Meet the Team: Cate Olson

home/school/life blogger Cate Olson talks about her eclectic homeschool

Meet Cate Olson, who you'll be seeing regularly on the home | school | life blog. We're thrilled to have her on board, and we've asked her our favorite list of questions so you can know a little more about the person behind the blog posts.


Me in 100(ish) words:

I am very outgoing, cherish time alone, and I laugh often (and loudly!). My husband and I live with our three daughters (ages 15, 10, and 6), one son (age 13), and a bottomless pit of energy trapped inside the body of a Goldendoodle in Milwaukee’s northern suburbs.


How I started homeschooling: 

I came to homeschooling reluctantly.

When we moved to Milwaukee, my husband and I chose an idyllic suburb close to downtown known for its excellent public schools. Our eldest attended elementary school for three years, during which time I happily embraced my new life as a suburban mom: coffee klatch, playdates, and a leadership role as classroom mom.

Soon, though, I grew tired of the exhausting routine, much of which seemed to have so little purpose. First grade homework? Full school days for a six-year-old?

At that same time, my son was enrolled at a somewhat nontraditional preschool and among his classmates there happened to be a few kids whose families homeschooled. For the first time I heard words and terms like “unschooling” and “classical education.” 

My interest was piqued and I read unceasingly about every homeschooling style under the sun. After a few books in I came to the conclusion that these people were all nuts.

Except they weren’t. These new friends’ kids were great. And smart. And friendly. And interesting.

By the time the school year ended my husband and I knew we wanted to give homeschooling a try. We haven’t looked back since.


My homeschool style: Pretty eclectic. 

When our oldest daughter first came home, I was a disciple of Susan Wise Bauer and everything she recommended, we owned. 

However, over time, I have grown more confident and now we are much more relaxed.

A lot of what we do looks like what a classical homeschooler might do, but some might think we trend to the more unschool-y end of the spectrum.

What I know is this: my children learn complex things. They are curious. They are interesting, thoughtful people who are engaged in the world around them. Most importantly, they think independently and don’t mind standing athwart societal trends and asking “why?”.


What a typical day looks like in my homeschool life:

Our school day starts when my two youngest climb into bed with me. I keep a read aloud on my bedside table (we are currently making our way through the Harry Potter series). We have only one, very strict criteria for our read aloud, and that is that all three of us must enthusiastically endorse it so that we are all excited to gather in the morning.  I also keep whatever the girls are reading aloud to me on my bedside table and after about an hour and two cups of coffee, we’ve started the day with an engaging story and both little girls have practiced reading aloud.

My older two kids rise on their own schedules and start on their work on their own. As they need help, I carve out time with them.

After reading is over, I hit the books (phonics, grammar, or math) with one of the little girls as the other prepares herself breakfast. Or I help them both eat breakfast. Or I wash dishes while they fix their own breakfast. Or whatever. The bottom line is that, generally, after a couple hours, I have worked through our core subjects with the little girls and by lunch time we are done with schoolwork for the day. 

Our afternoons are often spent outside the home in different classes (we are fortunate that Milwaukee has a vibrant homeschooling community) or music lessons or tackling things we are interested in working on at home like reading a history book, working on an art project, or baking a cake.


Favorite read aloud:

Even though this is my third or fourth time through the Harry Potter series, I am still thoroughly engaged; what an incredible testament to the world J.K. Rowling created.  Also lately I have particularly loved the Penderwick books. Charlotte’s Web is also a favorite, along with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Gone Away Lake, and many, many others.


Favorite driving music:

I would keep my radio tuned to XM’s Symphony Hall most of the time, or maybe talk radio, but my kids much prefer local pop stations. Thanks to their influence, I can sing along to all the latest Justin Bieber has to offer, and have grown to actually kind of love Taylor Swift.


Things I like:

Sunny days. The sound of birds chirping in the spring. Freshly baked bread. Singing hymns. The first sip of coffee in the morning. Falling asleep in midst of a thunder storm.


Guilty pleasure:

Hey, I’m Wisconsin born and bred. Throw a stein of dark lager (that’s a style of beer, people) at me, and I am a happy, happy woman.


What I love about homeschool life:

The rhythm of our lives. I see the world around me racing to this and to that and I sit back in wonder and stare, bewildered, wondering if people feel happy and fulfilled when they never even have time to breathe. 


What I love about home/school/life magazine:

First of all, it’s beautiful. But better than that, it’s really, really smart. I read my first issue and ideas of homeschool co-ops swirled through my head, and at least two books made a list of books I want my kids to read. I can’t think of any kind of homeschooler who wouldn’t benefit from the mix of practical and high-minded ideas shared in both the magazine and on the website.