How I Homeschool: Dwija of House Unseen

charlie 4 weeksA couple years back, I had the pleasure of stumbling upon Dwija of House Unseen.  She was pregnant with her fifth child: interesting.  She had moved, sight unseen, 2/3 of the way across the country: intriguing.  She had converted from Hare Krishna to Catholicism at the “ripe old age” of 19: downright fascinating.  Since discovering her blog, Dwija has shared with me (and the whole world wide web) her funny ramblings and touching musings, some tremendous joys and unimaginable sorrows.  Somehow she found time (amidst the haze of recovering from childbirth, caring for her tiniest baby, and mothering her other 5 precious gifts) to answer my nosy How I Homeschool  interview questions.  Read on for the Borobia-take on homeschooling.
Four years ago, you moved from California to Michigan. Was that the beginning of your homeschooling career? Were there any other factors that led you to homeschooling, other than the move?Before we moved here and for the first year after we arrived, my kids all went to public school. If you want to read what was in my brain when I first started thinking about homeschooling, you can find that here and if you want to read about finally making the decision, that’s right here for your entertainment. I guess basically what it boiled down to is that I felt my kids were missing out on so many of the good parts about life and avoiding really getting to know each other by being gone for so many of their good waking hours every day. Homeschooling solved both of those problems for us.
How old were your girls when you pulled them out of traditional school? What were the specific challenges you faced?  The benefits?My two big girls had just finished 3rd and 4th grade when we decided not to send them back to public school. As with all big moments in life, it feels simultaneously so long ago and like it just happened last week. We’ll be cruising into 7th and 8th grades this September (along with a 2nd grader and a kindergartner. Hold me.) and the maturity I’ve seen increase in both of them as well as the improvement in my relationship with all of them is remarkable.The biggest challenges came our first year as we struggled to break free from what they perceived as a “normal” day, as we tried to define what our overall goals were, and as I personally struggled to let go of my control-freak tendencies so I could allow them to blossom into the unique people God intends them to be rather than trying to force them to be the kind of people I always envisioned I would have for children.

But the benefits- oh boy. The benefits have so far outweighed any of our challenges that it would be nearly impossible for me to imagine what it would take to make us stop homeschooling. Firstly, our two main reasons for homeschooling have been directly addressed. My kids are now part of the everyday of life of our home rather than just players in the evening rush or weekend madness and my eldest girls (my younger ones never had a chance to get into this habit) have stopped seeing one another as a minor inconveniences that just has to be tolerated until they can go back to not seeing or talking to each other for 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday.

Aside from those things, I’ve seen a beautiful increase in their independence (yes, truly!), their personal confidence, their curiosity, and their appreciation for “interesting things.”

How would you describe your “homeschooling style?”ClassicalCharlotteMasonHandsOffbutNotQuiteUnschooling? That’s a thing, right? I believe in a strong foundation of the basics (that’s mostly code for “reading”). I also feel confident that children are naturally curious and thirst for knowledge and understanding. So I schedule the basics and then encourage everything else by keeping the house stocked with interesting and informative materials and exposing everyone to as much “stuff” as possible. I have so far done standardized testing at the end of the year to make sure we aren’t too far off from their grade level peers and have been pleasantly surprised all three times to see that I haven’t completely ruined my children. Maybe I’ll stop doing them one day. We’ll see.
Do your older kids take on any of the teaching duties for the younger ones? And no, I will not judge you either way. Hah! I’ve never asked my older kids to take over the teaching duties per se, but the learning in this house is so woven into our day to day lives that my younger ones learn a lot from their older peers whether or not I’ve asked them to. Does that make sense? They hear our conversations, they’re exposed to higher level thinking and subject matters. They hear vocabulary that they would likely not hear if they were in a classroom full of only other kids their age and they *don’t* hear vocabulary (high eyebrow raise, you know what I mean face) that they might hear in a typical school situation. My younger kids ask my older kids questions all the time, too. Not about their school work, but that’s such a small bit of the learning they do, you know? So they hear about some kind of animal and then they want to know what it eats and where it lives and why it’s a mammal if it lays eggs (thanks a lot, Perry the Platypus.) so then they’re looking things up online and watching videos and in that way perhaps some teaching duties are being handed over, but really it’s just them living their lives together instead of separately.
You recently began participating in a co-op, right? Can you give us a brief description of how that works? Which subjects are taught, who teaches, how the ages are divided, etc?The co-op was such a great experience for us. Last year was its first year in existence and it was fun to be there from the beginning as we all worked out the bugs, got to know each other, what works, what doesn’t work and what we’d like to move forward with next year.The way the co-op worked for the ’13-’14 school year was like this: one parent from every family helped in some capacity during the once a week meeting time. Some moms taught classes, some took care of the babies in the nursery, some were hall monitors, etc. etc. We met once a week for 2 hours for classes. Then some families (ours included) packed it up and left while others who didn’t have as many small ones or who had small ones who could handle more than 2 hours excitement at a time would stay for an optional Girls of Grace girl’s group. The boys would play games in the gym or outside during that third hour. My older girls ended up doing a writing workshop and a science class with other middle school kids taught by other homeschooling moms and Paul did an art class, a music class, and a Spanish class, all geared toward kids in grades K-2. I ended up working with the pre-schoolers because, you know, Cecilia and Mary. ‘Nuf said there.

Wanna see our co-op’s website for next year’s info? Aqui. We also have a Catholic homeschooling group that covers the entire southwest Michigan region, the website for which I’m just now working on, so it’s sparse but you can take a gander here if you want. And also and and AND, we have a homeschool partnership through our local school district that also offers classes and programs, which you can stalk right here if you’re curious about that. Basically there are so many resources and activities that we have to decide what to say no to on a weekly basis. It is amazing.

Finally, what’s the best advice you’d give a mom who is planning to move from traditional school to homeschooling?

First of all, allow yourself time to make the transition. What I mean is, expect that you will all feel weird and disjointed and unsure. You will try things that won’t work. You’ll wonder if you’ve made a horrible mistake and worry that your kids are already ruined for life approximately 17 minutes into the school year. If something doesn’t fit, scrap it. If your kids already know how to do something, skip it. If they’re super interested in something, learn more about that. Let the beginning be exciting and then build the not-as-exciting things together on that foundation later. This is going to sound cheesy, but if you and your kids are on this adventure as a team, everyone will get more out of it, everyone will enjoy it more, and I truly believe everyone will be more successful. So create that team mood before you tackle the hard stuff and then the hard stuff won’t be so hard.

That’s it for Dwija.  I had one reader email me and ask for an interview with a homeschooling family that spans both high school and elementary school, so I’m working on finding that perfect person.  If you have suggestions, please email me or leave them in the comment box.  And if you’re dying to read more, click on the links below to take you to the other interviews in this series.


  1. Hi, I just met this mom locally. SHe is wonderful and homeschools elementary through high school (just graduated her first).
    Amelia @ One Catholic Mama recently posted…Future Blogger of America Learns to PoseMy Profile

  2. Thanks so much for having me, Micaela. I love homeschooling and talking about homeschooling…really just talking in general, so this was a lot of fun!
    dweej recently posted…Peace, Love, HomeschoolMy Profile

  3. Loved this post and love Dwija! I’m throwing around the idea of homeschooling, so this was very helpful. I was homeschooled up until college and it was great for me.
    Paige Kellerman recently posted…A Letter To Me on My Second 29th BirthdayMy Profile

    • Paige! I was also mostly-homeschooled and I’m telling you right now that if you were homeschooled you already have a huge advantage. You’ll be all “oh, this? Yeah, this feels good and normal.”
      dweej recently posted…Peace, Love, HomeschoolMy Profile

  4. Elizabeth Foss!
    Catherine recently posted…Sweet SummerMy Profile

  5. You can interview my bestie, Kim. She’s got 14 children, spanning college through infant, and has homeschooled all of them. Also, they’re currently in the process of adopting, so you KNOW she can throw some serious time management wisdom on you. Let me know, and I’ll hook you two up.
    Cari recently posted…Mystery BumpsMy Profile

  6. Hi, Dwija! Thanks for your insight into Borobia homeschooling! We pulled our school-age kids from Catholic school to homeschool at Christmas break this year, and, well, it was a hot mess. Our eldest (rising 6th grader) really craves structure and organization in her school day that I, with four younger kids (including 3-yo and 18-mo Destructo twins plus high-functioning autistic unschooled) cannot provide. Any ideas? Also also … how do you keep your leeetle people occupado? And how do I convince my husband that people are actually learning without tests, quizzes, and worksheets? Thank you, O wise one! God bless yer socks off. 🙂

    • Okay, this is a big set of questions! Would it be okay if I turned this into an entire post? Because my eldest sounds just like yours and we had major tears in the beginning. But her obsession with structure turned out to be a perception that someone should always be telling her what to do, which turned out to be a weakness she needed to work on and rise and not something that needed to be catered to (which was my first assumption.) So, blog post for you? Bueno?
      dweej recently posted…Peace, Love, HomeschoolMy Profile

    • My oldest is just starting K in public school, but I would LOVE to read a column on these exact questions as I begin planting the bug in my husband’s ear about future HS. He is an engineer, very oriented toward “the system.”

  7. Love this!

    (And it showed up as a full post in my feed reader, which I love TOO!)

    And THIS: “My kids are now part of the everyday of life of our home rather than just players in the evening rush or weekend madness and my eldest girls (my younger ones never had a chance to get into this habit) have stopped seeing one another as a minor inconveniences that just has to be tolerated until they can go back to not seeing or talking to each other for 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday.”

    Most. Important. Thing.

    We’re still barely into this whole homeschooling thing, but the fact that I still get to have my kids WITH ME once they’re older? I’m just so, so happy about that. I loved my middle school students, and it always made me sad to think of the fact that the really really AWESOME ones weren’t getting to be their most awesome selves with their actual families during the day… Their parents didn’t even get to experience the bulk of their amazingness!
    Rosie recently posted…WIWS: Maternity InspirationMy Profile

  8. Abigail Benjamin says:

    I think getting your husband on board before you start homeschooling is important. One idea is to have him teach your kids a 20 minute practice class over the summer. Have him pick whatever subject he’s into. He might give the kid’s quizzes afterward and feel good about the results. Or he might decide that since he’s dealing with a small number of his own kids, he doesn’t need a “quiz” because he’s super aware of what they do and don’t understand from his class.

    For me, I only do written tests a few time as proof for the State. Since I’m the teacher, I can tell if the kid gets the work we move on ahead. If they don’t get it, we repeat it tomorrow.

    Also, it will be good for both of you to decide how to evaluate your kid at the end of the year, before you start homeschooling. I’ve decided not to do standardized testing with my kids until Middle School. In the 2 states I’ve lived in a professional public school teacher has looked over each of our kid’s student portfolio. In Maryland the teacher who reviews my portfolio is assigned by the local School System. In West Virginia, I get to pick who I want. This sounds scary, but it’s actually so reassuring to both parents that a real “professional” is looking at the results with an unbiased eye.

    There are lots of States that have almost no oversight for Homeschooling. If that is your situation, I’d build in my own oversight system. That helps keeps up both your confidence and that of your spouse.

  9. I’d love to participate 🙂 I have graduated 3 girls from homeschool high school and will have 2 in high school and 2 in elementary school this coming year. 🙂
    Laura recently posted…A Summer DaybookMy Profile

  10. Thank you so much for hosting these blog posts, Micaela! We’re hoping to start homeschooling our little girls when they’re a bit older. Ava will be 3 at the end of September and we’ve already just done things in our daily lives that have helped her to learn (as all children her age will). I taught for 8 or 9 years before staying home with them and definitely see the benefits of homeschooling (I’ve seen it done “right” and seen it done “wrong” so to speak… though I’ll say that I don’t believe there is only one way to “school”) So appreciative of all of the information you’re providing. If you’re on facebook I have 2 families you could ask for info (in regards to families that span from Elementary through High School). One is my good friend Ellen Legare (mother of 10 and been homeschooling for many years) and another is my good friend Janine Gonya (mother of 16) They both school “differently” but both could have suggestions that would certainly be helpful! If you shoot me an email, I’ll ask them both if I can send you theirs 🙂 …oh, and there is a book I’m finishing up called “The Brainy Bunch” have you read it? What are your thoughts?