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#hsmomstories (part 3): Kerri-Ann Megna, mom of two homeschool graduates and bass guitarist for wors

My name is Kerri-Ann Megna. I have been married almost 25 years and my husband and I have 2 sons, ages 22 and almost 21. (I can’t believe it!). We live on Long Island, NY. I have a BS degree in Social Work and an Associates degree in Physical Therapy. We homeschooled up through high school and both boys have graduated.

Both of my sons are currently in college. My oldest son, James went to Word of Life Bible Institute for one year and is now close to completing his undergraduate degree in Computer Science with an interest in IT and Cyber Security. My younger son, Jonathan completed an EMT program at our local community college and is now at student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.

Why did I decide to homeschool? I began meeting families in my local church who were homeschooling. I must admit I had heard of homeschooling but because I had no factual information about it at the time, I thought it was odd. I pictured children sitting around a kitchen table all day. Secluded. Weird. However, as I got to know these families I saw something special. There was a dynamic about them that appealed to me. I began doing some objective research. I read articles, I read books and even more importantly I went out of my way to talk to kids who were currently being homeschooled as well as those who had graduated. I asked them what they liked and disliked about homeschooling. Statistically I learned that homeschoolers perform better on standardized testing and that tutoring 1:1 or any smaller ratio is more effective that learning in a classroom setting. These were all valid points, however my desire to homeschool was never based on academics.

I realized that homeschooling is an extension of parenting. We teach our children all the time. We teach them how to hold a bottle and a spoon. We teach them how to share and how to tie their shoes. We teach them to be kind towards people and gentle with animals. Why not teach them to hold a pencil and how to read?

Beyond academics, I was more concerned about my sons hearts and the kind of men I wanted them to become. I began praying asking God to show me what to do because I still wasn’t convinced I could successfully homeschool. I knew I didn’t “ know everything”. How could I teach them the more difficult subjects especially as they got older? Additionally, I am NOT organized by nature.

There are several teachers in my family and in all honesty, I was afraid of what they would think and say. After all, they had degrees in education and I didn’t. Homeschooling was also definitely going against the grain and I knew I’d have to answer lots of questions such as “Why did you decide to do THAT?” and “But what do you do for socialization?” ( Once I began homeschooling this actually became my FAVORITE question to answer.)

Although I had all of the positive information about the benefits of homeschooling before me, I still wasn’t convinced I should do it. I began seriously praying with an open mind and was committed to doing whatever the Lord lead me to do. I knew it was a huge decision and I wanted to make the right one. It would have been “ easier” to send my boys to school, right? Someone else would be responsible. I’d have lots of free time! My son was four at the time and we were getting very close to needing to decide what to do for Kindergarten. I turned on the praying and really asked for a clear answer, knowing in the back of my mind that I was feeling pressured by what other people would think.

I was given a very specific scripture during my prayer time. It was Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” It couldn’t have been clearer. I decided to go for it. It was the best decision for my boys and for our family as a whole.

As for curriculum, I always tried to find materials that fit each of my sons individually. I’d highly recommend Cynthia Tobias’s book titled, “The Way They Learn”. It describes the different learning styles of children and helped me pinpoint my boys major learning style and gave examples of what that looks like - as well as what frustrates each learning style. With this information on hand, I was able to choose what best fit my sons rather than frustrating them. My older son is a typical visual “classroom” learner but my younger is much more of a kinesthetic learner. For example, in math when my boys were younger my older could hear an explanation or read something and memorize easily while my younger needed to “see it” and do something with his hands to grasp a concept better. Manipulatives were key in his grasping math concepts while my older son thought they were boring. My advice is to pick from different resources that match your children’s style and interest. As appropriate, allow them some choice as well because It gives them a sense of ownership over of their learning. As my boys got into middle and high school, they were very much a part of this process.

Go to a homeschool convention! Every May I traveled to Pennsylvania with a group of other homeschool moms to the CHAP Homeschool Convention. Oh my, It was amazing and something I looked forward to every year. Hundreds of vendors, books, speakers and curriculum. It was the highlight of my year!! There is SO much out there. The resources are abounding and it was a great getaway for busy homeschool moms. The speakers were invaluable.

I’d add to try avoiding the pitfall of asking”Will I cover everything?” - because you can’t!

Look at your state requirements in terms of what subjects need to be covered and do that. Make sure your kids can learn the things they are INTERESTED in learning as well. This is so important and homeschooling gives them this gift. Go to the library a lot and let them choose books and audiobooks!

My advice on raising boys is first and foremost, to pray for them! About everything. Pray for their present and for their future. With boys, we are the first woman they will ever love. Be gentle with their hearts. Encourage them! Be patient with them. Apologize and ask forgiveness when needed. Let them get messy! Let them run through puddles and dig in the dirt. That’s why God invented baths! They are boys and they are different than us. Give them PLENTY of time to be outdoors to play and explore. Let them have lots of unstructured play time. This is so important for them, especially today where kids are over scheduled and in too many activities. It’s stressful. Let them be kids. Be prepared to hold in your hand all manner of insects or at least act interested even if your dying inside.

The emotionally difficult part for me came when they hit somewhere around 13. Moms- this is really difficult and painful but boys are beginning to grow into young men and as such they begin to pull away a bit from mom. We have to see them as becoming men and treat them less like “little boys”. It’s is a respect issue from their perspective. They need to gravitate more towards that male role model more than ever before. It was and is still difficult for me at times. Dad or another trusted man is more crucial now in shaping them as “men” and identifying with all things male. My husband showed me that I needed to pull back a bit from “mommying” them because they were beginning to want some more independence in certain areas. Who knew? I learned to respect my sons as young men and needed to shift my thinking from my “little boys” to “ growing and maturing young men”.

I’d also say to be very careful in how you treat your husband. Endeavor to be the kind of wife you’d like your sons to have. I want them to see their mother being kind, affectionate and most importantly respectful to their dad so that this is their model of what marriage should look like. Have I done this all the time? No. And I’ve had to go to them when I treated their father wrongly and my husband has done the same. When I’ve yelled at my husband or behaved badly I’ve been convicted and realized this is not the way I want my sons to be spoken to by their wives and it gets my perspective right again.

As they get older give them the freedom to fail (within the protected environment of your home) of course. The example I have is my 14 year-old at the time didn’t want to wear his winter coat. I was still in that “mommy-mode” I described above and hadn’t learned to pull back a bit. I was telling him why he needed to wear his coat and he was getting frustrated. We tend as moms have a real problem with “consequential learning”. My husband pulled me aside and told me I was exasperating him a bit and that I should let him go out without his coat and he would feel the cold quickly and would probably never do it again. Of course he was right. My son came in about 5 minutes later and put his coat on. He learned his lesson and so did I. I could let my sons learn some of these lessons on their own by letting them become a bit uncomfortable (but always safe). Listen to them. Hold your tongue when they are sharing. Just let them talk.....ask questions, be interested.

I think our favorite homeschool field trip was one we organized with our homeschool group to Gettysburg, PA. We traveled with about 25 other people (parents and kids) and had a huge bicycle trailer. We biked the Gettysburg Battle Field tour. My husband is a Civil War buff and he was our tour guide with great stories. We all got to get off the bikes, walk around and explore. The next day we went to Hershey Park and everyone had a great time on the rides. Fantastic memories!

As for our daily schedule, we always started with breakfast and some Bible time/story when they were younger. When the weather was nice the boys would go outside and play for a bit and we’d stay outside and read or do whatever work we had. There is so much freedom in homeschooling- why be cooped up inside when we didn’t have to be? I’d make a general outline for the day and we always tried to get math done first thing. The other subjects could be done in whatever order we decided depending on what we were doing.

I was told early on to not become a slave to a schedule because of the nature of being home and the natural interruptions that come with that. If there was something else that we really wanted to do on any given day we simply re-adjusted and figured out when we would makeup that school time. We did tons of read alouds. Some days we threw the schedule to the wind because they would want “one more chapter!”.

Advice for the teen years: In the teen years I wanted my sons to have the opportunity to be more involved in decision making regarding some of their studies. We looked at what was required to be covered. For those subjects I’d show them catalogs and table of contents and ask what they were drawn to. Sometimes they left it up to me, other times they chose something specific. They came with me to the CHAP conference one year and got to choose some books they wanted to read as well as some curriculum. It gave them ownership over their schooling.

The teen years are a wonderful opportunity for us as parents to guide and encourage our young adult children to be more involved in the decision making process.

Homeschool traditions: we went to Sandy Cove in Maryland every summer for our family vacation. It is a Christian conference and resort center on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Every summer they have a specific week dedicated to homeschool families. I can honestly say it was the most influential and fantastic thing we ever did as a homeschool family. They invite well known speakers from the homeschooling community to speak at a morning session while the kids go to activities. These men and women challenged us and made us laugh. There were always tons of fun activities including swimming, trapeze, mini-golf, jet skis, and they even had parasailing! Going to Sandy Cove was our number one tradition and one we still talk about and miss all these years later. Meeting so many families from different parts of the country was so encouraging and we keep in touch with some still.

Regarding gifts and talents: Whatever my sons were interested in learning or doing for recreation at the time was something I made sure they had ample time to pursue. My younger son really got interested in BMX biking, and would often start his school day doing this. I just tried to listen and watch and provide them opportunities to pursue their areas of interest. Sometimes they were short-lived ideas, others were long lasting. Just give them the freedom to explore their interests. This is the beauty and freedom that homeschooling affords us!