Welcome to our first homeschooling interview from Erica Johns. She blogs over at Enrichment Studies where she provides resources to homeschool families to learn about fine arts and music.
What are your top 3 reasons for homeschooling?
We have homeschooled for most of the past 18 years, and originally it started because we just enjoyed being with our oldest child and didn’t want to send him to school, and he didn’t really want to go. I believe that when children are young, they benefit from a lot of play time rather than more academic time, so homeschooling was a perfect option for him.
Now we have our final four children still being homeschooled and they are all in middle or high school. The main reasons we homeschool them are because some of their learning needs (dyslexia, attention issues) will be much better met at home than in a traditional classroom setting. In our local public schools there really isn’t any help available for dyslexic kids, and so that just isn’t an option for us.
All of our kids enjoy being homeschooled and prefer it. We believe that our children deserve to have a voice in their education, and this is their choice. If they felt a need or desire for a different sort of school experience, we would be open to that. (We have had some kids choose other options at different times. Our second child graduated from public school. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing.)
With two young adult children so far, I know how quickly these years are flying by. In the next 6 years we will have “launched” our final four children. I’m so thankful for the time I have with each of them, and the fact that we have an unusually high amount of time together.
How do you choose curriculum?
After our many years of experience, we have a pretty good idea of what works for us, so choosing curriculum isn’t too difficult. I do not research every single possible thing, because it’s too much to take on. We use what works for us and meets our needs, and don’t go hunting down the latest and greatest new thing. 🙂 When we have been using an item and finding that it doesn’t work for us any more, or that our needs have changed, then I seek out something that will specifically do what we need.
I also keep track through the year (on a Note on my phone) of any needs that I’m observing, ideas that we have, and I also get feedback from the kids about what direction they would like to take next. For instance, we recently discussed what they are liking and finding useful so far this year, and what is important to them for the coming year. Next year we will have a senior, and he had certain things he wanted to learn about before he finished high school, so that was an important thing. I’ve got a good skeleton plan for what we will do next year.
What are the ages of your kids, and at what age did you start homeschooling?
We started homeschooling 18 years ago when our oldest child was a kindergartner. Our children are now approximately 24, 20, 18, 16, 15, and 13.
What is your biggest homeschooling failure? Success?
I can’t point to any homeschooling failures. All of life is a learning process, and we have learned a lot as we have journeyed through homeschooling together. Our biggest success is that we have a happy, loving, fun family that enjoys being together. I think the time spent together has been a wonderful gift for all of us.
What is your philosophy on education?
Flexibility, love of learning, openness to hear the needs and desires of our children for their education.
Explain a typical day.
A typical day that goes according to plan:
Everybody up and ready around 8:30.
Chores for a half hour.
We move through our various subjects together. We do our science, literature, history, Bible, copywork, penmanship, projects, field trips, brain games, and pretty much everything else as a group. Math obviously fans out to individual levels, but we all do math at the same time, and I’m available to help anyone that needs it.
Due to two of my children having dyslexia and one having attention issues, independent work and self-teaching isn’t a great fit for us. I actively teach, tutor, and mentor through every school day. If we get everything done well, it takes about 30 hours a week.
We are usually done around 3:30 each day, and then the guys have plenty of other things they enjoy doing–sports, activities, friends, relaxing, playing games, etc.
We have some days that don’t go according to plan. For instance, some of my sons play basketball and sometimes they have a daytime practice, or need to leave early in the day for an away game. On those days we have some less-important items that get set aside, and we concentrate on the more essential school items in the hours that we have available.
Explain your homeschool adventure in one word.
What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding of homeschooling?
I think a lot of parents believe that homeschooling guarantees them some sort of particular outcome. It doesn’t, and anybody who tells you that is probably selling something (that you shouldn’t buy). Homeschool because you love spending time with your kids. Homeschool because your kids love spending time with you. Homeschool because you have something to offer in home education that is valuable and lovely and worthwhile. Let go of the idea that your kids will turn out a certain way.
What is one tip to avoid burnout?
Do what you can to find what works for you, and then stop spending your energy looking for other stuff or complicating things. Know when enough is enough. And then give yourself breaks to rest and get rejuvenated.
Do you have a motto or quote for your homeschool? Why did you choose that one?
The motto that is always in my heart and mind for our home and homeschool (because it’s all the same!) is…
Let Love Lead You
Hasn’t steered me wrong yet!
Best piece of advice for a new homeschooling parent.
Less is more for little kids. Respect the individuality of each child. Educate yourself and become empowered to do what is best for your particular kids without fear or comparisons. Have fun!
Erica Johns has been homeschooling her six children since 1997. She is owner of EnrichmentStudies.com, which helps homeschool families incorporate more fine arts into their lives in an easy, natural way that doesn’t run on a lot of Mom Power.