Category Archives: Homeschooler Profile of the Week

Dakota S. – Homeschooler Profile

Name: Dakota S. (with mom Christy)
Family: Mom, Dad, two older brothers ages 19 & 24
Age:
16
Homeschool Group: L.E.A.R.N.
Homeschool Type: Unschool and curriculum mix
Educational Background: Dakota and her older brothers were homeschooled all the way from kindergarten on.

I met with Dakota and her mom Christy at a coffee house on Main Street in Parkville. It was a bit of a drive, but I love any excuse I can get to visit Parkville, one of my three all time favorite little towns in Missouri.

I had found Dakota through a listing on one of the list services I belong to, probably the kchappenings one, which announced that Dakota was making jewelry to try to save up for Camp Ramah later in the year. Camp Ramah is a Jewish camp in Wisconsin which Dakota has attended before. Next year her group will be traveling to Israel.

Dakota’s jewelry, of which she brought with her, is also listed on Etsy, and can be found by clicking here. I enjoyed looking at the different necklaces and bangles which were constructed of polished and artfully decorated dominoes. Dakota also does pottery, some of her finished projects are also for sale at the link above.

Dakota will begin attending community college this fall, with two, possibly three classes. Just enough to acclimate her to moving about within the college environment. When I asked her what classes she was planning on taking she said, “Math and maybe a fun class or two, like dance.”

I then asked Dakota to describe to me a typical homeschooling day. “I’m up by nine,” she glanced sideways at her mom and grinned a little self-consciously, “but I’m trying for earlier.” I had to smile at that, I’ve noticed that most homeschoolers I’ve encountered tend to wake later in the day. I for one, appreciate the fact that my child sleeps until 8:30 or 9 am every morning – it gives me time to write when the house is quiet and peaceful.

After breakfast, Christy reads to Dakota. Not because Dakota can’t read, she reads quite well. It is simply a family tradition that began far earlier with Dakota’s two older brothers. From how it was described, it sounds like a wonderful family tradition, this reading aloud. In many cases, the kids take turns as well, especially with the popular Harry Potter books. Christy and Dakota both smiled when sharing stories of staying up with Dakota’s brothers, home on break from school, reading the last Harry Potter book aloud in turns until 2 am.

Dakota mentioned that currently her mother and her are on a classics kick. The book they were currently reading when we spoke was Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens, which Dakota’s mom Christy said was her one of her favorite books as a child.

After reading, Dakota typically works on math and then moves on to work on a dress she is designing for a contest at Jo-Ann Fabrics (a local fabric and craft store) or designing some of her domino jewelry. She also may work on writing, free form poetry, short stories, or some other art project.

2-4 days per week there is Karate, and Dakota is currently a junior 3rd degree black belt. She will be testing in June for her adult first degree black belt.

When I asked Dakota for any drawback that she has seen from homeschooling, she thought for a moment before answering. Basically, she doesn’t see her homeschool friends from L.E.A.R.N. as often as she would like since her family lives in Parkville and Kansas City is a bit of a drive. A lot of planning is needed in order to get together, partly due to everyone’s activities.

Dakota had many examples of favorite homeschool memories – mainly art projects – which include a full-size Kimodo dragon that currently resides on their basement wall.

When I asked Christy what her favorite homeschool memories were as a parent, she mentioned that she had really enjoyed working with the kids on unit studies (where multiple areas of study – science, history, art and more – are centered around a particular interest). Christy used the example of Australia and plate tectonics (a favorite of mine – I’ve been obsessed with the super-continent Pangaea since first hearing about it in middle school). She also pointed to the closeness of the three siblings as something that she felt directly attributed to being homeschooled and also all of them participating in karate.

I asked what books, homeschool-centered or otherwise, they would recommend to others. “Something,” I suggested, “that changed how you viewed the world or how it works.” This stumped them for a moment until I used my own experience reading Voyage From Yesteryear, by James P. Hogan, a science fiction novel that “Changed the way I thought about how the world could be.”

Dakota mentioned the classics, especially The Count of Monte Christo, which took her nearly three months to read and then she said, “Anything by Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams. They have affected how I write a lot.”

Christy mentioned that for her own childhood the Little House on the Prairie books had really made a difference in reading for her, changing reading from something you had to do to something that was enjoyable and entertaining. Later she added that The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding had in part turned her towards homeschooling by showing her what motherhood could be like.

When I asked Dakota to tell me about her thoughts and plans for her future she admitted that she was not really sure, but that her two main considerations at this time were to be a Reliv distributor like her mom or possibly start her own karate school.

And finally I asked if there was anything Dakota would want to add, perhaps advice or thoughts about homeschooling. Dakota said, “Homeschooling may not teach you everything you need to know, but it helps you like learning, and then you can go out and learn what you need.” In other words, it helps you enjoy the learning process.

A big thank you to Christy and Dakota for allowing me to interview them!

Tune in next Monday to meet Jennifer L., a homeschool adult. Her mom homeschooled Jennifer and her three younger siblings at a time when few if any had even heard of homeschooling!

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Homeschooler of the Week – Katie R.

Name: Katie R. (mom)
Family: Bailey 8, Kieran 6 1/2, Aiden 4 1/2, Keeley 17 months
Homeschool Group: L.E.A.R.N., KC Homeschool, and a couple of informal groups
Homeschool Type: Somewhere between unschooling and Waldorf-inspired

I met Katie at L.E.A.R.N. (Let Education Always Remain Natural) where she was teaching a Watercolor Art class for a preschool age group which includes my daughter, Emily.

We talked on the phone and then finished up this interview via email. With four young ones, Katie is busy, busy, busy!

When I asked Katie how she got started in homeschooling and what made her choose it in the first place she said, “I didn’t want my kids to go through the same experience I did of feeling lied to.” She pointed to the story of Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims and Indian
as a prime example of how history is often ‘tamed’ for young children, and in some cases, completely misrepresented.

She went on to say that because she lived in the Kansas City School District, it was also a concern. The KCMO school district has had a bad reputation for a while now.

Our discussion then switched to the topic of curriculum and what the kids are studying. Katie follows a style that is “somewhere between unschooling and Waldorf-inspired. She talked about the world as their school, and pointed to the library, nature centers, Wonderscope, Science City, and other destinations as great learning adventures.

She pointed out that education includes helping her children learn care of self, respect for others, and participating in volunteer activities.

Katie said they loosely follow a Waldorf-inspired curriculum that includes 1st grade fairy tales, 2nd grade heroes, singing, rhythm, movement and art, and “stories, stories and more stories.”

They try to have a rhythm of sorts to the week but Katie admits it is a bit hit or miss. There are baking days and cleaning days, and Wednesdays are usually days out (going to L.E.A.R.N. classes).

Katie recalled reading of a lecture given by Einstein where a parent approached the scientist and asked Einstein what he would recommend to engage a 9 year old in learning. Einstein answered, “Read him fairy tales.” When asked what to do next, the scientist responded, “Read him more fairy tales.” And when the parent asked what to do after that, Einstein answered, “Read him more and more.”

Einstein once said, “The greatest scientists are artists as well. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination circles the world.”

Katie pointed out, “Essentially, he was saying that fairy tales foster imagination in children. Reading the encyclopedia to them all day long might not yield the same results.”

Katie shared with me a particularly poignant account of her eldest son who, learning that a young homeschooled friend of his had leukemia and would be losing her hair during the course of treatment, offered to cut off his hair so that the little girl would have a wig to wear. She followed that by saying that she and her husband teach their children each day to go for their dreams, deal with failure, but not give up even when the going is difficult.

It isn’t always easy, “I can control my own self, my own words, my own actions.” Katie said, “I have to let them develop how they are or will be.” It isn’t always easy to step back and let go at times.

At this point, life interfered and we had to wrap up our phone interview. I asked Katie if she would mind answering a few more questions via email and she graciously agreed. Here is the remainder of the interview…

What resources do you suggest to someone who is just starting homeschooling?

Katie wrote…

Before searching outside information, it might be beneficial to sit & make a list of values you’d like to instill in your child(ren) or subject areas that you feel are very important. Maybe list out subjects you feel you’d need help teaching, maybe they’re not a strong point. You could list your strengths & weaknesses in certain subjects so you’re clear where you’ll need to supplement lessons.

It may be helpful to consider the energy with which or environment in which you’d like them to learn. Also, if you have little knowledge of child development, study up on that! And after you’ve read/discussed someone else’s ideas about child development, ask yourself if that seems right to you? There are many ideas out there about how children process information, how does yours? Only you know that!

Once you have a general vision, I’d recommend searching online for local home school groups. Even if they strike you as a group that believes in something you don’t, go to a meeting, meet some members, strike up conversations, ask for contact info, other group info, book lists, etc. Most homeschoolers are happy to share knowledge~ that’s our M.O., after all. You may find some online forums that match your ideals & values, access those. Once you find someone or some folks that have walked a path similar to one you’ve decided to strive toward –> pick his/her/their brain(s). Books are great, people are far better resources. There is just SO much information out there about homeschooling, you really have to pick a general direction and ask for guidance. Otherwise, you’re at risk of information overload (which can lead to negative little-white-flag feelings). {I can give you a list of books I’d recommend, but they’re heavily influenced by Waldorf Education methods & that doesn’t always resonate with everyone.}

Please share a “perfect” homeschooling moment or memory

Katie wrote…

We have several “perfect” homeschooling moments. I have my favorite moments for each child through each developmental stage. My all time favorite memory of my oldest child actually happened before we began “formal lessons.” He was 4, playing outside in the mud, on an unsuspectingly warm almost spring day (much like I hope today becomes).

Now, a wee bit of background info- we have struggled with having guns as toys, only to fall on the side of encouraging every one’s safety and creative hunting, survival-type uses. We spent some time forbidding them, which led to this forbidden fruit syndrome that made our boys crave them more. So, on this warm, almost spring day, my oldest two sons, wearing nothing but underwear, were squishing toes in mud (one of their mom’s favorite past times) and suddenly, the oldest belly flops in the mud, rolls around like a hippo, covering himself (and his long curly red hair) in mud. Wishing I’d had the video camera near, I grabbed our still camera and began to snap picture after picture to capture all this jubilation. After sufficiently covering himself, he jumped up, grabbed two clumps of mud, intentionally shoved his ammo into the waist of his drawers & ran off down the hill and up the sidewalk. His response to a giggly, “where are you going?!” was “I’m MUD MAN, off to save our neighbors from danger!!”

Moments like these are so strong in my memory because of what HE experienced. He made a choice, one of many choices and this choice was creative and fun! He used natural resources (both the mud & his imagination) to defend the good, honest people near our home. So in this I see eco-friendly community service. Many of his choices in the four years that have passed since that day have reflected those same qualities. Most notable & recent was his offering of his beautiful long curly red hair to make a wig for a dear little friend of ours that was just recently diagnosed with Acute Lymphatic Leukemia (ALL) and has lost a little of her hair as a result of her chemotherapy treatments.

Overall, it’s moments like these that I’ve striven to provide safe boundaries for his own self exploration & development. And that’s what I strive for with each of our children. Honestly, my favorite memories of our homeschooling triumphs are infused with my children’s joy of discovery and learning~ about themselves, their surroundings or even specific things, like money facts or reading.

What worries or concerns do you have when it comes to homeschooling?

Katie wrote…

Oh worries are the root of doubt. And doubt doesn’t serve us well- as individuals, partners, parents or educators. But the reality is that we all experience it from time to time. For our purposes, I strive to transform my worries or concerns into our litmus test. Many questions run through the mind when in doubt of our choices or the results thus far. This is a time to take inventory, chuck what doesn’t work or serve our vision, refine what should be kept and add what we find to be lacking.

The fact is, we parents may not know the result until we’ve hit the grave. We can get snippets of the result, when watching our children make choices, learn from those choices or reach out to others with kindness. Ultimately, they become who they are to become. In order to remain sane through that process as a parent educator, one must maintain a certain level of trust and acceptance. We give them the best of what we’ve got & it’s up to them to fill in their own gaps.

Honestly, I fear giving up, putting my kids in school and feeling like a failure. Although, given my priority that they gain relationship intelligence over academic intelligence (though not in lieu of), giving up is hard to do. Anyone know of a relationship centered curriculum or school?

Is there any other advice or thoughts you would like to share?

Katie wrote…

My methods center around the fact that we are not alone in this world. Our first lessons involve respecting and loving ourselves (taught through basic self care and healthy behaviors & rhythms in the home). As we refine these lessons through developmental stages, we add the lessons of respecting and loving our family, friends, others in our community and our home (neighborhood & environment). We often find opportunities to add subject specific lessons along our journey.

It is my constant striving to stay open to what my children have to teach me- for they are masters of living in the moment. One very helpful tool I learned while being trained in Reiki (an energy therapy). One piece of the mantra I chant to myself when giving a Reiki treatment is, “Hallow bone, out of my own way.” This function in Reiki is, like a hallow bone or a pipe with water flowing through, you get out of the way so the healing energy can flow unobstructed to the desired person or location. This principle repeatedly serves us well as I provide that safe space for exploration, guide when needed, but mostly, I stay out of my own way to let creativity flow & I stay out of my children’s way, so their creative self & world exploration can thrive.

Learn outside as much as possible. Garden, walk, hike, rock climb, play in mud, etc. Have FUN!!!

To me, this massive series of lessons, learning to interact with people & our land with respect, coupled with the joy of learning and unlimited imagination, these are pinnacle principles of great learning! With those tools at hand, what can’t our children do?

One quote I have posted, look at every day & meditate upon often is “Direction is more important than speed. Enjoy the journey!”

A huge thank you to Katie for taking the time to speak with me and also email me back with such thoughtful responses!

Know of a homeschooler who would like to be profiled? Click on the Contact page and send me an email!

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Homeschooler of the Week – Aliyah F.

Name: Aliyah F.
Family: Mom Victoria, Dad John, Brother Zach, 1 gecko, 1 rabbit, 3 dogs, and 15 chickens
Age:
11
Homeschool Group: KC Homeschool and Great Plains 4-H (not a hs’ing group, but does consist primarily of homeschoolers)
Homeschool Type: “Relaxed homeschoolers”
Educational Background: In a mix of public school and then a private Christian school until end of 2nd grade, homeschooled ever since

“Hi!” a vivacious, dark-haired girl opened the door wide and ushered Emily, my 4-year-old and me into the house, “Come on in!” She was barefoot and wearing a t-shirt that read, “I live in my own little world, but that’s okay, they know me here!”

I had found Aliyah thanks to my husband, who was doing research on egg prices through Craig’s List. My husband forwarded Aliyah’s Craig’s List post that offered fresh eggs at $3 per dozen and I immediately contacted Aliyah and asked her if she would be willing to do an interview.

A few days after contacting Aliyah, I was able to meet the entire family, including three affectionate dogs, a gecko named Geico who ‘plays dead’ when turned onto his back, a rabbit who my 4-year-old was able to hand feed a carrot to and later carry around like a baby, and a complement of no less than fifteen hens that clucked and warbled quietly as they followed us about the yard.

My visit lasted for a full two hours, there was so much to discuss and share, and I left Aliyah and her family with my mind whirling a mile a minute with ideas and possibilities. Perhaps it was our many shared interests (gardening, self-sufficiency, pets and more), but I left feeling excited – about homeschool, self-sufficient living and family bonding as a whole.

Aliyah’s mom and Dad, Victoria and John, described their life five years ago as ‘the American dream’. “We had the house, the cars, and the kids were in school.”

But by second grade, Aliyah was struggling to read. The school thought she needed glasses, but instead, it turned out that there was nothing wrong with her eyes. Instead, Aliyah, like her dad, suffered from dyslexia. At that same time, her mom Victoria had been learning about homeschooling and its benefits and Victoria and John decided to give it a try. At the end of Aliyah’s second grade year, and older brother Zach’s third grade year, both children became homeschooled.

John, Aliyah’s dad said, “At first, it was like school, just at home. Half an hour for each subject, then you move on.”

Victoria added, “That’s what we thought you were ‘supposed’ to do.” As time went on, homeschooling changed to what they now describe as “relaxed homeschooling” – not quite unschooling, but not as rigid as say, a purchased curriculum. Victoria said, “My husband likes to call us ‘lifetime learners’.”

Aliyah and her brother learn from an eclectic mixture that includes the computer and online learning sites, along with purchased books and sources rented from the library. Aliyah takes art classes from a stay-at-home mom and art institute graduate, and I saw a lovely horse head ‘sculpted’ out of bent twigs and natural materials that Aliyah had done.

They also mentioned reading together several times during the interview, and it is obviously a regular event in their household.

I asked Aliyah to describe a typical homeschooling day for me and she said that after they get up and eat breakfast, they do chores, then move on to reading, history, the Little House on the Prairie books (a series she and I both share a love for), and then memorizing bible verses for her youth group at church. After the verses, they do some math, then take some outside time, and have a little free time. “And then we have lunch.”

Wait a minute, all of that listed above, is before lunch?

Aliyah’s dad, John, walked back in the room and added, “We also tend to teach by season.” At my questioning look, they elaborated, describing how lessons often center around family activities such as wild edibles in autumn, or herbs in the spring and summer. It seems that the entire family is involved in incorporating herbal remedies (teas, tinctures and more) and in gathering the ingredients to make the different herbal products.

I was lucky enough to be offered a steaming mug of ginger and honey tea (amazing and excellent for digestion, it can also serve to strengthen the immune system or stop nausea) and later enjoyed a delicious glass of kombucha cherry soda, made from 100% cherry juice and kombucha tea. Given a week or two to ferment, the kombucha infuses the cherry juice with natural carbonation, which was amazingly tasty and refreshing. I am determined to make some of my own! (For more information on the benefits of kombucha, visit this site.)

I asked Aliyah to tell me about what benefits she gets from homeschooling and she said, “Mom can work with me better, and I get more specialized attention than I would in a group. I get to be around my animals, and I often draw pictures based on what I hear and this helps me listen better.”

When I asked her to give me a drawback to homeschooling, Aliyah had a difficult time answering, and finally she said, “Nothing really…well, I guess it’s easier to be distracted at home. Mom will read something to me and I will stop to think on it and miss the rest of what she is reading because I’m still thinking about that one thing from earlier.”

When I asked everyone for what advice each would give to a homeschooler starting out, this is what they had this to say:

Victoria: “It depends on your intent, what does your family need? We’re the crazy ones in the middle (Christian homeschoolers, and also sort of unschoolers)…take it one step at a time.”

John: “Tailor make the education to meet the child’s needs.”

Aliyah: “Don’t stick to just books if the child is like me. Or make it more rules and organized for others.” (in other words, what her dad said!)

When I asked Aliyah to describe to me her best memory so far of homeschooling, she described days early on in their homeschooling when they visited the park a lot. “I would climb a tree, with a pillow and my math book, and do my math in a tree.”

Victoria smiled, “I have a picture of her doing that.”

I could see it in my mind’s eye, and I have to admit it really touched me. I asked Victoria if I could possibly get a copy for this post and she dug it up and emailed it to me. To me, this picture of Aliyah, pencil in hand, a far-off look on her face, captures the essence of homeschooling – recapturing the joy in learning, and finding learning opportunities in the more unusual places.

Near the end of the interview, Victoria pointed to a book next to the sofa and said, “I’ve been reading this homeschool book and finally found my “in the middle” book.” It is written by a Christian author but embraces many unschooling principles. You can find that book, “Successful Homeschool Family Handbook” here:

A huge thank you to Aliyah and her family for allowing me to interview them for this post!

Do you know of a homeschooler who would like to be profiled? Are you a homeschooler, currently or in the past? Contact me for an interview!

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Homeschooler of the Week – Maya M.

Name: Maya M. Age: 15 Homeschool Group: Northland Families Learning Together (nfltkc.org) Homeschool Type: Unschooled Educational Background: Montessori school for six months of Kindergarten, then homeschooled. Currently attending a community college and continuing her unschooling studies. Interests/Subjects of Study: Music, … Continue reading

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Homeschooler of the Week – Birke Baehr

Name: Birke Baehr Age: 12 Homeschooled: from age 9, in public school prior to that I just finished watching a TED talk by Birke Baehr. If you have not heard of TED, I encourage you to go and browse the … Continue reading

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