S8 E11 | Top Ten Reasons to Homeschool, Pt. 1 (Jeannie Fulbright & Shiela Catanzarite)
Want to hear the Top Ten Reasons to Homeschool from two homeschool veterans and authors with six successful college graduates between them? In this podcast, Jeannie Fulbright and Shiela Catanzarite discuss the first five reasons to homeschool. If you need a reminder of why it’s all worth it or know someone who is looking for a reason to begin, this podcast is a must listen. Your eyes will be opened to how homeschooling builds family bonds, allows children the freedom to be themselves, to grow into the persons they were created to be, and to discover their interests early and pursue them well. You’ll be encouraged to release the burden of enslavement to the system that is failing American school children, and instead embrace a true learning atmosphere and environment that develops your children into the people God designed them to be. Jeannie and Shiela will share profound truths and stories that will inspire and encourage you to start or continue the homeschool journey with freedom and joy.
Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.
Shiela Catanzarite is an author, speaker, editor, and communication coach. She's a 20-year Charlotte Mason veteran homeschooler and has worked as Jeannie Fulbright’s editor and designer for 20 years helping develop Jeannie’s award-winning Apologia science curriculum and most recently her Charlotte Mason products published through Jeannie Fulbright Press. Shiela is the author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry and is finishing up her second book in the series Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture, to be released spring 2024.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary, Shiela has been teaching language arts in some capacity for 40+ years. Her passion remains helping students understand the elements of language and how to use these elements artfully to communicate effectively. Shiela is currently a language communication coach, working one-on-one with students who have language learning and communication challenges. She also writes curriculum for her private middle and high school English language communication classes that focus on writing and speaking.
Both of Shiela's and her husband Bruce’s daughters attended private universities on scholarship and went on to pursue graduate studies in medicine and global business. She attributes their love for learning and academic achievement to homeschooling with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methodology.
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Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast that is all things Charlotte Mason and her tried and true philosophy of education designed to help you homeschool with more confidence, joy and success. It is our hope that you'll find golden nuggets that will transform the way you think and the way you homeschool. I'm your host, author of the bestselling Charlotte Mason science curriculum, Jeannie Fulbright, and I am so glad you joined me today.
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Jeannie Fulbright Hey, everyone! I am so happy that you are here listening today. It's Sheila and I together and we are going to be sharing the first part of our top ten reasons for homeschooling. And we're going to share the first five today, and then we're actually taking a break for the holidays and we will then share our next five at the beginning of January. So be looking for that. And I also just wanted to ask you, if you enjoy this podcast today, if you would please just take a few minutes, maybe two, three minutes out of your day and post a review on Apple—or I don't know if reviews are posted on Spotify—but just post a review wherever you're listening and let people know about— If you post a review then more people will hear about us and we'll build our community, and we would really appreciate that because I don't think we have any reviews posted for Sheila and I's new podcast...or this season. So thank you so much for joining us, and we are going to begin with the first reason to homeschool. And Sheila, I'm going to let you start.
Shiela Catanzarite Okay. Hey, Jeannie. Hey, everybody. We're so glad you're here today. And we're going to talk, like Jeannie mentioned, about the top five reasons to homeschool, and then next semester, the next five reasons to homeschool. So we put out these top ten reasons to homeschool years ago. Jeannie wrote a blog on this. How many years ago has it been, Jeannie?
Jeannie Fulbright Ten? Fifteen? It's been a long time.
Shiela Catanzarite And we have a blog series on this, and then we created this graphic that we continue to post and it just gets sent everywhere because we feel like there are certain times in the homeschool journey when you need to be reminded why it's worth it. And so we took the top ten things— And even though, Jeannie, I think we worked on this probably ten/twenty years ago, these reasons have not changed.
Jeannie Fulbright They haven't.
Shiela Catanzarite These are the top reasons why homeschooling is the best educational option for your children. And it's just fun to think about working on this so long ago and going through these reasons and realizing these are timeless and they're powerful. And so it's going to be fun to go through and talk about how we have seen these reasons really play out in the lives of our children and our families. So the first reason, the number one reason to homeschool, is it builds family unity. And I think homeschooling is about your family. And I said this to many moms at the conventions over the summer, that when your children leave your home, what they will remember is your family life and the family environment. So if we think about home school, you're schooling at home and home is a place for family. And if you are intentional about experiencing this as your number one reason and your number one priority in your homeschool, you will build your family unity and you will build the unity between your children. And I saw this as we were homeschooling the girls, we had the blessing of them being a little bit closer in age so their interests were similar. So we tried to plan activities—whether it was activities related to education or travel or field trips—we tried to plan things that everyone could enjoy, that we could all enjoy together. When we travel, we would try and go to the nearest national park or national forest to build in learning together in a way that everybody enjoyed, including my husband and I. And so everything that we did, we tried to make it a family event or a family activity, really building those relationships and really putting the girl, through the read-alouds, through doing some of the field trips together, through doing some of the curriculum together— That was building family as well. So we built our family relationships around the homeschool and some of the academic subjects, but we also built it outside of our homeschool, which was really just an extension of our learning through the field trips and through the travel. So we became very, very close. And my daughters are best friends—they are almost 26 and 24—and it was because of the amount of time that they spent together as siblings in the homeschool. And everything we did as a family, it built that bond and nothing can take that from them. They are best friends. They are still so close. Even though they don't even live in the same state, they keep up with each other and really make each other a priority. So I would say when I look at all the blessings and the benefits of the homeschooling lifestyle, definitely the closeness of our family and the unity that we have even now is, I think, the number one reason to homeschool.
Jeannie Fulbright That's so good. I would agree. And I just feel like God intended the family to be our source of strength and our source of spiritual and character training, a place where we feel the deepest connection, where we feel valued and honored and cared about and loved—and loved truly, unconditionally, even though there might be arguments and there might be fury at times and frustration and disappointment—but it is a place where you love each other unconditionally and feel loved unconditionally, feel accepted unconditionally. And honestly, I think many of us came from unhealthy families where there were toxic relationships, and what we're doing as homeschoolers is we're creating a new legacy, a legacy and a family that is going to define what it is to be a family and to be united as a family and to have that strength, those bonds that are strong, that our children will teach their children to have with their children. We're creating a legacy that will last for generations. For those of us especially who came from kind of toxic, unhealthy family relationships, we are starting something new and something wonderful. And I will say, I just decided to share the story of my family, and this is really one of the reasons I think homeschooling was so appealing to me, because some of my core memories— My own family was really unusual. My father was a Texas oilman and he owned an oil company and he was gone all the time drilling wells all over Texas. And my mother was a working mom by choice, not by necessity. She was very much a woman's liber, very much just wanted to have a career and really didn't even want to have children. But she was— I think she wasn't against children, just that wasn't her priority. Which is fine. I was raised by Mexican nannies that my dad would smuggle over the border, and especially, there was one that was my youngest nanny, that I was raised by. And really, as a young child, my closest bond was to my older brother that was 14 months older than me, so we were really kind of the same age. And I followed him around everywhere he went and worshiped him because he was really the only family member that I saw every day. And he just was everything to me. So it was really this close sibling bond that we had. But then when I was four, he went to kindergarten, and literally after that first day of kindergarten I remember being so excited, I was in the car with my mom— My mom was an educator, so she was able to get off work by the time we got out of school. So she came home that day and we picked up my brother from school. And I just remember being in our big, huge Lincoln Continental and sitting in the back seat and my little feet barely off the edge of the seat waiting for him, and I see him running from the school to our car, and I had been waiting all day for him because he was everything I did all day, so suddenly I didn't have anything to do all day long. And he got in the car, and did not even look my way, but just started talking to my mother, about school and all the things that happened at school and all the new friends he was meeting. And from that day forward, he, I would say, forgot my existence. And every day he brought friends home from school and he didn't want me to play with them, and it was all about his friends and all about his life. And his friends became his everything, and he essentially forgot about me. And I had a little brother, but he was a baby. He was still crawling. And so I eventually became friends with him later. But I felt that loss really deeply. And it's a core memory. It's a core memory, that loss of the relationship. And I think because of that core memory, that actually caused me to want to homeschool, because I just saw we never actually regained a relationship again. He continued to be about his friends, and then I became about my friends. And it was really— You know, sibling relationships during that time were really not expected. People didn't expect children to be friends with each other. They expected them to be best friends and closest friends with their schoolmates. And when my children were younger, it was my mantra to my children that, "These kids in this family, these are your best friends for life." They are going to be your best friends. They will be with you in and out. Your friends that you have right now will come and go. You'll have friendships that you'll love and you'll have so much fun with and you'll be doing stuff with, and you may never speak to them again after you are in high school or leave high school. And that's true, and it was true for me, and it was true for my children as well. But I really emphasized that they were each other's best friends. That was such an important part of our family dynamics. I did not allow them to fight with one another. I put an end to every fight. My daughter actually reminded me— She was home this weekend from— She works in Dallas. She's a software engineer there. And she came home this weekend and she reminded me of the time when she and her older brother— Because children who are really close in age sometimes tend to rub each other the wrong way. And she said, "Do you remember when you used to tape me and me and Calvin"—her older brother—"together every time we fought?" I would tie them together. I would say, "Okay, you're going to be tied together until you can get along." And they would get along. And here was the thing, I required them to be kind to each other because— And I actually had a rule, if you were unkind to your siblings, you are not allowed to go play with friends outside the family because you are not showing the maturity needed to be a good friend. And that was my rule. If you were rude to your brothers, or rude to your sister, or rude to anybody, then, guess what, you were not allowed to play with friends outside the family. We had to cancel plans. We were not allowed to go and do things outside the family unless you were kind and respectful. That was the thing I really wanted my children to learn is how to respect each other. And so I see this huge difference—and again, I'm talking about that legacy—this huge difference in the way my relationships with my siblings— And I have a lot of them, I didn't just have my older brother. I actually had a bunch of— There were seven in our family. But I see a huge difference. My children are each other's best friends. My daughters chat on the phone for hours every day. My three kids that are computer scientists, they play video games weekly and talk on Discourse about everything going on in their lives. And they have this close connection where they're always talking, they're always in connection with each other. Three of my kids are building an operating system together. They're just always about each other. They know what's going on in each other's lives all the time. And it is just such a blessing to our heart when they get together for holidays and they're all in each other's company, there's this energy and there's this excitement and this joy that they have to actually finally be in each other's company. And I am so thankful that the Lord gave me this wisdom to teach them, to drill into their consciousness, that you are each other's best friends, and they really are.
Shiela Catanzarite Yeah. Well Jeannie, you were intentional about that.
Jeannie Fulbright Yes.
Shiela Catanzarite So that's why— That was a gift that you gave to your children that they are enjoying now and forever. You fostered that. You were intentional. And I just want to encourage the homeschool parents listening that we have the choice to foster and structure our homeschool any way that we desire. That's the beauty. We have the freedom. Nobody's going to come in and tell us. And so if you really think through, "I want to build family unity. This is what I want it to look like. This is what type of relationship I want my children to have when they leave the home," you are the one to foster that and to build that and make that happen. And I love that.
Jeannie Fulbright Thank you. Yeah. And it wasn't easy! I want to tell people it was not easy. But it was more important to me than schoolwork. If they were rude to each other because they were trying to focus on something they were doing in school. Well, we stopped. "I'm sorry that you were supposed to finish that, but you're not because you were rude to your sibling. We need to sit here and talk about what's the most important thing, finishing your school work or being a godly sibling—being a godly sister, being a godly brother? That's more important than your schoolwork. It's more important than any project you're working on. It's more important than anything you're doing is being godly to your siblings." And so we would stop anything we were doing. Nothing was more important than that. And really, as adults, nothing is more important than that. So I agree. So thank you for giving me a chance to explain that story. I would love, Sheila, for you to begin the number two reason that we homeschool.
Shiela Catanzarite Okay. Number two is: It tailors each child's education. This is such a blessing. I have my students who I teach privately that are in public school coming to me every day after school, and I see this every day when I have my students, how everybody is in a box. And I was with my seventh graders last night and— I can't remember. We were reading something or talking about something and there was this phrase "locked in a box". And I don't remember exactly how it came up, but I went around to each student— I have seven in that class— I'm like, "When do you feel locked in a box?" "In school." "When do you feel locked in a box?" "When I'm in school." "When do you feel locked in a box?" "When my teacher tells me exactly what to write." "When do you feel..." And every single one of my students said, "I feel locked in a box when I'm in school." And it just struck me that, oh my goodness, we were not locked in a box with homeschooling. Our children had so much free— The box was open and there was freedom. And, this is so important, this blessing of tailoring your child's education, because all of our children are unique and different, created that way by God— And we love the curriculum that we can do together. And I was thinking about this doing your science, Jeannie, when our girls were growing up. We did most of the school work together. I think math might have been one of the only things we didn't do. But even though they were learning the same curriculum, even though they were reading the same thing, they were given the same writing prompts, every time the girls would express their learning it would be unique and it would be different. And so we want to hold on to those opportunities to have our children learn together, definitely. Even within sharing homeschool lessons, you still have the uniqueness. The child is still being tailored in his learning and his expression of his learning because he's unique. And so we don't want to give that up. We don't want every child to have a separate curriculum for everything. But what we want to do is give opportunity outside of the academics. Because when we thought about education, I didn't think about just sitting down with the formal lessons. We have our homeschool day. We have our read-aloud time. We have our math time, our writing, whatever we were doing. Those were important. That was a part of their education. But I saw all of the extracurricular and all of the nature study and the nature walk and the art lessons and the piano lessons, all of that to me was part of education. So you think about education, you think about the whole child. And so we were— And in that space, our daughters did a lot of different things from each other. So then you began to see the tailoring look a little bit more individualistic with who God had made them to be with their passions and their gifts and their interests. Our younger daughter loved art. She was an artist. She was a gymnast. She was a cheerleader. She tried to do some figure skating like her older sister at one point because her older sister was a figure skater, and she hated it. She didn't stay with it. And so it was kind of one of those things where our older daughter was loving the figure skating, and I thought, "Well, you know, since we're taking her, maybe we'll just take Caroline"—our younger daughter—"and let her figure skate as well." And I found out very quickly that, no, that wasn't something that she enjoyed, so we found something unique to her that was more fit for the way God had made her as an athlete. And so when we looked at tailoring their education outside of the homeschool lessons, we were really intentional about finding out, "What do you love?" We'd ask, "What are you interested in and what do you love?" Because we knew that those activities were going to be a very strong part of shaping who they became. And so when I was telling my students last night—we were talking about college essays—how they're reflective personal essays— When you go to apply, you have to write all these reflective essays. And I was talking about our girls' essays and how our younger daughter, her college essay was about her experience drawing a portrait of one of the children in the homeless shelter that they started a program with. So our girls started a health and fitness program in a homeless shelter, and they did that all through high school and recruited people. It was an incredible— It was educational. It was an incredible education for them. So there was this one child that we had taken a picture of, and our younger daughter sketched it in her art class, just a beautiful charcoal picture. And when she went to write her college essay, she wrote about what she experienced through sketching that and thinking about that child, and what she had learned from that experience. And so that was hers. And she was an artist so that made sense for her. Our older daughter did her college essay on a piano experience. She was at the state piano competition and she was in the middle of a song and she had a memory blank. This is the first time this has ever happened. And she sat there still and trying to gather her thoughts back together and thought that she had totally blown it. And when she got the piece back and when it was over, the judge looked at her and said, "You played with such grace. I can tell that you really love that," And she ended up getting second or something like that. She ended up placing in the competition not because she did it perfectly, but because she played with grace. And so that really shaped her. She wrote her college essay on that, how she learned about grace. And she's a perfectionist and a high achiever, but that experience really shaped her to understand that. And so when I think about just tailoring the education, when it came time to express, "Okay, I'm going to summarize who I am after all of my 12 years of schooling when I apply to college, and I've got to think of something that says who I am," what they talked about were not academic things. They had nothing to do with the formal schooling, but everything to do with who they became as they pursued the individual gifts and passions God had given them. So I just want to encourage everyone that when you think of your child's education— Charlotte Mason encouraged the family reading together and learning together, so we definitely want to give the opportunity to build family unity through learning together and doing some of our lessons together. But outside of the formal homeschool day, that's where we really begin to see the opportunity to develop the unique passions and gifting and initiatives and ideas that God has put in them. That is just as much a part of their education as the formal lessons. And so I just want to say when I think about who they've become, I do think very much to some of the outside extracurricular activities, leadership—all of those things—travel, missions trips. It's all education because they're whole children. And so when you think about tailoring it, you can do it on so many different levels. But that's what I see as adults when I think about tailoring their education. I think beyond the formal lessons to all the other opportunities that they pursued. And it shaped them to who they are today.
Jeannie Fulbright Yes, I love that. Your girls are so amazing and so talented! I've always just enjoyed watching them transform and become all that God has created them to be. I just believe that every child is unique and so every education should be unique as well. And again, like Sheila was saying, especially in the early years, we're doing everything together. And they are— What I loved about the way we would do our learning together, we would all learn the same, say, science lesson, and then my daughter would want to make a painting or do something very artistic. She was an artist, like your youngest daughter. My oldest daughter was the artist, and loved just anything artistic if she could just create something beautiful from it. And she ended up really in an artistic career. But I allowed her to express her learning differently than maybe my second child who actually wanted to read more. He was the science kid. He was actually the reason I began writing my Apologia Science series is because he wanted to leave no stone unturned. When he wanted to learn about space, he wanted to know every single detail that was possible. And I wrote the book for him, and for the rest of my children as well, but for him to understand science well. So when he did a science lesson, instead of expressing himself— He didn't have strong writing skills, but he wanted to watch more videos on the subject, spend more time learning about it, learn even more. He just loved— He wanted field guides and to learn about every single lizard. He actually had memorized every single lizard in the Lizards of the World Field Guide. You could name a lizard and he would tell you exactly what country it lived in. That was how he expressed his learning, by deeper knowledge, digging deeper, learning and memorizing for himself. Getting knowledge for himself is what he was doing. And my third child...brilliant. Loved to build things. He was more into robotics and just typical— Anything that wasn't focused on building or fixing something or baseball wasn't quite as interesting to him. Brilliant kid. Could learn anything quickly. But I did not require him to spend the same amount of time on subjects— Or not even require...I allowed them to express their learning, to be unique in how they spent time. I made sure, of course, we had living books which brought the subject to life, which made it interesting. But my middle child wasn't going to spend as much time on an art project. Actually, most of the time he would get on the computer and type up what he learned and find clip art to go with it. He loved that. And he was— Obviously, he was a very, very strong computer— He was a computer genius. Actually, when he was in eighth grade, he actually created a— Oh, I can't remember with that computer program is where they build blocks of— I can't remember. But he created this entire world and he actually started charging people, and he was making money. He was charging people to enter his world that he created on his computer program. And he actually had a— We had a— I can't remember. Anyway, it was just all this complicated stuff that he was really good at. And he actually, of course, was my computer scientist. I have three computer scientists, but he was the one who led the charge. And he was really— And my second child, my second son, who I spoke about who loved science, he actually wasn't a strong reader so he did a lot of his schooling with audiobooks and video. And he really learned well with audio and video because reading was very difficult for him. He was actually not a strong reader until sometime about his second year in college, and really took off after that. But it was a delayed development. He had a lot of great resources in college that they gave to him for help with his learning challenges. And then, of course, my fourth child was independent. She just took off. Well, she just wanted to do things her way. She's always wanted to. "Don't tell me what to do." Which is fine as long as she's doing something, and she really was always doing something. And then when she went to high school, she wanted a typical high school education. She wanted it to look like the public school. And so she made sure she had all the AP courses and all the— She ran that show and she did it all on her own. And everybody had their unique education that was tailored to them. My artistic daughter, almost her entire college transcript—I mean her high school transcript for college—was art. She had a lot of art. She was a ballerina, so her physical education, her art education, all of the stuff that she needed on her transcript, it was all through dance she did, and she also had a lot of artistic stuff. But when she was in high school, she expressed her science learning through her artistic endeavors. She would draw pictures of what she learned. She would draw pictures of DNA and RNA replication. That was how she understood it is to create something artistic with it rather than the typical way that people learn these things. And so all of my children learned differently, they were interested in different things. And I just believe that the kind of education— What homeschooling does is it allows this atmosphere of discovery, discovering who they are—like your girls were—discovering what they're good at, discovering their skills, and being allowed to express their education in that way. And that leads actually, we were talking about tailoring each child's education, but that leads us into creating an atmosphere of discovery. And so I'd love, Sheila, for you to begin the charge on that one.
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Shiela Catanzarite Okay, good, so number three. Number third reason to homeschool: It creates an atmosphere of discovery. So atmosphere is everything, we know that from Charlotte Mason. Atmosphere is what we experience in the environment that we're in. And so when I think of atmosphere, "What do we experience? What are our children being enveloped in? Is the atmosphere joyful? Is the atmosphere stressful? Is the atmosphere peaceful? Is it a lot of pressure?" And so there are lots of different atmospheres that we can experience. We want to be very intentional about making sure the atmosphere of our home is life-giving, and that begins with us. Just a side note, as mom's, that begins with us just having our peace with the Lord and starting our day with that. But this atmosphere of discovery to me is the opposite of being shut up in a box. So the educational system tells our children what to study, when to study, and puts limits on any sense of discovery. They can't discover more. I have parents talk to me, "Ms. Sheila, my student is at the very top. They won't let him read this level book. He can't go up any farther. He can't keep growing because he's at the top." And so education is about freedom, and education is about discovering ideas and discovering new thoughts and new ways of expressing yourself and new knowledge. And so the whole thing is discovery. All of education should be discovery. And the very word "discovery" just implies that there's no limit, there's no box, there's no boundary. And so with our homeschooling and even with the curriculum that we choose, we want to make sure that it's open-ended and it allows for discovery. And I think, again, going back to the idea that our education is not just limited to the lessons that we have to report to the county as homeschoolers, it's a whole lifestyle of discovery. It's getting up in the morning saying, "Okay, who has an idea of do we want to go the park today? Do we want to go out on a trail? What do we want to do? What do we want to discover? What do we want to know?" And so it's that freedom of discovery, whether that has to do with science, or discovery of something related to music. We used to, our homeschool group—Jeannie, you were a part of it—had, I don't know how many field trips they offered every year. They offered, I don't know, 50 field trips. It was so great. We live in Atlanta. To me that was an opportunity for discovery. But you have to leave room in your schedule. And we tried to leave a lot of room in our schedule for those types of cultural events and to travel, because discovery comes when we get outside of what's the norm and we open ourselves up to what's possible and what's new. And so I would say the atmosphere of discovery is something that you probably have to really think through before you start planning your homeschool year and make room for it, make time for it. So maybe every year you think, "We want to discover the planets." Or, "We want to go to the science museum. We want to discover new ideas about history and go to the history museum or the art museum." So when you think of this idea of discovery, I think you think of in terms of new ideas and new experiences and even self-discovery. "How do I feel about that? Is that something I'm interested in studying?" We have the freedom to do that. You can go to the library and let your child immerse in astronomy. Whatever their ideas that they're curious about—that divine curiosity, Jeannie, that you talk so much about, that God's put in our children—divine curiosity. They're curious about things. They want to discover things. So if you think about education, not in terms of mastery— It's not like, "We're going to master these standards. No. We're going to explore and discover the art of language—Language Arts. We're going to discover Language Arts, and all the different elements of writing, and all the parts of speech, and the beautiful literature, and everything that has to do with Language Arts. We're going to discover science. We're going to immerse one year on a topic of science and find out everything we can about it. We're going to discover math concepts. We're going to be looking at geometry. What were the ideas that informed geometry?" So when you approach education with this mindset, it becomes exciting for your children. And then knowledge is exciting and it's fresh and it's new. And so I would say, this atmosphere of discovery, it should permeate all parts of our children's lives and our family's lives. And so if you think about it that way, if you go into your planning and think about your homeschool, "Okay, we want to create an atmosphere of discovery, and let's see where the Divine curiosity takes us, and let's foster that, and let's give room in our schedule to make that happen." I think that's really important. And so, again, I think everything about the homeschooling environment was just that, and it became joyful and there was a lot of freedom in it because we tried to allow for that discovery for our girls, and whatever it was that God had put on their heart.
Jeannie Fulbright I so love that. And that is, I think— It's letting go. You have to let go of this enslavement of our mind and our beliefs that the modern educational system, and its scope and sequence, and its standards, is the right way to educate a child. We have to let go of that. And let me encourage you that that is how our modern education system is structured, and yet our children are failing on international assessments. They are failing because they are stuck in this strict structure, this schedule of learning that actually takes away the desire to discover. It actually inhibits their natural curiosity, their God-given curiosity. It removes from them the power and the—we'll talk about this in the next one—but the ability to have some level of personal freedom in choosing "what I want to learn more about." And the thing is, is education really is about— The Divine curiosity, which I've talked about, is educating the child according to their bent, according to their leanings. And if we give our children that kind of education, we need to— The only way we can do that is we have our schedule, we have our plan, we have our curriculum, and we are going to follow that, but not so strictly that we don't allow God and the Holy Spirit to lead our child's interests and passions and skills and things they want to learn about. When my daughter was nine years old, she had been doing these American Girl clubs that a lady in our homeschool group was teaching to the girls. And she would do these clubs and she would do all this stuff and they would go every week and they would have so much fun. And they would study each American Girl book. And she decided she didn't want to do that anymore, she needed to make some more money and she was going to teach some other classes which were going to be better for her, the teacher. And my daughter was so disappointed, and she just loved these American Girl history classes that she went to every week, and she loved the things she was doing in them. And I said, "Well, you know what, why don't you start your own American Girl history club or camps? Maybe you could do it during the summer." And she and her best friend, that she's still best friends with today, they got together and they just decided, "You know what? We're going to do that." And so the first one that they put on— I just let them run with it. And you know what? She started researching. She was going to do Kaya, so she had to research American Indian culture. And I took her to the library, her and her friend, and they checked out a bunch of books and they divided up the stuff they were going to be researching and talking about, and they got together. And guess what? We stopped the history curriculum that I bought. And that was her history. And, you know, the rest of the family went on with what the regular schedule was, but she was given the freedom to, "If you want to listen in on the history lesson that we're learning, you can. But right now you're focused on this area of history and that's totally fine." And she went deep, deep, deep into that history in order to teach it. And I sent out a message to our homeschool group, and we had— I thought, you know, she might have like five girls show up. She's nine. She and her friend are nine. And we had, I think, 30 girls sign up. And so we had to do three different camps. And it was the Kaya camp. American Girl—.
Shiela Catanzarite We were there.
Jeannie Fulbright Your girls were there because they were younger than her. And so she taught girls. She and her friend were nine, and they taught girls between the ages of five and seven- some of them might have been eight because they really wanted to— I think there was one. But it was so wonderful to see her choosing to discover even more about the Native Americans than she would have ever done if I had made her stick with the history we were doing. "Okay, if you want to do that camp, you're going to have to do it in this other time." I was very— I allowed her to fly and just go on her own. And she created the most amazing camp. They built teepees. They did Native American games. They learned about Native American houses and they built them, and they just had so much fun. And this camp was for one week of the summer. So the girls would come from like 9 to 12, or something like that, and it was precious. And it also gave her a lot of amazing character qualities built in her by putting on that camp, and just allowing her freedom! And I think that's what we need to do is release this need to control their education and make it mimic and model the modern education system, which is failing our children. The international schools which are succeeding and their kids are scoring at the top on international assessments, they don't do school like that. They allow children a lot more freedom. Some of them don't even allow children to do tests. They don't do it. It's not part of their education. It's all about discovery and skills and learning, and the things that used to be part of America's education system before the industrial revolution, and they needed factory workers and government workers, and they needed to change our educational system to be about obedience and memorization rather than discovery.
Shiela Catanzarite That's so good. I'll say, Jeannie, I have a student in Sweden. She's 11 and I've been teaching her English. I think English is her third language. She's working on her fourth language, French, now. But she's just amazing, and we've zoomed together. And she's grown up in the Swedish schools, and I think they're ranked maybe number two or something after Finland?
Jeannie Fulbright They are.
Shiela Catanzarite And I've had her since elementary. She's in sixth grade now. They never had tests or grades, at all, until they get to the upper levels. And she loves going to school. And she'd always be in the forest in the afternoon. They'd do some formal learning and then in the afternoons they'd go to the forest. And they just have a completely different educational system. And as far as thinking about the pursuit of knowledge, in this system that's opposite of what we have, they're able to choose. Like she has a cooking class this year and she has a coding class. And so they give them a lot of freedom in the country. But the thing that was interesting to me that she told me this week, they have national tests. I think every three years the national school system makes the children take a test. And she's like, "Okay, so I've got my Swedish Language Arts kind of class, and then I've got my English—" This year they made them start taking English. And so she said, "For those tests—" And they're like English Language Arts and Swedish Language Arts— The national test, what they grade them on, is a writing prompt and speaking. She said, "Ms. Sheila, I have to have a discussion with the tester and I have to answer questions and I have to give a little speech on what I wrote about." And I thought it was so interesting that they didn't make them do a multiple-choice, match the grammar concepts, match the vocabulary to the definition, do the big reading comprehension with all of the different questions like we have. You know, all of our language testing in America is so driven by standards and breaking everything up and testing it separately. It was about— It was Charlotte Mason. It was the exam— You know how Charlotte Mason— They did the examination was all oral and written exam. And I thought— You know, we get in the mindset in some of the countries that have this standard space education that are low, we're performing very, very low in international competition, and here is one of the highest countries and the way that they're testing the children's learning is like Charlotte Mason, through writing and speaking. And it just really struck me, she has so much freedom. Again, that idea of freedom and the idea that we're going to measure the child's language learning through their ability to express themselves, which is why we love all of our notebooking, why we love all of our narrations. It's the same thing. And so anyway, I was just thinking about that when you were...
Jeannie Fulbright That's amazing. And that's so encouraging, and I think that should really help us all as educators to let go of what's been drilled into our head about what education should look like. Because it doesn't work, number one, and number two, countries that are not doing that actually show their children have a lot more retention of knowledge, excitement about learning. Discovery is part of the learning process, and that's what we should be really releasing into our homeschool is that kind of freedom and that kind of— Releasing our need to stick strictly to that schedule that we created. And…
Shiela Catanzarite It doesn't feel safe. It feels like, "Oh, no! If I'm not in the standard for second grade, am I doing enough?" And I can just say, I see side by side with my students, I have public school students and I have this student, and it's night and day. Just the joy, the freedom, the excitement. My students in the system are like, "I'm in a box." And then my student who's not in a system is like, "I love going to school! I love..." So anyway, just that we can bring that into our homeschool. We have the freedom to bring that joy of discovery into our school. And we would be very wise to intentionally think that through and what that's going to look like.
Jeannie Fulbright Yes. Yes, I love that. Okay. Do you want to lead us into the next one?
Shiela Catanzarite Yeah. So reason number four to homeschool is: Homeschooling enables independence in pursuit of knowledge. And of course as we're going through these, a lot of them overlap. For sure these overlap. But I think this is so important. And again, we're not talking about just necessarily academic knowledge, though it may be, we're just talking about knowledge in general. So there's all types of knowledge. And with homeschooling, again, we're out of the standard that says, "In fifth grade you can only learn about the solar system. In third grade you can only learn about Native American history. In seventh grade..." So the system tells our children what they can learn when. "You have to be to this grade. You have to be this age." Homeschooling, nobody tells. It can be driven by the Divine curiosity, their interests, and not only that, having the freedom to pursue the knowledge they're interested in, but to pursue it as long as they want and as deep as they want. I think that's really, really important. Like your daughter pursuing the—for her little camp—history, for a long time at a deep level. So the independence, the ability to do that. You didn't have to report that to the state. You didn't have to tell them, "Oh, can I have permission to take a detour from the family learning so she can go pursue this other knowledge that she's interested in and going to build a class around?" You didn't have to report that. We don't have to ask permission to do that. We have the opportunity to let our children pursue the knowledge. And it does enable independence; it enables independence in pursuit of knowledge. Our children can take responsibility, be driven by their own Divine curiosity, and then take responsibility in those areas. And I think that's so important because nobody likes to be forced. Nobody enjoys the force feeding of school. Nobody enjoys being forced with a grade...the threat of a bad grade. "If you don't study this and memorize it perfectly, you're going to get a bad grade." We're not under that anymore. That does not breed a joyful, well-developed, mentally healthy child. That breeds anxiety and pressure. And so we want to give our children the opportunity— Of course, we do have to have certain number of years that we report for Math or for English or for Science, but within that there's a lot of freedom to let them pursue— I love it, Jeannie, when at the homeschool conventions, with all of your science books and the parents will come up and say, "Which one should we study?" And we always tell them, "Whichever one your child wants to study. Take a picture and put it on Facebook, show them the topics." "Oh, okay." And they'd come back, "I took a poll, we're doing botany this year." And I just love that because then they own it. They have owned it. They're like, "We get to choose what we want to." And then there's no strong arming. "Everybody get to science right now or you're going to be grounded." We don't have to do that because the child is given the opportunity to independently decide and pursue what he and she are interested in. And so that's just such a great example, you know, when we see the children making the choice with your science curriculum. Again, that breeds that independence. They're going to show up to the science lesson because they want to be there, not because they're being forced to be there. They're developing an independence. They independently get their notebooking journal out and do their reading because they're excited about it. It's something that they chose that they wanted to study. We're still studying science for the state standard, but there is an independence in the pursuit of knowledge of science because they've been given a choice. And I think the choice is so important. I try and do this with my students. I'm like, "Okay"—one of my students is coming in and they're these four things that we need to work on and I'll lay them out—"which one would you like to do first?" Knowing we're going to do all of them. But just giving the child the choice, they feel like, "Oh!" And then there's a real motivation and independence in the learning when there's given a choice, and then we get to the other things. But if I were to say, "We're doing this first." I think there's always a resistance when you try and force that. So with homeschooling, again, just going back to the Divine curiosity, we want our children to grow to be independent learners. We want them to take control over their education, and so when we give them the independence and we give the freedom of choice, they will pursue that knowledge and that learning on their own without us having to continually be onto them. Which, nobody loves that. And if you run your homeschool that way, your children are going to...when they leave, they're going to think about home as a place that was stressful, that they hated. They didn't like homeschool so home wasn't fun. So just remember, you're doing school in your home, preserve your home. It's so important. Make sure you keep home the most life giving place. And in order to do that, you're going to have to have a homeschool that's rooted in this idea of discovery and freedom and independence and all the things that we're talking about. You've got to have that permeating atmosphere for them to really remember, "Homeschool is a place that I love to learn.”
Jeannie Fulbright That is true. I love that. You know, I started out as a Charlotte Mason homeschooler pretty early. I mean, I would say it was after my first year of homeschooling I went to a Charlotte Mason seminar that was 3 or 4 days, and it was a Charlotte Mason by fire hose. I really just got a lot of information about how to do the Charlotte Mason education. I was trained in it, but I didn't really— I had bought the series because she was selling it, this lady—and I cannot remember her name and I've seen it recently— She doesn't give these anymore, but she gave these four-day seminars. But one thing that I she didn't teach in that seminar, because you can only give— She was training us on how to do artists study, and how to do notebooking, and how to do narration, and she was making us do it like we were the students, which was wonderful. And I learned how to implement the Charlotte Mason method, but I didn't really understand Charlotte Mason philosophy because, frankly, the Charlotte Mason Original Homeschooling series is a hard book to read when you're in the middle of homeschooling and still trying to do all the things that you need to do as a mother and wife, and all of the domestic duties and everything. It was hard for me to really understand her philosophy in those early days because I didn't have really the time to devote to reading her philosophy. And so I would say that the independent learning aspect of my children becoming independent learners happened sort of by accident. I was originally, when I was first homeschooling my first child that I was homeschooling— She was the oldest, of course, and she was a good two and a half years older than the next child up, so almost three years— And so I would sit next to her and do everything with her and and everything that she did she would come give me narrations for every single little thing that she read. She wanted me to sit next to her as she did every— Like when she was doing her notebooking pages, she wanted me to be right there and to watch what she was doing and just to really be interacting with me about everything. And I loved it. It was so fun. It was hard because I had three little kids—preschoolers, toddlers and babies. But it was a big— It was just so exciting, those first homeschool days. You're just— One of the things that is really exciting is that, "I'm learning right alongside her!" Because we were studying ancient history, and I was just— I had no knowledge of this, even though I was a history minor at the University of Texas. I didn't study ancient history at all there. And I was just so excited about all the knowledge I was getting and loved it. And then the next year I continued with that same procedure with her, and then the next year I brought on— I decided to bring my son, the next one up— And this first child of mine, she was an eager learner. She was bright; she was quick. She was able to learn to read when she was three, just really picked it up so quickly, was an easy child to teach, engaged in anything, interested in anything I was teaching her, she just was automatically interested, whatever it was. She was more interested in the history than science, but she still loved the way I presented science and my science books. But when I started homeschooling my son, it was quite a challenge because you're expecting your next child to be like your first child, and he actually had a great many learning challenges. Which we didn't actually test and figure out exactly what they were for years, but I realized pretty quickly that he had some learning-processing disorders, that he had dyslexia, that he had...he really had ADHD, which I didn't know until later. But he was just showing signs of— So I waited. I actually then put it off for another year and then I really decided to focus in on doing some, I would call it, special education. I would get some special education kind of tools to help, like left-right brain interaction. So I was really spending a lot of time with him trying to really work with his brain and the development and the things that I felt might have been— He might have had some visual processing, and so we got some curricula that was mostly just visual processing. I spent a lot of time doing special education that second year, and I put off his learning because he really was not learning to read. And so I put that off a year. Well, my daughter had a really hard time with that because she wanted me to sit next to her and she wanted me to essentially spoon feed her education, which I had done the year before, or the two years before. I had been spoon-feeding her her education, Everything she did, she did because I was there with her reading the instructions or reading the test. And she could read! She'd been reading for years and years and years. She could read the instruction. She could read anything, any lesson that she needed to do, she could read it all and do it on her own. And I had been using Shirley Grammar with her, and when I started having to teach my younger son—and still had toddlers and babies!—I did not have time to do curricula that required me to be involved. And so I had to choose for her curricula that she could do independently because I needed her to take— I needed to empower her with ownership of her education, to take over, to grade her own whenever she needed a grading, to look at the teacher's manual to see if she got the math thing right, to be in charge of her education, because I couldn't— I was unable— And at this point, I had started writing science books. And I was really unable to spoon-feed her education, to be completely involved, to be hovering over everything she did. And so I actually couldn't. And I felt guilty about it. I really did. I felt like, "Poor thing, she's used to me being there, but I can't do it. She's got to take control of her education." And she was totally capable of doing that. And eventually, after whining and complaining about it, you know, she wanted me to be next to her. "I can't do this unless you're next to me!" "Yes, you can. You can do this. You absolutely can do this. And you must do this." And then she learned how to be independent. And then she also started helping teaching reading to the younger kids, and she spent a lot of time really just helping out with the family. And she was still getting everything she needed for her education on her own, really quickly. You know, those younger years they can finish school [snap] quick, quick, quick. And then when she— She started ballet around ten and then when she was 13 she got obsessed with ballet. We're just going to say it. She had decided when she was 11, "I am going to be a ballerina. That's what I'm going to be. I'm not going to college. I am going to be a ballerina." And ballerinas— If any of you have children out there who are committed to being a dancer for a career, you know it is all encompassing. It is so all encompassing. In the summers they go away to dance programs for 4 or 5 weeks where they're trained and they come back with just incredible...more skills and they dance up higher into the program. And it's really an incredible subculture of the world. Just like homeschooling has its own subculture, dance is its own subculture with its own vocabulary and its own celebrities, and it's its own thing. And she was 100% sure she was going to be a ballerina. And I had a long conversation with a man I knew who had been a dancer as well, and he ended up being a college professor. But he was just saying, "You have to give her— If she's going to be successful, she needs to put her all into this. This has to be her focus all the time. And make sure she's getting a great education, too, because this is it. When she finishes high school, what she learned in high school, that's it. That's all she's going to be learning in school. And so you need to make sure that she's getting the kind of education where she has knowledge as she goes out into the world, and she's not just lacking in understanding of literature and history, and she understands math." And all of these things, she needed to understand it and be able to do well at it. And so when she turned, I guess it was 13 or 14, she—I think it was 13—her ballet school started a homeschool program where the girls went early in the morning and they danced first thing in the morning, and then they were given four hours, because that's what was required in Georgia, they had a four-hour education day—and they were given four hours to do their schoolwork, and they had to do it independently. These are 13 through 16/17 year old girls. And they had to do their schoolwork independently, and then they started dancing as soon as school was over, and they danced until nine in the evening. So she was basically dancing 12 hours a day...or not 12 hours...she was dancing many hours a day. She was there all day. And what I realized then was how important it was that she had been completely independent in her education, because she was the only one of those girls— All those girls had been in public school. They hadn't learned how to get knowledge for themselves, hadn't learned how to be independent, and they were not doing their work. They were not doing anything. My daughter was actually doing two college courses her freshman year in high school. I had her at Liberty University doing English and History or some such, and she was getting college credits. She was building her transcript during that four hour time period because she had learned that she was in charge of her education. She had been empowered as a young child, by necessity, to be in charge of her education. And so there was no way she was just going to let it slip. And she would text me and say, "Mom, these girls are just playing around. Not a single one of them's doing their work." There was one other girl that was doing her work, and she had been on and off homeschooled. But yeah, it made me realize how important independent learning is and how important it is that we pass off the baton. Once they can read, they should be reading to learn. They should be reading for themselves. They should be able to understand what the instructions are for everything they're doing, and they should be able to follow them, because that's part of learning is following the instructions for the science project or whatever it is. They should be learning how to do the science project and following the instructions and getting the materials themselves. And so allowing our children to be independent is actually such an important part of their education. And I know I talked about this in my last podcast about self-motivated children, John Locke talked about how important it was that liberty— Liberty is such an important part of a child's education because that is what guides them the most. And he says that, "Liberty is not the complete absence of restraint, but it does entail a sense of independence and action." And so that's what I gave my children. I taught my children to be independent. All of them needed to be independent, especially because once we got a little bit further down the line with my learning challenged child, my other children needed to be independent because I was also working. I was a working homeschool mom, with writing curriculum and doing all the things. And I know you worked too, Sheila, because you worked for me. You did so much for me! So thank you.
Shiela Catanzarite It was so fun. I would say, Jeanie, on that too, that you never know with life. You might, as a mom, have a health crisis, or one of your other children have a health crisis, or maybe your aging parent has to move in. The benefit of starting early with the idea of independence is we're homeschooling our children at home where life happens, and every day is going to be different. And if you've trained them to be independent and given them some choice so that they're taking ownership of their learning, then when there is a crisis and you can't be, the learning is going to continue. There will be some crisis. And even if you have to go move in, you know, get out of your house, or your husband has to travel and you have to move, you take it in the car. You take your learning with you to grandmother's house. So this idea of independence, there's so many benefits beyond just the child. I think it helps the entire family out and the circumstance. The learning continues when mom or dad or whoever is needing to give attention to something else. And that's okay, but we've trained them that learning is lifelong and it's a gift. And like you said, once they're reading, I think just moving them into, "This is yours." And Jeanie, another really important benefit and reason to homeschool, this idea of independence and helping our children own their learning and to become independent in pursuing their learning and their knowledge, is that life happens. We're homeschooling at home where life happens, and we never know when there's going to be a crisis. Mom may get sick. Dad may have an accident and break a leg and need care. We may have an aging parent moving in. We may have to travel someplace for a few weeks or for a month that we didn't expect. All of these unexpecteds. Homeschooling and learning should not stop because we have the unexpected. The unexpected is definitely going to come. So if you anticipate that, and if your children are used to being independent learners, they can continue to take responsibility even when you're not there, even when they're in a different environment. They take their books, they take their learning with them. So we don't want to set up our homeschool so rigid and structured to where, "This is what you do this day, and you have to do..." We want to say, "This is what we're learning. These are the materials that you have for learning." And the flexibility that learning continues when there's a hardship or when you're needing to travel or when there's a guest in town, when the child is independent and taking personal responsibility, that can continue no matter what happens in the home. So it's continuing on in real life. And it just builds the idea that we're always learning for the rest of our lives. We're learning always. We're going to be learning as adults. And so really emphasizing that.
Jeannie Fulbright And that goes back to the atmosphere of discovery. If we create an atmosphere where learning is not necessarily always about this curriculum we bought, but it's about learning and grow— And children can continue learning because they can continue pursuing the things that they're most interested in during that time when we don't have the ability to spend that time gathered around the couch or the kitchen table. And like Charlotte Mason says, "Self-education is the only possible education. The rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child's nature." That's great. Okay, well, we are down to number five of this Part One of the Reasons to Homeschool. So, Sheila, I'll let you start.
Shiela Catanzarite Okay. Well, number five is: Homeschooling encourages growth without labels. This is critical. This is so, so, so important. So we know that God created our children unique and He intricately designed them with gifts and passions—and us as well as moms, we can't forget about ourselves. But He designed our children to be the person that He made them to be with their personality, with their nuances of the way they express themselves, what they're interested in, what they think about, what they want to pursue, what they're really excited about, what they love. And this is so important because in— The school environment is based on conformity. We know that because most of us were in that. And I think especially in this time with the social media and the culture that the children are growing up in, this idea of conformity and this fear of being canceled out or not being noticed or not being seen is such a strong pull. But when they're out of the environment, in the homeschool environment, they have the opportunity to flourish and blossom into the true person that God made them to be. They don't have to squelch a part of their personality that might seem nerdy, or it might seem awkward, or it might seem weird. Even if they're a child who has a special need of some type, and they don't fit in that the typical educational model, that's okay. They continue to grow and develop at the pace in which God has enabled them to and the pace that is right for them. They can grow to be the person that they feel is authentic to who they are. A lot of times, I think in the culture, the children are— They don't feel authentic. I know sometimes my students, they're afraid to express certain parts of who they are because somebody might not accept them or somebody might not like them. But when you get them outside of the environment of conformity, then you begin to see the real parts of who God made them to be, the best parts of who God made them to be can flourish without— They don't have to hide that. They don't have to apologize that. They don't have to explain that. They can just be and grow. And again, this idea of just the freedom of homeschooling: We are educating a person. So just remember that. Charlotte Mason was really big on, "We're educating a person." And the person has to grow and develop in their personality and in their intellectual makeup and all of these areas in which God designed them and all the specific areas. That is the goal. In the end you're educating a person. In the end, you're not educating for test scores or for grades or even for college acceptances or for jobs. You're educating a person to live and thrive and walk in the good works God has planed for them from the beginning of time. So I think the freedom of homeschooling gives the freedom for personal growth and development without the fear of a label being slapped on. "This is who you need to be. This is how you need to be. We don't like you if you're not this way. We're not going to accept you. We're not going to include you." All of that is taken away when you homeschool. And it's not that your children are isolated. Not at all. But we get to choose the influences in their lives. They get to choose the friend groups that they feel the most aligned with. They get to choose the environment socially where they feel like they can be themselves and have fun. And so again, the freedom of— You know, there's that famous quote that says, "You become like the top five people who you hang around with." I used to tell my girls that. I still tell them that. I tell my students that all the time. You have to be so intentional about who you let into your life. You have to be so careful about the influences. And you want to be with people who bring out the best, who encourage you to pursue that awkward interest or something that seems maybe unusual for that age. You want to be with people who really encourage that and draw that out. And so we as homeschoolers have the freedom to choose the friends for our children, when they're younger. Choose the environment. Choose the mentors and the teachers in their lives. And then as they get older, we can encourage them to make the right choices for the people who they're going to befriend and spend time with. And again, it's just going into the environments where there's freedom and they're out from under the pressure and the social pressure. And so it gets trickier, I feel like. As our children get older, it gets a little bit trickier to guide them in some of those decisions. But certainly with homeschooling, we do have the freedom. We're not sending them off to a place where we don't know what they're going to be taught, who's teaching them, who they're around. We have the opportunity. We know that. And we can choose that for them. And as they get older, we can help them find the wisdom to make the right choices for themselves. And so I just think that this comes back to, we're educating a person. Ultimately, we're educating a child made in the image of God. And we're stewarding these little ones to grow up to fully become who God has called them and made them to be, and homeschooling allows us to do that in the way that is right for them with the wisdom and the discernment that God gives us as moms. And to me, that's one of the most beautiful reasons to homeschool right there. We can stay in our children's lives— Our children are not perfect by any means. I was very imperfect as a homeschool mom, and my children were not perfect, and none of us are perfect now, but I can definitely see that our girls grew to be exactly who God made them to be because they had the freedom and opportunity to become that without the pressure, without the peer pressure.
Jeannie Fulbright I love that. And for me, it just reminds me so much of how, as a young child, when I was in school— I have ADHD and it manifests itself not in impulsivity and moving around a lot or changing activities quickly, but it manifests itself into me getting inside my head and daydreaming and thinking and ideas and having a really hard time focusing on what the teacher was teaching. And if I ever did focus, I could learn it really fast. But I didn't focus very well. I wasn't interested in learning how to spell all these words. I was really just more interested in the ideas that were formulating in my mind, and I just did not fit into the mold of the perfect student. And I was therefore labeled, as a kid, as not being an intelligent kid. And I remember hearing the story— Have you ever heard the story of Thomas Edison? He had been in school for a few years, and one day he came home and he gave a paper to his mother that his teacher had given him, and at this point still couldn't read. And he says, "My teacher gave me this and told me to give it to you." And his mother was tearful as she was reading the paper and she was shaking. And then he said, "Mom, what is it?" And he says, "Read it to me." So she picked up the paper and she said, "Your teacher says, 'Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn't have enough teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself.'"
Shiela Catanzarite Wow, I never heard that.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah, and he was homeschooled. And he was homeschooled, and she educated him, and he was allowed to flourish in all the beautiful ideas that God had given him. That Divine curiosity, he pursued it, and he was learning about great inventors. He was really so excited about all the things he was studying because he was studying things that were within his wheelhouse, his interest level. Studying Benjamin Franklin is where his mind and interests were. And after many, many years, his mother died and he was cleaning out her desk. And he found that folded piece of paper in the back corner of the desk drawer, and he opened it up and on the paper was written, "Your son is addled. We won't let him come to school anymore.”
Shiela Catanzarite Oh, my goodness. Wow!
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah.
Shiela Catanzarite That mom!
Jeannie Fulbright Think about how— You know, Albert Einstein, he was kicked out of school twice. He was considered an idiot because he couldn't learn the way that that school system— And he was in school during that time in Germany when they had created that structure, that school system which was based on the Prussian model, which was the same model that we have now in our educational system. And he could not learn in that environment. And he was kicked out of school. And I always think about all the bright little girls and boys that were perfectly designed to do memorization, and they're great at short-term memory and getting a great grade on the test, they're really good at this obedience thing. They're good at following instructions. And I think about those children that must have been in his class and how they all thought, "Poor, dumb Albert Einstein. I'm glad I'm not that dumb." And for me, this warms my heart because I think about how Albert Einstein got education for himself after that. And I think about my own children and especially my son who had learning challenges, he persevered. And I used to always tell him, "You have a harder—" Because, you know, he knew he had learning challenges. He knew he was different because he did go to Sunday school, he did go to— He saw how other children were progressing in school, and he could see that he wasn't at that level. And even his friends, how quickly and how easy it was for them to finish assignments. And it took him so much effort and energy and...everything. It took everything out of him to do an assignment that would take ten minutes for one of his friends. And I always told him, God has a plan and a purpose for you that's going to require you to persevere a lot more through hardship and through things that are hard, and to get through tough things, because He's got a great an amazing plan for your life. And so you have to learn how to persevere through assignments that are easy for your friends. They're not learning perseverance because it's so easy for them. But you're learning perseverance because it's so hard for you. And that is teaching you how to truly complete things, how to finish things, how to work through the hardships in life. And you're going to be stronger. You're going to be stronger than people who have not had to be as focused and have to put so much energy into just doing something pretty simple. And so I feel like, thank gosh, thank the Lord, thank God that he really didn't go to school and get labeled because he would have been labeled, and those labels would have stuck with him for years...would have stuck with him for almost his whole life. As they did with me! Those labels they give you, you have to overcome them as an adult, whatever labels they gave you in school. And no label in school, whether they're given to you by your peers or your teachers are good, because that's not who we are. We are a full, complete person growing into the person God has created us to be. And when our children do not have somebody confining them into the box of a label, or making them, as you said, feel like they need to conform— And what I love about homeschoolers is that those who've been homeschooled their whole lives especially, tend to be very accepting of the the faults and foibles of other homeschoolers. And I think about when our children—my son, who was obsessed with lizards and had learning challenges—he and your daughter, who is in medical school right now, they, with two other kids, did a birding competition. They did the Georgia Youth Birding Competition. And they trained for months and months and months and months, and they were training for hours every weekend. And I know that everybody's memory is of my son, when they were out in the field, out in the forest, out in the...everywhere where they went to train to look for birds and identify them by their sound and by where they were going to be found, they were focused on—your daughter and the other little girl and the boy—were all focused on the birds while my son was down on the ground looking for lizards. And he was finding them. And he was just thrilled and ecstatic. But if he had been in a school environment and they were supposed to be learning about birds and my son was in the ground looking for lizards, that would not have gone over well.
Shiela Catanzarite And we'd be like, "Austin, the birds are up in the trees." He'd be like, "Look at this caterpillar here." It was awesome. But again, the freedom to— There was no teacher saying, "Let me give you a zero on your paper because you're looking at the wrong animal."
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah, there was no label. It was just, "Okay, this is who you are."
Shiela Catanzarite Yeah. You know what's so interesting about that, Jeannie, makes me think, you know, the whole college thing— And if your children go to college, you'll go through this. But I was talking with my students about this whole idea of sameness. So I'm like, "When you go through the school system and you apply to college you have this sameness with everyone else. You're going to have the same grades, the same scores. There's this sense of sameness," I said. "But you can't get accepted anywhere unless they see your uniqueness, through your essay writing." I'm like, "Where is your uniqueness going to come forth? From you're writing, from reflecting on your experiences." So it's just so interesting to me and it just came to me, because I was just this week and last week, as I was helping my students understand that your writing— Your ability to write and reflect and express yourself in writing is everything. You can't get in without— They need to see your uniqueness. They need to see how you're different. And so it's just so interesting that even in the end, even when you're looking at, "We finished the formal education system. We got the grades. We have the test scores and all that." Colleges are like, "Okay, well, to get to the next level, we just need to know who you are. Can you tell us in writing? Can you express in writing who you are?" And then all of those years of all of the testing of the English and the reading comprehension, none of that matters when it comes time to express yourself in writing. And that's what Charlotte Mason's education is all about. It's just our children expressing their learning through narration and notebooking. And it just struck me again, our children grew up expressing themselves. This was not difficult at all. I thought, "Well, my girls, it's easy for them to write." And easy for them to write from a perspective of knowing themselves. But sometimes these kids go through the system and then it's like, "What? I have to remember a hard time I went though. I don't remember a hard time. What am I going to say?" And I just think, wow, our children grew up writing. Our children grew up expressing themselves.
Jeannie Fulbright Exactly! And in public school, not only are they not encouraged to write from experience—they're only doing written composition based on some prompt that was given them that has nothing to do with their experience or their learning—but another thing is they're not encouraged to be unique. That is not rewarded. That is not rewarded either by the teachers or by the other students. They feel this need to conform. School is about getting the grade and memorizing for the test and then getting the grade and moving on, and not about becoming enchanted with something that is interesting happening in the world or some interesting thing they want to learn about because they're not encouraged to. They don't have time.
Shiela Catanzarite Well, they're not allowed either. It's not valued. It's not valued. But in our homeschool, again, this idea of everything we've talked about, the discovery— They have the freedom to express their learning for their whole life, and so it just becomes natural. When it comes time to show the uniqueness of who you are in a job interview, or a college, or maybe you're not going to college and you're starting a business, it all comes down to expressing your knowledge and your learning confidently. It builds confidence.
Jeannie Fulbright And to be able to explain what is in their head to someone else. And you know what's interesting is that both of my boys, who are completely different animals, they are completely different from one another— Well, they're both computer science majors, but they're both interested in different areas of computer science and are now practicing in different areas. But they both were computer science tutors that taught college students computer science. One of my sons is still doing it. But they taught college students who are struggling with computer science, and were able to explain to them. And they have five-star reviews on the Princeton Review tutor.com. Completely doing such a great job, both of them. So different, but both of them are able to teach computer science because, I believe, of oral narration and written narration. Oral narration allowed them to always learn how to learn something and then be able to explain it to somebody else. And that gave them the ability to be teachers. Most people are not— Not everybody has the ability to be a teacher of their knowledge, but a child who is given the opportunity to teach you what they just read is learning that skill, which is really incredible and invaluable.
Shiela Catanzarite It is. There's so much.
Jeannie Fulbright So many wonderful things about homeschooling, but these are our top five.
Shiela Catanzarite Yes. We could go on and on. But definitely, this all can be summed up in "freedom", I feel like. Because there's freedom for all of this. Step back, let go of what the system tells you your children need to be doing at any time of the year, at any age, and just have the freedom to make it a joyful discovery, and building the family unity, and tailoring it, and letting them follow their Divine curiosity, and letting them flourish no matter what anyone thinks. I think it's the freedom of homeschooling in opening the box, is what really is the starting point. But you got to keep the box open for your children for sure. Don't you think, Jeannie?
Jeannie Fulbright I do. I do. And I just remembered what it was that my son built when he was in ninth grade. He built a Minecraft world. And he had a server that had to go 24 hours. Anyway, I just wanted to put that in there because I couldn't remember what it was called. But again, that was part of allowing him to to spend time doing something he absolutely loved. And he learned so much doing it. And I think we have to let go of our need to control their schedules and overscheduled them and keep them too busy to pursue their interests. And I think that you are going to do a great job, homeschool mom. You are given the freedom and we release you from the system! So thanks for joining us today, everybody. We are so happy that you spent time with us. And if you enjoyed this podcast, please, we would love for you to just take a few minutes and post a review because that helps get us more exposure to other homeschoolers that can learn from us and just be part of your mindset. You'll build a bigger community that way too. And we love you, and this is our last podcast before Christmas, and we just really, really hope that you have a wonderful and blessed season of joy in the Lord through this Christmas season. Thanks so much.
Jeannie Fulbright Hey, a couple more things: Do you wish you had a Charlotte Mason mentor? Someone to keep you focused on the things that matter—the Lord, His word, and prayer, and habit-training, and living books, nature study, and, of course, the most neglected thing of all, self-care? Well, I have the perfect mentor for you: the Charlotte Mason heirloom planner. It is much more than a planner. It's a guide and a mentor and a place to chronicle your treasured moments and memories. All the things you want to remember and keep sacred and special from this homeschool journey. Check it out on my website at JeannieFulbright.com, and learn about that and so many of the other Charlotte Mason curriculum and tools that I have created to make your homeschool journey the richest and most fulfilling experience of your life. Thanks again for listening to the Charlotte Mason Show.
Jeannie Fulbright If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom, and let us know what you thought of today's episode. And don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve healthcare. You can trust to learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConvention.com/MediShare.
Jeannie Fulbright Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? I would love for you to come. On my website I have a special coupon code that you can use when you register. The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year with amazing speakers, hundreds of workshops to help you homeschool well, and the largest curriculum exhibit halls in the United States. People travel from all over the United States to Missouri, South Carolina, Ohio, California, and Texas to find encouragement, friendship, and curriculum. Be sure to go to my website JeannieFulbright.com for your coupon code. And when you're at the convention, please come by my booth and say "hello" because I love meeting homeschoolers in real life. It's always fun to have new homeschool friends. So thank you so much for listening and I do hope to see you at the convention. Have a blessed rest of the week.