Jennifer Pepito Peacefully Homeschooling podcast interview Peaceful Press

Peacefully Homeschooling (with Jennifer Pepito)

Do you feel the pressure to homeschool in just the right way or to provide a rigorous education no matter what? Do you sometimes find yourself turning your homeschool approach into a perfectionistic competition? Jennifer Pepito joins us today to encourage us to consider the whole child in our home. She reminds us to take some of the pressure off and to consider what is truly most important, lest we wind up with children who may know a lot, but who certainly don’t care a lot.

This is an encouraging conversation for homeschooling parents of all ages, and also includes a special section for parents of preschoolers and kindergartners.

Be sure to listen or read to the end for a special discount code from Jennifer!

Be sure to check out all the other interviews in our Homeschool Conversations series!

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Jennifer Pepito Peacefully Homeschooling podcast interview Peaceful Press

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Who is Jennifer Pepito

Jennifer Pepito is the mother of seven children who she has homeschooled from the beginning. When she discovered that her second daughter had learning disabilities, Jennifer became an avid student of child development. The Peaceful Press resources were born out of these years of research, and Jennifer has a passion to equip families to homeschool in a way that is developmentally appropriate, spiritually nourishing, and based on proven methods of education.

Jennifer is a Simplicity Parenting Coach, Certified Life Coach, and is currently pursuing Early Childhood Development credits in order to ensure that Peaceful Press families are getting the best resources based on current research about learning, while continuing to integrate time honored educational philosophy put forward by Charlotte Mason and Maria Montessori.

Watch my conversation with Jennifer Pepito

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Amy: Hello, everyone. Today we are joined by Jennifer Pepito, who is the mother of seven children that she has homeschooled from the beginning. When she discovered that her second daughter had learning disabilities, Jennifer became an avid student of child development, and her Peaceful Press resources were born out of years of research. She has a passion to equip families to homeschool in a way that is developmentally appropriate, spiritually nourishing, and based on proven methods of education.

Jennifer is a simplicity parenting coach, a certified life coach, and is currently pursuing early childhood development credits in order to ensure that the families that use Peaceful Press are getting the best resources based on current research about learning. I am really looking forward to this conversation today. Obviously, I gave a brief bio there, but could you tell us a little about your family and yourself and how you guys got started homeschooling?

Jennifer: Yes, for sure. That was the bio off of my Peaceful Press website. It didn’t talk as much about my 25 years of homeschooling, I guess. My daughter’s 27. We started in preschool. I think she was about three years old when I went to my first Charlotte Mason support group. It was for the book, the Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola. Throughout the 20-some years of homeschooling, we’ve been doing nature study and reading beautiful books together, and really creating a lifestyle of learning that is based on enriching our soul and our spirit through literature.

I have seven kids. The oldest is 27. She’s in Belfast, Northern Ireland, finishing up a PhD in law. Then I have a 25-year-old who has learning disabilities, and she’s at home pursuing some writing and art. I have also a 22-year-old son in New Jersey, graduated summa cum laude with a business degree and he’s out there working. I have a son in the Coast Guard. Then I have three younger children who are still at home, an 18, 14, and 12-year-old.

Amy: Oh, that sounds like a lot of adventures and I bet a lot of really fantastic discussions with all those different perspectives and life experiences.

Jennifer: Yes, for sure. It’s definitely broadened our horizons. I told somebody the other day though, that I’m going to stop sending my kids to– One of our things that we’ve done as a family is send our children to a Bible school as a gap year. We actually moved it to their senior year. Instead of graduating them earlier, we push the graduation date back a little bit so they could do a Bible school as a senior in high school. The problem with expanding your children’s horizons in this way and letting them see the world is that they don’t necessarily always come back. I’m like, “How can we change this so that I have all my kids and grandkids as my neighbors?” No grandkids yet, but.

Jennifer Pepito Peacefully Homeschooling podcast interview Peaceful Press Homeschool Conversations

Mason, Moore, and Gatto: a Natural Learning Lifestyle

Amy: Oh yes, y’all are pretty spread out. Well, I know you said your daughter was three when you went to Charlotte Mason support group. Obviously, you were interested in Charlotte Mason education from the beginning. How did your ideas about education grow and change over the years or did they?

Jennifer: A lot of things have actually stayed very consistent. Along with learning about Charlotte Mason early on, I was reading Raymond Moore’s books. There was a collection of stories of other families who were homeschooling because he was such a pioneer that it was almost like these pioneer homeschool stories. One of them, they describe their day and the family, they got up and they wash some apples and made some oatmeal and took a nature walk. Then they sat down and read together. It described this dream life that I really longed for.

Throughout my homeschool years, even when we were missionaries in Mexico, or even when we were living in more of a suburban environment, we always kept that consistency of a more natural learning lifestyle.

Through the years, if I’ve gotten a little bit nervous about it, if I’ve gotten scared because the schools keep pushing earlier and earlier learning and they keep incentivizing teachers pushing earlier and earlier learning, if I’ve gotten nervous about the fact that my kids may be at age five or six, or even seven aren’t going to look like they’re on track or at grade level, I read John Taylor Gatto. If I’m nervous, I read John Taylor Gatto. [chuckles] He’s just so appalled at the way that this works out.

Even an article I read recently, it talked about how there was a head start, it was research done, I think it was an article by Peter Gray on Psychology Today.

Basically, there was a study done of children who were in an academic preschool versus children who were in a more natural preschool. It found that by grade four, all the gains from the academic preschool had evened out. Then by adulthood by between ages 15 and 23, they still follow those kids. The kids that had been in the academic preschool actually had much worse social outcomes. Many of them had been involved in crime who were involved in that academic preschool.

I think that what we can see from this research is that if we skip literature – and I think that it’s dangerous because there’s so many families now who are feeling pressure. Even in the Charlotte Mason world, they’re like, “Oh, now Charlotte Mason means reading all of these books. If I don’t read these books, then we’re going to fail.” – if we don’t take the pressure off a little bit, and focus on character and story and building a whole child, we’re going to see the same results, kids who maybe they know a lot, but they don’t care a lot. Charlotte Mason talks about how at the end of our education, it’s not how much the child knows, but how much they care.

Jennifer Pepito Peacefully Homeschooling podcast interview Peaceful Press Homeschool Conversations

Amy: I was recently talking with another veteran homeschool mom, and her episode will publish later this spring. She was saying so many things that resonate with what you said as well. I think that listening to moms who have been doing this for a while and have seen children graduate and go into adulthood can be so helpful and encouraging to new young homeschool moms.

Because we can put so much pressure on ourselves, read all the blog posts, listen to all the podcasts, and think, “Okay, I’ve got to do all these things.” The volume is not going to necessarily, and in fact, likely won’t bring added benefits to children. Doing fewer things, but doing them well and with joy and wonder, is going to be so much more valuable.

Jennifer: 100%. Absolutely. I feel like our children so much pick up on our own attitude about life. If they see us approaching education as this perfectionistic competition-oriented pursuit, where, “Oh if I don’t read all of these volumes, or if I don’t teach from this set of literature that Charlotte Mason taught from in the 1800s, then we’re failures,” they’re going to pick up on that.

I’ve seen some really great families who were doing a really good job end up with heartless children. I think that the focus on competition, the focus on making it about perfectionism, it’s not good for our spirit. Do you know what I mean? We are called as believers to love. We’re called to love our neighbors, to love God, and when we make things more about ticking off boxes, I think it’s harder to be oriented towards love.

Amy: In season one of the podcast, I chatted with Dr. George Grant who’s one of my mentors, and he said that we basically live out a practical works righteousness. We would never say that with our lips. We would say the right theology, but what our children are actually seeing is basically that we hold onto our works righteousness, and that’s so convicting, and something to be mindful of.

Jennifer: Yes, that’s really interesting.

Repentance and Discipleship in Education Dr. George Grant video Interview

Morning Time and Read Aloud

Amy: Well, what were some of your favorite aspects of homeschooling? Then were there any challenges that you faced?

Jennifer: Well, definitely my favorite aspect still is Morning Time. It’s such an anchor to our day to gather, and we’re working through the Playful Pioneers, a second edition from the Peaceful Press.

We’re reading the Little Britches stories every morning and they’re so compelling. Like yesterday in our reading, they get lost in the forest in Colorado and Little Britches realizes that he was in a competition with this old man who didn’t necessarily have the ability at this point in his life to best him. There’s this whole dialogue that’s going on inside of Ralph Moody’s head, that is directed towards compassion.

I just love when we choose books that are living, that have living ideas, we’re able to communicate so much to our children that really sticks with them, and even the geography we just been learning some memory work about mountains in the United States. Then in the Little Britches chapter, one of the cowboy characters is talking about Pikes Peak and about the history of Pikes Peak and he’s got a little song. My kids are going to remember that so much more than our memory work.

The reading out loud, the morning time, memorizing scripture, being able to read the prayers of St. Patrick. This morning we were reading the Nicene Creed. It’s such a beautiful opportunity to instill in our children our own family values, our own culture, biblical values, in this really conversation-oriented and really Socratic-oriented morning meeting.

Challenges of Homeschooling

Then as far as challenges, I have one daughter who has learning disabilities. She’s been diagnosed through the years as sensory processing disorder or a neurodevelopmental delay. That has been challenging because with our kids, we have such high expectations and hopes for them. We want them to have a full life. With kids, I think that this can apply to everybody, kids aren’t all the same. We can set out homeschooling thinking that we’re going to have this one outcome, but really, children are not plastic. They’re not clay to be molded. They’re all so different and unique.

There’s an element of having to be witnesses in some ways to their development, just being really prayerful. We pray for our kids. We hope for the best. We speak life over them but being a little bit flexible has been important for me because I did start out as a perfectionist and having very high expectations for my kids. There’s an element of having to just accept people for who they are and love them where they’re at, instead of always expecting something more.

Jennifer Pepito Peacefully Homeschooling podcast interview Peaceful Press Homeschool Conversations

Amy: Which very much it goes along with Charlotte Mason’s idea that children are born persons. I like to say that homeschooling is not a vending machine. You don’t push the buttons and get out the product of the certain child. In one sense, we think, “Oh, no, we want all that control,” but in another sense, I am so relieved that it’s not all up to me pushing the right buttons in the right order, and that I can rest in the work of God in my children’s life.

Jennifer: That’s really good, Amy. Because I think a lot of parents, and unfortunately, we were taught in the earlier homeschooling movement that, “do this,” (raising kids God’s way or train up a child) there was an element of, “do this and you’ll get this result.” I think a lot of those people actually just had young children. I don’t think people should teach parenting until they have grandkids. You know what I mean?

As long as your kids are in your home, and you are the one feeding and clothing them, you don’t really have as much authority as you think you do. They have to do what you say. I think that we have to be careful as teachers to not overpromise when we really don’t have the experience to deliver.

Amy: Oh, definitely. I’m a second-generation home schooler so I see a lot of that fruit of, unfortunately, a lot of people who were so committed to following a certain set of rules and ideas and if they did everything right, then everything was going to turn out. Unfortunately, that’s not what ended up happening. You have a lot of my peers who left the faith or just have had their own struggles. We all have struggles. I think that perspective, having seen that not work has been a good reminder to me in my own family.

Jennifer: Yes, for sure. I think it’s important. One of the things that I really teach in a lot of my writing is the power of forgiveness and reconciliation because I feel like, unfortunately, a lot of second-generation homeschoolers are going the complete opposite way, whether it’s with their faith, or their child-rearing or whatever. I’ve done this myself, in my own family. You decide something’s bad and so instead of forgiving and almost cutting off the results of that, you try the exact opposite. That’s not necessarily right either.

Wonder and Peace in the Little Years

Amy: Yes, definitely. Well, obviously, you have the Peaceful Press and I’ve talked about that earlier. I think that one of the things I want to especially talk to you about was this early childhood years thinking about that peace in preschool and kindergarten because that’s somewhere I see a lot of pressure that moms are putting on themselves.

In the Facebook homeschool groups, I just want to tell them, “Just leave. You shouldn’t even be here right now.” Because they come in and they’ve got their three-year-old and they’re like, “What’s the best curriculum?” They don’t know how to read yet, and they’re just so anxious. What are some ways that we can encourage wonder and really lay a foundation for peaceful, joyful, future love of learning in those little years?

Jennifer: It’s interesting because I was the same way. I was at my first homeschool meeting when my oldest was three years old. Cindy Rollins, in her book, Mere Motherhood, I think she was reading about Charlotte Mason before she even had children. I think it’s natural and normal and perfectly wonderful for us to start researching and thinking about it early but as long as we take the pressure off.

The one thing that I actually don’t disagree with Charlotte Mason, but because I have a daughter with special needs I’ve seen that if you just completely do nothing in the first six years (and I don’t think that’s what she was recommending, but I think sometimes Charlotte Mason educators think, “Oh, the first six years are quiet growing time so I can’t do anything with my child”), I think that could actually end up being counterproductive. Because with my special needs child especially, she needed some sensory experience. She wasn’t just going to go for herself because finger paint felt uncomfortable for her or she didn’t like getting her hands dirty.

Not all children are going to go after the experiences that they need for development. I think that presenting, whether you have some sensory trays out or you have some clay, I think that we do have to– I don’t want to say this in a wrong way but basically, I think that it is really important to present some preschool related material for young children, because not every home is set up–

Charlotte Mason era, they probably had a nursery where it was very child friendly. If you don’t have that atmosphere that’s welcoming and conducive to children learning. It’s funny, too because Charlotte Mason says, don’t alter your atmosphere for the child in a sense but I think that she was probably tutoring in beautiful English nurseries, right?

Amy: Well, she didn’t have to worry about electrical outlets.

Jennifer: Right. It’s a different era. I do believe in preparing an atmosphere for children to learn. Whether that is having some shelves down low, where there are some puzzles and things that a preschooler can get out, or whether it’s making sure that you have some good picture books for them to draw from. I think most moms are doing this anyhow. What we do at the Peaceful Preschool and the Nature Guide is we just give parents some ideas of what to do because I think, especially once we get going homeschooling the older children, we’re like, “How do I find time to balance all this?”

The other thing that I would say is don’t push those older children on too fast. We’re still doing a lot of the Playful Pioneers activities with my 12 and 14-year-olds. Some of that is shaking butter, some of that is watercolor painting. Those projects, those more sensory experiences, why should our older children be pushed into heavier and heavier books and have no opportunity to unwind creatively? As adults, we still need that. We still need an opportunity to unwind and to do some slower learning to incorporate baking into your day. There’s so many ways to have a balanced approach to learning that bring more joy to us.

I think that the reason that we don’t have that balanced approach is we get scared. I can definitely tell you, I have two college graduates, four high school graduates. It didn’t take pushing every day. It didn’t take these long lists and huge stacks of books. It took having a lifestyle of learning where we were reading aloud a lot. We were discussing the books we read, so my children had a fantastic vocabulary. They knew how to dialogue. They knew how to think and so then they could go into college classes and do really well. It wasn’t because, we were doing a full day of learning every day, or we read every single book on the Ambleside Online list.

I think those are great lists but I would want moms, especially, to just take some pressure off, don’t push children too fast into academic learning, but make sure that centers around quiet routines, some sensory activities like baking or painting or clay, and really good books, always books.

Amy: Our local library branch actually just opened up today for the first time since last spring. We were there early before the doors opened. We wanted to be the first ones inside. My little five-year-old, we have this– it’s become a family tradition that when you can sound out your first book, like a Bob Book thing, then you get to have your own library card. It’s just become a tradition and so he’s been waiting for the library to open back up so he could go and get his library card. Just to see the joy on his face as he had his own bag and his own library card and I just let him pick whatever books he wanted off the shelf.

When we came home, everyone had their books, and my two middle daughters, they were like, “Do we have to finish all the things on our list in here? Can we just read our books?” I was like, “Yes, you can just read your books,” because you can’t do that every day, but it’s the joy and the experience and that– What kind of homeschool mom would I be if I was like, “No, you can’t read your books. Go do the grammar worksheet,” or something. [chuckles]

Jennifer: Right. I think I do love the natural element of Charlotte Mason language arts because you think about if you read a story and then you do some copy work on that story, you talk about it, that’s so much more effective than having to do a worksheet for every single part of grammar. Do a spelling worksheet, do a grammar worksheet, do a handwriting worksheet, when most of that can be accomplished by reading out loud, talking about what you read, and narrating it, writing about it.

I love how practical Charlotte Mason is especially if you don’t overcomplicate it by trying to copy exactly what they were doing then. Copy the principles but I don’t think we need to try and do exactly every single book that they read and exactly what English governance in that time period was doing.

Amy: Curriculum is our tool, not our master, no matter what the curriculum is.

Jennifer: Yes, absolutely.

Jennifer Pepito Peacefully Homeschooling podcast interview Peaceful Press Homeschool Conversations

Jennifer’s advice to the new homeschool mom

Amy: Well, I think some of this has already been touched on a little bit but if you were talking to a new homeschool mom or a mom of littles who is considering homeschooling, what advice would you want to give to that mom?

Jennifer: I think one of the most important things would be to take some time to observe your child. I think that we can, even in a Charlotte Mason homeschool, tailor learning to our children and give them space to learn. She talks about having the full afternoon devoted to outdoor play. If you let your child play outside and you start to see them, they’re interested in building something or they’re looking at the bugs, or they are taking a book outside and laying on a blanket and reading it, you can see what interests them and start to think about future plans. What living books are we going to read? To some degree, you can tailor your Charlotte Mason homeschool to your children.

Then the other thing is because we want to know our children, I think being willing to flex what homeschooling you’re doing based on your child’s personality. I do have one child who really loves grades and so letting her be in a class with a tutor where she gets a grade is helpful for her in some subjects. Another child is really interested in project-based learning. Maybe making more time for that child to do projects or ordering a Tinker crate, something like that, where it incorporates some of what makes that child come alive because I want my kids to look back on their school years and be excited about learning, feel like it wasn’t just this big long chore but feel excited.

I think that’s one of the important things about not overscheduling. That would be the second piece of advice is don’t try to do too much. Don’t over-schedule because when you give your child a day to pursue their own interests, or you keep the schooling just in the morning, and you keep it sticking to the basics, I think you’ll be surprised at all the things your child wants to learn.

In my children’s free time, they have pursued learning Icelandic or drawn maps or pursued photography or animation. There are so many things that children will want to learn on their own if we just give them a little bit of time to do that. I think that’s such an important piece of education is backing off a little bit and letting our children pursue some of their own interests.

Amy: I love that. I love the variety of examples you gave too. Sometimes you think, “Oh, well, my kid hasn’t started their own business at 12 or something.” You hear some crazy story and you’re like, “Oh, no, my child doesn’t seem to be using their free time productively.” If you really love and value that child as that unique person that God’s made them to be, it’s really interesting to see just what ideas and curiosities are sparking in their imagination.

Jennifer: I think that that is really the result of a little bit of time. When we overschedule, they never have the time and you can start to see– I know some people talk about how they put their kids in public school and they saw the light go out in their eyes. I think the light can go out in the eyes of homeschool kids too if we are over-scheduling and just making it this slog without any interest or respect in what they are interested in.

What Jennifer Pepito is reading lately

Amy: Well, I am asking these final two questions to all of my guests this season. The first question I have is just what are you personally reading lately?

Jennifer: Oh, how fun! I have them right here. I’m reading this one. It’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. I love reading some contemplate over spiritual growth books. I feel like when my relationship with the Lord is in line, when I am dwelling in the presence of God, when I’m living close to His heart, then it’s a lot easier for me to create the atmosphere of peace and make space for God in our home, which blesses our children.

Then I just finished this one. It’s Honest, Simple Souls by Anne White. Cindy Rollins talked about it. She’s an advisory member for the Ambleside Online curriculum, but it was an advent book that had little excerpts from Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves, and it was lovely, so many great ideas in there.

Then I’m also reading The One Year Bible. This is fun. I’m working on an update for our ancient history resource, The Precious People. It’s been fun to be reading through the chronological Bible as I’m writing about Old Testament history, I’m reading about it.

Amy: Those are all really delightful ones. We are in the Old Testament right now in our family devotions. Man, getting through the end of Judges and you’ve just hit the low point, and then we started Ruth last night and we’re like, whew. [chuckles]

Jennifer: I know some of those lists of names and long, long chapters of laws can be a slog, but I really want to make sure that I’m getting the whole heart of God and really being a good listener.

Jennifer Pepito Peacefully Homeschooling podcast interview Peaceful Press Homeschool Conversations

Tips for the homeschool day going wrong

Amy: Yes, definitely. Well, the next question is, what tip would you have for the homeschool mom when the homeschool day just seems to be going all wrong?

Jennifer: [chuckles] Definitely stop. Just stop because I think there’s a point where our kids can’t learn anymore and if we think that pushing them to tears is going to result in something, we’re wrong.

Maybe this means that we need to back up and work on obedience training. We can’t homeschool kids who won’t listen to us. It’s just not going to work. I think that I had a lot of conflict in my own heart. Did I expect too much from my older children? Was I too strict with them? I think that when children know that somebody else is in charge, it gives them a sense of peace and security.

If you haven’t yet established with your children, that you are the leader of the little ship, that you’re the captain and they’re their shipmates, then you’re not going to be able to get a lot of homeschooling done. I think backing up a little bit and making obedience into a game, play Mother-May-I or play Simon says, and just practice having your children actually do what you say, what you tell them to do.

I have one child that it’s like we experimented with more egalitarian parenting, I guess, for a while, and I’m still working out the kinks on that one.

I think that it is important if you want to homeschool to establish that you’re the boss, but then also be a respectful boss. If you see that your child’s worn out with what they’re trying to learn and it’s just not working, stop and play a board game. You’re doing math, they’re crying, stop and play a math game. You’re doing a grammar worksheet, they’re crying, stop and read a book out loud and talk about what you read.

There are more fun ways to accomplish the same purpose with our children, ways that are respectful and kind. Not that you do that every day but I think that we over-emphasize academics. William Rohwer was a Berkeley professor of education. He said all of the basic skills necessary for success in high school can be taught in only two or three years of formal skill study.

I think that we spend the first six years of our children’s elementary years trying to cram all these academics and it could be done in a way that gives both of us a lot more of a joyful life. As a mom, you’re interested in poetry, read poetry together. As a mom, you love baking, read recipes together and make recipes. There are other ways to accomplish the same purpose beside doing every single thing that a curriculum tells you to do.

Find Jennifer Pepito online

Amy: I love that. That is such a good encouragement. Well, Jennifer, this has been delightful. Thank you for chatting with us today. Can you please tell us where people can find you all around the internet and a little bit about what they can find over a Peaceful Press?

Jennifer: Yes. If you go to the peacefulpress.com we have lots of free downloads. We have a free sample of our elementary resources, and I created The Playful Pioneers, The Kind Kingdom, and The Precious People as resources to help Charlotte Mason moms who were also busy. I was homeschooling, I had seven children, so I was trying to homeschool and take care of toddlers. I wanted fine art and I wanted poetry but I didn’t necessarily have time to go to a bunch of different sources to pull it together for myself, and I didn’t have a lot of money either.

Basically, when you buy our elementary resources, you get 30 weeks of learning. The lesson plans are laid out for you. There’s Bible memory, there’s poetry. There’s a weekly art piece. There’s recipes and there are some beautiful literature included. It makes a really sweet Charlotte Mason year that leaves time for your children to learn what they want to learn and for you to be a person as well.

Then we also have the Peaceful Preschool and the Nature Guide which are a little bit more Montessori leaning. We still have wonderful literature and art. In the early years, I want to make sure that children get lots of time for fine and large motor skills practice and development because if you can’t use your pincer grip properly, you’re not going to be able to do the longer copy work that needs to be done.

If both sides of your body aren’t coordinated well, your brain won’t be coordinated well, you’re going to have a hard time tracking works to read. I think we underestimate the importance of that. Those motor skills development actually have a huge impact on learning later and being able to read well and listen and repeat and track words on a page.

Those are our resources. You can find them at the peacefulpreschool.com or the peacefulpress.com. You can download free resources. We have a free packet of planning materials with a loop schedule for Charlotte Mason families. There’s lots of freebies on there.

You can use code NEWFRIEND for 10% off anything in our shop.

Amy: Oh, great. Thank you so much. I will have links to all of those things in the show notes for this episode at humilityanddoxology.com. Thanks, Jennifer. Have a good rest of your day.

Jennifer: Thank you, Amy. It was a pleasure to speak with you.

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