Dakota S. – Homeschooler Profile

Name: Dakota S. (with mom Christy)
Family: Mom, Dad, two older brothers ages 19 & 24
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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