coming from a profile of someone who is being mean or hurtful. It’s just sharing what I have observed that has shaped my views on school. There are some really good progressive schools in LA but even they seem too traditional for me.

          If you are happy with your situation and school choice then you shouldn’t feel threatened or upset with what some of us say here. What are the top three most awesome things about your kids school?

          • Jenn Gold
            Jenn Gold says:

            Penelope, it’s time for YMKAS/Elizabeth to do a guest post! I’m a lot more into feelings/being sensitive but (as an INFJ) I appreciate the genuineness in your truth. Your comments are usually very helpful.

    • sarah
      sarah says:


      Don’t stress on the testing. :) I just end up doing what ever the co -op does. It only tests reading, grammar, and math. I am suppose to have them tested due to washington laws. It is really hard not to stress, but the fact is they will learn fine. If It wasn’t required I wouldn’t test.

  9. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    When I saw the Electronics heading I thought, “Oh, let’s see if she started with winding motors and generators and worked up through discrete components and the 555 chip, or went straight to Arduino.” Nope. Different thing. Shucks, I thought I was going to learn what you teach for Electronics.

    I asked my 10 year old yesterday if he felt he was doing enough or there were other things he would like to study. He thought about it and came back with the list:

    Stuff I Want To Do Now:
    Anatomy of the Human Body

    Stuff I Want To Do In The Future:

    I was a little surprised. I asked him why Chemistry was on one side and Biology on the other and he said he’d heard that chemistry can give you a good foundation for understanding biology. Either way, I’m thinking it might not be good for the finish on our dining room table.

    This list shows an impending breakdown in the “parent teaches everything” model. I can handle the stats no problem. But I felt kind of tenuous answering his questions about mitosis based on a class I ignored 32 years ago. Yay, Youtube!!

    The boy’s got an idea of direction, which is heartening (his idea of direction is simple: whatever he needs to get into MIT). We have seven more years to work on it. But my job is clearly changing.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth says:

      Hi Commenter,

      I know you didn’t really ask, but I know that if this were my child asking to learn chemistry I would want to make sure it was successful. Have you considered introducing chemistry by topics and going in depth? Like instead of broadly covering chemistry you could cover: Atoms, Molecules, Quarks, the periodic table, states of matter, acids and bases etc. as their own topics or subjects.

      I understand exactly what you mean when your kid throws a curveball question, we do a lot of googling or youtubing as well. Then the question morphs into twenty more complicated questions…all I want is to finish my cup of coffee before the insanity begins here.

      • Commenter
        Commenter says:


        I agree very much with your approach. I taught basic electronics from the electron up to the 555 timer. I like to be thorough and start deep. In order to provide that for my son wrt chemistry, I’ll need curriculum if not a tutor (I dropped out of high school before chemistry class). A topic by topic approach might allow me time to find resources.

        My kid backfooted me the other day when he asked me if metal is frozen at room temperature. A real chemistry teacher wouldn’t have to ponder that.

        • Elizabeth
          Elizabeth says:

          I remember my husbands frustration with college level chemistry. It is the make/break class for engineering and science since it is a prereq before you can move on to anything else.

          When I get thrown the odd questions my face and tone say “Let’s look it up!” but inside I’m thinking “wtf kid…where do you come up with this stuff.”

          I know you and I are familiar with each others views on technology by now, but how open are you to Khan Academy? There is a chemistry course and the entire site is free. Does your son learn verbally or visually? Typically it is video lectures, but the curriculum is already done for you. If he has an Ipad they just created a Khan Academy app with a great selection of courses.

        • Em
          Em says:

          A while back, some in the comments posted about the book Science Matters. Might be a good place to start to get a broad overview before digging into the details. My PhD chemist husband approved of their description of quantum mechanics.

        • Elizabeth
          Elizabeth says:

          Just wanted to quantify why I think “wtf kid” in my mind. It is because my kid asks quantum physics and theoretical physics questions. I am not a physicist! I don’t know if anti-gravity is possible…does anyone?

    • mh
      mh says:

      Arduino is exceelent.

      My kids started young with a snap circuits set, and they have been hooked on electronics ever since. Feeding them a steady diet of robotics challenges now.

  10. Linda
    Linda says:

    For your child who doesn’t read, I highly recommend the book The Right Side of Normal by Cindy Geddis, especially if you think your child has strong visual / spatial strengths and is a more right-brained creative type. No book helped me more than that one and the developmental timeline it lays out has been spot on for my son.

  11. Lara
    Lara says:

    We started out homeschooling and now are UNSCHOOLING and love love love it! We are with an umbrella/private school now too and have no testing to do either. :)

  12. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I’m wondering if other states let you opt out of testing. Here in VA you can only do that with a religious exemption and I can’t morally do that.

Comments are closed.