Exploring and Digging Deep with Vanessa West

Science projects are super fun, and there is so much learning that can happen while making a big mess!

Science projects are super fun, and there is so much learning that can happen while making a big mess!

By: Maryrose Gray & Beth Van Derslice

This week we chatted with Vanessa West, a homeschooling mom of three, to hear about her approach to learning, teaching and how she manages her days while providing meaningful learning experiences with her kiddos. While most of our subscribers are not actually homeschoolers, regardless of the type of school our kids go to there is a lot of common ground to be found. We all want our children to have rich learning experiences, and we all want to support our kiddos while they learn and grow.  Here are some reflections and tips from this mama who can be found learning with her kids from the playground to the ski slopes and everywhere in between!

Q: How do you think about your role as both parent and teacher?

A: I see them as one in the same. Being parents we are innately teachers, so I’m always wearing the same hats when I see my kids and they need some guidance I help them. I try to utilize their interests and see that ‘glimmer in their eye’ where I can expand. I take their lead.

Q: What got you into homeschooling?

A: The reason I got into homeschooling is because I wanted my kids to be kids and play a lot, which they may not get to do in institutionalized settings. Mastering their motor development skills will fuel their brain development and learning capabilities. With homeschool we are able to take our time and not rush, and that is definitely a good thing in LA!

Q: Can you walk us through what a week agenda looks like for you as a homeschooler?

A: A lot of time my kids are literally just playing whether at home or a beach day with other homeschoolers. They are always role-playing. They are playing all the time. Maybe one day a week we’ll go to a museum and the other days we’ll have a lot of hands on activities at home like art or science experiments. We are reading all the time, everyday. We are utilizing a homeschool learning center that is very play-based.

Homeschooling parents may get a chance to see a bigger picture of what children are learning in unique ways throughout the day, and we can all take something positive from this approach in our own learning experiences with our children. We are all teaching our children when we are with them since  children are always learning whether in an institutional setting or not. The notion of homeschooling our children is not new and has been on the rise for the past couple of decades.

Here’s what we know about homeschooling in the US:  The latest published statistics (from 2013) show that nearly 1.8 million or 3.4% of students are homeschooled in the US. This number is up almost 1 million students from the 885,000 who were reportedly homeschooled in 2007.

What about college graduation rates? According to one study, “students coming from a home school graduated college at a higher rate than their peers­—66.7 percent compared to 57.5 percent—and earned higher grade point averages along the way, that compared students at one doctoral university from 2004-2009.” SOURCE

Vanessa highlights some of the perks of homeschooling her children like the flexibility and ability to take their time in the morning. Vanessa also talked about  the depth that she was able to go into on a subject and how they get to “explore every nook and cranny of a particular subject.”  Our conversation with Vanessa was great (obviously, because she’s a fab mom) but it helped us expand our thinking with another approach to making math-learning-fun and stress-free while still  think about learning deeply with our children. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Vanessa!

Here’s a recent report if you want to dig deeper into the statistics.