Interview with a Homeschool Mom ~ Tina Hollenbeck

Welcome, Welcome, Welcome!

I am so excited to be sharing the first of twenty-five guest posts in the Interview with a Homeschool Mom series today. Over the next 12 months you will meet 25 homeschool moms who are all in different seasons of their homeschooling journey.

Our first interview is with homeschool veteran, Tina Hollenbeck from Being Made New.

So grab a cup of coffee (or tea, like me!), sit down, and settle in to read about Tina and her homeschooling family. With all of her experience, Tina has a super amount of helpful information to share!

Interview with a Homeschool Mom

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1. How many children are you currently homeschooling? How long have you been homeschooling?

My husband and I are raising two daughters, ages 13 and 14, and we have another who would be 16 except that she went to be with Jesus before she was born. We decided before any of them was even conceived that we would homeschool, and we’ve never considered other options.

2. Have your children always been homeschooled? Why did you decide to homeschool?
We view home education as a lifelong endeavor, so we committed without reservation to homeschooling from the beginning all the way through high school. Though we have many reasons, our foundational motivation is a deep, faith-based conviction that it’s our parental responsibility to take personal responsibility for the upbringing of our children in all facets of life, including academics. In other words, as Christ-followers, we know that God calls parents to raise their own children, and we don’t see a legitimate (biblical) reason to outsource any significant aspect of their lives to the authority of complete strangers (who usually don’t share our values). Additionally, we know how institutional schools operate – i.e., treating children as products on an assembly line who must learn the same things at the same rate in the same way – and we realize that’s not healthy or appropriate. Instead, we value the individualization inherent in homeschooling and prefer to use “non-traditional” approaches. Finally, I simply enjoy my children and cannot imagine giving them over to strangers for the bulk of our days and thereby missing so much of their lives. 
 
3. How would you describe your style of homeschooling?
If I might get away with saying so, our style has “evolved” over time. When my girls were toddlers, Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind was all the rage among those in my local homeschool association, so I dutifully bought a copy and started plowing through it. But what I read didn’t seem right for us, and I didn’t know what was since I wasn’t exposed to any local alternatives…until I went to a one-day seminar by Carole Joy Seid and subsequently read For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, both of whom advocate Charlotte Mason’s (CM) ideas. I especially resonated with the use of living books, so even though I started out using package programs, I gravitated toward those that employed a CM approach. But then after a few years of using CM-style packages, I became disillusioned with the idea of someone else – no matter how well-meaning – choosing what was “best” in each subject area, and I decided to leave whole packages behind and take the leap into picking individual resources on my own. So then – while always sticking close the the CM idea of living books – I became eclectic! And now as my girls are on the cusp of high school, we’ve taken another giant leap into what might be considered one version of “delight-directed learning” –  a process by which my girls are each choosing which materials they want to use to earn high school credits and whereby my job is to facilitate their self-directed learning by keeping track of learning logs, hours spent studying, projects, etc.
 
4. What does a typical day in your homeschool look like?
Of course, that has varied over time as my girls and I have been at different ages and stages. And I won’t be surprised at further tweaks over the next few years as circumstances warrant. However, for right now – as the girls officially launch into their high school studies this month – we typically begin our morning academic time around 8:00 with a short devotional and prayer time. And then – usually by 8:20 – they dive into their individual bookwork. With our delight-directed high school “program,” the girls know what they need to accomplish in each area of study over the course of each seven-week “unit,” and they use that knowledge to choose what to work on – in whatever order each decides – each day. Typically, they start by doing Bible study, Readers’ Workshop literature, math, and music practice every day, and then spend the rest of their time choosing what do towards their other credits – in English, American history, world history, civics, biology, physical science, home management, and other electives – for the rest of the morning. I facilitate by answering any questions along the way, particularly with math, and also lead them in individualized daily English lessons (a combination of spelling, grammar, and composition skills). We wrap up bookwork by around 12:30, and then after lunch, we almost always have an afternoon activity or two: piano lessons for one daughter; voice and guitar for the other; and then dance classes, choir, and drama for both. We also aim to go to our local YMCA at least three days a week for fitness/health, where the girls swim while I spend time on cardio machines and walking the track. And then in the evening after dinner, my husband does a bit of Bible study with them and continues – just as he did before bed when they were little – to do daily read-alouds, choosing from among a wide array of high school level classic literature.
 
5. What kinds of tools or curriculum do you use to homeschool?
That has changed a lot over time, as well. As I mentioned, I started using a couple of different package programs, then transitioned into choosing from among various resources on my own. And now with our delight-directed high school “program,” we’ve transitioned again. We use Teaching Textbooks for math and continue with All About SpellingWinston Grammar, and various writing tools (some of which come from our previous use of IEW and Brave Writer as well as ideas found in Grading with a Purple Crayonfor the part of the girls’ English lessons that I direct. But for all other areas, I spent considerable time in recent months compiling lists of viable material, and I then allowed each of my daughters to choose what will work for her. In that vein, I originally looked to Far Above Rubies (FAR) by Lynda Coats, which can be a complete four-year high school unit study for young women (and has a companion study – Blessed Is the Man – for young men). However, my daughters both decided they’d generally prefer to work through whole resources rather than picking and choosing from among the hundreds of activity options in FAR. So, though I have used FAR as one spine (particularly for home management elective options and literature ideas – along with Honey for a Teen’s Heart by Gladys Hunt and All Through the Ages by Christine Miller for additional literature choices), I’m actually not using it as written. In fact, I’ve relied just as heavily on Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+La by Barbara Shelton, using her ideas as fodder for developing my own personalized framework.
In terms of what my daughters actually chose, some – not all – of the material they’ve picked includes:

We’ll add other electives as we go, probably including (but not limited to) a composers’ study for one daughter and a German or Japanese course for the other. And in what is perhaps the most unusual aspect about this type of delight-directed approach, all the courses will be spread out over all four years of high school. For example, rather than take just one year to race through an American history course, we’ve determined how much needs to be finished during one year so that the overall credit (or two) will be earned over the course of several years, and we use that figure to decide how much to do during each seven-week unit. This approach enables the girls to take their time in every area of study and, thus, retain more in all.

6. Do you have a motto, quote, or scripture for your homeschool? Why did you choose that one?

We have always taught the girls that John 14.6 and the Greatest Commandment (Luke 10.27) sum up the Christ-follower’s life: “Jesus said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me,'” and “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” I also pray Luke 2.52 – “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” – over them daily. My conviction is that if my children love the Lord first and foremost, they will – through the Spirit-led transforming of their minds promised to believers – become fully equipped intellectually and otherwise to live meaningful, productive lives.

7. Is your spouse or other family members involved in your homeschooling?

My husband’s greatest contribution to our home learning endeavors is his personal example. Specifically, he comes from a multi-generational legacy of folks who have loved reading and learning throughout their entire lives. So he’s always reading something – mostly history and literature and often two or three books at a time – and when he’s not reading, he’s continually open to learning new skills and improving his God-given talents. Additionally, he maintains a side business on top of working a full-time job in order to support our homeschooling endeavors. And he has always let me know he has full confidence in my ability to do well by our kids – which is, of course, the only affirmation I really need beyond the Lord’s. Other family members are not directly involved, though my mother-in-law took a great deal of time a couple of years ago to sew authentic-looking colonial dresses for the girls before we took a family trip to Williamsburg. And I feel very blessed that even when they don’t understand or fully agree with our choice to homeschool, our entire extended family on both sides respects our right to follow our conviction for our children. I know such tacit support is not all that common, and I don’t take it for granted.

8. What are your favorite parts of homeschooling? What is your least favorite part?

I have seen so many blessings that I can confidently attribute to homeschooling, including the fact that my daughters love learning and have been able to do so in a customized, individualized manner. As a result of that, they are self-assured, confident young women who value and appreciate how God has wired them and are excited to see how that will play out in their adult lives. But even sweeter than seeing them blossom in such ways is the reality of strong, positive relationship – each daughter’s relationship with the Lord (and mine, too!); their (not perfect, of course, but) loving relationship with each other; and the strong parent-child bonds we’ve retained all through the years – none of which would be nearly so good without homeschooling.

The only thing I don’t like is dealing with ill-informed, negative stereotypes espoused by others. I keep wishing for the day when everyone will realize that homeschooling is not new or radical (i.e., up until recent history, all children in every culture were educated by their parents in all facets of life); that we don’t need to be regulated by the government; that institutional schooling doesn’t need to be – indeed, ought not be – the model homeschoolers emulate (because, in fact, mass, assembly line-style schooling is a failed social experiment, not a standard by which others should be measured); and that they should be mature enough to respect parents’ convictions for their own children. In fact, I chafe when faced with ignorant bias. But I try to keep my focus where it needs to be – on my responsibility before the Lord to do right by my kids in His eyes – and trust Him with the rest.

9. What is the best piece of advice you were given about homeschooling? What advice would you give to someone who is considering homeschooling?

As Marcia Somerville says in her new book, Love the Journey: Homeschooling: Principles to Practices – which I highly recommend for new and prospective homeschoolers, by the way – “the truth is that there are a variety of different, valid methods by which you can achieve the general goal of successful homeschooling.” When I started, I didn’t know that. For one thing, even though I knew early on that institutional school methods and measures were not good or healthy and that I didn’t want to emulate them, I needed to purpose to “unindoctrinate” myself from that way of thinking (i.e., that kids need to be classified by “grade level” and that they learn by reading dry textbooks and memorizing for tests…that “school” happens from 9 AM to 3 PM between September and May…that every five-year old “has to” be a fluent reader, etc.). In other words, I had to choose to see outside the school box – to understand that the institutionalized schools are not the standard by which anyone else should be measured – and be okay with that.

But then I had to take it a step further. I had to learn that my homeschool needn’t – and shouldn’t – look like anyone else’s. That was very hard because I wanted to “do it right.” So when my kids were toddlers and I joined a local homeschool association, I simply bought what “everyone else” seemed to be using, assuming it would work for us, too. Of course, I didn’t immediately think about the fact that my kids aren’t wired like my friend Wendy’s kids…or that they weren’t meant to become carbon copies of Amy’s kids. And it took me a while to see the beautiful reality Somerville talks about when she explains that “homeschoolers have no central authority or validating entity; there is no lock-step guidance with homeschooling. We are free to choose our own paths.” I had to learn that lesson the hard way – and I think the temptation to try falling into another’s shadow is even greater now with the proliferation of online support for homeschoolers. Of course, the help is good. But ultimately each of us must come to grips with the fact that we’re not meant to imitate anyone else; instead, we need to seek the Lord and follow His lead alone, trusting Him to direct our paths. When that means no one else you know uses the math program that resonates with your kid…when you do academics in the afternoon even though “everyone else” uses the morning…or any of the whole host of other “differences” you will have with other homeschoolers, so be it. Homeschooling is a journey on which it’s perfectly appropriate – and exceedingly preferable – to march to the beat of your own drum.

10. Finish this sentence: Homeschooling is…so worth it.

Even though I knew I was called to the journey of homeschooling – from the beginning and all the way through – and even though I knew it would be best for my kids in every way imaginable, I had fears as well – when one daughter could do the phonics lessons but pitched a fit about them…when the other seemed incapable for the longest time of learning to read and spell…when I realized the pricey package program I thought would be my “curriculum for life” would no longer work…and at many other points along the way. But what I’ve learned through the years is that bumps and detours are not signs of failure; rather, they’re simply part of the homeschool ride. We negotiate the curves and get back on track – or decide we’re meant to turn onto a different road – and keep moving. And in the process, our kids keep learning, growing, and maturing despite us! Of course, I haven’t reached the finish line yet, but I’ve come far enough down the road to get glimpses of it now. And I can attest even from this vantage point that all the time, energy, effort, worry, angst, frustration, and fear is completely, 100% worth it.

*****

Tina Hollenbeck and her husband Jeff are raising two daughters and have another waiting for them in Heaven. Tina cherishes her role as at-home wife and mother and advocates passionately for homeschooling. She writes regularly for her blog, Being Made New, as well as other venues, and serves as the volunteer staff writer for Celebrate Kids, Inc., through which she co-authored the booklet Celebrating Children’s 12 Genius Qualities. In 2013, she launched The Homeschool Resource Roadmap, an informational website for homeschoolers, and is the founder and lead admin for The Christian Homeschool Oasis, a virtual support group for homeschoolers around the world. She was a featured speaker at the 2015 Great Homeschool Convention (GHC) events in Fort Worth and Cincinnati and plans to speak at GHC’s California convention in 2016. In her spare time, Tina enjoys singing on her church’s worship team, exercising, and scrapbooking.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Love this series! Love her answers. I’ve known Tina (online) for many years now. Love her overall approach. Can’t wait to read the rest of this year’s series.

    1. Thanks, Trena! 🙂

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