Ep. 69: Habitat Schoolhouse

September 13, 2019

Ep. 69: Habitat Schoolhouse

In today's Mount Motherhood podcast episode, we chat with Jennifer Swegles of Habitat Schoolhouse. Habitat Schoolhouse provides wholesome homeschool resources, a supportive community, and can help you understand all the options that are available to you in the world of home education. This episode is full of information and you definitely want to take check out all of the links included in these show notes!

Also, be sure to take advantage of the discount code Jennifer has for you! Email Social@CharlotteLaila.com to claim it.

You can find a full transcript of this episode below.

You can follow Habitat Schoolhouse on Instagram HERE

Join the Teacher's Lounge HERE.

Learn more about the Pre-K Curriculum HERE.

Learn more about the Kindergarten Curriculum HERE.

Learn more about the extra workbooks and flashcards available HERE.

You can also LISTEN, REVIEW and SUBSCRIBE on Apple Podcasts or Spotify


[00:00:08.360] - Ivan - Host

Welcome to the Mount Motherhood Podcast. Today we're joined by Jennifer of Habitat Schoolhouse through the episode she discusses the benefits of their curriculum, all the opportunities out there for parents looking to homeschool and also shares an exclusive promotion to our listeners. Jennifer to start off can you introduce your background and also how you became involved with Habitat schoolhouse.

[00:00:34.250] - Jennifer

Yes. So my name is Jennifer. I am about to turn 30. And I live in Alabama. I plan to homeschool my children in the future and am really trying to be a part of like a grassroots community like building home school to be more mainstream.

[00:00:54.830] - Jennifer

But what we're trying to do is kind of break down the preconceived notions and the myths about homeschooling and just kind of the stigma surrounding it a little bit and make it more of a mainstream culture and give support to women and parents who are doing it all across the country. And I currently plan to do homeschooling in the future but at Habitat schoolhouse right now I am managing all of our brand ambassadors and who we call the habitat hive and basically it's a group of ladies who are all using habitat schoolhouse curriculum in their home schools through this year which you can all follow the hashtag #habitatschoolhouse or #habitathive and you can see real families using the curriculum in their own way and what what is best fitting for their families needs and situation.

[00:01:59.100] - Jennifer

And so I joined habitat schoolhouse to be a part of that and spread homeschooling to everyone and encourage everyone and inspire moms who maybe are a little bit nervous to take the plunge or don't feel confident enough to do it on their own and maybe feel a little isolated and don't feel like they have support. That's really what I have to schoolhouse is trying to develop right now is a community for moms and parents who want to homeschool their children but don't really know where to start and maybe have never done it before and never planned on doing it and think that maybe it might fit their familyies needs. The best.

[00:02:40.980] - Ivan - Host

Thanks for the introduction and and towards the second half of your response you mentioned you know how the program can tailor itself to parents with different expectations or maybe parents who are feeling a little overwhelmed about the about the overall curriculum. What's the best place or best method for first starting small I guess with Habitat schoolhouse.

[00:03:07.830] - Jennifer

Well the great thing about doing any kind of homeschooling situation is that it's you with your child who knows your child the best. You know you've been there since they were born. So you're going to know and be able to respond to your child in the most specific and best way suited for them. So the great thing is that you can tailor it to the specific needs based on their attention span. What a lot of ladies with children with special needs... I've talked with some moms in my habitat program who have children with quote unquote special needs. And one of them said something to me that I really like to reiterate which is that all children have special needs. It doesn't matter what their situation is or what the situation is in your family. Like every child has their own special needs.

[00:04:05.280] - Jennifer

So the great thing about doing homeschooling is that it's flexible and you're able to do it at your own pace.

[00:04:13.200] - Jennifer

You can do short bursts when their attention span is really the strongest or you can take a time out and do quiet time or let them go outside and run around and play and do what you can when you can basically. It's a really flexible approach to learning that most of the time even in special needs schools or preschools or kindergartens or classical educational situations like that, that you don't get a lot of flexibility when there's more than one kid in the room. So the thing is you're able to tailor it to what they're able to do and you are able to follow that along with them and give them that encouragement and they don't get that feeling of judgment if they're having a bad day and you get to celebrate their good days with them.

[00:05:11.140] - Jennifer

That's really something I think that's important and it really builds strong family bonds you know and helps you build a stronger connection with your child on a daily basis and really being a group with them and know what and you're the one who knows the best what they need when they need it basically.

[00:05:34.660] - Jennifer

So each lesson there's a multiple workbooks. Right now we have pre-k and kindergarten and we have two workbooks done in the kindergarten curriculum. So we're still working on that full curriculum.

[00:05:48.610] - Jennifer

Right now we do have the full pre-K curriculum and so we have two different options. What you can do is you can download a digital version and print it at your convenience or you can order a physical copy and our curriculums have a parent guide that follow along with them that show you everything that you need to do for each lesson. Each lesson focuses on you know of course a normal ABC, one, two, three's, all those kinds of shapes, colors, like the basic things that you would expect in any pre-K curriculum but the special thing and the thing that I really love about habitat schoolhouse and the reason that I really wanted to get involved with it is for one it's absolutely beautiful.

[00:06:33.650] - Jennifer

You know I'm one of those people who is a spark joy person. And if it's something so beautiful or doesn't add value I don't really want to have it like I'm very hesitant to even buy anything unless I absolutely love it. And so that's something that I really liked about this curriculum is that it's like visually beautiful and it brings beauty to your life. And so there's so few things I feel like that really focus on doing that these days. And so this is why I feel I was drawn to this curriculum even though I'm not even currently doing homeschooling but it would be the one that I plan to use when I do. One of the unusual things about it is that it incorporates art, music, language, history, culture studies, things like that.

[00:07:25.390] - Jennifer

There is a like science experiment with each lesson. They incorporate a lot of sensory processing activities, like you know, making letters with dough and things like that and all kinds of actual activities. There's cooking lessons involved so it's kind of like a wholesome, like a a comprehensive life study. And so you're learning things that are more than just what you would consider like just a purely educational curriculum.

[00:07:58.600] - Jennifer

Like whenever you're looking for a curriculum to do homeschooling because I know it's really overwhelming.

[00:08:05.980] - Jennifer

You know, you should really ask yourself, "OK, educationally, what do I want my child to know?" You know, you want them to know letters, numbers, shapes, colors, some vocabulary words - like grow their vocabulary- things like that.

[00:08:21.730] - Jennifer

That's going to be obvious, but then especially in this curriculum which is what makes this so special. We kind of focus on things like social intelligence and social development like, how do you want your child to play and interact with other children and adults and how to be kind and show kindness.

[00:08:43.660] - Jennifer

It's one of our workbooks, we have a kindness tracker, you know. And so bringing that to the forefront of your mind and like having that be something that's a focus I think is really important. Also, emotional development you know expressing feelings, understanding feelings you know I think that that's something that's really relevant and sometimes children don't really learn to use the words to express their emotions.

[00:09:11.150] - Jennifer

And sometimes that can follow you into adulthood. So you know you want to be able to develop that at young age so that children turn into a adults who can recognize their own emotions. Then you know, things like practically, like, "OK, well I want my child to be able to go to the bathroom properly and brush their teeth" and those sorts of things. In one of our offerings, we have we have our straight curriculum that we offer and then we have something called the teachers lounge and in our teachers lounge. That's something that's updated monthly. It also provides access to a Facebook group that we have and it's got a lot of extras that are seasonal.

[00:09:54.630] - Jennifer

And it's basically just like an expansion of a lot of the resources that we have in the curriculum but like things like that we have like a teeth brushing chart and like a dental study and things like that. So the teachers lounge is like a little expansion. We've also got something developing for the teachers lounge too which is also outside of the ABC's, one, two, three's which is just in English. We're adding foreign languages. So we are adding French and Spanish right now and something beneficial I think for your audience would be the ASL the American Sign Language flashcards and things like that you know. Depending where a child is developmentally you know maybe that's something that can be used to help them express their feelings and just be able to express themselves a little bit better.

[00:10:52.890] - Jennifer

So anyways, I just want to encourage everyone to feel like there are people out there who are just starting this for the first time and don't really know what they're doing and have never done it before and are like, "What do I do." And that's what we're really trying to do that schoolhouse is build a community of moms who are 1. leading by example.

[00:11:15.510] - Jennifer

There are a lot of brand ambassadors that I have this year in the habitat hive who have never homeschooled before and this is their first year and you should definitely go to our Instagram page @habitatschoolhouse and follow the hashtag #habitatschoolhouse and #habitathive so that you can follow along and see other parents going through their first year of home schooling and just seeing what they do. Be inspired by them, see what works for them, take from some and take from others what may work in your situation. We have mothers who are mothers to special needs children who are using this curriculum this year and see what works for them and what tools they use because that's what I really want habitat hive to do is to inspire and encourage more moms to take on this this journey because it really it builds your family bond so much stronger. And that's part of the reason why I want to encourage homeschooling in general.

[00:12:22.980] - Ivan - Host

Well that's terrific to learn more about the mission and your passion for it. What would you say to the parents who are looking to combine habitat schoolhouse curriculum with the traditional pre-K or kindergarten curriculum.

[00:12:35.670] - Jennifer

So a lot of our moms and parents go to Charlotte Mason or Montessori school a couple of days a week and then do homeschooling all the other days. You know like I said the thing that's great about our curriculum is that it's really flexible. You...when.. the curriculum was actually being developed it was developed by Charlotte Laila. She actually had a blog and a Pinterest page and her own Instagram and when she had her first child, that is when she developed this curriculum. So she didn't even develop this curriculum until she was like already raising a child.

[00:13:16.110] - Jennifer

So this curriculum is created by a mom who went to college for secondary education and Fine Arts which is I think why it's so beautiful, anyways.

[00:13:29.940] - Jennifer

She started developing this so that it could be used in any order when she developed the curriculum she actually started with the letter 'T' so she didn't start with a letter 'A' like a lot of people would assume, you just startin order. So that's the great thing about this curriculum is you can start wherever you want, whenever you want and grow at whatever pace you want. Some of the habitat hive moms that we have who do a part time homeschool and have their kids go to some form of a brick and mortar school a couple of days a week and then the rest of the week they just do what is best for them and what fits for them and some of them take, oh, do it all year long.

[00:14:10.860] - Jennifer

Some of them do it during what you would call typical school year like kind of like May to September type of time and take summers off. And so that's a great thing and that's also why I want to encourage everyone who's even thinking about it to like go ahead and follow those hashtags and follow our page because you can just see examples of people using it in the way that it suits them. And it's not just a straightforward like a tizzy you do this this week and then you're here this week and you kind of force your kid or plow with them to go at a pace that maybe is not so natural to them.

[00:14:44.760] - Jennifer

That's why I think it's so great for a special needs family because you can go at your own pace and at your child's pace which I think is the most important thing. So you know a lot of times they say that you should start with like the letter 'T' or 'S' or 'M' or 'B' because those letters form a lot more words. It's just easier for children to form a lot more words with those letters. So it's up to you how you want to start. And that's the great thing is it can be whatever you want it to be there's no cookie cutter, there's no right or wrong way.

[00:15:21.840] - Jennifer

And that's why I really want these ladies to have examples to see. People implementing this in their life and seeing that theres not just one way to do it, it's anyway you want to do it and you can take from here and take from there and use a bunch of different resources and whatever works for you. Because I'll go out and tell you, you know, you need to find the curriculum that suits your family. You know, the reason I think habitat schoolhouse is such a great resource is because it's so flexible. It's very multifaceted.

[00:15:58.720] - Jennifer

It's kind of whole life comprehensive. So you know it's like I said it's not just the ABC and one, two, three's, it's you know, "How do I emotionally develop and socially develop" and practical lessons like cooking. I mean because I've never seen a curriculum that includes cooking lessons so and children love to do that stuff, they love to do that with you. I know it takes a lot and It's really messy and it takes a long time. But you know they are really inspired and it holds their attention a lot better. So that's what I would say to moms who do a kind of part time thing. Is that the great thing about it is you can make it whatever you need it to be for your family.

[00:16:47.530] - Ivan - Host

And I know you touched on the brand ambassador program as well as the teachers lounge. Can you mention kind of the difference between those two and what kind of interaction they have as a community and then also with you and your your team members.

[00:17:03.800] - Jennifer

Yes. OK. So the habitat hive is a group of ladies who we assembled over the summer to get together who will demonstrate and document their use of the habitat school curriculum over the next year.

[00:17:27.470] - Jennifer

And these ladies have all different follower accounts. I mean the follower amounts they have all different follower amounts some ranged from like 80 thousand to a hundred. You know we didn't really want to be too picky about that because we want it to be real and a genuine documentation of using the habitat class curriculum so that you can really get a true feel for what it could be for you. So hashtag #habitathive are going to be all of our ladies who are using the habitat class curriculum this year for you to follow to interact with them, ask them questions, get inspiration from and just follow along in their journey.

[00:18:12.110] - Jennifer

And and if you get the habitat schoolhouse curriculum you can follow along with which whoever matches your family the best or not.

[00:18:22.160] - Jennifer

Now the teacher's lounge is a separate offering that we have for resources. So we have our pre-K curriculum. We have our kindergarten curriculum that's still partially under development. We have two math workbooks for kindergarten right now but our pre-K curriculum is fully done and that is its own standalone thing. So that's the curriculum. The other offering that we have is the teacher's lounge. So that is going to be an expansion on the curriculum resources that we have. So the teacher's lounge is going to have our extended language resources.

[00:19:08.210] - Jennifer

So right now we're uploading Spanish flashcards. ABC's, one, two, three's in Spanish, letters in Spanish. We're going to be uploading French soon. We're still working on that one. We just uploaded American Sign Language flashcards. So that's the alphabet in American Sign Language and also a workbook for the alphabet for American Sign Language.

[00:19:32.390] - Jennifer

So we have those sorts of things in the teachers lounge and those things can be added on to your curriculum and an expansion of that.

[00:19:44.840] - Jennifer

We've got a farm animal activity book in their, the dental care chart, like I mentioned before, just a study on ponds. You know the thing that I would also like to emphasize is that habitat schoolhouse is kind of its nature based. So a lot of the activities are going to revolve around you going outside, incorporating nature, trees, animals, plants, gardening.. those sorts of things are going to be emphasized a lot in the curriculums. We've got like a frog lifecycle flashcard set, the plant life cycle flashcard set. Just like extra resources like things for counting and things for letter development and then like I said the extra languages and some STEM resources as well.

[00:20:49.060] - Ivan - Host

As we wind down here uh is there anything you'd want to say to maybe a parent who's on the fence and then also maybe even if the parent doesn't you know join the habitat schoolhouse community. Like what would you say to encourage them. Um you know maybe how they approach their education for their children.

[00:21:09.120] - Jennifer

Mm hmm. What I would say is. I plan to homeschool my children in the future. The reason I joined habitat schoolhouse is to help other women who and parents also parents help encourage them to not be so persuaded by a lot of the preconceived notions about home schooling.. and to really have the courage in there... for their family to say you know I think this is something we can try and we can try it. And if it doesn't work out that's fine. You know you need to do what is best for your family first and foremost and you are the master of that and the gatekeeper of that.

[00:22:13.260] - Jennifer

So that's the most important thing. To do what is the best fit for your family. Maybe that's homeschooling and maybe it's not, but at least feel encouraged and confident enough to try it out. You know, you never know until you try and I know that it seems overwhelming and it's hard to know where to start. And that is sometimes the biggest hurdle to overcome and really that there's no right way to do it and that even making the effort is a victory. And even making the attempt is a victory and that you are not alone and we have a group of women from literally all over the world.

[00:23:10.560] - Jennifer

I have some habitat hive members in the Philippines and South Africa and England and Brazil and Canada and Mexico and all over the the US and everyone has their own approach. Everyone has a different cultural outlook. Everyone has a different family situation. I have moms who have special needs kids and so I especially want those moms to be an inspiration and say it can be done even with multiple children all at different levels.

[00:23:48.480] - Jennifer

It can be done and I just want you to feel encouraged to do that and that you do have support from literally all over the world. That's been the number one thing about this venture for me is.. even creating even for my own self, n a community of ladies who are so encouraging and want to help each other and are really there for each other and supporting each other even though it's virtual you know I see a lot on the Internet a lot of forums of moms feeling so isolated and like they can't leave their house and it's difficult to find a mom friend.

[00:24:30.060] - Jennifer

And who better to befriend and follow on social media than someone who is going through a similar life situation as you. That is exactly why I am so inspired and want to do this habitat hive so much. We have a Facebook group for them, also where, you know, everyone's just like, what are you guys doing this week? I'm having trouble with this. "What letter are you starting with?", you know. And we have Facebook groups also for habitat schoolhouse for anyone to join. And you know maybe you're not gonna do a full on homeschool maybe it's just part of the week, just feeling like you have someone to go to to ask questions. Direct Message us, just send me a DM. I would love to talk to you. I am here for that. It's my favorite part about doing this, is connecting with every single lady. So I'll talk to you all day long. Ask as many questions as you want. Send us a direct message.

[00:25:26.910] - Jennifer

Send me an email if anyone has any questions or wants to know more about the curriculum or wants to know more about trying to do homeschooling with a special needs child. Send me an email at social@Charlottelaila.com. Send me an email because I would love to chat with you, answer any questions that you have.

[00:25:55.150] - Jennifer

I'd like to extend to your listeners a special code that I can give them. Also in the email. So just go ahead and reach out to me because that's what I'm here for.

[00:26:07.410] - Jennifer

That's part of the reason that I wanted to be a part of this community.

[00:26:10.740] - Jennifer

And I'm I'm so excited for this year to start. It doesn't matter when you start. I've got some moms starting. It's Labor Day weekend right now. I've got some moms starting this week and I've got some moms starting at the end of next month.

[00:26:24.100] - Jennifer

I know I've got some moms who have been going all summer, you know so don't ever feel like oh you missed a window or oh it's too late to start or anything like that. It's never too late to start. It's never too late to do what you may feel in your heart is what you'd like to do. But you know you haven't felt ready to do or encouraged to do or supported to do and just know that there's a group of ladies who is here for you. I'm here for you. Just send me an email and I'll talk to you all night long. And that's whether or not you want to homeschool or not. Or just don't know about homeschooling in general or want to know more about a curriculum or just want to follow us on social media.

[00:27:11.130] - Jennifer

You know, if you just want to follow us for a month and then see how you feel after that time then just go ahead and do that and just send me a DM. Go to our Instagram page. Go ahead like us and just follow us and see if it looks like something that you'd like to do. But just know that I totally understand and hear you and your scene and I feel you and I know that it is scary and some things in life are scary and sometimes those are the most rewarding things in our lives.

[00:27:41.500] - Ivan - Host

Well thank you so much for being generous of your time and as you mentioned our listeners can e-mail you at social@CharlotteLaila.com we'll also put that in the show notes. Thanks for the surprise mentioning a promo code they can e-mail you that they heard you through here on the Mount Motherhood Podcast. But once again Jennifer thanks for giving us some insight into all the great programs that are being developed.

[00:28:07.350] - Ivan - Host

And I know it's a uh a big a big task and a big mission but it seems like you and your team you know live and breathe this every day and are really passionate about the work that's being done there and we can't wait to get feedback from our listeners on what their thoughts are on everything.

[00:28:26.430] - Ivan - Host

But you've given them lots of lots of tools to think about and check out through like you said your social media and your Web site and even emailing you directly. But thanks again Jennifer for all your time today.

[00:28:39.620] - Jennifer

Yeah. Thank you so much.