Trading The “Best” School, For The Most Terrific One!

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If you’re anything like me, you have contemplated homeschooling. It’s natural to teach your child – starting at home.

My son, Simon, spelled words out loud for me, like face, lace, pace, and race, while we were buying groceries. Not exactly homeschooling, but not exactly not. He was two.

After a long time in a shopping cart once, Simon complained that his femurs hurt. Okay, I know his thigh bones were not the part that was hurting, but I was still impressed that he remembered the name of the largest bones in his body!

One of the very best toys that ever came in a kid’s meal was the game Cadoo. When Simon was three, his Daddy would whisper the “Cloodle” in his ear, so Simon knew what to draw or sculpt.

He did such a good job! I watched in amazement while Simon turned that purple clay into a completely recognizable pacifier!

Simon and I played his first game of Scrabble when he was four. Four! A boy after my own heart!​

And, to the glory of God, Simon was learning memory verses in Sunday School, before he ever stepped foot in his kindergarten class.

Together In The Community

Some women from church told me about a Mommy and Me group at the local grade school. A place for the grown-ups to talk to other grown-ups, and kids to play with other kids.

While the children played with toys, built highways and skyscrapers, glued cotton balls to construction paper, and dressed up in costumes, they were also learning how to share, be polite, and cooperate.

Story Time was not just entertaining, it also built listeners and stilled the wigglers.

Singing fun songs with motions helped develop motor skills, focus, and memory.

MORE Fun And Learning

Next, Simon and I found library groups in the two towns we lived in. (Our property included both towns.) So, there were even more stories, more playing, more songs, and more craft projects. Plus, different kids in each group.

Library groups, of course, encouraged reading. You don’t have to ask us twice! Armloads of books were the norm, as was snuggling together to enjoy those books.

We checked out a video series on American Sign Language, called Signing Time. What a terrific way to learn to sign!

I used to put the closed captions for Simon, so he could SEE and HEAR the words, to build his vocabulary whenever we watched watched TV or library videos for fun and/or for learning. Just another layer to the learning. We always watched together, because it’s so much more enjoyable that way!

Then, a library mom told us about a Mommy and Me gymnastics group. Again, learning disguised as FUN! Simon learned to listen to instructions, take turns, balance on a beam, swing on the uneven parallel bars, turn somersaults, jump on the trampoline – and dive into the giant sponge pit!

Beyond Our Home

Simon would, of course, attend a Christian school. We wanted that school to be in our home state. We just didn’t live there, yet.

I did an online search for schools within our church body.

Missouri Synod Lutheran (at that time).

My husband, Lance, needed nearby employment.

Proximity to a Lutheran High School also figured high on the list.

That narrowed it down considerably!

Our choice was a school that purported to have an advanced curriculum, where the students were taught the next grade level. His school also touted 26 distinct ethnic groups. Another big plus!

There were plenty of places for Lance to work close by, and there was a Lutheran high school within commuting or busing distance.

We thought we were set. Now, all we had to do was move – clear across North America.

Going Home

Once Lance wrapped up his MBA, we concentrated our efforts on readying our 1875 Colonial home for sale. That involved new paint, windows, curtains, lighting, appliances, exterior doors, flooring, plumbing, insulation, electrical panel, and heating zones. Whew!

When the house sold, we enlisted my niece, Susie, to join our moving caravan. Lance led the way in his pick-up with a loaded car trailer in tow. Susie followed him in a 16-foot moving truck. I pulled up the rear in a 26-foot moving truck.

Simon was safely ensconced in the back seat of the pick-up, armed to the teeth with DVD’s to watch: Moody Science Classics and, for even more fun, The Incredibles. Guess which one was watched the most. Who would have seen that coming?

Seven long days later, we arrived at my big sister Beth’s house – our home for the next eight months.

The Non-Birthday

Four days after our move, Susie hosted a birthday party for 5-year-old Simon. He was not at all interested in having a birthday!

No birthday. No cake. No cousins. No presents.

Okay, wait. Maybe he would have a piece of that cake. He could open those gifts and he could play with his cousins after all.

His pouting frown turned upside down.

Everything was upside down for Simon in those days. New home. New cousins. New state.

Which Comes First – The Job, Or The School?

While searching for gainful employment, Lance turned to his home-improvement skills to renovate Beth’s back deck, spruce up the paint, install new dining room lights, put up picture ledges, turn a closet into an office, and lay laminate flooring.

Lance even built a new deck for his mother that summer.

As the months rolled by, we wondered whether we should go ahead and enroll Simon or wait until Lance found work. Meanwhile, our five-year-old had both of his parents with him, all day every day. What a true gift – for all of us!

We took Simon to see the administrator of the school and got a tour. Simon did well in his “interview.” The enrollment form and the 32-page student handbook went home with us. By the end of August, we had to let the school know if Simon would be enrolling in kindergarten.

A promising job interview for Lance in May turned into employment – in the very last week of August. Whew! 

And So It Began

Simon and three other boys, plus I think seven girls, started kindergarten together – doing first-grade work. They had homework every night, after seven hours of school, on all but two nights in kindergarten.

One of his first projects was to choose an animal to research, make a diorama, and give a talk about the animal. Simon chose the Red Fox.

Research, check.

Diorama, check.

Give a talk about the Red Fox – um, no. Instead, Simon read Dr. Seuss’s tongue-twister book Fox in Socks to his class. 

The Science Fair, And The Dance Program

Springtime meant two things at the school. The all-school science fair, and the dance program.

Simon thought it would be fun to see whether string beans would grow better if the seeds were microwaved first – or not.

His longest bean plant broke before we got it out the front door! (MY fault.) Whoops!

The annual dance program was a huge production at that school. Kids were paired off, they rehearsed most of the school year, costumes were ordered, the auditorium was booked, and the big photo shoot happened – all without Simon.

Each student was required to sign a contract stating they would pledge to participate fully in the dance program. My son refused to sign his contract. He did not participate in the school’s dance program until the second grade.

Now I know how my mother felt when I refused to participate in the things that she expected me to do.

Summertime Fun And Learning

Every school year starts off with a recap of the previous year. In most cases, teachers have a LOT of re-teaching to do. While it would be great to hit the ground running, the reality is that kids tend to “lose” enough information over summer vacation to make that impractical.

I spoke with the principal about how to keep up the learning over the summer months, and she pointed me in the direction of Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills, Grade 2. The giant workbook would address what he just learned and take him ahead into the first grade – because, at their school, that would mean second-grade work.

Simon didn’t want to miss a beat!

I wrote the subject titles on milk jug caps, and Simon drew out the subjects from an old cocoa tin. Not knowing the order of the subjects each day made it more fun for both of us.

Foil stars and happy-face stickers marked his progress through reading comprehension, spelling, sentences, and the many forms of math – including telling time, counting money, and measuring.

Wednesdays were Park Days! We put the word out which area park we were going to explore that week, and a few of his classmates and cousins joined us there to play.

Seeds Of Homeschooling Were Sown

One summer I heard a radio ad for a local real estate broker. On his website, he had a list of 101 fun things to do with your kids. At some point, he mentioned homeschooling.

I had said a few different times that if we didn’t have our school, I’d probably be homeschooling Simon.

Our cousin homeschooled her many, many kids. So, if I ever needed to go that route, I figured it would be doable. I had just one child. But, how do you decide on the curriculum? How do you grade your student? Hmmm.

A PhD?

Then Lance wanted to pursue a PhD. Since it had been a few years since his MBA, and a few months since his master’s certificate, why not? I stumbled upon Liberty University’s ad for online degree programs, including a doctorate, while I was using BibleGateway.com.

When I checked on it, two things stood out:

1) Lance’s employer did not need him to get a Ph. D. in education, so they would not be paying for it.

2) Liberty University offered a homeschooling program they called Liberty University Online Academy (LUOA). Interesting.

Lance wound up finding a different online source for furthering his education – one his employer would pay for. Meanwhile, the search for a great way to homeschool was coming into focus.

The Beginning Of The End Of Parochial School

After six years at the school that we had chosen before making the cross-country move, we said goodbye to parochial school, and hello to homeschool!

Simon had already attended countless plays, a ballet, and an opera. He had donned a tuxedo, a spacesuit, street clothes, and a glowing leather jacket, as he danced in four school-wide programs on stage.

In six different science fairs, Simon tried his hand at plants, electricity (twice), butter, earthquakes, and he designed and made an EMP-proof Kindle cover. That one had a patent pending!

One teacher sent me a video from her phone that showed my son playing around with his shoelaces while he was waiting for his turn to do a science experiment in measuring.

At first, I was mortified.

Then I thought, “Why is my son not being engaged? Why is he so bored?” 

I Can’t Say I Wasn’t Warned

On the last day of school, I was warned that homeschooling would be the worst thing I could do for Simon. Noted. Thank you for the warning.

We quietly left at the end of the 5th grade. No gossiping among the parents or taking families with us. We just left – and never looked back.

Not a LEAP of Faith, More Like a Stroll

Simon and I had already spent our summers learning and playing together, and rather than wait until the fall, he wanted to start his school in August.

And we could – so we did!

Liberty University Online Academy (LUOA) tested Simon in 5th-, 6th-, and 7th-grade levels, for placement.

They started him in the 7th grade. He was 11.

BOOM! Simon skipped the 6th grade! And, I didn’t have to come up with the curriculum, or grade Simon’s work.

His teachers introduced themselves online, and Simon introduced himself to his teachers. Most were were in Virginia, but one was in Florida. Either way, our commute was the same. About 10 seconds.

Back At His Old School

In his first school, they had been trying out a new way to learn. A computer program learned what you knew and advanced you through different skill levels. Each student was encouraged to learn at their own pace.

Now that could be a magnificent idea – until it wasn’t.

If you could factor fractions, you could advance to the next level. If you could not factor fractions, it would not tell you how to do it or explain the concept. You would be simply left to your own devices – and your course would be incomplete.

We approached his teacher about the factoring: At some point do you just guess? There was no further instruction. No examples. No advice. Wow.

A Refreshing Difference

Lo and behold, fractions came up. Again.

With Liberty University Online Academy, it was different. This time the whole business of factoring fractions was explained, taught, and learned.

Simon cruised through the seventh-grade math, and his teacher noticed how well he caught on. She had Simon drop that course and sign up for 8th grade pre-algebra, alongside his  7th grade classes. WOW!

Six months later, he finished seventh grade, A couple of weeks after that, Simon started eighth grade. His former peers were starting the second semester of the sixth grade. 

Out Of The Loop. Period.

At the parochial school, parents were informed that we should not expect a weekly list of assignments, or told what the homework was, or anything else that would “baby” the students.

The term used was “spoon-feeding.”

Fifth graders were old enough to follow instructions, take notes, complete their assignments and accompanying research, and do homework. On their own.

It was not up to the parents to make sure Johnny completed his schoolwork, or that Susie turned in her homework.

Perhaps there are 11-year-old boys and girls who are up for that. Good for them!

Honestly. Good for them.

Side-By-Side

In my house, I am still the parent.

With Liberty University Online Academy, Simon and I worked side-by-side. I knew exactly what he was being taught in all his subjects.

Simon learned so much more than just fractions and all things polynomial. Together, we tackled algebra, geometry, and algebra 2. 

Simon was an expert at finding calculators and/or videos for virtually every conceivable situation.

Still, a ream of paper didn’t stand a chance at our house during math. Show your work!

Since I, myself, had failed a whole year of algebra in high school, this was exhilarating!

Not Just Math

I joined over 200,000 families in a homeschool buying co-op to gain access to valuable educational tools at really good prices. One of those tools was Rosetta Stone German, levels 1 through 5

Simon earned credit for learning a foreign language on his own. We just provided the proof of time spent and his grades.

Piano lessons turned into a fine arts credit.

Simon was probably most surprised to find he really loved high school economics!

Just for fun, Simon tried chemistry through a company called Thinkwell. Just. for. fun!

It turns out the course didn’t match Liberty University Online Academy’s curriculum, so Simon also took chemistry through LUOA, too. Twice the fun!

Simon Had So. Much. FUN!

In biology and chemistry, Simon had unfettered access to the lab. The virtual one called Late Nite Labs. Unlimited access to unlimited chemicals and tools for unlimited imagination and FUN.

No matter how many Bunsen burners and chemicals he brought into the mix, or how merrily they were thrown into the trash, no one got hurt!

The explosion was fake. It was a total gas!

My son was engaged – with SCIENCE – on purpose, with purpose.

There is a time and a place for everything, and once Simon was finished “experimenting” in the lab, he had all of the virtual tools he needed to conduct the “real” experiments for class.

Homeschooling Has Mobility And Flexibility Built-In

With a smartphone hot spot, a laptop, and a charger in the car, Simon’s school was mobile! With access to the internet, he could work anywhere. We were not tethered to a building or someone else’s schedule.

He learned at his own pace. When Simon burned through a class, he didn’t need to wait for anyone’s permission to move on. If he needed more time to work on a class, that was great, too.

When we needed his help with remodeling our home to sell it, his classes consisted of “just” chemistry and German. We weren’t too concerned with Simon “falling behind” since he had been a couple of years ahead of his peers for quite a while, already.

Once we moved and settled in, it was back to a mix of high school and college courses. Brilliant!

Finding Our Fit

Simon and I found what worked for us. He became more independent in his work, although I was still right there when he did tests. I no longer needed to read everything being taught, because LUOA earned my trust.

Simon used a timer. 50 minutes of school, 12 minutes for a break, at least six times a day. Some days flexibility was necessary. We paused school when Simon was needed for heavy lifting or started later if he wanted a cooler time of day to mow the lawn.

With 24/7 access to school, he had a lot of flexibility.

Simon graduated with a 4.0 from high school, with quite a few college courses already under his belt. At age 17.

He was on track to graduate at 16 (two years ahead of his peers), but we really cashed in on the flexibility when we needed remodeling help.

Flexibility was fantastic, as we had a few months without the Internet when we moved. Simon had lots of German he could do that did not require being online!

Would LUOA Fit Your Family’s Homeschooling Needs?

There is only one way to find that out. Ask.

Liberty University Online Academy was the answer to prayers for our family.

They are growing all the time, as more families find their Biblical worldview, their flexible timetable, and their relatively low cost very attractive.

Think about it: Military families, missionaries, Olympic athletes, professional kid actors, homesteaders, and everyday urbanites and suburbanites could all benefit from a solidly Christian school like LUOA. It’s available everywhere there is Internet!

Look for yourself, at Liberty University Online Academy.

♥ ♥ ♥ We are so glad we did! ♥ ♥ ♥

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