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Do What Works. A More Practical Homeschooling Philosophy

If you’re currently homeschooling or thinking hard about it, you’ve probably read a little about homeschooling philosophy. Popular methods like Charlotte Mason, Classical, and Unschooling dominate blogs and homeschool books.

But what if you don’t identify with one homeschool method in particular?

You’re not alone.

Today we’re talking to a homeschool mom of two teens who doesn’t identify with one homeschool philosophy over another. Instead, she chooses to take a more practical approach to homeschooling.

The do what works homeschool philosophy: Practical Homeschooling. The homeschool method for everyone just trying to figure this thing out. #homeschooling #homeschool #homeschoolphilosophy

One thing that all homeschoolers have in common is that we’re trying to find out what works best for our family. There’s always a bit of trial and error involved. Sometimes a lot.

Practical Homeschooling Philosophy Jen Mackinnon

I am so excited to speak with Jen Mackinnon, working homeschool mom of two teens, because she has great ideas about practical solutions to the challenges we all face as homeschool parents.

In the following interview, Jen shares her thoughts on going beyond any particular homeschool style or method to find what really works for your family.


How would you describe your homeschool method?

A friend of mine called it “Practical Homeschooling”. Basically it is a mix of finding what works for you and your kids and doing that until it stops working.

It kinds looks like “flying by the seat of your pants, pulling from everything and a mix of offline/online”, but I think that might be a bit long for a label, don’t you think?


What would you say to homeschoolers who feel like they don’t identify with a particular homeschooling philosophy?

While checking out the way others homeschool is a great place to spark ideas of what might work for you family, it is vital to not compare your homeschool to theirs.

Your homeschool will look different from mine. It should. Your kids, family and you are unique. The beauty of the flexibility of homeschooling is that you can make it yours. You can homeschool when and where you want. Take advantage of that and make it work FOR you, not against you.

If your kids love hands on glittery fun do that. If they need a step by step instructor online do that.

As long as your kids are reaching the goals you decided on you are good to go. And if they aren’t, if what you picked isn’t working anymore or at all, don’t panic. You are not failing your kids.

Take a moment to figure out what isn’t working and fix it. It will be okay!

Don’t homeschool alone. Find your tribe, be it online or offline, to help encourage you, inspire you and motivate you to keep going.

Practical Homeschooling Philosophy, Community
Jen has a fantastic, supportive Facebook group, The Working Homeschool Mom Club. Click here or the graphic above to join.

What does an average day look like in a “practical homeschool?”

Let’s be honest as a working mom who has a flexible schedule there are no “normal homeschool days.” That said, planning is as essential to my sanity as coffee is.

I start my day with coffee and a book. Anything that lets me wake up slowly and have a few minutes of quiet. As an introvert, I need these moments to get ready for the day.

Depending on what is next, I either take my husband to work so I can have the car and go to work myself OR I start working at home.

In case you are wondering, I work both at home (I have a blog and online community and SM Manager of a local business) and outside the home (as a cleaner and on site website work) and volunteer several days a week.

Due to this fact, I tend to have 3 different “homeschool days” and a coffee addiction.

And yes, I homeschool my two teenagers.

Homeschooling teenagers is fun and greatly changes how my days look now vs a few years ago.

I know you might hear horror stories but this is when your role in this amazing educational journey takes on new meaning. Your kids have more control and say over what they are learning. They also start shouldering more responsibility.

Which means you move into the role of cheerleader, guidance councilor, and nagging instead of the heavy lifting of trying to do it all.

For example:
My kids wake up and get their own breakfast. They also create their own schedule.

We have a list of subjects that they need to complete by the end of the week. I call them “checklist kids”. They prefer a list they can check off and complete.

Anything that doesn’t get done must be completed on the weekend or their summer break ends up getting cut short.

That is motivation. I’ve been working on teaching them time management for a long time. It’s slowly paying off.

My son is in grade 11 this year. Most of his work is online. He prefers to do most of his work on his tablet so my “homeschool day” is often an empty table. No kids in sight.

But his English program is a workbook and I am beyond thankful it comes with a teaches manual with answers. We meet for English and go over the work together. If I am not home when he is done, he leaves it in a special spot on my desk for completed work or things they need help with. This is a key feature for working moms. A way to catch up and make sure your kids understand what they are doing and connect with your kids.

For Science, he will create a google slide presentation to present with fun facts. I love watching the research both online and through books from our bookshelf or library.

One day a week we do some hands on project or subscription box. Subscription boxes are a busy moms life saver because everything comes in the box. As you can see we use online programs, offline materials and a unit study approach but those unit studies also follow the kids interests.

This mix and match approach took me years to accept because I had to let go of what I thought our homeschool should look like and start doing what works for us.

Practical Homeschooling Philosophy, Day in the Life
Take a peek in the life of practical homeschoolers on Practical By Default.

How do you plan your homeschool days?

Once a week I sit down with my daughter and we have a planning date. We dig out our schedules such as work, extra curricular activities, appointments, social engagements, etc. We pull out this big bin I have of fun stickers and pens and our planners.

Because each day is different I need to plan time to plan each week. Otherwise I am totally lost and I never know who needs to be where doing what.

Because my life is always changing my favorite planner keeps changing too. Therefore, I have a list of favorite planners BUT I use the same system for each one.

Practical Homeschooling Philosophy, Planning
Take a look at Jen’s system for getting things done here.

What advice do you have for our readers?

Let go of what you think homeschooling should look like. Find what works for your kids and your family and do that until it stops working. Then find something new.

In order to do that, don’t be afraid to chuck out that favorite homeschooling advice you were offered. OR put it on a shelf until you are ready to try it again.

Practical Homeschooling Philosophy, Homeschool Mistakes
See Jen’s advice about what NOT to do here.

Find out more…

Read more about Jen’s practical approach to homeschooling on her website, Practical By Default.

Are you a new homeschooler? Find answers, advice, and support here.

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