Home schooling: Lessons learned from a Moving Mom who home-schooled
For our final article on home schooling, we talked to Jami Miltenberger. She home-schooled her two sons, who are now 21 and 24. Her husband, Glenn, works in the large-scale construction industry and their family moves regularly. So when her sons, Klein and Cole, were in the third grade and sixth grade respectively, the family decided that Jami would begin home schooling them. She has her master’s degree in counseling and psychology and previously taught at the college level but says she knew that educating her little ones would be a very big change.
When her kids originally started attending public school, she thought there was no way she could ever home-school because she simply didn’t have the patience it required. But after moving and meeting a family who home-schooled, she realized how social, well-spoken and bright their children were and started exploring her options.
Then when her son, Cole, had a negative experience in his fifth-grade class, it prompted her to take the leap. She home-schooled Cole through 12th grade and Klein through eighth grade.
Here’s what she learned along her home schooling journey and what she wants other women to know:
Believe in yourself
At first, Jami says she was constantly questioning whether her kids were learning fast enough. She compared herself to other home schooling moms who planned elaborate lessons, like sewing costumes to recreate historical events. But once she found a path that was comfortable for her, she says things began to click for her and her kids.
She discovered the Sonlight Christian Homeschool Curriculum, which is literature based, and started using that as a foundation for her weekly lesson plans.
“Teaching is guiding, not having all he answers.”
It turned out that her children shared her passion for reading. Now she says some of her most treasured memories of home schooling involve getting wrapped up in the enriching experience of reading a good book.
She conducted standardized tests for her sons one time and when the results showed that they were on track for their ages, she learned to believe in her abilities as their educator. She never administered the tests again.
“Don’t count yourself out. You are not going to hurt your kids trying it.”
Home-schooled kids are not antisocial
One of Jami’s early concerns regarding home schooling, like many moms, was whether her children would have adequate social opportunities. But she quickly found that they had plenty of time with their peers while participating in sports and a variety of other groups, including a speech club for home-schoolers.
Through the years, she also started to notice that her kids and other home-schoolers seem better equipped to hold a conversation with adults. She thinks it may be because they’re exposed to people of all ages regularly, rather than spending the majority of their time exclusively with children their own age.
Throughout their adolescence, Jami says her sons’ closest friends were always their baseball teammates.
Every experience is a learning experience
You may be wondering how a home schooling family handles all those things that parents typically do while their kids are in school – like doctor appointments and trips to the bank. Well, Jami says those become part of the lesson for the day. If she was having blood drawn for lab work, she required her sons to bring a list of questions for the phlebotomist. And if she was opening a new checking account at the bank, her kids came along to learn how the process worked.
It also gave her family the opportunity to really get out and see what was around them in California and Illinois, the states they lived in during the home schooling years.
“When I say if I can do it, anyone can, I mean it.”
Things will go wrong but that doesn’t mean you failed
Jami urges new home-schoolers to go easy on themselves. She says that in the early days of teaching her kids, she expected nothing short of perfection from herself. And for a while, that worked. But eventually she came across lesson plans that didn’t pan out (like a caterpillar kit that never transformed into a butterfly).
But that’s the beauty of home schooling, she says. When something isn’t working out, you can ditch the whole concept and try something new. Or if you’re feeling really defeated, pick up and go somewhere for the day to change your scenery and explore some wildlife or visit a museum.
Sometimes Cole would fall asleep during read-aloud sessions. Sometimes when they were little she would find herself in the laundry room crying and asking God why He lead her to home schooling. But those times of trial were short-lived and she knew her efforts would be worth it in the end.
“You’re not a failure if you lose your temper.”
And if you start home schooling and decide that you’re not cut out for it afterall, Jami says that’s ok, too. But you won’t know until you try.
Protect your rights
Join the Home School Legal Defense Association. Jamie said she didn’t need the organization’s help often but when she did, it was a comfort to know she could count on them. In one instance, her sons were playing competitive baseball and she wanted to ensure that they would be allowed to play in a league that would make them eligible for college scholarships down the road. The HSLDA helped talk her through what her rights were in the state where she lived.
⇒ Want to see the proof that Jami and her husband raised well-rounded, smart, social young men through home schooling?
Klein recently got married and Jami says his wedding party was an eclectic mix of friends from all over the country who he has remained close with through the years. He is attending the University of Kansas with a 4.0 grade point average.
And Cole made the Dean’s List at East Tennessee State University and served as president of his fraternity.
Looking back, Jami says she cherishes the years she spent home schooling her sons.
“I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.”
Did you know?
The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests, according to the National Home Education Research Institute.
-By Emily Shedek