After years of homeschooling, Leigh Bortins founded Classical Conversations in 1997 to achieve her mission to know God and to make Him known by providing the resources and training for parents to successfully homeschool. What began as a passion for her own children and family quickly resonated with other parents, eventually growing Classical Conversations into the global leader in homeschooling that it is today. Now, with all her own children out of the house and leadership of the company passed to her son Robert, Leigh travels around the world encouraging parents to begin and persevere through the homeschool journey.
In this video, recorded for the 2020 HEAV Homeschooling Conference in Virginia Beach, Leigh addresses several questions about homeschooling and offers advice for parents who want to homeschool but can’t figure out how to start.
- What’s the best part about homeschooling?
- Enjoy the ‘comedy show’
- How can I homeschool if I don’t have the right resources?
- Expand your definition of ‘academic resource’
- Recognize the practicality and value of books
- How should I schedule my day as a homeschooling parent?
- Read for two hours a day
- Homeschooling doesn’t always have to occur in the home
- Conclusion: How can I apply this to my life?
What’s the best part about homeschooling?
Enjoy the ‘comedy show’
Leigh’s favorite part of homeschooling is what she calls the “comedy show.” In other words, she enjoyed the moments laughing together at her children's and husband's jokes. Sure, homeschooling provides rare opportunities for customized curriculum and flexible scheduling, but one of the more rewarding aspects of homeschooling is that your family gets to spend lots of time together just having fun.
What’s more, these times when you and your family laugh and have fun together will strengthen the relationships between you. Grateful for moments like these when her children were growing up, Leigh says that although all her children are now adults, they still enjoy spending time together and having fun, continuing their family “comedy show.”
How can I homeschool if I don’t have the right resources?
Expand your definition of ‘academic resource’
Academic resources aren’t limited to textbooks and planned curriculum! The world is full of nontraditional academic resources that are superior to textbooks in many ways. For example, the natural world is one of the greatest resources available. From the trees and birds to the clouds and planets, children can learn of the wonderful creatures and miraculous processes of God’s creation through direct experience with it. Another great resource as long as you have access to wi-fi and a computer is, of course, the Internet. With an unending stream of blogs, articles, podcasts, and videos to pull from, you’ll never run out of material to incorporate into your homeschooling.
In addition, your children can learn from everyday people to whom God has given unique talents and passions that they are eager to share with others. You can share your own hobbies with your children, like teaching them how to cook, garden, or sew. But naturally, you’ll be unable to teach them all that they are interested in. For example, one of Leigh’s sons wanted to learn to blow glass, which Leigh had no idea how to do, so he sought out a local artisan who gave him lessons.
On the practicality and value of books
And of course, there are books. Troubled by the declining rates of people who purchase and read books, Leigh says people are hardly reading anymore. Instead, they are listening to podcasts and streaming TV shows. While both of these media provide unique opportunities for learning, they cannot replace the book.
People have busy schedules and are often not available to learn from. Books, on the other hand, can be taken anywhere, anytime. Also, learning from books doesn’t have to be a solitary experience. For example, you could get each family member a copy of the same book to read alone and then discuss it together, or you could take turns reading passages aloud from a single copy.
From reading, you and your children can stand on the shoulders of the great philosophical and literary giants of the past and present, engaging with their ideas and thoughts as if they were right beside you. You will agree with some authors and disagree with others, but all will shape and strengthen your own worldview.
So, if you are considering homeschooling but think that you don’t have the right resources, keep in mind that there is no such thing as the “correct” resources. When we think of school, we tend to think of students sitting at desks writing, reading, and doing math. But the reality is, the whole world is your campus with a wealth of resources, from nature and the Internet to books and other people.
How should I schedule my day as a homeschooling parent?
Whenever homeschooling parents ask Leigh how they should schedule their day, she never knows quite what to say. After homeschooling for so long, scheduling comes naturally for her. So, instead of offering a precise schedule, Leigh suggests implementing two academic exercises into your day to maximize your family’s time and learning:
1. Read for two hours a day
Returning to the importance of books, schedule into your days two hours of reading—one hour in which you read aloud to your children from a variety of books of differing topics and intellectual levels and another hour in which each of your children go off on their own and read what they want to read. During the beginning of this practice, your children will likely choose to read books familiar to them that aren’t all that difficult to read. Over time, however, after exposing them to various topics and ideas that would typically be regarded as beyond their capability to understand, your children’s own reading choices will broaden to encompass books that are difficult to read and whose ideas are well worth considering.
Reading two hours a day will also bring about mature and thought-provoking conversations between you and your children over what you are all reading. And apart from it being a simple way to ensure that your children become incredibly well-educated, it is also extremely cost-effective since you can acquire many of your family’s reading choices from a local library.
2. Homeschooling doesn’t always have to occur in the home
If you live in America, you likely spend a good amount of time in the car, whether commuting to work or driving your children to sports practices, art and music lessons, or church events. To make the most of your travel time, seize the opportunity for what Leigh calls “car school.”
Car school is perfect for working on your children’s memorization skills. It’s no shock that memorization is hugely important to education and life. For example, it’s impossible to effectively converse about the natural world if you don’t know the names of plants, insects, birds, and the various other elements of creation. In addition, learning how to memorize early on makes high school much easier. With the tools of memorization acquired in their early education, high school students can tackle, say, committing copious biology and Latin terms to memory without breaking a sweat.
So, in car school, Leigh and her children would sing and listen to memorization songs to enhance her children’s vocabulary. Time spent in the car is “captured time,” since you have the entire family together. Seize this opportunity to learn together in a fun and efficient way!
Listening to memorization songs is just one exercise to try out. When you get tired of hearing the names of the 50 states and their capital cities repeated over and over, turn on an educational podcast or listen to an audiobook like those from The Story of the World. It doesn’t really matter what your car school looks like; what’s important is that you make the most of this captured time with your family.
How can I apply this to my life?
In summary, Leigh encourages you to treasure the time spent together as a family having fun and enjoying each other’s company. This is one of the best parts about homeschooling, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Also, in regard to searching for resources to use in your homeschooling, consider the rich material and wisdom that everyday things around you have to offer, like nature, the Internet, your community, and books. Finally, make the most of your time by incorporating two hours of reading into each day as well as by learning together as a family in the car via songs and audiobooks.
If you are not already a part of Classical Conversations, we would love the opportunity to meet you. Get in touch with a representative near you by clicking here.