A Gardening Tale: From Back to the Land Flower Child to Modern Homesteader: Part 2

With schools in my area well in full swing, or at least this year’s version of full swing, I figured I would take some time to delve a little bit into my educational background and thank the people who have influenced me so much over the years. I hope you enjoy.

The Education of a Modern Homesteader

What is in the education of a flower child, let alone a modern homesteader you ask? Well that’s a great question. One that seems as though it would have a simple answer, but it gets a little complicated the farther we dig into my educational background.

Part 1: Homeschooling a Flower Child

That’s right! I was homeschooled. Now let’s be honest, was that really a surprise for most of you? I mean, I always talk about how I grew up on a working homestead with farming friends and back to the land hippie parents. Would you expect anything less?

Well, I have to admit, when most people find out that I was homeschooled, they tend to have a look of shock on their faces and say something along the lines of, “But you seems so normal and well socialized.” I’m never sure if I should take this as a compliment or an insult, but I usually choose to just respond with a head shake and a, “Thank you?”

What is Homeschooling?

The simple answer?

Homeschooling, or home education as it is often referred to in the legislative context, is when the parents or guardians, with or without the aid of a private tutor/teacher, take it upon themselves to responsibly educate their children instead of sending them through the public school system.

I will be providing a more in depth analysis of homeschooling and the different ways to practice it in another article, which I will link here when it is posted. In the mean time, if you have any questions about anything to do with homeschooling, please feel free to leave it in the comments and I will do my best to help you.

Why Homeschool?

Well, that’s kind of a complicated question as every parent who chooses to homeschool their children has their own set of reasons. However, there are some general reasons that most homeschooling family share:

  • They want to be in control of what their kids learn and when.
  • They want to provide a personalized education for their children.
  • They want to instill values they don’t think their children will get through mainstream public schooling.
  • They want their children to be taught the way that they learn, without being punished for it.
  • Flexible scheduling to allow for concentration on sports, arts and other paths the children want to follow.

Again, each of these points will be address more in depth in a future post on this subject. This is just meant to be an overview to give you some perspective on what homeschooling is so you understand what I’m talking about moving forward.

Why My Parents Chose to Homeschool

I have talked a lot with my parents over the years about why they chose to homeschool my brother and me. It always comes down to 2 main reasons: 1. they didn’t agree with the way the school was treating my brother and 2. they wanted us to be able to form our own opinions on the world and be kids as long as we could.

Now, these might seem like weird reasons to some, but you have to understand that both of my parents worked full-time jobs and were usually on 2nd or 3rd shift (afternoon or midnight). This meant that when my brother was in school (he is 2 years older than me and went to public school until the start of 1st grade) my parents, one or both, would only get a few hours maximum with him a day.

I know for some parents sending their kids to school is a relief and joy for them, but my parents had to wait 10 years for my brother and me to come along and their was never any doubt as to how much they loved us and wanted to see us grow and spend a much time with us as they could. My parents will still tell you how hard it was to watch my brother go to school everyday, knowing they were missing out on so much of his life at such a young age.

After all of the emotional struggles they had with how my brother was being taught and not agreeing with the general classroom management of his 1st grade teacher, my parents made the life changing decision to pull my brother out of school and start homeschooling him. This was fine by me because then I had my brother to play with all day, much to his dismay I believe.

How I was Homeschooled

It is important to note that there are several ways to homeschool a child. Everyone knows about the crazy religious people who keep their kids home to avoid exposure to secular ideas and only teach them about the world through the Bible. Please let me be clear, I am not saying every religious based homeschooling family is this way, but you know the ones I’m talking about. It seems as though everyone knows about the ones who don’t really teach their kids anything and let them run around like feral children and try to call that education. Yeah, that’s not it either.

Between these two extremes is where most of us fall. We are relatively normal families who love spending time with each other and learning in a way that might not work for a classroom filled with 30 or so students.

This is where my parents fell. They ensured that my brother and I were well educated and understood how the world works, but gave us the room to figure things out on our own and practice what we were learning in a practical setting.

For example, if we had been learning about percentages in math, we would go sale shopping and work out how much we could get with the money we had. For instance, if there were clothing items on sale for an extra 30% off the already reduced clearance price of 50% off, how much would that $40 outfit end up costing after the discounts. Would they be combined into 80% off or not?

I can tell you, this was the most effective way to teach mathematical concepts to me. I’m that kid that always wants to see how this is going to effect me and if I can’t see that, I tend to not care so much about it. I think most people are that, at least in my experience.

History was taught through hands-on learning. This meant that if we were talking about the local native tribes in our state history lessons, we would build a model of their housing or grow their most famous crops. If we were learning about a battle in history, we would talk about all the different sides of the conflict and try to understand how it occurred in the first place and how it might have been avoided. If the location of that battle was local, we would take a day trip to the site to study the terrain and how the strategies of the officers were good or bad and why.

This type of learning, especially in history, gives you a chance to think more critically about the situations and not see them simply in black and white, good or bad, right or wrong. It lets you see the perspective of everyone and learn how to try to avoid those situations in the future. This method is so effective that it is how I teach my students today. Oh, I don’t know if I mentioned I grew up to be a certified Social Studies teacher; so I guess my parents did ok with the whole homeschooling thing, hehe 🙂

A Day in the Life of a Homeschooled Flower Child

My days were pretty flexible, as you might assume with two parents who worked 2nd and 3rd shifts full-time and homeschooling their children.

I would get up in the morning, usually by 11 and my brother and I would get breakfast, which my Dad usually prepared for us. When my Mom got up, we would start lessons, usually math first, because we all just wanted to get that out of the way, and then move on to reading, etiquette (yes, we still make fun of Mom for that one, but considering that I’ve dined with diplomats and was the only one who didn’t look like a backwards American, I guess it wasn’t such a bad idea), home ec. consisting of cooking and cleaning, reading, history and science.

If I’m completely honest, most days we only spent between 3-4 hours max on actual structured learning time, but the remained of the day was spent practicing the skills we had worked on in “school” that day. I know most of the public at large views homeschoolers a lazy in a way because they tend to spend on average far fewer hours on the structured side of education than the public school system, but trust me, we get it all in there.

Not every day looked the same. Some days we would only cover one or two of the subjects if we were talking about new ideas or starting a new unit study, but we always hit all of the subjects by the end of the week. For gym my brother and I both took Karate lessons at least 3 days per week. This also served as our ever needed and questioned social interaction with children of our own age *eye roll*.

After all of our structured learning was finished, we would go out and help Dad in the garden or with canning or cutting fire wood. We would sometimes go to my Dad’s friend’s farm and help with the new calves and bringing in the cattle or getting plants ready for sale at the local farmer’s markets. We would talk about what we were learning and the men would come up with ways for me to apply those newly acquired skills, such as helping them do the math for the seed orders or seeing how much feed the cattle would need for the winter.

Every now and then we would have a free day where we would go to the local lake or pool as a family or go sled ridding in the winter. In between all the hard work and schooling, my parents always tried to make time for a little bit of fun everyday.

In between school work and homestead work, my brother and I would play in the creeks in front and behind our childhood home building dams to catch crawdads (crayfish/craw fish), building a swimming hole or just sitting on the rocks to cool off. We would make bow and arrows from sapling trees and twine, throw tomahawks and learn to shoot. It was a wild and wonderful way to grow up.

Now I’m sure if you would ask my brother he would have a very different opinion of our homeschooling years, but we tend to have different opinions on just about anything in life, if for no other reason than to have a reason to argue. However, with everything that is going on in the world today, with the continued lockdowns around the world and uncertainty, I know he supports homeschooling and the idea that every parents has the right to teach their children in the way they see fit, weather that be a traditional public classroom setting or a homeschool setting.

Part 2: Mainstreaming: Transitioning to Public High School

Around 5th or 6th grade my brother and I both got the itch to want to participate in extracurricular activities, but our school district didn’t allow homeschooled students to participate in those activities, such as football and other sports for my brother and choir and musicals for me, even though this was not legal according to the PA State Home Education Statute. But hey, you have to pick your battles, right? We both longed to have that experience that we didn’t get at home, being around other kids and seeing what the public schools had to offer us.

When my brother was in 8th grade, my parents mainstreamed him, transitioned him into public school, so he could participate in sports. As you might imagine, I quickly became belligerent and wanted to go to school too, because I was that little sister who wanted to do everything my brother did.

I became combative about just about everything to do with schooling at home and desperately wanted to participate in the choir and musicals that our local school district offered. My Mom and I struck a deal that if I did my work the way I supposed to, I would be allowed to go to school starting in grade 9. I was so excited and started participating again for the next 2 years.

Then it finally came…the first day of 9th grade. There I was, finally starting public school with people my own age and was so excited about all the friends I was going to make and all of the fun I was going to have in high school! Do I need to tell you that I was woefully wrong and naive or can we just assume that we both understand that and move on?

High school ended up being, well…high school. Most of the girls were mean because I was new and overweight, most of the guys acted like I didn’t exist, and the teachers, well ok, the teachers were really good for the most part because most of them knew my brother. It was only after people found out I was my brother’s sister that they started treating me almost like a human. I’m not sure how it would have gone if he hadn’t have been mainstreamed before me.

I found myself the only one in my history class who understood what was going on, the only one in my English class who could read and understand Shakespeare and the only one in my science class who knew how an ecosystem worked. I found that I was ahead in almost all aspects of school, but didn’t want to apply myself enough to move into the AP classes because they just seemed like so much work, and 14-year-old me was not about that life, haha.

I do have to say that I have been extremely lucky throughout my education to have an unusual number of good teachers, both in high school and college. I made friends with several of my teachers, as I got along with them far better than I did with my piers. The teachers were able to hook me up with a few friends, and a couple of them I still keep in general contact with even today.

I found that I was board most of the days in school, but loved being able to participate in the musical programs, both vocal and theater that my school offered. Although I never got a solo or a lead role, I learned so much about music and preforming that I still use today.

Part 3: College

Community College:

After graduating high school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I couldn’t decide on the subject. Because of this, I decided to go to my local Community College for a couple of years to get my GPA in good standing and decide what I really wanted to be.

Well, as fate would have it, I found out what I wanted to teach on my very first day of college. I was very nervus because I thought I was supposed to be more mature or something now that I was an official college student. When I entered my first class, a basic World History class, the teacher walked in wearing a darker gray suit, his white hair slicked back and carrying a stack of papers under his arm supported by his hand.

He set the pile of papers on the podium in the front of the room and looked at all of us; mostly freshman, and said, “What the hell are you all looking at? Let me get my shit together and then I’ll start class.” I was so taken aback because I had never heard a teacher speak in such a way in front of a class before. After he got all of his things organized he wrote his name on the board and began to explain how the class would be taught.

Over the weeks, I fell in love with his style of teaching and the way he was able to bring history alive for not just me, but all of the students in the class. He taught the history from the standpoint of the stories behind the people and events instead of just the names and dates. He brought you into the past and made you understand the way things happened and how the people of the time felt about what was going on. I was in total awe of his teaching style and decided right then that I wanted to teach people the stories behind the history that I had learned in my public education. I wanted to be a history teacher like C.V.

I loved C.V. so much that I ended up taking a class from him each semester I was in attendance at my local Community College, and I haven’t regretted a moment of my time spent in his classroom since. I went back to visit him several times over the years and would still run up and give him a hug if I saw him today. I don’t think he ever really knew the impact he had on me and the decisions I have made in my life since leaving his classes, but I hope to one day be able to tell him.

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania:

After I completed my 2 years at the local Community College, I decided to attend Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. My brother had visited the school when he was looking at colleges and I had fallen in love with the campus then, but then I found out my Dad’s sister had attended as one of the first full-time handicapped students back in the 1970’s and decided I wanted to make it a legacy.

After doing some research, I found out that Edinboro had one of the top ranked Education programs in the state, and a top 50 in the country. After revisiting the campus, I fell in love with it again and the Fighting Scots culture took root in my soul. Going to Edinboro is still counted among the best decisions I have made in my life. The friends and education I gained there have stuck with me through it all. I still use my education degree to help students from all over the world understand history through my tutoring business.

While at Edinboro, I feel I received a fair and relatively balanced education. I only encountered one or two professors in my the entire 3 years I was there who weren’t as supportive as I would have liked, but for the most part the educators on staff were friendly and willing to help you out in any way they could. Especially in the History department. As a Secondary Education major, with a minor in History, I spent the majority of my first couple of years at Edinboro in the History department, making friends and taking as many classes as I could to help me understand the topics I would be expected to teach others.

While in the History department I found myself surrounded by like-minded individuals who shared similar passions to me. We liked to refer to ourselves as “History Dorks”. I found my way to the EUP History Club where I made several friends and ended up being the president for 3 semesters. I received several awards for service to the History department throughout my 3 year tenure, and I also got inducted into Phi Alpha Theta, the International History Honor’s Society for my achievements in my chosen discipline. In addition to these achievements, I also served on the EUP Model NATO team for 1 year. What a crazy awesome experience that was!

Enough tooting of my own horn with history accolades, let’s move onto the Education portion of my education. I joined the EUP Secondary Education program full-time in my last 3 semesters there. It was a rigorous program that helped get you ready for almost any type of student you would run into in your classroom.

As with my History department days, I worked very hard to gain high achievements in these classes as well. I made a few friends and shed a few tears while doing our Field Experience, essentially a half-day of Student Teaching to ease you into it, and my Student Teaching, but all in all it was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

I often think of the students I worked with throughout those experiences and wonder what happened to them. Did they graduate? Did they make it off the streets and out of the gangs? Did they achieve the dreams they shared with me for their futures? Are they content with their lives?

I think these are questions most of us in the education field ask ourselves from time to time as we look back at all of the lives we have been so blessed to have touched through our careers. Or maybe I’m just a sentimental sap who puts to much into my work, either way it doesn’t really change how I feel.

After School was Over:

After I was finally done with school, I got a few substitute teaching positions and worked that circuit for a while, about a year. After that, Josh and I got married and since he was in school, it was my turn to bring home the bacon. After looking for a full-time teaching position and being unable to find one, I got a job doing mortgage refinance paperwork. Believe it or not, a lot of the stuff I learned in college really helped out in this job. I was able to deescalate clients that no one else could and even became my team’s trainer for new hires.

After working the mortgage paperwork job for almost 2 years, Josh got a great job and I ended up getting laid off due to a company merger. It all worked out though. We ended up purchasing the TreadlingHome-stead and he told me to take some time and find out what I wanted to do with my life again after working a job a loathed for so long so he could finish school.

This was the catalyst that got me working on this blog and I also started my tutoring business to help fill that gap in my life that not teaching had left. Now I work both on a regular basis in addition to my regular homemaker duties, which you can read more about in this article *here*.

Every year I take on around 4 new, regularly scheduled students and work with them on a one-on-one personalized basis to help them in a variety of subjects, not just History. If you are looking for a tutor, please visit my tutoring page for more information on my qualifications and other information *here*.

All in all I would say that my education helped to shape who I am today. Weather it is me working on projects around the homestead with skills I learned in homeschooling or helping students learn about History to better understand the world they live in. I am thankful for all of the hard work and dedication that the amazing educators who have inspired me throughout the years put into me as a person and hope that they all understand the influence and impact that they have on the lives of every student they encounter, no matter how brief that encounter may be.

Thank you to everyone who had, and still has, a part in my education and I want you all to know how much you mean to me and how thankful I am to have had you in my life ❤


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