Category Archives: homeschooling and university

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 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: 

Can you Homeschool in High school?

It is totally possible to homeschool in high school. There are several ways to accomplish this but I will only mention a few in this post.

Some homeschooling families chose to do their own program without the concern of meeting learning outcomes or diplomas. This can work very well for some families and there can be a lot of joy in following your children’s interests and building an education around them. These families may choose to put together an academic record (portfolio) themselves.  I have known several homeschoolers who have chosen this route and have gone on to post secondary education very successfully. Many colleges and universities require grade 12 English but some will allow entrance with a portfolio, essays and/or a basic English 100 course. In most cases, whether the student stays in the college or university is conditional to the GPA attained in their first year.

Another way to gain entrance into a post secondary institution without a diploma, is to take an online or night course at a college and transfer into a degree or diploma program.  In many cases you do not need a high school diploma as long as you pass the courses.

In British Columbia, Canada you have the choice of graduating with a “Dogwood” diploma or a Certificate of Completion (marks for the courses taken). If you want the diploma, then the student will be required to write provincial exams from grade 10 through to grade 12 therefore the student has less flexiblity of what they can study. Of course this is the easiest transition into a post secondary institution.

I know a few homeschool families in the United States, as well, who have homeschooled through to graduation and transitioned into college and university successfully. Many colleges and universities in Canada and the US have a link on their websites for homeschooled student applications. More and more universities are realising that the majority of homeschooled gradutates are well prepared for university even though they have never attended a public school. The reason for this is most likely that homeschooled kids are taught to find information on their own from a young age. They are more independant and self motivated in their studies.

By high school, we chose to do the provincial exams and go for the high school Dogwood Diploma. An excellent online school is Heritage Christian Online School. I have known many, many kids (including my daughter) who schooled and graduated this way, which allowed them the freedom to tailor thier education and have experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have, being at a school every day.

This was our high school experience….

Grade 9 hit for my oldest boy, and things began to be a little bit of a struggle. He was ready to go to school. Up until this point he was happy to be homeschooled. I enrolled him at the local school for grade 10. It was a difficult transition, mostly for me, however, it was the right one for him. Academically the transition was a smoothe one. The way I taught science and socials was through unit studies. We never did a socials or science textbook and I wasn’t overly concerned about meeting  learning outcomes. He did fine. Actually on of his teachers was quite impressed with all of the “facts” he knew :).I have to admit I breathed a sigh of relief when I found out he was going to be okay academically in high school!

My daughter on the other hand, did well homeschooling through to graduation. She had a different learning style than the boys. She was textbook driven. She loved them. Textbooks and workbooks worked well for her and by high school she could basically teach herself. I became more her educational manager than her teacher. We were enrolled with Heritage Christian Online School and I assisted her in setting up her courses, ordering curriculum and facilitating tests and exams. I also helped tutor her where I could. I would communicate with her teachers online and also accommodate her other educational  needs. For example, she worked as a volunteer in a veterinary clinic and a museum for work experience. She took the necessary courses to be a lifeguard and swimming instructor. She took music and art lessons. We even went to a couple of writer’s conferences together!  In grade twelve, her graduation year, she went on a fantastic six week trip to Mexico with her online school. It was mixture of courses, missions work and cultural immersion. She would have never had this experience if she went to public school; not where we lived anyway.

However, I have to be honest and say that if you asked my daughter, online homeschooling or distance education is more challenging academically than sitting and being taught in a classroom. She eventually ended up taking a couple of courses at public school in her grade twelve year,  while homeschooling full-time. She had a secure peer group through homeschooling , and felt no need to experience high school life for the sake of the experience. She just found it easier to complete these courses in a classroom setting.

My youngest son, went into the high school when he was in grade 10. I realize now that I should have put him in school in grade 9.  He was not self-motivated like his sister and found it difficult to be alone. By waiting a year longer and not hearing his heart, caused some strain between the two of us which we are still working through a year later.

If I was asked, as a veteran homeschooler what I would have done differently, I would have probably put both my boys in school a year earlier than I did. Boys, more than girls seem to want to experience a degree of separation and independence from their mothers around this age. Perhaps if we had lived in a center with a larger youth group or homeschool group, things may have been different. For about the first 9 years of homeschooling I would have never considered the possibility of putting my children in public school! We loved homeschooling….all of us. And when I did put them in school, I won’t deny that is was super difficult for me.

I would encourage any homeschooling mother to really pray about the needs of each child individually. Listen to the hearts of your kids, especially your teens. They are all so different. I am so grateful that we were able to homeschool however, I am also grateful to our local public school for loving our kids as well 🙂

Unexpected Montreal University Tours

McGill University

McGill University

It wasn’t our in our plans to check out universities in Montreal. It was just going to be a girl’s getaway, celebrating the beginning of Carlee’s gap year with little four day side trip from our visit with my family in Ontario. A few days of shopping, cafés, sushi and a show or two.  But since her dad went to McGill University, we thought we would book a tour for fun. When my cousin Karen said, “If Carlee went to McGill she could live with me!” it got us thinking…..

I seriously underestimated my girl. I knew she would be delighted to experience the cultural aspects of Montreal, but I figured she would be turned off with the crowds and hustle and bustle of city living. I am a big city girl who raised small town kids. Carlee’s a country girl, loves her horses and quiet living. Isn’t she? I have never known her to desire to live in a big city. I also thought she would be completely overwhelmed with McGill. Not at all! When I asked her what she thought about McGill she thoughtfully replied, “Big and intimidating and awesome!” Huh? She liked it? She could see herself possibly going there? She liked the old buildings, the academic energy, the diversity amongst the crowds, and the challenge of the competitive admission standards. Sooooo…..

Carlee at McGill

Carlee at McGill

We thought we might as well check out Concordia University as well. We booked a tour which we thought would be an hour and it ended up being 3 hours long! We had the sweetest tour guide, a second year fine arts student. It was only Carlee and I, so we had her undivided attention. The campus is very different from McGill. It is spread out in buildings throughout the heart of downtown Montreal. It is all connected underground so in the winter you do not even have to go outside. The buildings are 13 stories tall! This university had its own appeal; definitely strong in the arts with programs such as  Creative Writing, Journalism, Studio Art and Design, to name a few. Our guide took us to her favourite study areas, one being the greenhouse on the 7th floor. This lovely hideaway is full of greenery (cared for by students) little water fountains, tables to sit and study, or, if you just want a little time out you can fix yourself a herbal tea at the tea station. Another favourite spot to study was on a floor which had couches overlooking a view of the skyline.

We opted to take a 20 minute bus to the other campus, Loyala, which offers the Humanities program and the Science & Arts programs. It has a completely different feel to it with its beautiful historic buildings and out of the hustle and bustle of downtown.

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Concordia University...in the heart of downtown, Montreal

Concordia University…in the heart of downtown, Montreal

Overall, both universities held an appeal for Carlee. We found Montreal as a possibility that we would have never considered had we not decided to take this little impromptu side trip to visit cousin, Karen! Some thought and prayer will be on the agenda in the days to come 🙂

Carlee with our cousin, Karen Potje

Carlee with our cousin, Karen Potje

One Gone….Another Returns!

Carlee off to Mexico

So I saw my girl off to Mexico. Carlee is on a six week adventure in Puerto Escondido. Just a recap (of a previous post): Carlee will be travelling with her online school class, Heritage Christian Online School with the 2015 Global Citizenship Program. The grade twelve class of the “brick and mortar” school (Heritage Christian School) out of Kelowna, BC, join up with several of the online students for a four week stay in Puerto Escondido (the west coast) where they will be doing a combination of high school courses, fun adventures such as snorkeling and horseback riding on the beach, and part-time missions work (building a soccer field, working in an orphanage and an after school program for the local children). She will travel inland for two weeks to Nopala and do a homestay with a Mexican family to experience the language and culture. Here, they will also be doing a children’s ministry and various work projects. The class will take in activities such as a trip to the Mayan ruins, visit an artesian presentation on rug weaving, attend a native dance and dinner, visit archeological sites, to name a few.

So much preparation and excitement went into the trip and then we had this challenging week of not knowing if she would even be well enough to go! It was a week of keeping our eyes on God, trusting that whatever His plan was, would be good. She is now on her way, about to make memories of a lifetime. I am going to miss her like crazy. Homeschooling Carlee has been a joy and a privilege.  We are mother and daughter but she is my best friend, my encourager (not to mention my editor J). We love spending time together, however I knew there would come a day where I would need to release her to become the woman of God that He is calling her to be. Now is that time. She has had to travel down to Kelowna to meet a group of kids that she barely knows and then fly to Mexico with them. Although she has had an online connection with some of them through homeschooling, and she did go down to Kelowna in October to get acquainted with the group, it really is out of her comfort zone, meeting so many new people and basically living and travelling with them for six weeks! I am so excited for her and grateful for this opportunity.

It does not seem like long ago I was writing about my woes of Maxx leaving for university! This weekend we are going to Prince George to pick him up and bring him back home for the summer. In September, I didn’t know how I would make it through the year without my sweet-natured, yet strong-in-spirit oldest boy. And here we are. I survived without him and he certainly survived without me! He had a challenging but fantastic year. He held a very heavy workload of first year science and math courses. He adjusted to living in a residence setting. He figured one year was a good experience but has had enough of living life on campus 24/7. Is it possible for a Christian young man to weather the typical university life, faced with temptations like partying and immoral behavior (which is the world’s norm)? Absolutely.

Maxx hunting and gatheringMaxx playing at City Center Church

He will tell you that it was not easy. However, from the very beginning he told his friends that he was a non-drinker. He got it right out on the table. Smart move. He also, hooked up with some like-minded friends, joined a bible study, joined the gym, played on an intermural basketball team, joined the forestry club, took a search and rescue course, found a church, joined a worship team and acquired a very lovely Christian girlfriend. Who has time to party with a schedule like that J? Makes a mother’s heart sing. God is so very faithful.

So the timing is actually perfect. Carlee has just left for Mexico, and Maxx returns a few days later. God knows me well. He is emptying the nest in gentle stages…very slowly and mercifully!

The Ugly Brown Quilt

Well he’s gone. As a good friend reminded me, I am not the first mother to take her oldest child to university. We drove to University of Northern British Columbia, about a four-hour drive, however it took us five with stops. It was a family affair…moving Maxx into his residence. It was exciting, chaotic and bittersweet all at the same time.

“Mom, don’t make my bed, I’ll do it.” Now, he just didn’t understand. I reserved that right as his mother to make his bed in residence. Previously, had thought out the whole bed-making process in great detail! I had planned for this moment. I researched the size of mattress ahead of time. Good thing as it was an odd size (twin extra long). Fortunately, I checked or the fitted sheet I was going to bring wouldn’t fit. I spent a coffee break perusing the Sear’s catalogue until I found the perfect, flannel, extra long bed-in-a bag (sheet set and duvet..all matching) for his new bed in residence. “But, mom I want to take the quilt off my bed to residence.” That old ugly brown thing? Plus, it was queen size….

So, I returned the lovely bed-in-a bag set and ordered a simple flannel, brown, fitted extra long sheet to match the hideous brown quilt that Maxx was so fondly attached to. I knew the top sheet was a waste of money as he wouldn’t use it. Too complicated with the bed-making process. It had to be simple. Pull up the quilt and voila! Bed made. Done.

I went through all the pillows in the house and selected two of the best. I found his old flannel hockey player pillow case that his sister had made him when they were younger. I packed up all the bedding plus one more cozy blanket for good measure and felt  satisfied that his bed would be acceptable. SOOOOO, when we got to his residence and he said, “Mom, don’t make my bed,” I exercised my motherly rights and said, “I’m saying goodbye to you, let me have this small pleasure.” He smiled. I made the bed. Cozy, perfect, I was satisfied. I also unpacked his kitchen (chuckling to myself as I imagined him grabbing his “to go” mug noticing the “Maxx loves his awesome mom” written in permanent ink in my hand-writing.)

We parted for the evening while Maxx went to his orientation meetings and we went to the parent/family information night. We met up later to go eat in the brand new cafeteria with a fabulous new meal plan (sushi included!).

Maxx slept in his residence that night and we went to our hotel. The next day we picked him up after his morning and we all went to lunch with some of his friend and parents, a kind of good bye celebration. I didn’t actually get to talk to him much to see how his orientation went. I also, didn’t really get a chance to say goodbye properly as he suddenly realized that he had to get back to another orientation meeting and rush away. The parting felt chaotic and undone. It was an abrupt hug goodbye. I was strong up until that point but I cracked about then. I let a few tears fall, pulled myself together and proceeded to Starbucks for a double shot of espresso.

I am not the first mother to let her child move on to the next chapter of his life. I have two more children to say goodbye to eventually. I don’t expect it to get easier. But one thing I do know. They were never mine in the first place. They were on loan, entrusted to me by God, my loving Father to raise for His purpose. I think Him for that privilege.