Why I Homeschool, by Cheryl

 

My husband and his siblings were homeschooled, while I went to public and private school. I always wanted kids, but I also always planned to send my kids to school because that is what I did. I knew nothing about homeschooling. A few months after we were married we made friends with a family at our church; they homeschooled their three children. They were our best friends, and I spent a great deal of time with their family, even living with them for a week when a giant ice storm knocked out our power! It was watching this family that helped me gain the initial confidence that I could actually homeschool.

If we had stayed in Missouri, we were going to homeschool to allow flexibility to visit family in Oklahoma. When we moved home to Oklahoma, we researched districts and schools and bought a house in a highly ranked district with a great neighborhood elementary school! Then I called to enroll our oldest in kindergarten.

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Why we started:

Aidan had learned to read very easily at four years old. He loved to sit and do workbook pages. He could sit for an hour at a time and do thirty or more pages in a sitting. I let him. He learned addition and subtraction. He could do two-digit problems in his head, quickly. He could count to 100. His handwriting was better than most adults’ writing. He was more than ready for kindergarten; in fact, in most subjects, he tested at a second grade level.

We missed the cut-off date for kindergarten by three weeks, so he would have been in preschool where he would be “taught” his letters and numbers. There are no exceptions, no testing, just preschool. I checked with public and private school. I called the district office and talked to a woman who said, “We would hope that his teacher could keep him busy with work on his level.” Hope! Hope that a teacher with a class full of students could keep one kid busy with harder work. We decided that preschool was not the place for our son.

One private school said that if we homeschooled kindergarten, they could test him for first grade the next year but he did need one year of school before they could test him. (It is a blended school: two days at school and three at home.) That became our plan. Homeschool kindergarten, test into first grade at the private school; or if I really messed up kindergarten, enroll him in kindergarten at the public school and call our year at home a very rigorous preschool year. 

Kindergarten went very well. We loved every minute of our “school time,” and our son excelled. By the end of kindergarten, it was obvious that a brick and mortar school would not serve his needs. I don’t know if he is gifted, as we haven’t tested him, but he is smart and he is quick. He needed to move at his own pace.

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Once we moved on to first grade we discovered that homeschooling just worked better for our family for a variety of reasons.

Why we continue:

1. We keep a crazy schedule with our performing arts academy. If the kids were in school, most days I would only see them an hour, if that.

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2. When we have musicals, we are at the theatre until all hours of the night. I can let them sleep in during those weeks. We can even take the week off from school if we want.

3. We love the extra family time we get. Being a fully self-employed family, we are together more than we are apart. My kids don’t know how blessed they are to have as much time with their dad as they get.

4. All that togetherness means that my kids are each other’s best friends. Do they fight? Yes. But they get along really well most of the time.

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5. I can pick what they learn and when they learn it. I can tailor our school plans to my children’s needs and interests. We have had fun making up our own science this year. I have also thrown in some extra history when I have books and videos that line up with our curriculum. I also know everything they are learning. I am even learning many things with them.

6. My kids are still young. In three hours we are done with school. We can go to the zoo, the pool, the park, the science museum. We can do a puzzle, have creative play time, or just be lazy and watch TV. My kids get a lot of free-play time.

The longer we homeschool, the more I realize that this is what I am supposed to be doing. I cannot imagine my life if my kids were at school all day. My house might be cleaner and I would have fewer books (but who says that is a good thing!), but I would be bored. My kids keep me entertained and on my toes. I have not questioned for even one day whether we made the right decision for our kids and our family.

 

Chercherylyl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

 

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Understood Betsy and Me: Why I Homeschool, by Caitilin Fiona

 

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Understood Betsy is one of those books. Those books are the ones that help to form and inform your life in some serious way. In my case, Betsy has informed both my parenting and my homeschooling, which is a bit odd, now that I think about it: there’re no parents and definitely no homeschooling in it at all! What is central to the book, though, is self-knowledge and strength: that is, the strength of character that self-knowledge brings with it. It is a very dated novel, to be sure; it is highly moralizing, and the author constantly intrudes upon the story, just to be completely sure you’re not missing the point she’s making. But in spite of these flaws, or perhaps, strangely, even because of them, it has been for me an effective philosophical treatise on the goals of child-rearing.

The first and central truth Betsy teaches is the vital place of unconditional love in the soul of a child. Betsy is first loved unconditionally by her Putney cousins, for though Aunt Frances, her first primary caregiver, loves her, it is as an extension of herself, not as the separate and whole person that is Betsy. It is from the deep, strong, solid but unspoken love of Ann, Abigail, and Henry that Betsy draws her strength. This is the parental love I’ve striven to give to my own children, and to share with my students. I believe in them, and as I do, they’ve not disappointed me.

My believing in my children and in my students is manifested in the fact that I see them and, consequently, treat them as real people. By this I mean that I try not to talk down to them, and that I try to engage them as much as I can on an equal footing, just as Abigail and Henry do when they teach Betsy how to make butter. They teach her by showing her how it is done, and then by letting her do it herself, because they believe that she is capable of it. I never assume that something is beyond them, and they, like Betsy, rise to meet the challenge.

In contrast to Abigail and Henry’s sensible and loving attitude, Aunt Frances has always tried to prevent Betsy from doing anything for herself, preferring instead to cultivate in her the permanent feeling of fearful helplessness which mirrors Frances’ own experience of the world. She is the ultimate in helicopter parenting: nothing, from food to dreams, from school to music, is Betsy allowed to experience unmediated. In Frances we are shown what Betsy herself would have become if she had never met her Putney cousins and the freedom they share with her.

Betsy is able to receive this freedom from her new family because they get out of the way, out of the way of her learning and experiencing the world on its, and her, own terms. This is something for which I reach in my parenting and in my homeschooling. When I get out of the way, I give my five year-old the space to investigate how shadows work by lying in the sun, moving a Playmobil figure into different attitudes; I give my teenagers the space to explore and develop their relationship with God and toward faith. Home education is at least as much about what is not said as what is.

The deepest lesson I’ve learned from Understood Betsy, though, has to do with self-reliance. From Cousin Ann, Betsy has learned the great lesson of how to face trouble straight on. She saved Molly from the Wolf Pit, because she was able to think critically, and rely on her own judgment. She was able to get herself and Molly home from the fair when they’d been left behind because she used what modern educators like to call problem solving skills and creativity, and relied on herself. Finally, she has learned to rely on herself in that most complex and hard-to-navigate strait–human relationships–when she saves herself and Aunt Frances from the struggle that would have been their reunited lives, and she does so with kindness and love. This development and use of one’s own good judgment is what I pray for and work toward with my own children. It is the final and most important lesson that Betsy shares with us.

In my view, self-reliance is what makes us homeschoolers, and good ones. Homeschooling is being “in no grade at all!” all the time, but as we travel down our paths toward the goal of well-educated children, we, like Betsy, come to see that the names of grades, levels, styles, and curricula don’t matter. What does matter is the progress we have made and continue to make toward the goal, relying on our children, ourselves, and their and our own good sense. We can–in fact, we should, we must!–learn from our foremothers, and from our fellow travelers. But in the end, we all must “walk that lonesome valley…nobody else can walk it for [us], [we] got to walk it [for ourselves].” For though the valley can sometimes be lonesome, it is ours, and we should walk through it smiling and confident.

Ask Caitilin: Finding a Homeschool Support Group

 

Question:

Where and how do I find a homeschool group? What is a co-op and why would I want to join one?

Answer:

Homeschool Support Groups

You can find a homeschool group in several ways. (I found mine by accident, but I don’t recommend that as a search strategy!) The first question is, do you know any homeschoolers, even if only tenuously? If you do, ask them. They may not be your “type” of homeschooler, but chances are good that they know at least the names of other homeschool groups in your area, and often can direct you to a knowledgeable person in one those groups.

The second thing to try is to get on the Google and search “homeschool group, Your City.” You may not have success if homeschooling is still relatively small and/or new in your community, or if no one locally has the skill or inclination to have set up a website, but this is a good second bet. Another possibility is meetup.com, where people can create their own groups for any purpose imaginable, including homeschooling. Also, check Facebook! With the advent of Facebook groups, this has become a popular and effective way for like-minded people to find one another.

My last suggestion is to ask around in your community. If you belong to a religious community, ask there. Check with the children’s librarians at your local library–it’s very likely they see any homeschoolers there are! Try the community center(s) in the area, or any other place open to the public with space available for group use. Basically, ask around!

Co-ops

Co-ops are cooperative endeavors of parents who jointly provide educational and enrichment activities for their children in a group learning environment. The reasons for joining a co-op are that some activities work better–or in some cases only–in a group context; that a parent may feel ill-equipped to provide instruction in a particular area, such as art or music or science; that it provides to students, and often to parents, a social outlet with people who share a large common value.

You might want to join a co-op if your children are feeling isolated, or if you wish they could participate in, say, choral music. You might want to join one if you feel as if you never see an adult from one week’s end to the next. You might want to participate in a strong academic co-op with teachers hired to teach classes in their areas of expertise.

One caveat: sometimes co-ops sound better than they actually end up being. If you try one, but soon find yourself wishing you you’d never heard of the dratted thing, then quit! It’s not worth it to devote your time and energy to something that isn’t working for you. Homeschooling can look many different ways, and because Co-op ABC makes your friends happy and successful homeschoolers doesn’t mean it will do the same for you. Know yourself, and join or don’t join accordingly.

Homeschool groups and co-ops can be a real safety net of sanity for homeschoolers, mothers and children alike, especially in the first years, when so much is new and uncharted. If you can, I would encourage you to join a group, just to plug in to the the assets available to homeschoolers in your community. From there, you might like to join a co-op, and take advantage of the opportunities for group studies and activities. If nothing else, it may be worthwhile to find an online community to go to for support, as occasionally classical homeschoolers find themselves in the minority in their local homeschool communities. But whatever you decide, choose the right fit for your own family and homeschool, and be at peace.

Caitilcaitlin_fionain Fiona–Caitilin is the mother of six children, ranging from high school down to early elementary, all of whom she has homeschooled from the beginning. Her particular interests in the homeschool universe include teaching Latin, Shakespeare, and Great Books. Outside of homeschooling, her interests include languages, literature, theology, cookery and nutrition, movies, and fooling around, er, researching on the Internet.

Why I Chose Homeschooling, by Nancy Gauvreau

 

I’m not a religious fanatic. I’m not a rebel. I’m not “one of those parents.” I just wanted more for my children.

My daughter started out in public school. I sent her off to kindergarten in a little dress, with a lunchbox, and a bow in her hair, and I hoped that she’d love kindergarten as much as I had.

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Her experience was nothing like mine. Every day, my five-year-old sat at a little desk most of the day and did worksheets and tried not to wiggle too much. Every day, she tried to sit quietly and not talk too much. And every day she sat through a “silent lunch” period before losing some or all of her 15-minute daily recess as a punishment for being too talkative in class.

Still, I sent her off to first grade when the time came. That was just what people did. The same thing happened. One day she even came home with a “demerit” for talking too much. She sobbed as she said, “I got a demerit today, Mommy, and I don’t know what that is, but it’s bad!”

And then she got an F in math. “I’m bad at math,” she told me forlornly. When I called to find out what the issue was, as I’d never been notified that she’d been struggling with math, I was told she understood the math just fine. The problem was she had missed a few assignments due to illness or vacation and the teacher didn’t find time to allow her to make them up, and wouldn’t send them home as she had to make sure my daughter was the one doing the assignment. Otherwise I might do it for her.

Furthermore, the kids were told to draw pictures illustrating how they had arrived at their solutions. My creative, artistic daughter would take her time, drawing elaborate pictures, and then she wouldn’t have time to do the other side of her worksheet, resulting in a “0.”

When she got home at nearly 4 PM, she had energy to burn. She wanted to play and do her own thing. But there was an hour’s worth of homework to be done, and we needed to have dinner, and it was a school night.

By the time she reached third grade, she had stress stomachaches nearly every day from feeling pressured about standardized testing. Whatever was to be on the test was all the class focused on.

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Where was the love of learning? Where was the well-rounded education? Where was the chance to be a kid and play and create and imagine and to be an individual? I could literally see the spark going out of her, and I was just done. There had to be something more, something better.

I researched homeschooling day and night until I gathered enough confidence to take the plunge. And once I took it, I never looked back.

Today, my daughter is a 13-year-old seventh grader. She complains about math, but she enjoys social studies and science. She loves to write, and has a talent for it. She sings really well and takes voice and guitar lessons. She’s a green belt in judo, volunteers whenever the opportunity arises, and reads tons of books. She still loves art. I like to think her education is well-rounded.

And she’s got her spark back.

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Nancy Gauvreau

 

Nanancyncy Gauvreau is a mom of four. She pulled her teenaged daughter out of school toward the end of third grade in March of 2009 and never looked back. Her youngest two have never been to school. She homeschools secularly in Pennsylvania and has never donned a denim jumper in her life, although she will admit to driving a minivan.

Legalizing Homeschooling: A Post-Communist Journey, by Jack Squid

 

“Yeah, that’s absolutely ridiculous. We cannot let this law get to the parliament with that article in it,” the angry teachers’ union representative in the row behind me practically yelled at her colleague.

We were attending the public debate on a proposed new law on primary education (covering ages 7-15)  in our post-communist country of residence. Since these debates can change a law proposal significantly before it even reaches parliament, they are more than a bureaucratic hoop.

The union rep was, of course, talking about the one article I was there for: the one that proposed to legalize homeschooling. The hall was filled with teachers’ union representatives, municipal workers, and local politicians. I was there with my two young children and a handful of other parents who were unhappy with the current public school system.

Socialization, Illiteracy, And Devaluing The Teaching Profession

The arguments against homeschooling we heard that day mostly consisted of those familiar to United States homeschoolers, though some were specific to this country.

“The fact is that children are leaving primary school barely able to read or do basic arithmetic,” the union rep from behind me said. “If we legalize home education, we will lose even that little. Parents will be able to use their children as free unskilled farm workers, and they’ll never even see a book.”

Not everyone spoke that eloquently, and here is what else we heard that day:

  • Homeschooled kids in other countries are completely isolated by their fundamentalist Christian parents.
  • Roma gypsies don’t send their kids to school anyway, and legalizing homeschooling would mean there is nothing society can do about that.
  • Homeschooling makes children socially handicapped. Children belong in a collective, not at home with mom all day.
  • Not everyone can be a teacher, and thinking that parents can teach devalues the teaching profession.

School Is Compulsory–Is Education?

There was, in short, a lot of anger, but not many people had thought about what homeschooling actually means in practice. I came to the debate to try to change that. When the chair gave me the opportunity to speak, I asked my tiny five-year old daughter to read a passage from Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World.

The union reps had heckled everyone who spoke before, but were silent now. Despite that, I could hear them thinking: “What on earth is the point of this?”

I was a rookie who had been homeschooling for less than a year, but my daughter could read and have an intelligent conversation. Since her peers in the state daycare system wouldn’t be learning the alphabet for another two years, that was quite good enough.

Public school commences at age seven here. Too late, I think, but it did mean my daughter had not reached compulsory school age yet, and this is why I was able to discuss our experiences openly.

Armed with my copy of the Well-Trained Mind, I briefly explained what we did on a daily basis, and went on to compare education as laid out by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer to the education public schooled children in our country officially receive.

“Many of you have said today that you believe experimenting on our children to be unacceptable. As a parent, I agree,” I concluded. “We have discussed the social problems public schools face today, and we have heard that children graduate from primary school barely able to read or do basic arithmetic. This law proposal forces society to take a moment to think before declaring that homeschooling is inferior by definition.”

Then I asked my little daughter to finish up by describing what she liked about school.“History is my favorite subject,” she said. “It was really fun to learn about Nebuchadnezzar going crazy, and I like the Greeks, too. Math can be hard, but fun, too. I love spelling, and grammar, and biology… and having plenty of time to play with my mom, brother, and friends after school.”

After we spoke, the parent of a physically disabled daughter had the chance to show those in attendance what public school can be like in this country. The child was in a wheelchair, but because her classroom was on the first floor and the school didn’t have a lift, she never attended any lessons. Instead, she had to wait in the hallway for the duration of the school day.

No matter how many times her mother asked, the school didn’t listen to suggestions to move her whole class to the ground floor or at least to make sure she got some one-on-one attention. “Can’t I just keep her home?” the child’s mother had finally asked the municipality. The answer? “Of course not. Primary school is compulsory.”

Homeschooling Is Legalized

That union rep found me during the coffee break. “Can I get you something to drink?” she asked. She turned out to be an adult educator, teaching those who left primary school literally unable to read. “I am amazed by what you are doing. Your daughter is really intelligent and she isn’t shy either. I can’t believe she spoke in front of hundreds of people! You’ve just shattered my ideas about homeschooling.”

Later that day, she told the conference that the wheelchair user’s mom and I made her change her mind, adding: “Homeschooling looks like a perfectly viable option for those committed to teaching their own kids, as long as rigorous oversight is in place.”

Three years after the debate, the law finally ended up in parliament. Governments rarely make it to the end of their mandate in this country, and laws are automatically pulled from the parliamentary procedure when a new government takes office.

The parliamentary debate was less interesting than the public one, and opposition to homeschooling had largely waned. Newspapers had covered the subject in detail, and society had apparently gotten used to the idea. “But who will teach them physical education?” was the best the parliamentarians could come up with.

Now the law says that “parents have the right to organize primary education for their children at home”. The government has just fallen yet again, halfway through its mandate, and I have heard that those who are sure they’ll win the elections are already planning another overhaul of the law on primary education.

Our right to homeschool is not guaranteed to last, but one thing is for sure — we will not give it up without a fight.

Why I Chose Homeschooling: A Librarian's Story, by Jane-Emily

 

I always check far more books out of the library than I can actually read. It’s a hazard of the job. If something looks interesting, I will take it home and give it a go. Somewhere around the fall of 2002, when I had a toddler and a baby on the way, a book titled Real Life Homeschooling: The Stories of 21 Families Who Teach Their Children at Home was on the table of new non-fiction. I took it home with me. I had heard very little about homeschooling, and I’m always up for learning about people and educational methods, so I thought I would find out what these strange people were all about. I had never, ever considered homeschooling myself; this was more like anthropology than self-help.

It was an interesting book and many of the families recommended their favorite homeschooling titles, so I got those out of the library, too (mostly through InterLibrary Loan; my own library didn’t have too many homeschooling titles). The majority of the books talked about homeschooling as an endeavor belonging solely to conservative Protestants, which I am not, and while I was interested in them in order to learn about this thing called homeschooling, I was not at all attracted by the lifestyle myself. The books were also more inspirational and encouraging than they were about exactly how to teach children at home; more for people who were already in the middle of it than for prospective homeschoolers.

Then I checked out The Well-Trained Mind, by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. This was a very different book. It was almost entirely about how to do homeschooling. And it laid out an education that seemed to be very near my own ideal. I didn’t know I had an ideal education in my mind, but there it was, in this book, except for all that stuff about Latin. (Who does Latin?  More on that later.) I was looking at a book that described the education I wished I’d had.

I am a fairly ordinary product of fairly ordinary California public schools. I was expected to learn grammar and writing by osmosis; I studied American history several times but hardly ever got past World War I; I knew little about anywhere else except ancient Greece; on the whole, my education through high school was kind of dismal. I was not well prepared for the excellent public university I attended, and only figured out later how much I had missed simply because I didn’t know how ignorant I was. The idea that this was not inevitable for my own children–that there were other possibilities–struck me all of a heap.

I wanted this for my daughter. But I had never before entertained the idea of homeschooling, and it was a daunting one. Could I do it? Dared I do it? I had always assumed that I would go back to work part-time once my (as-yet-unborn) youngest went into school, and homeschooling would derail those plans. And how on earth could I do this? I decided it was lucky I had plenty of time, and that I could take a while to think about it and pray and see what happened.

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I waffled for a full year. I could not let go of the idea for more than a day at a time. As I took my little girl for walks and to the park, I wondered what I should do. I talked about homeschooling, but I didn’t know anyone who did it, and no one seemed to be very interested. My husband was in favor of the idea, but didn’t want to pressure me into it, and so refrained from comment. I didn’t seem to be able to get an answer to my prayers about it. It took me some time to figure out that if I couldn’t even go two days without thinking about homeschooling classically…well, that might be my answer right there.

So, I came to homeschooling through my desire for a classical education for my children. All the other benefits were things I figured out later on; I was all about the academics at first!  I found other homeschoolers in town, too, and made friends.

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First day of school

We are now in our ninth year of homeschooling, which seems completely impossible when I say it! I have read many, many books about homeschooling and even attended a couple of conferences. I’ve read most about classical education, and so far my vision has never wavered; that vision has been refined and improved, but the principles that so impressed me eleven years ago are still the center of my homeschooling philosophy. That doesn’t mean I live up to them, but I try!

The benefits to our family are probably impossible to quantify completely. I am so grateful to have been able to be with my children for so long. I’ve been able to give them so much rich literature, history, and science. One of my major goals was to avoid some of the math-phobia that so many of us have, and I think I have done well there. We were able to deal with my younger daughter’s vision issues with so much less difficulty than she might otherwise have had. Of course, it hasn’t been a smooth road (none of us get that!), but I have never regretted our decision to homeschool with classical principles.

 

Jane-Emily–Jane-Emily is a classically homeschooling LDS mom of two girls, and a librarian jane-emilyat the local community college, very part-time. She loves to read and will pick up almost anything. She also loves to sew and mostly does quilting, heirloom sewing, and smocking. And she’s a Bollywood addict.

What's So Great About the Great Books? by Jen W.

 

As a classical homeschooling mom, one of the greatest joys and challenges of teaching my kids has been exploring “great books” with them. I know this is something many people see as an insurmountable challenge to strive for on their own. They look at literature guides that contain terms like “post modern” or “metalanguage” or “deconstructionism.” Those terms can be meaningful, but they can also create a block to looking at the real heart of literature.

I studied literature in college, but I often looked at stories differently than those around me. I often received high scores for great answers, but I sometimes heard that my answers were “wrong.” For me, at its heart, literature is about people. Yes, you can take a feminist, post-modern or deconstructionist view of the world and overlay any piece of literature with it. I think that tells us a lot about how people live now and affords little thought to the bigger picture. Ultimately, too much jargon turns people off of studying literature. It simply isn’t necessary in order to connect with literature on a basic level and let it inform your world.

What did people value in the past? What did they find funny? What did people want in a leader? What did young women find romantic? What characteristics in people make them better spouses? When one looks at those sorts of questions, I think it connects us to people and the past in ways that only great stories can do. There are universal truths and problems to be found in many such stories that hold true in the lives of real people today. This doesn’t mean we will feel a personal connection to every story that we read. It doesn’t even mean we will enjoy every story that we read. But, I firmly believe that wide reading will teach us about the people around us. When books tell us about people, they also tell us about politics, economics and what it was like for a particular person to live in a particular time and place.

In this series, we’ll look at a number of great works. I’ll explore their more universal themes and explain why I (and only I, with the caveat that many experts would disagree with my personal opinions) believe they have stood the test of time and why people should still read them. What this series will not be is a how-to of literary analysis; this is because I think there are already a lot of great resources out there that fill that niche. I will create a separate list of resources for anyone interested in learning more about the mechanics of literary analysis.

  

Jen jen_wW.– Jen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school, and they have both survived homeschooling throughout. Jen has two more children who are equally smart and have also homeschooled all along.