I’m always excited when I meet homeschool moms that are doing really interesting things. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I discovered that one of our Enrichment Studies moms is also an author of several books! Hosanna Rodriguez is a homeschooling mother of four, and she has absolutely dazzled me with her new Beatrix Potter Book Club Organizer. Swoon! (*We are having a giveaway for this book right now. Come enter to win!)
I had the opportunity to ask Hosanna more about her life, her homeschooling, her inspiration for the books she writes, and how she has time for it all. Read on and enjoy this glimpse into another homeschool family’s life!
Hi Hosanna! Please tell us a little about your family and how you got started homeschooling.
Our family of six, including 2 boys, ages 12 and 10; and 2 girls, ages 7 and 5; are a lively, imaginative bunch! We live in Southern California where we have homeschooled our kids from the start. Encouraging friends who successfully modeled the potential found in the realm of homeschooling and the freedom to pursue specific interests were the catalysts to move us in this method of education. The final push came from my husband, who was convinced from the get-go that homeschooling would be a good fit for our family. I, on the other hand, while respectful of those who accepted full responsibility of teaching their children, took a little more time to digest the process. Would I have what it would take? After countless hours of research, reflection, discussion, and prayer, I took the plunge and haven’t looked back since. I never would have imagined the thrill of such an adventure was awaiting me!
Wonderful! What are some things that your family enjoys?
Our family is a colorful mix of personalities and interests. My husband, Walter, is my Puerto Rican-born hunk, and is a self-employed musician whose beats and jingles you have undoubtedly heard on various movies such as Star Wars: Rogue One, Zootopia, Frozen, and countless others. When he’s not making music, he’s wearing many other hats such as kids’ chauffeur, part time homeschool teacher, wife’s business tech and creative partner, best BBQ’er this side of the Mississippi; and that’s just scratching the surface! As a family, we love celebrating life with each other and with friends as often as we can, whether it’s coming together to eat, watching movies, partying in a book club, or using just about every corner of our little home, aka the Rodriguez workshop ;), to develop what we love. You can find us painting, cooking, photographing, pulling apart electronics for inspection, exercising…I told you, we’re a colorful bunch!
How would you describe each of your children in one word?
Our kids in one word: Christopher—bold, Jaden— artistic, Juliana—nurturer, Christina—creative.
What do you like best about homeschooling?
What I like best about homeschooling is it allows us to be true to ourselves. We revel in time as a family. We seek out varied routes to explore and develop our interests. We band together with friends and others in the community to share in life and learning, which are essentially the same thing.
I absolutely love the concept of the book club for young children! How did you get this idea?
I organized my first official book club about about 8 years ago and was shocked by the response. I was new to the homeschool world, and my eldest was only a preschooler at the time. I knew very few people who were walking the same path, so when nearly two dozen people signed up for that book club, I had to scramble for other locations for hosting the club. I loved it! I’ve organized many book clubs since and have learned much along the way. I can’t wait for our next book clubs scheduled this year: Hobbit for the older ones and House at Pooh Corner for the littles!
What has your personal experience been with this concept of book clubs?
I have to laugh (and scratch my head a bit) when I think back to my years as a child. I was NOT a reader. Sure, I read when I had to, but my first choice of material was nonfiction, and now I’m having an ongoing party with fiction written for various ages. But now I know why. Reading about death-defying triumphs, heart-wrenching tragedies, and acts of the purest compassion and courage all by myself was far too lonely of an experience. How could my soul be gripped and not have anyone with whom to share it? Now when I’m in the middle of a fantastic story with my kids, my mind races with ideas of how to incorporate different elements of the story for the purpose of kids developing beneficial skills.
How do your children like the book club experience?
Our kids love book clubs. They beg for them when we are in between clubs, and they also submit their specific requests. I’m particular with the literature we indulge in with our book clubs and tend to stick with the classics, although I may include current works in the future. One thing is certain: there is no lack of exhilarating material!
Have you seen skills learned in the book club translate into other areas for your children?
Yes, absolutely! The skills that my kids have developed in a book club can be seen in many ways, years after the book club ends. In the early years, kids can’t help but pay more attention to the storyline and language structure with all the connections they make through the activities and the shared experience with friends. These reading comprehension skills just scratch the surface when it comes to all the potential skills that can be developed in a book club setting. Critical thinking skills, divergent thinking skills, fine and gross motor skills, communication and artistic skills are all possible in this setting. When planning a book club, my goal is offering kids exercises or experiences that promise twice the return, a double whammy if you will.
As an example, in our most recent Beatrix Potter book club, the kids sewed their own bunny ears. The skills strengthened were their fine motor skills, but the final results were a set of felt bunny ears, stuffed with padding and including a bell for extra fun when jumping as bunnies. These were not bunny ears made of construction paper that would end up in the trash before the day was over, but something that would last. They had even taken a simple step into the world of sewing, which will inevitably prove useful in one way or another. We all wear clothes, for heaven’s sake, and there is bound to be a time when a button needs to be replaced. So the general idea is developing skills with lasting value. Much more fun than tracing page after page of zig-zags on a worksheet that they’ll never look at or care about again.
I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on home education and parenting. Tell everything! Hahaha!
If you want a few more details, good and bad, I have plenty to share. HA! I’ll keep it to a minimum, I promise! There were some bumps we initially had to work through, with the younger ages especially, which all parents do to some extent. When kids are young, they’re, well, new to just about everything! They have to learn how to pay attention. They have to learn how to respect others. They have to learn how to learn. I realized early on that approaching this learning process was not always a bed of roses, there would be moments of distraction, chaos, or frustration; but my job was to guide them in a way that didn’t involve heavy-handed dictatorship. So while correction was sometimes needed, let’s say if a child was running wild, disregarding all instruction; it was important for me to also consider the possible varying factors. Had the child had enough sleep, nutritious food, time to run free, parent-child snuggle time? Did he have certain times when his listening skills were better, such as during meal time or bath time that I needed to make the most of when reading at any length? Is the child just plain spoiled? It could be a combination of all those factors and others. We need to be a student of our students. So I told you I’d share details. Here’s one—we’ve had to work with one strong-willed kiddo for years on receiving instruction and contributing to the group in a constructive way. I love a strong, independent thinker, but I don’t love a self-centered, stubborn know-it-all. There’s a fine line, and considerate and consistent guidance has been our answer.
We have currently published a book called Animals in Time that takes kids on a journey through history as they experience it through the eyes of animals. There will be a total of three volumes when they have all been completed, each containing twenty-six stories, and each following an alphabetical progression. The completed volume focuses on American History. Kids get to sail on Christopher Columbus’ ship with stowaway Alex the Ant. They welcome the Pilgrims on the Mayflower with Bary the Bear, and they witness the Boston Tea Party with Coco the Caterpillar. The stories contain a wealth of historical facts while not reading as a text book, and the alphabetical progression provides the perfect arrangement to incorporate a letter of the week approach for younger students. Ever heard of a one-room schoolhouse? This is a good resource for varying ages. The other two volumes are currently in progress. One last detail I have to share, and it’s much more than a mere detail to me, is the part kids have played to create Animals in Time. While I wrote the American History volume, kids made the art for each story! And the following two volumes are being written by our sons. There is a great deal of time that goes into the research, the creative development, and the editing process. What I love about this holistic approach to learning is that kids are working with so many different elements and connecting history, animals, art, and writing skills in one grand effort. And in addition to the kids crafting their skills as they create, they are inspiring other kids to do the same.
One element in the Animals in Time, Volume 3 book I think subscribers of Enrichment Studies might like is the assortment of artists included in the stories, artists like Georgia O’Keefe, Grandma Moses, Norman Rockwell, and N.C. Wyeth. And one last thing, in our updated website, we plan to have “making of” highlights of all the children artists who created the art for three volumes worth of history stories. That’s a lot of art!
How do you have time to write books?
I may have abundant amounts of passion and drive, but one thing I constantly faced with a shortage of is time, sweet time. When we had babies crawling around the house, I remember so clearly feeling strapped for time simply getting meals on the table and keeping laundry clean. I was barely making it! I would have laughed (and maybe cried) if you would have told me I’d be doing any of this at that time, but babies have a way of becoming large and in charge, despite their miniature sizes. I adore them! And if there was no limit to time and age, I’d guess Walter and I would keep having them indefinitely. I never wanted to leave the baby stage, but there are seasons in life and we have to accept each one for what it can offer. Now that our youngest is five years old, there is a little more consistency in our schedules, although not nearly as much being that we are a family of self-employed people. And throw a musician’s schedule into the mix, and you end up with some wacky schedules. Anyway, at the very least, I try to follow my wise husband’s advice and at least do a little bit a day. I also have lower expectations of maintaining a picture-perfect home. We are constantly cleaning, so there are no nasty surprises lurking behind couches or under beds, but the paperwork and clutter can threaten to take over. They’re like weeds! The piles of paper grow faster than we can sort and throw away. Once again, this is just a season, so we embrace the great with the not-so-great.
Thanks so much, Hosanna! You’ve inspired me with your words and work!