S6 E12 | Homeschooling Through Life’s Challenges: Toddlers (Julie Ross with Lyndsey Mimnagh of Treehouse Schoolhouse)
Having toddlers in your home is a beautiful season, and it can also be challenging! Especially if you are trying to homeschool older children while meeting the many needs of your little ones. This is a topic that Lyndsey of Treehouse Schoolhouse shares openly about on her platforms, and she is joining Julie in this episode to discuss the reality of homeschooling with toddlers underfoot. Not only do Lyndsey and Julie talk about the difficult parts and offer strategies for making the most of this season, they also share encouragement about the gifts it holds. And if you are a homeschooling parent who also works from home, stay tuned until the end of the episode where both share what it’s like to run businesses from home while being fully present in their children’s education. This conversation is packed full of practical strategies, encouragement, and laughter!
Lyndsey is a homeschool mom of four and the founder of Treehouse Schoolhouse. Before motherhood, Lyndsey had a career in children's ministry and special needs education. Her home education centers around living books and ideas, hands-on learning, nature exploration, and biblical discipleship. She shares experiences and home education inspiration through her Instagram and blog, as well as creates curriculum and resources for families around the world. Her most popular curriculum titles are An Expectant Easter, A Connected Christmas, and Treehouse Nature Study.
Julie H. Ross believes that every child needs a feast of living ideas to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. As a former school teacher, curriculum coordinator, and assistant director of a homeschool academy, Julie has worked with hundreds of students and parents over the past 20 years. She has also been homeschooling her own five children for over a decade. Julie developed the Charlotte Mason curriculum, A Gentle Feast, to provide parents with the tools and resources needed to provide a rich and abundant educational feast full of books, beauty, and Biblical truth. Julie lives in South Carolina. When she’s not busy homeschooling, reading children’s books, hiking, or writing curriculum, you can find her taking a nap.
Check out Lyndsey’s seasonal, family-style nature study curriculum: Treehouse Nature Study
Julie Ross | Instagram
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Julie Ross [00:00:04] Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Ms. Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. It is our hope that each episode will leave you inspired and offer practical wisdom on how to provide this rich, living education in your modern homeschool. So pull up a chair. We're glad you're here. Today's episode of The Charlotte Mason Show is brought to you by Medi-Share. Find out more about this affordable, Christian alternative to traditional health insurance at Medi-Share.com.
Julie Ross [00:00:40] Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and I'm here with Lindsay Mimnagh, which most of you might know from Instagram from Treehouse Schoolhouse. Hi. I'm so glad you're here to talk with us today, and I really wanted to have you on for this episode to talk about homeschooling with toddlers because you are posting about that a lot on your Instagram. And I love seeing the reels that are very real—haha, so punny—with your family about, you know, this is the process of what we're doing, and that you're still actively kind of writing about it and talking to homeschool parents while you're in the trenches of it. So thank you for being willing to come on and discuss this with us.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:01:26] Absolutely. I'm so honored to join you today. And actually, Julie and I met at an apple orchard. I was there with my four kids wrangling them all. So she got to see it in real action. We got to meet there. So it's nice to actually have a conversation though, because that was like a quick hi, "can I hug you?" moment.
Julie Ross [00:01:43] That was so fun. I'll have to try to find that picture from the apple orchard. That was so— just one of those random moments. I love meeting people in real life that you meet online, and you're like, "Oh my goodness, you're actually real. I can touch you." When we hopped on this earlier, I said, "Oh, it's nice to meet you." Oh yeah, I've already met you. But I meant like actually have a conversation when you're not trying to talk over people, and we're all sweaty and sticky from all the apple goodness, so yes, it's fun to have an actual adult conversation.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:02:08] Yes, it was such a good day.
Julie Ross [00:02:09] So, yeah. So just for people who aren't familiar, can you kind of just talk about your family and maybe a little bit about your homeschooling journey and kind of what you're doing?
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:02:19] Sure. So we live in Charlotte, North Carolina. In the Charlotte area. I have four kids: ages two, three, seven, and nine, and we have been homeschooling since the beginning. As a matter of fact, before I was a mother, I was a homeschool teacher privately, and I was also in children's ministry.
Julie Ross [00:02:38] Wow. I didn't know that was even a thing. That's awesome.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:02:40] Well, it's not typically, but I was hired on as a nanny, and then the parent asked me if I could, you know, homeschool the child because they were having some learning difficulties in school. And so I ended up homeschooling their child, and then they pulled their other child out of school, and I ended up homeschooling that child as well. So I had all this homeschool experience before I was a parent.
Julie Ross [00:03:00] Wow, what a neat experience because most people kind of dive in with their own kids and they're like, "Ah!" That is really cool.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:03:06] Yeah, it's definitely different homeschooling under someone else's authority versus my own. But I did get my passion for homeschooling in that area and just fell in love with the world of allowing your child to go at their own pace and allowing to hone in on the giftings that they have. And all the benefits of homeschooling, I kind of saw in that lens, so as soon as we started having a family, I knew that's what I wanted to do. And so now we're homeschooling. We've been on for the ride, and I've added two little ones as we're homeschooling the older ones. And so I am no expert, but I've definitely had some experience that I could share.
Julie Ross [00:03:49] Well, people ask me a lot about homeschooling with toddlers, and I just kind of laugh because I'm like, so that was ten years ago I had toddlers at home, and I frankly can't remember anything. Because I had five kids, but when I started homeschooling my older two that were in elementary school, I had three kids in three years, and so definitely had toddler, babies, toddler, babies, toddler, babies. And honestly, I don't really remember. I think I was very sleep-deprived. So it's all just kind of a blur.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:04:22] I feel that.
Julie Ross [00:04:22] Yeah, I'm like, what did I do? I don't know. Yeah, but we're all still here, so something worked, right? So it's helpful to have someone who's like, in that moment to go, "Oh no wait. This is actually— I'm experiencing this today." And I kind of— you know, I've been doing this series on homeschooling through different challenges, and I wasn't sure—
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:04:42] Okay. It is a challenge.
Julie Ross [00:04:43] —whether to put this in that category, because—I think you're right—it is a challenge. It is hard. But I also think it's important to think through how we frame that of— you know, when we see something as being a challenge, then we look for evidence for how it's really hard all the time. And trust me, with toddlers, you'll find lots of evidence for that. You know, it's like how can we maybe change that? And that might be something that you want to talk about, too. But I put it there because I feel like most people— that's what their first inclination is, "Oh, homeschooling with toddlers— help!" And it is challenging. But to kind of reframe how you're viewing it, too, I think is important.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:05:22] Yeah, definitely. And I think that that's really important as we're just like talking about home education to people who are on the line trying to decide if they're going to or not. I hear a lot of people say, "Oh, I just don't know. I'm going to have another baby, and so at that point, I'll probably put them in school or something—"
Julie Ross [00:05:40] Yep, I hear that, too.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:05:40] "Because I just can't imagine doing it all." And so yeah. And I also think there's an air about it in your own home, you know, like setting the tone for seeing that there's a benefit to having lots of siblings and communicating that. And I think really reframing your mind as the mom, too, of like— for me personally, it's been seeing education as more than just the time that I'm trying to sit down and teach something to my child or read aloud something, but really trying to reframe it in my mind that when they're having to pause lessons in order to help me change a diaper or go get the baby from their nap, or we're having to pause a million times in a read-aloud or during a narration, I'm trying to think of what other skills that they're gaining from that life experience.
Julie Ross [00:06:29] Wow, that's so important. Yeah.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:06:31] You know, selflessness and all of these different things that they're learning that aren't just school. And that is all school, but it's like what other things are they gaining? And to remember that they're getting that because they're all together at home and we have little ones.
Julie Ross [00:06:49] Yeah. Charlotte Mason talks about that. Actually, I remember if the episode already came out or it's coming out that I did with Shay. For book club, we're reading through Volume Six, and in the chapter on atmosphere, she talks about how home atmosphere is the best place for children to learn, and not a childlike created unnatural environment, but the natural home environment. She gives an example of like the dog barking and the baby crying and the mess on the table. And I'm like, "Oh my goodness, she's in my house." That's like what you're saying. That's all education. That's all shaping the person that your child is going to become. And so I really wanted to start off with that because I totally agree with you that we have to view it as, "What are the blessings from doing this during this time period?" And not going, "Oh my gosh. Maybe if I just grit my teeth and bear it through the next two years, then homeschooling will be wonderful, and we'll all just sit around like Laura Ingalls and knit and it'll be idyllic."
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:07:42] I know. I haven't had that yet.
Julie Ross [00:07:43] If we could only get to that point that, but just so you all know, it doesn't happen because then you got teenagers, and that's a whole 'nother different story.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:07:51] Right. We'll have to have another episode on that.
Julie Ross [00:07:53] Yeah. I think I did, maybe, but seeing the blessing in those moments. And you're so right— they're learning so much about patience and selflessness. Right? And just life skills. Right? About how to organize a home and take care of little ones.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:08:08] How to stay focused. Right, and how to stay focused when the toddler is banging on a drum nearby and you're trying to read, or maybe not stay focused, but have problem solving skills where it's like, "Well, I'm not going to make him stop, so you can either fight through it or you may think of another way, another place that you can go. Or what else can you do so that you can focus?" Because the reality is a family environment of interruptions because someone comes to the door, the baby's crying, mommy has to stop reading for a minute— that is more reflective of real life than a child focused environment.
Julie Ross [00:08:46] Yes. 100% agree.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:08:49] So rather than seeing it— because I feel like early on in my journey, I felt like when I had babies, I got into a trap of comparing our home environment to a school environment in a negative way. And I would say, "Oh man, if they were at school today, they would have had so much more focused time. We wouldn't have been interrupted. We wouldn't have had to stop this lesson." And I had to quickly take control of those thoughts and get out of that zone. Because once I realized that what they're gaining from this home family environment is giving them more than just this content out of a book— you know, it's like giving them so much more.
Julie Ross [00:09:30] Well, I laugh because I used to be a schoolteacher. Let me tell you there was always some interruption.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:09:35] Oh, okay.
Julie Ross [00:09:35] There was always something on the loudspeaker: "Hey, there's an assembly about blah, blah, blah. There's a drill about this." Or, you know, this kid is interrupting. This kid's trying to answer the question, but then this kid's interrupting because they're having behavior issues. I mean, there was always constant distractions. So just in case anyone else is thinking that: maybe your kid won't get that at school. I'm letting you know that's not the case. Our days were always being thrown off, too. Right? But yeah. I totally agree with you. And it could be a different story that somebody else is telling themselves, right? Like, oh, homeschooling would be so much easier if we didn't have these constant interruptions. Or if I could just get the toddler to take a nap at a steady time every day, then everything would be perfect. And it can be whatever that is for you in your situation to look at that and go, "Okay, how can I reframe this?" Because what happens— and I don't know about you; what happened to me is I would get very frustrated, and then my other children that I'm schooling are picking up on my frustration, and now they're frustrated. And no one learns very well when they're frustrated. And even if we think that we're not saying those words out loud, our children are always picking up on that air, that atmosphere, like you were saying for sure. So yeah. Reframing it is super important. What are some other things that have been helpful for you in kind of working through the season?
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:10:51] I think that having a daily rhythm that really helps every area of your home. Rather than thinking about it as a school schedule, I really had to think about our days as accommodating to everyone's needs. And if I only had older children, our day would look dramatically different. But that's not the reality of our life. And so I have to think through what I'm trying to do with my children and which things can my little ones gain something from and be a part of and make sure that we're doing all of that together? And then which things do they really need my 100% attention? And save those for a time that my little ones are napping or having quiet time or something. One activity that I know will hold their attention for me to do the hard math lesson or something. But it can't be everything because you need to also give attention to the little ones.
Julie Ross [00:11:46] Right? Yeah.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:11:47] So I think even in my daily rhythm, but then even in choosing curriculum and methods, I have to keep the whole family in mind. I have to think about what is attainable and realistic when I also have little ones.
Julie Ross [00:12:02] Can you give me some more information about that? What do you feel like is attainable and realistic for you all?
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:12:08] So as far as a daily rhythm goes, we have a time in the morning where we have morning time, and I've included elements in my morning time that engage my little ones.
Julie Ross [00:12:18] That's awesome.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:12:18] So, music time with instruments. And if we're doing readings, I might do the picture books that I know that my little ones will be enjoying. If they don't want to sit around with us, they are free to go. But if they're at the table with us or around in the living room, I have things that I've specifically saved for that time that I invite them in, and it's like this is something that we're doing as a family.
Julie Ross [00:12:45] Yes. I love that.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:12:47] And so that's our morning time. And then the next section of our day are the individual lessons that I have given things to my older children that I know that they almost completely can do on their own. And I'm able to still make sure my little ones feel loved and are engaged with something while also popping in and helping them. And then the things that are the most difficult—like reading aloud something, narrations, written narrations, some of the math concepts—we save for the third block of our day where my little ones are resting or doing— my three-year-old doesn't nap anymore, but we have a few things that are reserved for that time. Audiobooks, maybe an educational show if we're desperate. That last section of the day that's like— even if it's 30, 45 minutes, I think that being really strategic with what parts of your schooling you can do together and like making that part of your rhythm, and then what they can do alone, and then what you really need to be hands-on. And that's really helped me kind of viewing it that way in those three sections and trying to include things in that beginning morning time block that my little ones feel loved and valued and a part of. And thankfully, my big kids really love teaching them or being a part of that, so we might do a classic early years type of picture book with a recipe that, really, the big ones have already done this, or they don't really need that time, but they step in as the teacher and they do the read-aloud to the little ones. Or, "Okay, well, you count these blueberries with him," you know, they feel proud that they're able to teach them, and then I'm able to affirm them. And the kids are learning something as they're teaching. And so kind of doing that. And then as far as curriculum goes— I think as a curriculum developer myself and as a creative individual myself, I wanted every area of our homeschool to be just so much fun and just full of hands-on and full of life and require a ton of materials. And I thought I was very idealistic starting out.
Julie Ross [00:14:55] That's okay. So was I.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:14:58] Yeah. I think it's important to share that for new moms, too, because if I would have heard this early on, I probably would have rolled my eyes and been like, "Well, I can do that. Maybe she can't, but I can." And I had to come to terms with the fact that not every subject needed to be like that.
Julie Ross [00:15:21] That's so good.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:15:21] And it's actually not realistic.
Julie Ross [00:15:23] Yes.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:15:24] And to choose the one— maybe the one— maybe it's history. Maybe it's nature study. The one thing that you can include more involvement, more preparation, more hands-on, more messes, more supplies. Like maybe choose one, and then the rest, you need to choose resources that are open-and-go, that are easy for you to just do them because it's every day and it's like the whole year, and it's just so much.
Julie Ross [00:15:52] It's a long marathon here.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:15:54] It's a marathon. Okay? And so that has helped me, too, because for example, math— we started with a curriculum that had a ton of parts and pieces and games, and I was required to be a part of all of it. And it was so fun and it was wonderful, but it didn't last. I couldn't maintain.
Julie Ross [00:16:12] Yeah. I've been there.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:16:12] So we eventually used something that now my children can pretty much lead on their own. They're still learning and they don't hate it. And it's math, and we're done.
Julie Ross [00:16:22] Yep, yep.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:16:24] So otherwise, all day long, my little ones are getting pushed to the side, and that's also not good.
Julie Ross [00:16:30] Right.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:16:31] So it's balance.
Julie Ross [00:16:32] Yeah. I mean, you said so many amazing things that I just want to go through and kind of highlight some of them because this is just so helpful. Thank you. This is such great content for everyone. I really like what you said about kind of looking through the different subjects and thinking through, okay, what can we all do together? What does this child really need my focus for? That was the third one. Wait. What can be done kind of blended? And then the one that's just you and that one child one-on-one. And that's going to change, too. One, it's going to change based on the babies'/toddlers' ages, as they get to be more closer to school aged. And then your children— as they get older in school, what they're able to do independently grows as well. And so that's why I love the rhythm idea. And it's a thing I did as well, because if I have this kind of set, this is what we're doing it and this is what homeschool has to look like, well, then that's not realistic because your children are constantly changing. So they can't always fit into this box every year because their ages, their abilities, everything is always changing. Sometimes when they're really young, it's every month going, "Oh, wait, you couldn't do this by yourself, but now you can do this by yourself." It's constantly in a flux, but it gives us that stability and that rhythm without having a box that you're all trapped in.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:17:46] Yeah. And actually, that's one of the things I talk a lot about on Instagram and in my blogs. I have so many daily rhythm blog posts. Ever since my older ones were preschool age, I've been like writing out—every six months or something—kind of what our new rhythm is because I feel like it's so helpful to see real examples.
Julie Ross [00:18:03] Yes, right.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:18:04] And to not feel like if you have to change it, you're failing. I actually think if you're changing it, that you're being an intentional mom.
Julie Ross [00:18:11] Exactly. That's that growht mindset. I love it.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:18:13] Because you're being a student of your children and you're saying, "Oh, okay, well, they don't actually need to go to nap at that time yet. They need to nap here. So that means we need to shift math to this time." And you know what? To be honest with you, that makes motherhood more fun for me that I'm constantly— every month is different. Every season is different.
Julie Ross [00:18:33] Mm-hmm.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:18:34] And I'm so excited about my little ones growing into being school age because it's such a challenge. How am I going to teach four different age levels? That's such a fun challenge to me. It sounds crazy, but I know I can figure it out. I completely agree with you. It's forever shifting. And if you're not staying on top of the changes, then you're probably going to feel like a failure.
Julie Ross [00:18:58] Yes. Right. And so, yeah, that's so important to see that this actually means you are doing things right if you have to reshift and realign. And we both live in the south, and I'm constantly changing things based on the seasons because it's like, "Oh, we can actually go outside now without dying of heat stroke, so let's all go outside as much as possible today." And then, at different times of the year, it's like, "Okay, no, we're spending all day inside."
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:19:21] Yeah. And actually I was going to talk about that, too. I think one of the things that's helped me with little ones is to see our school year as the whole year. And not the nine months or whatever.
Julie Ross [00:19:30] Yes. And you mentioned that. I want to talk about that. Yes, that's so helpful.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:19:32] Because if we have a day where we're starting out and I feel like I'm not serving my little ones well by trying so hard to push through and accomplish all of this stuff, they're just not hanging in or one of the little ones needs more attention or they're sick or they're potty training or whatever, I can take a deep breath and know we don't have to get all of this done in this amount of months. We have more months to play with because we choose to school year-round. And that's been— just going slower with the curriculum that we buy, not feeling like I have to finish it all— that's really given me the ability to take each day as it comes and take breaks when we need to and have more space for those little ones to get the attention that they need.
Julie Ross [00:20:19] Yeah, that's good. Expectations versus reality. I really struggled with that too. And I like what you said about just kind of choosing one subject. And again, it's that growth mindset. That might change whatever the subject is. It might not be history for the rest of your lives that you're going to do these kind of hands-on or extra things with, but also seeing the value in those kind of reading and narrating subjects and not going, "Oh, well, that's all we did today was read and narrate." And realizze, no, that's actually the meat of what you're doing. And those ideas, those little grains of sand are getting in there, even if they're distracted because the toddler is banging the drums, like you said, or so-and-so is doing cartwheels around the couch. Those seeds are still getting in there and they need the time to kind of grow and mature. But that is the hard work of education that they're doing themselves. Yeah, that's great.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:21:11] Yeah. I was actually also going to mention that I think that really focusing on creating an environment of education for your children that's not just when you're sitting with them.
Julie Ross [00:21:23] Yes.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:21:24] Because I have to say, I think that 50% or more of my children's education is done by themselves, and that is because they love to read.
Julie Ross [00:21:36] That's awesome. That's self-education, right?
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:21:38] Because we have set this environment where their free time is not filled up with screens and mindless activity, because we've tried to set in environment in our home where we have resources, living books, we have handcraft supplies and things for them to do that are helping them really retain what we've read, props for play, things like that— I feel like when I am having to give all this attention to my little ones, I'm noticing that my children are still learning because they're picking up books on their own. They're creating plays out of what we read. And so they're still getting education because we're creating an environment. And so I'm so thankful for that, because there are days that I feel like, oh, gosh, we barely got any done. But the reality is, because they're home, and we live slow, and we have an environment of education, that's actually not true.
Julie Ross [00:22:36] Yes, that is such a good point. And I love that. My kids used to dress up and act out their narrations, and I would think they got nothing out of the lesson, and then two days later, I hear them acting out whatever it was. It's like, oh, okay. But you have to have that space. You have to have the props and the customes. You need to create that. But then you also need to kind of—what Charlotte Mason talks about—the masterly inactivity of kind of stepping back and letting them have that time to kind of explore and see the value of that. And I love that too, because it takes the pressure off of you.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:23:07] And when you have babies, you don't even have to be intentional about stepping back. You just have to. And then your children are doing all these things and you're like, oh, wow, they're learning. The other tricky thing we do is— if I can't get all the narrations done— my husband is working during the day, but he knows what we're reading, he knows kind of what's happening. So during dinner, he might just say, "Oh, I need to know what's going on in that story. Can you tell me?"
Julie Ross [00:23:35] Oh, that's so awesome. That's great.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:23:35] You know, so the children are narrating at dinner, and it's a more natural kind of thing. And then another section of our day that I consider school is my husband reading to them at night. So he does a portion of the reading before bed because he knows I can't get it all done during the day. So I think just having to be creative, you know?
Julie Ross [00:23:56] And when you have that mindset of school is not between the hours of 8:30 and 2:00. When you see that your whole life is school, there's all these pockets of time—if you're intentional about them—that are available. We just kind of think in that traditional sense, oh, school's over. We can do blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Not realizing, no, your whole life is this learning and growing time, and everything you do before bed, all those discussions at dinner, all those talks in the car, all that adds up. And I love that you are intentional about including the little ones in the day because I see, oftentimes, people are— the solution for the toddlers is ways to distract them. And that can be very handy at times. But they are learning from a very young age. This is the natural rhythm and life of our home that we're learning, and we have this morning time, and we do this when we wake up. And then it's not weird when they're suddenly school aged, and now you can't play with those toys all day long in those buckets that I've trained you to play with. Now you have to sit over here and then it's like, whoa, what is happening?
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:25:00] Yeah.
Julie Ross [00:25:01] It's like, No, this is— I've always sat here. Now I get to sit here more and do more stuff. It's not this— and not forcing that. I agree with you that it's obviously an invitation. That's a different mindset as well.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:25:16] Yes. For now.
Julie Ross [00:25:17] Today's episode is brought to you by A Gentle Geast. A Gentle Feast is a complete curriculum for grades 1-12 that is family-centered, inspired by Ms. Mason's programs and philosophy, and rooted in books, beauty, and biblical truth. You can find out how smooth and easy days are closer than you think at AGentleFeast.com.
Julie Ross [00:25:41] I think you touched on this a little bit, but back when you were first starting, is there things that you wish someone would have told you that you would like to tell people now?
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:25:55] In regards to toddlers?
Julie Ross [00:25:56] Yes.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:25:58] Oh, definitely just to relax, just to see that this season where you have these little ones is short. And if you look at their education as this—
Julie Ross [00:26:11] Yes, everybody always says that, and you're like, "It doesn't feel short!" I remember people in the grocery store used to say that to me.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:26:11] I know. In the grand scheme of your children's education—
Julie Ross [00:26:14] Yes. Like like I said, I don't even remember it. I'm like, what?
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:26:18] Yeah. In the grand scheme of my older children's education, the years that things are so chaotic with all the noise and all the messes and the pausing the read-alouds— those years of toddlers is so short when you compare it to the rest of my children's education. And so to realize if we're not as dedicated and things aren't as easy to follow and things are kind of crazy or it takes a little longer for a couple of years, you'll catch up.
Julie Ross [00:26:51] Yes. Right.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:26:52] You'll catch up, and it's okay. That's why I've tried so hard to make the atmosphere of my home education so that it takes some pressure off of me to know if we actually aren't going as quickly and math as I would like, they still have a natural way to learn math concepts because they're baking or we're teaching them money skills. Trying to involve them in lots of ways to learn so that all the pressure is not on this dedicated time—me and them around the table—because it's just not going to happen constantly.
Julie Ross [00:27:20] Right. And Charlotte Mason says that's not how it should be anyway. You know, they should be doing that work of self-education. So that's what it sounds like they're doing, so that's great. I feel like—especially at first, when we're starting—we feel like it won't be perfect and they won't learn everything they need to learn if I don't do it all. And surrendering that control can be a little difficult and kind of trusting the process, which I think is kind of what you're saying with the relaxing part. It's not like, oh, we don't do anything. It's more of I trust in the things that we're doing and the all of these little grains of sand are going to add up to educating a whole person, which is what I talk about on here all the time. And no matter what age they are, you have to kind of let go sometimes and let that process kind of naturally unfold, which is great advice for people. It's hard to do, but I think it really comes down to what you're saying of making your whole family life a part of— this is just different. It's education. It's not going to look like it does in a little school setting. It's not going to fit into these little hours, into this little box. This is our life.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:28:30] And you don't want it to.
Julie Ross [00:28:31] Exactly. Right. So what are some of the benefits that you've kind of seen through these past years of homeschooling? Like what has stuck out to you as just— this is why I keep doing what I'm doing.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:28:45] With the toddlers, I think— well, I think in general, it's really bonded my family together because there are so many things—especially because we love books and we're reading constantly—that we're reading together. And so then you go somewhere and you have an experience of something and it's like an inside joke. It feels like an inside joke where you're like, "Oh, just like when that character did that thing." And everybody is there. Everybody is understanding. Even the little ones. Even like my three-year-old will surprise us and understand a character or country or something. He'll understand a little bit of it because he's been listening to our stories. And so I feel like reading aloud together and then just being a part of each other's lives and hobbies and just everyday life more because we're all together all the time. It's such a unique thing in this world to have a family that's always together and that can have so many shared experiences and have so much freedom with traveling and just doing a lot of things together that are something that—if you're all separated by age—you're not going to get to do.
Julie Ross [00:30:00] Yeah, yeah. No that's great. I think it's really good for people to hear because—especially new people that are starting out or kind of preparing for next school year— and I definitely have seen that with my own family as my kids have grown up and left home and all that— there's definitely years I can't remember, but there are things that we all remember, and it's those shared memories, right? And those shared experiences. But even in a home environment, you can be where you're all kind of separated all the time, depending on how you choose to structure your days.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:30:35] Your environment.
Julie Ross [00:30:35] And so I've always loved our morning time, and the high school kids are going to leave after that, and they're going to go to their harder subjects and stuff like that, and we might come together for lunch or whatever, but even just having those 30 minutes in the morning where we're together and we have that shared kind of common language. But even like you're saying, all those years of all those other memories and trips and things has been so neat as they get older and they kind of can recollect on some of that or talk to other people, like, "Oh, it was like to be homeschooled," and to have these fun memories to share. But I think it's important to have that vision of why am I doing what I'm doing so that when it's days when you want to put your hair out—I don't know if you ever have those, but I have those.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:31:17] Yes.
Julie Ross [00:31:17] Yeah, okay. That have that vision of this is why. These are the benefits—like I was saying—and kind of reframing some of that from the challenge of homeschooling with toddlers to the blessing.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:31:32] Yeah. And in regards to having the little ones, too, I think that the benefits that I've seen in my older children, because they're with their little ones— I mean, we just this morning— my littlest one is two and a half, and she's been starting to show signs of wanting to potty train. And so my seven-year-old daughter said, "Well, I'll do it. I'll do it. How about how about next week, we do three days?" And she made up a whole potty training plan that she derived some from when we potty trained my son, and she's like, "Let me do it." I'm like, "Okay." So think about the opportunities they're getting to learn so many skills in life.
Julie Ross [00:32:08] Mm-hmm.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:32:09] And like we mentioned before, selflessness. And that they're not the center of the universe. How to care and nurture for younger children. How to wait your turn. All of these things that they're learning just because they're in a family environment without a whole lot of preparation on my part; it's just the essence of being in this environment with small children gives them so many learning opportunities.
Julie Ross [00:32:34] That's so cute.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:32:34] That is a huge perk. And I just love how close they are because they are literally every day, all day with them, helping them. As a matter of fact, a couple of weekends ago, my husband took my older children on a backpacking trip, and it was harder having my two and three year old home without my older children. It really made me realize that it's harder. Because my older children read to them all day, play with them, help them take a bath, get them out of their bed from nap. I mean, I feel like my older children do so much of the parenting at this point that it was harder. And they're learning so much.
Julie Ross [00:33:11] Yes. Wow. Yeah, that is such a cute story. That's so great that she wanted to help with that. And I think we can miss that when we're focused on all the things that are making this really hard. And so I love that you are sharing that story with everyone, and I encourage everyone to write down the things that are going really well. Look for those moments where they selflessly gave up their snack for the sibling or helped bandage a wound or whatever it was. Write those things down. Because when you get to be my age, you forget. And then as you kind of focus on those, you'll see more and more and more of those blessings. And I know that's what you do, and that's why I think you're such a light on Instagram of just hope and encouragement for so many moms. And if you don't mind, can you briefly just tell everyone kind of about Treehouse Schoolhouse and what it is that you all do and offer for folks?
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:34:02] Sure. So I have a blog, a YouTube channel, and an Instagram account where we share homeschool encouragement and resources. We've created a couple of holiday unit studies. They're Charlotte Mason inspired. We also have seasonal nature studies, so one for each season, and it has poetry and picture study, a folk song and a hand rhyme. And those things are specifically kind of geared towards those toddler, preschool age. Those are the elements in morning time that kind of bring those little ones in. A book list that has books for all different ages. So it's family style learning, and that's kind of my passion— family-style education, and Charlotte Mason lifestyle, and biblical resources, things like that. So yeah, we have a six woman team now. We've been growing exponentially and in the last couple of years.
Julie Ross [00:34:53] I know. I'm kind of jealous. I just have to say that. I was like, I need some more help. Yeah, that's awesome though. That's so great.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:35:03] Yeah, it's a lot. And I'm still homeschooling, so I can't do it all. But yeah, it's been a really fun journey and I'm really excited to see what's coming because we're developing some other things behind the scenes. So lots of fun stuff.
Julie Ross [00:35:18] Ooh, we'll have to pay attention. But yeah, I wanted you to share that because I love what I've seen from your products and the fact that they can do it all together, and it does have those things that really kind of appeal to some of the younger children as well as the older ones. I think it's really hard to find. And it does have that nature study kind of focus as well— is really a fun way to bring everybody together as well. You know, some of our best memories were things we did outside all together and those walks and hikes and apple picking and things like that. Yes, exactly. And I think it's important, too, that not only do you homeschool, but you also run a business and you also are doing it with toddlers and— for people— because I think in today's world, that's more and more common of homeschooling while doing some kind of work. Maybe not as much as you are, but, you know, in some form or shape— kind of just the world we live in that oftentimes moms are working at least part-time from home while trying to homeschool and that kind of thing. Do you have any advice for how you balance that, if you don't mind?
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:36:20] I feel like I'm constantly learning. It is still new for me. I think realizing early on that I couldn't be the person that touched every person. I wanted to be the person that spoke to each and every person that sends me a message. And I had to learn early on that I had to give that up in order to grow and that I had to give someone else the opportunity to help other people. So I think delegating the other things. I'm the one that needs to develop the curriculum. I'm the one that needs to come on a podcast or to write something or to be my voice, write the blog post. But I don't have to be the one that does all of these other things. And so to try to find people that it would bless them to be in that position so that the business can grow so that the— you know, just delegating. And then, not only in my work life, but also in my home. So early on, I hired help for things that—to me—don't matter to my children and I's relationship. Do I want someone else to homeschool for me? I don't. Do I want someone else to take my children on our Friday homeschool outings? I do not. Not even my husband. Like that's what I wanted to do. Or together, or me and my husband. But do I care? Does it affect my children who does the laundry? It doesn't. So I pay someone now to do my laundry, so that I can spend some time working.
Julie Ross [00:37:44] Yes.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:37:45] Simplifying meals so that I can so I can spend more hours in the afternoon working. So we have a part-time nanny now, and she's like a part of our family, and she understands what our lifestyle is like. And from the beginning, I would only allow someone in that role that would also expand our homeschool atmosphere lifestyle. So she reads aloud to them, she does projects with them, she bakes with them. And it has been a challenge, as I have tried to navigate, but I feel like as the doors have opened and I've had to keep stopping along the way and ask the Lord, "Am I supposed to go this direction or not?" And every time I feel a yes, I also see him providing so that nobody's lacking in this. But it's definitely a trusting each step of the way.
Julie Ross [00:38:34] Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing that. And I think that's really good for people to hear because sometimes we can look at people on social media and think, "Well, how did they do all this? How are they able to write this and do this?" And I say that to people all the time, too. I don't do this by myself. I have help. I have people I hire to help with my business, but not only that— like you, I have people that help me clean my house, yard people. I've asked myself that same question that you've asked, and I think that's so important for anyone, even homeschooling, if you have that resources or you are trying to kind of work from home as well, going, "What am I only able to do? And then what are some things that other people can do that won't detract from my children and our experience together? Like what are the things that I'm essential for?" And one of the things— like I use mealservice, the HelloFresh meal things. I never really talk about that, but I'm not a spokesperson; I'm just mentioning that. But any of those home meal things have helped me tremendously because I just don't have the bandwidth anymore. And you know, I used to be able to like meal prep and make meals for a month and do all this myself, but now it's like, "Okay, I'm doing this. I have to be the one doing this. What can I give up?" And sometimes it's really hard to give that control up.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:39:53] It is. I like to try to juggle all of it.
Julie Ross [00:39:56] We do.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:39:57] I think it's actually been helpful to me to think about how it's blessing the other people that are getting that position.
Julie Ross [00:40:05] Yes, so much.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:40:06] So I recently hired a social media manager and now another homeschool mom who has a passion for women and children and homeschooling and Jesus gets to answer messages for Treehouse Schoolhouse, and she gets to be the one that shares love and helps people and gives people the answers. And then she saves ones that specifically are for me, but it's taken a load off of me, it's blessed her with income and also a ministry opportunity and something that she loves to do. And so that's only good. And I think that trying to take control of all those areas— so I want to be the one that cooks every night. I want to be the one that does the laundry. You know, every single thing— you have to choose which ones, honestly, in my opinion, that God's asking you to do. Which ones does he want me to put my effort into? Do those well. And then be okay with letting some other ones go. Because you just can't do it all.
Julie Ross [00:40:57] Oh for sure. Wait. What? You can't? See, look, I have my Wonder Woman cup. No, I'm just kidding.
[00:41:05] Yeah, exactly.
[00:41:05] I am not a superhero, so I need help. In terms of homeschooling as well, because we can look at all the subjects that Charlotte Mason included in her programs and this huge feast and go, "I can't do all that." And panic and go— so for me, I had to look at again all those things. Okay? Which ones do I feel like are essential for me to be doing with them? And then maybe can I outsource some of these? Or which ones— like maybe I'm going to hold off on that one for a year, like Shakespeare. But then, you know, we tried it and we loved it, so we kept doing that one. Okay, now that one's essential for me. So these other ones— like Solfa, for instance. My kids did choir at church and they taught them Solfa. And we don't do Swedish drill. They do sports. Like different things, going, "Okay, does this kind of meet—" Handicrafts, for instance. YI love all the pictures, beautiful things you put— I am not a handicraft person. No. Just mess and stuff. That's just not me. But I can have other people who come and work with my kids and I could create an environment for them to learn some of these things through YouTube or I'll buy a class for you to learn how to knit. But don't ask me. For me, it was so freeing to realize I don't have to do all of these things. I can outsource some of these things in the world that we live in. And I'm so grateful for that. So they're still getting this feast, but it might not look the way that it looked back in 1910.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:42:35] That's okay.
Julie Ross [00:42:37] Yes. Right. So those are great questions. This has been so helpful. So thank you so much for taking the time. And we will link to the Treehouse Schoolhouse if you want to check out some of the amazing nature study curriculum and some of the other resources that Lyndsey has put together or follow her on Instagram. So thank you so much, Lyndsey, for your time. I really appreciate it.
Lyndsey Mimnagh [00:42:55] Thank you, Julie.
Julie Ross [00:43:01] Thanks for listening to today's episode. If you would like to know more about the Charlotte Mason style of education, check out AGentleFeast.com and click on the "Learn More" button or a free four-day introduction course. I would love to meet you in 2022. I will be at all five of the Great Homeschool Conventions. To find out more about attending one of those go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. If you'd like the show notes for today's episode, you can find those at Homeschooling.Mom and click on The Charlotte Mason Show. Until next time, I hope your days are full of books, beauty, and biblical truth. Thanks for listening.