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Podcast | 23 Minutes

The Reluctant Homeschooler

Laurie Detweiler Written by Laurie Detweiler
The Reluctant Homeschooler

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Do you feel unqualified to homeschool? Does it sound scary to do it all yourself? How does the “super mom” actually exist?

Lexi Detweiler is a young homeschool mom who wrestled with these questions and more– and was surprised at the answers she discovered as she learned how to teach her kids. If you’ve ever worried that you are inadequate to homeschool your children, this episode is jam-packed with real-world experience and practical tips to help you get started.

Episode Transcription

Note: This transcription may vary from the words used in the original episode.

Laurie Detweiler:

Welcome to Veritas Vox, the voice of Classical Christian education. I'm Laurie Detweiler. My husband and I, Marlin Detweiler, founded Veritas Press. And we have had an incredible journey, never expecting to be where we are today with Veritas having an online school and students, literally– students and teachers, I should say, all over the world. And, you know, when we started this when our boys were little, and we were homeschooling and then started classical Christian schools, we just we never expected to see what's happened with Veritas.

And along the way, my children grew up. We have four sons. I had four children and in less than five years. So they're stair steps. They're all in their thirties now. Three of them are married, and two of them have children. I have five grandchildren. Lexi Detweiler is with me. She is the wife of my second son, Travis, and she is also what I call a gift from God, the best daughter-in-law anybody could ever have.

But she's becoming quite the expert in homeschooling. They own their own company, and she also does some work for Veritas. And so she's quite busy. And I wanted to have her on today because one of the big things that I see is so many people, particularly this generation, where they might have seen other families that homeschool, they might have even been homeschooled themselves. And they're like, “I will never, ever, ever homeschool.”

And now I'm really laughing because I'm watching my grandchildren be homeschooled. Another son and a daughter-in-law are starting a classical Christian school. And I just wanted to have Lexi here to talk about why and I wanted to tell you about her family. And then also kind of her journey, because she did say she'd never homeschool. And so it's just kind of a fun journey to have watched. And have gotten to kind of go along on. So. Lexi, introduce yourself.



Lexi Detweiler::

Thanks, Laurie. Yes, I'm married to Travis, which is her third son, and we have three kids.

Laurie Detweiler:

They’re awesome.

Lexi Detweiler:

Yes, I think they're awesome too!

Lexi Detweiler:

So Ava is eight, Oliver is almost six, and Lucy is four. Along with the kids. We also have animals at our house. I call it like kind of a homestead of sorts. So we have two dogs, a cat, a pig, some chickens, and a lizard, who is the easiest one!

Laurie Detweiler:

You used to have ducks!

Lexi Detweiler:

And we used to have ducks at a time, but they were too messy, and we didn't really like the duck eggs. So we actually gave them to somebody who does love ducks. And anyway, we have a very busy house, and I don't think it could be that lively without homeschooling. I feel like our house would be so quiet if I sent the kids to school.

It would be so clean, but there would be no life in the house. So as many of you can probably imagine who are homeschooling, your house is probably full of life. That's how I like to think of it because that's how I get through the mess. Because it is definitely messy, but that's not what's important.

When we first had kids, I said I was never going to homeschool because I went to Catholic school, kindergarten through 12th grade, and I was just used to the school system. It was a private school, so it wasn't public school. So, of course, I was never sending them to public school, is what I told my husband, but I was also never going to homeschool.

And one of my biggest reservations was because I didn't think I was qualified to homeschool my kids. And I really do care about education.

Laurie Detweiler:

And she’s more than qualified, by the way!

Lexi Detweiler:

I was good at school, but I never saw myself as a teacher. I could never communicate with kids. I'm not really a kid person, per se. That was before my kids were a little bit older. So you don't know what you don't know, or you don't know until you actually dive into it and start doing it.

But those are some of my reservations. I also thought my kids really need to be social, and homeschooling them is going to limit their social interaction. I'm going through everything that I thought was wrong with homeschooling first before I tell you about how I realized I was wrong about so many things.

Other than that, there were parts of my childhood that took place at school that I thought, “They're going to miss out on this.” And a lot of that, as I listed them in my head, was more of the social aspect of school. You know, it's like a cultural thing where everybody's used to like the lunch room and the recesses, and they're going to football games like those types of things that as a culture, everybody's familiar with that I realized my kids are not going to get that experience at all, but I've learned that that's just not true. And everything that I thought about homeschooling was incorrect.

Laurie Detweiler:

What was pivotal in your thinking that kind of, you know– I got to watch this, but what really changed what you were thinking?

Lexi Detweiler:

Well, we originally had sent Ava, my oldest, to a Montessori school for preschool, which was great. She didn't love going. When she was there, she would cry every time we sent her to school.

Laurie Detweiler:

It was horrible!

Lexi Detweiler:

Yes, but I'm also not a quitter. So for me, I was like, “Well, we just have to send her. Even if she's crying, we can't give up. We've paid for the whole school year. She has to go until the school year's over.” So we did finish out the school year, then it came time for kindergarten, and I didn't love any of the kindergartens or any of the schools around our area. I wasn't going to send her to public school. So we really sat down and talked about it.

I do love the curriculum at Veritas. I love the classical aspect of teaching kids to their abilities and how they best learn. I was looking for a Christian-based homeschool curriculum, and I mean Veritas is that, of course. So when it came down to it, there was really no other options. That's what I wanted to do. I really looked into it, and having worked at Veritas and having seen other parents go through it and working as an academic advisor, that helped me to know the curriculum a little bit better. So that was very helpful for me, and know that it is possible for a parent to teach that because it did seem a little bit more rigorous to me than going to any other private school in the area.

So we did start Ava in kindergarten. It was three years ago with Veritas homeschooling at home. And I had two younger– I had Oliver and Lucy, who were one and three at the time. So let's just say it did not go smoothly. But I did learn so much about myself and about my kids that first year. So I don't regret anything.

Laurie Detweiler:

And I think to you have you have a very, very, very creative husband. He produces and directs videos and writes movies, and does some pretty amazing things. And you're really creative yourself. You're a writer. And I looked at your children then as an educator watching them, I always knew that Travis, that's her husband's name, never really even when he was in a classical Christian school, which was wonderful, he just– that wasn't the way he learned to write like that just wasn't who he was.

And I looked at Ava and saw her the same way and thought my biggest fear for her because she was reading early, she's creative, and she was the first grandchild was, “Oh, my goodness, I just don't want her…” And she hated going to school every day, and that was so fearful for is, “Oh, my goodness, this child is so much– so creative. Both her parents are creative. I don't want that love of learning…” Because she really did have an absolute thirst for learning. She loved books being read to her. She was captivated about anything imaginary and would make up, and even at three and four, would make up these incredible stories. We actually– one of the new books in our phonics program, it's the chocolate one, what’s the name of the book?

Lexi Detweiler:

The Fudge Bridge.

Laurie Detweiler:

The Fudge Bridge. It's in my name, I think. But let me explain to you, it's in her name, too. And the reason is, is she made up that story to me. She told me the story. So and I just thought, “Traditional school will kill this child's imagination.” And then the second child came along, and he loves to build things, and he just thinks like an engineer. And I thought, “Oh, my goodness, like, I'm afraid he'll be the good kid that sits there and does the worksheets. And you know, never, never does anything wrong and does all these things. But I'm afraid he's going to learn his– lose his love for learning,” because he would literally sit and look at an encyclopedia, I think, or any kind of nonfiction book for hours. He just wants facts. He just loves that.

So all that to say, the one thing I know about homeschooling is there is not any other form of education unless you're going to hire private tutors for your children, you know, the entire time where they are going to learn the way God's wired them and that you then you can tailor things so that they are loving what they're doing and they're, you know, they're learning in they're learning style, and when you get a group of children, I'm a teacher, I know this– as much as I tried to make sure each child got exactly what they needed, there's just not the ability to do that.

And homeschooling is so, so different today than when our kids were homeschooled. And that generation, there's so many– I think there's more freedom in homeschooling today that moms don't feel like they have to do it all. They don't feel like they're the only one. A lot of people that homeschooled in the generation of my kids were doing it because they were really committed to– and I think this is true that God wants us to be responsible for our child's education. I totally believe that. But I don't believe that that means that you can't have other people help you do what you want.

So Lexi plans out her week. She's this marvelous planner and her mother and myself, and even a babysitter that's been around for a long time, and then next year, online classes. Or it might be a Phonics Museum App or a self-paced course. Yeah, lots of things are building in, helping her put together an education for her children. Do you want to talk a little bit about that, just how your life works?

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah, definitely! And I wanted to mention that I read a book that really inspired me and made me feel okay about asking for help. It's called Hunt, Gather Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff. And in it, she explains what she's really doing is studying hunter-gatherer groups and how they work and how their children develop into really autonomous adults and actually autonomous children.

But a big part of it is that it's not just the parent doing everything like our society tells us to do. You know, the super mom kind of deal like you don't have a super mom is not the mom that does everything successfully. It's the one that recognizes when to delegate some tasks to other things just for the benefit of her children. So I felt okay then about passing along some of the homeschooling to my mom, to Laurie, and I mean obviously to Laurie because she knows everything.

Laurie Detweiler:

I don't know about that!

Lexi Detweiler:

It was such a relief to be able to do that and to be okay with it. And even with the Phonics app, my four-year-old is doing the Phonics app now, and she loves it. Ava's doing self-paced history and self-paced Bible, and it teaches it so much better than I could ever teach it.

I'm even learning from it because sometimes I'll sit down and do it with her. And next year, like Laurie said, Ava’s going to be doing the online classes, which I'm very excited about because that element of social interaction that I was really worried about is going to be covered in a different way, but also look how kids are interacting these days anyway. They're always online.

It is different than being in a school and bricks and mortar school. But the level of interaction that they are getting is about the same just because I'm pushing for it, I guess, in a way.

Laurie Detweiler:

Right! Well, and it's also, you know, I have people say to me, “Your daughter-in-law let's you…,” and that's the term, mind you, “let’s me help homeschool.” And I can tell you, I'm at that point now where I'm able to look back, and there is no greater gift that you can even give your parents than to allow them to do that.

It's what gets me up in the morning. I mean, during COVID, everybody who knows me, knows that I love Old Testament, ancient Egypt. Right? So that was Ava's first year doing it. And literally, I put together 32 weeks of all the projects that you could imagine…”

Lexi Detweiler:

It was amazing!

Laurie Detweiler:

I had more fun doing that. I'm already starting on next year. It's kind of like my thing. But one of the things that Lexie does well, and you know, I credit her family with this, is she gets generational thinking. And so her children really do understand the importance of family and how they work together. And even when her great grandparents, her grandparents are still alive.

So my grandchildren's great-grandparents on Lexie's side are alive. And when they were little, I mean, Ava and Oliver in particular, know more Bible songs and old hymns because their great grandmother, Meemaw, who, if you want somebody to pray for you, let me explain a women you want to pray for you. But she taught the children these songs and taught them hymns and taught them. And to this day, they still know them. And they will never, ever– when they're 40 years old, they're going to remember that, right? And so having the freedom and feeling like you don't have to do all the teaching and there is no way that one person and I'm an educator and I think I'm pretty good at it, I'll just say that. But I there is no way that I can, by myself, give my children everything I could if I'm willing to use resources.

Now, you can't you don't always have that available, and it may not be an option, but if you do, feel the freedom to use it. Because it's not just a gift for you to have the help. I'm telling you this as a grandparent, it's a gift to the people in your lives because when you get to my age, you need purpose, right? I still work. Veritas gets me. But Veritas– it’s different when it's my grandchildren. It's so exciting to be able to watch them learn to see them, you know, Oliver read a book for the first time. I was able during this year to hear him read his first books, and it was so much fun, you know, to be able to be a part of that. What a blessing. What a blessing that is.

Lexi Detweiler:

And it's a blessing for them as well for the kids because they're learning– they're not always listening to me. They learn how to respect other adults in the family or other adults, no matter how old they are.

Laurie Detweiler:

And other teaching styles.

Lexi Detweiler:

They get a different perspective on things like my grandmother knows more about the Bible than anybody else.

Laurie Detweiler:

Yes, she does! She’s a walking book.

Lexi Detweiler:

And then I can go to my mom and have her teach them Spanish, which I couldn't do as well as she could do. So working to their strengths is really important, and just them getting the perspective, the life perspective, you know, from the other generations is really cool to watch.

Laurie Detweiler:

Absolutely. Also, talk to me a little bit about if you were to be talking to a brand new mom who's thinking about homeschooling right now, you know, she's considering it for this school year because there are lots of people out there at this point. What are some things that you would say to her to kind of set her mind at ease that she can do this? Because I kept telling you could do it, right? Even by telling you, “You'll be great! You can do this!”

Lexi Detweiler:

The big thing I thought was, “I don't have a degree in education. I don't know how to teach kids,” but in reality, there's no better teacher for your own children than yourself.

Laurie Detweiler:

There’s not.

Lexi Detweiler:

You know them more than better than anybody else. You know how to communicate with them. You know what their needs are. So in that way, you are able to teach them something based on the experiences that you had together that, you know, a teacher wouldn't be able to connect with them at that level. So if I see Oliver, my five-year-old is really struggling with reading, I'm going to pause and with the reading that, you know, is part of the curriculum. And let's go grab some books about animals that are early readers and some nonfiction stuff because he really gravitates toward nonfiction over the fantasy-type things, the fiction.

Laurie Detweiler:

That's something they would not be able to do in school. And that's what I was talking about. I love the fact– they may not always like doing “school.” You may hear them say, “I don't want to do school today,” but your children love learning. They have a curiosity. I love field trips. So, you know, we're getting ready to all go to Atlanta together. And I already have this huge thing lined up, and I regularly take them on experiences. And it is all the time they say to me, whoever is there, “These children ask the best questions like they pay attention.” And it's not just my grandchildren. I find this with almost all homeschool. They always say to me, “They're homeschooled, aren't they?” And I'll say, “Yes, they are.” But there's a reason for that. It's because homeschooling is a lifestyle. It's not school; it's not school at home, right? And you have to be really clear. And one of the reasons I knew that you would be so good at it is because you and Travis both are always teaching. It doesn't matter. You know, if you see a butterfly outside, you know, or a flower, you're going to whip out your phone and quickly try to find out what butterfly it is. And now I have to have the app on my phone, the kids installed it so that I could do this. But they're constantly curious about things. You live a life of learning, of thinking, and curiosity, and you've inspired that.

And I think once you realized that it wasn't school at home, that it was, you know, a life of learning, that's just to who you are. I mean, I'm amazed– I’ll hear you in the kitchen sometimes, and you're doing math with them. And they don't have any idea that–- I know what you're doing. You're trying to get them to write something up, or you're trying to show them what a fraction is.

They don't have any clue. But I'm going to say this. I'm going to have a plug here for planning because she has planned her homeschool so well she's able to do this because she finds places where she can bring in what I call real life and turn it into a learning experience.

Lexi Detweiler:

Right. Because I also know what they're capable of, which I would not know if I sent them to school and just got grades back. I don't know what they're actually learning. I would know what they're learning, but I wouldn't know that they need to learn it in this way. You know, the way that you said just bringing it up in everyday life.

I can't think of an example right now, but just pointing things out that maybe we read in a book or that we've learned in history, we always have fun with the names, just the funny names in history. They just think it's hilarious. And maybe one time we had a toga party because now we're doing New Testament grace in Rome.

So bringing the things to life, the subjects to life is really important to me, and expanding it across other subjects instead of just keeping it, okay, we're done with history, let’s check it off our list. We're going to combine them to show you how it works in real life, and I think that's really cool, which I couldn't do. I feel like you wouldn't have time to do it in a real school because you have to get through the curriculum, and then you have to do the homework after school. And by that time, the kids are burnt out.

Laurie Detweiler:

But I think that something to it was– I was just doing a teacher interview last week, and one of the things that hit me is the woman that we were interviewing, she had come out of a Christian traditional school, and she said, you know, it really hit her. She was probably I’m going to guess in her mid-forties. And she said, you know, it really had hit her that these children were spending more time with her than they were with their own parents. And she said, “I'm really blown away that people as I sit–” and she had a child now. So having your own children makes you think about things that you didn't think about before. But when you really think about it, if you have your child in school and you're not teaching them, they spend more time with the person that is teaching them then all year than they do with you. And that's kind of I don't know– is I think about it, it's kind of scary, and it's also there is no way that that person can be as in touch with them as you are and know what they are. There just isn't. Yeah.

At the same time, having expertise, there is no way I was teaching calculus to my children.

That was not happening. And even now, with just having a kindergartner or a second grader, I would always rather Lexi teach English because that's her love– language is her love, and she's a writer, so she's going to do a much better job. I don't care that I've taught it for 20 years. She is going to do a better job at inspiring her kids to love English.

Now when it comes to reading, I think I feel like that's my expertise. So I know I have things to give them that she might not even right now she can teach, but those are the places for me to help. So using online classes and using other people in your life that are experts to give them that experience is just a really, really good thing to do, right? Is there anything else you want to add to this conversation about your journey of now loving homeschooling in a way?

Lexi Detweiler:

Yes. This is definitely for homeschool moms it’s just to remember that it's okay to have a bad day. And it's okay for kids to have a bad day. Maybe you wake up, and you are ready to roll because you have this great lesson for the day, and I've done this so many times where I stay up late at night. I've planned a way to do the lesson that isn't worksheets all day; that is watching educational videos and doing projects just to teach the lesson. And I thought it was just a great idea.

Laurie Detweiler:

Like the thing that you do with the operation grammar, with words.

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah, it's well, for example, one of the things that I do is the contraction surgery where you have words that I get the gloves and the scissors, and they have a face mask because they're doing an operation on words; cutting them apart, gluing them back together with a Band-Aid. And they love it. But that's an example of one time they did love it.

And I'll do other similar things like that. Stay up late preparing the lesson. And the next day they are just not having it. They just wake up in a bad mood. They don't want to do school. There's screaming and crying, and it's frustrating for you as the parent when you've spent all this time getting ready, but that's when, rather than push through it, you just need to recognize, okay, they're having a bad day today. Sometimes I have bad days. Kids have bad days, too. We need to put a pause on the homeschool. Let's go outside. Let's go for a hike. Let's do something in nature. Because I found that being close to nature– it really just calms them down. Not calms them down; they're very wild. It probably just brings peace to them; I think is what it is.

Laurie Detweiler:

They're curious.

Lexi Detweiler:

Yes. Even if they don't want to go, they'll get out there and notice something, and they'll start to, you know, dive into it a little bit more and use the app and figure out what it is. And then before you know it, everybody's in a good mood again.

Laurie Detweiler:

By the way, as an aside, I'm going to have a distraction here. Your daughter's tying her shoes. I just got a video from Bethany.

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah. It's another example.

Laurie Detweiler:

Another example. That's why I'm telling you that. Another example of somebody else teaching about tying her shoes. You probably have the video, too!

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah. So that's our babysitter who brings a whole nother level into our home. Just the stuff that she's able to. And the way that she can connect with them because she's younger. So she's kind of like a peer to them. So you can teach them about things like that. Things that I lose focus on because I'm so busy.

Laurie Detweiler:

Exactly! Well, I can tell you I am really excited that they're on this journey because it's very fun. If they were in school all day, I wouldn't get to be a part of their lives that much. I really think about that. You know, we all travel a lot, including her family, and my son has a pretty flexible schedule in the sense that it changes all the time because of what he does.

And I can’t imagine if you had to have them at school, you know, at 8:00 in the morning and then have them ready to go to bed. I mean, they would miss time, particularly with their father.

You know, and I know a lot of people coming out of COVID said the thing we realized that made us decide to homeschool was just how much time we had together as a family during COVID.

And we didn't want to give that up again because when we were on a school schedule, all we were doing was just hopping in the car, getting the kids to school, pick them up for school, take them to their lessons, coming home and basically eating dinner as best we could and putting them to bed so we could get them up one morning.

And it's really hard to be– I don't care how much you as a parent want to be involved in your child's life, there's no way that you can be as involved in their lives because I did both. So I really know there's no way you can be as involved when they're at school all day. And it just it's it's a lifestyle change when you homeschool that to me is just a really exciting and a fun thing to do.

So we want to thank you for joining us today. We hope that this was helpful for you, and we hope that you'll join us again. Lexie's going to be joining me regularly doing these podcasts, and if you have any topics that you're interested in and us discussing, let us know.

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah. And if you like what you hear, don't forget to like and subscribe. If you do have another topic that you'd like us to talk about, you can go to Veritaspress.com/vox and drop us a comment there.

Laurie Detweiler:

Great. Thank you!