I adore following Rosie @fivelittlebirds, our children are a similar age and share a passion for reading, music and art. Rosie's vibrant photos always makes me feel good and I'm often taking away great wee activity ideas from their home schooling adventures. Today we are catching up with Rosie, finding out a little more about their decision to home school - as well as her top 10 favourite books - I'm sure you'll find it as inspiring as I did!
Hi. My name is Rosie, and I live in the sunny Hawkes Bay with my husband, our five kids and our two fur babies. I run a family focused Instagram page and today I’m going to answer some frequently asked questions about family, school and life in general.
What’s it like raising a large family, how do you do it all?
I often get asked questions like this and people are so curious as to how I get everything done. The answer is I don’t get everything done all the time and I don’t think anyone really does. For me, I focus on what’s most important to me. First is connection. So I make sure that our family eats dinner together every night and this is usually homemade. We all sit together and talk about our day. It’s a beautiful time for connecting and sharing what we love right now, feelings good and bad, what we want to do tomorrow etc. Because dinner is so important to me it means I’m not worried about the other meals so much. My older kids all like to get their own breakfast as they wake in the morning and we often eat lunch on the go. As long as I know we come back together for dinner I’m happy.
As far as keeping a perfectly tidy house (a common sight on social media), I don’t! I’m much more about clean than I am tidy. You’ll usually find my bathrooms and kitchen looking clean and well maintained but the rest of the house could have toys etc everywhere. I love the feeling of clean and that’s more important than having a show home. At the end of the day we will do a quick tidy before dinner but during the day I try to let it go. Our kids all do chores and we see this as an important part of belonging to a family. Some examples are making their bed, tidying and vacuuming their bedrooms, loading/unloading the dishwasher, taking out compost and recycling, sweeping and wiping down after a meal. This varies depending on their age. We don’t give our kids money for these chores as we feel it’s important to grow up understanding that helping others should be done without expecting something in return. If our older kids would like to earn money we help them find ways to do this. They go busking, or we might pay them a few dollars to wash the car or stack fire wood.
Another thing I do every single day is read out loud to my kids. This is always in the evening and the books change depending on their ages. For little ones it’s four picture books before bed and for older ones it’s a few chapters from a novel. Because I’ve always loved reading I really want to pass this wonder and joy onto my kids.
Why did you choose to homeschool?
All our older kids have started their education at school. We are huge fans of Montessori and this method is how our kids have learned to read and write and do basic math. I’m not anti school, but I do think as kids get into the older years (so from year 3 on) there are a lot of social problems (such as bullying) in New Zealand schools as well as a decline in free thinking, creativity and the arts in general which our family loves and places a lot of value on.
We chose homeschooling for our older kids for differing reasons. One of our boys was bullied and that was not something that I think a seven year old should ever have to go through. Another one of our kids has dyslexia and has benefited incredibly from having one to one teaching at home. I was homeschooled for many years so I wasn’t afraid of choosing such a different path. Homeschooling definitely isn’t for everyone but it’s a wonderful option to have if you are in a position to be able to make it work. I feel very grateful to be able to be home with my kids guiding them through their education.
How do you teach every subject as well as a school would?
The way our kids are homeschooled is part traditional school and quite a lot of unschooling. So we don’t focus on what other kids their age are learning/doing we focus on what our kids love. For example if our kids are interested in electric guitars they might spend months researching, learning, playing and listening to guitars. They’ll make friends with our local music shop owners, attend live music, watch you tube tutorials and form their own band. All learning that they retain and put to use in their everyday lives. Many studies have shown that students only retain 8-10 percent of what’s taught in a classroom so if you keep this in mind there’s a lot less pressure to lecture your kids and more room to follow their passions. Homeschooling can seem scary and parents often comment that they would worry that their child wouldn’t be able to attend university etc. Having been homeschooled through high school and then going to university to get a teaching degree I can reassure those parents that it’s not an issue. If we want to learn or achieve something we will always find a way to do it. We still want our kids to be proficient in core subjects and they do short daily math, language arts, coding and science lessons, but these are kept fun and brief. So we don’t replicate school but instead journey through education in a more alternative way.
How do you take such bright photos?
Firstly, I’m not a trained photographer and am completely self taught so this advice is definitely not coming from a professional. The best way, I’ve found, to take beautiful pictures is to find the natural light in your house and use it. Go to the brightest room and hang a very thin white curtain across the window to give you even light. Make sure if you’re taking photos of kids that they’re in a mood where they want to do it. Make it fun, play music, make silly sounds for babies, get older kids to tell each other jokes etc. Once you have a photo that you like (this usually takes 1-2 minutes) it’s all about editing! I use Lightroom to do most of the editing. Adjust the exposure first then address any shadows. I add in a little vibrance and also like my photos to have a warmer tone so I adjust the temperature. I also add a little contrast and adjust the blacks. Finally you can heal out anyone in the background or clothing stains etc then you’re done. Hopefully that’s helpful!
How do you make a business from a social media account?
So this happened to me by accident a few years ago and since then I’ve learned a lot. When I first started on Instagram I didn’t realise people were paid to promote products. After a little while I started getting messages about product exchange collabs and I thought that would be fun. You would usually do product exchange only until you have built up your following and also your skills at taking product photos. Next came small paid work. So the first few jobs I did I was paid around $100 USD and the product. This slowly built up over time. Today I’m still really loyal to the brands that I started off with and love to tag them etc whenever I can.
If you would like to earn money from your social media account there’s a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, never promote something you wouldn’t actually use. Make sure it truly fits with your lifestyle. Secondly, talk to your older kids about it and involve them. We’ve done some amazing collaborations with brands that have benefited our kids homeschooling, love of art and books, coding and science. The kids have loved this experience and are aware that the images are posted on our account. Thirdly, don’t take it too seriously. People come and go and everyone has different opinions in the world. Not everyone will always love what you do or say and don’t get upset by it. We have been lucky to have received an enormous amount of love and support on IG so when someone has a negative comment to make I just let it go.
Lastly, don’t charge a small business the same as a large company/corporation. Small businesses are often run by Mums and Dads like you and me and we all need to help each other out so everyone can rise together.
Must haves for kids?!
In our house we try to live as earth friendly as we can. We don’t really have many plastic toys apart from lego and duplo which are definitely must haves. We have a wooden train set and a wooden marble run both of which are used often. Books are a huge love of mine and I’m always happy to buy my kids another book (new or secondhand) as I know they will be loved and then passed on to someone else. Puzzles and boardgames are also must haves. We always have paper, pencils, crayons and watercolours available for the kids so they can create whenever the mood strikes. A family trampoline and scooters are must haves. We walk a lot and live close to our city so scooters are used daily. We have lots of musical instruments (but that’s only relevant if your kids love music). Other than that we spend lots of time in nature, make the most of parks, beaches etc.
My top ten favourite picture books:
Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers (and any other Oliver Jeffers books as they are all great).
We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines
The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin - HERE
Greta Thunberg Little People Big Dreams by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (and any of the other Little People Big Dreams books) - HERE
On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty (we also love Ada Twist, Sophia Valdez and Iggy Peck from the same series)
In My Heart, A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek
The World Needs Who You Were Made to Be by Joanna Gaines
Like the Ocean We Rise by Nicola Edwards
So that’s it from me. If you have other questions drop us a message @fivelittlebirds