San Antonio Home Educator Profile: Janet

Want to know what real home educators look like in the San Antonio area?  The following is a brief overview of one San Antonio homeschoolers.  Her real name is not used to protect her privacy.

How long have you been homeschooling?
6 years

How many children do you have?

Do you homeschool them all?

What are their ages?
11 and 6

Why did you decide to homeschool?
We decided to homeschool for several reasons.  The most important was because we felt the school was not providing our son with challenging enough material.  I was very involved with the school, class mom, PTA president, field trip mom and I was able to see how my son was getting along.  He had a great time, loved the other kids, but he was done with all the work way before the other children.  He would get into trouble each day for “talking” to the other kids.

What was happening was he would finish and then help the other kids figure out what they were doing.  The final straw came when his teacher asked me to teach him to be complacent in class.  Her words were, “I know it’s not something you would want for yourself or I would want for me but he asks too many questions and I don’t have time to answer them.  I have to get the other children up to the basic level he is too far ahead.”  We pulled him out the next week.

A couple of other reasons we homeschool are because we feel the schools are not safe for our children.  We also wanted to be more directly involved in what our children were learning.  The text books used in the schools are more often than not watered down, wrong, or biased in their information.  We wanted our children to learn to learn, not spit back information long enough to pass the next test and then forget it.

We have stronger control over our children’s behavior. Instead of having someone else attempt to teach them appropriate behavior at the same time their trying to keep Johnny boy from throwing fits because his parents think it is the schools responsibility to “educate” Johnny, we have direct interaction with our children every day.  My daughter can’t manipulate and charm the teacher with her big brown eyes–the teacher (me) already knows what she’s up to and keeps her on track.  My son doesn’t spend an hour on a lesson waiting for everyone to catch-up– he does the work, and moves on.  He can also spend two hours on math if he needs to and not feel like he is going to get into trouble or get behind.  He has also learned that he is in control of his education, whether he wants to take all day or just the three or four hours he actually needs to get his work done.

Did you try public/private school?
We tried public school and a charter school. We were very unsatisfied with the way the systems handled our son’s education.  The charter school was wonderful but was in its first year and there was no documentation available to keep me informed of how he was doing or what type of progress he was making.

What has been the hardest thing about homeschooling?
Staying motivated and not feeling inadequate as an educator has to be the hardest part for us.  Having a planned curriculum has helped a great deal because we now know what has to be done each day.  We like to play a great deal and having the curriculum helps show my husband what we have accomplished.  It also reminds me of what we have already taught and how much they are learning.

What has been the best thing about homeschooling?
The relationship our family has.  My husband, children and I have a bond with each other that could not exist if the children were not with us.  We have a direct, every day involvement with the creation of our children’s moral and ethical being.  When our children have a question about anything, we are available to help them find the answer.  Our children are comfortable with people from all ages and can play with children much older and much younger than themselves easily.  They are much more socially adept than children who attend public school.  They don’t segregate people because of their age or education level.

The second best part has to be watching my son and daughter play and learn together.  They have a true understanding of each other and actually like each other (most of the time).  The science experiments alone have created some really fun memories.

Do you use a set curriculum?
We do have a curriculum; however it is not set in stone.

What kind of curriculum do you use?
We use a curriculum created by a dear friend of ours.  She has taught college for several years and has more experience creating them than I.  She also plans to homeschool her children when she has them and is very interested in the homeschooling world.

How did you decide on the curriculum?
Our friend and I sat down and decided what subjects my son would need to cover.  We then started hunting online, at the bookstores, and half price books to find text books that would give my son a good over all education.  She wrote it all up and I put it into the scheduling program I have.  I was able to spread out the work over the entire year and ensure my son had a good cross section of lessons.  The challenge was not giving him too many subjects at one time.  He currently has 11 subjects that cover a broad range.

What do you wish you had known when you first started homeschooling?
I wish I had known that the feelings of insecurity were common.  It was so hard the first couple of years because I was educating my children in a way that was so alien to everything I was taught.  I was fortunate that my in-laws completely supported our decision to homeschool.  It helped balance the disapproval of my own family.

Are you a part of a homeschool support group or coop?
We do belong to a support group now.  For the first couple of years we tried different groups but it was so hard to find a group that would accept us.  We are non-christian and many of the known support groups required a statement of faith. We participated in a coop for a couple of years but we were always the odd ball out.  When we finally found families like ourselves, the families decided to create our own support group which now has over 71 families with all different types of teaching styles, religious beliefs and ages of children.

Has it been useful for you?
Yes, the support group we are now part of has fieldtrips, a chess team, play days, arts and crafts, holiday parties, and ordinary folk, like ourselves.  We have mom’s that sell curriculum, books and other stuff. We have mom’s that have taught French, science, math, and any other subject we would like to see. There are over 100 children in the group and my kids have “best” friends, sleepovers, birthday parties and all the other fun stuff that kids need.

What would your advice be to someone considering homeschooling?
I strongly suggest making sure your spouse agrees with you.  Educate yourself as much as possible about what is available in your area.  If your child has been in school, make sure he understands what is happening.  Allow him to have some “down” time after being pulled out.  Many new homeschoolers immediately jump into a full blown curriculum trying to mimic the school system style.  Parent and child soon get frustrated, annoyed, and fed up with everything.  Relax, take some time to have fun.  Go to the museums, the park, the library, and spend time getting to know each other, no one will end up working at McDonalds if they miss three months of Algebra and English lessons.  If you can, avoid purchasing any curriculum for a couple of months.  Find a support group and talk to the parents, see what they have done. You can probably purchase or borrow any number of different curriculums from them.  Most homeschoolers spend a great deal of money the first couple of years on stuff that just didn’t work for them.

What has been your experience in preparing/sending a homeschooler to college?
We haven’t gotten this far yet.  I am appreciating the ongoing work of other homeschool families that are paving the way for us though.

Explain your family circumstances:
We have mom, dad, son and daughter, a cat, an iguana, and a firebelly frog in our house.  Dad works days and funds the family’s life style on a very limited income.  Mom manages the home and is in charge of ensuring the kids are getting the “written” work done each day. She is also in charge of going to any activities the kids are involved in, such as play dates, chess tournaments, scouts, or field trips.  She also manages the bills and keeps the house from falling down around everyone’s ears.  Mom goes to school at night part time.  She is working on a degree in Business management and nonprofit management.  The goal is to be able to better manage her seamstress business and to become the office manager for contractors out of her home.

Some of the many challenges we deal with are mom’s Latex allergy which is life threatening.  It’s hard not being able to go to all the cool places we would like to go because Mom can’t be around any form of rubber.   The children have become ultra aware of mom’s allergic reactions and are almost militant in their protection of her.  The son has learned to ensure that mom has not become disoriented from reaction while driving.  The entire family is very aware of how precious life is and to enjoy each day with each other.

Give a typical week of homeschooling for your family.
A week in our house

Monday- thru Friday

Dad is up and out of the house by 5:45 am
Mom is up and checking email or working on homework by 6:30 am
Kids are up eating, making beds, getting chores done by 7:30 am
Written work is started by 8:30 unless there is a field trip.
Dad comes home for lunch at 11:00 am or lunch is taken to him.
Any errands, medical appointments or library runs are done after lunch
Dad gets done with work between 4:45 and 5:30
Dinner is around 6:30
Baths, stories and TV happen until 8:00 when kids go to bed

Tuesdays and Thursdays
Mom goes to class from 6- 9 pm

Son goes to scouts from 5:30 – 8 pm

Park day after lunch until 3 or 4.

Groceries, bills, prep for weekends done after lunch

What books or resources do you recommend?

The library… first…. there are many online resources depending on what style of schooling your going to do.

Anything else you want to contribute?

Get a Day Planner. I have a palm pilot and it is the best investment for keeping everyone on track.

Take breaks, keep your sense of humor, and send the kids to others every now and then for a break.

Plan for more car expense, I average 35,000 to 40,000 miles a year. If you fall in love with the zoo get a zoo membership, look into getting museum memberships if you can afford it.  If not, look up the free day schedule and plan it into your schedule.

Don’t try to do everything–you’ll burn out quick. Have realistic expectations. Unless your child is the next superstar of the year he won’t need fencing, kung-fu, swimming, art classes, music lessons, and theater all at the same time. If you want your child to have all of those skills, try one or two a year.

Be willing to let go and have fun.

A note about special needs.  We have several kids in our support group with “special” needs.  One in particular with Auzburg syndrome.  When they first started coming to the group, the child couldn’t spend more than 30- 40 minutes with the other kids without being completely over-stimulated and then she took days to come down from it.  Two years later she spends 2-4 hours every other week or so with us and is fine.  She has even spent the night with one of the other girls.  We all look out for each other and the kids know when to leave her alone and when to draw her into their play.  They don’t have a “label” for her, they just know sometimes she needs to be left alone.


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