From as an early as I can remember, my son Ben, had a fascination with storms. As a young boy, he would intently watch the weather on the news and would give our family daily forecasts- asking me to film his oratories. His thirty minutes a day of screen time were spent going on the weather channel, watching weather documentaries, and going on mapping websites. As he grew older, he had a greater need and desire to connect with other kids with similar interests. We brainstormed and decided to start the Homeschool Weather Club. Through this club, he connected with other families and kids who shared his passion. They went to science fairs together, did weather projects, shared favorite websites, documentaries, and personal weather photographs and videos. They viewed storms together, passionately discussed them, and even developed and held fundraisers for tornado victims in national disaster areas.
In order to learn writing, I decided to use my son's interest in weather. We had "Writing, Waffle Wednesdays"-and still do today with the rest of my kids. Each Wednesday, we make homemade waffles, sit down and write. I invite kids to write letters to someone, write a story, or write about something that they are interested about. We brainstorm ideas, each child picks one, and I support them in learning the technical aspects of writing throughout this process. This "WWW day" has led to enriched relationships with relatives and friends. It has also developed an overall enjoyment in writing because the kids are connecting with loved ones, being creative or are writing about something that they are genuinely interested in. Often, Ben would choose a weather-related subject, research it and write about it. By age 10, he was reading college level books on the weather and writing about advanced storm topics.
When it came time to discern high school - homeschooling or traditional school - we decided that traditional school was the right answer for Ben. He was an athlete and desired to pursue high school athletics. He also felt ready to go out into the world, take on the challenge of traditional school, and become more a part of his peers. We discerned that he would attend a private Christian school and therefore needed to prepare for their high school entrance exam. Because Ben had never been tested or graded before, we decided to spend a good chunk of his 8th grade year preparing for this exam. We bought test prep books, took multiple tests and utilized them - not only to prepare him for the entrance exam, but also to prepare him for high school work. I bought an online program as well in science that graded him and provided weekly quizzes and tests, to prepare him for the learning style of traditional school. Because we had the freedom to focus on this high school prep work and entrance exam studies, Ben ended up obtaining the highest score on the entrance exam at this high school and received a scholarship with half of his tuition paid for. Through this experience, I have learned that if we focus on the on the needs, passions and goals of our children in the present moment, then that will lead them to success in God's plan for tomorrow. There is no need to fear, for God is with us and with our children today. If we spend time in prayer, know the Lord's voice and know the hearts and passions of our children, then He will guide us into His plan for them and reward us with good fruits. This we must trust.
As a traditional high schooler, Ben was successful both academically and athletically and his love for weather and mapping never waned. He became an avid weather photographer and videographer. He sent in a weather video to the local news station of our house being hit by a 100 mph wind storm. Our family and home were then featured on the news. He met his meteorology mentor, Reed Timmer, of the national show Storm Chasers, through entering his writings into a local weather essay contest. He shadowed at the local National Weather Center with a fellow Homeschool Weather Club member and friend. As a senior in high school, he decided to enter one of his hand drawn maps of Nebraska into the 200th Anniversary State Fair and won the award for the best adult pencil drawing. He also declared his major of meteorology and applied for a scholarship through the United States Airforce which would pay for his college, provide a monthly stipend and allow him to become a Weather Officer in the Airforce upon graduation. Ben interviewed, performed a physical fitness exam, wrote essays for this scholarship, and received it. He is now studying at a private Christian university with 90% of his college education paid for and living out his dream of becoming a meteorologist. He also said that reading college books during his grade school years of homeschooling, certainly helped him in his Intro to Meteorology class - he already knew most of the material!
Through Ben's journey, I have learned that if we follow our kids’ natural interests and allow them to pursue their passions, they will soar. They will learn how to read, how to write, how to present, how to create, how to serve and how to use their gifts and give of themselves in this world. Our job is to attend to them, to be present to them, to walk alongside them, to see who they are, and to reflect who they are with encouragement and love. Through this loving reflection, we are then called to support them with the resources, education and creativity needed so that they can be the person that God intended them to be in the world... then as parents, we can watch them spread their wings and fly.
I have been homeschooling for nineteen years and the longer I homeschool, the more I realize that I don't have all of the answers. I used to think that homeschooling was the way, the best way, and I was on a mission to convince everyone of this truth. Yet, now, as I have put two children in high school (one full time and one part time), and I see many great families who have wonderful children in school, I see it as just one way. Yet, I see it as a way that I still feel called to share with others - not as the way anymore, but as a very viable and fruitful option for families full of possibilities.
I just visited with a dear friend of mine who asked me about my children. I proceeded to share with her all of the many different endeavors that my kids were involved in - animal breeding, art making, music playing, and various from the ground up, business ventures. She looked at me, paused, and said, "I would've loved to learn the way your kids learn. Wouldn't you have too? It's so free- so organic- and I think that my mom would've done it if she would've known about that possibility."
Her comment hit me to the core... "if she would've known about that possibility." And so, I am sharing 'that possibility' with you in this blog. It is not the way, but it is our way. It is not meant to be your way - for everyone's way should and must be unique to their own gifts, talents, personalities and family circumstances. Yet it is simply an example of another way - a way that is different than traditional schooling or traditional homeschooling, for that matter. It is a way that is not perfect, for perfection is not possible, but it is a way that is eclectic and flexible way that allows each one of us to have the freedom to be who we are. It involves some workbooks, but a lot of learning on the fly- through real life experiences. It is mostly child-led, interest-led, parent supported. It involves learning through living life together as a family - surrounded by God's gifts of animals, nature, gardens, and creative experiences. It is our journey and I hope that it helps you to believe in new possibilities for your family's journey too. Let's begin...