Herding Homeschoolers In Texas: Susan Frederick's Interview

Howdy Everyone! Today we get to hear from Susan Frederick, a homeschooling mom who has been running the oldest Texas homeschool email list and website, Texas Advocates for Freedom in Education, also known as Taffie.

Susan and her husband, Gary, have also been very involved in robotics team competitions and you can get more information about those activities here.

I don't know how she did it, but over the years Susan somehow managed to corral large numbers of Texas homeschooling families for many interesting field trips and events. She must know some great riding and lassoing techniques.

The only thing I've ever done quite sucessfully with a horse is fall off...

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

We homeschooled our daughter all the way through and she is currently attending college. We decided to homeschool before she was ever born after meeting some homeschoolers in AZ that introduced us to books written by Raymond Moore and John Holt.

Although we are officially done with homeschooling, we continue to support homeschoolers in TX and beyond.

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)?

We weren't unschoolers but were very eclectic and relaxed in our approach to homeschooling. We were able to go at our own pace and follow interests. We coached robotics teams for several years and hosted robotics tournaments, it was nice to be able to fit times that worked for us and not be tied to a standard school schedule.

It was great to be able to visit museums and other field trip venues at off-peak times. Here in TX we have great freedoms and can fit what works for the child and not be bogged down by standardized tests, teaching to grade level and if something wasn't working, you could slow down or try something else.

For our homeschool graduation, instead of just a bunch of names being called one by one, the parents got to give out the diplomas as their child walked across the stage. We set up display tables for each graduate, did caps and gowns and had a very nice ceremony for 42 homeschool grads.

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 homeschooling?

I set up the Houston Rockets homeschool day each year, that will usually involve a tour of the facility, getting to shoot hoops on the court and seeing a discounted game that night.

There's been numerous field trips, especially those related to TX history, then there was Dolphin Watching on Galveston Bay and behind the scenes tour of Sea World in San Antonio.

I once set up a private showing of Lord of the Rings for 600 homeschoolers, we had a costume contest and it was nice having the theater to ourselves.

I coordinated homeschool proms 3 years in a row at a nice convention center, we had a dj, great food and everyone had a great time. It didn't matter if people had dates or not, or if they knew each other, it was nice being in a room with other homeschoolers all nicely dressed up, some even came in limos.

A photo from one of the semi-formal events Susan organized.

A few years ago, our homeschool robotics team won at state level and went onto nationals. We won the research award for our project related to coming up with ways for robotics to help a city. Part of our research involved touring the local sewer/water wasted treatment, the team was also able to present their findings to the local city council.

A photo from one of the robotics tournaments Susan and her group hosted. They ran local Robofest events for several years.

I also set up homeschool theater discounts for Broadway shows. Houston has the 2nd largest theater district in the country. We've seen numerous shows and have been able to coordinate discounts for Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. We use performing arts as part of our curriculum and to develop interest in the fine arts.

We also participated in a homeschool book club where the teens got to pick their own books and discuss them.

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

Although it wasn't funny at the time, I had set up a field trip and while I had told the venue we were an educational group, they assumed we had a sale tax id number, which we did not. So I had to go around and collect another 50 cents from 100 people to pay the sales tax before we could get in the gate.

There was also a time when I had a field trip to a science museum for about 150 people, the venue wanted all the kids and adults to line up single file. Homeschoolers don't do straight lines well, that isn't something we have lots of practice with. ;-)

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