I first “met” the Caffey family on Instagram, where Jacquelin posts pictures of their homeschool day, as well as all the competitive gymnastic meets they attend. I was intrigued by how they homeschooled using a whole book curriculum like Tapestry of Grace, while keeping up with all their competitive sports. So I asked Jacquelin if she would mind sharing with me how they shape their homeschool to fit their family. I love how their story shows how they make homeschooling work for them!
Tell me about your family. How old are your kids?
Hi! We are a NAVY family of eight currently residing in the Hampton Roads area of VA. My husband and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage in July and we have six kids, 5 daughters and a little boy, 19, 16, 14, 10, 7, and 2. We are an active sports family who loves watching and cheering for our favorite football teams the SF 49ers and Denver Broncos. Our children are also actively involved in sports as child athletes. Currently we have two competitive gymnasts competing at levels 3 and 9 (Junior Olympic levels go to Level 10), a daughter who plays Varsity softball and runs track, and a daughter who is a Pop Warner cheerleader. Our son is busy trying to keep up with his sisters but he loves to run and play baseball and ride his bike.
Why did you start homeschooling?
We started homeschooling eight years ago when we made the move to Virginia. After seeing the price of private schools in the area and the state of the local public schools we knew that it was time to bring our three oldest girls home. My oldest was just going into 7th grade and we didn’t want to throw her to the wolves so to speak by putting her into the local public school. She is our first homeschool graduate and currently attends Liberty University.
How long have you been using Tapestry of Grace?
I have been using Tapestry of Grace with my younger three daughters for the past year and a half. I tried valiantly to switch the whole family years ago when my oldest was entering 9th grade but we all got immediately overwhelmed because I was trying to do too much. As we homeschooled, the other history program we used was too literature rich for my current 8th grader so we slowly made the transition back to Tapestry with great success now.
Why did you choose Tapestry?
I really needed to be on one history time period instead of 4 different time periods. My sanity couldn’t take it anymore and I was getting burned out. Tapestry was a God send for me at the time because I was really down on myself because history was not being done. Now, I know how to better pick and choose what works for each child plus we still get the quality literature I was looking for in a history program.
My favorite subject is the History Core followed by the Arts/Activities. My children learn and retain so much more when we have fun activities to complete. Plus I like to get crafty with them.
The literature selections are also fantastic! I enjoy the buffet now that I know how to make it work for our family. I especially like that I can glance ahead and make the program work for us during our busy travel months for gymnastics. My older daughter competes Level 9 gymnastics. She trains 28 hours a week, 5 days a week. We are able to plan her readings around that schedule. As long as I do my part ahead of time, we can still do history on the go as we travel.
I love how they have made homeschooling work for their families and goals. They have found a way to both encourage their children’s gifts while ensuring that they are getting a great academic education. If you want to know more about how Tapestry can work for your family, check out a sample here.
Winter can be a tough season of homeschooling. The excitement of new books, and a new year of curriculum wanes. The holidays are over, and sick days start to happen, adding to the feeling of never being in a good schooling rhythm. As the homeschooling mom, you may be so aware of how you are failing at your earlier plans and ideals.
Now is a wonderful time to seek homeschool encouragement from seasoned homeschoolers. There is so much help out there to regain perspective and encouragement from other moms who have gone before you. Sitting down with another homeschooling mom, or even talking to one online can help ease the discouragement and give you fresh encouragement to keep on this homeschooling journey.
During times of discouragement, I also like to seek out good books that will remind me of why I started homeschooling in the first place and what my goals were in the first place.
There are so many wonderful books on homeschooling. One of my favorites is Love the Journey. This is the perfect book to bring your view back from the day to day inadequacies and disappointments you feel. It will remind you of what is most important and how to steadily achieve the goals that matter in life and to your family in particular.
Love the Journey will give you fresh excitement for the rest of the year, as well as tools to evaluate your own homeschool. It will help you decide if you have really gone off track from your plans, or if you are achieving the goals you want to be a part of your homeschool, you just can’t see that in the busyness of life.
The longer I homeschool, the more benefits and delights I find come along with this choice. I cherish all the time my kids play games they made up, because they have the time to imagine. I love watching the near constant clay, painting, and sewing projects that happen around the house with all the “free time” they have. Little do they know that this is actually learning!
I love that my oldest daughter can get up at 5:30am to start her school, just because she likes getting done early. (I, on the other hand, have a rule that I don’t help with school until 8 am!) But the thing I treasure the most is the closeness my children share with one another. My children could not be more different from each other. They have opposite passions and interests. One loves to read and writes papers for fun. She is the perfect rule follower who needs to be taught to think creatively. The other wants to do everything her own way. She feels stifled by following directions, but can create the most amazing crafts just by looking at a picture. These two both drive each other crazy in one moment, and then in the next beg each other to play a new imaginative game they created. If they went their separate ways, to different classrooms all day every day, I know they would not be close. They wouldn’t have the chance to build relationships, and be forced to compromise their ideas day in and day out.
I see so many benefits that living life together gives us. But it also leads me to value unity in our homeschool. Just as I don’t want each child to go his or her separate way to a classroom, I want to keep my homeschool on the same topics to get all the benefits of the kids learning the same things together. I want to hear my kids share the cool things they discovered in their history books, or joining together to admire each one’s science experiments. Although homeschooling doesn’t have to be this way, I love seeing our home atmosphere be one of learning together.
Although some subjects, like math, needs to be done at specific grade levels, the humanities provides a perfect opportunity to bring our homeschool into the same topics. When you learn history, literature, geography and write reports on the same time period it makes learning fascinating. This also gives me, as the teacher, a much simpler task of only preparing for one topic, rather than many!
Envision the delight that comes with having everyone on the same historical topic, while combining subjects. The older student gets to go in depth on the reasons behind the Revolutionary war, while reading a literature book from that era, and writing a paper based in those topics. Meanwhile, the younger ones are reading age appropriate books and doing lots of fun revolutionary war crafts. The third grader is learning to write paragraphs, while writing about the Boston Tea Party. The discussion around the dinner table is lively, as even the first grader eagerly adds the things she learned this week. The third grader feels quite pleased with himself when he shares a fact his older sister didn’t know about the Revolutionary war.
With all the kids on the same time period, you only have to prepare once to keep up with everyone. You will no longer feels pulled in so many different directions, but can simply direct your focus on keeping everyone on their appropriate learning level. Another benefit is that this kind of plan works no matter the age gap between your kids. If you have a high schooler and a kindergartner, they can learn the same topics at their own learning level. It simplifies homeschooling without sacrificing the quality for the older ones. It inspires the younger ones to work toward what their older siblings are doing.
With the simplicity of this way of homeschooling, Dad can even join in the discussions. There are wonderful resources that provide a history overview on audio for Dad to listen to on the way to work. We love Pop Quiz, Story of the World, and many others. Dad just has to listen to the time period the family is studying and he is will be included in what the kids are learning. This also enables him to lead conversations around the dinner table and check on how well his kids are retaining what they have learned. When Dad is engaged in homeschooling, the children benefit so much.
I have loved to see the wonderful benefits that have come from keeping all my kids on the same time period! The benefits our family receives from homeschooling only increases when everyone is learning subjects together.
If you are interested in homeschooling together, check out Tapestry of Grace. This curriculum provides all that you need to bring a unified approach to teaching the humanities in your family. We love how Tapestry of Grace gives you the tools you need to keep the whole family together in the humanities.
History is a perfect subject to help take school from something your child has to do every day, to showing him the delights of learning. Because it is a subject based on stories, it is a easy subject to help bring fun to learning and schoolwork.
- Read great books. Don’t just settle for any work based on history, aim for quality. Read wonderful biographies, beautiful picture books, and well written historical fiction. A wonderful story brings characters and settings to life. A well-written history book should do that as well. our family loves books like the “choose your own adventure” type book, or the beautifully illustrated stories by the D’Aulaire’s. We love well written biographies, and classics like Laura Ingalls Wilder. There are so many wonderful choices!
- Study people who intrigue your child. Encourage your child to learn more about a character who interests them, even if it does not follow your school schedule. My oldest has fallen in love with the stories about Florence Nightingale. She will read any book about her she can find. Although for school time I have assigned history reading that helps her learn history chronologically, I also encourage her to pursue people that interest her to help make history even more exciting.
- Allow them to pursue aspects of history that excite them most. Does your child get super excited about fashion or machinery? Help him look at the history of those things while they study events and places. Boys often get excited about history when they reach the battles or weapons of each time period. Looking at history through a specific lens can help students develop a deep love of learning. That love will naturally lead to learning other subjects, like science, engineering, or math. All this leads from being drawn into a true story.
- Combine your history study with geography. Understanding where things happen, and how the geography plays a part helps bring to life the time period you are studying. I have learned about the battle of Gettysburg for most of my life, but when I went there and got to see the actual lay of the land, so many details that I had learned made so much more sense to me. Which leads to number 5….
- Visit historical places. I think every homeschool parent knows the value of field trips. But I think that we can make it more complicated than it needs to be. Kids learn so much just from a simple field trip. Last year at our county fair, we watched a local blacksmith work with metal. This was a wonderful teaching moment to talk about colonial life. When we visit a farm, we talk to them about how people used to grow their food for hundreds of years. National Parks have a wonderful Junior Rangers program that you can sign up for at the welcome desk that gives your kids questions to answer and things to look for. This helps them learn more from the displays at a national park. If you think creatively, you will be amazed at what you can come up with for good field trips!
- Watch documentaries or historically based movies. For the older students, there are so many high quality documentaries that expand the things they have read. A well done movie set in a particular time period (think a movie like Pride and Prejudice), typically hires a historian to make sure the setting and costumes are accurate to the time period. Ask your kids about what they notice. For younger kids, cartoon stories like Liberty Kids can teach them a lot about a time period. In addition to a well told story, movie time is usually a treat and a great option on a sick day!
- Reenact scenes from history. Kids love pretend play. They love to inject themselves into a story and act out the characters. The fun of telling the story forces the students to think about what they are reenacting. They will notice details or ask different questions than they will when they are just reading from a book. For an older student, have them write a play or fiction story based in that time period. Using different learning styles helps implant those stories in their heads.
- Make crafts that show different parts of life from history. Some of our favorite crafts have shown the differences between the time period we are studying and modern day. To ensure we actually do them, another mom and I get together once a week to do a co-op. One week, the kids made a model of the Nile river and then flooded it to show how crops would grow. Another time, they made quill pens and the kids had to try to write with them using ink. They discovered how difficult it was to write with a feather and not smudge the paper! Another time, the kids “panned for gold” in a large tub of water to show what the Gold Rush of California really meant. Sometimes the activities don’t work though. One week we made hard tack to show how tasteless the food was for the Civil War soldiers…The kids loved it and requested it for a snack!
Helping your kids love to learn is about finding that thing that will spark their interest. When they have that interest it is so exciting to see them pursue learning on their own! I personally love Tapestry of Grace because it weaves all these elements together. If you want to see how Tapestry of Grace works, see our samples here.