How I Homeschool: THE Housewifespice lays it down for us

Today I’ve got an interview from the illustrious Jessica of Housewifespice.  You may know her from her helpful link-ups, What We’re Reading Wednesday, or from her infamous daily consumption of bacon.  (I know!  It makes me jealous, too!)   I’ve known Jessica since waaaaaaaayyyyy back before her homeschooling days {coughcough} and I specifically thought of her when I began this series because she has such a unique perspective on homeschooling.  But I’ll let her tell you all about that.  Please join me in giving a warm welcome to the spiciest mama around, Jessica!  {cheers and applause}

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How long have you been homeschooling?

We pulled our dyslexic 11-year-old son, Edmund, out of our parochial school the day after the last football game.  It was October 25th, 2013 a week before the end of Quarter 1, and I had just finished a novena to St. Jude for clarity in this matter.

How many kids are in your family?

Soon to be six.  I have one going off to college this fall, a high school senior, a high school sophomore, my 11 year old, a 3 year old, and one due this month.  Maybe you should interview me again this time next year, because life will be very different, I’m sure.

How many are homeschooled?

Only the 11-year-old is homeschooled at this time.  And I guess the 3-year-old is too, but only is the very loosest sense.

Are any schooled in a more traditional way?

The older three went to Montessori school for a time.  Is that traditional?

Then we switched all of them to our local parish school, where they each finished 8th grade.

For high school, we send them to single-sex private Catholic high schools.  We are very blessed to have these schools.  They are quite expensive, but when I compare my daughter’s high school life to my own in a diocesan co-ed environment, I know they are worth every penny.  We have used some creative financing to pay for high school, my son did work/study, and we are considering possibly taking in a foreign exchange student to help offset the cost this year.

Holy gorgeous family, Batman!

Why did you begin homeschooling?

Most Catholic schools are not equipped to handle learning disabilities, which is unfortunate, because LD does not mean low IQ, in fact it often means the contrary.

Our school had promised to work with us and our son’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan, legally binding for public schools, but not for private ones.)  It was clear that the 20 minutes of group reading time with a specialist once a week, the constant ridiculous homework load (up to 6 hours a night), and the frequent bungling of test accomodations were not helping.  On the contrary, the one thing he was learning day after day was “I’m not smart.”

We had gone into the school year with a short term goal of taking it one quarter at a time, but the clarity I prayed for came loud and clear.

According to the IEP, my son is supposed to have tests read to him.  But not math tests.  Because he does not have a learning disability in math.  However, some math tests are all word problems, or vocabulary (matching properties with their definitions and so on) and these tests were not read to him.  When a test was actually read to him, he easily got As, but when the system worked against him, he failed.  Again and again.

On that last day of school, he was the last kid out of the building.  Again.  And tearfully handed me a math test with an F on it.

I knew he didn’t learn anything from this experience, and I knew that the class would continue with the next math unit on Monday, so learning would be further compromised.

I realized that traditional Catholic school was actually damaging him.  I figured I could do as much if not less damage at home, with a lot less tears, and for a lot less money.

What challenges have you faced as a part of the transition?

People always bring up socialization as a con to homeschooling.  I used to think they were talking about the socialization of the child.  My experience is that my one homeschooled student has had group music class, group phys ed or sports classes, tutoring twice a week, Boy Scouts once a week, played on a hockey team, and is on two baseball teams.  He gets out of the house and does something with kids his own age practically every day of the week.  Also, without homework taking up all of his after-school hours, he plays outside with lovely neighbor kids nearly every day.

On the other hand, I have no more chats in the parking lot at pick-up with my mom friends.  I have no time during the day to meet another mom at the park, because I am teaching my 5th grader.  That has been the hardest part of the transition, by far.  Homeschooling is very lonely for the teacher.

What benefits have you seen?

Overall:  His confidence has soared.  Without the crippling demands of busy work and test prep, we are able to study something, anything, until he really knows it.

In Reading:  He sees a wonderful private tutor for reading, spelling, and writing twice a week, and she has also done wonders for his psyche.  For the first time ever, he is reading without being told.  He is hiding in his room reading books.  That might seem normal for kids, but this kid NEVER did that before.  Last night, when sent to bed, he asked if he could read for a while.  Yes!  Praise the LORD!   YES!

In Math:  Last week, late one evening, my homeschooled son plopped down on the couch and said, “How was your day, Mom?”

I answered, “Pretty good.  We got a lot done today.”

He responded, “I really liked that math.”

And that right there is all the proof I need.

Do you plan to homeschool “all the way through” high school?  Why or why not?

I don’t have a plan.  I wish I did, and whenever I try to make one, my husband stops me in my tracks.  My plan only extends to next year, and we will continue homeschooling for one more year.

I’d love to send Edmund to the same high school my oldest son attended, but I have concerns that they are also not equipped to handle a learning disability.  There is a boatload of technology out there to help dyslexic students, but this particular high school is not as advanced in this area as it could be.

We have a few years to figure it out, but we are considering the local Catholic high school which we’ve heard has excellent resources for LD students.  We are open to public school as well.  I know homeschoolers who attend some classes at the local public school, and play sports for the public school teams, while homeschooling for the rest.  Our community college also has amazing resources for homeschooled students.

We are very fortunate to live in an area with abundant options for education.

I am loath to homeschool all the way through, because though he is faced with many challenges, Edmund is a truly gifted athlete.  No, I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom.  He really has talent at whatever sport he tries.  I’m a huge proponent of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, and I know that physical/spatial intelligence is something he’s a genius at.  To homeschool him in high school would deprive him of the ability to play high school sports, or perhaps even the chance at athletic scholarships for college.  To other parents, I’m sure it looks like we have him do too much with sports, but from our perspective, we want to give him every opportunity to be successful, to feel success.  For some kids, that experience happens in the classroom.  For Edmund, it happens on the football field, or the ice, or the baseball diamond.

What laws, if any, are there in your state regarding homeschooling? How does your family meet compliance?

Illinois is a hands free state for homeschooling.  We are asked to register with the state, but not required.  I have been asked, “What about testing?  How do you know you’re covering everything?”

Honestly, my son has undergone more testing in the last two years than most kids undergo in a lifetime.  His private tutor will continue to do annual tests of his reading level so I can see the progress, but I don’t need standardized test results to measure his learning.  If anything, this entire experience has made me see the utter futility of testing as a measurement of learning.

If you could summarize your homeschool philosophy in one sentence or mission statement, what would that be?

Do no harm.

Seriously.

If I can help him learn math and reading and that he is a child of God, loved in every way, even to death on a cross, I will have succeeded.

What is your homeschooling style?

Oh gosh.  We do a bit of everything.  Is “Fly by the seat of my pants” a style?

Do you follow any set curriculum?

Yes and no.  We use Math Mammoth and Catholic Learning Online for math and religion.  His tutor uses the Wilson method (a multi-sensory reading curriculum) for reading.

For history, I heavily relied on Micaela’s history and geography post: History and Geography for Elementary Kids.  We listened to the audio version of The Story of the World – Volume 1, and did some Unit Studies with lapbooks for Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, The Olympics, Ancient Rome, and now as a bonus request from my former-school-hating son, we are studying Vikings.  In June.  Because he wants too!  Happy Dance!

For science, don’t laugh.  I depend on the Boy Scouts, Netflix (Mythbusters), various library dvds (Bill Nye, DisneyNature), and random books that cross our path like Backyard Ballistics.  Edmund started real Boy Scouts about the same time we started homeschooling.  Since that time, he has earned merit badges in Electricity, Game Design, Railroading, Fingerprinting, Wood Carving, and Computers.  He has been working toward a merit badge in Gardening, starting seeds under lights in our basement etc.

What do your best homeschooling moments look like?

Here is a link to a post about a wonderful homeschooling day: Olympic Style Homeschooling

What do your not-so-good moments look like?

Edmund has a natural tendency toward laziness, and I have more of a Type A-we-can-do-all-things-TODAY approach, so we sort of balance each other out.  Also, I have a bad temper, and I’ve been pregnant this whole year, so sometimes my behavior is less than professional.  He‘s learning math etc, I’m learning patience.

How do you stay on track?

We’ve kind of been winging it this year.  I’ve changed curriculums once or twice.  NOW I know what I should have been doing last fall.  Weekly goals have been critical to my sanity, along with monthly or bi-monthly field trips.

How do you keep any non-school-aged kids busy?

Yes.  That is THE question.

Jill is a busy little bee.  Sometimes, she’s quite happy to do puzzles, or color, or play-doh at the same table as us.

I have also found that if I spend 15 or 20 minutes reading stories to her, she will then “read” those stories to herself for another 20 minutes or more, then start imaginative play and be self-entertained for a good long while.

Or there’s Dora, Little Bear, and Super Why just waiting to teach her for me.

If you could give any homeschool advice to a new mom starting out, what would it be?

I have found invaluable advice from emailing or calling other homeschooling moms and interviewing them about their typical day, their curriculum choices, etc.  Everyone seems to enjoy sharing what works for them, and I love hearing it.  Online friends and real life friends have helped me see that there is No Right Way to do this.

Pioneer Woman has a homeschooling section on her blog, and one of her frequent contributors (I believe it’s Miz Booshay) has the mantra, “We do the best we can.”  I think that’s the best advice for homeschooling, and for parenting in general.

Make sure you click over and follow Jessica’s blog, Housewifespice.  It’s smart, sassy, got a bit of everything, and is an invaluable resource for parents looking for great children’s literature.  Thanks again, Jessica, for sharing your story with us.

The other interviews in this series: “How I Homeschool.”

How I Homeschool: In Which I Interview Myself (plus a link-up if you’d like to join in!)

How I Homeschool: Anne @ Annery at Home

How I Homeschool:  Kelly @ This Ain’t the Lyceum

 How I Homeschool: Cari of Clan Donaldson

How I Homeschool: Kendra of Catholic All Year

How I Homeschool: Dwija of House Unseen

How I Homeschool: Elizabeth of Following the Trails to Heaven (High School Series)

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the insights into your home school, Jessica! And thanks again, Micaela, for this series!
    Theresa recently posted…An Illustrated Story of Life, Love, and my Long Lost CaffeineMy Profile

  2. My mom started homeschooling my youngest sister for much the same reason (she coudln’t learn in school and the school couldn’t help her with learning disabillities). She ended up spending about as much time homeschooling as she was previously spending doing homework with her each night.
    Amelia @ One Catholic Mama recently posted…Anxiety, Fear and Online Community.My Profile

  3. We also returned to homeschooling (after a failed first attempt!) because my son’s special needs were better serves at home. I’m glad you had such a great first year, Jessica!
    Catherine recently posted…School’s Out!My Profile

  4. Does Illinois offer dual enrollment? In Iowa you can dual enroll in a public school so that the kids can be in things like sports, music, etc. without being a full time student.

    • Molly, we were able to do the same thing at the DOD school in South Korea. It was actually really nice. The girls took art and music once a week and everyone was cool with the arrangement. I wish all schools were that welcoming of homeschool families.

  5. I really appreciate this, Jessica. We are a parochial school family (with a first grader and a bunch of littles) and I appreciate that you’re doing what’s best for Edmund and all your kids when it comes to school. You acknowledge the good and the bad. It’s so balanced and honest and fair. Your kids are so blessed to have you as their mom.

    PS – Your whole family is picture perfect!
    Bonnie recently posted…Beautiful Monotony – a guest post from Katherine FriedmanMy Profile

    • Bonnie, I couldn’t agree more. I am a very firm believer that each family needs to choose the schooling option that suits them best, and that there is no one right answer, even (as Jessica shows us) within the same family. Thanks for weighing in!

  6. This brought tears to my eyes! I’m reading all your interviews and learning so much from them. But this one, oh boy. Way to go mom!

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  1. […]  In case you missed the others, here they are in chronological order: My Interview with Myself, Jessica of Housewifespice, Annery at […]

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