Spring Cleaning and Notes on Homeschooling

Feb 4, 2012

What began as a repository of thinking tips, this blog of mine is now becoming a catch-all for many more thoughts and ideas that I personally want to capture.

So today, I’m doing some spring cleaning, and as I find notes that have inspired or influenced me, I’m copying them here to not feel so guilty about throwing them away.

About seven years ago, I decided to take the plunge and try a homeschooling experiment for just one year with just one child.  At the time, I picked the child I knew I couldn’t ruin, because she was already demonstrating a sense of self-motivation beyond her years, and an innate desire for excellence. (Besides that, she was about the only one of the bunch who was game.)

I had been thinking about homeschooling for ten years already, but because I had been a product of the public school system, and because I had excelled, and loved the challenge it had been for me, I really had a hard time believing that anything less (or different) than that could possibly be remotely adequate.  I was such a fan of the system, in fact, that I went on to get my degree in secondary education, and taught mathematics in public and private schools for a number of years.

Because of my fear of doing “my own thing”, I took that first step by signing up for the public school district’s distance learning program. That way, I could be giving my daughter the same curriculum at home, accomplish it in a fraction of the time (like I had been told is common for homeschoolers), and have her tested at the end of the year with all the other public school students to see how we did.

That was a safe segue, in my mind.

My daughter and I loved our time together. We dabbled in some of the materials they had sent home with me, but pretty much just did whatever it was that caught her interest at the time.  She was in 2nd grade and did a lot of cooking, and child care for her younger siblings. She loved being my little helper, and reveled in how important it made her feel.

In January, I realized we were on the down stretch of the school year, and that I should probably open up those lesson plans to see what it was they had been expecting us to do. I told her, “It’s time to get caught up with the rest of the kids at school, so let’s take a look…”

I opened the packet and began to look over the daily lesson plans.  Sure, we had been doing the fun pieces, such as the online math games, and language development activities; but looking at what else we were expected to have been doing all those months put me in an instant panic.

The daily lesson plans were so detailed, so spelled out, that it would have literally taken us 6 hours a day, one-on-one, to do everything they expected us to do.

I called the head of the distance learning program at the district level in a panic. “I don’t know what to do! I think I’ve made a big mistake! We’ll never get caught up!”

She calmed me down and finally responded, “Oh, don’t worry. Just pick up right where you are; she’ll get it ALL again next year.”


I was flabbergasted. I thought to myself, “You mean, we can blow off an entire 6 months of school, and even the DISTRICT isn’t worried about it?? When you’re enrolled in the public school, you can’t miss more than 9 days without getting a nastigram and a visit from a police officer.”

That’s when I learned that in grade school, they introduce a concept one year, and then repeat it all over again the next.  Then they introduce some new concepts again, and repeat them all again the next.  What I learned from this experiment is that when a child is ready and wants to learn a topic, you can share it with them just once, and they own it.  It’s when they’re not interested, or partially tuned out, that you have to keep repeating it for more than 600 days… it’s really the only way the school CAN do it – in hopes that during those 600 days, each one of the 30-34 students will tune in long enough to get it.

Related: A Vision for What’s Possible

Over the next few years, one-by-one each of my children were given the choice to come home or stay in school, and last year we had all but one home with us.  I believe in the principle that there is genius potential inside of each child, and sometimes it can only be discovered when he or she is permitted to get bored long enough that they dig down and find that creative genius.  For the first two months of the detoxification period, there was a lot of complaining, a lot of boredom… they were worried because mom wasn’t standing in front of a grid of desks at home, teaching them something important.  I knew we had turned a corner when the complaining stopped, and the laughter and creative chatter began, as they collaborated together on how they were going to build a fort out of the discarded refrigerator boxes in the back yard. They had finally discovered their freedom to think for themselves and create their own learning environment.

Related: Looking at Life with New Eyes

For several years after beginning my experiment, I continued to have my children take the standardized tests at the end of the year. I wanted to see if our new approach – letting them live in a culture where they were expected to think and choose for themselves what they wanted to be learning – was ruining them, or what.  In every case, I was shocked but grateful that their test scores came back as though they had sat in the classroom all year long.

I remember one defining moment when my daughter was the age of a 6th grader, and we hadn’t formally talked about math all year long.  We had solved incidental problems together that had come up in natural life, but there had been no real ‘math lessons’ to speak of.

To get her ready for the standardized test that year, I bought her a math workbook for her grade level, and said, “Just see how much of this you can do. Let me know if you get stuck.”  A few times she brought it to me to get some clarification on what they wanted her to do, but she had the entire workbook completed in a couple days.  Because she wasn’t drilled on it every day of the year, she actually found it interesting, challenging, and fun to do.

I believe we’re all born with an innate desire to learn all the things we’ll need to know to complete our ‘life’s mission’.  We’ll naturally be drawn to the interests that will play a part in our life’s work, and we’ll naturally get frustrated when we don’t know what we need to know. Suddenly, in a situation like that, the knowledge MATTERS, and we are hungry to learn it because it already has application for what we want to be doing. That’s how I learned to build websites. That’s how I learned to publish books. That’s how my husband and I tripled our income. That’s how I learned marketing and how to become an internationally published three-time best selling author and speaker.

My two oldest were in junior high when I made the switch, and were simply not interested. I didn’t push it, I knew they were in a groove and enjoying their experience in school.  But last year my oldest was a senior. About 3 months into the school year, he listened to a lecture on the Constitution and the Founding Fathers, and something shifted.

He was so completely engrossed with what he was learning – outside of school – that before long, his new addiction to studying American History was all he wanted to do. A math teacher challenged him on some of his facts, and the game was on. He’d stay up late into the night researching, finding sources, pulling together a persuasive essay that he couldn’t wait to share first with his math teacher, and then with the world.  He did all this, not for an American History assignment, but because he loved the subject and wanted to teach others what he had been learning.

We recognized the spark to be what other homeschooling families had described when the child enters a scholar phase – naturally.  We encouraged it, and provided opportunities and resources to keep the flame alive.  School began to be an inconvenience to him. His regular homework began to seem so trivial, and he became frustrated at the irrelevance of so much of it in contrast to the importance of the topic that had captured his heart.

In January of that year, just 4 months before his graduation, he said he was ready to come home. I was upset! I said, “I’ve been inviting you to come home for six years! YOU chose this path, I think you need to just finish what you started…”

His reply: “But Mom, I’m too busy studying to do my schoolwork.”

I almost couldn’t do it. He was so close to finishing the path he had chosen all along; but if I were to stand by the principles I had been teaching my family – to let them follow what interests them and find and fulfill their life’s mission – then I had to support it. He wanted to be homeschooled.  He had been given an opportunity to go abroad and participate in a historical dig in Israel during that final semester of high school, but it would mean he couldn’t “graduate”.

Before pulling him out, I contacted the different universities that he was interested in attending, and was amazed to discover that they didn’t need him to graduate before they’d accept him. All they cared about was whether or not he had taken the ACT (which he had done the year before), and they even found him to be a very attractive candidate for demonstrating so much drive to do something this unusual.

You should have seen it – when I pulled him out so close to graduation. The administration couldn’t understand it, and had a hard time believing that the colleges did not CARE if he had a diploma or not.  Instead of getting his diploma, he found himself in a new position of responsibility as the Regional Director for the Thomas Jefferson Center for Constitutional Studies (Restoration Generation).

The travel abroad experience was canceled due to unrest in the middle east, but we have not regretted the decision to let him leave high school early.  He does not regret it either.  He didn’t “walk” with his friends but loved his choice more.  And just to check it off the list, he went ahead and aced the GED last fall.  Not because the universities needed it, but just to officially close that chapter of his life. He ended up earning full-tuition scholarships from his University that helped him stay out of debt as he worked toward graduation.

What about the other kids? Each year I discover something new about them and their inborn talents. They stay active and involved in a number of extra curricular activities and have friends all over the valley who share their unique life’s experiences and interests.

Related: What the district head truancy officer told me

My 12 year-old son Jared is being mentored by a computer programmer – a teacher at a nearby college – who was also homeschooled and loves Jared’s passion for programming. (He wanted to learn the Python programming language but I couldn’t find a class for him to join. The only thing I found was a group that could be hired to come in and train your employees for a large sum, so instead I had to find and hire a private tutor.) They are presently working together on building an application that will help our business clients.  He also plays trombone in the school band and is involved in an after school club for smarty pants.

My 13 year-old daughter is volunteering her services for handling some of the secretarial responsibilities of a national organization with which my husband works.  She is also involved (with most of her siblings) in EVMCO, a choral organization which just released an album last fall that hit #1 on the Billboard charts in the traditional classical category. She just hosted an “Oh Stuff and Nonsense” party for other 13-15 year old homeschooled girls in the area, and is an avid reader.

My younger children have taught themselves to read, tell time, solve math problems, and just recently we all became fascinated with the strange characteristics of prime numbers – including my 5 year-old, right there along side her older siblings.  Give her a pile of beans representing a certain number, and in a few minutes, she’ll tell you if it’s prime or not.

Each morning we study scriptures, read selections from American History, have breakfast and do chores.  The rest of the day is wide open for exploration, or just enjoying each others’ company.  No more 7:30 am chaos, no more 4:00 pm competition for Mom’s attention… no more homework sessions that interfere with family dinner, and best of all, plenty of time to think and receive inspired sparks of curiosity that lead each one to ask the right questions at the right time, to help them prepare for the life’s work they will be most uniquely prepared to fulfill.  It’s a lofty ideal, but I’ve seen it in action.  (I’ve illustrated how this phenomenon also happens for adults in Portal to Genius.)

In spite of all I’ve said so far, I will add that I DO love the education I received through the public school system. But I love more what I’ve learned since… and I hope to keep learning new and amazing things from now until the day I die… and I expect, beyond.

9/17/13 update:

Had an interesting conversation with Jared the other day… this boy refuses to work on Math. I have not been able to get him to do his lessons, so at age 14, he still hasn’t learned about fractions and decimals. Scary, right? Well, he called down from the loft where he was working on a computer program and said, “Mom, I’m trying to make this ball speed up as it gets closer to the hole. Any idea how I would program it to behave that way?” I said, “Hmm… sounds like an inverse relation… you’d use a fraction…” and as I was trying to remember how the formula would go, he hollered down again, “Never mind! I think I got it – I tried something and it’s slowing down as it gets closer, so now I’ll just try it the other way.”

Once he had it nailed, I said, “Did you know you just did Algebra?”

He said, “Really?”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much what Algebra is, finding an unknown value…”

He replied, “Then I think I’m going to love Algebra.”

“Um, well, then maybe you should get busy doing your fractions and decimals…”

He groaned.

A few weeks later, I brought it up again, just wanting him to finally get through his fractions and decimals books so he could move on to Algebra (because he was looking forward to it), but he’s been bored to tears just at the thought of drudging through that book.

So, because we’ve been having a hard time getting him to do his basics, I thought maybe we’d just go ahead and jump to Algebra and then go back and fill in the gaps as they come up, because he’ll be more interested in those more basic concepts when they’re actually relevant to what he needs at the time.

But then he asked what Calculus was, and I said it had to do with rates of change and … I didn’t remember what all, so I said, “Do you want to see what it’s like?” He said sure, so we pulled up a Calculus lesson and watched the first 11 minute video together. It was on limits, and it used functions, and algebra, and decimals and ALL of those things.

Remember, he had no training in fractions or decimals, but instead of being overwhelmed by his lack of knowledge and formal experience with the ‘pre-requisites’, he lit up like a light bulb and got excited, because it looked so much like some of the things he has done, or tried to do, in his computer programming, and it all actually made sense to him.  I had been a math major, but had forgotten most of what I learned in Calculus and yet he was fully understanding the very things that no longer immediately made sense to me.

He paused the video several times to just digest what had been said, and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! So that’s why graphs are useful!” and he threw his head back and sang “Ahhhhhhh!” like a chorus of angels. “You know how some things just make you happy? This makes me SOOO happy-happy!!!!” His eyes literally started watering and he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.

He’s 14, completely ‘behind’ on the basics, but totally in love with calculus.

Crazy, huh? Then without being asked, he got on the computer and spent a few hours honing skills and learning new things. I love it. They always told me that this would happen when you approach education in the unconventional way that we do… it’s just nice when we see it actually happen.

And then there’s his sister Bethany.

I took my 10 year-old daughter Bethany to the doctor to rule out an internal infection. The phlebotomist was drawing her blood and asked if she was missing school today, and her reply was, “I’m home schooled.”

The phlebotomist replied, “Oh, really? How does that work? I mean, like what are you studying?”

After a pause I replied with a smile, “Biology.”

05/16/14 update:

Life has a way of opening doors and leading us to amazing opportunities when we let go of societal expectations and fearlessly follow our dreams. ~ Me

My oldest son (who ‘dropped out’ during his senior year) called me from college. He had been there only three weeks but had an announcement to share:

Because of his desire to get involved, and after exploring some of the campus clubs (and planning to start one of his own… who does that?? Such a thing NEVER would have crossed my mind when I was in school), one thing led to another and he was asked if he’d be willing to be one of two students who would be responsible for training the team leaders for next semester’s “Get Connected” event.

(Get Connected is basically the Freshman Orientation program for incoming students, who get divided up into groups for games and activities to get to know each other before classes start.)

So my son and this one other person are now charged with training approximately 300 group leaders who will direct 6000 freshmen next semester.


My son has only been a Freshman himself for three weeks!

I happen to think that his opportunities for leadership (this hasn’t been the only one) were set in motion ahead of him as soon as he made that courageous decision to think differently his senior year, when he stepped away from what was “normal”.

So don’t be afraid to do something different than what society expects from the masses. It opens doors. When I have more time, I’ll update again to describe the doors it opened recently for my 16-year old daughter and my 12 year-old son…

09/20/16 update:

When that 12-year old son (Jared) turned 15, I had an urgent sense that I needed to change something up. Where previously, his free time had been spent learning and growing, it was now being squandered, and I saw college on the horizon and a need for more guidance and structure to help him prepare. His interest in math hadn’t gone anywhere, and he still enjoyed coding, but the work in Khan Academy and his more formal math training had taken a back seat, with quite a few gaps left unclosed.

My search for what I was to do next was difficult and wrenching. It began with an investigation into where I might be able to put my 7th grader into a band. He had played with a local elementary school before our move across town, but I hadn’t found a junior high that would allow part-time enrollment for only band.

That’s a long and painful story. I’m not going to go into it here. But ultimately I found a charter school that would allow his participation with NO strings attached. The principal told me, “I think homeschooling really is the best thing for kids; I’m just grateful that a lot of parents see us as a good second alternative.”

Wow! I felt so at home and respected. He invited my band son to take anything else at the school that interested him. So in 7th grade, he was the only student on campus with something like four electives. Fast forward two years, and our family has fallen enough in love with the school that everyone is now full-time. They provide education the way I remember it in the 70s. They don’t teach to the tests. They haven’t changed anything to adjust to common core. They know that their method works, so why change what isn’t broken? At the end of the year, the students continue to test extremely well.

As for Jared, he is now a senior in high school. At least according to his age. He does not have the credits he needs to graduate, but that’s okay. Colleges don’t need a diploma to accept you, they only need to see how well you did on the College Entrance exams (ACT or SAT). He will get a GED if he chooses to. He did well on the ACT, so he’s being courted by several universities now.

But here’s the point of my update. Last year, he wanted to be in the same math class as the other kids his age, which would have been at least Algebra II. However, he still hadn’t completed his fractions and decimals – but we moved on and figured he’s fill in those gaps as needed along the way. He worked hard to catch up by studying Pre-Algebra and Algebra I online over the summer, on his own. He joined the Algebra II class that year, and aced it. In fact, after a few months of demonstrating a quick mind and aptitude for it, his teacher asked if he would be the TA for the later hour. (He was available since he wasn’t taking all the required classes for graduation – I think he only took 4 classes that year, so there was room in his schedule to be a teacher’s assistant.)

He didn’t want to take English or History at the school but agreed to join Speech and Debate, and Yearbook and Journalism. For his outstanding marks and reputation as a good citizen overall, he was chosen to represent his high school and honored by the mayor as student of the month.

Having completed Algebra II with flying colors, he was motivated to get into Calculus for his Senior year. However, he had not taken Pre-Calculus, and even though his teacher had seen how quickly he had gone from Pre-Algebra to Algebra II, he did not recommend taking the jump to Calculus.

Well, Jared was not going to be told no. So he spent his summer teaching himself Pre-Calculus and showed up ready to go on day one.

It’s been 3 months now, and he has been scoring at the top of ALL the classes at the school on those Calculus tests. He loves what he’s learning, and the other kids flock to him when it’s time to study for the next one. He’s even been known to catch errors that nobody else catches.

Oh, but he won’t be graduating 🙂

And he’s okay with that. I’m very proud of him for thinking outside the box and thriving. I’ll take a kid who loves learning and spends every waking moment honing his skills over a kid who jumps through all the hoops to get a diploma but remembers school with disdain. Jared will have happy memories of learning, being involved, and developing thinking skills that will serve him the rest of his life.

Update 5/20/2017 

Oh man, I have so much to say but need to keep it short. Jared’s last semester at his school (senior year) was amazing. This is the child who was completely content to sit at a computer all day, but reluctantly agreed to take some more classes at the charter school last fall. Like I mentioned before, due to his aversion to formal English classes, I had previously steered him toward Speech and Debate, Yearbook and Journalism, and two years of Latin, so that at least he could be linguistically functional in the real world.

English is Important but Math is Importanter. Yes, I bought him the t-shirt.


And in the spring, he surprised us by going out for the high school musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. This is the boy who has musical talent but no interest. (He was about 14 when we stopped expecting him to attend all his sibling’s concerts, and he was about 15 when we finally let him quit the Millennial Choir for good.)

As for the play, we found out later that the directors had trouble deciding between him and another student for the lead part of Adam. Thankfully the other kid got the lead, because Jared was only semi interested in being a part of it anyway, and was thrilled to get a part that didn’t require a giant amount of time. He still got a small solo and enjoyed the participation, without the heavy responsibility of learning all the lead lines, songs, and carrying the success of the whole show.

In February I got a call from the school letting me know that he needed to be withdrawn at the end of 3rd quarter. The counsellor told me I agreed to do this when they agreed to let him come part time three years ago. I didn’t remember this at all – but the point is that if he finishes his senior year without graduating, it shows up as a “dropout” on their records and affects their official school reputation. With a small student body, every ding makes a big difference. I was shocked and angry – here he is finally having the time of his life at a school he wasn’t excited about in the first place, and they’re basically kicking him out. The irony is that he had recently been awarded Student of the Month for a second time, was loved by everyone who knew him, was acing his classes, and was still preparing for two AP tests and the school musical. They were going to kick him out before he could take the tests and perform in the play.

As frustrated as I was, I couldn’t be angry at the school. I understood their dilemma and didn’t want to throw them under the bus. It wasn’t their fault he didn’t have enough credits, and we have all been SOOO grateful for all the school has done for our family. It has been an excellent and extremely rewarding experience. So I talked with the administration and we came to a compromise. They would let him stay until 30 days before school ended (instead of much earlier, at the quarter), and he would be allowed to return to take his AP tests, and to perform in the musical.

A few weeks before his days were over, we received an invitation to the Semper Sersum awards banquet, and also the regular awards ceremony. Both were scheduled to take place after his withdrawal date, but they allowed him to return for these as well. He was awarded for academic excellence (overall GPA) at the ceremony…

….and was somewhat expecting an award in Mathematics at the Semper Sersum banquet. He’s known school-wide for being a freakish math genius and for being the only one to spot errors in the teacher’s work, and the fact that he went from Pre-Algebra to Calculus as quickly as he did (excelling all the way), led us to believe that would be his recognition that night.

Each department selected one Student of the Year for each grade, but he didn’t get the Math award. We were shocked when he was instead given the only 12th grade Student of the Year for English award, especially since his AP English class was the only formal English training he had since 2nd grade, and especially since he’s historically had such an aversion to the subject.

She said:

Good Evening. My name is Jessica Kasten and I will be presenting the 12th grade English award tonight.

As I’m sure you could guess, teaching seniors is often challenging 🙂 Many 18 year olds believe that they already know everything there is to know, are far too tired to read, and can’t be bothered with grammar lessons. But some are different and tonight I have selected one student who has risen above senioritis and has eagerly devoured every piece of information I made available. It is students like him that not only make my job enjoyable, but push me me to become a better educator.

This student embraces the rich and challenging curriculum we offer. In fact, I overheard a conversation he was having the other day where a few of his classmates asked him why he wasn’t upset [about not graduating] and he responded, “I guess it depends on what your goal here is – I came to Benjamin Franklin to make friends and learn and I have achieved those two things.”

To me, this student is a true representation of a Charger and certainly exceeds his classmates in all things English. Not only does he have a positive attitude day in and day out, not only does this student thirst for knowledge, but he also understands the value being an educated person.

I’m proud to have helped him meet his goals this year, I’m proud to have taught him, and I am eager to see what great things he goes on to do in the future.

The 12th grade English award goes to Jared Householder.

As each of his teachers learned that he was getting “kicked out”, there was a lot of heads shaking – that of all students, this was the kid getting kicked out?? I got a phone call from the soon-to-be valedictorian of the senior class on Tuesday of his last week. She said that the senior class didn’t think it was right he wouldn’t get to walk at graduation with all his friends, so they were planning a special ceremony just for him, and she wanted to invite me.

So on Thursday, they surprised him by gathering in the gym, giving him a cap (from ASU, borrowed from a students’ older brother), lining up on one side of the gym and having him walk from the other side, escorted by his parents, while they played the graduation anthem. His math teacher helped the students pull it off, and another teacher (professional photographer) took pictures. He was stunned. I cried. The valedictorian said “We LOVE Jared and wanted him to be recognized.” Then they presented him with an engraved frame/class picture that said, “Class of 2017”.

I’m so glad I felt that urgent sense that I needed to change something up. This was definitely a Mom pay-day.

Update 10/7/2017

Someone celebrate with me – Jared just got accepted to BYU Provo! He wasn’t expecting to hear back until Oct 31 but they just notified him early, congratulating him on being such a strong candidate. Mama’s breathing a big sigh of relief because it’s what he really wanted, but seriously he didn’t hit scholar phase until the last minute.

I still remember back to when he was 15, when I felt an urgency to change things up a bit because he was disengaging and getting more lazy. How I had wanted to find something that allowed him to attend some fun classes part time somewhere, just to add some additional structure to his day. And how that new charter school nearby let him do just that.

I remembered back to the next year when he wanted to be in the math class with his peers, but he was several years behind. And how suddenly he cared. How he spent the summer on Khan Academy catching up, and ended up going from pre-Algebra to AP Calculus in 2 years, finishing Calculus at the school with a grade of over 100%. How his teacher asked him to be his TA, helping other students understand the concepts. How for his last year, he took his very first formal English class ever: AP English Literature. How he hated English, but consented. And how he ended up acing it, and earned the English Department Student of the Year out of the entire Senior Class.

I’m still amused about how right before his final quarter, the administration reminded me that we agreed to withdraw him at the end of 3rd quarter, since they allowed him to come part time, knowing he would not receive their diploma, and to avoid a “drop out” on their record. I’m still grateful for how they had been so good to us, and why we didn’t want them to get a ding on their reputation for something that was not their fault.

I remember with fondness how his teachers reacted when they heard he was getting kicked out before graduation. Face Palms all around. “Of ALL KIDS!” they said. This kid who had been nominated at age 16 by the principal to represent the school and be recognized by the mayor for outstanding citizenship… getting kicked out. If it wasn’t so amusing it would have been painful.

I appreciated how some of the teachers tried to find a way to let him walk with his peers, but no go. We remember fondly two days before he left, when the entire Senior class put together the surprise graduation ceremony for him, and when the Valedictorian gave him a shout out in her official graduation speech two months later. We’re grateful the administration let him return for the school musical (since he had a part in it, after all…) and for his AP exams.

It was such an interesting and rewarding year. I rehearse all this for myself, to just remember that taking the road less traveled can be crazy and nail-biting at times, but it has been worth it. He knows how to learn. He has been allowed to pursue what interests him most, and he has LOVED being an interesting conversation piece among teachers and friends at school.

Thank you, TJEd for giving me a vision of what was possible when I began this journey back in (I think) 2006. His temporary plan is to do a year or so at BYU, serve a mission, and then transfer to MIT. I love that he believes he can.

PS. About the picture of the backpack – this funny kid used the same backpack from age 6 until he was 18. He never let me replace it. It was seriously falling apart, but he liked telling people about it. He has also never had a hamburger in his life, not because he wouldn’t like it, but because he likes being different. You have to beat him best out of 3 at his favorite game, and he will eat a hamburger. Nobody has beat him yet.

Update 5/10/2019

Jacob is now 26. He has been following his passion to help restore and preserve the principles originally intended in our Constitution. He is a senior at BYUI. He has paid his way through college with scholarships, grants, internships, and working. He was one of a few Juniors and Seniors who were awarded the Jack & Mary Lois Wheatley Leadership Scholarship. He has continued his love of learning, intentionally taking advantage of all the opportunities available to him as an undergrad, putting off his graduation to take it all in. Besides working toward a degree in Financial Economics, here’s what else he’s enjoyed doing since leaving high school, most recent first. He was/is a:

  • Development Intern at Madison Liberty Institute
  • National Director at Restoration Generation
  • Director of International Outreach at Columbus Center for Constitutional Studies
  • Business Consultant at Success Engine
  • Board member/Volunteer at Thomas Jefferson Center for Constitutional Restoration
  • English Language Learner Tutor (ELL Tutor) at Boxfish Education
  • Intern at Universal Model – A New Millennial Science
  • Teaching assistant at BYU-Idaho
  • Research Assistant (RA) at Harvard Divinity School

Nathan is 24, and a Junior at BYUI studying Business Management. He has also been paying his own way through school, working at Success Engine, which is based out of Mesa, AZ. He was the first in the family to get a job there. They build marketing campaigns for small businesses using the Infusionsoft software, and deliver success coaching to their clients. Nathan worked there during a school break, and when it was time to go back to school in Idaho, his boss let him take his work to school with him, remotely (as a trial run). It was successful, and he was able to get his older brother Jacob on as another remote employee. Fast forward a few years, and they have since officially opened a Rexburg office up there, with Nathan as the Manager, and Jacob as the Assistant Manager. They have hired on a handful of other students who work out of the Rexburg office with them.

Kayli is 21 and just returned from a mission in February. Her plan was to work at home until Fall and then go to Idaho with her brothers, but after only a week of being home, they talked her into coming up right away. Because she had work experience at Infusionsoft before her mission, she is now also working at Success Engine and going to school with her brothers at BYUI. This is my girl who set out to prove to the world that you can succeed even without a GED. She was accepted into BYUI as a transfer student for the credits she earned before her mission at EAC in Thatcher, AZ, at BYUI online, and at BYU Provo Independent Study (for which, by the way, she earned a scholarship).

Jared is 19 and came home from BYU Provo after one semester to earn more money so he could return as soon as possible. He worked as a pizza delivery guy for some time, but then quit and got a part time job at ISOS Technology as a junior developer making $20/hour. He is saving up to return to BYU Provo in the Summer.

Nicholas is 17 and a senior at Benjamin Franklin Charter High School. He pushes himself and loves staying busy. He is taking a couple of AP classes, and used to work at Johnny Rocket’s restaurant, but quit to work part time as a PT Tech at a physical therapist’s office instead. He is still involved in the Millennial Choirs and Orchestras, and saved up enough money to join them on tour to Carnegie Hall this summer. He is actually taking the AP History class right now as I type this.

Bethany is 15 and a Freshman at Benjamin Franklin Charter High School. She loves musical theater and has been involved in both the school play as well as the Queen Creek (community) Performing Arts Center. She’s enjoyed playing a role in each of the following productions just in the last year: Madagascar Jr., Saturday’s Warrior, Little Mermaid Jr., and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. She has enjoyed choir at school and although she’s struggled to keep up with her assignments—with all her extracurricular activities—she manages all of her own follow-up with the teachers, to make up for days missed from performances. In spite of it all, she exclaimed to me just a couple weeks ago, “Mom, I’m not going to lie. I LOVE MY LIFE.” She took a year off of Millennial Choir to do musical theater, but recently decided to go back next year. She’s got her learner’s permit now and also loves to drive. I signed her up for driving lessons because I don’t love being a passenger 😉 I helped her older 5 siblings get their hours in, but I’m loving the idea now of letting someone else shoulder that stress.

Don’t judge me.

Sarah is 12 and a 6th grader at Benjamin Franklin Charter School (Elementary). She just finished up her last orchestra concert for the year this morning. She has loved the cello but is ready to go back to the clarinet. (She played both until the bands and orchestra practices conflicted and she had to choose one over the other.) She also played a part in the Saturday’s Warrior Musical at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center, and has enjoyed the Millennial Choir since she was 4. However, I think she’s ready for a break and will probably take a year off. She is excited to get over to the high school next year where she’ll be for Nicholas’ senior year, and Bethany’s sophomore year. We’re grateful that we were able to buy a home near the high school last August, so they’ll all be able to walk if they aren’t driving themselves.

As for keeping the TJED principles alive even as they go to the charter school – we’re still all about “govern yourself or be governed.” We’re proud of how they are growing and owning their education. Some of my kids have said they want to homeschool their kids during the younger years, but have been so happy with their experiences in the last few years, they will probably follow suit with their own. And I’m okay with that. 😉

Update 4/3/2021 (long overdue!)

Jacob (28) – last year as an outgrowth of his passion for political freedom at a time in our country of great unrest, he ran for the Idaho Senate. With no previous real political experience aside from his ten years of study and freelance public service and education, not really wanting to be a politician but having felt strongly prompted to put his name in the race, he was both pleased and relieved to earn 1/3 of the votes. Not enough to secure the seat, but respectable as a college student against an incumbent. He also earned a prestigious internship at the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy and through grants and scholarships (including one from the Koch Brothers), he has added to his understanding and real world experience with making a difference for good causes. His campaign set his graduation date back but expects to finish soon in Financial Economics. Meanwhile, he supports himself building websites and bills out at $50-80/hour as an undergrad. He has dated a lot and had a few serious relationships, but still looking for the match that will lead to marriage.

Nathan (25) – Nathan graduates from college next week in Business Management with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship. He has paid his way through by working part time at Success Engine as a business coach for small businesses and will graduate debt-free. He also bought a car and paid it off about 2 months ago. He plans to move back to Arizona and is looking into real estate investing to help grow the money he’s been saving.

Kayli (22) – Kayli has been going to school at BYU-I and switched her major from nutrition to communications (marketing). She has been paying her way by working as a Sign Language Interpreter at a nearby elementary school, and working as a contractor for various web design and web building projects. She has been dating a young man who was just accepted to the Air Force Special Forces program (pararescue), but they are officially putting it on pause while he goes into training this month.

Jared (21) – Jared is a Junior at BYU Provo and just got his half-tuition scholarship upgraded to full-tuition by pulling his GPA from 3.96 to a 3.98. He works part time as a junior developer for ISOS Technology, an Atlassian software implementation partner. He had knee surgery last year to fix an old PCL injury so he’ll be in a knee brace until September.

Nicholas (19) – Planned to graduate from Benjamin Franklin Charter School last year and technically still did, but covid cancelled the regular ceremony, and prom, and everything else. Was called to the Barbados, Bridgetown mission and serves in Pocatello, Idaho until his visa comes through. Saved about $8000 towards his mission before leaving by working as a PT Tech at a Physical Therapy office.

Bethany (17) – switched from Ben Franklin to Perry High for the bigger opportunities and options it offered. Got a job at Costa Vida and has been working as a junior sometimes up to 30 hours in a week while carrying a full load including a dual enrollment class. Works hard and has impressed her supervisors with being attentive and one to go above and beyond in her responsibilities. When she has a bad day, she always eventually finds her way back to choosing optimism and has experienced for herself how her happiness is a direct result of the thoughts she chooses and entertains. Plans to get her GED in the summer and will replace her senior year with community college classes while preparing to attend BYU-I. She’s been saving all year with an eye on making smart choices with it as she learns (outside of school) how to be wise, through reading and mentoring with successful leaders in the community.

Sarah (15) – is an 8th grader at Ben Franklin who loves dance, orchestra, band, and gets high marks and the respect and admiration of her teachers and friends. It’s been hard for her to have to choose between them as she moves into the upper grades. Of the three she has chosen to keep dance, however, she sprained her ankle doing a pirouette and looks forward to getting back to full activity as soon as possible.


Here’s the ‘note’ I stumbled onto in my spring cleaning that spawned this whole post in the first place.  I’ll post it here, and then get back to work.

Leslie Householder

12 Responses

  1. Finding your post has been timely for me as well. Does the confidence come before or after implementation…or both, but with fluctuations? : ) I can’t figure out how to have peace over the details I fret about with unschooling…yet I desperately want to see my kids loving to learn… I want to see them motivated because they hunger to learn about whatever they are studying…it’s how I’ve learned so much, too…
    I believe the answers are right in front of my face but the glasses I’m looking through are not the right prescription so I can’ t see it clearly.
    Intuitively, I know I need a paradigm shift which can become my iron rod to hang onto when the doubts and fears begin to fly…but it’s not there yet…ok. back to prayer….it will come. Thank you for getting me on the track again. I need a change of heart and to see clearly what is required of me in order to implement this change in our school of thought. : ) Just knowing what to pray for is powerful.

  2. Just want to say thanks! I receive the Simple Homeschool email & found your link. Your post is a blessing to me today. I’ve felt led to homeschool my children since they began school. Although, I did not have the confidence & support to do so at the time. Now the time has come and everything has fallen into place by the grace of God. It is his perfect timing. So I pulled Sophie out of school last week & we received our curriculum on Friday. Your link helps me in several ways. 1.) It helps me to see that it is okay to pull one child out of school w/out feeling bad about the other. She is so excited about home schooling and he did not want to home school. 2.) I have the same reason for home schooling…”And probably most important was the fact that we wanted God to be the very CENTER of all that they are learning. Since He created all things and knows everything about everything, it makes sense that we learn about Him, and let Him teach us about everything.” 3.) It is great to see that you all suggest that I should not try to imitate the public school. This is why God led me to your post today. I have all of my lesson plans ready for our first day of school & God knows that I’m stressing about getting them done before I need to get to the office to help my husband answer the phones during his lunch break. I’m a perfectionist and I want to have every little question answered by noon every day. My daughter is an amazing child who loves to read more than anything. She can play on the computer at the office while I help a few hours a day. During this time she teaches her self to type with an online program, she works on math facts online, and she has taught herself how to make a Power Point Presentation. We have a family owned insurance agency & we hope to have our children involved at an early age. We love the fact that she is there a few hours a day so that she can see how things are done. I teach her to file papers and hope that she will learn to communicate with adults more confidently. Anyway, I just want you to know that your post is a blessing to me today. Thanks! Karin Fulgham

  3. Thank you for this great article. I am new to homeschooling (we started only since Sep 2011) and have had the least support from my parents or in-laws. This post is so timely as I have just reached a tough period working with my middle child. I started letting self-doubts, fears, pressure and the need to compete drown out what I know in my heart to be right. Your words really reminded me to focus on what’s important and true and to believe and have faith in myself and my children. Peace & Blessings.

  4. Great post and a big AMEN to all of the above. I also want to comment that A Thomas Jefferson Home Companion is co-authored by Diann Jeppson. She has been my personal mentor in many ways over the years and is a great resource for ideas on creating systems that support this kind of environment.

  5. Well, that is certainly a timely post for me. We are reaching an important crossroads in our family. We may be moving! And in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking how nice it might be to go back to home schooling. Much food for thought. I LOVED all the Moores books. And DeMille. And many more.

  6. Thanks for sharing this journey, Leslie. I love your decision to let them choose their educational path–that is where I’ve gotten tripped up before! How nice to know from a more experienced mom that it all turns out okay in the end!

  7. Leslie, your experiences touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing your insights so beautifully and openly. I am grateful that I played a part, however small, in the majesty of your family’s becoming what they are. Blessings… and much love to each and all of you!

  8. Leslie, Oh, how I needed this post today! I was feeling so down because of the constant judgement and questioning we receive about our homeschooling experience (especially from our extended family.) We have enjoyed homeschooling so much the last several months, building forts, reading books, earning money doing chores at home, and learning through PLAY! It’s been great. Your thoughts are giving me courage to answer their questions with confidence. My kids are thriving and loving extra mommy time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, everything’s right about that. Let the unschooling begin!

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