Tell me a little bit about your kids.
We have four kids. Emily is in the fifth grade. Rebecca is in the seventh grade. Brandon is in the ninth grade. And B.J. is in the eleventh grade.
What are their favorite subjects?
My youngest, she really likes math and science. My seventh grader likes her math the best. And my two high schoolers like history the best.
What were you afraid of when you first started homeschooling?
I just was hoping I could manage it.
I didn’t know a lot of people that did homeschool, and I was not brought up with Abeka. I was in public school my whole time, high school and college. So I was not familiar with it.
I was worried more about handling it because it always seemed like a very challenging program. But once we got into it, the way it’s laid out and explained, it just kind of walks through it itself.
What have you learned throughout your years homeschooling?
Really what I’ve learned is the time management—that’s been a big thing. It’s really drawn us closer to the Lord to be together like this. We really feel like it’s enabled us to keep our focus on Him because we’re not so busy, busy, busy. We can really keep Christ center in our home. That’s how homeschooling has worked for us.
Do you work every day?
I work every day, Monday through Friday, 10 to 2 at our church. I’m the secretary there. We take the kids up there, too. That’s where we school—at church.
How many years did you work full time and homeschool?
I have always worked full time. This is the only time I’ve been part time, the last year and a half.
Do you have any advice for homeschooling moms and dads who work, like you do, and can’t take their kids with them?
After a certain age, if they’re comfortable, I think they could definitely stay home and manage the program on their own. There are times our kids have had to be home by themselves.
But really, if you want to do it, just do it. You WILL find a way to do it, whether it’s a neighbor coming in to help proctor during the day… You could definitely find a way to homeschool the kids, even if you’re working.
When you worked full time, how did you do it?
Our kids are independent with it, so they would school themselves during the day, and I would grade their papers in the afternoons and the evenings.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My day starts at 10 at the church, so we arrive at the church at 8 o’clock because we start every day at 8:30. So at 8 o’clock we get there. They get their computers on. They make sure they’re logged on. I’ve got two streaming and two doing DVDs, so they get all that together and ready.
They pull out their to-be-graded folder for me because I know I’ll have papers to grade. Usually, that takes about 15 minutes for them to prep for the day, and then they’re ready to start at 8:30 with their first class.
So it sounds like you pretty much stick to the same schedule every day?
We stick to the same schedule every single day. We started that in elementary school. The schedule was in the front of the guidebook, so that is what we have followed from day one. We don’t vary at all. We go from 8:30 to 2, Monday through Friday.
Do they like doing school?
They do, yes.
Do they all have their favorite teachers?
Oh my goodness, yes. Mr. Howe’s a favorite for all of them, though. They all enjoyed him. He’s really good.
Do you think having the set hours every day helps them to focus?
It does. That is one recommendation I got from one of their teachers at the Christian school before we homeschooled.
She was homeschooled, and she said she always wished her mom had a set start and end time every day. Her day was always up in the air, and that was hard for her. And she also told me, “Make sure they get dressed every day. Don’t let them go to school in their pajamas.” So those are two things to me—if that was important to her—those are two things I kept in my mind from the very beginning. And we’ve always done that. We’ve always gotten up at the same time. We start at the same time. They’re dressed, shoes on, backpacks going every day since we’ve got to school elsewhere.
Do your kids ever ask for more flexibility?
They don’t ask for it, no. They just know it’s school, and this, to them, is the norm.
Did they come to work with you when you worked full time?
They did. I managed a storage facility, and we lived onsite. So I could work in my office, and then they could do their schoolwork.
When they started doing that, they were pretty young! How were they so independent?
Our youngest started it in first grade, and it took her a couple weeks to get the hang of it. They teach them to tell time in kindergarten, and they can read enough by the end of kindergarten, and they can really manage it on their own.
But we just showed them how to use the guidebooks and how to watch their time. And once they got that down, they were good to go—pulling papers for themselves, things like that. It didn’t take but a couple weeks of really focusing on it. And they will get it in no time. The teachers are always encouraging them on the videos which papers they need, so they’re not getting lost trying to figure out what they need to pull from different areas of their books.
And all your kids picked it up just like that, in a couple weeks?
Yeah. We focused on it for a couple weeks, just trying to show them every piece of those guidebooks in the very beginning. Show them how it’s laid out, how to get their classes pulled up on the DVDs or the streaming.
But you’ve got to be right there to try to show them the first couple weeks how to follow it. But it’s worth it to stick with it. They do awesome.
Do you feel like your kids love learning?
They do. They really do. They share funny things their teachers have said. They talk about other students.
It took a while in the beginning for them to realize that this was recorded. We’d be praying for students at the dinner table, and you would have to tell them, “I’m sure they’re better,” you know. But yeah, they definitely love learning. They love the program. They feel like they’re a part of the class, they really do.
What would you tell someone who wants to know why you’d recommend Abeka?
I’d tell them we recommend Abeka because it is a full curriculum. We are not picking and choosing every year. We have a full curriculum that is already planned out. They know it works. So we do it, and it does work. So that’s why we wanted Abeka, because it’s a full curriculum. And we chose the videos because I do work and we wanted someone teaching them. So we’ve always done videos. I’ve never taught the kids at all.
Do you wish you were their teacher?
No, I’m not a teacher at all, ha! No, I’ve always worked. I’m just not a teacher to teach them, and I don’t feel like I could give them enough time during the day. I see how the teachers do it on the DVDs, and there’s no way I could do that!
Do you still feel involved in what they’re learning?
Oh, definitely. Yeah. I really feel like I’m more of a mom than a teacher because after school when we start homework time, I can just be the mom. That’s what I do like, just sitting down and helping them with homework.
What tips do you have to keep them motivated?
I think for us they know our situation with homeschooling. They know how much this costs us. This is a big burden for us, to homeschool them through Abeka, but it’s something we want and we will pay for.
And I think they realized that at an early age that this is a big sacrifice for our family. We can’t do certain things other families can do because we value their education so much. And I think they grasped that early on how important this was for all of us as a family.
What’s the most challenging part of homeschooling for you?
The most challenging is probably the grading, making sure I’m keeping up with that because that helps the kids. They need to know where they stand, so I don’t want to get behind in my grading. That’s my biggest thing that I always try to stay up with because if I get behind it really hurts them. I don’t want to do that.
Do you do the accredited or the independent study?
I have three doing accredited, and Brandon, my ninth grader, does independent study. He has some learning disabilities that are diagnosed. We still do DVDs, but he needs to go at a slower pace. That’s why we pulled him out of the accredited for this year, so he could just kind of take a breather for a little bit, and we’re thinking about trying the accredited again for him next year.
What does he do differently?
He stops and starts his lessons more than the others. The others go straight through their lessons. (I like them to treat it as a regular class time, so we don’t stop and start lessons.)
But for him, we do let him stop a lesson, highlight in the book, if it’s something the teachers pointed out, and then he can restart a lesson. He just goes a little bit slower to try to process it more.
So it works for all of your kids, just in a little different way.
It does, all four, yes. We test every year with the Stanford. And my one that has the learning issues, he does the Iowa. It just seems to fit him better. And they all score well above grade level. And my learning-disabled child, he scores right at grade level. So we couldn’t be more pleased.
What advice would you give to new homeschoolers?
I think the main thing I would say is to realize it’s going to take time. It’s gonna be an adjustment, so plan on it taking time. But really just try to jump into it. Be patient with yourself.
If you want to do the program, just commit to do it, and do it. We’ve never thought about changing it. Ever. We just knew that this is what we would do from the start. We’re not going to quit Abeka. We’re just not. So if you make that commitment, just stick with it. It’ll get challenging, but just stick with it.
I think we’ve kind of answered this already, but I’ll ask anyway. How does Abeka Academy make life easier for you?
It makes it easier, because my husband and I both work, that they’ve already set everything up for us. I’m not having to lay out lesson plans. Everything is there. They ship everything to me at the start of the year. I’m not having to hunt down books. Everything’s just set up so ready to go right out of the box.
What’s been your biggest accomplishment in homeschooling so far?
I say the biggest is really just getting to the point where we are now. We had four kids in five years. They are super close in age, and I dreamed of the day we would start getting them through homeschooling. I really did. I just thought, “I don’t know if we’re ever going to get there.”
And now my first baby, he’s 16, and we’ve applied to dual enroll. You know, that’s such an accomplishment. We’ve seen it all the way through. The Lord has got us all the way through, paid his tuition year after year. I don’t know where it comes from half the time. I really don’t. But somehow, we always have it. The Lord’s always provided it for us. And we’re just right on the verge of seeing our first one go to college. So, it’s a big accomplishment.
What tips do you have to keep from stressing out?
I used to be a stressed-out person, I really did. But really once I just gave that over to the Lord more, I really don’t have much of an issue with stressing about the kids’ education. I know He’s going to work it all out. It’s going to fall into place, and it’s going to work.
Is there anything else you’d like to add—maybe a story?
I’ll tell you this one that I think of right off the top of my head. This was last year. My youngest daughter, she really keeps us going. She really rounds out our family. She’s very well-rounded, fun, bubbly personality.
So she’s watching her screen. She’s in Bible. She races back to the office to come get me. She says, “I’ve gotta show you something in Bible!”
I was like, “Great!!” I was so excited. I’m thinking the teacher said something that’s got her heart, I mean, I’m just ready, you know. So I get up there, and she’s like, “Mom, look what that girl is wearing! I love her outfit!” I was like, “Bummer!” It was just so funny. That’s not what I was expecting. It’s fun, it really is.