how we homeschool: Terra

One day, talking to my sister-in-law about this “how we homeschool” blog series, and fussing about how I want to find homeschool families outside my Pennsylvania/Virginia circles, she suggested I interview friends of theirs who live in Kentucky. Ryan, apparently, went to college with my brother, she said, and now their girls are penpals with my nieces. So I queried Ryan and Terra, and, well, here you go!

Hello! We are the Shetlers: Ryan, me (Terra), Hannah (9) and Lilly (6). We reside in Louisville where Ryan is an educator at a middle school and I have been homeschooling for five years now. 

Why did you decide to homeschool?
Homeschooling was not an option in my mind before we moved to Kentucky — I’d grown up in a small town and always figured we’d put our children in a private Christian school — but the church we joined helped me to see that home education could be an option as well! After Hannah was born, I worked PRN, as a nurse, but shortly after decided to stay home. It was then that I could see myself teaching my children and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

What are Kentucky’s requirements for homeschoolers?
Our state requires for us to get 185 days of school time or document 1,056 hours. I have chosen to document days. There is always learning going on in our home.

What’s a typical weekday like?
Our homeschool day begins with breakfast at the table. During that time, I read a passage from the Bible and we discuss it. Then we sing the books of the Bible, work on scripture memory, and pray for our day. After that, we go on with the rhythms of our day which include reading, math, and spelling lessons, read aloud time, special one-on-one time, memory work, and free time. 

Last year we took off during the month of February (I got the idea from some other moms who take off in February, just to kind of reset and gear up for spring) because I was very discouraged and just wanted to throw in the towel. I was expecting a lot from my daughter the previous year. She would throw tantrums when we’d have math time, or if I asked her to write. Also, that year I felt like quitting homeschooling. I was in a slump, the weather was gray and gloomy, and I desired for that yellow school bus to stop by our house.

Since then, I think I’ve grown a little wiser. I am learning how to teach them in a ways that they learn best. I have this opportunity to give my girls one-on-one attention and to focus in on the areas that need strengthening. This year in our schooling, I’ve structured it so we have four weeks of school/enrichment time and one week off to do some things the girls have wanted to do and for me to evaluate what’s working in our homeschool days and what we can do better.

What have you found to be most challenging about homeschooling?
The most challenging thing about homeschool is staying consistent and working through my impatience. I have in my mind that all school work should be done by noon, but I have to remind myself that I am always teaching my children something and they are always learning from what I model. It has also been hard to not treat our school like a formal classroom setting.

Most surprising?
This is not a surprise, but I am at such peace the more that I turn to the Lord for His help and sufficiency throughout the day. I definitely enjoy motherhood and teaching when I am dependent on Him.

What have you learned through homeschooling your girls? 
I am learning how much I need the Lord’s help to be home. I am learning that my children are unique and different, that they respond differently to hard and challenging things, and that they need encouragement and lots of guidance. I am learning to take a more gentle approach in my teaching. It is my desire to continue to grow in how I teach them and learn the ways in which they develop as they grow older. 

I am always trying to unlearn the traditional way of public school; learning is more of a process than an assessment. For example, when my oldest was in first grade, I would expect her to know how to write all her numbers without looking at a number chart or getting any assistance from me. But now I’m letting my six-year-old write her own counting book so she has something to refer to when she gets stuck. As I continue to grow in teaching my daughters, I am more willing to help my youngest and I also encourage her to look at the number chart when she needs to.  

I am learning more about myself emotionally and mentally, like how to manage my emotions and working through better responses to my children when things go awry. I am learning, slowly, to not sweat the small stuff and to lighten up. I am constantly learning how to be content and enjoy this journey with my daughters.

How do you find time for yourself? 
Ryan does a pretty good job of allowing me two or three evenings per week to read, rest, or spend time with friends.

What do the girls like to do in their freetime?
Hannah and Lilly are currently gymnasts. They ventured into cross country this fall, and they are both getting ready to learn how to play instruments: for Hannah, piano lessons, and for Lilly, the drums. As a family we enjoy watching movies, playing games, and going on walks.

The girls also really enjoy camping, riding bikes, and making videos with their dad. The three of them have had a lot of fun making the vidoes and learning editing skills. He’s been showing Hannah tips on how to video, and Lilly has the theatrical skills. We’re hoping that when things go back to being in-person, we will get her signed up for drama/theatre.

Where do you get your support?
This year I discovered a group called The Melanin Village. It has been a Godsend! It is invitation-only, and it is subscription-based. I have found so much support there and a continual renewed and fresh perspective on why I am homeschooling. The message that I continue to get is that I am uniquely equipped to homeschool my children. The group provides resources, as well as growth trainings every two weeks.

In the spring, I typically enjoy hearing from different homeschooling veterans through a free homeschool summit hosted by Daniel and Megan Craig. I also enjoy hearing from Anyday Blessings on YouTube, and I follow Heritage Mom on Instagram.

Do you have other resources to recommend?
Yes! Seasons of A Mother’s Heart by Sally Clarkson, and Homeschooling With A Meek and Quiet Spirit by Teri Maxwell. Also, Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14 by Chip Wood

Do you have a homeschool philosophy?
Our homeschool philosophy is that learning should be more than sitting at a desk — it’s also hands-on and experiential. We also believe that every subject points us to knowing God. His handiwork can be seen in every subject. Over time, I have been able to see how reading books and learning different subjects have helped us create a bond with each other and and to make connections in everyday life. 

What advice do you have for parents who are considering homeschooling their children?
My advice is to work at changing your mindset before entering into home education, and maybe deschooling your children if they have been taken out of public school. The feeling of “I am not doing enough” is a common feeling. Fight those feelings because your children are not in a classroom setting with 20+ other students; it does not take long to teach when there is one-on-one learning. For the believer, trust and lean heavily on the Lord in your planning and in your day-to-day homeschooling. Pray without ceasing! Lastly, write down your why and your goals for homeschooling, and be flexible.

And what is your “why”?
The reason why we homeschool our daughters is to take the opportunity to build close relationships with them, teach them about God, and point them to see Him through the subjects they are learning.

Thank you so much, Terra! I would love to be able to visit with you in person someday!

This same time, years previous: second amendment sanctuary, sour candied orange rinds, science lessons, the quotidian (12.14.15), the quotidian (12.15.14), bits of goodness, soft cinnamon sugar butter bars, crazier than usual, fig and anise pinwheels, ginger cream scones.

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