What style of homeschooling does your family follow?
We are very liberal and free with the kids. While I am a strict and orderly parent with manners and such… with their “schooling” we have raised them to self-initiate, be responsible and advocate for themselves. This happened all unintentionally and it has just become our way of life, our ethos, that permeates how we approach their education. With all that being said, we are Waldorf inspired unschooling homeschoolers. We have yet to start a formal year, but I am gearing up for next fall. Up until now the kids are free to explore what they wish. We provide the resources they ask for and help if requested. For example, they are both really interested in learning how to draw by following directions from a book that they found in my art section on the bookshelf. From these drawings they are then wanting to write words and sentences. So their unfolding is approached from their initiation. We get the art supplies, books and provide ourselves when asked. Another example is that both kids taught themselves how to write the letters of the alphabet and learned their respective sounds… all by observing and through following their pure instinctual motivations to connect and communicate to the work around them. It is one of the most empowering experiences I have had to see my kids take the lead. I feel that having given them this opportunity, of not controlling their play and intellectual awakening, has created the kind of education perseverance that will last. Most importantly, it has put me in my place to mitigate my control over them, the top down approach that can scare kids away from developing their inherent interest and at their natural developmental timeline. It has made me trust in my children the same way I trusted they would walk on their own. Mostly importantly, the rhythm in our day anchors the how we all flow from one thing to another. We also take outings, go to playdates, antique stores, garden, etc. But we are mostly homebodies and honor a slow life connected to a strong sense of place.
What state do you homeschool in, and what are the laws like there for homeschoolers? How does this affect the way you homeschool (if at all)?
I feel so fortunate to live in Florida. We have great homeschooling laws here! We are registered through a “private” school and through that we just submit attendance and immunization records if applicable. As “private” homeschoolers we are exempt from ALL standardized testing! This is HUGE!!! Anyone can make a “private” school and it is very easy to do so. We are registered through a friends’ school only because it was more convenient to do so. I know in time we will register our own school and hopefully take families in. We had considered moving to North Carolina but decided against it because their homeschooling laws will not let you exempt under any condition from testing. So I would say that the homeschooling laws in my state enable me to give my children the upbringing I want for them. It gives me the power to make decisions for them and for our family without government control. It lets me decide when they are ready and how best to teach to suit their unique dispositions… to facilitate learning in a way that honors their heart and soul as much as their mind.
Why did your family begin homeschooling?
While I was working on my master’s degree I decided to take some courses in urban education. I focused in on a growing trend, at that time, with the homeschooling community that was created out of necessity in Detroit Michigan due to the mass exodus that occurred there when the economy crash in 2008 – 2009. There were not enough teachers and schools were closing. Parents were unemployed and they turned together to educate their children. Most were not even college graduates! I took so much inspiration by this radical move and started researching what exactly homeschooling was. During the same time, a dear friend was working at the local Waldorf school. Lucia was just one a half years old and I was pregnant with Sam. I knew that I was not going to enroll her in any daycare and I was feeling that I would never really feel comfortable with sending her to public or private school. We attended a few Waldorf classes and I found our fit… but not in the formalized setting that they impose there in a school… but in the overarching concepts, ideologies and educational approach that is practiced as inspired by the teaching of Rudolf Steiner known as Anthroposophy. Yet, it was not until two years later that I made the commitment to keep Lucia from entering pre-K and told my husband I wanted to homeschool. It was a very big step for me. At the time I was graduating with a double masters degree I had spent four years working towards, I had six figures of student loan debt and I had no clue what this would mean for us financially. But to answer why… concisely… because it is what I feel God called me to do. For as scared as I was and unsure what this would mean for me, my career and our collective family needs, I felt peace too. Relief even!
What do you wish you knew when you first began homeschooling?
I don’t wish for anything to have unfolded any differently. I have spent the past six years carving out the life I live now. Whew, with lots of sleepless nights, lol. Homeschooling for us has been a process, not a destination. A leaning into, uncovering parts of myself, being vulnerable, making bold scary decisions to give me the experience… not just my kids. Connected me to a calling and an awareness of life and my faith. I was a different person before, with a radically different life and aspirations that were culturally induced to fit a norm. At heart, I just wanted to spend my days gardening and working from home. We have filed bankruptcy, moved six times in six years, suffered through several unemployment periods all to be where we are today. My saving grace has been my faith in God and my resolve to see through all the shifts as growing pains to get us closer to our mission as a family. However, I am still finding balance and I make sure that every day I carve out time for myself to serve my spiritual and intellectual pursuits.
What are the hardest and easiest, parts of homeschooling?
The hardest parts of homeschooling has been the fierce resistance we have gotten from family members which has ended several relationships. The grief spent over these interactions has rocked me to my core but built me up stronger than ever. But… knowing that we are alone and without support is not the life I would have wanted for my kids. The easiest parts of homeschooling has been the fulfillment I feel every day to be home with my kids. To have come out as a woman who wants this type of life. To be known as a woman who wants to be home AND work. Not the accolades, but the satisfaction I feel every day knowing and feeling grounded into life. That I have done it! That I have a partner who supports me and shows up as a father in this way… supportive and who will work to take care of us in a world where it seems frowned upon for a woman to “stay home.” Being this type of mother is easy, the truth is I don’t know how else to be. To not homeschool would go against my grain, that would be hard.
Something else along these lines, I often have people tell me that I am so lucky to live the life I do. While I am lucky and blessed… this life is not one of luck. It comes of hard work and incredible sacrifice! I take deep offense to that statement, it undermines all the hard roads we have taken as a family to get here. This decision has been the hardest one to make and maintain. It has cost us family, friends, jobs, security and sanity at times. We have given up everything to get here. Charted a new life and done so alone. My candidness is meant to serve others who might be struggling or considering homeschool altogether… maybe feeling like giving up. Believe in yourselves and the long term livelihood of your family when times are tough. Do not delude yourselves to it always being unicorns and rainbows. Trust in yourself and do what you must to create the life of your dreams. Move states if you need to in order get free of legal restrictions, downsize, but above all trust and have faith no matter the obstacles.
I am honored to have taken this survey and blessed to be able to share our journey. I want to stress super loud and clear that while these are my experiences and beliefs… I DO NOT judge anyone else in their decisions. My convictions come from honoring the mother role that is intended for me and I equally honor the path of other families. This had simply been the path designed for my family and I am grateful to be on it. Thank you for reading and please share yourself with me. You can find me on Instagram under @_goldenrod_hills_revival_”
~ Lia Dominique Andress ~
[creating a sense of place to live simply + with wonderment] sacred activism 🌱 plant medicine + homesteading waldorf inspired + sadhana in mamahood]