Adversity and Action Create Opportunity for Homeschool Family in Oregon

by Kimberley McGee
How we homeschool in Oregon

 

I found Homeschooler Life on Instagram and love their adventurous posts. I reached out and asked K if she’d share her homeschool journey as part of our How We Homeschool series. Her journey from public school to inspired homeschool mom was fraught with difficult situations that the family has not only overcome but flourished. (We are only using first initials out of caution for her family.) Her rise from a single mom fresh from an abusive relationship to thriving homeschool family is inspiring. Roadschooling series as well. Come back each Friday for a new homeschool family’s triumphs, lessons and favorite resources.

What inspired you to homeschool?

Initially I hadn’t thought too much about homeschooling, but after multiple huge changes in our lives, it became evident that homeschooling was the best choice for our family. It has been the perfect fit for us since we dove into it 6 ½ years ago.

My children and I are survivors of domestic violence, so our story and what led us to homeschooling is very different from most families. For 11 years I was married to my children’s biological father. Shortly after our daughter was born his true colors emerged. He was verbally, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and physically abusive, controlling, manipulative and a pathological liar. To make matters way worse he became addicted to meth and an alcoholic during the latter half of the marriage. As you can imagine it was tortuous and tumultuous for myself and my two young kids living in that environment.

After four years of abuse that kept getting worse daily, I was finally able to flee to safety with the kids and fully became a single parent when my son was 4 years old. I was a full-time student at the time and thrown into single parenting while simultaneously working to process and heal, not just myself but two kiddos, from all the horrendous scars and battle wounds left on us emotionally, physically, in our hearts, and minds. It was so much to handle all at once but, somehow, we got through it.

How did you move on?

During this time the kids had their world turned upside down, we moved to a new city and they started attending new schools. It was a lot for all of us to navigate through. A year and a half later, I had re-met an amazing man I’d known from my childhood and we got married. After two years of having the kids in the public school we decided to try out the charter school to see if it was a better fit for the kids.

Each had dealt with bullying and some other issues in the public school so it hadn’t been the best fit. Since they both had suffered so much already it was really difficult for them to navigate as well. The charter school was very rigorous academically, which proved to really stress our kids out (who each had to skip a grade in math and writing to be in their classes at the charter school).

Our daughter had 3-4 hours of homework each day after school and every weekend and our son had a lot as well. It was just too much, especially considering they were only in elementary school. So, that was what drew us to look into homeschooling. I read every book I could get my hands on that focused on the topic of homeschooling.

What resources helped you?

A few of the most influential and inspiring came from Sarah Mackenzie’s “Teaching From Rest, a Homeschooler’s guide to Unshakable Peace” and Vicki Caruana’s “The Organized Home-Schooler”. Both books brought me lots of insight, tips and encouragement that helped shape how I plan our days, lesson plans and have been very good aides. It was very helpful to get some insight from other homeschool mommas that have been in the trenches for several years and most of them recommended these two books as a great place to help me get my bearings

What have been the benefits of homeschooling?

We have gained back our time with our kids. With everything they have been through it has benefited them so much to have the consistency and safety of home and a learning environment that is conducive to how they learn. They can focus on their interests. It has truly made a world of difference for all of us and helped them to soar to new levels in their schooling.

We gained back so much time that was being lost every day, either with school work, classroom time, bus rides to and from school, etc. Now our days are more structured but include so much more flexibility and freedom in that structured schedule.

 

What does a typical day look like?

We start between 9-9:45 a.m. We usually enjoy taking our time a bit more in the mornings and eat a good breakfast, chat about our plans for the day and then everyone gets to work. My daughter is in a dual enrolled program as a H.S. Junior and 1st year as a freshmen at our local community college this year. Her work load varies day-to-day/week to week. She either is working on projects, papers, homework or on a Zoom class.

Now that she is older, my job is mainly helping her stay on track with her work load. I help her time manage, proof and edit papers. My son’s day generally begins with a little bit of journaling. We move into his writing work, spelling and literature before we move onto math. After math we work on social studies/history (we are doing a unit study on government & elections this year to tie into the election coming up), or we work on his science studies (we swap back and forth usually covering one topic every other day.

This allows us to spend more time diving into the info we are studying, to include field trips or experiments and other exploration of those topics as we are lead), next he will spend about 20-30 minutes reading a novel. Lastly we alternate between art, baking, craft, field trips and other extracurricular activities as we have them planned. Our days end around 2 p.m.

What has worked?

This type of schedule has worked really well for us. It allows a lot of freedom to switch things around often and to cater to changes in our schedule, etc. But it also provides both kids with consistency in that they know the general schedule and what topics they will be covering and what order to work through them.

We also love that we have so much freedom to travel whenever we want! Our family has gone on so many fun adventures together and have several more planned trips for this school year. We love incorporating things and places we are studying into our trips. We can create all these special memories together. It has been one of our biggest highlights and greatest benefits of homeschooling.

 

Any advice for other moms?

It has been helpful to join a co-op or join a homeschool community and to connect with other families as a support group and encouragement source. It has been so great to have other mommas to reach out to during a rough day. Whether it’s to seek advice, support or just a listening, understanding ear of someone else who is going through similar issues.

Another bonus is that it has helped my kids to create some amazing friendships and helps to beat the “stigma” that homeschool kids are unsocialized. My kids also are very involved in their church youth group programs, book clubs, extracurricular activities, have volunteered with several programs at our local library, a veterans’ home, assisted with organizing a toy drive for underprivileged families & feeding the homeless in our community.

They have also been involved with multiple programs like summer camps, summer jobs/volunteer jobs, outdoor school and sports programs. They have actually done more and been involved in more groups since we began homeschooling than we ever would have had time for before. Now we have the flexibility in our schedule, which allows for those activities.

Have you ever had to deal with naysayers?

I have run into is nosy busy bodies in a grocery store or post office asking why my kids weren’t at school. I replied “They are at school.” They were getting a real-life lesson in keeping a budget while meal planning, comparing prices at the grocery store, or how to task manage with all the regular errands adults do on a daily basis.

Usually, the adults would then respond with “Oh, that is really amazing,” and congratulate my kids that they would be so well prepared for life. Other than that, I think that when I’ve shared the facts that my 5th grader was reading at a college level or that my 10th grader was taking early college courses or my 11th grader will be able to graduate a year early and will graduate with an associate’s degree has answered their concerns that my kids won’t be prepared for life or might “fall behind.”

The fact that we have traveled and seen so many of the places they have studied in person and my kids can ramble off so many random facts about their favorite memories and associate them with history while most kids can’t say that has helped to open the eyes of some of the naysayers. Thankfully most of our friends are very supportive either they homeschool themselves or have other family & friends that do and all of our family has been very supportive so we have a great support network that has encouraged us to keep plugging away through any rough patches we’ve encountered.

What has been a surprise in your homeschooling?

Probably that my kids wouldn’t be giddy happy and eager to learn every curriculum that I have thought they would love. Sometimes the best teaching method has been to sit back, plan less and allow them to discover on their own. Allow them the opportunities to grow from their mistakes and areas that I never saw being of interest to them.

I’ve realized over the years that the less that I expect my kids to “love a topic” or push them to try something new, the more they have come to it with their own interests and desires to pursue those things. If I lay out a few copies of books, a list of some movies, documentaries or a simple suggestion of a place we might want to explore, that has led to them discovering on their own how interesting or exciting a particular place, person or event could be.

I tend to be more of a delight directed, Charlotte Mason approach, eclectic homeschool momma. I make our weekly lesson plans with the mentality that it is more of a guide of where we could go instead of a set plan that I can’t veer from. I like having the flexibility and freedom to shift our plans or throw them out the window if they aren’t working or something more interesting comes on our radar.

One of the biggest surprises has been to learn about all the resources there are available now to homeschoolers. There are so many new avenues, curriculum choices, teaching methods and learning styles available and so many programs out there that are specifically geared to homeschool students.

What curriculum have we used/enjoyed?

The best advice I can give is to try some out and see which your kids respond to. Don’t be afraid to take your time learning which are the best fit, seek lots of advice from other friends and fellow homeschoolers as well as check out curriculum in person before you buy whenever possible because it is the best option to really know what you are purchasing. Also, it is important to know that there will be times you will have to chuck out things, they may not work for what you need or you and or your kids may just hate it. Don’t fret or worry though as we’ve all been there and it’s really not the end of the world, it will all work out! Take your time and try a few things out before you decide to go all-in on a curriculum. Mixing and matching several companies, curriculums may be the best bet for your family, don’t feel pressured to buy one entire curriculum package as it usually isn’t always a one size fits all and what works for one kiddo most likely won’t for the next. Feel free to adapt your curriculum to you and your needs not the other way around. 🙂 Here are some of our favorites that we’ve tried: For our first several years we used the “Story of the World” curriculum for our history. We loved that instead of just a lot of boring dates and facts that a lot of typical history textbooks tend to have it presented the information in story format that was geared to children in elementary & middle school which made it really easy for us to join that subject together regardless of the fact that my kids are 3 grades apart.

They loved that it included not only stories but it offered a lot of crafts and projects that were focused on the topic we were studying. That worked really well for my daughter who is a visual learner and my son who tends to be more of a kinesthetic, auditory learner. It fit both of their learning styles and held their interests really well. We also loved using “Apologia” for Science, health and our bible study our first several years. We enjoyed the Who is God study that we used for a family bible study (it helped to answer a lot of questions and to lead us in some great family discussions), we also found the exploring creation health, zoology 1, 2, & 3 and the astronomy series. Their whole collection is wonderful and very thorough. My kids have both found this curriculum to be excellent. We have also liked “Math U See” as our math curriculum the past 5 years. It fits both of my kids’ learning styles, it provides video explanations of the curriculum, builds on itself and incorporates several skills into one year.

For spelling, we have liked “Wordly Wise 3000”. It includes spelling words, their definitions, several activities/lessons to build an understanding of the meaning and assist with learning multiple ways to use the word in everyday lingo, sentences etc. At the end of the week there are quizzes/tests and chapter tests as well. My kids have both expanded their vocabularies and understanding of words through this program. Another thing we have included is to find a good journal for kids and have each child write for 20-30 minutes daily, sometimes they follow a journal prompt in their journal or other days they just answer questions or write whatever is on their mind. Our favorites have been “Prompt Me’ journal, Start Where you Are”, “Learn, grow, succeed” and several gratitude-themed journals for kids we’ve found on Amazon.

This year we are using Master books the world story for history and it is by far our favorite thus far. My son loves the storytelling used to teach the history lessons, the beautiful art and photographs of places we are studying as well as the activities included in the lessons that help to really bring history alive for him. We are using the Lost Tools of Writing this year and so far have really been enjoying its easy approach to writing and that it clearly lays out the method behind writing and why we follow a set method/approach. It breaks down which steps to do first and what order to follow them so it takes the guesswork out of the lessons and is geared more for middle school age.

What advice can you offer homeschooling parents in Oregon?

Look up Teach Northwest, Paisley, Fossil, Baker, Sylvies and Dallas DLP programs if you live in Oregon and are interested in a charter program for homeschool families. Also, check into outdoor school and summer camps and 4-H groups specifically geared to homeschoolers.

My kids have done sports with the local high school and middle school as homeschool students. All that was required was a sports physical and filling out a little paperwork at the school for them to be on the team. If you call ahead and ask, many places offer special dates, group events or discounts for homeschoolers. We have had many field trips and received a lot of discounts at numerous locations simply because I asked.

Research and contact homeschool groups in your area to join them for learning opportunities, classes, field trips and group gatherings to build your community. If you can’t find any don’t be afraid to start your own! We joined a co-op right at the beginning phase and were able to help shape how it looked by sharing our input and getting to know the leaders. It is an excellent way to make new friends and to expand your community.

Several groups of interest for anyone in Oregon or moving to Oregon: Oregon homeschool buy and sell group on FB, Homeschooling in Oregon on FB, Oregon Homeschool Science Club on FB, OCEANetwork on FB, Linn & Benton County Homeschoolers unite on FB Helpful Homeschoolers on FB, and Outdoors in Oregon with Homeschoolers on FB. There are hundreds of groups but these are some of my favorites that we have really enjoyed.

For new homeschool families I would also suggest setting one day a month (or more) for a field trip, science experiment or art day to give yourself permission for some extra fun with your kiddos and to provide a day of exploration and adventure at least once a month.

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