Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Interview with Meredith Curtis

Meredith Curtis of Take Root and Write ( recently requested an interview with me. She'll be posting it on her blog alongside a review of our Homeschooling ABCs course. I thought that my blog readers might want to take a look into my personal homeschooling life as well. Thanks, Meredith for the opportunity.

Meredith: Terri, you mention on your website that you read Susan Wise Bauer's The Well Trained Mind which inspired you to make blank outline maps for your own children. Would you consider yourself a classical homeschooler?

Terri: Actually, no, I would not consider myself a "classical" homeschooler, although we do implement some classical concepts into our homeschool. Actually, I would consider myself an eclectic homeschooler and this is why. When we started out with our first kindergartener many, many years ago, we pursued primarily unit studies. That was a blast! Then I discovered Charlotte Mason and our studies took on this flavor for a while until I stumbled upon The Well-Trained Mind. It was at this time that I became convinced that the classical method was the best one for us to follow. This was when I was only schooling 2 of my kids and they both fit into this mold very well. However, as my next two daughters became old enough to join us in our school studies, I realized that I needed to alter some of the ways that I taught in order to accommodate them. We have gone back to incorporate more of the Charlotte Mason methods and unit studies to bring some flair back into our school days. However, I do use textbooks for a few subjects that require this type of approach for one or more of my kids. So, as you can see, I truly am an eclectic homeschooling mom!

Meredith: Please tell us a little bit about your own educational background when you were a child?

Terri: I went to public school when I was a child from grades K-12. I never knew or heard of anyone who was homeschooled at that time (although now I know that there were homeschooling pioneers way back then who were paving the way and I am thankful to them.)

Meredith: What led you to homeschool? What were the early years of homeschooling like for your family?

Terri: Our oldest daughter learned to read a few weeks before she turned four and this put me in a conundrum. I didn't know what to do with her for the next couple of years while she waited for kindergarten to start or what she would do while she waited for her schoolmates to learn to read. We were afraid that she would be terribly bored in school with the major emphasis on phonics instruction for the first couple of years. So, we decided that we would begin homeschooling the following year (technically a year early because her birthday fell after September 1st) and just see what happened. We thought that we would put her into school around 2nd grade when the rest of her peers would be reading and the emphasis would shift into other subject matters.

However, when second grade rolled around, our son was entering kindergarten and he was upset that we were thinking about putting him in kindergarten when we enrolled his sister in second grade. He wanted to homeschool just like his sister! So, we decided that if we were going to teach one of them at home, we might as well continue with both. That was the last year we even considered putting our kids into traditional school. Something that we used to say in the early years is that we were just taking it one year at a time. And I think that is a good way to approach homeschooling, because it is not us, but the Lord that leads us on our path. And yet, the Lord has made it very clear that this "educational choice" that we have been pursuing is truly a lifestyle and we have been faithfully traveling this path ever since that first decision to homeschool our first kindergartener and believe that we will see all of our children through school in this way, as long as He continues to make a way for us to do so.

We are finishing up our 11th year of homeschooling this year.

Meredith: Please tell us more about your philosophy of home education?

Terri: This is a bold statement, but I believe that every Christian parent ought to consider the option of homeschooling right alongside their choice of public or private schooling. That said, I do not believe that homeschooling is the best, nor certainly not, the easiest choice for all families as many factors come into play, BUT it is a tested and proven method for educational success. One-on-one tutoring within the family setting is producing children and young adults with strong academics and strong moral character.

Meredith: Terri, you have five children. What are their names and ages?

Terri: Actually, we have six children. Nicole is our oldest and she is 15 and finishing up her Sophomore year of high school. Brady is 13 and getting ready to begin his Freshman year this fall. Rachel is 8 and going into 4th grade. Lydia is 7 and going into 3rd. Autumn is 3 and Levi is 16 months old.

Meredith: Do you find yourself adapting your teaching for each of your different children?

Terri: Absolutely! As I said earlier, I have had to change my teaching style to accommodate various learners as they have been folded into our homeschool studies. In fact, now that my oldest two children are primarily independent learners, I now direct most of my teaching techniques toward my 7 and 8 year olds, who learn very differently than their older siblings. The classical approach worked very well for my oldest two, but my middle two thrive in a more Charlotte-Mason-style approach to learning. It is gentle, but not dumbed down… Interesting, but not too rigorous…

Also, I try to use the same texts and resources for each of my children as I strive to manage both money and time wisely, but when I find that a certain approach is not working for someone, I'll put that book away and try something else. Spelling is a perfect example. I have used Spelling Power for all of my kids and 3 out of 4 of them have done very well with the program. But one doesn't learn the same way. She is much more auditory than visual. I began using All About Spelling with her this year and her spelling ability has taken off! She just needed a different approach that suited her learning style. Yes, that means that I have to juggle spelling a little bit more, but the results far outweight any inconvenience to me.

Meredith: Where do you feel most successful as a homeschool mom?

Terri: I feel like I know my kids well. I know their strengths, their weaknesses, what frustrates them and what makes them swell with pride. I know when they are having a rough day and when they might need a little time to themselves or alone with me. I know when they are excited to get through with their schoolwork so they can get outside and play. I feel that I am successful in studying my kids and helping them to grow academically, emotionally and spiritually.

I'm not perfect, by any means, but I love spending time with my children and enjoying them for who they are.

Meredith: What is your biggest challenge?

Terri: Housework, hands-down! I am the Mary (vs. Martha) who would rather read, talk, listen and play. Dishes can be piling in the sink and laundry in the hamper and I am content to read another chapter in the gripping novel that we are engrossed in.

I have learned through the years that I need to create and use systems in order to stay on top of housework. The kids have daily chores that they need to complete before they rush off to any extra-curricular activities. If they don't keep up with their chores, then these extra privileges are taken away. We set aside times for housework when everyone must pitch in and mark off the duties they have completed on the chart. Kids and parents all work together to get the jobs done.

I am still largely responsible for laundry and this is the one area that I have not yet devised a workable solution that helps me stay on top of the huge task of washing, drying, folding and putting away of 8 family members clothing. Not to mention storing, organizing and getting rid of out-of-season or unwanted clothing. But I'll keep working on it!

Meredith: In your homeschooling journey, what has given you the greatest joy along the way?

Terri: My greatest joy has been watching my children succeed in something they have worked really hard for. When a child gets an A on a test or lands a lead role in a play, my heart leaps for joy. And yet I know that these are not the most important things in life. The real learning moments come from failure and disappointment. I cannot label it "joy", but some of my most satisfying moments as a homeschooling parent have been the times that I have been able to come alongside one of my children and encourage him after a difficult disappointment. These are the moments when real learning and growth take place. These are also the moments that strengthen our relationships with our kids. They need to know that it is not their success that makes us love them; it's just who they are!

Meredith: What inspired you to put together this amazing course, Homeschooling ABCs, for other homeschooling moms?

Terri: One day last summer, it hit me like a ton of bricks… there is nothing comprehensive out there that takes a new homeschooling parent by the hand and guides her through the steps necessary to begin homeschooling her kids. Over the years, we have talked with many parents via email, over the phone and at homeschool conferences about "how to homeschool". And yet I know that these 10 minute conversations are just not enough to fully equip a parent to dive right in. There is so much information out there, but your brain goes into overload when you try to digest it. Have you ever googled "homeschool"? There is a lot of information out there, but none of it is assembled into one easy-to-digest comprehensive program.

That's what inspired me to put together the Homeschooling ABCs course.

Meredith: Please tell us about Homeschooling ABCs.

Terri: Homeschooling ABCs ( is a 26 week long course that takes a new homeschooling parent by the hand and walks her through the first 6 months of her homeschooling journey. The class is delivered by weekly emails that contain a link to a PDF download that contains that week's lesson. The lessons are usually 10-12 pages in length and cover a single aspect of homeschooling such as:

A - 10 Easy Steps to a Great Start in Homeschooling

B - Let's Begin with the Basics

C - Copy the Classroom - Not! (Organization)

D - Dare to Differentiate (Learning Styles)

E - Establish Your Philosophy of Education

F - Finding the Best Curriculum for Your Family

Classes go on to cover individual subjects in detail, such as math, phonics, science, etc. The reason for this unique format is to allow the class member to read, absorb and apply that week's lesson before moving on to the next. We all know how easy it is to read a great big book and then apply maybe only 1 or 2 points from the entire volume. With this weekly delivery method, you get the opportunity to apply 1-2 points from each lesson and therefore are able to glean much more from the material over the course of the 6 months.

You can read all of the details on the website here -

These classes are geared for homeschooling parents who have children of all ages and in all grades K-12. However, because of the unique demands and requirements of high school students, we have created a separate course just for parents of middle and high school students. It is called Upper Level Homeschool and you can read more about that separate 13 week course here

It's been a pleasure, Meredith. Thanks for conducting this interview.

Be sure to visit Meredith's blog at:


Sook said...

Dear Terri,
Thank you for sharing that interview and for sharing your insights. I really enjoyed reading your reply to all the questions.

Stacey Posey said...

THis interview is so encouraging! I am glad to know I am not the only one that: 1. changes curriculum with different kids, 2. changes our methods, 3. struggles with housework. Keep up the good work Terri! We love you in Mississippi

Anonymous said...

Homeschooling is not for everyone. It's cheaper, controlling and anti-social. Not all parents are certified teachers, and capable of giving their children the chance to broaden their horizons, which are only found in already established schools. Chalking on a black board for a high school-aged child, while suckling an infant is not my idea of a great education. Sometimes, however, a non-certified parent, like Meredith, lucks out and happens to have children who are not harmed by this educational alternative. It's more like tutoring, than actual teaching. Her case is an exception, and not the rule.