Today's interview is with Tonya from Homeschool Redux.
How did you end up deciding to teach your children at home? Have they always been home schooled or did they attend school outside the home, at one point?
I was homeschooled from first through twelfth grades and I always imagined that I would homeschool. Then, I had a baby out of wedlock and became a single mom living at home with my parents. During the brief time that I was a single mom, I wondered if I would be able to homeschool. I had to work outside the home to support myself and my daughter and the idea of homeschooling seemed overwhelming to me. When my husband and I met and I shared my philosophy of education with him he was - if not downright skeptical - at least a bit confused by it. He didn't really have an impression of what homeschooling was and when I tried to explain my unschooling tendencies to him he didn't understand at all. But he was willing to learn, to listen, and to try. When our daughter (my husband adopted her shortly after we were married) was around 3 or 4 and shortly before my son was born, I picked up a copy of The Unschooling Handbook and began to read portions of it aloud to him. By the end of the time we spent exploring that book he was sold. Our kids are six and two (almost three) and they never have nor do we ever have plans for them to be anything other than homeschooled.
What is your goal in home educating your children?
First and foremost that they will understand who God is and how and why He works in our lives. Our main goal is to raise them with a clear understanding of our Christian worldview and to impart the importance of that to them. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
Our secondary goal is to teach them how to be the best at whatever they are called by God to be. We firmly believe that they were created with a purpose and that it is our job to guide, coach, lead and direct them as they seek out that purpose as well as to help them as they launch out into the world with the goal of fulfilling that purpose.
Do your children have extra curricular activities? If so, what are they?
Our daughter has been involved in dance classes, t-ball with the local little league, piano classes and karate classes. Whatever ignites her passion, we try to help her get involved with it.
Have you ever hired someone to teach a subject to your children? If so, why?
If it is something that we can't help them learn, we find other resources. There may be times as our children get older that their God-given talents will lead them into areas about which we know nothing. When and if that happens, we are committed to helping them learn what they need when they need through whatever means possible to us at that time - tutors, college courses, group activities and apprenticeships are just some of the ways that come to mind.
Have you graduated a child? Do you plan to teach through high school?
We are just getting started. Our current plans include high school, but that is several years away, so we will certainly listen for God's lead. I don't foresee that they would ever attend a government school, but there may be other educational paths opened to them during their teen years that we would take advantage of.
Do you have a defined style of instruction such as Classical, montessori, unschooling, or Charlotte Mason? Are you willing to share how you decided to use this method?
As I said above, I have unschooling 'tendencies.' Because I was homeschooled all the way through and because my parents chose to involve me in quite a bit of the decision making as I got older, I had a lot of information on teaching methods, learning styles, etc. that I brought with me into this journey. My husband and I absolutely believe that God has made each of our children as unique individuals and so we are always in search of exactly what excites them, what makes them tick and how best to capitalize on their natural talents while at the same time helping them to work on areas where they might have weak points.
Because both of our children are younger, they and we are still exploring all that the world has to offer them and so we just try as much as possible to have fun exploring the world with them. Later on, as they begin to really branch out into areas that they want to learn, we plan to help them go confidently in those directions through whatever methods work best for them.
Recently our daughter has begun to come to us with requests to learn certain things. For instance, she came to me several months ago and expressed a desire to learn to read. I found a phonics program that seemed to work well for her and we began exploring the concept of reading together. She already had some of the basics down, just by virtue of the fact that we keep a lot of books around, I love to read, I often read to her and her brother and we have quite a few DVDs, phonics puzzles, games, etc. on hand for them to play. She picked up very quickly with the basics of phonics and now we are working on understanding some sight words and the intricacies of our crazy English language. Just this morning she asked me how to spell light. I told her. She questioned the use of the 'gh' and so we discussed usage of that particular digraph and I could see the lightbulb go on above her head as she began to understand. I love those moments! So, our 'method' is to help them find appropriate ways to learn the things they are ready to learn whenever they are ready to learn it.
What does your schedule look like? Do you start early and finish just after lunch? Or do you start later in the day? Do you teach through the summer? And if so, why?
Because we don't use any one curriculum, our schedule these days is pretty varied. My son is a morning person, so I often let him get on my computer to play with the ABC activities at Starfall.com first thing in the morning. This keeps him happy and intrigued while I have time to get some coffee, check my email and wake up. My daughter wakes up a bit later and needs her breakfast first, so they have some breakfast and then we'll usually do any 'formal' school activities that we have planned (if any) for that day. Those only usually come up if my daughter has initiated them by asking to learn some new subject, which is happening more frequently these days. Right now we're working on handwriting, reading and math using Life of Fred. (This is reading, writing and arithmetic - and it's all child led!) After that little bit of 'formal' learning, we spend the rest of the day doing whatever else suits our fancy. Most days that includes me doing some computer work for the small business that we own with my parents and it also usually includes my daughter playing some sort of game on the computer. There are of course the other activities of our household - household clean-up, self grooming, playing with toys, cooking, baking, reading together, etc.
Do you home school for religious reasons? If so what religion are you?
I guess you could say that we homeschool for religious reasons - it is one of the reasons! We are Christians and we want very much for our children to be able to discern Truth from lies.
Do you have a vision statement for your home school? If so, what is it?
We don't have a formal written statement. Our vision for our homeschool is that our kids will know God and know His purpose for their being here!
If you were to recommend a book(s) to a new or prospective home school parent, what would you choose?
There are so many fantastic books that are out there, but more and more these days I turn to the blogosphere for information and ideas and that is what I also usually recommend to those who come to me looking for information. I do also often recommend books by John Taylor Gatto.
What was your number one concern or worry when you started out on this endeavor? Has it continued to be your main issue? Why has it changed?
Sometimes I worry that I'm missing the boat - that I'm not 'doing this right.' I have to remind myself that just as every child is unique so is every family. Therefore, the path that we take will never, ever look just like the path taken by any other family.
What aspect of home schooling do you enjoy the most? What part do you greatly dislike?
My favorite part of all is being able to spend so much time with my children and to be able to witness so much of their changes and firsts and learning moments. I can't imagine having to send them somewhere else and not be with them all day! I can't think of anything about homeschooling that I greatly dislike. There are certainly some days that I need a break, but my husband is actually very good at allowing me to go out for Mom's Night Out nights with my girlfriends on a regular basis, so I get that much needed mom time!
Are/Were there any subjects that you felt incapable of adequately teaching? Have you overcome this? If so can you explain how you have achieved this?
Well, like mentioned above, I could never teach my daughter dance or piano. As far as 'normal' school subjects, we are still beginning our journey, so not so far! I'm pretty comfortable with addition, subtraction and phonics. :-)
Is there anything that you would like others to know about your home schooling?
One thing for which I am incredibly grateful is my large amount of support. I am surrounded by both family and friends who are either completely on board with our decision to homeschool or at least respect us enough not to question the decision. One thing I would definitely counsel those who are considering homeschool for the first time is to surround yourself with a lot of support. Especially if you have those in your close family who are not supportive, be sure to find a supportive group of friends - either those who you already know or by finding a local group of homeschoolers.
Tonya is a wife and homeschooling mother of two small children. As a second generation homeschooler, she has been on both sides of the aisle and knows what it is like to be a homeschooled student, to live life after homeschool, and to teach her own children. Together with her husband and parents they own JIB Proudctions, LLC. You can find them on the web at Journal in a BoxTM. She is also a freelance writer, has been an actor all her life, including dabbling in some professional acting for a great show in Las Vegas, Nevada called Marriage Can Be Murder, and a yarn hobbyist. She enjoys reading, writing, debating politics and hanging out with her family.