In an Over-the-Rhine row house, Liz McEwan sits down at the kitchen table with her four children. Her eldest, Israel, 8, pours his mom and two sisters, Elsa, 5, and Edith, 3, a cup of tea. (Youngest brother Joseph, 3 months, sits on mom’s lap.) As the kids sip and nibble cookies, Liz reads from the original Beauty and the Beast. She asks each to repeat what they heard, just as they do this time every day.
If Liz sounds like a dedicated mom, she is. But right now she is a teacher, and this is homeschool.
She and her husband John are not against public school. (Both attended, with good experiences.) They are conservative Christians, but that’s not it either. “It’s a commitment to doing what’s best for our children,” Liz says. “I would rather my kid learn by being part of a family as well as by being part of a community that’s intergenerational and diverse.”
The curriculum is cultivated from online resources and supplemented by OTR’s urban environment. Once a week, her oldest attend a half-day co-op school, affording them interaction and Liz a break. Surroundings enliven subjects: art at a museum, geography on a hike.
She doesn’t deny the stigma—socially awkward; religiously dogmatic—but says it’s not the whole story. She also doesn’t believe her choice makes her “better.”
“I’m an imperfect mother and educator,” she says. “We have no delusions that homeschooling is going to produce rocket scientists. Choosing this for our family has required a lot of sacrifice, and many days, takes everything out of me. We just want our children to be adequately prepared for the world.”
Days conform more to rhythm than routine, but here is a typical one:
7:30: Wake up; get dressed; children tidy rooms.
8:00: Breakfast, followed by reading a psalm, some prayer, maybe a song; discuss the day’s plans.
9:00: Morning lessons: history, geography, science, and natural history, each lasting between 15 and 20 minutes. They break often, as a new baby means frequent feeding and diaper changes.
12:00: Playtime, outdoors if possible; Liz preps lunch.
12:30: Lunch, ideally outdoors.
1:30: Naptime prep: Liz’s 8- and 5-year-olds read to the younger two; she cleans up.
2:00: Preschooler naps; afternoon lessons for the oldest: math, reading, grammar, music, or a handicraft like cooking. Children often work independently.
4:00: Lessons complete; preschooler wakes up. Quiet time: children rest or play; maybe listen to an audiobook or play a school game on the iPad.
4:30: Afternoon tea and snack, prepped by the two older children. Lessons include literature, poetry, and art. As the tea cools and the kids get restless, class is officially dismissed.