Home-schooling and Serving in Nicaragua

Have you ever entertained the thought of packing up your entire family and transplanting them to a really exotic place? Or leaving the hustle bustle of Western life and serving as one cohesive unit in a third world country? I have many times and I have been so inspired how this family did both.

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1. Tell us about your family. Who lives with you?

Diane: Our family is 7 people: Mike and Diane and our 5 kids – Wes (17), Olivea (15), Audrey (12), Miranda (11), and Elaina (10).

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2. What are you doing in Nicaragua? What brought you here?

What brought us here…Our church has partnered with a community in Nicaragua for the last several years. Our son was the first to come down with a student trip in August 2011. He came home, saying it was too short and when could he return. We never realized at that time time that our whole family would return together in March of 2012. And we did…We came for just under 2 weeks, and during the end of our time we began to talk about as a family what it would look like to live here for an extended period of time. Not that we would, but more of just a what if sort of way. We talked about housing. Could we live all live in a 10 x 10 (or smaller house) made out of black plastic sheeting and pallet wood? What would it be like to do our laundry in the river, cook over wood fire, have no running water in our home and maybe not even a well…We had so many great conversations around things that just seemed like the basics.

We returned home, also feeling our time in Nicaragua had been too short…About 2 weeks after we were back in Colorado, we were asked if we would ever consider returning for an extended period of time. My first response was no, but as that came out of my mouth, I realized, in fact we really had already been considering it. We had already had many conversations around returning – we’d already began as a family to try the idea on.We talked to our jobs and began to pray and seek the Lord – Did He want this as much as we thought we did?

There came a point in October where we finally made that decision to be all in. There were still so many logistics, etc. but on faith we bought our plane tickets, layed out some of our non-negotiables before the Lord – and asked others to pray with us….the logistics on paper looked really BIG – in our hearts though we always had a lot of peace. The most confirming thing for me about this journey is that all 7 of us felt called by God…we rarely ALL agree on anything, so this was a big deal in itself.We continued to pray and move forward with the details of leaving the country for 6 months. The doors continued to swing wide open for us to go. The finances were coming together, our house was rented, our cars found homes, my job was  taken care of. In the end, Mike ended up quitting his job, which wasn’t exactly how we had hoped to be leaving, but as it came down to the end, it wasn’t a deal breaker for us. Our denomination accepted us as Covenanters in Mission – which affirmed us each as missionaries – the kids too, not just the adults, and our local church officially sent us. Feb. came, and off we went.

3. Why did you decide to home-school?

Diane: Schooling was something we gave a lot of thought and prayer to before we left. We considered all sorts of options, and in the end, just did not want traditional school to rule our days. We knew there would be an education to be found right outside our door step, and we wanted to be freed up to engage life as it happened. Our friends the Hollands had the articulation of “live” learning, and we loved the idea of this.We do not home-school in CO. It is definitely something we’ve thought about over the years, just have in the end been excited to share our kids with their public schools. Our local school district is amazing in many ways. Our kids have done well in school, and the idea of taking a semester off didn’t worry us for one second about how ready or not they would be when we would return. Learning is important to us, and so we are in fact quite intentional about making sure our kids have plenty of opportunities to learn. We send them to the mercado to buy groceries for a lesson in math. We’ve kept them reading all sorts of literature, we’ve all taken Spanish from local teachers as a family, we hiked a volcano with a Nicaragua guide who is also a Bird scientist and we learned so much about nature, history, and volcano’s while we did. We visit the tide pools at the beach often and learn about all sort of sea life. We’ve learned about cultural differences, poverty, differences in religion and politics, and SOOOO much more!

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Learning about coffee bean planting and harvesting.
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Bird Study
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Exploring Volcanoes

4. Is this accepted in the country you live in? What are some of the reactions you get?

Diane:  People often ask our kids if they home school – they used to say an enthusiastic “nope”, but now they respond about “live” learning which gets an enthusiastic response! We know some families who home-school, we also know many families who do not school at all – especially their sweet little girls. I think the importance of education is growing in Nicaragua, but there is not in large part a high value on it, and many do not read. A typical day for kids going to school is only 3 hours 4 days a week. Younger kids will go in the morning, and older ones in the afternoon. Many teens work to support families, and if they do go to school go just one day a week for a 1/2 day. Really bright or really wealthy students will be put on a university tract that begins at age 16.

5. What are the challenges of home-schooling in a different country? Do you have a support system?

Diane: We feel very supported in just being us – or maybe it is just that we are so confident that we are doing what God has for us right now, that we do not notice if we aren’t. We are used to living life a bit out of the box, and the responses from others for doing so. If we were to live here full time – year round, we would have to do school differently. We would have to plan ahead and get materials from the states. There are lots of things that just aren’t available here. I had looked into some different online schools before coming down, but I don’t think that we could get consistent enough or strong enough internet to make it work well – to be a viable option.

6. Describe a typical day for us. When do you do school? Where and how do you shop?

Diane: We really live each day as its own day – Nicaragua is a very in the present time culture – so we are trying to embrace it in that way. I am a planner and check list kind of mom, so it has been stretching for me to live life so loosely – it has been really great to engage life so freed up to move at a slower pace. A good gift for us in this season.

We are doing so many things in Nicaragua. We start our days praying and giving it to the Lord. We ask Him – how is it that He would best have us love in these next 14 or so hours that we will be awake. And then we look for what God’s already doing and we see how we can jump on board. We look for ways we can serve all together as a family with are different ages, stages, and bends of personalities. We’ve painted schools buildings and done other maintenance, we’ve taught a lot of art classes at school and out in the park. We’ve jumped a lot of rope, flown a lot of kites, shared a lot of ice cream with hungry kids on the street, volunteered with a local lending library, and listened to so many stories of God’s faithfulness in people’s lives.

Art at the Park
Art at the Park
Painting a House
Painting a House
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Handing out mosquito nets.

7. What are your plans for the future in regard to schooling the kids?

Diane: I would say it is all up for grabs – truly…Our oldest will be a senior when we return so we plan to return to their schools in Fort Collins – my older kids go to a super hands on ELS – Expeditionary Learning School and my younger ones to an IB school. We have been really happy with them. We have loved the freedom to school the way we have in Nicaragua though and not be tied down to a school calendar over a year out. So we will just take it a step at a time!

Wow, how inspiring! Thank you, Diane, for sharing with us. And for being brave enough to go on this adventure.

Friends, what convicted me most is when Diane said:” Everyday we ask Him – how is it that He would best have us love in these next 14 or so hours that we will be awake.” What would happen if we all did that wherever we are? I like that the Borden family is taking advantage of all the cultural and practical learning opportunities that are all around them. And what is even better, they are instilling an attitude of service in their children.

I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did.

-Sofija

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Home-schooling and Serving in Nicaragua

Home-schooling on the Road

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Bloom Photography By Kara

Friends,

I’m so exited about this interview. I have heard people say “I wish I could take my kids out of school and go on the road for a year.” Well, here is and example of what that might look like. However the Hollands do so much more than just travel. Everywhere they stay they bless the people around them with their musical gifts and their gift of friendship.

1. Tell us a little about your family. Who lives with you?


We are The Hollands! A nomadic family of merrymakers. We are four, Jana- Mother, Craig-Father, Graciana-Sister, Banjo- Brother. We are folk musicians and observers of humanity, encouragers of community.

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2.How did you come to live on a bus?
We came to a cross roads in life whereby our family relationships were fragmented, our gifts stifled and a longing crept up for a more holistic way of life. And so, we began to dialog and dream of a simpler way. The bus life came as a result. It was apparent that a drastic change in lifestyle was necessary and the idea of giving away all we owned and traveling seemed a reasonable option.
3.What are the challenges of living on a bus and traveling?
We bought the bus off of Craig’s List in 2010. It was the Casper WY Trooper Drum and Bugle Corp Bus. It’s a 1984 MCI model. We had to strip it clean and build it out from scratch. The most challenging aspects have been building the electrical and plumbing systems, then the fact that we aren’t dealing with straight lines have added to the construction difficulties. However, Craig is a learner and these challenges suit him. As for the rest of us, living in a half built bus for a some time has been a struggle at times. We are much more comfortable now than when we left in the bus. We have electricity and now that my kitchen is built I can offer some pretty delicious meals. We have a working toilet and cold running water but look forward to the day we have hot water and a shower.

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4.What are the perks?

Mobility would be the greatest perk. It’s very comfortable to travel and be in. It’s home. Another perk would be the opportunity to share in life with neighbors across the US. You are our 32nd neighbor in the last year and a half. It is a real joy to have the opportunity to observe, learn and work out life with so many kinfolk.

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5.How do you home-school while traveling? Describe a typical day. 


We currently use the K-12 for our 6th grade son and E-Achive for our 10th grade daughter, both are on-line schools out of our home state of Wisconsin. Each program is slightly different and offers separate perks and challenges. Our days fluctuate depending on the community we are engaging with. Some days are more focused on the curriculum and others we are fully engaged with community around us.

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5. What are challenges of home-schooling on the road?
Because of the nature of our travels, the ebb and flow of virtual school can be a challenge and sometimes feels disjointed. Although the programs in and of themselves are quite good, we are beginning to explore other options for schooling that will bring the kids learning in line with our lifestyle and offer them more opportunity to really experience “live” learning. There is such pressure from the world system to “keep up with the jones” and when this concept seeps into our learning environments it stifles real growth. It takes us hostage and invokes a deep fear of failing and instead of learning we grow up regurgitating. We are tired of watching our children regurgitate. We long to see them really learn.

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6.What would you like your kids to learn from this experience?
We would like to give them an opportunity to take “ownership” their learning, to find freedom and joy in observing and fully participating in the environments we travel in. Homeschooling is a real gift and we are excited to begin to think out side of the box and explore ways to facilitate this.

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7.Tell us about a favorite stop. One that you go back to in your mind most often?
This is a difficult question because everyone of our visits has been unique and precious. Even places we’ve gone back to a second time around have offered a different experience. I don’t doubt we will have a favorite at some point. I wonder when we do, if that will be the place we stop indefinitely? For now, we aren’t looking for that, just taking it one day at a time and soaking up all that that day offers.

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Thank you, Jana! I like how you aim for your children to find “freedom and joy in observing and fully participating in the environments you travel in”. That is so contrary to our culture where we often raise children to revolve around themselves. I have seen your children being flexible, adapting to the environment they are in, and being willing to serve where it is needed.

Friends, Jana described her family like this:” We are folk musicians and observers of humanity, encouragers of community.” I would like to give you some examples of what that has looked like since they have been with us. In the last week and a half Craig has been teaching my 11 year old math every day. Jana has taught my daughter art and cooked some awesome meals for us. They as a family have gone to a local ministry that serves immigrants and the poor. They have encouraged the leadership there and today they will be teaching Australian Folklore to the children. While here they are doing two booked shows. On top of that they are doing two house concerts and maybe worship at our church. But most importantly they are just friends, open about their struggles and willing to join us in what we are doing.

You can keep up with their travels here. If they happen to be near you, be sure to invite them over, you will not want to miss them.

-Sofija

Home-schooling on the Road

Home-schooling in Turkey

Friends,

I’m so exited to introduce a friend of mine, Jamie, who lives and home-schools in Turkey. Are you ever curious what it is like to live in another country, day in day out, the perks and the challenges? Read to find out…

Sofija: Tell us about your family.

Jamie: 
My husband James and I are both originally from California. We got married 10 years ago and since then have been busy figuring out life on the other side of the world and having kids. We have four beautiful girls, Elise (7), Marie (5), Clara (3), and Pearl (4 mo). All of them were born here in Turkey.
2. What are you doing in Turkey? What do you like about living there, what makes it challenging?
James teaches English at a high school here in Turkey. It is an absolutely gorgeous country. If you’ve never visited, I highly recommend it. I don’t even know where to start answering the question about what I like about living here. There really are so many things! I love the fact that I can drive an hour and be at Gordion, where King Midas lived and is buried. I love that I can drive two hours and visit an ancient Hittite capitol. I love that I can see ancient Ephesus, Pergamum, and innumerable other interesting old sites. Actually, there is an archeological dig going on right behind the Chinese restaurant that is down the street from my house! Living in Turkey has made me fall in love with history. I used to live in a city called Kayseri. My friend there was homeschooling her boys (my oldest was only a baby then) and as she was looking at their history book it mentioned a Hittite city where archeologists had found a lot of things that let them know about that ancient civilization. She looked at her boys and said, “You know, I think this is about 20 minutes away from our house.” How amazing is that?! Aside from the amazing history, Turkey has delicious food, hospitable people, and cheap, fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only that, but every building in Turkey has a man who comes to your door to deliver fresh baked bread every morning, and take out your garbage every evening. I love that when we go on vacation we can drive to the Mediterranean and stay in an inexpensive hotel right on the beach. In fact just a few weeks ago there was a holiday so we took a few days of vacation. I was sitting on the nearly deserted beach, watching an amazing sunset over the Mediterranean while my kids played in the warm water, and eating a pomegranate that was grown right there. Can life really get much better?! I could go on, but I think you get the picture, and probably want to move here yourself! 
Of course living in a foreign country comes along with a host of challenges as well. We have been here over eight years now, so it is feeling more and more like home, and so those challenges are getting less challenging as we get used to them. We spend hours and hours at the police station getting visas, there is always a huge stack of paperwork to do and no matter how much you prepare and do ahead of time something goes wrong. Banking, getting phone/internet/electricity/etc is a lot of work, especially as a foreigner. You can’t plan nearly as much into your day as you could in the US because it just takes longer. Another thing I just can’t get used to is the lack of planning. People don’t even seem to know the day school will start or get out until a week or two before it happens. You can put a lot of work into something and then no one will show up (even though people said they would come), or maybe far more people than you planned for will come. You just can’t tell. It’s not uncommon for someone to go visit a friend on a whim and then stay for two months! Turks are so nice, but also feel very free to give way too much advice and criticism (at least from an American perspective.) Every time I go outside I am told 1) I have too many kids. 2) They are not dressed nearly warm enough. 3) They are all going to get sick. 4) Any other random piece of very personal advice (for example, “Get your tubes tied,” or my personal favorite, “Your butt is big, you should lose some weight.” Another challenge is just the fact that it isn’t my culture. I think I will always feel a little distance from friends because our backgrounds are so very different.


3. Why did you decide to home-shool?
The schooling decision just kind of fell in our laps. Elise (our oldest) was doing part time Turkish school (at the private school where James teaches) and part time home school. Because she was so little I wasn’t too worried about making sure she learned absolutely everything – reading in English and basic math were my only goals for her first grade year (last year). I mostly wanted her to become more fluent in Turkish and to feel more a part of things. Being Americans and speaking English rather than Turkish in our home can often make my kids feel a kind of separation between themselves and the Turkish kids in our neighborhood. I don’t like that, and one of the ways I tried to prevent it was by sending Elise to Turkish school. This school year we were planning on sending her full time. It is a very good private school and teachers kids can go for free. Unfortunately they only have so many of those free slots and they were already full. The administration was also not open to the part time idea this school year, and the school just isn’t affordable for us, and so in the beginning of September our schooling plan fell through. We did not like the idea of sending her to the public school for various reasons and so I suddenly found myself homeschooling. Thankfully, I have always been open to homeschooling, so it wasn’t a big scary thing to me. In fact, aside from the whole idea of increasing fluency and using schooling as being more a part of the community, homeschooling would have been my first choice. Anyway, I started by looking up California’s second grade standards then looked up some other homeschool friendly stuff online, downloaded some books on my kindle, and away we went. It has been very enjoyable thus far. Elise and I are both learning a lot!

4. Is this accepted in Turkey? What are some of the reactions you get?
No, not at all. It is a completely foreign concept and completely unheard of. For the most part I’ve given up explaining how we’re educating our kids. No matter what I say, no one seems to understand. People don’t understand how I can get my kids to listen to me, do school work, etc. They also have a “leave it to the professionals” type of mindset here, for example, you don’t paint your own house, you hire a painter, you don’t teach your own kids, you let a trained teacher do it. Honestly I’m so sick of trying to explain that I now just say that Elise’s education is tied to the internet. It is true, as that is how I look up standards, download books onto my Kindle reader, and she uses Khan Academy online for a lot of her math work. It generally satisfies people far more than the idea of me teaching her. Of course if they ask further questions I’m happy to explain the nitty gritty of it, but I find the more I explain the more appalled they become. I’m pretty sure it is so far outside the box that they just can’t imagine it being in any way a good thing.
5. What are your challenges of schooling in a different country? Do you have a support sytstem?
The main challenge is with curriculum. Some of my friends are using Sonlight or other curriculums and have had huge problems getting it shipped here… they not only have to pay for the books, but also fork out an arm and a leg for shipping costs. Unfortunately all too often it gets stuck in customs. I know people who have paid $100 – $600 just to get the curriculum out of customs. It is really difficult and frustrating for many. I decided to bypass as much of that mess as possible by ordering nothing but a math curriculum (Excel), and using books I could download onto my kindle, the children’s books we have brought over or my parents have sent over the years, and the small library on the US Air Force base that a friend can sign me into. It isn’t ideal, but it works. 
I have a great support system. My mom recently retired from many years of teaching, I use skype and talk with her several times a week. She is a huge encouragement and great at helping me with any questions I have. She also is happy to send me almost anything I think I need, which is great. I also know a couple of moms who homeschool here in Ankara. We all use very different systems, but it’s nice just to have those connections. Finally, there is a great online community for homeschoolers. I got a lot of my ideas for what books to read and what to teach by looking online. A friend recommended charlottemasonhelp.com and it has been a huge help to me.


6. Describe a typical day in your house.

Our typical day probably doesn’t look too different from your typical day, with exception of hearing the call to prayer five times a day, and speaking Turkish when we’re outside our home. We all wake up and get breakfast and James goes off to work. I try to get started on schooling anywhere between 8 and 9 am. I’m new at this so I’m still working out the kinks – what order to do the lessons in, how to balance schooling and taking care of the baby, etc. We keep at it on and off until we have lunch around noon and shortly after that we all walk about a block to a preschool where my three year old and five year old attend half of the day. We want them to be very strong in Turkish and not feel so much like outsiders and so our solution has been to do some Turkish schooling. We really like the preschool we chose. The teachers are very friendly and our kids are happy and making friends. The baby, Elise, and I go back home. I spend another hour to hour and a half with her finishing up whatever we didn’t get to in the morning (like I said, we’re still working out the kinks so some days it’s math, some days it’s me reading her history book aloud, some days it is reading some of the library books we checked out.) At three I put baby Pearl in the stroller and Elise and I take a 15 minute walk to a “kids club” where she will hang out until six. It is basically an after school day care type of place for kids to go, do their homework, and play until their parents get done with work and can come pick them up. We send Elise to ensure her to be in a Turkish environment regularly. We do have a playground nearby and in the past we just took her there all the time. Unfortunately she really does not feel comfortable making new friends and playing with kids, she loves playing alone making fairy houses in the bushes. I love this about her, but it has made it hard for her to get beyond the basics in Turkish, which has made it difficult for her to really embrace living here. The few Turkish friends who she feels really comfortable with aren’t available to hang out and play on a regular basis, so this year after our schooling plans fell through, we decided to put her in this after school program. Right now she’s doing what she can to boycott the idea by refusing to speak a word of Turkish to anyone while she’s there. I really don’t like that, but at the same time I kind of feel like this is just one of those things we have to be firm on and push through until she gets it. We’re still looking for other alternatives but thus far, this is the best thing we can find. It is a safe environment and she is getting used to it and I think she even sometimes enjoys herself (although she would never admit it!)
After three, I sometimes take a walk with the baby, sometimes I go visit a friend or neighbor, sometimes I go to the market and do the grocery shopping, sometimes I plan lessons for an English Club I help teach on the weekends or for other programs I’m involved in. Living in a big city has it’s advantages and one of them is that I rarely have to use the car. I can do all of the above on foot, which I love. James picks up all the kids on his way home, between 5:30 and 6:00, then its dinner and bedtime. Sometimes we stay home in the evenings, sometimes we go visit someone, sometimes Elise and Marie go up the elevator (we live in a 10 floor building) to visit their friend Selin who lives on the 7th floor. James usually goes back out after the kids are in bed, for various meetings, or to work on some classes he is taking online.


7. What are your plans for the future in regard to schooling the kids?
I have no idea! I love the idea of continuing to homeschool them, but I also love the idea of being involved in the community more by having my children in the schools. Next year we will be in California for the school year and I really don’t know if I will homeschool or not. It’s just something we will continue to pray about and make decisions as the time comes.

Thank you, Jamie. I enjoyed learning about your life in Ankara. Especially your typical day. I’m forever curious how other mom’s organize their day. I had to laugh about the comments you are subjected to on the street. Would you believe that I get a lot of the same comments from my family when I go to Germany?

Friends what do you think about those field trips to Ancient Hittites ruins? That is pretty hard to top. Turkey has just moved up on my “places to go” list. Jamie didn’t mention that she is an artist. In the last picture you can see her doing Ebru with her daughter. This an Ottoman painting technique dating back to the 16oo’s.

I hope to do this again soon.

-Sofija

Photos were taken by Matthew Will- all rights reserved.

Home-schooling in Turkey

Interview with Sarah

Friends, I’m so exited to have you meet Sarah, a young lady from our church who was homeschooled, has earned her Bachelor degree, and is now working on her Masters. We are blessed to be part of a church that has quiet a few adults who have been homeschooled. People like Sarah reassure me that we are on the right track with educating our children at home.

Q: Sarah, describe for us your home-school experience. What was your day to day like?

A: I was solely home-schooled from K-5 Grade, where I did all my learning and instruction within the home from my mother. We worked mostly in the mornings and did chores and extra-curricular activities in the afternoons. In junior high and high school I was still home-schooled but also took classes once a week from a tutorial organization that was designed to assist home-schooling families. Because my work could be completed on my own timeline I became a nanny for two children three days a week while I was in high school and also took dance classes for twenty hours a week.

Q: What were the reasons your parents decided to home-school. Was this accepted in your community?

A: My parents chose to home school me and my two brothers because they wanted to have the final decisions over what information we would be learning. Because my father was in the Air Force it was also easier to home school us so we did not have to transfer to different schools throughout the various moves in our childhood. I always remember being a part of a home school co-op or some kind of extra group so I can’t really speak to if it was accepted in our community or not. Within our own circle of friends and peers it always seemed accepted because we did extra curricular activities with other home-schoolers.

When we began home-schooling in New Mexico we were also attending Foothills Fellowship Church in Albuquerque where there is a high population of home school families. We could again plug into a welcoming co-op were our homeschooling was supported. I had so many friends who were home-schoolers that it was really part of my culture growing up so I didn’t see the big difference until I was in high school.

Q: What did you like about home-schooling, and what did you not like?

A: I so appreciated the flexibility that home schooling allows. I loved completing the work on my own schedule while also having the freedom to be a nanny and spend so many hours at my dance studio. On the flip side, I did not like explaining to my peers what I did all day, and trying to combat the stereotypes of home schoolers. Often home schoolers are either seen as socially awkward or some young savant who goes to college at the age of 12, when in reality most homeschoolers simply just do their work at home instead of in a public institution. I always wanted to be exactly like all my friends when I was younger and hated giving my spiel about how I didn’t really “go” to school. Looking back at my education, I now fully appreciate being homeschooled because of the solid education I did receive, how it prepared me so well for secondary education, and how in reality I was probably saved from many temptations that I was not mature enough to refuse at the time. Being home-schooled allowed me to build my identity in Christ instead of the world, something I am now so grateful for!!

Q: Describe a favorite field trip, project, or internship.

A: Because my mom developed our curriculum she also looked for local opportunities that would reinforce the concepts we were learning at the time. I remember taking trips to the roundhouse in Santa Fe, NM and completing science projects outside instead of reading them out of a book. My mom always encouraged us to learn through songs and plays and to build up our creative sides. I still remember my favorite song we learned in an early English class: “A verb verb verb is an action word, so put me where the action is ‘cause I’m an action word!!” My favorite aspect about home-schooling was that it could be in many different forms and deliveries, but we still learned the material.

Q: How has home-schooling prepared you for college? What was the biggest challenge in college?

A: Home-schooling really prepared me for college by teaching me the necessary study traits to learn, study, and work on my own. I had built up a great school work ethic throughout my years at home and could transfer these skills to my work in college. Because of this independence in my schooling I found some classes really frustrating. Some professors would simply read or teach from a textbook, and due to my independent learning style I always felt that I could do that learning on my own, and wanted more out of some of my classes. Overall I found college to come easily for me and graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of New Mexico.

Q: What is your current profession and what plans do you have for your future?

A: I am currently getting my Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of New Mexico and will be graduating in Dec 2013. I plan to work in a rehab facility for a few years and then work long term as an occupational therapist in a school district. My husband and I also plan to have children when I finish my degree program. I do plan to work in the public school system to hopefully improve the educational experience of children with disabilities. Even though I enjoyed my home-schooling experience I am still on the fence on whether I will be home-schooling my own children or not. My husband and I have been endlessly blessed by the Lord and I will seek His guidance when this final decision is needed.

Thank you, Sarah!

Hasn’t she painted a vivid picture of her childhood that one can only dream of, lots of time to be creative and pursue your hobbies, but at the same time completing her work. I like how her mom used different approaches like songs, outside work, and plays. I need to make a note of that. I appreciate Sarah’s honesty about the challenges and struggles she had wanting to fit in. I also like that she is thoughtfully deliberating about her future children’s education. Isn’t that what we hope for, that our children one day critically weigh all options.

Interview with Sarah

Interview with Emily Mulder, a Second Generation Homeschooler

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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.

Interview with Emily Mulder, a Second Generation Homeschooler