This interview is with my dear friend, neighbor, and co-collaborator on this blog, the very talented Emily Mulder, owner of Lonely Mountain Photography.
Q:Emily, describe for us your childhood home-school experience. What was your day to day like. What were the reasons your parents decided to home-school. Was this accepted in your community?
A: Ahh. My parents were really trying to figure it out based on what they’d experienced. We started when I was entering the 4th grade. My sisters were entering 6th, and 3rd. Initially they were planning to just try it with my oldest sister for a year first, but that year the school system decided we were in a different district and the first morning we waited for the bus, it didn’t come for us as it had the past three years. My parents prayed together and decided to take us all out and homeschool us. Apparently they had read about homeschooling, but we didn’t know anyone else doing it until later.
My parents were not supported by anyone at first. People thought we’d never “make it”. The one big reason people had against homeschooling was that we would not be “socialized” (as if throwing kids together in same-age class rooms actually socializes kids in a positive way).
Our day: at the beginning of each year my parents would research what we needed to be on grade level, we’d purchase or find books (we got many used books as well as purchasing some from different places depending on what they thought we needed.) We would all sit down and figure out how to plan the year in order to get through the books. This varied a bit and not every book was divided up this way. We had a pretty regular schedule to keep – every day lasting 1-2 hours (maybe 3 or at most 4 in high-school) in order to spend a regular time on each subject. Once done with our school, we helped (in later years) with our family business, did regular chores, and had time for play and hobbies. We had a lot of self study.
Q: What did you like about home-schooling, and what did you not like?
I liked that it didn’t take so much time! We didn’t have homework in the evenings as we’d done all of that during school hours. I also liked that it taught us to be able to self study. We learned to organize our studying and get it done, and check our work ourselves.
Q: How did home-schooling prepare you for college? What was the biggest challenge in college?
A: Again, the self learning was a big boon in college. My older sister and I attended college together, as she’d done some correspondent courses and worked teaching other kids after graduation and before heading out to college. I remember us both being roped into helping other kids that first semester – kids who struggled to figure out how to research and understand what the professor said or expected. We had no problems digging right in and learning.
The biggest challenge? I’m not sure if homeschooling itself caused any challenges. I’m shy naturally, so it always takes me a while to get to know other people, but I was that way when I was small and in public school.
I think a big challenge to home-schoolers is maybe a blind belief that their education is better, and therefore kids can run into trouble when their beliefs are challenged in a college setting.
Q: How are you doing things differently as you are home-schooling your own kids? What do you envision for your children’s education and future?
A: I think we can go a lot farther than copying public school standards. My husband and I actually believe that the public school setting was set up for a different time and not to truly inspire kids to learn. We are trying to pull away from the standards and approach things differently, with a focus on really inspiring our kids to study far beyond the standard approach.
I also want my kids to have intellectual humility – to be able to see when they don’t understand something, leading to study or asking questions to find out what the answers are. I don’t want any of them to think they “can’t” or are unable to study or understand something. If one of them is struggling, I back off and try to figure out how to approach things differently, rather than just pushing them onward with the same methods.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful answers, Emily. I loved reading how you got your work done in 1-2 hours and had all this extra time to help out in your parent’s business or just play. And what about college teachers making you a TA for the kid’s who hadn’t learned to study on their own; so much for home-schooled kids not being prepared for higher education. Speaking of education, Emily and her husband Sam have a must read blog on education. They have spend a lot of time on researching the best way to teach children and for them to be enthusiastic about learning. Go to educationreimagined.org for more info.
This interview was so much fun, I’m planning on doing more in the future.