Please introduce yourself and your family to us, and also tell us what country and/or state you are from.
Hi, my name is Julia Ferguson, a stay-at-home, relatively strict, homeschooling Mom. These aren’t my only titles of course, since I am very involved in our local Adventist church with drama presentations, the worship service, and teaching Sabbath School. I am completely blessed in that I have the opportunity to stay home with the kids. For the last few years, I was working outside the home while the boys did their schoolwork. However, their work wasn’t getting done, I was over-committed at church, and I was trying to work 32 hours a week. The extra money and time away from home wasn’t bringing us any closer, so after discussing it with my husband, we decided to have me leave that job and cut back on my responsibilities at church. I am happily married to the wonderfully supportive Tim Ferguson. We have been together 27 years this May, and together we have four amazingly individual children.
We live in a small city in Washington State and we love it here. We are on the west side of the mountains so get a bit more rain and in return a very green and beautiful place to live. Washington has some of the easiest homeschooling laws on the books and so makes it extremely easy to homeschool.
Here’s the rest of the family:
Our oldest is Alex — not pictured — and he is 22 and married his school sweetheart, Geovana, on August, 5, 2017. They met in third grade, while I still had Alex in our local Adventist elementary school. He no longer lives at home and graduated our homeschool in 2013. Even though he isn’t living here anymore, we are still very close, and he texts often (and only calls occasionally – sigh). We have some of the most amazing conversations. I am very proud of the man he has become, and adore the woman he married, and truly can’t wait to see where God leads them next.
Angela is a beautiful and most-of-the-time happy young woman with a some extra challenges of her own. She has Cornelia de Lange syndrome (http://www.cdls-usa.org, if you want to learn more about people with this syndrome). What this means for her is a profound developmental delay, along with quite a few ongoing medical issues. Angela is 21; however, developmentally she is only maybe three, with her most common “age” being about 2 1/2. She is severely anaemic: we have recently dealt with a round of invasive and non-invasive tests to find out why, and the closest theory is she has alpha thalassemia, a permanent disease which will always affect her ability to absorb iron correctly. She has small, fragile red blood cells. On top of that she has severe acid reflux, a mild heart murmur, dental issues, and other behavioural problems for which we have her medicated. I have pulled her out of school early. She was due to graduate in June, but due to the newest health issues it seemed best to keep her out. So, now she is home full-time with the rest of us. This has been our biggest transition so far.
Aaron is a brilliant and very serious 17-year-old who is far too smart for his mama. His mind seems to work too fast to keep up with, and his ability to understand computer and other technology is amazing. He also has an amazing servant’s heart. He regularly volunteers at church on the sound or tech crew, doing everything from praise team set-up to helping run (tech) bigger full-church plays we put on every year. He is a strictly behind-the-scenes kind of kid. He participates in our youth group, and he is always open to helping anyone who asks. He is a well-liked and respected member of our church.
Adam is a funny, sarcastic, and incredibly intelligent 15-year-old young man. He is a social butterfly and loves anything to do with spending time with other people. He is in Boy Scouts and has been the last couple of years. He loves it, and I am incredibly impressed with the gentlemen who run the troop he is in. Adam also has an incredible servant’s heart and is often found at church helping out. His current “job” is helping with the lights for church. He also plays the violin (I am working on getting him lessons), and has been in the praise band a few times. He likes to dye his hair new colors and express himself openly and honestly, which I support completely. He is also in the youth group and is a well-liked and respected member of our church — blue hair and all.
How long have you been home schooling?
Why did you decide to home school?
I found out Alex (fifth grade at the time) had been bullied every day that year in our local church school. He had told the teacher; however, it seemed little had been done about it, and his grades went from A/B to D/F. He also lost his love for learning. At that time I also found my two youngest, who were in K and pre-K, also were not thriving as I felt they should be. Before I could even consider sending the boys back, I had to pay the school what we owed from the previous year. I prayed about it, asking the Lord to either help me find the money, which he had done every year previously, or help me start homeschooling. I didn’t get the money, and he led me to other families who homeschooled instead, and most of all put the Moore’s books in my lap! And, once we started I never once thought it was a bad decision (teenage angst aside)! Alex actually went to the school’s homeschool program (band and PE and testing) until he graduated eighth grade — which they let him do with their class! The younger two I practiced delayed schooling until they were eight and ten. It completely worked for us.
What style of home schooling does your family follow?
I guess we are more traditional in that I don’t follow the unschooling practices, but we are pretty eclectic, and I don’t follow a particular style of anything.
Do you have a philosophy about home schooling?
Yes, whatever works best for that child and that family is what is best to do. The only thing I personally believe has to be in our homeschool is God; because of that, we can work with and get through anything that comes our way. God is our center and the only reason we are successful at anything.
What kinds of tools, resources, or curriculums do you use to home school, and why?
I use books, textbooks, computer-based learning, and online and co-op learning here. I love Apologia science, but have one who prefers books and another who prefers the computer, so I buy the cd-rom full course and textbooks. I have Teaching Textbooks maths — both learn much better with these — and one uses the book and the other doesn’t. I just found Notgrass History and I am in love. It is Christian based and written by homeschoolers, and the best part is we get literature (with real books) and Bible in the same course. I do extra Bible, but love the time the books take to have them read relevant texts as well force them to think about what they’ve read and how to apply it. Both boys have their own laptops and even email me assignments (saves paper and ink). There have been others over the years, but these are my favorites. My biggest tool is the http://www.homeschooltracker.com website. It’s not free, but really not expensive and totally a time saver for me. I enter the lesson plans, chores, etc., but in the long run it saves me time, especially now that I have two high-school-aged teens and I’m horrible about tracking — a lesson I learned with Alex, haha. It keeps me accountable and does transcripts!
Are you the primary “teacher,” or does your spouse or other family members participate with home schooling?
I do all of the teaching except where I can find a good video/computer teacher that is better. Tim will sometimes help with science and math related items.
What does a typical home schooling day look like in your home?
My daughter and I are up by 8:30 a.m. and having our breakfast, and I wake the boys around 9 (if they aren’t up…we’re working on alarm clock skills, hehe). Private devotional time, showers, food, etc., is first for them. We found a family worship time doesn’t work as well for us now that they are older. School is from about 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m., with an hour break for lunch and resting their eyes. Then comes chores, and whoever is on for dinner (Aaron does Friday nights and Adam does Tuesdays) makes dinner. After that we watch some TV, play video games together or read or I knit/crochet.
What do you love the most about home schooling, and what do you dislike the most?
I love the freedom. We can get up, go on field trips, take a vacation, go to the zoo, etc., whenever we want. I also love getting to spend that much time with the boys on a regular basis. Angela is a joy, but she takes a lot of time and energy so this was my time with them. I’d have to think about what I dislike, because I really don’t. I love teaching and I love to share knowledge and have conversations with them. I love being able to talk about whatever we want and how that time allows us more time to help others.
Is there anything you would like to share about your home school?
Not really mine, but just a thought that while completely rewarding, homeschooling is hard. It takes time, patience, love, and thought. It takes energy I may not have, and a reliance on God I may not feel all the time. Having said that, I am honestly not sure what I will do when these two graduate as, because of Angela, I won’t be able to work outside the home. Maybe I’ll find some friends (or maybe grands) who want me to homeschool their littles!