Homeschool Day in the Life: Jen, homeschooling mom to three who advocates for homeschooling rights
A homeschool day in the life looks different almost every day, right? Over on our Instagram page, we love to give you a peek into lots of homeschool days regardless of how they change day to day.
Today, we’re going to give you a peek into the homeschool day in the life of Jen, homeschooling mama to three who just helped to pass improved homeschooling legislation in her home state!
We can all learn and be inspired by one another, regardless of our homeschool approach. It’s not about looking good for social media, it’s about the connection going on inside our homeschool walls and sharing with others what works for us.
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We might all homeschool a little differently, but we can always look for ideas from each other that inspire, encourage and equip us in our own homeschool days. So each week we create blog posts for you to access later of each of those “days in the life”. We hope you keep coming back for more inspiration. Keep going, mama! These days at home are so worth it!
Jen lives in the Black Hills of Western South Dakota with her husband of 14 years and their three children Savy 13, Ali 11, and E 9. She worked as a criminal defense attorney before finding herself unexpectedly homeschooling. On the first day of kindergarten, instead of dropping her child off, she dropped off homeschooling paperwork and then promptly drove home and panic searched “how to homeschool a kindergartener.” Jen founded a local homeschool group in an attempt to build a community since she’d never met a homeschooler in her life before she became one. That group now has over 2,000 local members and is growing by the day.
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Jen describes her homeschooling style as “evolving and eclectic.” This includes pieces of traditional curriculum mixed in with Charlotte Mason-inspired units, hands-on learning, and a fun, modern math program. She loves to read historical fiction aloud to her kids, and then follow it up with documentaries or movies that complement or contradict the book.
Her children are all in competitive sports, so most weekends you can find Jen on the road across the west and midwest to soccer, gymnastics, softball, baseball or motorcycle races. She enjoys audiobooks and podcasts and has plenty of drive time to get them all in.
Jen spent the better part of 2020 and the winter of 2021 working to pass better homeschooling legislation in South Dakota. After months of hard work, the bill was passed and signed into law a few weeks ago.
Besides advocating for homeschooling and parental rights, Jen loves writing. She’s currently working on a homeschooling memoir that she hopes to have published by mid-summer. Travel is also a passion and no year feels complete without having the next adventure on the horizon. One of her favorite ways to spend a day would be roaming the Black Hills, hiking, paddleboarding in a mountain lake, eating lunch at a quaint German restaurant, then hitting a little dinosaur museum where you might just get a tour by one of the paleontologists, then ending the day with a big fancy homecooked meal.
Good morning everyone! This is Jen, and I’m so excited to be able to share our day with you!
We live at about a mile high so winter is a reality for us until the end of May. I love living in the mountains and the unpredictability of the weather. We once had a storm that began on October 4th and left us with five feet of snow and stuck at our home without power or water for nine days. That was a bit more challenging than I prefer, but since then we’ve worked hard on making sure we have back up systems.
One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that we don’t have get up crazy early. My kids like to set goals in the morning, so they still like to set alarms each day and get going.
We live in the country, about 45 minutes away from the second largest “city” in South Dakota. We spend a lot of time in the car! Which we’re doing today so you’ll get to ride along!
Modeling a DIY Mentality
I generally get up around 7am. There is usually a child or two up by then. The first thing we do is start a fire. We just added a wood fireplace to the house this winter. The winters are long here, and I was craving coziness and warmth!
My husband owns a finance company, and generally works from home. If our satellite internet isn’t quite fast enough, he goes to his office in town. But because he does so much work on computers, he loves a good DIY project. We’re building the rock wall around the fireplace ourselves.
Getting the kids involved in these kinds of projects is really important to our family. We have very little experience in building or masonry but we research, plan and attempt. Sometimes it requires tearing down mistakes & trying again. Setting this sort of “can-do” example and that it’s okay to make an attempt and fail, is one of the best things we can do for our kids. We are helping them to prepare for success in life.
I try to model this sort of DIY mentality a lot. If I see my kids getting a little disinterested in school or discouraged in sports, school, or life, I’ll call a week of “new things.” During this week I’ll decide to learn something new and they are to research and learn something new as well.
Learning New Things
My first experience with this was a happy accident. My grandma is an amazing sculptor and had given me professional clay and a sculpting book. How to sculpt a face was something I became obsessed with learning. It was deep into January and we were all hitting a wall with school. So I declared a week off while I dove deep into learning to sculpt a face. The kids were free to do anything they wanted as long as they didn’t bother me too much. ??♀️
The first day I did research and discovered that I needed some additional tools. So we packed up and went to Hobby Lobby. By the time we got done shopping they were getting excited. I bought them some cheaper, more colorful clay and a book on sculpting cute little figures so they didn’t ask to use my supplies. ?
We came home and got started right away. At first the kids played video games and ran around but pretty soon they were all up at the kitchen island with me sculpting. This was a pivotal moment for me as a mother and a homeschool teacher. School lessons had become an exercise in cajoling them to get work done and dragging them through lessons. But this felt different. We were all in this together, they willingly sat up and asked questions, researched ideas, tried and failed, and tried again. And they were listening.
I would say things like, “I can’t believe how hard this is, but I’m not giving up. I’m not quitting but I just need a break. Can you look at this and tell me what I’m doing wrong? Maybe I need a new tutorial, or maybe this one isn’t teaching me in a way that is working for me, maybe there are other ways to do this?” And soon I was hearing them say the same things. And then they began encouraging me. “Don’t give up Mom! I’m proud of your hard work. Learning things takes a lot of work. Just keep trying. It’s okay to fail.”
Cue tears on my part. It was a magical week for us and one I try to recreate whenever we start hitting a wall.
The better part of this last year has been spent working on new homeschooling legislation for South Dakota. Our state has always been a great place to live, but the homeschooling laws were quite restrictive. As a lawyer, I had a lot of reservations about how these laws could essentially play out.
I got involved in a group called FAIRSD (Families for Alternative Instruction Rights in South Dakota). The last eight months I have been immersed in writing legislation and fighting to get it passed. We are so happy to be able to say that it DID pass through both the House and the Senate and was signed into law by Governor Kristi Noem about a month ago!
Our homeschooling laws are now less prohibitive for families. The notification to homeschool process is now a one time notification. We no longer have mandated standardized testing. Lastly, homeschool students are now allowed to participate in public school activities, sports and clubs. This really propelled South Dakota to the top of the list as far as being a state that is great to homeschool in. I am so proud to have been a part of this process.
Fostering Artistic Expression
I really value fostering artistic expression. However, I also need it to be something they can work on by themselves or with instructors so I can have some time to work. My oldest has an in person painting lesson weekly. And then we do a lot of online art instruction. During challenging times in my life, I have turned to art to get me through it. I want to arm them with tools to be able to help themselves when they encounter challenging times in their lives. This is my 13 year old’s embroidery project!
Dinner + A Movie
On the rare night that we don’t have sports practice we like to make a nice dinner and watch a movie together. We’re watching the Lost in Space series and it’s borderline too scary for these two. ? Thanks so much for following along on my crazy day! I would love to have you follow my personal page @jenbeving.
Thank you so much to Jen for sharing your family’s day with us!
If you want to see more Day in the Life photos and videos, be sure to check out our Instagram profile. There are highlights of each takeover at the top.