When local lifestyle blogger Bethany Douglass started blogging over 10 years ago, none of us expected that these days, we’d all be able to relate to her blog’s name: Cloistered Away, and her topics of family, home and homeschooling. Nor did any of us expect that this year, homeschooling would suddenly become mandatory.
But in spite of the difference between the Douglass family making their own decision to homeschool and our “new normal” being suddenly thrust upon us, it seems the emotions are similar.
“I wasn’t homeschooled,” says Douglass, “so I was a little bit nervous, not really knowing what it was, if I could do it, or what it would look like. So we just took it one step at a time.”
Sound familiar? Take heart. Douglass’ four kids are now in their teens, and like you, she’s also working from home, managing the highly successful Cloistered Away. Here’s a few thoughts from her years of experience.
Successful homeschooling begins with an attitude shift. “I think people tend to view homeschooling as just doing school at home,” Douglass says. “Whereas it’s really just creating an environment – which encompasses all sorts of things, not just academically. I think that’s a lot of the benefit.”
Recognizing this subtle shift makes everything else so much easier, Douglass explains. “It takes on a different pace and a different rhythm. Find a pace that works for you, but also adjust expectations.”
Also important is to consider each child’s abilities and temperaments. Douglass mentions that over the years, she’s learned a lot through homeschooling about what it means to love others as individuals with “their own personhood and perspective of the world.” In other words, be prepared to listen and to adjust to each child’s unique needs.
Recognize that it’s a process, and that even the experts are figuring things out. For Douglass, despite most of her work already being online, she underestimated how tough the shift would be with online meetings and extracurriculars also being moved to the world wide web. “I’ve always seen homeschool and homeschool life as all ‘in person.’ Now, building and shaping those worlds has been more complicated than I thought.” So just like the rest of us, Douglass can say of her experience, “We’re working through it. We’re changing things, moving things. We’re really grateful for a yard.”
Being outdoors can be a huge plus, and while Douglass advises setting boundaries and specific times for schooling, she encourages the freedom found with taking any schoolwork that you can outside. Just changing the environment can facilitate taking in new information.
And finally, examine what your goals are for this time with your children. “It’s a really unique opportunity to actually get to connect with your kids and check in on their interests, and be able to pursue those things,” Douglass says. “It just feels like a really great privilege.”
Finding that balance between full-time parenting and a full-time job is not easy, and it’s a struggle that Douglass — as well as many other parents nationwide — are feeling particularly deeply right now.
“When I started homeschooling, Cloistered Away kind of took a backburner,” says Douglass.
Cloistered Away originally did not start off as a lifestyle blog according to Douglass; rather, it started as a way for her to share and keep up with extended family. She says it felt more like a way of inviting people into her thoughts on motherhood and the concept of homeschooling.
“I really loved it as a creative outlet,” says Douglass. “I’ve always liked writing, and I felt like it was a way for me to be able to look for things I’m interested in.”
Aside from being a way to share daily life with her family, Cloistered Away is primarily focused on a female audience of women from their mid 20s to 40s. She embraces a journalistic approach to the blog, and it has grown much since its inception.
Douglass says the experience of blogging and sharing online has taught her about being a mother, growing through different stages of childhood, and about herself as a woman, growing through change while also protecting her children. Her philosophy regarding homeschooling is similar to the way she thinks of her online audience, and is a bit of inspiration many parents could use right now.
“There are lots of ways that people can gain knowledge,” she says. “When they come to my online space, I want them to feel comforted and encouraged, reminded that they can do it, that they have the capacity to do the things that they need to do, that they have the resources available, and just encourage them that they’re the best parents their children need.”
Times may be a little strange at the moment, but every day is a new opportunity to teach, to learn, and to grow. For more gentle, honest encouragement in your inbox, sign up for the blog at cloisteredaway.com or follow Douglass on Instagram @cloisteredaway.