Ask the Grad
by Tricia Lewis
Hi! My name is Tricia, and I am a homeschool graduate. I had a ten-year reunion in Japan with my entire graduating class . . . of one, of course. But let’s not tell the end of the story before the beginning; my homeschool experience started in third grade.
My parents started homeschooling in part because of the experiences that one of my sisters and I had in public school. I went to public school from K-2, and my sister just went to half-day kindergarten, but my parents saw peer pressure working on me, and the effect that teasing as well as some physical difficulties had for her. She has microtia, (a congenital ear deformity with a genetic component), as do two other siblings, and it was affecting her ability to hear and learn in the classroom setting.
How We Learned
Mom and Dad choose a denominational, self-paced curriculum and went to a training session for teaching reading, and started right in the next fall. As far as I know, they have never regretted the decision to homeschool.
I have 7 siblings, and my mom taught every one of them to read. One picked it up listening to her older sister’s lessons; another struggled with mild dyslexia, so mom took it slow, gave her some time, and her reading took off the next year. One of the benefits to us of homeschooling was that there was never a social stigma to taking the time needed to learn something thoroughly.
The strongest point of my homeschooling experience was the reading. When my mom went to the library, we all looked forward to reading the books she brought back. Sometimes she took one or two of us, and that was always a treat. Because the card was in my name, and I was a child under a certain age, there was a two-book limit per checkout, but they never enforced it for us. We checked out so many books, all the librarians memorized our card number, back before the digital scanning system. My mom would check out a half-dozen books for me alone most of the time. To this day, I have no idea exactly how many books I have read, and I still add 20-50 a year to the list – not counting the ones I read to my children, though most of those I have read before.
For those interested in curriculum, the curriculum my parents chose was a “PACE” type. Each of us had our own books that we worked through, largely on our own. My dad was the math expert if we ran into any difficulty with the concepts, and my mom was the spelling and grammar expert. In addition, except for me, there was always someone who had done it before and might be able to help. Finally, the curriculum company had a help line available, which we used a few times.
From my perspective now, this type of curriculum has some definite benefits for a large family with good reading skills. It’s not for everyone, but it does have its place. I learned to be self-motivated and how to set reasonable goals, things that may not be as necessary with some other types of curriculum.
Pluses and Minuses
One of the few regrets I have from my school years is only slightly related to homeschooling – I still wish I had taken music lessons, perhaps piano or another instrument. I was able to teach myself some, but even now my ability to read music is limited. My parents had limited resources as my dad was, at the time, a self-employed stone mason and were not able to afford music lessons. Also, neither is particularly musical themselves, and so that aspect of my education was not as developed.
One unusual part of our education was that once we were about Junior High or High School age, we began working at the family business. While there are downsides to working full time, or very nearly so, while in High school, some of the benefits to us were that we gained a solid understanding of business and handling money, and we built up a healthy savings account. Though I think the work experience is valuable, I plan to limit the hours that this occurs if our children have similar opportunities. One of the downsides to my family’s working hours was that few of us completed the curriculum and qualified for a diploma from the curriculum company. On the other hand, every one of us took and passed a GED with high scores.
Life After Homeschool
I went on to a 4 year college institution. I found that homeschooling did not hinder my experience there in the least, though I did have to hone my note-taking skills for one particularly challenging professor. I graduated with honors and a degree in Elementary Education. One motivation for pursuing that degree was the possibility of legislation changing the requirements for homeschooling or living in a state in the future where one had to have a teaching degree and/or license in order to educate your children at home. Even back then, I was certain that I would want to home educate my children.
After college, I taught for two years in a Christian school in Texas, two more years in Ohio, and then went and taught English as an Assistant Language Teacher for a total of 30 months in public Jr. High schools in Japan. During that time, I met and married my husband (who was living in Ohio!) We married during a break, and he moved to Japan for 8 months.
After being released from our contracts in Japan when we became pregnant with our first son, we moved back to Ohio. We since have been blessed with a second son as well, and my primary job now is that of a stay at home mom. I am still keeping my teaching license current by taking graduate classes toward eventually earning a Master’s Degree in Education, and I also do some tutoring locally as well. My favorite part of the tutoring I am doing now is introducing children to the fun that can be found in reading.
Incidentally, I also have recently completed training to become a driving instructor in the state of Ohio. There is a possibility that my husband and I will have the option of owning and operating a driver training school sometime in the not-to-distant future. Maybe the experience I gained with the family business during my high school years will be utilized more fully in this venture!
I also hope to be able, given the opportunity, to help others who want to homeschool but are not confident of their ability to do so, or are experiencing difficulty with teaching their children. At this point, I am enjoying the earliest stages of learning at home as my two-year-old learns the alphabet and how to spell a few simple words, and my one-year-old learns to walk and talk.
When it comes to homeschooling, I am convinced that if a parent is able to be actively involved in their child’s life, in most cases they would also be the best teacher for that child. They know their children better than others, have a vested interest in each one’s success, and have the motivation to put in time and effort, when needed, to help them. I know from my own experience as a teacher in a classroom, that even though I cared deeply, I simply did not know them as well, nor did I have the time that my own busy mother of eight had to help her children succeed.
Tricia Lewis can be contacted on facebook. Please mention that you met her on this blog when requesting friendship.