Heart of the Matter: Homeschool as a Lifestyle

October 25, 2013
Cynthia: This is Cynthia, with Heart of the Matter Radio for women who seek the elegance of God’s wisdom. Today I want to address homeschool moms. I know that there’s moms out there that are trying to obey that Scripture in the Old Testament that says for you to teach your kids when you sit by the way, when you lie, when you walk. And sometimes that is a hard assignment because you feel like you’re going twenty-four-seven.
Today we’re going to encourage you to keep going and not be quite so tense. I have with me Colleen Kazanchy. Colleen, welcome.
Colleen: Thank you.
Cynthia: Colleen, tell me how many kids you homeschooled.
Colleen: I had four of my own children, and then I had some that were through a private foster care type situation, so I was able to homeschool them as well. So I had seven of them there for awhile.
Cynthia: Wow. That’s quite a job. Well, tell me your story.
Colleen: Well, I first started, I thought about it on and off, you know. Then we moved from one state to another, so then I kind of thought well, we’ve got enough stress I won’t start anything new yet. But my daughter was really struggling in high school, and my son was a serious asthmatic. And so I started to think you know, I really don’t want to fight with this homework with my oldest daughter at night time. I’m just not a night person.
And I thought well, if I’ve got to be helping her a lot with her school work and trying to keep her on task I’d rather be in front of the situation than behind the situation. So that’s kind of what got it started. Plus my son with his asthma in and out of the hospital all the time. So I thought well, if he was at home that would be healthier for him.
That’s what precipitated it. But then after awhile I started to realize that I’m keeping these teenagers away from all this rushed boy-girl kind of stuff, especially in high school. A lot of humanistic type of teaching. So I didn’t start with the big picture, I started with a small picture and then started to see more as I went on.
So my son was doing well at home, feeling well, with my daughter we were staying on top of everything. Soon after that, I guess that was in the fall, they got involved in ice skating and softball and other extracurricular activities. And those things can take three nights a week or whatever. And I thought there’s no way I can do this with having them come home from school at four and then struggling over all this homework, and then have these extracurricular activities. So I also saw that you can kind of move your schedule around a little bit to fit into these activities. So that was great.
And then we had some foster children and we adopted some younger children. That was difficult, that was just kind of a whole different situation because some of the kids had emotional problems. They probably did better at home than they would have in school. But it was really really difficult. And then we have our adopted daughters, our two youngest ones. I couldn’t homeschool them right away because they were in foster care. 
But once they were adopted we did. I really wanted to build that time of just being with them, because they were girls close in age, that I could be with them and we can study things that we like, because they were still in the younger grades. And I knew the pressure wasn’t on too much yet.
I even tag-teamed with another mom. She had two girls the same age as mine, so one of us did the language and the other one did the math, and we kind of divided it up. That was a very fun experience. And then those girls of mine got very involved in being at a Christian dance studio, and that took three, four nights a week and Saturdays.
I was very glad to have the homeschooling to make our day more flexible. I don’t know that I felt really pressured, academically, all that much. We stayed on task, but my main goal was to have that family time together, have time for the extracurricular activities, keep the humanism out of the way, and with my girls being as pretty as they were I was glad I kept them away from boys until they were seventeen-years-old. 
Academically we did well. Truly, I think I could have done better academically, but I really didn’t push that as hard as the lifestyle.
Cynthia: Okay. So you’re saying that one of the advantages to you was for your son’s asthma. So was that aggravated, then, by being out among other kids?
Colleen: Oh yeah, because he was always getting every kind of sinus infection, head infection, upper respiratory and then it would go into full blown asthma attacks. Yeah. Then he’d be out of school for a week and have to go back. Oh yeah. When he was home that helped his health a lot.
Cynthia: When people came to you and said you’ve isolated your son from other kids so that he’ll be healthier, but is he interacting with children, how is he going to be socialized, what would you have said?
Colleen: I don’t know if I got that too much. It was a long time ago. But he was in baseball, so he saw kids there. And he went to church, and he went to youth group, and he had a friend in the neighborhood, and we had kids in the homeschool group, got together with those families. So did my kids interact all day, every day from seven in the morning till four in the afternoon? No. But did they interact with other people and other kids probably at least ten hours a week? Yes.
Cynthia: Okay, so you feel like that was normal.
Colleen: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think the purpose of school is for socialization. The purpose of school is education. 
Now, I understand the development of children they have to develop socially and emotionally and all that. But I don’t think you have to do them both at the exact same time.
Cynthia: Exactly. Now, I want to ask about this boy-girl stuff. Because a lot of people feel like that that is just the way it is, that when they get a certain age they have to do this and it’s just part of growing up. I want to have your perspective on that a little bit. How did you do that differently so that it didn’t turn out badly?
Colleen: They were in healthy situations. Like my son was in boys’ baseball, my daughter was in ice skating. That was mostly girls. They developed friends in church. Girl friends and sleepovers and they were just attracted to socializing with their own gender. 
Cynthia: Okay. So that kind of cut down on the dating and going out and boy-girl, and worrying about immorality and so on. Did that delay all of the dating, then, till later?
Colleen: Oh yeah. It didn’t even come about till they were almost eighteen-years-old. 
Cynthia: And probably better able to handle it emotionally by that time.
Colleen: I’m not quite sure, but at least they were over eighteen.
Cynthia: Right. Okay. But you were still doing stuff with your kids. You were out there actively involved in other activities, and you found it a little bit easier to fit into your homeschool day.
Colleen: If we wanted to take a trip for a couple of days, or if baseball was really gearing up, yeah, we would maybe do more work some days or take some stuff in the care with us or whatever we could. Yeah, we could custom fit it. Or with baseball there’d be three games in a row that got rained out, well I would know that next week was going to be a really busy week with baseball once the weather cleared up so we kind of picked up the
pace a little bit, yeah.
Cynthia: How did it work with your adopted daughters in terms of spending more time with them? How did that help you bond?
Colleen: Oh, it was great, because they were only a year apart in age. So they were like twins. They had a lot of friends who were sister sets. They had like seven different sister sets of friends. We would have so much fun if we had another set of friends over. We’d do toasting marshmallows together and I was friends with their mothers, as well. So we just spent a lot of fun time together.
At lunch time there was on the History Channel for several months there was a thing on World War Two. Well, they absolutely were enthralled with World War Two, so the three of us would make our lunch and sit in front of the TV for our lunchtime. Actually they had more social studies that way because that’s what we did for lunch for about six months. And we would talk about it and then talk with Dad about it in the evenings. It gave us more things in common, more things to talk about.
Cynthia: Okay. And so if any issues came up, say humanism and that sort of thing, y’all could talk about it right there. And I suppose you did right?
Colleen: All I can remember, really, about that was, we just kind of kept them on the path of what they’re supposed to know. I didn’t focus too much on what they weren’t supposed to know. But I remember my one daughter when she was still in school, before we started homeschooling, my oldest, when she came home and she said this book says that there is a theory of evolution and that is a lie. And I said to myself, no, that’s not a lie, there is a theory. That theory does exist. And so then we did talk about it then, so as it came up.
But I don’t remember that too much with the other ones.
Cynthia: Okay. So but if it did come up, it did happen, that you did talk about things like that.
Colleen: Sure.
Cynthia: It sounds like a really healthy situation because you are spending all that time with your kids and you were doing school, but school was ending up being fun.
Colleen: Well, most of the time. That book that’s called Handwriting Without Tears, we had our moments sometimes when we struggled, of course. You always do. But overall yes, it was really a very relaxing time and we had our evenings to do other things. If we wanted to go on a trip on off-season, when places aren’t crowded and it’s not hot, we could. Either we took those days off or we brought some school work with us.
Overall I would say it really was a very good experience.
Cynthia: So what did you learn from all of this?
Colleen: Different than what other people learned. I had not attended or graduated college before I started homeschooling my kids. So when I got finished with my oldest one, she took her SAT’s and went to college, and then my second one took his and he went to college. And then I thought about a year or so later I thought hmm, all this information that they have, all this knowledge that they that got them into college, I taught them. Oh, I guess I can to go to college. And so I did.
Cynthia: Wow. And so now you have a college degree right?
Colleen: I have two of them. I never use them for anything, but I’m sure glad I have them. 
My oldest daughter and I ended up being in class together for probably about two years in school. That was way fun. That was really fun.
Cynthia: I bet that was.
Colleen: That’s a very unusual experience, but we took a lot of classes together. That was really fun. So you could say my kids homeschooled me too.
Cynthia: That’s fun. So what would you do differently if you had the opportunity?
Colleen: I probably did push for excellence too many times. Although we were pretty relaxed, I did get times because sometimes kids can be oppositional. I still don’t know how I would handle it now, but I would just demand that they get everything right on this paper before we moved forward. And I just think I could have dropped a couple of things, just let it go.
Cynthia: So you think you would be a little bit more laid back now if you did it again?
Colleen: In that aspect. I think that’s the only way I could be more laid back, because the rest of it went pretty well. And I did stick to a pretty strict schedule as much as I could. And I wouldn’t change that either. I don’t think homeschool should be a fly by night oh let’s just do this for a few minutes here and there. I really do think you need to have a structured day. I think kids need structure. 
But I just think sometimes I just homed in a little bit too, I was just too focused. And sometimes it’s just a bad day or whatever, and sometimes I think I should just fine, you got a ‘C’ on this paper, and just not strive for them to get everything totally correct before we move on. In that respect I wish I was a little more relaxed sometimes, yeah.
Cynthia: So you’re saying that if they made a ‘C’ on something it didn’t make a whole lot of difference what they did miss, it was okay, that they would get it elsewhere?
Colleen: Yeah. Well, I think with the difference sometimes it just made them a little bit more nervous or whatever. But overall in their education, though, I don’t think my being overly picky sometimes made a difference though.
Cynthia: So did you find yourself being tense at all and worried about the outcome?
Colleen: Not in the long-term. I would get just tense about sometimes I’d say that moment when there was that one assignment that was difficult, or the child was being difficult I would get frustrated in the moment. But no, I never really worried long-term, no.
Cynthia: So what would you say to a mother who was just getting started and feeling very nervous about the prospect of taking on something so big?
Colleen: To just take it one day at a time. Just start with the first page, the first letter, the first number. Like I said I was not a college graduate. I wasn’t even college material, I really wasn’t, and by the time I got done I went to school and graduated with honors. Basically I homeschooled myself with my kids. 
If they’re seven-years-old don’t worry about what am I going to do about geometry. You have to start with one year at a time, but one day at a time.
Cynthia: Did you make plans for the entire year when the year started, then, that you were going to cover this much material in a certain period of time?
Colleen: No, no. I would pick out their books and I would know that pretty much the book is designed to be done within a school year. And the books do give you ideas on lesson plans, so I kind of went by that. But no, I didn’t sit down and plan out a whole year. Maybe a week or two at a time.
Cynthia: Did you have to study ahead? Obviously you didn’t have a college education, so did you have to study ahead or did you just study along with them?
Colleen: I learned right along with them. We were all in the same grade.
Cynthia: Did you have different grade levels at the same time?
Colleen: No. My older two I just put them together because they were only a year apart, and my younger two were just a year apart. The ones in the middle, that was just a temporary situation so we don’t ha
ve to address that. But yeah, they were so close in age that I just did them together.
Cynthia: Did you have any protests from your kids when you put them in the same grade together? I mean, obviously one’s older and the other one was slightly younger.
Colleen: Not at all. Not at all. I just let them know that the tight grade level was really, I don’t mean it as a negative, but it is an institutional type of organization of your levels. Whereas in real life we don’t have, as adults, we’re not on this grade or that grade. Some people might be more knowledgeable in one area or more talented in another, but we are not on grade levels. 
I just told them that wasn’t important, and they believed me.
Cynthia: See, that’s interesting, because it would be some kids that might react to that and say well in school they’re such and such and I want to be where they are.
Colleen: Then I told them school is an institution and they have to organize people in a particular way, they just have to. And so they do it by age and by grade. I said, but at home we don’t need to do that.
It just wasn’t an issue. It just was not an issue.
Cynthia: Interesting. So maybe your kids had so much respect for you that they just accepted that.
Colleen: I guess. I think they enjoyed being on the same level because they could do things together more. One of the things that I really enjoyed with mine was not ever giving them a vocabulary list. We would be reading some kind of a book, for literature, and in reading I would kind of do more of a holistic thing. You don’t have to have this is spelling, this is English, this is literature, this is reading, or whatever. I kind of put that together. And what they really enjoyed was we would read through a nice book that girls would like, maybe something about pioneer girls or something. Of course they get some history in there. And if we got to a word that they didn’t know what it meant I would try and get them to look at the context of the whole paragraph to figure out what it meant. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t, and then we’d put that word aside and we’d make our list from there.
And then they would . . . yeah, they had to learn how to spell it. But then together they would sit down and write a little short story or an essay and incorporate some of those new words that they learned. And because they were so close in age that was a fun project to do together.
Cynthia: You know, that sounds absolutely ideal that you got them interested first in the words. You didn’t just throw a bunch of words at them, but you got them interested so that it was related and then they did something else with it, did something creative.
Colleen: Yeah. A list of twenty-five words that you never heard of, you never saw before, can’t even pronounce, and just try and memorize the spellings and the definitions, I didn’t think there was any purpose to that. I really didn’t.
Cynthia: What about the holidays? How’d you do those differently? Did you have them participate in cooking or decorating?
Colleen: Yeah, but they would have done that anyway. I’m not a big holiday person, so I don’t do a whole lot anyway, but whether they were at home or at school yeah, they still would help me make cookies and decorate a Christmas tree. But I never really did a whole lot for holidays anyway.
Cynthia: Okay. I just like what you’re describing because you’re talking about living a normal life and interacting with your kids in normal day-to-day ways, and yet pulling education into it in such a way that it increases their interest and they want to do it. And they’re encouraging each other to do it, because it’s a family project and maybe a sister-brother project. That sounds so ideal.
Colleen: Yeah. So we weren’t peers in there. I was definitely the authoritative figure, but in ways we were students together. In ways we were taking care of the house together. They used to hate us, okay cleaning day, and they’d go ugh. But everybody had their thing. Somebody cleaned this bathroom, somebody cleaned that bathroom while I washed the kitchen floor. We all had our things, and the kids, at least there were a lot of us.
We went through that house in two hours and everything was all done. So we were all, I can’t say peers, but we were a team when we did that. And then we were doing school together and we were a team for that. And then, again, a lot of their friends were children of our friends so there was a lot of getting the families together. Get together on a Sunday afternoon and we were all together.
We were just a team.
Cynthia: Well, this sounds almost like a Little House on the Prairie where the family’s all involved and the people that you get to know, also you know them and so you see who is interacting with who. And that’s going to prevent an awful lot of problems out there that go on. 
I just did a broadcast on human trafficking. Well, you just prevented a lot of that kind of stuff from happening because you knew everybody they were interacting with.
Colleen: Yes.
Cynthia: Great. Absolutely wonderful.
Colleen: And they also learned to interact with people of other ages. That was another issue I had with school is that the kids ended up really only caring about and relating to kids that were their own age. And I didn’t want them to fall into that trap. I wanted them to be able to sit down and play with a baby, speak respectfully to an adult, meet eye-to-eye and emotionally and socially with somebody their own age. I wanted them to have a broader social life.
Cynthia: Yes, I remember that. I’ve talked to kids that just will not talk to anyone unless they’re their exact age and the exact place in school. Because they’re not part of their world. But when you homeschool I think you spread that out and everybody becomes somebody that you can talk to. I remember my kids loved to talk to old people, and they loved to play with kids. Because we did the same thing, we were all working together at home.
Colleen: And I think that helps them to be better parents as well. 
Cynthia: I think it does too.
Colleen: Because when you have children, obviously they’re not your age. And you better be able to interact with them.
Cynthia: Exactly. I think so. Colleen, thank you for your time. This is so good. I love doing this because what you’re doing is you’re kind of giving an image to someone who is starting to homeschool or who is homeschooling, of how someone else did it and made it through and succeeded, and yet it was a beautiful picture of a homeschool family working together.
Colleen: And it’s a little bit out of the ordinary where, like I said, I was not the college educated parent. By the time I got done with my kids we all just went to college together. But that’s a little unusual.
Cynthia: Absolutely great.
Colleen: We’re all proud of that. We tell everybody that. Oh, we all went to college together and it was fun.
Cynthia: Very good. Well, blessings to you, Colleen.
Listeners you may send feedback to my email: Cynthia@clsimmons.com 
Colleen Kazanchy

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