The great educator Charlotte Mason says that when we put children in direct contact with great ideas and get out of the way, “Teachers shall teach less and scholars shall learn more.” Any homeschooling parent who has observed her own children for any length of time will know this to be true. Real learning happens when our children wrestle directly with great ideas- not as a result of our repackaging those great ideas, but when they interact with the ideas themselves.”
Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace
Today’s homeschool chat is with Stephanie Radcliffe, who has been married for almost 11 years to her husband Wes & is a momma to 4 children – Ages almost 6, 4, 2, & 6 months. She is a believer and Christ-follower and they live in Orlando, FL. She taught for 5 years before staying home with her children. Stephanie has a passion for teaching, creating, writing, & coffee. ☕️
They will begin homeschooling through a hybrid in August for her oldest son for kindergarten. Stephanie loves sharing her passion for learning at home, creating gentle learning rhythms, & helping families thrive. She creates early learning resources in her shop Stories Begin At Home. Her hope & prayer is to encourage mothers in their motherhood journey & to provide Gospel-Centered resources along the way. I have listed below all her social media accounts , where you can find her :
1. Tell us a bit about your family and your child/ children
I have been married for 10.5 years and we live in Florida. We have 4 children, a 5.5 boy, 4 year old girl, 2 year old boy, and 3.5 month old girl. I was a public school teacher and child development major before having children and becoming a stay at home mother. I now stay home with my children and run a small early learning, Christian-based Etsy shop on the side.
2. What was your main reason for choosing to home educate your children ?
My oldest child currently goes to a small church preschool 3x a week and my youngest 3 are at home full time with me. We are choosing a homeschool hybrid school for my oldest this coming school year. We delayed kindergarten a year because of his late summer birthday. We wanted to give him another year of preschool to give him familiarity, freedom, and space. We looked at the big picture of his schooling experience and felt he would only benefit from having another year to gain confidence and develop willingness. He has thrived with this decision and we couldn’t be more thrilled!
The hybrid we have chosen is Christian-based and he will attend 2x a week. We have chosen this method for a variety of reasons. We want our son to be able to be with our family more than a traditional school schedule would allow. We want to give him the space and freedom to learn with a flexible schedule. We want him to have a gentle approach in his formative years and don’t want him to feel pressured to learn at a certain pace, with a certain style, or be pressured for testing too early. I want to have say in the curriculum choices and want to be involved in the educational process of my children. I also like the Christian based aspect of the hybrid-school we have chosen. I also enjoy being in community with like-minded families, enjoy having other teachers who come around us as a family and teach my children in a fun and creative way and enable me to be a part of it all. Right now, the plan is to send my 4 year old daughter to the same pre-k my son attends, she will only attend 3x a week.
3. What does a “typical” home school day look like for your family ?
I am not very structured at all right now as the kids are still quite young. We do a lot of just living life together & habit training (Charlotte Mason). We do whatever it is that fits us for the day. Sometimes that looks like errand days and playgrounds. Other days it looks like play dates with friends or nature walks near our home. Sometimes it is a bike ride in our neighborhood or a swim day. Sometimes it looks like crafts and semi-formal lessons at the table with reading and activities I have prepped and prepared during breakfast/morning time or “tea time” in the afternoon. But these are usually very short and I go with their attention spans and interests. We also cook/bake together a lot. We are very involved with friends, family, and our church we attend. Sometimes we follow along with other mommas in our internet homeschool community and use curriculums loosely such as Exploring Nature with Children/The Peaceful Preschool. This is mostly very recent and again, I want to emphasize loosely. I don’t follow anything with a formula or consistently yet, but plan to do so a little more for Kindergarten. We are interested in The Good & The Beautiful for Reading/Language Arts and possibly Master Books for Mathematics. I’m still deciding these things.
4. What type of a home educator are you ( structured , semi structured , unschooling , classical , Charlotte Mason , Steiner , Montessori etc ) ?
Right now Right now I am semi-structured/unschooling in their early years. Next year, when we start the hybrid for my son for Kindergarten, we will do Math/Reading on our home days and I will add in the other subjects as I see fit and wish to. He will do thematic studies that are literature based with art, social studies, science/STEM, and physical education at his hybrid school, all biblically based. I will still be loose and gentle as I am a big Charlotte Mason fan and want him to have a lot of freedom and gentleness to his Kindergarten year.
5)What do you love the most about home schooling ?
I love being able to go at each individual child’s pace and being able to choose what works best for him/her. I love being together more and figuring out what works best for our family.
6) Do you do morning time/ symposium / circle time ?
Sometimes. We read books or do crafts during breakfast or right after breakfast, but not always. I follow their lead and if it fits with their mood and interest level, we go for it!
7) What is your favourite subject to teach and what is your least one ?
I love teaching reading, my oldest is an emergent reader and I love reading with him and seeing the lightbulbs go off in his head as he begins to learn to read. I don’t enjoy teaching math, in the higher levels, but enjoy it in the younger years.
8)What do you find challenging when it comes to home schooling your children ?
Feeling the pressure that it is all up to me and feeling conflicted if I am making the right decision for each child. Also having 4 little ones so young and close in age can present a lot of challenges as well, including exhaustion on my part, at times. My oldest is very strong-willed (spirited!). I often get concerned about clashing with him and what that will look like. Finding the balance between sometimes we have to do things we don’t like versus the beauty of homeschool, we can put it away and come back to it when we feel better/are ready for it. But I have loved seeing how the gentle approach thus far and letting him lead the way has benefited him so very much!
9) How do you find time for yourself/ self care etc ?
My husband is very supportive and allows me time in the evening and/or weekend to go to the coffee shop to get work done or to just be. We take a lot of walks to get out and because I am an extrovert, I make sure I am involved with other moms and friends at our preschool and church. We often go to parks with friends after preschool and I am able to socialize and find other moms who are like-minded. Many of the moms who go to our current preschool are planning to homeschool or already do.
10 What are some of your favourite homeschooling related books?
The Brave Learner, Teaching From Rest, The Read-Aloud Revival, Wild + Free, For the Children’s Sake, Charlotte Mason
11) How do you deal with unsupportive family , relatives and friends ?
I usually vent to my husband who quickly assures me that it doesn’t matter what they think and that we feel confident in our decisions and reminds me why. Or I talk to a friend who understands. I read something inspirational from an Instagram account I follow who has gone through similar comments/experiences and most of all I pray about what decisions we are making as a family. I also reassure myself that it is okay for people to not understand or agree and give them permission not to, but also often try to use my passion for home educating as a positive light to people and to encourage moms who want to and think they can’t that there is community to be found if they really want to do so!
12) Where do you see your home schooling journey in 5 years’ time ?
I have no idea! I say one kid, one year at a time! Right now I would love for all 4 of my children to at the hybrid school, but we will see!
13) What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start home educating their children ?
To find community, to be confident, and to find the way they wish to do it! To work hard not to compare and to be confident in what they believe is best for their family and each individual child. Not to be anti-school or anti-support because there are wonderful schools and supports out there! And to take it one year at time, one child at a time and to know they can change their minds! I know families who home educate some of their children and send some of them to school. Some home educate when they are young, then send them to school later. I encourage parents considering homeschooling to know that they have options and to research their options. I do not believe there is one right way (or that homeschooling is for everyone). But I do want to be a cheerleader for parents to know that they can find alternative routes to education if the traditional form isn’t what they’re looking for. I want to encourage them that “the experts” don’t always know better and that their voice as parents matters.
14) Imagine your children 20 years into the future, what do you want them to say about their homeschool experience?
I hope that my children can say that they had an amazing childhood where they were able to love learning and explore things at their own pace. I hope that their formative years lay a foundation for them as they become independent learners and hopefully life-long learners. I hope they remember having fun and being together. I hope that they view learning as living and find it adventurous and exciting. I hope they get to meet a variety of different people from different places, cultures, and backgrounds and learn to appreciate them, respect them, and love diversity. I hope they are able to see the intentionality behind our reasoning and our choices and that it is a launching pad for them to become adults who are excited about their life, journey, education, and passions. I hope that they fall in love with Jesus and know that He loves them, cares for them, and created them special for a unique purpose.