Homeschool Student Interviews – Part 7

This month’s interview is with one of our regular bloggers!

Austin is a former homeschooler who never truly got the idea that graduation meant a stop from learning. Self-induced learning activities include traveling the nation filming short videos of historical locations, reading through 500-page books on the Apollo space program, and just about any other fun learning thing he can think up. This spring he will be graduating from Southern Adventist University in Tennessee with a degree in biology, but is already looking forward to the fall when he will begin graduate school at Andrews University in Michigan and keep learning!

1) What is your name and what country/state/province do you live in?

My name is Austin Menzmer, and I currently live in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

2) How long were you homeschooled?

I was homeschooled all the way from K through 12! Loved it!

3) What did you like most about being homeschooled?

Most of all, I really liked the flexibility that homeschooling gave me and my Mom — both with regards to what subjects were studied and our daily schedule.

For example, I really liked science in high school. While I took the required biology, chemistry, and physics, I really wanted to take an additional biology class, human anatomy, and physiology. I doubt that would have happened in regular high school, but it sure did my senior year in our homeschool! I thoroughly enjoyed that course, which was a major factor in my deciding to became a biology major when I got to college.

Secondly, is our daily schedule. For those of you who don’t know, I have a physical disability and at times have gone to therapy six days a week. Homeschooling gave more flexibility, in the fact that I could attend therapy appointments during the day rather than just in the afternoon/evening when “school got out.” We were able to fit (and accomplish!) my schoolwork around these therapy appointments, so I could still be a “regular kid” and have some free time later on in the day.

4) Was there anything you dislike about being homeschooled?

Honestly, nothing. (And my mother didn’t even pay me to say that!) Even now in college I still have a passion for learning, period. It is such an incredible privilege that so many take for granted.

5) Since learning never really ends, what is your favorite thing to study and learn more about?

Ha, ha! Exactly! I love learning about history in my spare time (could you tell from my virtual field trip articles??). It is so interesting to learn about how people used to live “way back when,” why they made the decisions they did, etc. I love seeing history come alive as I visit various historical sites and museums, particularly air and space museums!

I also really like studying biology (my major) and religion (my minor). In my mind, biology can be defined as “God is AWESOME!” My jaw seriously keeps dropping every day as I’m in class learning about some new aspect of how God created our universe. Truly, “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom,” Isa. 40:28. And, what can get better than studying God’s Word? I love studying the Bible, regardless if I’m getting college credit for it.

6) What are your favorite hobbies or activities?

Reading 500-page history books, playing with my sister, and making videos for my history-themed YouTube channel. I really like both the creative aspect of capturing video clips onsite and then editing them all together. I feel very fulfilled when I can help people virtually “visit” a place that they might not have the chance to go to in real life. I help educate them along the way when they just think they’re having fun watching one of my videos! Reading history books increases my knowledge and appreciation of different aspects of history that I would definitely not have otherwise. And spending quality time with those you love is never a waste. 🙂

If you haven’t seen my weekly videos yet and want to, be sure to check them out at www.youtube.com/tnphotobug. And, here is a link to a 60-second sampler of what you’ll find on my channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw2lITMzQb8.

7 ) How did homeschooling prepare you for college and/or the workforce?

I feel that being homeschooled really gave me the upper edge on practicing proactivity and other real life skills. For example, I had a bread business starting when I was around the age of 10 or 12. We lived near SWAU [Southwestern Adventist University] at the time, so that was my customer base. However, while my Mom would let me use her kitchen, she made me approach SWAU faculty and staff about buying my bread, she made me make the bread, and she made me pay her rent for use of her kitchen. Not only did I learn how to work and interact with others, but also some on personal finance and budgeting. Sure, I had a small percentage to spend how I chose, but we also had considerably larger sections for tithe, offering, and college/big savings. A year and a half ago, my parents and I jointly bought my first car, and a lot of the money I contributed was from all those years of saving my bread business money!

And, none of this would have occurred if I was not being homeschooled. It gave me a great opportunity to get some real life skills in ways I definitely wouldn’t just sitting in a classroom all day! Looking back at my college career, I am very happy for this early training in proactivity, because being proactive has helped me greatly in college, too.

8 ) What is the most annoying thing that people say to you when they learn that you were homeschooled?

Honestly, I have never had to face that problem. Wherever I have lived there has actually been plenty of other homeschoolers. So, nobody has really called me “weird” for being a homeschooler. I made a lot of friends with other homeschoolers at church, and many of my initial college friends were homeschoolers. Even with my college friends who were not homeschooled, they have never teased me at all. I feel very blessed!

Can I just momentarily give a plug for my school, Southern Adventist University?? It is awesome, you should definitely send your children to college here! I really like the spiritual nature on campus and the opportunities to grow your relationship with God. We have very strong academics, and the students here are definitely the dedicated, God-honoring people that you would want your kids to be lifelong friends with. Come “be a part” of Southern and learn more at www.southern.edu!

Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Part 2: Preparing for Sabbath While Going it Alone

I think one of the hardest challenges I had as a single parent was trying to get all the kids ready for church, arrive in time, and still maintain some type of spiritual awareness. I have to confess that I failed on that last point many times.

It’s hard being a single parent no matter what school choice you make. It’s harder when you are going it alone as a homeschooling parent. You have hardly any free time to just focus on the house or even have “me” time. Then there is the issue of Sabbath and trying to get things ready so the house is ready, Sabbath lunch is prepared, the kids are up and dressed, you are out of the door on time, AND you are spiritually ready to be fed by the pastor that morning.

As I type those words, I can just feel the old feelings coming up in my body, and the thoughts of “that’s impossible” resonate in my mind.

Let me assure you that it is possible. It is not easy, but it is possible.

Many times I have read posts of parents trying to schedule each moment in the school day; yet on Sabbath, the schedule falls to the wayside. In my opinion, the Sabbath is one day when a schedule needs to be followed as much as possible in order to maintain some semblance of order when you are going it alone.

Today, I want to share with you some ideas I’ve garnered over the years on how to maintain a Sabbath rest while dealing with all the challenges of single parenting.

One of the most helpful things someone suggested to me when my kids were young was to make sure I had Sabbath clothes clean and ready on Sunday rather than waking up on Saturday morning with a child yelling they had nothing to wear that was clean. So, Sunday was laundry day. When the children are older, they can become responsible for their own laundry. I assigned days for each child where they would wash their own clothes, once they reached the tween years.

So, once the clothes are washed, dried, and put away (yes, instead of on the couch), each child can pick out their outfit and have it ready on the hanger. Shoes are nearby also.

Weekly housework can be divided up so that most of everything is done by Thursday rather than waiting until Friday. Wait, isn’t Friday Preparation Day? Yes, and unless you want to run yourself ragged trying to get everything done, it’s best to assign chores so that throughout the week, everything is taken care of. The only thing left on Friday should be meal prep for Sabbath, getting things together for the next morning’s rush, and even planning a Sabbath afternoon activity.

If your children are walking, they can be doing chores, even if it is just picking up their own toys. By the time they are teenagers, they would benefit from having learned how to run the whole house on their own. Believe me! I graduated without knowing how to do this. I made sure my children learned. They will be much better off in the long run; plus, it relieves stress and responsibility from you.

For meal planning, the older ones can take turns deciding menus and even cooking the meal. This is good life preparation. It also helps develop good habits for when they are on their own. Sabbath afternoon plans can also be planned by the younger ones. This also teaches life skills. Plus, it gives them ownership in the family. They also learn more about what’s appropriate and what’s not. It also lessens the stress on the parent.

If you need help in getting the house chores done before Friday, FlyLady is a great resource. Donna Young’s site also has some good resources on home management, along with homeschooling. There are also chore lists available to help parents know which chores are appropriate for what age.

Clothes are done. Chores are finished. The house is ready for Sabbath. The menu is planned and prepared. Activity is planned. Now, for the finishing touches of actually going into the Sabbath hours.

We had evening and morning worship in our home. On Friday evening, it would be nice if some special activities could be planned. Perhaps even a special Friday evening meal could be made. Candles could be used. Songs sung. Favorite verses recited. Blessings of the week shared.

Some meal ideas could be potato bar, pizza night, popcorn and smoothies, or whatever is a family favorite. We loved haystacks. It was easy to fix and easy to clean up. Some families will use disposables on Sabbath to save time in clean up. Other families will use the special china on Sabbath. You determine yourself what is most important. Just develop a nice family evening that can be fun and relaxing, while helping you turn your thoughts to God in a special way.

Since the clothes were made ready last Sunday, Fridays can be time to grab baths, perhaps before supper so that evening worship is calm and relaxing. Saturday morning, try to get up early enough yourself so you can have time for your own personal devotion time. I know I would often skip this on Sabbath, thinking I would still have spiritual food at the church service. The problem is that it would lead me where I was not focused on God so much as the things I needed to get done in time.

Always get the kids down to bed on time on Friday so that Saturday morning is easier with a full night’s rest. If you have little kids, be sure to have their Sabbath bags ready on Friday so they are ready to grab as you walk out the door. You can even have the bags in the car when you get the car ready for Sabbath. If you have a diaper bag, that can be ready and in the car already. Snacks, if used, can also be done on Friday.

I am one who feels like if I am not at least 10 minutes early, I am late. It would create stress on me, trying to get the kids up and out the door on time. Give yourself time for those last-minute happenings. We can plan and schedule, but life happens. Build in a time cushion. It’s important for children to learn to be to church on time. Teach them by example. On the other hand, it is also important for them to learn that when we mess up or something happens, it is up to us to show them how to cope with stress. Breathe, pray, ask for forgiveness (if needed), and move on. I hope that the event doesn’t cause yelling and scolding. This can lead to everyone in the home losing Sabbath blessings. Instead, the young ones can learn so many spiritual blessings even in these times.

Once at church, breathe, relax — no matter how things were that morning — and let God bless you. Be sure to enjoy the interaction of your church family. This is a good time to allow those adoptive grandparents to step in and help with the kids. If you do not have to, please do not volunteer for children’s Sabbath School. With you homeschooling and being a single parent, it is good for the children to have other godly adults speak into their lives. Plus, it gives you a chance to soak in spiritual support from other adults.

Sabbath does not have to be the hardest day of the week. It can be the blessing God intends it to be. It takes planning and consistency. It takes asking God for the strength and wisdom each day, especially on the Sabbath.

As you finish the Sabbath hours, it can include family worship, a fun family meal like pizza and popcorn, along with a family activity. We would rotate between board games and family movies. It’s a good time to thank God for the day’s blessings.

 

Homeschooling High School: How Do I Teach High School?!

We have everything planned out, the curriculum chosen, the electives figured in. Now the question is this: How do I even teach high school? It can be rather daunting, intimidating, overwhelming, even frightening perhaps.

First of all, continue praying for God’s guidance, for, of course, we’ve been doing that all along.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him,” James 1:5.

Next, realize you may not be able to teach everything your child will need to study during these high school years. This has been a hard one for me to admit. I feel like I should be able to “do it all” myself. Well, I see how I failed my oldest two by clinging to that idea. But, in my defense, I didn’t have a support system, nor the outside resources I have available now.

I especially feel the need for “outside help” for the math classes, since that is my weakest subject. Like I said previously, I never did find a math curriculum/program that worked for my oldest. My daughter used a more student-led approach. I thought my current high schooler would use that same curriculum (Life of Fred), but it just wasn’t working for him. So, now he is using a virtual school, with a live teacher who can also tutor him when he needs it. He is still struggling, but at least he has certified math teachers to help him! My youngest will probably continue using the video-based program (Math U See).

One resource to keep in mind is the possibility of having your student take dual enrollment classes. Another possibility is having your student work as an apprentice, especially in a field which your student is considering for a career. Co-ops are also great resources for outside help.

Third, allow your child to “take the reins.” If you are like I am, one of your main goals in homeschooling is to teach your child to be a self-learner, and to develop a deep love of learning. If your child has learned how to research the information they want to know, and if they love to learn new things, they will become lifelong learners. You have provided them with the tools they need. So now, in high school, if he or she wants to learn more about some aspect of world history, or have an indepth knowledge of physics or calculus, etc., they know that the library, or Google, will help them find their answers.

Remember, if you want your children to be lifelong learners, you will show them that you yourself are a lifelong learner. Don’t be afraid to learn right alongside your student! One reason I still enjoy reading aloud to my children is because I like to learn right alongside them. I enjoy watching educational videos with them, too. I know I will continue learning along with my youngest, because of his learning challenges. I have to read most everything to him (or have my Kindle do that).

One more thing to keep in mind: You may have to invest a bit more, financially, for the resources you will need. For example, if you have a student who is keenly interested in science, you may want a microscope, and even dissection tools and specimens to dissect. There is also a cost for taking the ACT or SAT. Perhaps your student wants to become an auto mechanic; help him start building a collection of tools. Or, maybe she wants to become a photographer; help her collect quality equipment.

Are there other ideas you have for teaching these sometimes-challenging high school years? Please share!

Homeschooling with Angela

Please introduce yourself and your family to us, and also tell us what country and/or state you are from.

Hello! 

     My name is Angela Denis. Here is my family: my husband, John; my mother-n-law, Sophie; my son, Adam; and my daughter, Naomi. We are in the state of Florida.

How long have you been homeschooling?

It’s only been this year in August that I have begun to homeschool my seven-year-old boy. 

Why did you decide to homeschool?

The reason why I decided to homeschool was because Adam was having some issues in school because of his autism.  It came to the point in time that during his IEP ( Individual Education Plan), it was discussed where else to place him because of his behavior in wanting to disrobe himself in the classroom. So, it was addressed to me that in the interim, whether to check out another choice of school; and, I could also apply for the Gardiner Scholarship which is a scholarship suited for families with children with autism, Down Syndrome, etc. 

What style of Homeschooling does your family follow?

I try various learning styles, visual, music/auditory, verbal, physical/kinesthetic, logical/mathematical, social, and sometimes solitary. I haven’t yet seen where he falls mostly. However, I think it could be a little bit of all of them. When it comes to learning songs, he loves when I either write them out into his composition book or type them out. He loves classical, hymns, and scripture songs. He’s now getting piano lessons from mom while I’m learning too. We’re working on verbal by me asking open ended questions. As for the physical, we walk sometimes around the block and sometimes other areas. When he wants to take a break outside, he likes to jump on his trampoline. Now that we have a backyard, he loves to explore, jump on the trampoline, and play with the dirt while learning. He knows his phone number by jumping on the trampoline, and he’s learning how to tie his shoe.

Do you have a philosophy about homeschooling?

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” This is my philosophy in getting things done. 

What kinds of tools, resources, or curriculums do you use to home school and why?

Although I’m using Sonlight, I’m using a few other things such as sensory games and other resources.  My prime resource is the Bible, as well as scripture songs and hymns. Recently I have created with them a poster board of bible reading, scriptures from A-Z. I like Sonlight. I find the books fascinating from our library. 

Are you the primary “teacher” or do your spouse or other family members participate with home schooling?

I am the primary teacher by day, and my husband and I at night. 

What does a typical homeschooling day look like in your home?

My son is a very jovial boy (in spite of his autism). He challenges me more each day as I get him to begin with our “Time with Jesus.” It starts with sharing object lessons, then talking about the character quality and reading the Family Bible stories in the Sonlight Education Ministry Curriculum. I can’t say that our days have been the same, but it has been for some parts of the day and sometimes we have to do something different. It’s always a test and trial period to see what he can comprehend. We sometimes get to sing together, do science experiments, and go for walks. He knows that whenever he wants to go on the computer, I say “pause,” and that’s his cue to come to me to do something in the kitchen — for example, putting away the dishes or watching and assisting me with his breakfast and lunch, which to me, is like ABA therapy, which he has not experienced on a professional perspective. He comes to help me in the laundry room. He’s able to put away his own clothes. I try to keep the routine going so that while communicating with him, he is connecting and reviewing in his mind what I have introduced to him, whether it’s through his memory verses, life skills activities, or school work from either his language arts, science, math, or Bible. I take him every Wednesday to the church to distribute Sabbath school bags, placing them on each classroom door. And again on Thursdays, we go to the community service center to help with anything that I think he can do.  Lately, it has come to the point that he watches me as he plays with the plastic hangers. 🙂 But at first, he was able to sort the books by colors, fold some towels, and put together shoes into bins.  My days with him can be so amazing that out of the blue he will say something or sing a song that I know is only from the Spirit of God working with him to bring a smile to my face, and all I can do is whisper and say, “Thank you, God. Praise your name, Jesus!”

What do you love the most about home schooling and what do you dislike the most?

From the time my children were born, the thought of homeschooling was always in the front of my mind. It’s only now because of life changes that I can truly do so. I love the fact that I can mold my son to recognize what it means to have a sense of order — to be neat and tidy, to be obedient, helpful, diligent, thankful; to do skills that will probably help him in the future. He’s currently learning to play the piano. He hasn’t been given that opportunity outside homeschooling, so by homeschooling I can, and I am loving it. Lord willing, if I could I would love for him to pursue this as a love. From early childhood, he has had the love for music just like his sister. They love musical movies and we have shared some family favorites. Music has been the best therapy for him, and among other things such as cooking with mom, taking care of himself, grooming, learning his phone number, tying his shoes — all has been taught through homeschooling. I can’t seem to think of what I least like about it, only that I would definitely have to live in a state that supports it, and so far I am blessed that I live in one that does.  Praise be to God!

Is there anything you would like to share about your home school?

All together, homeschooling is a wonderful experience. I’ve have friends who have questioned me about it, but I can truly say that the ones that have  have said to me that I have made the right choice. I can see that I have made the right choice whether my son was or was not autistic. Having taken the time to look into it, it can benefit all children — but it all depends on the parent, right?

What is Your Why?

Homeschooling by our passions… Why do you home school? What is the passion behind your choice? Understanding your own personal “why” helps you understand where to take your journey next, and also helps to develop your child’s passion.

As our school year draws to a close, many start wondering if they want to continue on the homeschool journey next year. Many are battling the negative opinion of family members, or a general lack of support in the community. It’s been a seven-year journey of home education for us, and I still sometimes flounder and flail when people ask me about socialization, when they voice their (usually strong) opinion that children should be institutionalized for education and socialization! I still doubt myself occasionally and sometimes I want to throw in the towel!

What keeps me going? My passion. Remembering the “Why.”

I homeschool because it is the best choice for my children. It’s a sacrifice and one I don’t make lightly. (None of us do!) Because of their special needs and multiple failed attempts at class work, I see clearly that an institutionalized education would fail my children. I don’t want them to fail at life. I want them to pursue their passions, just as every other parent out there desires. We all want the best for our children!

When we discover the joy of pursuing our passions, it is easier to encourage others to do the same. Without knowing or understanding our personal “why,” without exploring our passion, we quickly lose the enjoyment of homeschooling. Once we engage our own passions, we can better inspire our children’s passions. Helping our children discover their “why” for education helps them develop a joy of lifelong learning.

I give you a challenge today: Engage your passion. Write it down, make it a vision board, rediscover your joy in the journey. See how it changes your home education journey!