Author Archives: lorettabouillon

About lorettabouillon

Loretta Bouillon is a freelance writer and mother 3 amazing kids. She is married to an awesome man who has supported her vision to homeschool and raise their children against the grain of the world. She is a city girl living a country life that just sort of happened. She lives in a small town in Northern, British Columbia, Canada. Loretta’s published works have included several magazine articles, blogposts as well as an anthology.

Interview with Maxx Bouillon – Homeschool Graduate

Maxx Bouillon gives an honest account of his homeschooling experience. He is a man of few words, however he manages to get his point us across clearly. 🙂

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Maxx building his cabin 

How long did you homeschool?

Until grade 10.

Can you describe your homeschooling experience?

It was great. I am really glad I homeschooled up until when I did. It allowed me to become closer to my brothers and sisters than if we were all at school all day.

What were the advantages of homeschooling?

It allowed me to learn according to my own style of learning which is “hands on”. I had a lot of free time for projects such as building a doghouse and a go-cart with my brother, numerous forts and tree forts, working on bikes and my favourite…. experimenting with things that explode :). On a serious note, we studied so many interesting units while homeschooling, like medieval history, government, mapping and flags, (to name a few) that my socials teacher in grade 10, was amazed at how many facts I knew (and I had never opened a text book.)

What were some of your best homeschooling memories?

Building endless forts and playing in the bush with my friends (when other kids were at school!) I spent a lot of time building circuits and doing electrical experiments. I enjoyed doing school at my own pace so I could the things that really interested me. One memory that stands out as being a lot of fun was putting on a medieval feast with friends during our history unit.

Were there any disadvantages of homeschooling and if so could you describe them?

When I went to public high school in grade 10, I had never taken notes before while a teacher was talking. I found that difficult. I also found it hard to ask for help.

Has homeschooling hindered your opportunities for post-secondary education?

It has not hindered me at all. I am now in my 2nd year at University of Northern British Columbia in Forestry.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

From what I’ve seen, homeschooling works much better if you start from the beginning. To pull a kid out of school and then start homeschooling is possible, but is much more challenging.

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Panning for gold

 

Interview with Homeschooler – Franzi Zwygart

Zwygart Family

Zwygart Family

What were your reasons for homeschooling?

I arrived in Canada at age 24 and back then I didn’t plan on homeschooling my future children. English as my second foreign language and young in my Christian faith, you might say the odds were against me to choose homeschooling.  But God had other plans. We knew two godly families who were teaching their children at home and this made a deep impression on me. It was probably the leading cause for my husband and I to consider homeschooling down the road. We observed that homeschooled children connected well with children of different ages as well as adults. When the time came, it felt natural to us to pursue home education. I realized that I was unwilling to spend most of the day away from them, missing their big and little successes which would take place in school.

If you asked me today what my reasons for homeschooling our kids are, I would add: worldview. Choosing our own curriculum has given us the freedom to consider faith-based materials. I value the opportunity to instil a firm foundation in their lives, both academically and spiritually.

 How long have you homeschooled?

I started right from when our firstborn daughter was entering Kindergarten, eight years ago, though some of her teaching started much before then (counting, reading books to her, talking about what we were experiencing and learning as we went through our days together). With my son, who is two years younger than our daughter, I found he picked up so much alongside his eager sister. When he was about 5 years old and doing fairly well with reading, I asked one day in mock surprise who it was that had taught him how to read (I didn’t!). He grinned and said “My brain.”

Could you highlight some of your experiences during your home-school years?

For me, the best part about homeschooling the kids, is having them home. This means that we can eat our meals together at the table, where many good discussions take place. It’s a great time to connect with one another as a family.

A favorite time for me is when we read a book together out loud. Generally, that happens at breakfast and lunch, while the kids finish their meal. These books usually fit in well with our social studies topic. This fall, I have already read a couple of historical fiction books on early civilizations. We love these fascinating accounts that transport us to a far away time. Though the kids are both ferocious readers themselves, they enjoy these times of lingering at the table, hearing the next chapter of our current adventure. When they were younger, reading books out loud to them meant they could listen to stories which they were too young to read on their own. This is how the kids were first introduced to Little House on the Prairie, the Chronicles of Narnia, Little Pilgrim’s Progress, the Boxcar children, and a host of others. Later, they would read these books on their own; some over and over again.

It’s great to see the kids grasp concepts, make connections or get excited about topics. However, not only the kids are growing and learning, but I am, too. This fall for example, we have started Diana Waring’s Ancient Civilizations & the Bible history curriculum. This program is unlike any other I have personally taught before. Though it was a bit overwhelming for me at first, I now really appreciate all it has to offer. The kids are becoming more independent learners and take ownership of their own education, a flame I will continue to fan as the years go by.

Was there a certain method and/or curriculum that worked for you?

One curriculum that stands out for me is the Saxon Math program. We have used it year after year since Grade 1 for both kids and we plan to continue to do so. I never enjoyed Math when I went to school but Saxon – with its incremental approach to introducing new concepts – has made Math easy to understand for the kids. To be clear, I need to mention that it’s a rigorous program which apart from daily new concepts includes much repetition and daily timed drills. It’s definitely worth the time commitment, though. After disliking the subject for years, though consistently getting high grades in it, my now twelve year old daughter considers it her favorite subject.

Apart from sticking to our trusty Saxon, we have taken an eclectic approach to our curriculum choices. Some programs fall into the Classical category, such as the “Story of the World” history curriculum which we went through for four years. The same goes for the Institute for Excellent Writing (IEW) themed writing program the kids worked through last year. Again, though the kids often moaned when it was time to do their IEW lessons, I noticed a huge improvement in their writing skills because of it. This curriculum has proven to be effective and has yielded almost instant results to vary sentence structure, add quality adjectives, strong verbs, etc. During our read-alouds, they would often point out certain skills they had learned in that program. Now, they recognized these techniques while reading published authors.

Will you homeschool in high school?

At this point, I am just on the threshold of junior high school with our older one who is in Grade 7. In order to give her some more freedom and the opportunity to work with a teacher other than me, we tried something new and enrolled her in an online English course through Heritage Christian Online School. Though the first week was a bit of a learning curve, she has settled in well. She values the freedom to work independently and enjoys the variety of topics of her course. This seems to be a good fit for her this year, for this subject. For future years and subjects, we will evaluate our options both for her and her brother as they enter the higher grades. At this point, it looks like some online courses may be a good option for us. 

What piece of advice would you recommend to homeschooling families?

I’ll be frank; homeschooling takes a lot of time and energy.  Taking into account correcting, lesson prep and reporting translates into some extra hours for me.  A vision of why you homeschool will help you stick with it over time.

Since I am by nature an organizer, schedules have been my “friends” throughout the years. They help me put my expectations of what needs to be accomplished in a year down on paper, an invaluable help to make sure the work gets done.

Interview with Kersten Spinney- Homeschool Graduate

 

Kersten is 19 years old and was homeschooled until grade 9. She was a delight to interview and I really appreciate her being willing to share her homeschool experience! 

How long did you homeschool?

Until I was half way through grade nine.  Then I started going to the public school.

Can you describe your homeschooling experience?

Oh boy. Fun, fun, fun, good, good, nice, not so nice and then it was into the public school system I went. That’s may sound discouraging, I know, but it was really not. I am thankful that I was homeschooled and I think it was a good fit for me. By the time it ended, it was clear to myself and my mom that it was time for me to try public school.

What were the advantages of homeschooling?

I was able to learn in a more relaxed setting which I believe  helped me learn more I than I would have in public school. I am pretty sure if I had been in public school from the beginning, I would have struggled the whole way through, and it would probably have taken a toll on my self -confidence.  Being homeshooled, I was not comparing my progress rate to anyone else. I was learning at my own pace and it worked well for me.

What were some of your best homeschooling memories?

Mom reading to my sister and I. She would read us a story book or a history book while we listened and I always drew. For history, we had timelines that we filled in as we went and those were pretty cool. We had them hanging in our house for many years after they were finished.

Were there any disadvantages of homeschooling and if so could you describe them?

The main one I can think of, is that since it was all more relaxed and deadlines were not really an issue, my sense of time management never really kicked in. When I did go to public school the whole, “homework and assignments being due on certain days”, was a bit of a learning curve.
Has homeschooling hindered your opportunities for post-secondary education? 

I do not think it was a hindrance. I want to get into Medical School eventually. I would love to become a doctor. I know that means four years of post secondary (hopefully that will start this coming fall), four years in Medical School (maybe more) and anywhere from three to seven years working on a specialty which would be actually working in the hospitals .  As you can see it will be a piece of cake ….. I could do it with my eyes closed (cough cough). Seriously, I know it will be a long hard road but I am pretty sure that if it is what God is calling me too, and right now I really feel it is, He will help get me through.

 

 

Interview with Homeschooler Veteran Eleanor Bertin

I would say this is one of the homeshooling pioneers! Eleanor has shared some wonderful wisdom and I was very encouraged by this interview….

What were your reasons for homeschooling?

In 1983, my highly educated sister mentioned she was thinking about homeschooling her children. My response was, “Why would you want to do that?” In fact, amongst the young parents at our church, I had argued against Christian schools, convinced they offered a lower quality of education. I’ve discovered I was entirely wrong about that, but I felt I knew what I knew. 🙂 My sister, however, has always been influential in my life and I began to be impressed with what I saw her children accomplishing — her second was a fluent reader by age 3!

I read whatever I could about home education and attended a home education seminar in Winnipeg in 1987. When we moved to Ontario later that year, we discovered Junior Kindergarten (for 4-year-olds) was upon us and I laid out for my husband what I’d learned. He agreed we could try it for a year.

Primarily, I would have to say that our initial reasons were academic. I believed homeschooling would give our children a superior education with its freedom to pursue learning at an accelerated pace. As years went by, I grew as a Christian and began to cherish the opportunity we had to pass on God’s truth to our children. A legacy of godly character and a biblical worldview became more important to me than mere academic smarts. Although the pursuit of knowledge was still vital, wisdom became more of a priority. Although there are times, now that I have a son in school, that I’m convinced my main motivation to homeschool was to avoid having to pack lunches.

How long did you homeschool?

Twenty-five years! We started our oldest in kindergarten in fall of 1988 when he was five. At the time we had three boys and a newborn daughter. (Later, three more boys were born.) We finished home schooling our youngest, who has Down syndrome, when he was 16, in 2013. Because his siblings had all left home by that time, we felt it would be best for him to have the routines, the physical activity opportunities and the social interaction with other kids. He’s very well taken care of in a small local Mennonite school.

Could you highlight some of your experiences during your homeschool years?

I’m sitting here bawling, remembering… When I look through our family photos, I realize most of our happy and fun memories are connected to our schooling. It was a way of life. Birthday parties were often connected to whatever the children were fascinated with at the time (medieval feast, Robin Hood, Davey Crockett and the Alamo, etc.)

We all learned so much! I, a math-averse girl, had a chance to re-learn it and came to love and appreciate God’s genius with numbers. After all, I’ve now gone through Grades 1-12 at least seven times!

One afternoon stands out in my memory: I had given a writing assignment and after they were done, the children went out to play. In the rare quiet of the living room, I read their stories. Ben, in typical eldest fashion, had written a detailed account of a squire’s longing to become a knight. It showed great vocabulary and style and was near perfect in spelling and punctuation. I was proud. Dan’s action-packed adventure followed the antics of Ambrose, a boy in ancient Greece, who wanted to go to sea. I howled with laughter as I read page after plotless page in that messy scrawl of leaping and climbing and falling and “oof” and “argh” sword fights and near-death experiences. Finally, Tommy’s story of woe involved the mishaps endured by another ancient Greek lad, a slave boy named Elmo. There were abject descriptions of the filthy hovel he lived in and one memorable line, “…his skirt was savagely ripped.” Each of those stories encapsulated something about the writers and I realized I was privileged to know these very different boys who were gifted in such diverse ways.

Just to keep it real, I also remember times of great frustration. One day when the oldest three boys were about 15, 14 and 12, I actually stormed out of the house in the middle of a science lesson on quarks, and went for a long walk. I was furious with their juvenile nonsense and disruption. I felt torn, longing to enjoy learning with my little ones while being forced to neglect them so I could bang my head against the wall trying to impart knowledge that I didn’t understand very well myself, to these miscreants.

“We homeschooled in part to avoid junior high, that ghetto of immaturity!” I fumed. “And now here it is in my own home!”

Now I sit in a very quiet house and miss them all.

Was there a certain method and/or curriculum that worked for you?

I began with a very structured curriculum, because that’s what my sister had used. In 1988, there was very little out there. Bob Jones and Rod & Staff were about the only choices. But after we moved to Alberta and I met other homeschoolers, I was exposed to other options. The unit study approach was a lot of fun, and more appropriate for pencil-resistant boys. We pretty much did unit studies, Saxon math (which I loved) and Learning Language Arts Through Literature until high school.

Did you homeschool high school and could you tell us a little about those years? (If you have a child who went onto post-secondary could you briefly describe their experience?)

We opted out of doing high school accreditation after one year. I found it to be a futile rat-race that required me to be a slave-driver for unmotivated students. Instead we used great curriculum like Jay Wile’s Apologia sciences, Saxon math, and other self-directed studies. We were also enrolled in Advanced Training Institute and followed their curriculum for other subjects. I loved the discussions that came out of learning together, and the opportunity to influence their thinking in those formative teen/young adult years.

Number one son went to Brandon University (Manitoba) when he was 22 and had decided he wanted to pursue music. He was accepted as a mature student, without a gov’t diploma. I provided a home-grown transcript. In that first year, he once commented that he had gotten a good education. Currently, he has completed one year of a doctorate in piano performance at Florida State University, an Artist’s Diploma from Columbus University in Atlanta, GA and in the new year will be auditioning to complete a doctoral program somewhere else. He has done all this without student debt, thanks to God’s provision and assistantships/fellowships.

Our other children: one is apprenticing in a trade, two operate their own businesses (security/bodyguarding, and fencing business) and our daughter is a homeschooling mom of 3.25 children!)

What piece of advice would you recommend to homeschooling families?

I found it was essential to have a vision of why we were doing what we were doing. Seeing the big picture of raising children to follow the Lord helped me look beyond the weariness, demands and many feelings of inadequacy I was so often plagued by.

Over the years, I’ve come to see there are two other essentials. 1) a stable marriage and the approval and support of your husband, and 2) a reasonably orderly home. I’ve been alarmed as I’ve seen family after family that looked exemplary on the outside fall apart through divorce. There’s no doubt about it, home education is an added strain on a marriage and a woman needs to remember she is a wife first.

Beware of looking to your children for your self-worth. Even when they rebel or reject your rearing, you are greatly beloved by the Lord and your obedience to Him in devoting yourself to their upbringing pleases Him. The outcome is His alone so that the glory is His alone.

Is there anything else you would like say about your homeschooling experience?

I am now 55 years old. My youngest, although still quite dependent due to his disability, has recently turned 18. Many years ago, I surrendered my life, career and goals to the Lord, dying to myself and choosing to live for Him. As baby after baby arrived, and with each one, an 18-year commitment to educating them, I couldn’t see any life beyond family and homeschooling.

Once everyone had left home and the youngest was in school, I faced a bit of an identity crisis. Who was I if I wasn’t a homeschool mom, and of what value was I now that stage of life was over? I found myself in good health and possibly decades left in which to “do something”. But what? And who would hire me without “experience”. Well, the library manager in my hometown evidently thought my skills and experience were of some value, and I now work part-time there. Most amazing for me, though, is dusting off my writing career and finding I can still do it. I blog at jewelofcontentment.wordpress.com, and early in January, my first novel, Lifelines, is coming out. There is life after homeschooling!

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In a fit of optimism at age eleven, Eleanor Bertin began her first novel by numbering a stack of 100 pages. Two of them got filled. Lifelines, her first completed novel, was shortlisted in the 2015 Word Alive Free Publishing Contest.

She holds a college diploma in Communications and worked in agriculture journalism until the birth of her first child. The family eventually grew to include one daughter and six sons (the youngest with Down syndrome) whom she home-educated for 25 years.

Eleanor and her husband live amidst the ongoing renovation of a century home in central Alberta where she blogs about a sometimes elusive contentment at jewelofcontentment.wordpress.com.

Interview with Homeschool Veteran Step Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is a fellow writer friend of mine who also homeschooled for many years. I was thrilled when she agreed to share some of her wisdom through an interview….Enjoy!

What were your reasons for homeschooling?

There are a number of reasons to homeschool, but my main reason was, as one advocate of homeschooling put it, I wanted to insulate—not isolate—my children. I wanted them to grow strong in the Christian faith. They spent lots of time with their non-Christian friends after school, but I felt if I homeschooled them, they would be more prepared to do so.

How long did you homeschool?

Between my three children, I homeschooled for a total of 13 years.

Could you highlight some of your experiences during your homeschool years?

Many homeschoolers see everything as a learning experience, though we may have set hours for “formal education.” But some days, even the teacher wants to play hooky. I loved announcing to my kids, “Today I don’t feel like doing school. Go get dressed and we’ll go to the zoo.” The zoo was over two hours away, but we got an annual family pass and enjoyed our visits.

We also popped into the fire station one day and I asked when we could arrange a tour. They said, “How about now?” They showed us around and the kids got to sit in the fire truck as long as they wanted. It was great.

We belonged to a homeschoolers’ co-op that went on field trips together and got together from time to time for learning experiences best done in bigger groups (i.e.: physical education, science experiments, sign language, band, drama, etc.) It was great.

To be honest, some days were rough. I often cried out to God and said, “Something has to change—and I know it’s me.” Despite the difficult days, there were many more good ones and I’m glad I homeschooled my kids.

Was there a certain method and/or curriculum that worked for you?

I preferred a mix and match approach. I did a lot of shopping at a Scholar’s Choice store not far from our home. To this day, I see educational materials and would love to buy them.

Did you homeschool high school and could you tell us a little about those years? (If you have a child who went onto post-secondary could you briefly describe their experience?)

We got a high school correspondence course for our eldest. For a variety of reasons, it wasn’t as successful as I would have liked. He went on to get his GED through a local community college program.

Our second son was the only one to go onto post-secondary (Nipawin Bible College) and he also graduated from a public high school, where he did very well.

What piece of advice would you recommend to homeschooling families?

Get to know each child’s academic strengths and learning style and use that information to design an individualized program.

I would also say that when the school day is over, figuratively and/or literally, close the door. If it was a good day, great. If it was a struggle, just put it behind you and enjoy some downtime with your kids. You all need it.

Is there anything else you would like say about your homeschooling experience?

If I had it to do again, I would take more of an unschooling approach and teach my three as we went about living life. I would also spend more time teaching them about the Christian faith and how it applies to day-to-day life.

And a word of encouragement . . . My eldest was about 15 when he said, “Thanks for homeschooling me, Mom. I don’t think I’d be the person I am if you hadn’t.”

Some days will be tough, but homeschooling is an amazing opportunity. Enjoy!

Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance writer and editor as well as an award-winning author. Find her works at: 

Interview with Homeschooler Linda Potje

Linda is a homeschooling mother of an amazing 10 year old boy (who happens to be my nephew!). She is truly delighted in her calling and shares her experience as well as some valuable advice below….

What were your reasons for homeschooling?

I wanted to be part of my son’s day, and his emotional development.  I wanted to be available to see through his frustrations and have hug breaks. Being a part of my son’s education is very important.   I want to help him learn by choosing curriculum that works with his learning style. I also want to empower his learning and teach at his pace.  Homeschooling allows me to encourage his interests and incorporate them into our day. We choose outings and extracurricular activities that work for us; and as many as we like! We school with whom we choose and friends that are positive for us. This helps avoid social problems like bullying and negative influences.  We also homechool for social and moral reasons . We work through any challenges  as my husband, Hugh, had learning issues when he was young, so he was on board.

How long have you been homeschooling?

Since Matthias was born….He is 10 now.

Can you highlight some experiences during your homeschool years?

Matthias loves lots hugs with me and the animals throughout the day. I love watching Matthias develop confidence to want to be able to spell,  seeing it right in front of me, and feeling proud that he was never made to feel ashamed of his challenge. I experience Matthias’ pride when he accomplishes things throughout the day.  Seeing his love of math makes me happy! Listening to Matthias tell his friends why homeschooling is so great makes everything so worth it.

Is there a certain method and/or curriculum that is working for you?

Definitely eclectic.  We use some curriculum, do some unschooling, and go to some homeschooling groups to round out our experience. Teaching Textbooks for math is great.

Are you planning to homeschool high school?

At this point, yes.  He has a strong homeschool network, and loves homeschooling.  So I plan continue.

Would you consider public school at some point?

Sure, possibly if I felt that it was a good choice for him.  I am not even considering this until high school.  At this point, Matthias has no interest and always wants to be homeschooled.

What piece of advice would you recommend to homeschoolers? 

Find a network of friends that work and incorporate them into your homeschool experience.  Don’t be afraid to leave those behind that don’t work.  Start groups/outings if there is a need. Ask children what they want to  learn. Gently push but don’t push to frustration. Try to prioritize responsibilities.  Some days there is so much going on, I need to put things on the back burner to prioritize him.  Believe in yourself.  Don’t assume others are doing things better than you. Find at least one mentor/confidant.   I have my sister and she has been incredible in times of insecurity, doubts and lows.

Matthias

Matthias climbing a tree on a homeschool outing

Homeschool Interviews

Over the next little while I will be posting interviews from homeschool parents as well as homeschooled kids. My hope is to encourage those thinking about homeschooling, who are already on the journey, those who are at the end of the journey (like me), and also just to educate those who are just curious about why anyone would homeschool in the first place. Although my homeschool career has come to a close, I am happy to share some of our experiences as well as the experiences of others.I am grateful to everyone who was willing to share their story  I hope you enjoy this series of posts 🙂