Homeschooling – More Than Books!

The longer I homeschool the more I realize that homeschooling is not just about the books. It isn’t just about teaching the kids their math facts or logic. It isn’t just about reading all the classics. It isn’t just about learning politics, world history, and even that which is beyond our world. Homeschooling is about something much simpler than all that. Homeschool is about teaching our children how to truly live in this life they’ve all been blessed with. It’s about learning life skills.


Of course homeschool includes all the ‘normal’ schoolwork, but it also includes so. much. more! Having the chance to be with our children during those times when most children are in traditional school gives us homeschooling families an extremely unique opportunity. Our children are blessed with the gift of learning life skills in a much greater quantity which will help them in their own lives as adults. This is especially important for children who have any kind of disability no matter how large or small that disability may be.

Here is an example:

My daughter, who has Asperger’s, has some motor planning problems (among other things) and lacks some common sense. Prior to this last one or two years, she couldn’t tie her shoes, braid, open up a can of food, unscrew certain lids which weren’t difficult, wash her own hair, dress her self correctly, do any amount of kitchen work, acknowledge certain unsafe situations, etc.  Through much diligence from my husband and myself, she has been able to overcome some great obstacles.

Last summer, I decided that if she were to ever mature into adulthood – complete with moving out, having a family, or going to college – she would definitely need to know many other skills that don’t fit into any school transcript or standardized test. I’m talking about cooking, cleaning, laundry, menu planning, budgeting, navigating the town, how to handle emergency situations, time management, etc. Of course, if she were in regular school, she would still get some of this, but not near what she truly needs to be successful in living a successful, independent life.

I have started introducing her to many life skills even though they are very challenging for her. Thankfully, God has blessed me with a stubborn streak, or we never would have gotten over the first obstacle. ;)

Over the last several months we’ve been focusing on cooking.

This serves many purposes. When one learns to cook, they not only benefit themselves, they are also able to bless others. I also believe that it is great therapy for kids who struggle with motor planning problems. There are many times when both hands are needed or one needs to cross the midline to do a cooking task. It requires some physical strength, mental focus, and time management skills as well.

Mastering cooking skills is time-consuming and more times than not, kitchen mishaps are a normal occurrence. When one has a learning disability, acquiring a certain skill isn’t something that comes quickly or easily. It takes a ton of practice, sometimes requiring the person to perform the task hundreds of times before there is any light at the end of the tunnel. Even the simplest of tasks like taking the twisty off the bread bag, opening the spice container or a ziplock bag, opening the milk, or dumping cereal into a bowl can require days and days of practice to figure it out.

On most days, I have my daughter make breakfast. To some this may seem mean, but I see it as a unique learning opportunity that she would never get if she was always having to hastily catch the school bus. It took her a month or two of repeated practice to learn how to crack the eggs without crushing the egg in her hand. It has taken several more months for her to remember things like turning the burner off or limiting the amount of pepper and salt in the meal. Learning how to stir the eggs without sloshing it all out of the pan proved to be yet another challenge.

I’ve had my share of ‘interesting’ egg inventions. But, after a season, she can make scrambled eggs well – most of the time. Toast was a lesson all its own. Buttering bread is not an easy skill for someone with motor planning issues, but after months of practice, she can now do that too.

Another thing that became her responsibility was packing our family lunch on our homeschool co-op day. After an entire year of practice, we can count on having a ‘normal’ lunch which actually tastes good. Recently, she randomly took it upon herself to make the family spaghetti. Even though it tasted terrible the family ate every last noodle. She was so proud of herself. She has since done this meal several times….every time it gets better and better.

I believe insisting that my daughter learn these skills has not only provided her with another tool for adulthood, but also helped her gain some much needed confidence.  I think she is realizing that she can actually take care of herself and even others.

A few of the learning skills on my ‘life skills list’ are things like:

  • Laundry and other chores
  • Meal Planning
  • Taking care of the animals
  • Scheduling
  • Grocery Shopping
  • Budgeting
  • Personal hygiene
  • First aid/CPR
  • Street Smarts training (avoiding being the victim)

There are so many other things that need to be learned. Our next obstacle will be learning how to do the laundry. This one might be more about me not wanting to do it anymore but either way, it is an important step towards adulthood!

If there was one main thing I would make sure is happening, it would be to not do for your children what they can learn to do themselves. Insist they do it. Even if it takes them 5 minutes to do what would take you 10 seconds, keep up that stubborn streak. Don’t give in because it’s easier if you do it. If they struggle, walk them through it patiently. If they have motor problems, help with hand placement and think outside the box to get the skill learned. With diligence, this is going to be a very important part of your homeschool experience!

Again, homeschooling has more to do with life and less to do with books.

What are you doing in your homeschool that has nothing to do with typical school? Please share your experience!

Heather F (3 Posts)

Heather is a Christian gal who lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where she married her high school sweetheart, Levi, 2001. She is newer to homeschool and tries to “keep it simple” while teaching her three “active” children with Classical Conversations. Heather also juggles the responsibilities of being a part-time emergency room RN and police officer’s wife. She has a reputation of creating kitchen disasters, but loves collecting new recipes and learning about natural, holistic living. She is also a wanna-be urban homesteader and has a bunch of chickens, a couple goats, and a rabbit!

***SUNFLOWERS UNIT STUDY * New from SEE THE LIGHT 66 pages of dynamic, integrated, comprehensive instruction for an entire month for the student ages 10 and up. $9.99 -***

What if my kid’s specialist says, “No, Don’t Homeschool!”?!

When our 8-year-old was just a tiny tyke, not even a year old, one of his specialists said homeschooling him would be a mistake.  We were already teaching our oldest (now 14, he was in 2nd grade at the time) at home.

You see, Peter has a very visible, but virtually unheard of, medical condition called Lamellar Ichthyosis.  His skin doesn’t shed in microscopic bits the way yours or mine does, causing him to develop thick, itchy scales on his scalp, his neck, his torso, and other parts of his body.  This leads to physical discomfort and various medical issues, as well as an unusual appearance.

What if my kid's special says, "Don't Homeschool" ?

His dermatologist was worried that if he learned at home, we would overprotect him, keep him away from prying eyes, and stunt his ability to cope with the stares and questions of outsiders.

What if he couldn’t learn how to deal with the world as it is?  What if he didn’t develop coping mechanisms for coping with being teased?  Or not being accepted by his peers?

Indeed.  Better to see yourself through the eyes of outsiders who don’t know you instead of the ones who love you early on, right?

I admit it.  I went into Mama Bear mode.

My oldest son, who has no physical difficulties, felt unaccepted at school and this was a large part of the reason we brought him home.  He woke up every morning crying and begging not to go to school.  The school was not meeting his needs academically and he was being bullied.  Endless teacher conferences, both on the phone and in person, had done nothing to solve the situation.  My being present at the school as a volunteer made no difference.

I did not want my younger son to experience that on a daily basis.   I was not going to send  him into the wilds of the schoolyard in the hope that he would learn to cope.

I disagree with the idea that tearing kids down early on will help them grow to be better adults.

I also admit that my personal experience did have a tremendous impact on my view of the situation.   As an adult who was relentlessly bullied at school, right up until 9th grade, I can say that being bullied doesn’t necessarily make you stronger.

It can leave you broken.

But at the same time, I understood the dermatologist’s point-of-view.  She was not the only expert to offer this advice, and I think it stems from a big misconception about homeschoolers.

The average person doesn’t know what you do all day.

Sketching the pondIt’s true, y’all!  The person on the street who’s never homeschooled, whether they support what you do or think it should be illegal…they don’t get it.  Your Mom doesn’t get it.  If you’re married, your spouse (if he or she is not actively homeschooling) probably doesn’t get it.  Shoot, I didn’t get it until I was doing it.

I’m still getting it.

It is likely that many of them envision your kids sitting in a room at little desks all day with no one but themselves for company and no one but you as an authority.  And I suppose there probably are some homeschools like that.

You and I know that every homeschool is different, though, right?

But the human imagination is limited.  It tends to conjure up derivatives of what it already knows.

You can readily see this when you watch a Sci-Fi flick.  The aliens tend to look like humanoids that have been changed in some way.  Things like flying cars appear for transport, looking remarkably similar to the cars we drive right now.

If you watch an older (say, circa 60s) film, you may see a handheld computer that looks exactly like an iPad—yep, I’m saying that tablets were probably first imagined by movie makers.  Not an original idea at all.

So, when you say you “homeschool,” and what does that conjure up in the minds of those who don’t?

Homeschool kids in a treeThoughts of school, I would imagine.  Maybe a room with desks and 30 minutes of recess.

They may not know that you eat lunch at the park when the weather is fine.  That the kids know all the librarians by name (at 2 or 3 different libraries) and easily ask them for help finding the book they are looking for.

Maybe you spend more of your day out of the house than in?

Maybe the idea of sitting still at a desk all day is as foreign to your kids as bell bottoms?

Maybe people don’t realize that your special kid is learning to cope with stares and difficult questions from strangers, but on his own terms.

It’s easier to learn to swim a bit at a time, rather than to be thrown into water over your head all at once and sink.

My son has grown so much in his social skills and his awareness of self.  There was a time when he didn’t want to be around other people.  Now he plays on the playground, participates in Cub Scouts, goes to club activities at our local homeschool group…all on his own terms.

We haven’t hidden him away from the world.  We’ve challenged him.  We’ve nurtured him.  We’ve accepted him, just as he is.

Is school necessarily bad for kids with special medical needs?

Nope—every situation is unique.  Schools vary so widely from place to place and a child’s specific needs will also vary widely.  In our particular situation, the school options were limited and not ideal for our child’s needs.  The schools were not able to offer him things he needed that we could offer him at home.

I want to reassure parents that if their child’s specialists are recommending school, that advice may be based upon some misconceptions about homeschooling.  You know your child best.  If, after researching the available options, you find that teaching your child at home will best meet his needs—go for it!

You can give him the support he needs without stifling his growth.

May is Ichthyosis Awareness Month!

Peter’s condition is very rare and often misunderstood.  It affects him not only physically, but psychologically due to the way it is perceived by the public.  I invite you to find out more about Peter’s personal journey with Lamellar Ichthysosis here.

Do you homeschool a kid with special medical needs?  Did your child’s specialists support that decision?


Susan Anadale (5 Posts)

Susan is a wife, a mother, a Catholic, a teacher, a writer, a philosopher, a seamstress, a maker of things, an imaginer of worlds...I blog about our lifelong journey through learning at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds (my brain on the web).

***SUNFLOWERS UNIT STUDY * New from SEE THE LIGHT 66 pages of dynamic, integrated, comprehensive instruction for an entire month for the student ages 10 and up. $9.99 -***

Just “Doing Something”: A Tale of Autism


I was half a mile from home when my cell phone rang. “Hello?”

“Hi Mom. Are towels made of cotton?” My 13-year old and his questions. Always, questions.

“Yes usually, why?” I replied.

“I was just wondering.”

“Are you done with your math yet?”


“So you’re not done with your math?”

“Not really. No.” As if I didn’t already know the answer to that. “Well I’ll be home in 2 minutes so get to work.”

“OK Bye.”

Just "Doing Something": A Tale of Autism

I clicked off my speaker phone and made my way home. I walked in to discover my son in the laundry room.

OH. Cotton towels. He was moving them from the washer to the dryer. Isn’t it funny how often we jump to conclusions? I really had thought my son was just stalling on his schoolwork, which is NOT unusual for him, but he was doing something.

That makes it okay, right?

But he’s always just doing something. 

Just checking the mail. Just feeding the dogs. Just getting a pen for me (because he heard me say something about not having one in the kitchen.) Just….

Always just SOMETHING. And it’s always so he can avoid something else.

Here’s the thing. He has Autism. He is attentive to a fault. The boy cannot simply turn off input. Any input. He knows what is happening in the house at all times. He hears all conversations (and acts on them, even if he was not asked to.) Due to this, he is probably the most distractable kid I’ve ever had, and we had six. 

He’s a joy and a challenge, all bundled up in a tall (taller than me!) boy with a gentle disposition and sweet brown eyes. The boy who is so innocent he honestly still believed in Santa and the Easter bunny until just the past few months. (I’m off the hook! Wahoo!)

How do you teach a kid what he needs to know to graduate high school when he can’t keep his rear in a chair or his head on any one subject for more than five minutes? How do we bring this young man through these last few years, assigning credits and accumulating work that proves his transcript, when he is limited to keyboarding ALL written work?

Welcome to my world. But I know it can be done.

I know it will be done, by God’s grace and provision. I have never been so nervous about taking on a high schooler as I am with this boy, but God’s plans for him will beat mine every time.

April is Autism Awareness Month. Do you love someone with Autism?

The Momma Knows

Dawn (24 Posts)

Dawn is still happily homeschooling after 16 years. She teaches her two sons, 13 & 11, enjoying every minute of "the second time around". She lives in Eastern Washington with her husband, the youngest 2 of their 6 kids, and an assortment of barking, squeaking, and clucking critters. She writes at her homeschool/parenting blog The Momma Knows and her new chapter, Dawn Marie Perkins. You can also find her on Twitter @DawnMPerkins, , and Pinterest.

***SUNFLOWERS UNIT STUDY * New from SEE THE LIGHT 66 pages of dynamic, integrated, comprehensive instruction for an entire month for the student ages 10 and up. $9.99 -***