Name: Aliyah F.
Family: Mom Victoria, Dad John, Brother Zach, 1 gecko, 1 rabbit, 3 dogs, and 15 chickens
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!