What is THAT?

Organic school….what is it and what does it look like?  Well, for the Clark household, it looks like  life.  It looks like children doing chores, it looks like siblings taking care of one another, it looks like family members talking and sharing thoughts, ideas and struggles.  It just looks real.

Once we had dealt with the issues that Father laid on our hearts (rhythm/routine, order, discipline, etc) we began looking at our family and deciding what it was that we wanted our school to produce.  What things did we want our children to be equipped with, when they left our home?

We wanted our children to experience exceptional family relationships.  We wanted our children to think that God’s involvement in daily life to be normal.  We wanted our children to see all education as a means of worship.  We wanted to help our children to mature and gain further skills in conjunction to the gifts that the Lord had placed within them.  Beyond that, we had a few things that we considered “non-negotiable” for each child. (At least to the best of each of their abilities.  We understood that each child would not demonstrate the same level of skills in each department.)  Those non-negotiables are: math skills and communication skills.  (This would include both reading and writing skills and personal learning skills.)

That’s it.  Really truly nothing else?  Nope.   Why?  Because every bit of knowledge that either Jeff or I have in any other field has come from learning that we have done on our own.  Our desire is to train our children to learn on their own, so that anything they need, they are able to go after on their own.

Does this mean our children have no knowledge of science or history?  No, that’s not what it means. Right now, my son’s passion is Ancient Japanese history….this week.  A few weeks ago, it was The Titanic.  Before that, it was WW II.  Daughter number 2 thrills over study of the Middle Ages, daughter number 3 is an animal NUT.  (Especially horses.)  There is very little that she can not discuss with someone in conjunction to virtually any animal.  They are all crazy about literature.  Any one day you might find children reading anything from Shakespeare to Calvin & Hobbs. There is no way I could keep up with all the things that they want to study or read.

So, what might a homeschool day look like at our house?  The day is divided into 2 parts.  The morning is for serving the family.  The afternoon is for pursuing your own gifts.  It’s that simple.

Each morning is spent either working with or for someone else in the family.  The person who is dinner helper gets dinner done in the morning.  The person who does laundry works on that in the morning.  The person who reads to the baby does that in the morning.  The person who is helping the Littles with their “unit study” work does it in the morning. Family read aloud is done in the morning.

The afternoon then is all for your “own” work.  The Bigs complete their independent work, as well as each of us taking time to be on the computer.  The Littles may work on art, they may write a book, they might go visit the neighbor to work on their hand sewing, they might clean in their bedroom.  Each child has some freedom to orchestrate their own time.

The day then returns to “together” time, as we gather back together around the dinner table, to share the new things we’ve learned or stories about the people that we had contact with.  This allows us to end the day with our hearts tied to one another anew.

Gulp! Have we lost our minds?  Allowing children to have freedom over their own time??!! Quite likely, but it seems to us that some of the hardest things that college students or young adults struggle with (or older adults, for that matter) is learning how to be disciplined and responsible for their own time.  We want our children to learn that here, in the safety of our home.  We want them to learn with us, how to depend on the Holy Spirit to help us take dominion of the things in our “kingdom.”  So, in addition to daily freedom, each child is accountable to us for the way that they spend that time.  We do assign some tasks that we expect them to do, so there is still a measure of parental control over the work they’re doing.

Most importantly, our school operates in peace.  There is no screaming (including mine), fussing or arguing allowed.   If there is any kind of strained relationships, we stop everything else and deal with them.  We have time to notice God.  Yesterday, we had hoar frost on everything.  We took the time to enjoy it…we took pictures of it, we went outside to be in awe of what God had done. We just delighted in what our Lord had done.
Life is never boring and our children are thriving.  But, most important of all?  We are not giving away time, precious irreplaceable time, to things that are not important.  Our time is given to building relationships with one another and with God.  We talk together, we think together, we study together and we “create” together. I can’t imagine living any other way.

(Please, if this brings up any specific ….or quasi-specific questions, please feel free to ask.  While I would love for you to find this same type of school format for your household – for the peace, for the depth of relationships, for the delight of Father and Jesus – I’m not delusional.  I know that each household will look differently.  Each home will be a beautiful reflection of the character of our Lord! So, feel free to throw any questions you might have, into the ring.)

20 Responses to “What is THAT?”
  1. javadawn says:

    Melanie, I don’t list any specific curriculum here – are you looking for ideas of self-teaching curriculum? Or are you just wanting to know what we’re using? I can offer both, but didn’t know which one was most attentive to your heart. 🙂

    As for OUR curriculum, right now, we’re doing a “fake” version of FIAR for the Littles. In the mornings, we read aloud to them – we meaning SOMEONE – who ever has the opportunity to serve their siblings/children that way. We also do “fake” pursuit of the other activiites that go with it. (If you want more specifics re: that, let me know) The Bigs were doing MUC, but that hasn’t been working for this season, so we went with something else that fit our budget and allowed us to self teach math. (Please understand, the children are also doing ebay stuff – both for themselves and us – and they are doing other real life math.) I don’t remember what it’s called and it’s in the kids’ bins in their rooms. I can let you know later, if you want. As for writing…we’re not using a curriculum.

    It’s real life – we’re having the kids do all kinds of writing for us. If you want more ideas, let me know. Science is falling in love with creation – and we are using Jeannie Fulbright’s stuff….kind of. History is kind of TruthQuest. The “kind of” is because we’re not using it the way it’s intended. We also are discussing books. (We just finished one and now are starting into another. If I tell you, you’ll pass out, and I’d rather not lose you.) And Shadow is reading “History through the Eyes of Faith”

    Does this answer the “c” question? 😉

  2. Melanie says:

    hmmmm, probably…
    Interesting, Dawn. Thank you for sharing so much with us.
    I will continue to mull and try to allow time for God to speak as well 😉
    So much is up in the air with a potential move and all that will mean in our family life… more chores outside, but DAD more at home and available. {hopefully anyway! 😀 } So it’s hard to imagine how our days/routines might function next year… Time to see that when and if we make those changes…
    Thanks again, Dawn!

  3. javadawn says:

    Melanie, I think it sounds WONDERFUL to have Dad home more – to enjoy being a family more. I can see how in your setting organic Melanie’s Family school 😉 would just F.L.O.W.!

    Quick edit, too – I will add some more info on what rhythm looks like vs schedule here at our house.

  4. reneegrace says:

    this is great Dawn. I have really been challenged to think about what do I WANT… if time with the children, then why do I shove Thaddeus aside with a computer game or his favorite animals so I can complete ONE MORE THING on my list with Keenan… when Keenan just wants to play with Thaddeus, you know? There are some non-negotiables, but, if I stuck to the non-negotiables and didn’t force the other stuff, I think the non-negotiables (like memorization, math and handwriting) wouldn’t be such a big deal. sigh.

    I just MIGHT MAYBE end up being a relaxed home schooler yet!!

    is MUC supposed to be MathUSee? or is that something different?

  5. Javadawn says:

    Ugh – sorry Renee, yes Math U See. 😕

    That IS what we found – when we trimmed back the non-negotiables, the other stuff simply didn’t hold any battles. (Ok, not very many battles, anyway)

  6. Heidi says:

    I REALLY appreciate your thoughts here. It sounds like Malanie and I might be in similar situations at the moment. Lord-willing, my husband will be working from home full-time in a few weeks. That will change our schedule a lot and hopefully bring more flexibility for both of us to be involved with the homeschool arena. My children are young, but we are also using MUS, Handwritting without tears and some phonics/reading stuff. Otherwise it’s tons of read-alouds. Again, thank you for your thoughts. I look forward to discussing it with my husband!

  7. Susan PA says:

    Okay, so I’m a detail person. I am extremely curious about PRECISELY what you mean by “a ‘fake’ version of FIAR” — do you use FIAR books but not their manual, or their manual for ideas but not “five days in a row,” or you read whatever you like, BUT five days in a row, or…??

    And I’m curious about what you mean by using TruthQuest, but not the way it was intended. How DO you use it?

    I’ve never personally even looked at Math-U-See — wasn’t a need here and came out after we’d already gotten well-started (at least, I think so)…but what other math are you using (email me privately if you like *grin*) — just curious. And is doing math a morning or an afternoon pursuit?

    Are you thinking any of your children are likely to go to college? Or NOT likely? Or…?? And do you do “higher level math” (or science) — algebra, geometry, trig, calculus…?? or NOT because no need or interest or whatever…?? Just CURIOUS, that’s all.

    I understand the state where you live is very unspecific about what home educators must do. The state where I happen to reside is fairly specific about some things — must have at least algebra and geometry, etc. etc… I have never found it a problem, because contrary to hype, there IS a lot of flexibility built into the law…but that flexibility only goes so far. Ie., it is possible to practice “creative record-keeping,” and I don’t even particularly have a problem with it…but it would be tough to give up certain subjects altogether.

    See, and I have 3 boys in college, and I think they were supposed to be there…to the best of our knowledge/wisdom from God…and I did want them prepared for that “academically.”

    Just wondering, that’s all. No criticism meant in any way. I think your lifestyle sounds cool.

    Sorry for so many questions.

    Susan PA (mama to 8)

  8. Michelle says:

    Hey, just got back from the library…had the librarian fairly drooling over TQ. We walked out of there with 24 books; good thing I brought the skid loader ;o) ;o). (For those of you who don’t know me, I’m not being overly demanding, it’s just that we live quite a distance from the library and I’m stocking up.)

    I printed out the post earlier this morning to read/mull when I had a moment and John walks into the bathroom while I’m taking a shower. “Hey, did you see this post by Dawn? It sounds kinda cool!” Your fan base is growning!

    So…since I have a couple who are looking at Algebra next year and we’re using MUS for Pre-Alg this year, what ARE

  9. Michelle says:

    you using? (premature posting…I think there might be a pill for that…

  10. Javadawn says:

    Michelle, (I’ll work my way up) I will check the math program we’re using, but honestly, when we realized MUC wasn’t going to work for our algebra self-instruction, we just got on Rainbow Resource and bought the math program we could afford. Is it the best? No, probably not, but it’s what Father provided for us, so we will do it with joy. 🙂 As for the premature posting? You’re on your own, Babe. 😉 (PS John chatting with you about homeschooling, while you’re showering??? We call that “Party in the Bathroom”!!! at my house)

    Mama 8) If any of our children are called to college – and at this point, only our oldest has made the assertation that college is not for her – we will help them accomplish all that they would need to get into the school that they are interested in. BUT, let me give you a quick pic of what we found happening….by opening the doors for our kiddos to do some study on their own, our children have begun studying things we’d never ask of them. One child is self-learning German, just because. Our eldest went auto-didactic on us and just “picked up” Trig….just for fun.
    So, even though we aren’t requiring it of them, when they decide that they are wanting to learn, they have the ability to go out there and gain the information for themselves. I have no doubts, whatsoever, that should our children decide that they want to learn something, in order to go to college, that they would go after it. (Including higher math or science) OH – and math is an afternoon subject. 🙂
    TQ – I use it for me. I am the one that reads the guides, so that I’m equipped to lead our family discussion over whatever book we’re reading aloud. (Our oldest is on a different history reading program right now – she is reading “History Through the Eyes of Faith,” followed by “How Should We Then Live,” followed by…I can’t remember what comes after that. We (J & I) read them as well and we discuss them with her. The rest of the crew simply uses them as suggested reading, for whatever historical mood they happen to be in. (We have an extensive home library, most of which was gleaned from TQ’s reading suggestions.)
    FIAR – we use their book suggestions. I read it to the girls on Monday and then another sibling covers T-R. (We don’t do school quite the same way on Fridays, because Daddy is home.) In addition, an older sibling that would like to be a teacher, takes the science, art and social studies portions and teaches them to her siblings….for fun. (See? Pretty much faking it) 🙂

    Hello….did anyone stick with me?? Am I just out here yapping to myself?? Hello?!!!! Oh, I guess I am. Uh, well, goodnight…


  11. Javadawn says:

    Heidi – SORRY – you were hidden there behind all that yapping I just did –

    I think it sounds WONDERFULLY exciting to be having Daddy come home. That is our prayer these days, that the Lord would allow that to happen in short order. 🙂 (I have something to share with you soon about that….I hope you’ll be as excited to read about it, as I am to tell you.) 😉

  12. Mrs. Nehemiah says:

    thanks for this post, I’ve been “drooling” over TruthQuest for a couple of weeks now. it looks like it will fit into our lifestyle. and if not I’ll bend *it*, not us.
    DH just gave me leave to spend more on curriculum than I EVER have before, so I’m trying to spend wisely.

    I loved this post. thanks for the window into your day.
    Mrs N

  13. Dawn – I’m behind on my reading (honey, I’m behind on everything!), but I am loving these posts. It is extremely important to me to teach my littles to use their time wisely. Not that they’re never allowed to goof off, but I have struggled (and still struggle) with time management to the point that it’s prevented me from doing things that I knew God was calling me to do. I don’t want that for my kids. I think you’re idea of giving kids thier own time and holding them accountable for how it’s spent is excellent!

  14. Melanie says:

    So, Dawn, just how are you holding the dc accountable? Just the dinner table discussions? something more concrete? are they recording time spent/subjects studied/etc.??

    And, how do you plan to put this on a transcript?? 😮

    [no, no fear of man here! 😉 Just curious! and I’m an accountant by nature… we love paper trails — and I’m horrible at time management myself :s ]

  15. Melanie says:

    Mrs. N,
    fwiw… Welcome to TQ 🙂
    It’s pretty flexible and soooo worthwhile to have MM’s commentary
    jmho 😉

  16. Lynn says:


    I loved this post. Thank you. It’s given me much to mull over. Right now I just have one question, though… what is TruthQuest? I’m off to google it.


  17. molleth says:

    Dawn, you are an ENTJ if I’ve ever seen one…
    This is a great post. 🙂
    The ENTP who’s almost an ENTJ, if it weren’t for that pesky unmanageable P!

  18. javadawn says:

    Molly, wouldn’t an ENTJ be able to remember what being an ENTJ means?!!! (Didn’t the T mean THINKING?!!!) I can’t even remember all that I read about it. Maybe I’m just a DITZ pretending to look like a ENTJ? 🙂

    Lynn, if you haven’t found it already TruthQuest are history guides written by Michelle Miller. They have helped me a great deal be able to understand what was going on in history at any given time. (Just don’t ask me that this morning, okay?) 😉

    Melanie, WELLLLLLL, (do you hear an ANSWER coming?) 😆 I just found something that I believe we will be using as a tool for this process. I met Joanne Calderwood (a heart sistah) who has a site called URMom. She teaches on self-teaching and I found her book to be very delightful and soothing to read. (There were times I felt like I was reading “myself” though) 😀 She introduced me to their student planners. They seem like they would be a good tool.

    Up until now, I’ve just created my own forms. Which, we check on Fridays, before Family Movie time. (Okay – full disclosure….when we remember to. If I forget, when I go to help them plan their next week, I can quickly see what they didn’t complete and they then have both weeks’ work to accomplish.)

    Having said that, after reading Joanne’s book, I’m really tempted/toying with only checking their work every few weeks. Because I want them to get away with laziness? Nah. Because I want them to understand the depth of their choices. In the real world, no one is going to be there to check their work weekly – real life lets the choices you make bring about the natural consequences…..we’re praying about making that the standard here, too.

  19. javadawn says:

    Oh and Lynn, I love Michelle Miller. 🙂 She is the author. (Not that I don’t love other curriculum authors out there….Marcia Somerville comes to mind immediately….)

  20. Melanie says:

    I found Joanne Calderwood’s site — tried to google URMom, but that didn’t work –> use her name instead. Interesting stuff!
    I make our our weekly assignment sheets here too. I used to buy lesson planner books (just like mine) for each school-age dc, but then you have to WRITE everything in them. If I make word docs, I can fill in subjects/textbooks etc. and have the printer do that much work. A friend started making her pages into books (binding them at Staples I think) for her high schoolers — AND she filled them out for the entire school year. I think it worked alright, but obviously the interruptions of life make them a little messy in the end… I’ve been thinking about doing it anyway — altho’ the idea of dd filling the thing out *herself* weekly is even more appealing!

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