River, Lily and Canyon preparing to take an airplane flight over our city.

By Jennifer Smeltser

I never in my life planned to homeschool. When I first learned about homeschooling, which was years before I was married and had children, it sounded like some type of weird and extremist way of raising kids. Coming from a traditional public school background, I knew that was the route I would take, when, and, if I had children. My elementary school years were some of the best, and I believe it is during that time a seed was planted that would later lead me to welcome the challenge, and the opportunity, to homeschool.

It was my sixth grade year and my teacher, “Hoff,” took school outdoors one day. He placed us all under a tree, opened a book and began to read. I felt rebellious, because school belonged inside a classroom, but I listened. I felt relaxed, but remained engaged. I was not sitting at a desk surrounded by four walls, but I was outside, under a tree, enjoying God’s surroundings—and I was learning.

Left: Canyon and River reading under our favorite tree. Right: River, Canyon and Lily outside of the Shubert Theatre in New York where they saw Matilda the Musical.

Even before that moment, I had always enjoyed being outdoors. Without discounting the value of learning at home with family as we do, I also realize we are not limited to learning only at home. There is so much to learn outside of our four walls. Learning could be as close as walking out to your backyard or as far as traveling the world. I must admit that it is my nature (pardon the pun) to be outdoors.

Fortunately, my children have adopted my perspective on learning wherever we are and have been willing participants as we learn together.

One of the many issues my husband and I discussed before we were married was how we intended to educate our children. By the time I met him, I was ready to settle down and have children. Homeschooling was a more appealing way of leading the children we would later have. I did not know how many children there would be, but I knew I wanted to get out and let them experience many of the things I enjoyed as a child.

Left: River, Canyon and Lily outside of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Right: Canyon, River and Lily outside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

We have been blessed with three children: River, who is 10; Lily, who is nine; and Canyon, who is six. It is amazing to realize we have been homeschooling for six years. I consider myself a newbie because I am still trying to figure out what it is I am really doing.

The years we have been at this “homeschooling thing” have not led me any closer to truly defining our homeschool style. When asked, I make it easy on myself and say we are eclectic with a little bit of Charlotte Mason mixed in. So far, it has worked for our family.

Our definition of homeschooling has given me permission to take our learning outside of our home and not feel guilty about the lack of table time we spend indoors. Some of the outside experiences we have enjoyed include: a private airplane flight (free-falling included with me screaming), meeting our governor and our county and local mayors, seeing the Broadway play Matilda The Musical in New York (in which my sister, Karen Aldridge, is starring as Mrs. Phelps), walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, visiting the 9/11 Memorial, visiting the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and enjoying our yards. Plus, we enjoy the freedom to treat every place we go as a learning experience – even if it is not inside the traditional four walls.

Left: River and Lily at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis after seeing Hitler’s Daughter. Right: Lily swimming in a creek.

I would love to say our decision to homeschool came after many days and nights of fasting and praying, but instead, it was just something my husband and I knew we would do with our children. I do feel confident enough to say that God placed it on our hearts and we just went with it, with no questions asked. It just seemed the right thing to do at the time and we will continue to do so, until He leads us in a different direction. I am rallying for going all the way through high school with all three children, because I am having a blast. If you homeschool, you know there is nothing else like it, and I believe it is worth every white hair that continues to sprout on my head. The time I get to spend with my children every day as we learn together is something I will always cherish.

Our outdoor classroom for almost six months out of the year.

Are you wondering if we ever stay at home and learn? Of course we do. I do not do very well outside during the winter months. Some of our favorite curriculum and resources include Apologia Bible and Science, Awana, edHelper.com, First Language Lessons, Five in a Row, Institute for Excellence in Writing (Primary Arts of Language and Student Writing Intensive), Math Essentials, Math Mammoth, Netflix, RightStart Math and we are avid readers. Some of the new products we are trying this school year are America the Beautiful by the Notgrass Company, Christian Kids Explore Chemistry, Easy Grammar and Homeschool Programming, Inc.

Managing homeschooling has been a task for me, but we continue to meet the challenge. My children and I have been a review family for The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew for the past three years, which has introduced us to many quality products that have been incorporated into our school. I also work as a journalist and manage Homeschool Roster, a homeschool event and field trip blog for West Tennessee homeschoolers encouraging them to get out of the house and learn.

Every day of homeschooling is a learning experience for my children and me. This opportunity continues to allow me to practice my skills in diligence, patience, organization and also to appreciate all of the moments we have together—even when it comes to telling them the same thing for a fifth time or literally cleaning up spilled milk. I count it all a blessing and thank God for the opportunity and what He has set before me.

Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November-December 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Do you want to share a day-in-the-life of your homeschool or play Q&A with me (I will provide the questions)? Let HLA share what your homeschool looks like. E-mail Jennifer Smeltser.

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©2017 HomeLife Academy. Article by Jennifer Smeltser. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the publisher /.