A Day in the Life #2: The Ceilidh/Dunlap Family

This is our second Day In The Life series post!!! If you would like to participate, send your answers to the questions below to us and include some pictures if you are willing to share them. We are excited about showcasing the diversity of our community!

How did you decide to homeschool, and how long have you been at it?

When I was 18 I discovered Grace Llewellyn’s Teenage Liberation Handbook and felt she was saying everything I’d been trying to tell my parents. I decided then that if I ever had kids I’d try homeschooling them!

Our family has been through major life changes including divorce, single parenthood, remarriage, and job changes. Somehow we managed to homeschool through it all!

We homeschooled through remarriage & many other life changes
We’ve homeschooled through remarriage & many other life changes

How do you describe your homeschooling style, and how has it changed over the years?

We started off with a radical unschooling approach and became more eclectic over the years – including activities like Camp Fire, Village Home classes, Life of Fred, and many, many park days! We started off completely under the radar – we did not register with the ESD or do the state-mandated testing.

She makes selfies look like art!
She makes selfies look like art!
Our daughter is now 16. She homeschooled until 8th grade, when she decided to try out a small charter school with a friend. She moved on to a huge high school continued there through the first half of sophomore year. She has spent the second semester going to choir and art at the school but doing her other classes on-line; she plans to return to school full time next year. She spends a lot of her time playing music and doing hair and makeup – all potential career options for her.

Our son is 14. This year he’s been learning through Connections Academy. He plans to continue with it next year and start community college the following year. This means we are now officially public schoolers. We still consider ourselves homeschoolers because school is taking place at home and we are using the public resources available in our own way, on our terms. We are in control of our own time and still actively participate in the homeschool community.

Do you have a typical day, week, or month? If so, what does it look like? If not, please elaborate?

We have a rhythm to our weeks and months but not a typical day per se. We go to some monthly activities like Teen Game Day, art tours, and Chess Club; weekly activities like Science Club, Homeschool Jump, and church; and some activities several times a week, like Parkour. We fill in with park days and one-time trips and activities. Our son even taught a weekly Rubik’s cube solving class for a while. We have also hosted other activities, like Money Club and Writing Group while interest lasted. Our daughter (is supposed to) get up and be working on her classes by 10 AM, then she goes to the school for her classes in the afternoon. She sometimes tags along on her brother’s activities, too.

Homeschool kids hanging out at park day.
Homeschool kids hanging out at park day. Still worried about socialization?

Our son goes back to his dad’s house for 3 days a week, and our daughter goes back to his place just for Friday nights and Saturdays due to her class schedule. One of the best things about homeschooling throughout the years is that we’ve been able to make sure the kids still get time with their dad despite the fact that he lives in another city and has an unusual work schedule.

It wasn’t a conscious decision for us to start focused academic study in 8th grade, but that’s just what ended up feeling right to each of the kids when they reached that developmental stage. So around all those activities, school-work must happen! Since we have chosen to get our curriculum through public charters at this point, we have to deal with their deadlines and testing. So most days the kids each spend at least three hours working on their classes. Some days they spend much longer, other days we just do fun stuff.

As for me, I no longer have a job outside the home. That means that I’m available to run them around and deal with the cooking and cleaning. The kids have some responsibilities in that area, too. My wife is a high school science teacher, so our family is now very tied to the school schedule. This is a new development of the past three years. Before she started that job we loved being able to do family outings in the off-season!

What’s your biggest homeschooling challenge?

School At Home
School At Home
This has shifted a lot over the years. Right now the biggest challenge is finding the time to focus on the academics. We just have so much social stuff and so many activities going on. Last year, when we had first moved to Salem and SIH didn’t exist yet, we had a very hard time finding other kids and activities for our very social son. So the dreaded “socialization” was actually an issue. But thanks to the internet and all the local families who are participating we now have the opposite “problem!”

When the kids were very little, the biggest challenge was that they each had such different personalities and needs, but I couldn’t just leave one home when the other had an activity like I can now! For a while after my divorce, the biggest challenge was staying in alignment with our kids’ dad on how we were approaching things. That has gotten much better. And finances are definitely a challenge. There were times when I was working and homeschooling, which meant more money but less time. We are very fortunate that I am able to stay home now, but that does mean we are just getting by on a very limited income. There has been a huge opportunity cost in terms of my career which we will feel the effects of for decades to come.

What does your family like most about homeschooling?

Freedom. It’s a mindset. Even though we are now participating in the public school system through online charters, my wife’s job, and some of our daughter’s activities, it is still our family’s choice. We know we can make changes if we need to.

Enjoying the off-season
Enjoying the off-season

We are also very grateful that throughout the kids’ younger years we were able to do our own thing on our own terms. Our son was a very “late” reader – he only had pre-reading skills at age 10. Dietary changes and developmental leaps meant that in three short months he made up for all that. Now he excels in language arts! But we didn’t have to fill those years where he couldn’t read with intense interventions, or hold him back from learning other subjects and pursuing his interests. We were able to accommodate him without pathologizing him in a way that would have been impossible had we been involved in the school system.

Ukulele Selfie
Ukulele Time
Our daughter had extreme anxiety issues (among some other things) when she was younger that prevented her from participating in typical activities. We were able to take it slow and let her learn to interact with others on her own time-table because we were homeschooling. Had she been in school, medication would have been absolutely necessary. We were able to avoid all that. She did eventually develop the independence needed to do activities without my participation or medication.

What are your favorite Salem area resources?

For me it’s all about the facebook groups! Being able to connect with people who have similar approaches and interests has been great.

Please share a final thought or some words of wisdom for new homeschoolers

You don’t have to know everything to homeschool your kids. If you aren’t well-versed in a subject, you can learn along with your kids, or get help from someone else in the community. If you aren’t finding the social world you are looking for, you can reach out and create it. And learning doesn’t have to look like school. In fact, the best learning often doesn’t.

Silly Selfie at Wierd Al's Concert
Silly Selfie at Wierd Al’s Concert