Michelle Huddleston is an all-around expert in teaching, which was her background before becoming a homeschool mom. Because she taught before home educating, she was able to navigate the learning curve fairly quickly in terms of ‘homeschooling her way’.
Now, it is part of her mission to ensure other homeschooling families are not stressed or pressured to homeschool in a systematic way that doesn’t come naturally. By going through this experience herself, Michelle has learned there are many stressed moms looking to align their homeschools up with the perfect space, schedule, and curriculum. Michelle thinks perfection comes when homeschool moms embrace their unique journeys and family dynamic.
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How do parents go from homeschooling like a school-at-home to finding their own homeschooling groove?
Dropping the school at home approach and adopting your own approach/style begins with a mindset shift. The majority of us homeschooling moms have a history of some form of public or private education and that is still very dominant today. So, subconsciously that’s how we perceive ‘schooling’ should be. Once we adopt the perspective that schooling and educating are two very different things, we can begin to replace the current ‘school’ mindset with an ‘education’ mindset. The biggest difference is seeing education as an ongoing learning process, whereas schooling has an end. I have an episode of Let’s Talk About It where a friend and I chatted about the difference between educating and schooling. You can find that video below.
What are the main causes of stress in a homeschool?
The main cause of stress in a homeschool is the ‘how-to’. There is an overwhelming number of methods, strategies, concepts, styles, and so on. to sift through which often leaves a new homeschooling family ready to throw in the towel! Another stressor is affordability. Most people think you have to spend hundreds of dollars PER child EVERY single year – and this simply isn’t necessary. There are options out there (like what we offer through our online Academy (HALA) that make purchasing curriculum resources feasible.
What’s the best way to reduce stress in a homeschool environment?
Relax. Take the necessary breaks. Remove the finish line from your vision of what homeschool success looks like. A lot of times we pin unnecessary pressures on ourselves which bleed over onto our children. In some cases, this also bleeds over into marriages and ultimately affects the entire family unit. On another episode of Let’s Talk About It, I talked with 18-year homeschooling veteran, Angela Perry, and she dropped major truth bombs about the finish line in homeschooling success. That video can be watched below.
You homeschool with a relaxed eclectic homeschooling method. Why do you love this?
I’m gonna come up with my own method one day because while it’s dominantly relaxed-eclectic, it’s a mix of almost all that method and some. But for the sake of time and explanation – we choose these methods because they are the most flexible with our family dynamic. My husband and I have four children ranging from 10-months-old to 11-years-old so we easily accommodate that by remaining relaxed and allowing for wiggle room (with LOTS of hands-on and OUTSIDE time).
You do a bit of ‘nature schooling’. What is this, and why do you love it?
Nature schooling is a glorified way of saying ‘we use the outside as the classroom’. Instead of staying cooped up in the house, we hit the great outdoors. Instead of doing a leaf coloring page, we put real colored leaves in our kid’s hands by going to a park filled with trees. We use nature schooling as a way to bring learning to life.
Tell me about the Co-op you founded and what’s so special about it?
I started the free online homeschool COOP to offer homeschooling families another option to bring elective classes to the comfort of their own homes. Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of homeschooling families who are not part of local homeschool groups/COOPs. This program fills THAT need. The program is 100% parent-volunteer led. Parents step up each month to teach a class of their choice. We have seen all kinds of classes from cooking and sewing to science and geography! The group and program are open to any and every homeschooling mom. It is a faith-based group; however, it also comes with a no-tolerance policy to protect everyone in their personal morals, values, and beliefs.
The group is located on Facebook – Outta’ Box Homeschooling.
A lot of homeschool moms are terrified about how to get started with different activities. How do you suggest they get started?
I suggest doing a little research. Find out as much as possible before jumping in and saying yes to the activity. On the other hand, if you are waiting for the warm fuzzy feelings of comfort – you may not find that until you take the first steps of starting the activity!
What tools (if any) do you find indispensable when teaching your children?
Every-day life. It took me a couple of years to realize that we encounter meaningful learning experiences every single day. Whether it is learning a new chore, helping a sibling do something, or taking a family walk around the neighborhood – these are all teachable moments that often have a greater impact than sitting down to do worksheets or reading a book.
What do you find are homeschool parents’ biggest stumbling blocks and what are the best ways you’ve found to overcome them?
I have several chapters in my book dedicated to this very question. The biggest stumbling block is ourselves. We tend to set things up in our minds and when they don’t happen that way, well… you know. Another stumbling block is the comparison game. We see how Jenny is homeschooling her kids and it ‘looks’ amazing. Then we notice Suzie over there with five kids all quiet and obedient. Then we look at our own lives and compare our families to theirs. No, no, no! Big mistake. I touch base with lots more, including limiting beliefs and words of affirmation (at the end of each chapter), in my book Just for Today’s Homeschooling Mom.
How did you decide to homeschool, and was that an easy choice or terrifying?
Easy choice. My firstborn went to public school for preschool and K. Once my husband and I had more children, we decided homeschooling was the best route for our family. We homeschool for these top reasons:
- Freedom reasons
- Spiritual (religious) reasons
- Influence reasons
Did you choose to homeschool as a reaction to the school system, and if so, why was that?
This would be the fourth reason. We are not particularly fond of the present-day school system.
What educational method did you choose when you started homeschooling, and if that has changed, how has it changed?
When I first started homeschooling, I was also coming home from my own classroom in a child development setting. I also spend almost five years in the public school setting as a Curriculum Specialist Assistant, Tutor, and Sub Teacher. So, by instinct, I set up our homeschool like an actual schoolroom. Needless to say, that was the first and last year for that.
Over the years, through trial and error, we’ve come to find that while we implement pieces of methods from this or that – we ultimately do our own thing. That’s why we have adopted the saying – homeschool YOUR way! I also created a Homeschool YOUR Way Planner for moms to help them nail down what homeschooling looks like for their families.
What homeschool curriculum do you use and how did you choose it?
We actually do not use one particular curriculum. We have been blessed to been given hand me downs of a few ABeka and Rod & Staff books, but we mainly use resources that I create as well as a few other resources from other homeschool curriculum resource creators.
A few of my favs are K12 Reader for Spelling and Language Arts. We use Xtra Math for extra math practice. And we love Hoffman Academy for online piano lessons. To fill in other subjects, we use YouTube, Netflix, and the great outdoors. I fill in with supplements from Usborne Books, our local library, and awesome Dollar Tree finds!
What is the easiest homeschooling subject to teach/guide your children in?
The Bible is the easiest subject to teach and guide our children in!
Did you find you get the ‘socialization question’ a lot and if so, how do you handle it? (What’s your best advice for handling criticism?)
I don’t get that question much anymore. I’m sure people are wondering, but they don’t ask. In the beginning, our family members asked and we would tell them all the ways they would in fact get “socialization” and remind them of the most common thing we were always told as to public schooled kids – ‘When you go to school, you are not there to socialize but to learn!’ So who’s really lacking socialization?
Do you use technology a lot in your homeschool, and why do you/do you not choose to use it?
We use our fair share of it, but not always. There are times when a YouTube video is much better for reiterating a concept, and other times a Netflix documentary. I like to incorporate the works of others who have a passion to help others learn.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about homeschooling?
Stay in your lane. In other words, don’t get side-tracked with what others are doing or try to do what they are doing. Always do what’s best for YOUR family.
What have you enjoyed most about homeschooling (and was this a surprise to you)?
I enjoy how tight our family is because of homeschooling. We have and continue to form bonds that cannot be taken for granted.
How would you encourage a homeschool mom who’s feeling dejected and a little overwhelmed with her homeschool?
I recommend her to take a step back and pinpoint where the overwhelm is coming from (another issue discussed in my book). Sometimes the overwhelm could be coming from a personal or marriage issue. It’s totally okay to take a break, reanalyze, and come back with a new plan of action. Rinse and repeat.
What is homeschooling like? Would you say it’s harder work than you expected or not?
It was hard when I was trying to make it something separate. The day I decided to see homeschooling as a part of who we are as a family, it changed everything. When I think in terms of homeschooling being education, I am able to see how everyday life is a part of a lifetime of learning.
What is the biggest problem with homeschooling and how have you gotten around it?
The biggest problem is thinking we need to homeschool a certain way for it to be “successful”. I have gotten around it by understanding that success is determined by each individual child and not what I think success is or should be. We take it one step at a time, and one child at a time. I recently talked about this here.
What are the three best things you can do in your homeschool that you couldn’t do if your kids when to school?
- Travel whenever, wherever.
- Teaching them tangible concepts versus indoctrinating them with theoretical propaganda.
- Be their biggest influence.
Have you had any homeschool disasters, and how would you have changed things to avoid them?
We actually haven’t encountered any disasters. Maybe something more like obstacles that needed some navigation. But even then, it was strengthening!
What is your overarching goal or outcome for your homeschool?
Our main goal is to raise biblically strong children who are self-sustaining.
What are three articles on your website you wish every homeschool mom could read and why are they great?
- Stop Hindering Your Children is a blog post written by one of our Blog Contributors and it’s simply amazing. It helps us see how we can hinder our children, and offers practical ways to do the opposite.
- There are a lot of homeschooling moms who have multiples so in this blog post, 3 Genius Ideas for Homeschooling Multiples, I share some pretty amazing ways to keep your sanity. There are also some video links in there too.
- Sometimes we need a boost of encouragement on this homeschooling journey. In this blog post, 5 Surprising Benefits of Homeschooling You May Not Have Considered, I offer fresh perspectives to consider.
A little bit more about Michelle: Michelle has also founded one of the only free online COOP programs that take place in her homeschool community group, Outta’ Box Homeschooling. In January our live eCource portion of our recently launched online Academy will start. It’s a solo teaching academy where Michelle is still able to fill her passion for teaching children (just in an online classroom).