How I Homeschool: Kelly of This Ain’t the Lyceum

A couple years ago, I came across Kelly of This Ain’t the Lyceum fame via  Seven Quick Takes post.  I couldn’t tell you what that first post was about, just that it made me laugh from beginning to end.  Since that time, Kelly has been a regular on my blog roll, making me  alternately laugh and cry, sometimes within the context of the same blog post, and I now have the distinct pleasure of calling her a friend.

I asked for her answers to this series because Kelly has great general advice on homeschooling, and at the same time, I asked her a few specific questions about homeschooling children with special needs.  Please enjoy her answers, and make sure you visit Kelly at her regular home.

How long have you been homeschooling?

We’re wrapping up our eighth year, if you count Pre-K, which I did when I started, but I don’t anymore.  Next fall I’ll have children in seventh, fifth, third and first.

How many kids are in your family? How many are homeschooled? Are any schooled in a more traditional way?

I have five kids, four of whom are homeschooled, and it’s the only schooling any of them know.

Why did you begin homeschooling?

Originally, I assumed we’d send our kids to Catholic schools. But as I looked into schools when my oldest was four I realized the cost would be a problem for us. At the same time, we joined a parish where many families homeschooled. I went to the local Catholic homeschool convention and was overwhelmed at the amount of people in attendance. I remember thinking, if all these people can homeschool, so can I. I read all the books I could and quickly my attitude changed from one of “homeschooling because school is too expensive” to “homeschooling because it’s the best option.” My husband read many of the same books and quickly got on board with the idea. We were blessed with a great network of support from the beginning which helped immensely as I got my feet wet.

Your two youngest sons, Fulton and Teddy, have Spinal Muscular Atrophy. How do their special needs change the dynamic of your homeschool?

FultonIn two distinct ways: first in how their needs effect my ability to teach my older children. As Fulton and Teddy are dependent on me, or someone else, for practically everything, I can’t expect them to sit and play (or do simple school work) for long periods of time while I teach the other kids. This may work for a bit, but inevitably, someone drops something and can’t retrieve it or wants help coloring with a marker, or one of them will need a change or trip to the toilet. I have always tried to raise my kids to be independent learners and that has been a big help as I’ve been forced to focus my attentions on the little boys during the day. Sometimes I have my mother-in-law over in the mornings, and she entertains Fulton and Teddy so I can focus on the older kids, but I’m still trying to find the right balance of helping who needs helped without neglecting anyone.

And second, their limited physical strength has meant the complete rethinking of how I need to teach. For my older three, Kindergarten and First grade was coloring pages, fun workbooks, crafts and reading practice. However, Fulton can’t hold a pencil and complete a workbook. Do you know how many reading programs have kids writing letters non-stop? Same with arithmetic books; lots of number writing. I’m trying to do more games and use 100 Easy Lessons but, admittedly, I liked my workbook system for the early years. I’m not a great teacher for sitting next to my child and helping them with every little thing. Plus, Fulton is stubborn. He doesn’t want to do any school most days and it’s been difficult to figure out how to get him excited about reading. Part of me isn’t worried, because he’s still young and I know he’ll learn all this eventually, however if he chooses to not be cooperative I’m at a loss. I already wonder how much can he learn if I’m doing all this (moving counters, matching cards, moving puzzle pieces, etc.) for him. You assume by your fourth kid, you’ll have a system and a groove but I’m having to completely rethink how I approach everything. I’ve tried more educational apps with Fulton but find that unless I sit there and monitor his play, they’re more a distraction than anything.

Fulton and Teddy are both bright boys. They may not have physical strength, but God has given them both great mental ability. Obviously, I want all my kids to love learning and grow into knowledgeable adults, but I feel it’s especially important for Fulton and Teddy. Their physical disabilities may hold them back, but there’s no reason their minds should.

Obviously, I want all my kids to love learning and grow into knowledgeable adults, but I feel it’s especially important for Fulton and Teddy. Their physical disabilities may hold them back, but there’s no reason their minds should.

Do you plan to homeschool “all the way through” high school? Why or why not?

We’ve always said we’d take it a year at a time, and as I can’t predict the future that’s still my official position. But there’s so many great online classes, local co-ops, community college courses, etc.; I know that homeschooling through high school is possible and it’s the route I’d prefer to take.

What laws, if any, are there in your state regarding homeschooling? How does your family meet compliance?

There are no requirements in NJ. None. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I get to go on my merry way without any oversight. I try to keep records in case we’d ever move and I’ve done year end testing just so my kids are used to taking tests but I’m not required to do anything.

If you could summarize your homeschool philosophy in one sentence or mission statement, what would that be?

Um, I can’t. We’ve tried the mission statement thing before and couldn’t get it less than two paragraphs. Homeschooling is simple and it’s not. It’s a vocation and a lifestyle and a daily struggle. I love it and hate it. We don’t have a homeschool mission statement so much as a commitment to a specific family culture.

What is your homeschooling style?

Eclectic, but based heavily on the classical method.

Do you follow any set curriculum?


What do your best homeschooling moments look like? What do your not-so-good moments look like? How do you stay on track?

I think it’s always important to keep the larger picture in mind. I have days when we’re all sitting around listening to a great story, followed by a wonderful discussion and I think I’ve got my act together. Then the next day, everyone is in tears and can’t remember a thing. It’s not the days, or weeks or even months that matter, but the long term homeschooling vision. So what if your second grader is behind in math and doesn’t know the state capital? There’s no guarantee he’d been any better off in school and by the time he’s 18, statistically speaking, he’s going to have a better education than most public or private school kids even with all the bad days, rough weeks and a month of frustration here and there. (Plus, you can’t measure the family and spiritual benefits that will come from homeschooling.) I reflect back at the end of every year, my kids have always improved and learned so much. It’s hard to see it in November or February, but 180 days, give or take a couple tantrums, will infuse them with something. Even if you embrace a completely child-led unschooling philosophy (which I don’t) your kids will learn progressively harder and harder material.

Kelly M

How do you keep any non-school-aged kids busy?

Like I said, right now, this is a tough area for me because Fulton and Teddy can have difficulty occupying themselves. However in the past I’ve used coloring pages, play dough, and other specific crafts that only come out during school time.

If you could give any homeschool advice to a new mom starting out, what would it be? AND/OR Do you have any advice for families of kids with special needs in regards to homeschooling?

Just that anyone can homeschool. It’s not impossible, even with kids with special needs. You don’t need mountains of patience. If you want to homeschool and are flexible in finding a way that works for you and your children, you can do it. Try it for a year. You’re not signing up for 12 years just because you decided to homeschool this one year. And if it doesn’t work, then stop and don’t feel guilty about it. Everyone can, but not everyone NEEDS to homeschool or should. The most important thing is being actively involved in your child’s education whether it’s public, private or at home. Your commitment to your child is what guarantees their success.

Everyone can, but not everyone NEEDS to homeschool or should. The most important thing is being actively involved in your child’s education whether it’s public, private or at home. Your commitment to your child is what guarantees their success.

Micaela here again: Please make sure you click over to Kelly’s virtual home, and consider donating to her fundraiser for Spinal Muscular Atrophy, as well.


This is the fourth interview in a series, “How I Homeschool.”

How I Homeschool: In Which I Interview Myself (plus a link-up if you’d like to join in!)

How I Homeschool: Jessica @ Housewifespice

How I Homeschool:  Annery at Home Answers All my Questions

 How I Homeschool: Cari of Clan Donaldson

How I Homeschool: Kendra of Catholic All Year

How I Homeschool: Dwija of House Unseen

How I Homeschool: Elizabeth of Following the Trails to Heaven (High School Series)


  1. So great Kelly! Love so much of what you’re saying, your attitude is really great as well as your honesty. As per usual!
    Christy recently posted…Seven Quick Takes vol. 92My Profile

  2. Thanks for your honesty, Kelly.

    I also had an expectation that once I got homeschooling down pat, I’d have it down pat, and then discovered that that wasn’t going to be the case!
    Catherine recently posted…How We Homeschool: Interview with myselfMy Profile

  3. Kelly- It is so comforting to me that you, as a homeschooling veteran, don’t feel like you have it all figured out yet. I’m trying to approach it as a process, telling myself that I’m learning, too, as we go along, but some days, I wonder what I was thinking with this whole homeschool thing. Thanks for your honesty and for sharing your perspective. (And the photos are priceless!)
    Abbey @ Surviving Our Blessings recently posted…Five-Minute Friday: ReleaseMy Profile


  1. […] Have you guys checked out Micalea’s Homeschool Link Up? She interviewed your’s truly, plus Jessica from Housewifespice and Annery from Annery at Home. Micalea also interviewed herself, […]

  2. […] How I Homeschool: Kelly of This Ain’t the Lyceum […]