Saturday, March 28, 2009


Interview with Shari Lyle-Soffe at Suite101...

Debbie, please tell us how many children you have?
I have 4 children. Rachel age 23 this month (March), Jessica 20 next month, Nathan 14, Christopher age 12.
Are they all homeschooled?
They have all been homeschooled from K - 12 or to their present grade... none of them have ever been to public or private school.
How long have you been homeschooling?
This is our 18th year that we are finishing up.
What is your educational background?
I went to public elementary and Middle school in PA, I went to Delaware County Christian School for High School it is in Newtown Square, PA. I have a BS in Elementary Education from The King's College which was then in Briarcliff Manor, NY and is now located in the Empire State Building in NY city. But, you do not need a degree to be able to successfully homeschool your children. Actually, my degree, training and teaching for a year in a Christian School hurt me more than helped me in my homeschooling because homeschooling is so different from teaching other peoples kids and teaching in a classroom setting.
Include anything else readers might be interested in knowing about you.
Blog: I have been married 25 years this year WAHOOO!! I like to plan my own units for Science and History. I like to cross stitch, scrapbook, read, play computer games, play board games, and take walks with my family. I was raised in the Christian Faith and have been a Christian since I was very young. My faith has been very important in my life and in the lives of my husband and children. It is a focal point for all we do, it affects how we homeschool and what we teach, it affects our worldview, our goals and purposes. Here are some links to posts on my blog that will tell you more about me.
50 Facts About Me
The Interview Meme
Where do you live, city or country?
We live in the suburbs of Wilmington, DE. We would love to live in the country on a small farm but for now this is where the Lord has us. On a main road with hardly no yard, no trees in the yard, no place for the boys to explore. We get into the "country" by taking drives to Lancaster, PA, by taking walks in nearby parks, or by using our membership to Winterthur. (see my blog for photos and links)

Why did you decide to homeschool your children? Do they feel they are missing anything?
We decided to homeschool the children because we did not want my daughter in the public schools in our area and we could not afford private school. We found out about homeschooling from a family in the church we were attending at the time. We started to look into it and decided that was the way we were going to go. My children have all been homeschooled all the way through. I have two daughters one turning 23 years old next week and one turning 20 in April that were homeschooled all the way from K-12 th. You can check out there websites at can also just go to them from the links in my sidebarAs I said I thought that since I had my elementary ed degree I would be fine homschooling my own children. Well I had a lot to learn about the differences between homeschooling one child and teaching a whole classroom but my daughters and I survived and we all learned a lot. I changed my homeschooling approach several times over the years. From using a "boxed" curriculum where they tell you everything to do and say, to using that as a base for my school and starting to branch out to using textbooks/workbooks only for Math and planning my own units for History and Science and the other subjects.Do I feel my children missed anything??? Yes, they missed getting bullied, being picked on, being taught evolution as a fact, learning about sex at a way to young age, dating, peer pressure (though they still got some peer pressure from church and other activities, their families are still their best friends and the kids can talk to their Dad and I about anything, and they DO talk to us, we spend a lot of time together), hearing fowl language all the time, competing for the teachers attention in a class of 20 or more, and being passed over when they don't understand something. My dear daughters really struggled with math and would have never survived a "regular" classroom. I could tailor their math to them and add extra instruction and slow things down and use manipulative's to help... until they understood the concept and how to apply it. Did they miss anything useful... No!Our local homeschool support group, Tri-State Homeschool Network has many of the "perks" that "normal" schools have check us out here
Our group has many, many activities for kids to participate in. You can click on Clubs and Events or the Calendar in the sidebar of the website to see some of the opportunities afforded to members of our homeschool group. My children have been involved in: Choir from 3rd to 12th grade, Field Day, Around the World Geography Fair, Bowling, Roller Skating, Science and Social Studies Fair, Talent Night, Book-It, Bonnets and Bayonets (a group for the teaching of the history of the Civil War through putting on a play, reenactments, and other activities for schools and homeschool kids; they also held a Civil War Ball each year), and a number of small co-ops that formed with friends from the support group. Also, the MEK and TEK groups, which are social groups for Jr. and Sr. High and do outreach into the community, have a prom and a yearbook and a Sr. Trip each spring (though my kids were not interested in this and we never encouraged them to participate). Also there are many options for homeschooling which I will explain further down that include outside the home classes.
Are there Federal and State regulations governing homeschooling? How do you find that information? No and Yes. There are no Federal laws. Yes, each state has laws and each states laws are different. For information on the laws in your state and for protection you can go to is the Home School Legal Defense Association. They have lawyers that work for homeschooling and I urge every homeschooler to join their organization. We have been members for 17 years. We have never had a problem but I know I am covered and the help is there if I need it. I also know my money each year (we are now lifetime members, we did that a couple years ago) goes to help pay for HSLDA to help other homeschoolers in other states around the U.S. and that ultimately helps me out. New laws in one state that are non-homeschool friendly have a way of spreading so supporting HSLDA helps keep homeschooling available for all who want to do it all across the U.S.Anyway HSLDA has a section for the laws of each state. Here is the exact link for that section but please, if you are considering homeschooling, join HSLDA just click on the map or the name of your state for specific requirements for homeschooling in your state.Oh, HSLDA also has a list of homeschooling groups in each state so you can get connected with other homeschoolers in your area check it out by clicking organizations on the sidebar of the laws/map page or click here

Can any parent homeschool or are there qualifications you must meet? Is homeschooling difficult?
Any parent can homeschool, but not every parent should homeschool. Homeschooling is challenging and it takes a commitment to your children, and I think, to God, in order to be successful in the day to day struggles. You must have a calling to homeschool and know why you are doing it in order to not cave in to the kids or your own selfishness on the hard days and just stick the kids on a bus. As I said before, the laws of each state as to qualifications, are different but in most states you can homeschool without any parental qualifications. If you noticed on the map of the states only 6 states, all of them in the Northeast, are considered high regulation states. In the rest of the states you only have a minimum of requirements and no qualifications that a parent must meet. Yes, Homeschooling is difficult. The best way to homeschool is to do your research first and then make a prayerful decision. Husband and Wife must agree because this will change your whole household. Mom will have to spend time planning and overseeing the children, especially in the younger years, and the husband must agree and be in full support even if he cannot help with the day to day teaching.The actual teaching of the children, being hard or easy, mostly depends on your attitude towards homeschooling and learning. Also if your attitudes and emotions are based on your child's performance that will make things more difficult. If "Johnny" has a hard time learning to read, Mom feels like a failure and second guesses her decision. If "Johnny" has trouble with Math and Mom is not proficient in Math she may doubt herself there too. Children will come upon road blocks in their learning in one spot or another, one subject or another, at one age or another. It may be in learning to read in Kindergarten or First Grade or it may be in Algebra or Chemistry. One of the most important things a Mom can do is stay calm and tell the student... "We will figure this out together", or "I don't know what to tell you about this but I will find out", or something similar to this. Mom can find anything she needs. There are helps for homeschool mom's all over the internet and in many books, or mom could call a friend who is a "wizz" at Math or Chemistry or whatever. That is one reason why having a connection to other homeschoolers via the web and/or local groups is essential. So mom can get questions answered and help with locating just the right resource for the current problem. But, if you don't have a commitment to homeschooling when the troubles come you may just cave in and put them in school so the "professionals" can handle it. That is so sad. Yes, it is hard to deal with Math, and teaching a child to read, and finding just the right curriculum or resource for your child, the right method of teaching that will fit you the teacher and the way a child learns. Yes, it is hard dealing with homeschooling, and laundry, and cooking, and cleaning, and.... but it is a training ground for your children to teach them to take care of a home and to take responsibility for themselves and their stuff. Yes, it is hard dealing with the discipline issues and the arguing, and the bickering sometimes, but it stretches the whole family and makes you deal with issues in your heart and in your children's hearts, it brings the darkness of our souls into the light so we can inspect our sin, confess it, and grow in our Christian lives with each other as sharpening stones. No one will sharpen you like your family! They know the real you!

I know there are homeschool materials available. Is homeschooling expensive?
Expensive compared to what... free public education, the price of a house or car? the cost of a latte? Yes, homeschooling does cost money and you did already pay your taxes for free public education but homeschooling is a lot cheaper than private schools and it can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want. These days the amount of free stuff online is unbelievable. You could homeschool your child from K - 6th or further for free, if you wanted to. Most homeschoolers spend money each year and use free things to supplement the units or topics they are studying. Books are expensive but I see them as an investment in my children and in future generations. Many of the books I buy are the kind that will be handed down and passed around the family. The kids are already arguing over who gets what!!! LOL! We don't buy twaddle. We can get that at the public library. And speaking of libraries. We use our library a lot. We have a great public library system here in Delaware and it makes it easy to order and have books from one local library transferred to the library closest to my home. By the way, the Librarians know me and my kids by name at a number of local libraries. I found an interesting site while doing research for this question. Here are some facts and figures to look at. Now, before you do, realize these facts. This is a survey from the readers of one homeschool site. The final cost at the end is an average from each of the sections but in each section there are highs and lows of cost. Most homeschool families I know would not spend the average $$ amount for each category they may be averaged to high in some categories and low or nothing in other categories. We spent $0.00 for Spelling, Handwriting, Composition, Grammar, Fine Arts, Health, P.E., Software, or Classes this year. The classes were a big chunk in the homeschooling cost on that site an average of $1,560. We did get one membership but my mother bought one of the memberships and we bought the one for my daughters and we got them at half price. So you would not spend this much each year. Many books can be used over and over.
We spent $25 on the membership to the museum. About $100 in history books - some were full price but many were used from Amazon or EbayOne of the biggest costs I have is ink since I print a lot of free stuff off the Internet and have workbooks that I scan and I print pages from them for school. I have a Laser Jet printer and we spend about $400 dollars a year for ink. I use two full black cartridges, usually, and one of each of the colors.We spent $90.00 on school supplies like notebooks, binders, pencils, etc. but everybody has to buy that stuff.I did not buy any Math or Science this year either because I used what I had and/or borrowed some things from a friend. I use a lot of free online resources for History and Science besides the Library and what we already have.I am sure I missed an expenditure or two but that is what I could think of that we spent money on for the 2008-2009 school year. I want you to know if I had $3,197 (the average from the survey) to spend on homeschooling I could easily do it but we have a very limited budget, as do many these days and it is definitely possible to homeschool on a shoestring budget! I have many things on my homeschool wish list and I just keep on homeschooling without them and we do fine. The average for us over the years is probably around $400 - $500 per child.

How much time each day does it take to homeschool? Can you give us an example of a homeschool day?
That is such a subjective question. It depends on so many factors. What ages are your children? Young children take up more of Mom's time but a shorter time overall. Older students take a longer time but they do more independent work.Do you do textbooks or workbooks, Unit Studies as a family, or a combo of methods? Some methods take more Mom involvement, like Unit Studies, and some take little Mom involvement, like workbooks where the child just does the next page and Mom grades it. Most homeschoolers are done school by 2pm or so. Early elementary even earlier they should be done formal studies by lunch most days. The afternoons can be spent reading, doing projects sometimes, playing, doing a group activity or field trip, or in independent study; depending on the age of the child. When my boys are on track and not being foolish they can be done by 1pm most days. Then they can read or do other things. My ds Nathan likes to build and program his Lego Mindstorms Robots for instance. A sample schedule - This is our current schedule

7 am Rise & Shower
7:30 – 8:00 Personal Devotions
8:00 – 8:30 Breakfast and Clean up
8:30- 9:00 School (Nate – Typing {and Grammar?} Chris - Do Bible or start Math)
9:00 – 10:30 Exercise/School
Exercise School
9:00 – 9:30 Nate and Mom Christopher
9:30 – 10:00 Chris and Mom Nate
10:00 – 10:30 Nate and Chris Mom read Historical Fiction to boys while they exercise
10:30 – 12:00 History and Science
12:00 – 12:30 Lunch
12:30 → Finish school
Art or Music Study
Math (Nathan Correct your Math!!!)
Nathan – Extra Subject (Building Life Relationships, Educational Foundations, Home and Life Management, Computer)
After school is done and assignment sheet handed in you have free time until dinner
Mom read to boys
read or other 'til bed
Theme for the Year - Do Hard Things
What do you do to "socialize" your children? Do they have many different interests, hobbies, etc.?
First you need to define socialize1: to make
social ; especially : to fit or train for a social environment2 a: to constitute on a socialistic basis b: to adapt to social needs or uses3: to organize group participation in intransitive verb: to participate actively in a social groupif you use definition #1 then I do not want the public schools, or a private school and definitely not their peers in school to train them in how to be social. I want to have that influence on them to train them in the way the Bible wants them to behave in situations, not like the world would react.I am sure it is not 2a but 2b is ok, although, you have to be careful who or what you are adapting toIf it is #3 then that is fineHomeschool children have plenty of opportunities to participate actively in a social group. There are homeschool groups, co-ops, classes, Church, friends, and then there are those real life opportunities that come up for them to socialize with people. Volunteering/Reenacting at a local museum when they have field trips of school children, singing at the nursing home and then taking time to talk to the residents. Talking to the parents of the students they are teaching in their knitting class. Cleaning their grandmother's house top to bottom because she has a back injury and can't get around to doing it. Volunteering in the Church Nursery. Helping with VBS in various positions. These are some of the things my children have done.My children are as comfortable entertaining and talking to 3 year olds as they are 83 year olds or people their own age. We sing as a family at the nursing home on a pretty regular basis, and the kids love being able to serve the community in this way.My kids Interests and Hobbies:Rachel: knitting crocheting, cake decorating, sewing, cross stitch, embroidery, reading, cooking, baking, paper crafting, teaching craft classes, and singingJessica: drawing, writing, reading, knitting, crochet, crafting - making cards, making stationary sets, making journals, etc., journaling, calligraphy, sewing, cooking, desserts and photography My daughters teach crocheting and knitting classes to other homeschool kids and Rachel had a cake decorating business.Nathan: computers, Lego and Lego Mindstorms & roboticsChristopher: building with Lego, reading, board games, wood carving, and playing Lego Indiana Jones
Are your children good readers? Do they enjoy reading for pleasure?
Yes, My kids are good readers. Yes, they all enjoy reading. Rachel was the most prolific reader of all my kids. She read more than a hundred books each year of High School. For the boys one of the hardest things, for me, is to challenge them to expand their reading. They get stuck on one series and want to just read and read and read those books. The kids are all currently reading some books they asked their grandmother to get them for Christmas, so that is good. The books were all purchased from Vision Forum, one of our favorite book companies. Oh, yeah, my daughter wanted me to be sure to tell you that they, all my children, now ask family members for educational things for Christmas and Birthdays, usually books but other things also like Science kits and Lego Mindstorms. Books the kids are reading now:Rachel: To Have and To Hold, various housekeeping books, various craft and cooking books, The Bible, In His StepsJessica: Under Drakes Flag by G.A. Henty, Little King Davie, The Year Round: Poems for Children, Do Hard Things, the Bible, In His StepsNathan: Beric the Briton, Building Robots with Lego Mindstorms NXTChristopher: Long Patrol, Wulf the SaxonFavorite Books: (this was a challenging list for the girls to do... they have many favorites and I limited them because I did not want to be typing all night)Rachel: The Three Weavers, The Princess Adelina, Calm my Anxious Heart, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, The White Knights, Before You Meet Prince Charming, and The Lost ClueJessica: The Three Weavers, The White Knights, The Lost Clue, The Bible, Writing Magic: Writing Stories that Fly by Gail Carson LevineNathan: Building Robots with Lego Mindstorms, books by G.A. Henty, Lord of the Rings series, Chronicles of Narnia series, The Swiss Family RobinsonChristopher: Redwall Series and Wulf the Saxon.
Thank you, Debbie, for taking the time to give us such a thorough view of homeschooling.
Debbie Phillips

No comments: