(This is the first in a homeschool mom feature series #hsmomstories)
1. How many children do you have?
I have four adult children. They have all attended or will attend college at the University of Georgia on scholarship. My oldest graduated from UGA Magna Cum Laude with a degree in photojournalism and was the youngest photo editor ever hired by CNN, where she still works as an editor today. My two boys are roommates and both Computer Science majors at UGA. And my youngest will join her brothers this fall as an Engineering major. (Homeschooling works!)
2. What was your career path prior to becoming a mom?
I graduated from the University of Texas Austin in 1991 and got married eight days later. My husband is an attorney and preferred that I not work. He likes to joke that I was a stay-at-home mom with no children. What I was really doing was writing Bible studies for my church, articles for magazines, and working on a series of children’s books about character.
3. When did you start homeschooling? and how many total years have you homeschooled?
I decided to homeschool when my first child was two. So, I started then, using curriculum designed for a Kindergartner. She learned to read at age three, using a Charlotte Mason book called an Acorn in My Hand. It’s out of print now, but I highly recommend it for teaching reading. In total, I homeschooled for 24 years.
4. Why did you decide to homeschool?
There were so many reasons. I would say the most compelling reason was that I felt it was what God wanted me to do. I really did feel called to do it.
5. Which state do you live in and is that where you homeschooled throughout?
I live in Georgia. I started homeschooling (preschool) in Dallas, then continued in San Diego. But the formal homeschooling years were all done in Georgia. My area has a huge homeschool population. Our homeschool group had about 2400 people.
6. What are some of your highlights of homeschooling your children?
My homeschooling style was very much Charlotte Mason based, with short lessons and lots of free time outdoors as a crucial part of our curriculum. My children have such happy memories of climbing trees, digging holes, playing make-believe in the fort, jumping on the trampoline, while all the neighbor children woke up at dawn and were forced to sit at desks for seven hours a day. My children felt sorry for the carefree childhood that was stolen from those poor children. When they went to college, they were amazed that this intensity of education was the way the other students had been living all their lives. They were saved the burn-out and subsequent rebellion many freshmen feel once they leave the nest.
With the free time my children had growing up, they were able to accomplish amazing things all on their own initiative. My daughter (beginning at the age of 9) designed and held summer camps based around different historical time periods for dozens of homeschooled girls. She later went on to become a pre-professional ballerina and at 17 was offered a contract to dance professionally for the Orlando Ballet. Instead, she went on to help my husband’s homeschool mock trial team win the regional championships against hundreds of public and private school high schools. She went to the Miss Georgia pageant and won the talent and fitness competition. She then went to college with a full tuition scholarship and several Miss America scholarships.
At age 13, my youngest son built a Mine Craft server, which children around the world paid to use. He started dual enrollment at the age of 16 and officially entered two years ago college with 39 college credits. At age 16, my oldest son designed workout routines and became a personal trainer for other homeschool teens that wanted to get in shape. In his sophomore year of college, he was asked to be a research assistant to his professor studying sports injuries. He also conducted his own research, which he presented at the American College of Sports Medicine conference. Both boys have been on the Dean’s List and have maintained their scholarships at UGA.
At the age of 10, my youngest daughter was a state champion gymnast for two years. She then changed directions and became one of the children’s worship leaders at our church and also led children’s Bible studies. She collected school supplies for the homeless in Atlanta and later spent an entire summer in Cambodia serving as a VBS leader in rural communities.
7. What advice would you give yourself when just starting out with homeschooling?
Do not let fear be your master. Fear is in direct opposition to faith. Do not fear what people think of you or your children. You are running the race God marked out for you, don’t worry what anyone else is doing. God loves your children so much more than you do. Have faith that He has a plan for them. He will continue to work in their lives, on their character and habits, long after they leave your home (just as He is doing in your life). Prayer is more powerful than any problem you will encounter. Also, teenage boys are aliens. But don’t worry, they figure it out in college.
8. When did you begin writing homeschool curriculum, and how did you maintain work/homeschool mom life balance?
I began writing the Astronomy book soon after I started homeschooling when I could not find science curriculum that taught children about a subject with enough depth to satisfy their thirst for knowledge. I also wanted something that supported my Charlotte Mason style of teaching. I really only intended it to be used for my own children. But as soon as people heard I was writing it, they asked if I would share it with them. So I printed a few hundred copies and sold them for the cost of printing and shipping. Word got out rather quickly.
In those early days, when I was doing all the work, it was difficult to maintain the balance. I could no longer attend homeschool group functions, or serve on the leadership team. I essentially became a recluse (which is against my nature). But I felt called to write these books, so I did what needed to be done.
9. How did you get involved with Apologia?
A homeschool store in Indiana kept calling me to see if they could carry my books. I told them I couldn’t afford to give them a discount to sell them at a decent price. They then sent a copy of my book to Apologia. I was contacted immediately and asked if Apologia could publish the book for me. With all the work of accounting, publishing, and customer service off my plate, I was able to focus on writing more books.
I researched and wrote each book during summer vacation, with most of the writing being accomplished while we were on vacation. That way my husband was doing activities with the kids while I typed away.
10. What was your favorite book to write and why?
While I was writing each book the one I was writing was my current favorite. I grew so passionate about each subject, relishing all that I was learning as I researched, taught my children, conducted experiments, and wrote. It was so exciting to see my children become passionate about the topic as well. We experienced each book as a family unit. I wrote the books in such a way that each family will have the same experience we did with the book, building close bonds, a love for learning, and lots of great memories. But when I look back, I would say that the most fun I had was when writing the Zoology 2 book, covering swimming creatures.
During that time, we went to the beach several times to study sea life up close. A week before one of our trips Hurricane Isaac hit the Gulf bringing thousands of rarely seen sea creatures to the shore’s tide pools. We held sea stars, brittle stars, hermit crabs, rays, sponges, soft coral, shark egg cases, conch egg cases, shells of every variety, and so much more. It was phenomenal and so enriching to our studies. Although the hurricane was a horrible thing, this one small good thing came out of it.
I applaud Jeannie for her dedication and hard work throughout all her years of homeschooling, both with her own children and for the homeschool community at large! Her story is a testament that homeschooling works! I highly encourage you to check out her elementary science curriculum (Voted the #1 Homeschool Elementary Science Curriculum for over 10 years in a row!) which we've been using and love! (Click image to be directed to their website)