A Homeschool Evaluator's Brief Bio
Decades ago, I was a small child being homeschooled on a homemade yacht as my family sailed the world. My parents used a combination of prepared curriculum and no curriculum at all. The curriculum was, in a way, akin to today’s virtual school lessons as it was made by a government school as part of their system of teaching those who couldn’t attend classes (though in my case, the government in question was the state of
Queensland in Australia and the lessons were correspondence lessons with typed lessons and textbooks that were mostly designed for the children who lived in the far reaches of Australia’s outback where some homes were hundreds of miles from the nearest school). My dad did not like their math program with its methods that made no sense to him (the school used a lot of Cuisenaire rods, manipulatives, to teach math and methods that seemed convoluted to him--akin to how Common Core is viewed by many today), so for math my dad made up his own lessons that focused solely on multiplication facts (That is, as far as he was concerned, he taught the multiplication facts with old-fashioned memorization; the lessons, in my opinion, included more than that since I watched him daily use a sextant and trigonometric tables with a slide rule to calculate our current location, as well as watching my parents exchange money for the local currency and such). There were other lessons, too, that weren’t on the official curriculum list for I learned a lot about geography and culture as we traveled from one harbor to another, from one country to another, from one continent to another.
Many of today’s homeschool parents would be shocked to find that I did book lessons only one day a week. As a child, I quickly figured out that if I did lessons on Monday for about as much time as I would have been in a classroom at the government schools I’d previously attended, I could get the entire week’s lessons done. So, every Monday, I sat with my books and did lessons. Mom didn’t mind as long as I did the work correctly, and I got to enjoy more of my week without interruptions for lessons. One day of lessons a week? Surely I was behind when I went back to a “real” school? No, not really. I wasn’t up to snuff in American social studies, but that was because I hadn’t studied it at all; I’d learned Australian and world social studies. But I was fine in the other subjects; so fine that I sat bored and seemed to learn little for the next few years in school, except from my own outside reading, and so fine that I eventually ended up the valedictorian of a fairly large American public high school and graduated with a degree in mathematics from a top American university.
Today, I homeschool my own, run a homeschool support group and do evaluations for Florida homeschoolers. While my kids don’t get just one day a week at book lessons, we don’t spend as much time on the books as a lot of others, yet my high schoolers are working through chemistry and precalculus. My kids haven’t left the shores of the USA except to swim at the beach, so they don’t have the wonderful geography lessons I had; my husband and I have very limited funds and aren’t interested in building our own yacht, but we make sure the kids are involved in a wide range of activities that are fun and broaden their educational horizons whether it’s participating in theater-quality plays, playing soccer with other homeschoolers, learning to debate, going on a variety of field trips, or volunteering with local nonprofits, I try to make sure that a lot of their time involves learning by doing and a lot of this I do by running a variety of activities in a local homeschool support group.
I've been doing portfolio review evaluations since 2003. I've done evaluations for homeschooled students across the state, including some who are traveling outside the state when they need their evaluations done. I've helped homeschool parents who were dealing with issues with their school district, have guided parents getting their children ready for college or careers, have run seminars on various aspects of homeschooling including how to homeschool high school, and try to help parents see that the requirements of Florida law are fairly easy to meet. I'm working on speaking at a homeschool conference in northern Florida in early August, and have a few other projects in the works. Mostly, I work to make sure that evaluations aren't stressful so parents can work on what should be the real focus of homeschooling--helping their children learn in the way that works best for them.
author of "Around the World in a Cement Boat"