The first day of school has come and gone for most families in the tri-state area. Kids are in the throws of getting up early, focusing on classwork, riding the bus, and meeting new teachers and friends. But, there is a small but growing group of kids who don't do back-to-school quite like the rest of us...

Finally a back to school book for homeschoolers!!!! -Jenny Johnston
Finally a back to school book for homeschoolers!!!! -Jenny Johnston

When I saw Jenny Johnston's Facebook post about finding a book that introduces a Kindergartener to the first day of homeschooling, I thought, "Wow, she's a brave soul. I can barely get my five-year-old to focus for twenty minutes when we read a book at night."

It got me wondering about how Jenny structures her day and not only gets her daughters to pay attention but engages them in learning. So, I asked her! I was pretty surprised at some of her responses.

To give you a little bit of background about Jenny, she is in her fifth year of homeschooling her two daughters: Paige (who is in fifth grade) and now Linley (who is just starting Kindergarten) at their home in Newburgh.

How did homeschooling start in the Johnston household? What inspired you to homeschool your daughters?

Truthfully, homeschooling was never on my radar until I met some people who homeschooled their children. I admired their children's character and the way their family loved being together. I wanted that for my family.

Do you follow the local school calendar? Snow days, vacation days?

No. We do have multiple activities that the kids participate in that follow the school system's calendar but as for our daily studies we can do them in any weather! We do, however, start sometime in August and end in May.

As for vacations, we take them whenever the schools are not on break. This makes for smaller crowd sizes at Disney and less overall traffic on the roads and in airports. As travelers, we love this benefit of homeschooling!

What does a typical school day look like for you?

We usually start our school day around 9 a.m.  We start with Morning Meeting Time where we learn different prayers that are important to our faith and we do our daily Bible study. Math, English, Science are next for my fifth grader; followed by Reading and Math throughout the remainder of the day. My kindergartener focuses on basic Reading and Math throughout the day. We finish with read-out-loud time as a family. I read a classic book like Anne of Green Gables to the girls and then they engage in individual quiet reading time. Our afternoons are full of activities, so we try to finish the school day by about 2 p.m.

How do you engage them with other kids and teach social skills?

I always chuckle at the "social skills question." I get it all the time and I usually respond by saying that my children are some of the most social around because I am a super social person and so is their father. We're banking on some of that rubbing off on them.

Our curriculum group "Classical Conversations" meets every Tuesday from 9-3. There, we study our foundational subjects as well as Latin with 30 other homeschooling families so they get to be with their peers, then, as well.

What benefits do you think homeschooling gives kids?

The benefits are numerous but one of the greatest advantages, in my opinion, is the benefit of a tailor-made education. There is no mold that the kids have to fit into. They learn at their own pace and are allowed to grow in their own time.

Disadvantages or frustrations you have found?

Frustrations come with the territory in homeschooling. My mind has to switch gears constantly because it's tough to teach every subject to two different children of different ages. Just today, I was teaching expanded form and fractions to my fifth grader while simultaneously teaching addition to my brand new kindergartener. It can be mind-numbing but you get through it and try to remember that it's just one day at a time.

How is your curriculum different from public schools?

We have been using a homeschooling curriculum called Classical Conversations for five years now. CC Communities can be found all over the country and they emphasize teaching students with a classical Christian approach. We meet weekly and study all the basic subjects. Plus, there is a Latin/English, grammar, and writing class called Essentials of the English Language for the older students. There are even high school classes!

How long do you think you will homeschool?

We plan on homeschooling for the remainder of their school career.

What do you think the perception is of those who homeschool and what is the reality?

To me, the perception of homeschoolers is so different from the reality. The reality is that you cannot put homeschoolers in a neat little box. We are as diverse as the reasons we have chosen to homeschool.  The cool thing is that I feel that most negative perceptions of homeschoolers are gradually being shattered by the sheer volume of us that there are throughout the country now. Recent statistics indicate that 1.5 million children in the US were homeschooled in 2017, and the number is growing exponentially each year. We come from all walks life and homeschooling really is a way of life. Homeschooling is learning each and every day through living. It can be challenging at times but the joy of seeing your child read their first word or finally master a tough skill is so worth it.  I wouldn't change it for the world.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in homeschooling your children, Jenny suggests visiting amazon and looking for an independently written book from a personal perspective. She suggests the Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell. Classical Conversations is the curriculum Jenny uses if you are looking for a Christian-based curriculum.

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