Tag Archives: Heritage Christian Online School

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.

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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 🙂