Kid Stuff

Lessons Close to Home

talking with local homeschoolers

Jenna Kulasiewicz, photos by Sarah Word |

As a teacher I have always tried to put my students’ interests first while developing my lesson plans. Even in great school districts like Eau Claire, curriculum always seems to be a hurdle. I am not suggesting that the curriculum is not age appropriate, standard based, or content driven. It is just that as overworked teachers with fuzzy minds help write the stuff, they tend to leave out one thing – student opinion. After conversations with home school teachers, Lisa Dettinger and Kjersten Hallin, I began to wonder about the education of my own family and the students of our community.

    Many people that I know have solidified their ideas of what home schooling is, and I believe that I may have some insight. After being invited to share in music lessons for our home schooling community I was surprised to find that numerous teachers are random professionals. I met nurses, pediatricians, scientists, professors, and certified art, music, and science teachers that that gave up careers to home school. For many, the ability to let family values drive their children’s educations is one of the strongest reasons for choosing to home school. In talking to Dettinger, she and her husband choose to home school their children for three reasons: “We want to ensure a Christian foundation, have the opportunity to tailor our children’s lessons based on their various learning styles and interests, and finally the pace; we enjoy the fact that when our children are showing an interest in a subject they are able to dive deeper into it rather than move on to keep up with a rigid curriculum’s schedule.”

    Home schooling looks different in every family and that might be the beauty of it. While in Hallin’s home it seems leisure and green. Their family enjoys building meaningful relationships with nature and each other. Dettinger has dedicated a room in their home for school. She glows as she speaks about the advantages of home schooling and the passion that she has for it.

    Both Dettinger and Hallin agree that the struggles they face seem insignificant in comparison to the joys that they inherit while working with their children. As Hallin admits to occasionally struggle to, “Find time for myself, alone and quiet.” Dettinger has discovered that meeting with the home schooling support group helps whenever she needs to, “Talk about troubles, plan field trips, and receive advice/tips from others.”

    Some may fear that home schooled children tend to live their lives in a bubble, however Dettinger shared that besides the academic standards that her three children live up to, they, and approximately 180 other home schooled students in our area, are heavily involved in extra-curricular activities. She laughed when she told me that, “Sometimes she thinks her kids get too much social time.” A slight case of envy struck when she spoke of the flexibility that their school schedule allows. “I am able to take my children to conventions, plays, debates, track-and-field days, and many other day trips with other families.” I became even greener when Hallin revealed that her family gets to, “Spend a lot of time exploring the natural world, working in the garden, growing food, getting fresh air, and exercising.”

After this experience I’ve realized that through home schooling parents/teachers are able to reach out to their children/students in ways that many public schools cannot. They are able to develop their lessons around the interests of the children and then mom it up when the moment calls. As I watched Dettinger working with her first grade son, Gabe, I was touched when he read an unfamiliar word and she praised him by giving a kiss to his beaming face. I left wowed at the wonderful balance struck between teaching and motherhood.