What is your greatest struggle when it comes to homeschooling?
Not thinking I was qualified to teach my children. There are many programs that offer comprehensive lesson plans and curricula that basically map out what you have to do. We have chosen Seton, a Catholic homeschool curriculum that fits our needs. We were also concerned about socialization, but we joined a Christian homeschooling organization that allows our children to interact with other children on field trips and play days.
If you could go back in time, what would you change or do differently?
I would have attended more homeschooling events with the homeschooling organization we belong to and I would have looked for more online support and enhancement tools to teach. We have discovered CTC Math online, where the children can log in and learn step by step how to solve math problems. There is enough coursework for them to log in everyday.
How has your homeschooling changed since the Shelter-in-Place order due to COVID-19?
Dad is at home teleworking and helping the kids with their math and their schoolwork. Dad has a different method of teaching and it is nice, a change of pace if you will for the kids. We pretty much have taken advantage of the “stay-at-home” policy and let ourselves go a little bit, meaning doing things out of the norm. Letting the kids have more playtime, a little more screen time, and freedom to explore. They know about COVID-19 and all the restrictions that come with it, so having their daily norm change helped in a way to keep their mind off of things while still being diligent about proper hygiene.
What are your thoughts on the growing diversity, or perhaps lack of, in your homeschool community?
The homeschooling organization that we belong to is very diverse. It appeals to a broad cross section of individuals drawn to homeschooling not by ethnic group, but a concern that their child is being taught at the lowest common denominator in public schools.
When we first started homeschooling, my husband went to the superintendent of schools in our local school district because we thought that we had to register with them. Instead, we found out that we had to register a homeschool affidavit with the state (which must be done every year in October). While he was there the superintendent asked him why we chose to homeschool. He shared with him that I was a product of the school district and that I would consider it child abuse to send my children to the schools I attended as it was not a very pleasant experience for me. The superintendent thanked my husband for the feedback and asked him why he wanted to home school. My husband told the superintendent that he has multiple college degrees and a wife that is a nurse, and that we were told that the schools taught to the lowest common denominator. The superintendent at that time said that they did, which shocked us when he did not deny it. My husband then said to him that our children would be bored in their program if that was the case and it would not be wise to put them into a situation that would be detrimental to their education.
Now that we have gotten to the heart of the interview, tell me a little about yourself, your family, and why you chose to homeschool. Do you work in addition to homeschooling your children or did you leave a career behind to do so?
I left the nursing profession to be a full-time mother and teacher because I wanted my children to have more options than I thought I had. When I go through the educational material from Seton, I sometimes get angry about the information I was not taught in school. We also have a special needs child and we do not want a school district recommending to us that we have to medicate our child so he can be sedated while he is trying to learn.
My husband is also worried about the quality of the curricula in public schools, especially Common Core. He is an engineer and several of his co-workers ask him to tutor their kids in math and he has reviewed the material and finds it lacking. He also finds that the material teaches a negative view of American history and accomplishments compared to what he was taught. He has a nephew that went to public schools who reaches out to him all the time, a really good kid, but ignorant about his own country. He has many in-depth conversations with him and does not want his children to experience the same sub-standard public education.
How do you find balance and time for self-care in the midst of daily life as a homeschooling parent?
Being a parent is a sacrifice, my life is for my children. My husband sees this and rescues me for periodic date nights and short getaways and sometimes even kicks me out of the house to stay at a hotel in order to get some alone time. I try not to lose myself in the process. My children are really attached to me, so my husband does father-son and father-daughter time. He also does father-children time so I can get some alone time. In addition, I do mother-son and mother-daughter time as well, so each child gets individual quality time with each parent. We also make sure they get plenty of grandparent time.
As the children get older, dad spends more time with them on subjects that he is really good with like math, and he buys them STEM and other types of gifts where he can do the project with them. Our daughter likes art, so he bought her an easel and he paints with her. He is not really good at it, but she doesn’t know that. All she knows is that she gets daddy time.
In a perfect world, what would your ideal homeschool day look like?
Since our children are each two years apart, it would be nice that the children take responsibility to look at their lesson plans and do their lessons and ask mom or dad for help if they can’t figure it out on their own. Once they are done with the lesson plan, they would pursue areas that interest them, that may someday be their profession or how they would like to make a living. If they do what they love, it would not really be work for them.
But in reality, what does your typical day look like?
Getting the kids up is still a big challenge. They are all attached to me, so they argue about who goes first to do school with mom. I go through three different grades a day and supplement with math on the computer with CTC math. The kids use me as a security blanket to sit next to them while they do their school work. I encourage them and want them to be more independent.
My husband gives the kids homework assignments the night before but they forget to do them. Our oldest son has developed a love of reading, which is a good thing, we just have to keep giving him books to read. He also likes to re-read the same material. If he would only read everything we gave him to help him figure out what he likes, that way he can start making a decision on what he wants to do in life.
How has your homeschooling changed over the years? Do you subscribe to any particular homeschooling philosophy?
We started by looking at the Robinson Homeschooling Curriculum and Saxon Math books as both have excellent reputations. We soon discovered Seton and found out that we were not alone in our quest to get the best education for our children. We want our children to get as broad of an education in the beginning in order to help them figure out what interests them so they can make a wise career choice in the future.
We plan on encouraging the kids to work through high school and to enroll in community college during high school to earn college credit before they transfer to a university. My husband is an engineering manager and he is beginning to worry about the quality of graduates from the universities, and he wants our child to get an education and not an indoctrination.
What are your best homeschooling memories thus far?
Watching my children learn how to read and the pride they have in this major accomplishment. This is the foundation for all other learning and independence in life. They all struggled with math, but they now enjoy it. The key was showing them the practical applications of math. The best homeschooling memories are when we take a family road-trip cross country, learning different landscapes and history of each state we cross.
Finally, do you have any wisdom to share or tips to pass on to those new to homeschooling?
You can do it and you might actually learn a few things along the way. They say you don’t really know something until you teach it and they are right. You might also find that the education that you received was not all it could have been and you will get a chance to compare it to what your children are getting at home and what others are receiving in public schools.
Also, join Home School Legal Defense (HSLD), you never know when you will get a knock on your door and it is the police or a social worker who thinks you are abusing your kids because you homeschool. They are there for you. We are members and we have never had to use them. It is better to have and not use, then to not have and need.
This is especially important for parents who take their child out of public schools after they have been enrolled. Even if you file the state affidavit and mail it to the school district, the police may stop by on a truancy matter, because someone at the school district office did not process or file your affidavit. HSLD is great at writing a letter on your behalf. We get their newsletter all the time and often see this happen to parents who have decided that the school district was not doing what it needed for their child so they decided to do it themselves. HSLD also is especially good at dealing with overzealous Child Protective Services representatives. As far as they are concerned, you are guilty until proven innocent.
Find a homeschooling group and join or consider starting your own. There are many churches that have programs for children, consider checking them out and becoming a member. Plan and do interesting trips with your kids and make vacations learning experiences that are fun and memorable. It is the journey and not the destination, although the destination here is to raise a fully competent adult, and it is worth the investment of your time. You can do this, because you will give your child the most precious gift you can, your time. This makes all the difference.