An interview with Corey Heller, founder of Multilingual Living and Multilingual Living Magazine. She homeschools her three children in German and English. Interviewed by Alice Lapuerta, Editor of Multilingual Living Magazine.
Alice Lapuerta: Do you create a curriculum to make sure that you are teaching your kids the same things that other kids are learning at school at the same age/level?
Corey Heller: We make a concerted effort to find out what the standard schools’ curricula consist of in both countries but we don’t focus on having our kids learn certain subjects at certain times. So far we haven’t found a curriculum worth purchasing. Instead, we have been creating our own. The most helpful books for outlining school curriculum by grade in the US have been the “What Your … Needs to Know” series – I recommend these for homeschoolers in the US.
Overall, we allow ourselves to pick and choose what we want to cover when and we are definitely advocates of letting our children learn at their own pace. It just so happens that our five-year-old can read well in both languages (German and English) but that doesn’t mean our other children will learn to read by age five — and that is just fine with us!
Alice: Do you have fixed hours a day when you do certain activities, like in school? If so, how many hours a day do you homeschool?
Corey: We do not plan out our homeschooling day based on certain subjects during certain hours. We make sure we are covering the basics over time and then let the rest follow based on interests. For example, our oldest son is interested in dinosaurs so we have been checking out books from the library on the subject and have been using the subject to blend in all kinds of subjects (history, math, science, reading, writing, etc.). We have been doing the same for our younger son who is interested in volcanos and earthquakes. Much of this stems from the numerous studies which have shown that we learn best when we are truly interested in a subject.
Alice: The main problem that would keep me from homeschooling is the notion that it might completely and utterly exhaust me — there seem to be no limits. What do you do to prevent yourself from burning out?
Corey: This is actually the most common question from other parents. Very few homeschooling families spend all hours of the day alone together. In fact, our local homeschooling group in Seattle has more than 200 families who organize activities almost every day of the week. There is no end to the outings and gatherings and learning experiences which take place every day.
The other thing to remember is that since only a few hours a day need to be focused on “schooling” (since homeschooling is so efficient) the rest of the day is filled with playing outside, doing puzzles, watching educational DVDs, going to the park or playing on the beach – all of which can be done with other families and children of all ages! Homeschooling is actually an extremely social form of education. Most families who homeschool say they do it specifically for the “family unity” and “healthy socialization” which it brings for children, parents and the entire community!
Alice: You indicate that homeschooling is illegal in Germany but not in the U.S. Why is that?
Corey: It is hard to say exactly why homeschooling is illegal in Germany. Today’s homeschoolers, even if they disagree with the mind-set of certain vocal religious groups, owe it to these groups for making possible the homeschooling freedoms that we have today. It is unfortunate that it takes such extreme measures to make something like homeschooling legal. We will have to see what happens in Germany. I have a feeling it will be a long battle though.
Alice: Isn’t it a problem to not receive a high school diploma (or do you get a certificate of sorts)? And isn’t it a problem for homeschoolers to enter the regular school system should they change their minds later on?
Corey: Since our kids are still young, we can’t be sure what the issues might be down the road. We do know that the local schools would welcome our children with open arms if we changed our minds – in part due to the financial benefits for the schools.
As for higher education, most universities in the United States are actually going out of their way to woo homeschoolers to their universities. Stanford University has stated it is because of the “intellectual vitality” which homeschoolers so often possess.
There are a many different ways to receive diplomas if parents decide they are necessary. In the Seattle area, high school students can attend the community college during their last two years. Once children are in the community college it is easier to move onto university, even without a high school diploma.
Alice: Do you plan on homeschooling your kids all the way through high school? Or is just through their primary school years?
Corey: We are planning on going the whole way. However, we are realistic about the fact that it is always hard to know what will happen down the road. Studies have shown that American students do above average academically until 4th grade and then they begin to decline. This is one reason why it would make academic sense for us to continue all the way. If down the road our children want to attend standard school, we would consider it as an option but only after a good amount of discussion.