Homeschooling mom shares her experience



Mother of six describes the joys and challenges of teaching at home

Jennifer Williams of Campbell Hall isn’t your typical homeschooling mom. With a degree in elementary education, she had a head start on the teaching aspect of home schooling. She also is mother to six children, ages 13 (girl), 10 (boy), 8 (boy), 5 (girl), 3, and 1.

“You have to prioritize and figure out what’s important and stick with it. You have to keep the kids focused, and come up with schedule,” she explains. “I also have to make sure the little guys aren’t left out. They want to learn too. You have to make sure everybody’s covered. The days when it works it’s the most rewarding feeling.”
Her first two children went to elementary school in Goshen. But, when her oldest daughter was going into 6th grade and her son into 3rd, Williams and her husband decided to take them out to be homeschooled.

“It was nothing against the school district, everything was fine,” she explains. “We did it for faith reasons. There are certain beliefs that the school doesn’t support. Also, we wanted them home during their formative years so they would be grounded in our faith and culture.”

The transition was a positive one for both mom and her kids. “Before we homeschooled, my oldest two did not get along great. They fought all the time and couldn’t say one nice thing to each other, but within a month they started being nice to each other. That made it really worthwhile. It’s brought our family together. Besides, I enjoy teaching and they enjoy being taught by me.”

With her background as an educator, Williams gets excited being able to tailor an education to each of her children. She and the children go through curriculum catalogs together and discuss the child’s interests. “There are thousands of curriculums to choose from. It can seem overwhelming but it’s also exciting. You want them to have the same type of education that other kids their age are getting, but you can choose it based on each child’s interests, and the child’s strengths and weaknesses. Education should be fun and enjoyable for them, not facts to be poured into their heads.”

Williams works through the Goshen school district, turning in quarterly reports on what each child is working on. “You must check in with the home district at the beginning of the year to let them know you’re homeschooling and what the curriculum will be.”

So what is a typical day like teaching and being mom to six children? “We have a chaotic routine – we have breakfast, clean up breakfast, make beds, do chores, say the pledge of allegiance, have bible time, then our studies,” Williams says. “I have schedule, a daily list of who’s doing what … but it doesn’t always run smoothly.”

“Not running smoothly” means that the boys get wrestling and Williams will have to wrangle them back to their studies. “When they’re little they have a lit of energy. I’ve sent them outside in the morning to jump on the trampoline for 15 minutes before their schoolwork. It works!”

It also means trying to combine subjects to children close in age, with varying amounts of success. “My daughter doesn’t want to be brought down to her brother’s level. He’s three years younger, which is quite an age difference. But I can combine science to my two boys [ages 8 & 10], because they are on more equal footing. If I can combine a curriculum without strife, I do it. The old one-room-schoolhouse idea doesn’t work unless I can combine subjects.”

The Williams kids don’t miss out on extracurricular activities. Williams arranges field trips and activities with other homeschooling groups, such as faith-based groups LEA and TORCH and the Orange County Homeschoolers. “They participate in sports through the town,” she says, “and they took lessons on Fridays at the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy. It was something all ages (except the 1-year-old) could participate in.”

Williams doesn’t plan to homeschool her kids until they graduate high school. In fact, when they reach ninth grade, the kids will have the option of going to school or staying home. “At that time we’ll discuss with each child whether they want to go to school or stay home, or they may go and decide they don’t like it and come back home. We’ll evaluate it on a case by case basis, depending on what each child wants. They’ve got to get out sooner or later.”

Williams admits – understandably so – that her biggest challenge is keeping up on housework. “If I had a housekeeper! I’m not extremely organized. In talking with other homeschoolers with big families, or even small families, that’s the biggest problem.”

Despite the days when keeping the plates spinning seems an impossible feat, Williams says she wouldn't have it any other way. "Homeschooling can seem intimidating, but it's gratifying and rewarding. The most important thing I've learned is every family is different; what works for one family won't work for another. Some are more organized and some are go with the flow. For someone who's on the fence about it, you have to find out what works for your family. But, you have the freedom to do what works, and make education meaningful."