Homeschooling Family Interview: Becki

Today's interview comes from Becki. I think Becki is a potato chip lover and if you're smart, you won't make her stand in line to get some.

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

We've homeschooled since fall of 1994, so that makes this our 15th year of homeschooling. Wow! The times flies when you're having fun (and when you're not, for that matter).

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and
flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this
freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

Well, when we first began homeschooling my husband traveled for his job - a lot! Homeschooling allowed us to occasionally travel with him, but even when we stayed home it was nice to have flexibility in our schedules so the boys could enjoy spending time with their dad when he was home. When his scheduled flexed, ours flexed. We could take a day (or week) off school without getting special permission, or stay up late enjoying an activity together and not worry about being too tired in the morning. And a perfect snow day for us is when we go sledding on a fresh hill when the other kids are in school. ;^) We used to live in a subdivision built around a golf course and boy did we have some great sledding hills!

Freedom and flexibility have also been enjoyed in the area of academics. Our oldest was advanced academically and homeschooling allowed him to progress at his speed in whatever areas that interested him. He was a math whiz and taught himself to read before age 3. Really, traditional school wasn't even an option for him when he was old enough for Kindergarten.

By high school, he was enjoying participating in math competitions (and he even won a few ;^). Then, just as we were settling into our expectations that he would pursue a career in math, this son decided he enjoyed writing and he began creating a LOTR (Lord of the Rings) parody. He says he's embarrassed of it today, but I believe it was the freedom he had to spend hours writing it, sending installments to peers for their enjoyment and getting all sorts of kudos from people that served as the thing that encouraged him to keep on with it. His love for the written word was naturally nurtured in a way that a classroom setting couldn't possibly have done. By the time he graduated from high school he decided he wanted to pursue a career in writing and is now in a liberal arts college program studying the many aspects of professional writing - and we continue to be awed by his natural gift for the written word.

Another son had some learning issues early on and homeschooling has benefited him in that he, too, could progress at his own speed without the burden of negative labels he, no doubt, would have received had he been in a traditional school environment. High school for this son is looking very different than it did for our oldest, but we are just as much in awe of his natural bents as we were of his older brother's. This son enjoys having plenty of time to explore the mechanics of things - taking apart things that are broken and fixing them and sometimes fashioning new items altogether. Backyard Ballistics was written for this son. This son also enjoys sports and has always been involved somehow - this past year he was on a first-year homeschool soccer team in this area and he excelled.

For all our sons, we take advantage of non-traditional educational activities to learn valuable (and sometimes fun) skills and gain knowledge that will be useful both now and in their adult lives. I have enjoyed the freedom to determine when those activities qualify for credit on a high school transcript.

Some examples of these non-traditional learning activities have been:

The book my son wrote in 10th grade translated to a year's worth of English credit.

A 10-week clown class and subsequent involvement in clown ministry as well as participation in several significant dramas earned my son a credit in dramatic arts.

Our second son is a military history buff. He has watched hours of documentaries on military history and armament and has read many books and articles about different wars. He builds models of different military vehicles and exhibits them in 4-H (at least one went to State Fair). These are things he has done over the course of his highschool career and when I decide he's done enough, I will be granting him a year's worth of credit for Military History. Who knows how this particular study will benefit him some day? This son is also a natural musician and we love hearing him play his guitar for as long as he desires to. Having the time to work a part-time job enables this son to upgrade his instrument inventory when he wants to be challenged by something new.

Credit for Physical Education is granted through participation in many, many activities -- basketball, soccer, 4-H shooting sports, bowling, weight-lifting, golf, cycling, spelunking -- literally anything that exposes our sons to physical activities that they can enjoy into their adult lives.

Probably, the most important thing that I keep learning is that I must not dismiss a particular passion just because I can't tell today where a particular interest will lead. I continually remind myself to trust my sons' natural bents and inclinations believing that someday there will be a payoff for them that they were allowed to freely explore those things that interested them. Being lifelong learners isn't just a catchy slogan. It is the lifestyle of a homeschooler.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a
few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of

Oh, I think going places together -- especially when the boys were younger (either with a homeschool group or just our family). Seyfert's potato chip factory in Ft. Wayne was a hoot. We've learned Indiana History not just by reading about it, but by traveling and visiting historical sites and living history museums when we can. When traveling west to South Dakota and Colorado to visit family, we took in historical sites along the way and seeing awesome landforms was a great experience for these flatlanders. Traveling south to Tennessee and visiting Civil War sites and the Chattanooga Aquarium was memorable. Even stopping into antique stores is an opportunity to learn about a different time period. And being able to do these things during off seasons greatly adds to the enjoyment factor for this family. No lines! We all know homeschoolers don't know how to stand in lines anyway - thankfully we're not tested on this skill very often.

Another great thing about homeschooling has been participating in our local homeschool group. Each year our group decides on a theme and we read books and engage in monthly activities to bring that theme to life. We've studied the Civil War, Christian Military Heroes, Jewish Feasts and Holidays, Pioneer Days, Inventors -- just to name a few. When studying Medieval times we enjoyed attending a dress rehearsal for a madrigal dinner put on by IU students - full dress, full props. Instead of mutton and wild game, we feasted on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while the actors performed around us and drew us into the drama just as if we'd bought expensive tickets and been part of several hundred attending -- but we got so much more individual attention (and great pictures). But the most memorable event was probably meeting Steve Saint, son of slain missionary Nate Saint. He met with our group privately just a couple hours before he appeared with a Christian performer who supports his ministry. He shared with us very personally about his experience with the Waodani people in South America. It was awesome and life-changing -- and had we not had the ability to just take off on very short notice and drive to Bloomington (during a school day, no less), we would mostly likely have missed it.

Our boys participated in a Teen Service group during their Jr. High and Sr. High years. They have helped with a demolition project, raked leaves and shoveled snow for seniors and others who need the help, made casseroles and have done some house painting -- just as examples. They have had a LOT of fun serving others alongside their friends and making a positive impression of homeschooling in our community.

Even hard times are made better simply because we're all together and more focused than we could possibly be if the boys were in different places and on different time schedules. When my father was ill and dying, we spent countless hours over a period of several months driving the 30 minutes one way to go visit with him -- the boys often playing with fun things in the facility where he was cared for. We have some good memories of this time (and great pictures.) Had they been in a traditional school, it would have been impossible to spend the amount of quality time with Dad (Grandpa) that we did.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one
of yours with us?

Oh, I don't know....we enjoy reminiscing about losing a tadpole (that had just developed legs) in our dining room and after searching and searching we finally concluding that our youngest son (who was a crawler at the time) had probably found it and eaten it. Eeewwww, I know.

We also count ourselves experienced campers now that we bought a tent and went camping as a family ONCE! We spent the night reinflating two air mattresses that had leaks (and being thankful we didn't have neighbors). I'm sure we were in violation of the campground's quiet hours. We didn't take enough wood for the weekend, so I cooked sausages and pancakes over some pretty pitiful coals in the morning. It took about a half-hour before the pancakes were solid and edible. I'm pretty sure they dried out (as opposed to actually cooking). We took it all in stride and no one complained. But come to think on it, no one has asked to go camping since, though.

And once we almost left our youngest in a baby swing in our friends' country yard as we quickly packed up our picnic items to head to the 4th of July fireworks show in town. We were actually getting into our vehicles when our friends' grandmother cried, "Is somebody going to get the baby?!?" I did not win any mother-of-year nominations that year.

I'm sure our funny moments are pretty typical and don't have as much to do with homeschooling as they have to with just being a family. Homeschooling is just one of the things we do as we live our lives together - bumping into each other, getting frustrated with one another, forgiving each other and encouraging each other. Homeschooling gives us LOTS of time together to do all these things. We've not done any of it perfectly, but it's been a life I've loved.


Becki B. said...

Debbie, Thanks for inviting me to do the interview. I posted it on my blog too (with some pictures). Come take a look when you have a minute!

These are a great glimpse into the lives of Indiana homeschoolers.

Debbie H. said...

Thanks Becki. The information looks even better with all the cool photos you used.