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The Lessons I Learned Homeschooling For 7 Years & What I Would Have Done Differently
Episode 4615th June 2022 • The 6570 Family Project • Nellie Harden
00:00:00 00:35:02

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Have you ever thought about homeschooling? Maybe you are homeschooling now or did in the past.


I just closed the doors on our school after 7 years and I want to share with you everything I learned in that experience, how it grew me, grew our relationships, understanding, patience, curiosity, critical thinking and so much more.


I also want to share what I might have done differently if I could go back and speak to the woman that started it all in 2015 with a kindergartner, 2 2nd graders, and a 5th grader.


Life is a journey and homeschooling was one of my many adventures of mine. Tune in and see why!

About the Host:

Nellie Harden is a wife of 20+ years, mom to 4 teen/tween daughters, dreamer, adventurer, servant, multipreneur, forever student, and a devoted teacher, but her ride-or-die passion is her work as a Family Life Coach & Mentor. 

Coming from a career background in marine mammal sciences, behavioral work, and a host of big life experiences, both great and not some not so great, she decided that designing a life of purpose and freedom was how she and her husband, along with their 4 daughters, wanted to live. 

Her work and passions exist in the realms of family and parent mentorship because she believes that a family filled with creativity, fun, laughter, challenge, adventure, problem-solving, hugs, good food, and learning can not only change a person’s life but is the best chance at positively changing the world. 

She helps families build Self-Led Discipline™ & Leadership Into their homes, sets their children up for a wildly successful life on their terms, and elevates the family experience with big joy, palpable peace, and everyday growth!

With a lifelong passion and curiosity in thought, choice, behavior, and growth she has found incredible joy in helping families shift perspective, find answers, and a path forward.


(Nellie has been coaching families for over 10 years and has degrees in Biology, Animal Behavior and Psychology. ) 



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Nellie Harden:

Hello and welcome to the 6570 family project podcast. If you are a parent of a tween teen or somewhere on the way, this is exactly the place for you. This is the playground for parents who want to raise their kids with intention, strength and joy. Come and hear all the discussions, get all the tactics and have lots of laughs along the way. We will dive into the real challenges and raising kids today how to show up as parents and teach your kids how to show up as members of the family and individuals of the world. My name is Nellie Hardin, big city girl turns small towns sipping iced tea on the front porch mama, who loves igniting transformation in the hearts and minds of families by helping them build selfless discipline and leadership that elevates the family experience. And sets the kids up with a rock solid foundation they can launch their life on all before they ever leave home. This is the 6570 family project. Let's go Hello, everyone. Welcome to the 6570 family project podcast where we are putting aside the power struggles and all the junk of raising our teens and tweens and really finding the path that leads our young women especially but all of our kids toward confidence, respect and wisdom and mental wellness that they need in order to prepare them for the world out there. Now, today's episode I've been putting off for a little while you guys because if I would have done this a few weeks ago, it I would have been a blubbering mess. And so I am a homeschool parent, I wouldn't have said that for a really long time, it would have been hard for me to admit that right? I did not grow up with homeschooling even being a remote possibility or a remote topic of conversation anywhere I went, not just in my home, it just wasn't a thing, right? Or at least not that I knew about. I didn't know the history of homeschooling, I didn't know that people did it. It just seemed like something that the Amish would do or something like that, which more power to them. And now I know. But my point is I did not grow up with any inkling that homeschool would be a part of my life. And it has proven to be in a huge, significant part of my life. And I have just closed our school after seven years. So I have four daughters that are now between 12 and 17. But when we started back in 2015, they were in kindergarten twins in second grade and one in fifth grade. And that was the school year that we started with. And again, I've talked about this in many homeschool podcast. But just to give you an idea, I was not ever looking to homeschool. It was just something that we fell into because of a series of life happenings. We just got to the point that our oldest daughter, which she was going into fifth grade, we obviously had the most experience with her. She just was not finding educational rest or foundation in any of the options and we tried so many you guys. So we did Montessori we did private we did public we did.

Nellie Harden:

homeschooling, eventually now she's in dual enrollment, we did a bunch of different things. But in the private school that she was in we loved, loved, loved. It was amazing. It was called Sycamore in Indianapolis area. And if your kids go there, good for them more power to them. We absolutely loved it. But she it was a expensive private school. And she's the first of four kids. And we had other ones coming up behind her. And we just knew we were not going to be able to have the all four pay all for tuition. So we did the best we could and we transferred the public and but then there was just the first year was great. But then every year after that it seemed to plateau and go down and my daughter was losing her spark for learning. And you know, here in the 6570 that encouraging and really promoting and impregnating that that desire and curiosity and learning inside of our kids is so so so important. Not just for now in the 6570 but for later on to learning and growing and learning and growing and teaching and it's this revolving force. So when we saw that we also were simultaneously presented with possibly moving across the country or halfway across the country to the east. coast of the United States. And so we thought, You know what, if we're going going to do at some time, now might be a good time, and I was standing outside of their school, their elementary school, and there was a mom that was standing there. And she had tried homeschooling, and she took them back to the school. I think she'd maybe have done it one or two years. But she said to me, and this might have been the only exchange I've ever had with this woman. But she said to me, You know what, though? I don't recall or I don't resent or look back on that with any ill feelings whatsoever. I loved that we tried it. Because if it's in you, if you have the slightest inkling, you never want to look back and say, what if we would have done that? Right? She said, if it's in you, and you're the least bit curious about it, then try it. The worst that can happen is that they kind of plateau for a year, but especially if they're plateauing already, it's going to be fine. So I was like, no, no, no. So I met some people that were homeschooling, and they turned out to be not so super weird. They were in fact, incredible people. And I just started learning a little bit, we, my oldest daughter and I went to a convention, because I knew she was going to be especially going into fifth grade, she was going to be the most impacted the soonest by it, right? My my younger kids were going to be impacted, surely, but it wasn't going to hit the impact wasn't going to hit them quite as abruptly as it was going to for her. So we went to a convention. And we loved it, we really loved it. One of the biggest things that really caught our eye is we were breaking, we were sitting on the sidelines and breaking down the time that she was away. And she would catch the bus at seven something in the morning and come back at three close to four in the afternoon. And in all of that time, she was only getting about two and a half hours of actual instruction time. And I was like two and a half hours, you're gone all that time, you're only getting two and a half hours. So why don't we try this? Why don't we just give it a try. So what I want to share it with you today is what I learned in our seven years of homeschooling and a couple of things I would have done differently because we closed the doors. My daughters are now going into my youngest is going into seventh grade. Next year, my twins are going into ninth grade. So they're going into high school and my oldest is going into her senior year of high school. Now, when my oldest was going into high school, she left our homeschool environment and went to a private school. So my point in this first section is just to let you know, be flexible, be malleable, just think about what is the best thing to serve her and her or her education or him in his education if you have a son to and what would be the best thing for them this year and try it out and see just because the quote unquote normal role of education is preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle high school, all staying in public or what have you. Or maybe in your family it is, you know, preschool or kindergarten in elementary, middle and high school and they're all in private, or they're all in this thing, or you're listening from another country or another area. And it's even different than my point is you don't have to go with whatever is just the normal role of education. You can switch it up and just ask yourself, what would be best for them? What would serve them and their future the best right now? And go for it. So after seven years, we have closed our doors? And am I saying they're definitely permanently closed forever? No, because I've learned my lesson in the past that if they are called if we are called to bring them back home or something happens or a pandemic, you know, we never know what's going to happen. But our doors are closed for now. And so I want to share with you though, what I have learned through this process, and what I would have done differently. So number one, hands down. What I learned I became a better person, I became a better parent, I became a better student of life through this process, just being in a constant state of learning all the time. Always got me curious, and what's next and what's next. And where are we going to. And so what was really interesting though, is that I I love learning, and I've always loved learning, but the way we did homeschool and there's 1000 ways to do it. My friends, this is just the way we did it. I was they were gathered at the kitchen table notebooks, taking notes, and I was up at a dry erase board. And I took them through group work which was all of our science or literature, our poetry any history. Right those things were all group work even though yes, they were in different grades, and they were expected to do work. on their grade level, or they're not their grade level, because that could just because they were in a certain grade doesn't mean that that's what level they were at. But at their personal level would be a better way to put that. And so they, they did it at whatever personal level they were at. And then I took notes, and we did all the things in at in the after, we would have lunch, and then in the afternoon, they would do all of their individual work from there. And so.

Nellie Harden:

And so what was so beautiful is that they did their individual work, then we did our group work in the morning, and we just really dove into learning and I just became a better student always in the practice of learning something new researching it, looking in deeper, having discussions and moving forward. So one of the biggest things I got out is just becoming a better person, parent and student for myself. Another thing though, I learned about how my children function in a way that would have taken me so much longer to learn if I was not the one with them, right, which really helped me partner with them to develop their coping skills, and their soothing self soothing strategies with them so much sooner. So I'm talking about like comparison and perfectionism, their quirks, their different quirks that they have, they're also different, right? I call them four corners of a square. And I'm sure your kids are also different too. But I really was at the front seat of their learning styles and their study habits and their strengths and their weaknesses, and their interests for all those years. And so I just got to learn about my kids as people, instead of just my kids, much more early on than many other parents get to or what I know, I would have been able to if I had left them in a secondary school, or a secondary education experience instead of at home. And so that was truly a beautiful thing. We had so many instances where they would really struggled with something and their grade was fine, right? Their grade was fine. It was in the 90s, even, but they were really struggling with something. And if I wouldn't have been there to see that struggle, I would have just said, Oh, you're getting a 94 you're great, you're awesome. But that really wasn't the case. And so it's important, it wasn't really important to me to see what was going on and get to know them as people. I am raising people I am I am an architect, a family architect just like my husband is but I'm a Family architect, designing, planning and building the beginning of someone else's life. And I was able to do that on an even deeper level, having been homeschooling with them throughout the seven years, we learned how to talk about real things and not just surface stuff, right? So when they're when we were, we did a whole year on American on American history. I think we actually did two years in American history. We did two years on world history. We did an entire year on World Cultures and world religions. And we did an entire year on the history of science and all of these. So these really in depth conversations I got to have with them. It wasn't just, you know, how a school or you know, what's going on in your sport, or, you know, how are your friends doing and things like that, we got to have really, really real conversations about things that have built us as a world as society and nation as people and history and what people were thinking back then and, and how it got us to where we are today all of those really rich conversations. And it helped them with I got to, I got to see them develop critical thinking skills, which was super important. And something that's really lacking in today's world, especially with our teens and tweens, is them being able to think critically, right? Not just accepting everything is truth that's around them and the way things are, because you can go pick up, you know, one friend on Tuesday and they say something pick up the same friend on Wednesday, they say something else and a different friend Wednesday afternoon and they say something else. So it can be really confusing for our kids today, if they don't have critical thinking skills where they can think for themselves, right. And I got to experience that and be a part of that development with them. On a deeper level. Back and forth debates. Those are always fun, right? Teaching them how to be advocates for a subject be advocates for themselves, have conversations, learn in those conversations respect of listening to somebody else, even if they have a different viewpoint than you learning about the world through all of our current events that we did, and learning that it's not just you know, one direction of things. There's multiple viewpoints that you can look at for one situation We learned together and that is a vulnerable place to be. And it's a beautiful place to be when your kids know that you don't know everything. And when I taught for all these years, it's not because I knew everything, especially about history, I came into homeschooling, really not caring for history whatsoever. Because my teachers in my experience, it was them sitting up at the board, they had a book, it was a very monotone think like Ferris Bueller. You like Walt, Walt, Walt, you know, or I guess it was more Charlie Brown, right? But they're going through and they're just saying these things. And then there's a quiz, they, they read the next chapter, there's a quiz, it was so boring. But we were able to bring history to life. And it was so exciting. And I am a huge fan of history now, which I was not before. And so but having them know, and me being vulnerable to telling those stories of you know, I knew nothing about history. And now I know so much more than I knew before, and I value it so much more. But that was a vulnerable space that I could be in and they could be in together as we are learning the same thing. So cool. Exploring one another's interests, right, I got to when we gave them free projects to go, Okay, well just go pick something you're interested in, and then do some, like three days research on it, write a five, paragraph paper, a three paragraph paper, and then present it to us, let us know. And what they would come up with was just so fun, right? We did one when they received animals, we wanted to get them animals for their, in order to start developing some responsibility habits of their own, not just the family, pets, but their own pets. And they had to do report, they had to come up with a proposal and how they were going to afford everything and what these natural habitats were and what their confined habitats were and what they were going to do all of these things. And it was really funny to see, one of our daughters went through many reports before she landed on an animal because Oh, she just watched that girl, she just wanted a you know, a whale in her room, you know, not the case. Okay, so being able to correct them in a constructive way, when to help them understand that this was just me trying to better them, right. And so when they pass something in and need constructive criticism on a paper or on a math or on, you know, a history, paper or science or what have you, it was just me constructively criticizing them in order to help them become better, right. But how that translated into real life was a truly beautiful thing, because they knew when I was calm and talking with them, that I was like, I am not saying this to be mean, I am trying to help you, right. And because we had that reinforcement of my role as teacher, as well as mom, they were able to see that a little bit more clearly. And we were able to work through some of our other situations that were totally outside of school with a little bit more peace and ease that we were going through. And the sibling relationships, they were truly beautiful and everything was heightened in the sibling relationships. Love was deeper, frustration was deeper, the silliness was deeper, and the craziness was deeper. But they they do really see one another more as equals and not just separated by these grades. You know, it's really easy, especially when you have big sister, little sister or big sibling, little sibling dynamic to say, I'm the big one, you're the little one right? And not to say we've fully escaped this. But when they're learning the same thing, having the same test and you know, history and science and all these things for so many years, they're more on the on the same level, right? And it really is a cool thing to see them study together and quiz each other and prep with one another and things before an exam. If you have exams, we didn't have exams the first several years, but the last four years, we did

Nellie Harden:

it every state is different. Every country is different if if homeschooling is even allowed where you are. But every state is different. Where we are in North Carolina you have to there's several small requirements, but one of them is that you have to have a yearly standardized test to make sure that you have adequately covered that yours materials. But I'm talking about the science tests the the you know, history tests and different paper all these things that were actually tested in in graded as a or that were graded as a test. We didn't start that until about four years in because they were little right and my other one was going off to be tested by other people. Uh, but their sibling relationship has it's, it's unique, it's a different experience. It's not what I see in several other siblings, when they're going into any sort of action when they're going out to eat or when they're working on doing something together a lemonade stand or selling something or volunteering, right? They just, there's just this different dynamic, because they've been more on the same level for all of these years, they have learned how to cook much, much, much better than I can, because lunch was on them. For several years, you know, it started off when they were little is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but it quickly escalated to them, making beautiful meals on the stove. And they, you know, I'm a person, I just don't have time or patience, quite frankly. And I'll just grab some raw veggies and on those for lunch, where my kids are making these gourmet, beautiful lunches, and I'm like, Hey, can you just make me some of that instead of, you know, me chopping on jumping on some lettuce and carrots over here. But yeah, so they become great cooks, which is such an exploration in their independence and creativity. So that has been super neat. They understand more than one may how to do something and how to think outside of the box. Right? We schooled differently. We did things differently. And so they were able to see, okay, you know, there's more than one way to do something. And then, you know, to kind of wrap up all the positives. And I don't know if I'm sure I'm forgetting over half of these positives, but I wanted to deliver some of these to you. Because you might be thinking about homeschooling, you might be homeschooling already. And you're like, Oh, it does get better. You know, how is this and I just wanted to share some of this with you. But free time was amazing, right? Remember, I told you she had when she was in regular school she had or, or traditional school, I should say she was gone for several, several hours. But she only had about two and a half hours of instruction a day. So the free time was amazing. We could take trips, we could do things. But also, we could explore different kinds of instruments, right. And they always had music, music is very important. To me. Physical activity is very important to our family, too. So every day there was a checklist. And they would of course have their academics but they would also have reading to do every day they would have their music to do every day, their chores to do every day, their physical fitness to do every day. I wanted them outside every day doing something too. So there was this checklist that they could go through, which was self motivating, right? They were disciplining, learning how to discipline themselves, they had a checklist that they needed to go through every day, before they could do anything else responsibilities before recreation. So another great thing that they were able to do, and the opportunities they had with an open schedule, like, we have a family business, and they were able to go and speak at events, and we would travel for conventions. And they would get to learn

Nellie Harden:

personal development and business development at their young ages and see these, you know, companies that were starting small and growing and what they were doing, and people that were striving and hitting goals. And they would speak at the Chamber of Commerce for our company. We have a we have a company that we started as a family project back in 2018, called the seaglass company. And we make custom make etched glass straws and bottles in order to reduce the plastic footprint in the world. And so and those that have now gone all the way around the world. Christmas Eve a few two years ago, we received a message someone in Tasmania had them and I was like we have made it girls look at this awesome, right? They have now gone all the way around the world. So so so cool. And so we were able to just celebrate and explore and try things and fail at things and get better at things and try new things. And it was just a really beautiful experience. And the moment we close down, I'm going to try not to cry here, you guys. So I'm a crier. If you know me, you know, I'm a crier. So the moment I went around, I was reading out of a book. Our history book art, we went through three science textbooks this year, so crazy, so good. But I was walking around the table and I would always kind of walk around the table as I was reading and I would check on their notes but I would also just kind of you know, touch a shoulder have that have that connection point, you know, and I was reading and then when I needed to I would be up at the board taking notes and I would I'd take another lap around the table. Surprise there's not a groove that is etched into that flow. But

Nellie Harden:

I sat down, I'd actually just lost my voice going on rollercoasters. And so the girls were reading some, but I wanted to be the one that closed it out. And so I mustered what voice I could. And I sat down, and I knew I was making my last lap around the table. Hmm, whoo. And I was, you know, touching them and touching their shoulder and just just not telling them verbally right then although I did many times, but just, I'm just so proud of them. I'm so proud of us for you know, doing this and, and I sat down and I read the I about lost it 50 times before I stopped, and I read the last line. And the last line of this textbook could not have been more fitting and it just said, Go out there, there's still yet so much to be discovered. And then I lost it. And then they lost it. And they came up. And they we all hugged we were just in a huddle my three youngest and I my oldest was at school at this point. And we just huddled together and cried and told each other how proud of us we are told each other how thankful we are in fact, our last writing project was about what is this homeschool experience meant for you or felt for you. And oh, those were hard to hard to hear but in the most beautiful way too. And there's just so so so much gratitude in it. And we, I, we took pictures and we kept those and it was just such it was a moment it was a moment that I will always carry with me is that closing line of and that closing hug that we had at the end of our homeschooling experience. Now, I don't know when you're listening to this, but right now it is summer between the close of the year and the start of next year. And so I have I've gotten to a point that I'm not, you know, doing the, you know, over homeschooling ending, but I know when school starts this upcoming year, that's gonna be another really hard one. So, but it is what it is, and life keeps going on. And we just are experimenting and trying something new, just like we have for the last seven, and several years before that. So now what would i What do I wish I would have done differently. I wish I had more time to do the just school activities for exploring going out in the middle of the woods and field trips and play. You know, that is something I wish we would have had a little bit more time with, we were a part of a co op that we did field trips with for a while. And then that kind of fell by the wayside. And then COVID happened, of course, and so we were really just us, which is great. But we my my husband and I and our family, we all have businesses and jobs and all of these things. So we were just very busy. But the time that I put into this is homeschooling time, that was sacred time and nothing touched that. But I just I do wish that we would have had some extra room and spare time in the schedule to do extra things if we felt like it and doing more unschooling, you know, type things, I think there's so much value and just getting out and exploring and seeing what you see and having conversations. And that's what we do when we go out, I just wish there would have been a little bit more time for us or I would have made more time are we would have made more time. During our years we did some of that I wish we could have done more. And lastly, so there's not many things I would have done differently. But I wish I would have and I don't regret it because I see the development. But I wish I would have been the person I was at the end of homeschooling at the beginning, right? That's impossible. That's like saying you wish you would have been the person or had the wisdom you do at 50 when you were 20. Right? It's not necessary. You need those experiences those life experiences, but especially for my oldest because she left our homeschooling experience. After four years, she did fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade with us. And then she went off into ninth grade. And especially for her I wish I would have understood a little bit more and had all of the skill sets and mindsets that I have now back then. But again, I can't regret the development and the journey that it was. I maybe would have had a little bit more patience with myself. I did learn that along the way and it's just a journey. So if you're thinking about homeschooling or you are homeschooling or you think homeschooling is something crazy,




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