404 | A Homemade Education: Tips for Writing Your Own Recipe (Jennifer Cabrera)
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The perfect homeschool recipe is different for each child. Others can suggest ingredients, tools, and timing, but ultimately we must create our own homemade homeschool. Here are 7 tips to remember as you write your own unique homeschool recipe.
Jennifer Cabrera, the Hifalutin Homeschooler, is the writer of homeschool truth, humor, and inspiration. Jennifer lives in Salado, Texas with her husband and three brilliant boys. She is a licensed Physician Assistant/MPH, but set aside that career for her ultimate life's work. She is also the author of Socialize Like a Homeschooler: A Humorous Homeschool Handbook and Revolting Writing, a hilarious writing, vocabulary, and illustration journal for reluctant writers. She is a featured speaker with Great Homeschool Conventions and her memes and witty insights are widely shared on social media.
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Jennifer Cabrera Hello and welcome to another Hifalutin Homeschooler episode of The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Jennifer Cabrera and I am one of many hosts here on the podcast. Each week, we bring you an encouraging conversation, inspiration, tips, tricks, and or humor from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home.
Now, while the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we do not pretend to have the answer to every question related to homeschooling, but we do hope to keep it real through lessons we've learned and urge you toward Jesus Christ and prayer with him as the greatest parent-teacher conference available.
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A Homemade Education: Tips for Writing Your Own Recipe. It's baking season and I've got pie on my brain. So if you're hungry, grab a cookie or a carrot stick because I'm about to attempt to weave a scrumptiously sweet metaphor. Let's start at the dessert table. It's easy to spot the homemade desserts on the buffet at the group party or family get together. They have a certain not covered in perfectly fitting plastic, not purchased, not mass produced unique look about them. What telltale signs give the homemade desserts away? Well, they aren't perfectly symmetrical in color or shape, there can even be a piece already missing (sampled for quality control, of course), maybe there's a small assistance fingerprint in the lopsided frosting attempt, or a yellowed Tupperware filled with cookies of mismatched size and chocolate chip count— some good and browned on the bottom and others perfectly undercooked from the same batch. Oh, but just sit back and watch as people impatiently push through the line to get to the quickly dwindling local favorites scattered amongst the smorgasbord of baked treats. Nine times out of ten, you'll see folks vie for a slice of a wonky crusted, some-kind-of-homemade-doesn't-really-matter-what pie lovingly baked in a decades old corningware dish. Those that know go for the homemade desserts as opposed to one of the 4 or 5 plastic plates of perfectly matched cupcakes that are beautifully topped with a colorful artistic swizzle and a plastic portrait of a beloved cartoon character.
Also, it's true. Those wretched fingers-slicing, impossibly-thunderous-to-open plastic containers are hard to finagle with one hand holding a plate of cheesy chicken casserole. However, those decoy desserts inevitably dupe the youngest dessert table visitors. The colorful sprinkles twinkle in their eyes, leaving the lopsided pies, misshapen cookies, crudely iced cakes and deformed cobblers for us more experienced and discerning adults to enjoy. No matter how we try to reason with our littles not to be fooled by the bright colors and perfectly heaped frosting. It looks better than it tastes, I promise. What do they want? The pretty blue cupcake with the Optimus Prime transformer pic, mom! The perfectly packaged Rice Krispie treat with the cute little cartoon elves, mom! The red frosted (and possibly sprayed with Scotchgard) sugar cookie that comes with the Scooby Doo ring that they've always wanted since they stepped foot in this line and spotted it and needed it and might feel left out if the life fulfilling joy that is sure to follow is not given them if they don't get one soon. There they are stuck in line trying to use their manners and wait patiently, they're sweating and worrying that every one of the 45 identically bedazzled cookies will be gone before old Mr. Nelson, who's taking forever, gets his helping of Miss Patty's gooey blackberry cobbler plopped on his plate and dolloped with a spoonful of her homemade whipped cream. Ah! there goes another kid walking away with one in each hand. What if they don't get one and then they'll feel left out? They look at the other desserts with dismay. That berry cobbler looks like roadkill. And that lopsided chocolate cake is just so plain looking. They can't possibly be as good.
Okay, so, like, where am I going with this other than everyone needs a cup of coffee and a slice of pie? Well, earlier this year, I had several new homeschool parents contact me concerned that they were keeping their kids from the customary excitement and glittery sprinkles of starting school. Their kid was already feeling left out of the hype and sad about not getting to go to school and prepare for all the new big kid things like picking out a cool lunch box, or Meet the Teacher day, or finding their homeroom and backpack cubby, riding the bus, or playing on the playground that they've driven by for years and were finally big enough to go play on. I get it. It's enticing and some of these things are fun and a mark of a new season. When you're 5 or 6 years old, seeing your name in Sharpie written on one of 25 apple cutouts and stapled to a bulletin board is dazzling. You know, like the first time we all saw Circus peanut—we just didn't know any better yet. And young kids can't possibly understand our reasons to homeschool or how it will be the most impactful thing that we do in their lives, the most impactful decision that we make for their lives. They see only the clever wrapping. Or they've seen the Hollywood version of school in cartoons and movies where kids go to school to laugh together at the lunch table, win the big game and fall in love with a girl that no one knew was so pretty under her glasses and unibrow.
And so my first of seven tips for baking up a successful homeschool is this: don't let your kid's naive wants—fooled by the frosting on a prepackaged, mass produced education—sway your resolve to homeschool. The truth that they can't understand early on will be what they thank you for in the future. Also we can muster some sprinkles and excitement of our own like field trips during school hours, new art supplies and PJs, fun food, more family time and messy outdoor projects that kids in school only wish they were allowed to do. And as they get older, we can and should continue to discuss our choices for our family and their education and why we homeschool. And I think it's okay to point out what negative things that we are avoiding in schools, and to raise their awareness of the world around them and what doesn't taste as good as it looks. So naturally, like everything that we hope will turn out like the picture promised in the Instagram spread, parents want the tried and true recipe for homeschooling—the ingredients and steps guaranteed to bake up scholars with scholarships or to put the icing on your offspring by having them ready to patent their own products before age 21, topped with sprinkles of assurance that they will be financially savvy, know how to grow their own food, repair all automotive engines and love Jesus. And I'm sorry to say, even if you buy all the name brand ingredients and proceed with the exact timing and temperament prescribed, you're not going to nail it because this homeschooling recipe does not exist first.
And thus my second tip about finding the perfect homeschool recipe is this: don't copy someone else's homeschool path in hopes of reproducing their success and getting to shout, "Nailed it!" Every child is another of God's unique creations and will bake up differently, no matter how precisely you select and measure the ingredients. Besides, we all know how those 'nailed it' attempts turned out. You've seen the pictures—the gorgeous unicorn cake that mom tries to copy ends up looking like a bloated drunk narwhal. If you've met a homeschooler that turned out to be an amazing adult, great. But don't set out to make your kid their clone by duplicating their path, you'll only be left to say, "Well, an attempt was made." And the world doesn't need any more bloated narwhal cakes. Okay, so many of us who know our way around the homeschool kitchen know that a recipe is difficult to jot down and share. I can suggest a few ingredients, tools and timing, but ultimately you really must write your own recipe, and a different recipe for each of your kids at that. Of course, there are a host of publishers lining up to sell you the ingredients and planners for homeschool success. Those planners, guides and box scripted sets are not a recipe for success, they are simply ingredients that you can choose to add to your efforts and not all are necessary to produce well-rounded homeschool cookies...eh, graduates. Be careful, though. Sometimes you can throw something in your batter that can temporarily bog down the mixer. For instance, Latin or Singapore math. These ingredients, that many others swear were the necessary leavening agents for their homeschool to bake properly, well, they didn't work so well in ours. In fact, it was like I suddenly tossed some gummy worms into my family-famous bread pudding. Yuck! It was horrible. And our homeschool days swiftly went sour. Why did I add in what I knew didn't really fit with my recipe? Well, I was momentarily brainwashed by the success of others, the positive reviews, the threats of my batter not rising properly, so to speak, if I didn't incorporate these into our learning.
And therefore, my third tip for creating your own homeschool recipe is this: don't get distracted by or pressured into adding unnecessary ingredients that don't mesh with your homeschooling style or goals, or that add more aesthetic appeal but no meaningful benefit. You know, like the green food coloring that's added to many key lime pie recipes. Y'all, lime juice isn't green. And adding green dye is simply for appearance. But if the ingredients are wholesome and flavor is good, unnecessary additives, well, they're simply there for show and they can complicate the mix and leave an unwanted aftertaste. Homeschooling is so popular now and new products and opportunities are popping up constantly. There are new curricula for things that I never imagined would be considered an academic course, and there's test prep with Fandango promises, tons of something this or that for dummies, and fun and exotic intimidating outside courses all that are advertised for purchase and most of which aren't necessary at all. And I daresay will actually gunk up real learning and separate kids from self-guided learning. Either way, the public school pulled kids from the home and turned real life learning, trade apprenticeships, and trial and error learning into textbooks and worksheets where kids can only imagine and speculate how to implement the shallow knowledge someday...or never.
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Things can be learned naturally just living and learning and learning to live together as a family. You don't need a teacher's guide to tell you how to teach your kids to tie their shoes or brush their teeth, but I am certain you could find one for sale somewhere. If you start looking, you can freak yourself out with all the manuals, texts, and parent courses out there to teach your kid things that are super important, such as lessons in kindness, cleanliness, nutrition, emotional control, taking care of the home, child care skills, logic and discernment, health and exercise, etc.. And so my fourth homemade homeschool tip is that the secret is in the sauce. Not everything learned in life is quantifiable. You may not be aware of what all you have already added naturally to your homeschool recipe until it is apparent in the sweet grown up product. We add character building and life skills to sweeten our homeschooling by just modeling mature adulting without making them transcript worthy courses. And because our kids are able to be with their parents, siblings, grandparents and other adults for more hours than their clueless peers stuck in the classroom, they are exposed to real world work, hobbies and expertise. Don't leave them out of the everyday have-tos—take them with you to places. They can pick up a large amount of knowledge and training that we might not have even realized was being added to our homeschool recipe. For instance, my son has always enjoyed yard work, gardening and growing things, and garage repair. He has made a hobby of these things and helping out in his grandfather's garage, alongside his grandmother's love of plants and his father's demand for yard work. And he now, at 15, has a robust knowledge and skill base in these areas, all achieved naturally and without curriculum or testing.
All of these extra immeasurable additives to homeschool are the secret in the sauce of homeschooling. The reason we sometimes hear things like, "Wow, your kids are so mature and interesting to talk to," and though we could reply, "Well, thank you. They're homemade," which could lead to all kind of follow-up responses, "Oh, they're homeschooled. But aren't you worried about socialization?" That being that one comment that makes us want to slam them in the face with a prepackaged, stale Little Debbie Zebra Cake? Other parents will say, "Oh, that's great," and then begin making excuses about not having the time to bake...I mean, homeschool...and that there are too many distractions in their home to be able to have a proper learning environment. Ha! Whether it be multiple aged kids, toddlers and babies, elderly relatives to care for, construction and repairs, one or both parents working from home, errands to run, groceries to buy, doctor and veterinary appointments, cooking and cleaning, or a heap of other events that seem like obstacles, these are actually the honing ingredients for a homemade homeschool recipe. These seeming distractions are the life lessons and juggling skills that homeschooling teaches. No curriculum or mock set up necessary. Squeezing academic learning within the real life learning, that would otherwise be missed if stuck in the classroom, is the point. How much faster do kids mature when involved in the real world of daily tasks and interactions? Years from now, we'll never regret postponing an assignment because a big brother called from college to tell his little brother all about his engineering labs and courses. We won't begrudge the interruption of read aloud time because Papa and Granny made a surprise visit with souvenirs to share and tell all about their recent road trip across the country.
And so tip number five for working out the kinks in your homeschooling recipe is this: it's all about perspective. I could say that home life, chores, surprise visitors, phone calls from those we miss are all interruptions that put us behind at homeschooling, but I choose to share that because of homeschooling they were able to happen. Unlike classroom and in-school learning, it is not supposed to be a conveyor belt of mass production. Homeschooling is a recipe we write as we go. One for each of our children. And this is exactly what a teacher cannot do for each individual student in a walled off classroom with all processed and condensed prepackaged ingredients. Now, before you panic and think, Oh no, I am not much of a cook or a baker, and maybe I'm not cut out for homemade homeschooling. Y'all, there are 50 shades of homemade. Simply by choosing to homeschool, you're already demanding to at least have some say in the ingredients of your child's education. Many homeschoolers choose their own prepackaged ingredients, i.e. boxed curriculum. It's like bringing home slice-and-bake cookies to cook in your own oven and that you can cook to your preferred doneness. You can certainly add nuts and chocolate chips to, or reroll that tube of dough into a crust for a delicious tart. You know, like rework the boxed curriculum to fit your timing and your child's needs and throw out the parts that you don't want. Others like to pick out all of their own bought ingredients separately and use them in varying amounts of their own unique prerogative. And they add in things no one expected, but that usually soup up a recipe and make it unique. Eclectic homeschoolers do this. It's like making a chocolate pie with a frozen crust and a boxed Jell-O mix, but then adding some instant coffee grounds for a darker, richer, bolder flavor, and then topping the pie with sugared covered raspberries for an extra smart, pretty kick. And when you start writing your own curriculum, or going textbook free in some subjects, or letting the kids do an experience and try and fail and actually not expect perfection in all subjects, but let their strengths and interests drive their education all instead of just reading about doing, well, your homemade homeschooling from scratch.
It seems risky to not follow a proven recipe, to have faith in our gut instinct and intimate knowledge of our own kids, to use ingredients that are a good fit, maybe only just for them, and then have faith in God that the dough will rise to his plan. And when we do, well, we've come to tip number six, where we've truly nailed it. Nailed it takes on a whole new meaning when one original masterpiece is all we need to bake up. The homeschool recipe is not reproducible. Homeschoolers should aim to be like the wonderfully unique, obviously homemade desserts on the buffet table of high school graduates. Interesting and full of unique flavor, standing out for how they interact with others, how they view the world around them, how they self start with eager hope. And our kids can be all these things if we have faith. Stop searching for and trying to follow any recipe that will never be foolproof anyway.
And so lastly, we come to my tip number seven in homemade homeschool recipes. Homeschooling is a homemade recipe that writes itself anew in each child if we can loosen our grip and let it happen. Sometimes we actually write the recipe in hindsight never to be used uniquely again. Maybe tweaked things, added things taken away for another of our own children who may have a similar personality. But in the end, every child's homeschool recipe will be different. So now you probably need a cookie or a slice of pie. So go bake something up. Include the kids. It's a learning experience. Which is exactly what I did when I created Revolting Writing and Gross-Out Grammar for middle schoolers who are maybe a little reluctant to learn grammar and writing or think it's all boring and not exciting. Hey, it can be absolutely hilarious. So I did a little homeschooling from scratch myself and created this rogue language arts program. The program includes vocabulary, writing prompts, illustration pages, hilarious stories, grammar exercises, and all of it goes together with exciting themes and laugh out loud humor that middle schoolers will absolutely love. Full color workbooks that you can write in—they make great keepsakes when they're complete, so check those out. My own personal homeschooling from scratch efforts that you can benefit from for your middle schooler who may be reluctant in language arts.
You can find out more at my website hifalutinhomeschooler.com Just check under the 'Books!' tab and you can also read about them at Rainbow Resource online and at Amazon.com. Also, please feel free to email me any time [email protected] with questions about Revolting Writing and Gross-Out Grammar or any other homeschool questions that you have or tidbits you want to share, stories, things that you might like me to ask on social media that might benefit others or things that that you find useful as far as podcasts that are upcoming. I always look for new and exciting or interesting or helpful topics to cover. So I love to hear from you. And until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.
Thank you for joining me here on the Homeschool Solutions Show again. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share for healthcare you can trust. To learn more about why over 400,000 Christians have chosen Medi-share, go to greathomeschoolconventions.com/medishare.
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Lastly, have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling event of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit hall in the United States. Find out more at greathomeschoolconventions.com. I hope to see you in Texas.
Also, if you'd like to connect with me, you can find me at Facebook at Hifalutin Homeschooler and on Instagram @hifalutinhomeschooler. Also, you can email me directly with any questions, concerns, anecdotes. I love to hear stories from other homeschoolers. That's [email protected]. Until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.