Well, I tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
Yawn and stretch and try to come to life
Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumping
Out on the street, the traffic starts jumping
PUMP THE BRAKES…
…we actually have no clue about traffic…
We’re a homeschool family…in Texas.
2020 was the year that changed it for us. With everything shut down from the Pandemic and my husband, an essential public utility city worker - who was working around the clock – a lackluster summer came and went. I did my absolute best to keep the ball rolling and keep some kind of learning and activities going on after Spring Break and into the summer. I decided to try and “catch my kids up”. Lots of “read to me” books were assigned in Epic. I bought every workbook Dollar Tree and Target carried. I subscribed to every learning app on the roku. I was doing trials on every online learning curricula I could find (most are not very good). We did a ton of live classes with Outschool. I setup my tiny little classroom using an old plant stand as a book shelf. I had two 15 year old laptops I upgraded with memory and installed Zorin operating system. My old school inner geek was kicked in full force.
But, what was my “real” plan come August 2020 when public school started?
Our girls were absolutely terrified to go back to public school. Their last year of in person school (2019-2020) was first grade. There was a lot of bullying and very little transparency in the classroom. We had no clue how badly they struggled. We weren’t able to observe them in class to see where they thrived and where they needed support. There were no volunteer opportunities. A lot of trust was lost.
But we, as a family, are tough and decided to give it another shot. We started the 2020-2021 with public school remote learning like everyone else. We absolutely loved their core and elective teachers - but several weeks passed and we knew something was very wrong. The girls weren’t getting equally fair support and the workload just wasn’t realistic. We had to cancel their counterproductive dyslexia class to allow time for core subjects and teachers they loved. I spoke up and was given a harsh reaction from their school administration…I found out later this happened to several other parents and their children.
When the schools IT department decided to change everything at 7 weeks – completely wiping out all the hard work between myself and teachers to get structured education in place for our children - we decided it was best for us to leave public education.
All of our haphazard “rookie homeschool” work had been placed on hold during these past 7 weeks. We took a break for a few days and then picked up where we left off. It wasn’t easy. While our girls are identical –their brains are not. It took several months for me to find a complete curriculum that worked for us – something that I could customize for each child – something that was structured, sleek and had reporting – something better than the obsolete homeschool programs out there and something better than the apps public schools used as a crutch. We found it, along with some supplemental apps and a workbook we absolutely love. My kids do a combination of independent learning with several teachers through their master curriculum and I work with them during workbook time. It’s a great method that’s really working for us. Everyone and everything is accountable. Texas has been behind the times with regard to private homeschool – but there’s a new breed of us that are wanting bigger and better - and we’re making that happen rather quickly.
Even through the Texas winter blast in February 2021 – we toughed it out for a week with no electricity and no running water. We burned a lot of wood to keep it above 50 in our home. We had to scoop water out the pool to flush our toilets. My husband was working insane hours and that left me and our girls to figure it out. We did a lot of learning, gaming, and “preparing for the zombie apocalypse”. A friend and her family in Southlake opened their home to us so we could recoup. We spent another week in a hotel – thankfully with a kitchenette and pull out sofa bed. Another friend - all the way in Turkey - sent help. We are so very thankful for these amazing strong women in our lives.
Despite everything - our kids are insanely happy and thriving – so are me and Daddy. We haven’t missed a beat in quality family time and our girls have had the busiest summer ever with kids of all ages through multiple VBS, summer camps, homeschool programs, volunteering, community service, and play dates.
We’ve kept in touch with their most loved previous teachers and I know they really enjoy seeing all the fun and exciting things we do! Even our awesome family physician gets all the updates. We’ve got an amazing cheering squad in our corner that love our “go get em” attitude towards life. On top of that - over the summer – during the insane lumber inflation - my husband built me beautiful wood sofa style cabinets that hold all of our classroom supplies. I couldn’t be happier with our little school setup!
We homeschool year round and will wrap up second grade the end of August. I’m going to take a week to set the curriculum for the next year – which will be grade 2.5 beginning first of September. We’ve decided to ditch traditional education standards taught in the US and learn from other areas of the world. Standardized testing, Common Core, and Stem focus are things of the past at Hoffman Academy. We do maintain our legal obligation in Texas to teach Math, Reading, Spelling, Grammar, and Good Citizenship. Adding to that, we are teaching Music, Art, Foreign Languages, Life Skills, Science, and History. And we do record attendance. Recently, our master curriculum received accreditation from ACS WASC (The Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges.)
For me, the choice to homeschool was empowering. It made me realize I didn’t have to do things the way everyone else did. Homeschooling was a choice, not a sacrifice and it’s an amazing feeling for your beautifully interdependent family to hug you…and thank you.
Melanie Hoffman is a full time homemaker and private homeschool teacher residing in Grapevine, Texas with her husband Dustin and their identical twin daughters.