Homeschooling as a learning trend has been rapidly gaining popularity, amidst the backdrop of the growing perception that traditional educational institutions are not suited to fully develop the potential of children. Noted personalities like Sir Ken Robinson have stated that adopting the “assembly model of education” where children of all backgrounds, interests, and abilities being subject to the same curriculum is an unproductive and inefficient system. Thanks to the growing online pool of resources for self-learning, homeschooling has really caught on around the world. The U.S Department of Education reports that the percentage of the school-aged population being homeschooled is growing each year.
However, homeschooling is not without its challenges. Learning happens in spurts and is mostly left unregulated. Tracking learning is a challenge since it is mostly left to the individuals. Finding a community can also be difficult, leading to the belief that homeschooling leaves children without adequate social skills. Without the support of a robust system, homeschooling is often perceived to be of lower quality than education in public or private institutions. To derive the full benefit of defying the learning norm, it has to be done right.
Today, we speak to Jennifer Elia- a homeschool consultant, curriculum creator, blogger, and author. She is also the Founder of Sound Foundations Homeschool which is dedicated to giving homeschool moms the tools they need to thrive in their home education career. Jennifer provides one-on-one consulting, personalized and original curriculum plans, and practical advice for those just beginning their homeschool journey, as well as those who just need a little boost.
Hello Jennifer. You have a very unique area of expertise, homeschooling. Tell us about your journey and experience?
Yes, it actually began while I was teaching! I worked as a public school teacher for 5 years, until my oldest was born. Being in the education field, I began thinking about the type of education I wanted for my children. As I looked around, I wasn’t finding what I wanted. I completed my graduate program in the first few years of teaching. My primary focus had been how children learn and how to teach every child according to his needs. It became a passion of mine, however, I realized how limited my abilities were to apply what I learned in a classroom of 26 children, all with very diverse needs and abilities. I wanted something better for my children, so I began researching different education models and kept coming back to homeschooling.
When we took the plunge to homeschool, I thought I would be set, since I had experience teaching. However, I quickly realized that homeschooling is not the same thing as a school at home. I wanted so badly for this to work but didn’t know what I was doing and couldn’t find the support I needed. To add to it, I had children with special learning needs. I spent hours researching online, reading studies on brain development, devouring books on teaching methods and homeschooling. Because of all of that, and a whole lot of trial by fire, I was able to build a homeschool that served my children well. I then began to help friends and neighbors to do the same. No one should have to do it the hard way, as I did. I saw a serious need for support and resources for newer homeschool moms. That’s why I founded Sound Foundations, to help every mom get the tools and support she needs to build a thriving and successful homeschool for any child.
From your experience, what are some of the most challenging areas of homeschooling?
I feel like the biggest challenge is getting over your own fear. Mom guilt is real, social media and modern pressures amplify it. When you throw homeschooling into the mix, it is easy to become paralyzed with fear. You feel inadequate and stuck. The truth is that you do not need to be perfect to run an effective homeschool, and every education has gaps. I remember trying to cram every tidbit and skill into my first two years of homeschooling. I wanted my children to be the best educated, most capable, and most successful students out there. However, homeschooling isn’t a race, it’s a journey. Also, homeschool moms are advocates and facilitators of education. Their role is to instill a love of learning and develop self-directed, lifelong learners. If you can do that, you have completed your mission!
After all that balancing it all is a challenge. Keeping the kids fed (they are always hungry), and the house in order on top of homeschooling can be overwhelming. Having systems in place and letting go of unrealistic standards is key, here.
Do you have special programs for people with special needs?
Working in an all inclusive school for several years, and homeschooling my own children, I have come to believe that every child has special needs. But more importantly, every child has special and unique gifts. That is the key that is missing from so many education, especially special education, programs. I have developed a system and offer support to parents who are dealing with a child who is struggling. Let’s be honest, there are some children whose needs are more special than others, however, they still have special gifts. By establishing a strength based education program, every child can succeed.
How do you recommend making time to follow through homeschool lesson plans?
Planning is important. I have a whole chapter in my book, Sound Foundations, about my lesson planning journey. It wasn’t always pretty! What’s important is to take the time before the school year starts to create lesson plans for the year. (I know that sounds daunting, but trust me, if you do it the right way it saves heaps of time!) Have a plan and make sure everyone knows what it is. On the flip side, lesson plans are a guide, not the law. If something isn’t working, be willing to try it another way, just use your year plan to keep you moving along. If your lesson plans are ruling you, you need new lesson plans.
How do you typically work with people? What is the best way to reach you?
I have created a course that walks parents through a step by step method to go from making an informed and confident decision to homeschool, through planning their first thriving year so they are set up for success. The course includes a private group that features live Q & A sessions, guest speakers, and support from other homeschool moms. Sometimes moms need more in depth or immediate support, and so I offer short term consulting and long term mentoring options. I really work to meet moms where they are and meet their needs.
Anything else you want to tell us?
I can’t even tell you how many times I hear, “I would love to homeschool, but…” So, I would like to speak to all those moms out there thinking about homeschooling but afraid to make the leap. You can do it! There has never been a better time to homeschool. There are endless possibilities and countless resources. Homeschooling does not mean you have to teach every single lesson, so stop worrying about Chemistry and Algebra. If you want to give your child the most flexible, personalized, and progressive education possible, you must consider homeschooling.
A word on what you like about Kidskintha?
I have to say my favorite thing about Kidskintha is the phrase “Raising Parents.” That is such a beautiful concept and a much-needed idea. Everyone knows the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Most often when people use that, they mean that it takes many people involved in the child’s life for them to grow properly. However, I have a different take on it. Raising children is the hardest job there is- hands down. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that is harder because you can never clock out and you are responsible for another human being and his future. It’s also not a job that was ever meant to fall on the shoulders of one or two people. It takes a village because a mom should have a village of support as she tackles the long days of those all too short years. We have lost our villages, and I am thankful that you are trying to rekindle that concept and support parents in the ways they need.
Jennifer lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children whom she has been educating at home for the past 10 years. When Jennifer isn’t busy researching the best curriculum solutions, she enjoys gardening, crafting, and writing. You can find Jennifer on Facebook and Pinterest.