Every family is different. When you consider elements like parenting styles, screen-time privileges, and decisions about education, it’s easy to see why there are so many ways in which family dynamics can vary.
But Julie Kieras believes that all families can be two things:
Happy and strong.
Happy Strong Home began in early 2010 to help Kieras, its creator, document her journey through motherhood, and while she recorded her family’s growth, her blog began to evolve.
“It developed into a review-style blog focused mostly on parenting products,” Kieras said in an interview with Learnamic. “Since then, I’ve moved my blogging more in the direction of parenting and educational topics, with a strong focus on hands-on learning and natural living.”
Wisdom from a Wealth of Experiences
It’s no surprise Kieras knows what she wants in her homeschool; she has experience as a teacher and a long history with education.
“I am blessed that I grew up in both traditional school and homeschool, taught in public school, and have so many teacher and home education friends and family. So before I even began, I was exposed to a wide spectrum of ways kids can learn and teachers can instruct, which has helped me be flexible from the beginning.”
So when Kieras’s oldest child was about three years old, she decided to enroll the family in a preschool homeschooling program.
“I started doing home preschool because he wasn’t in another learning program as many children his age are, and I wanted to test the waters for how it would feel to teach my children at home. It helped us develop a good rapport and taught me a lot about how to plan and schedule our days. And in the meantime, he learned so many foundational facts while we enjoyed quality reading time together.”
Everything Homeschool Parents Need to Know
In Happy Strong Home, you will find content about natural living, parenting, food, faith, and homeschooling.
“Natural living creates a healthful environment free from toxins that impede a child’s development; low-sugar, unprocessed meals and snacks nourish kids’ bodies and brains, so they have the energy needed for learning!”
Travel as a Teaching Tool
Kieras also shares her DIY projects and travel activities that inspire learning so that you can incorporate presence and engagement in multiple elements in family life.
“Travel is part of our homeschool program, and we try to visit places connected to history as much as possible; plus we’re studying geography on the way. But, even if we’re just camping or having a beach day, I like to bring in as much real-world learning as possible on each trip.”
Keeping the Kids Engaged (No Screen Required!)
Kieras and her husband decided to keep the first couple years of their children’s lives screen-free.
“When I left teaching to have children, cell phones were just becoming “smart,” and I already saw the addictive effect they were having on students. I didn’t want to create a tech-dependent culture in our home, so my husband and I agreed on no screen time until age two, and then extremely limited until age four. I wanted my kids to exercise their senses and “tune in” to the world around them instead of be tuned into electronics.”
Since then, what began as a directory of activities for Kieras to log and write about turned into an ebook that she hopes will inspire families to put down the screen and spend more time utilizing hands-on experiences.
Some of the fun included in 101 Tech-Free Toddler Activities include life-skills development, such as caring for plants or sorting like-items, painting with water, and acting out scenes from a book.
This does not stop her family from utilizing technology, though. Kieras still finds value in a moderate use of screens to employ helpful activities.
“Now that the boys are older, we do have irregular family movie nights and make limited use of video for educational purposes like math lessons and foreign language learning. To this day, my boys, while interested in movies and online games, rarely ask for screen time and can self-entertain for hours with LEGO bricks, games, puzzles, art projects, and books.”
A Blog That Supports Homeschool Parents
Since starting her homeschooling journey, Kieras has some advice for those who are just beginning.
“Number one, always ask people who have or are homeschooling currently. They’ll be your best resource, because they’re in the trenches with you and have an understanding of your current home education situation. It’s great to read about delightful homeschool products and see how amazing they are, but it’s important that they fit your teaching style and home schedule. A wonderful product for one family may not work for another, no matter how well-developed it is.
Second, do lots of Google searches and read reviews of products you’re interested in, especially read reviews that share HOW the product was actually used day to day. This way you’ll learn if the product is more hands-on or workbook driven, if it’s comprehensive or more of a supplement, and see photos of real families using the products and resources.”
Kieras stated that she likes flexible resources for her homeschool.
“My preference is for material that allows my children to express what they learn and ask questions. I steer away from worksheets and fill-in-the-blank types of programs, with the exception being math, because I think math learning benefits from loads of repetition.”
Don’t Get Caught Up Comparing Yourself to Others
Even though Kieras works hard to create a valuable homeschooling experience, this doesn’t mean she didn’t have her own struggles while adapting to the homeschooling lifestyle.
“I wish I had known how easy it is to begin comparing my home school to other families. Despite all my training and background, by my second year I began to look around me and wonder if I was really doing enough. It’s was important, then, for me to return to my own family learning goals, assess my children for where they were, and grow them to their next level.”
A Touch of Faith
For Kieras and her family, part of this meant turning to the Classical model of curriculum building, which includes content about the Christian faith.
“We attend a Classical Conversations program to form the “framework” for our learning. Then at home, I choose resources that tie into the foundational facts we study at Classical Conversations. That means, reading books about the history learning, taking field trips that tie into the Science or Art. I add in Bible lessons and resources that fit specific family goals, like developing Bible literacy, Christian character, and study habits.”
A Blog for Everyone
So, whether you are looking for parenting tips, recipes, travel guides, or homeschooling resources, Kieras prepares her blog so that there is always something for you!
“I would hope that whether I’m writing about education, recipes, travel, or natural living, that all families – homeschoolers or not - benefit from my ideas and experiences about how we try to create a wholesome home day by day!”
To read more about what Kieras and her family are up to, be sure to check out Happy Strong Home!