Kris Bales is a homeschool mom of three kids, author of the blog Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She’s also one of our super-duper guest contributors here!

Recently, I asked Kris if she’d be willing to do an interview about her homeschooling journey. She agreed, so now I’m stoked to present a glimpse into her perspective of homeschooling.

Kris BalesKris Bales is a homeschool mom of three kids, author of the blog Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She’s also one of our super-duper guest contributors here!

Recently, I asked Kris if she’d be willing to do an interview about her homeschooling journey. She agreed, so now I’m stoked to present a glimpse into her perspective of homeschooling.

Kris, tell me a bit about yourself and your kids.

I’m a sweet-tea-addicted Southern girl. I’ve lived within a 20 mile radius of my birthplace my entire life. Online friends are often surprised to find that I’m short. Maybe I sound tall in writing. And, I have an accent, but given the fact that I’ve lived in the South my entire life, I’m sure that’s not surprising.

I have three kids. We just graduated our oldest, Brianna (19) this past May. She’s the family artist. She loves anime and cosplay. Right now she’s working part time and will be attending cosmetology school this fall. She dreams of doing movie make-up some day.

Josh is 14 and the resident musician. He plays drums and is an excellent guitarist. He’s always been musically gifted, but seems to have found his passion in guitar – and X-Box. He definitely has a passion for X-Box, too. He will be in 9th grade this year, as we embark on High School, Round 2.

My baby is Megan, who will be 13 in just a few weeks, but not soon enough to suit her. She loves gymnastics and regularly uses the living room as her practice gym. She also loves to write and has about a dozen novels in progress. She’s my social butterfly and has gone on every outing offered by our church this summer – camp, rafting, and a local mission trip. Lately she’s gotten into painting, so dozens of masterpieces can be found around the house at any given time.

What moved you and your husband to the decision to homeschool?

My oldest – who is most likely dyslexic, but has never been formally diagnosed – really struggled with reading in first grade. The school’s solution was to send her on to second grade where she would “probably catch up by the end of the year.”

When I wondered aloud how she was going to catch up if what had been happening wasn’t working, they then suggested that they could let her repeat first grade because, “she’ll be a leader in the class.”

They didn’t have any answers for my questions about how being held back was going to affect her self-esteem or how she was going to avoid being bored out of her mind repeating all the subjects with which she didn’t struggle (basically everything that didn’t involve reading or spelling), so we decided to give Option C a try: homeschooling.

It began as a trial run, but it took less than 3 months for us to realize that homeschooling was the perfect fit for our family. Brianna thrived in the one-on-one learning environment – and was reading on grade level by the end of that first year.

What made you choose the homeschooling approach you did, and how do you think it’s especially helped your children?

We are very eclectic in both our approach and our resources. I think that’s been very helpful to my kids because we’ve been able to tailor their educations to their needs. We don’t get boxed into a certain style or specific curriculum choices. We use what works for each of them, so their learning is very personalized.

Any challenges or high points you’d like to share about your journey?

I guess the biggest challenge was dealing with Josh’s much more pronounced – and officially diagnosed – dyslexia. Having walked that road with Brianna, I really kept thinking that eventually we’d find the thing that clicked for him.

Finally, in 2012, we discovered Lexercise, an online dyslexia therapy program. On the flip side of Josh’s dyslexia being the biggest challenge, watching him go through the Lexercise program and learn how to overcome his reading struggles was one of the biggest high points of our journey. I couldn’t be happier with his success.

I love that, because we homeschool, my two dyslexics never had to deal with the stigma of struggling with reading. We were able to take the spotlight off this area of struggle and give them room to succeed in other areas. We dealt with the struggle, but we didn’t have to let it become the thing that defined either of them.

What’s the most unique experience you and your children have gotten to have in your homeschooling journey?

I can’t think of a single, unique experience that was the direct result of homeschooling, though there probably have been some. What comes to mind, instead, is just a mosaic of happy memories – extra time spent together as a family, meaningful conversations that resulted due to that time, friendships, vacations (taken during the off season!), field trips, and being together for all those little a-ha moments.

Homeschooling has its ups and downs and is far from the rainbows and unicorns of my daydreams, but I wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything.

Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers is your blog. Why the name, and what inspires you to write?

I’ve got a sarcastic sense of humor. The stereotypical homeschooler is that weird, unsocialized kid, but the vast majority of homeschooled kids I know are anything but weird and unsocialized. The name mocks the stereotype.

My kids inspire me to write – the things we do together, our experiences – and all those homeschooling families who need to know that they’re not alone. I love sharing practical tips and resources that we’ve enjoyed. I love making people laugh and being real with them about the joys and trials of homeschooling, and I love the sense of community in the online homeschool blogging world.

What’s an area that, from your perspective, is a challenge for the homeschool community — either something right now or that will be soon?

It’s such a great time for homeschooling families right now. Homeschooling has become much more mainstream, so there is much less resistance than pioneers faced in its infancy. There are so many opportunities for homeschooled kids; there is an amazing array of curriculum choices; and homeschoolers, as a whole, are facing far fewer hurdles when it comes to secondary schooling choices after graduation.

With so much freedom and greater acceptance, homeschooling families need to be careful not to become complacent. We need to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the sacrifices made and the battles won by those who went before us. We need to be aware of threats to our homeschooling freedoms and actively work to ensure that we don’t allow those threats to become restrictive laws and regulations that negatively impact those who will follow us.

What are a couple or three tidbits of advice you would share with a homeschool mom who’s overwhelmed, thinking of starting the next school year?

The one thing that has saved my sanity and turned our homeschool around was going to a more year round schedule. We do six weeks on/one week off and we take six weeks off in the summer and another six weeks off between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

It took some convincing with the kids at first, but now we all love it. Sometimes there’s a little grumbling when it’s time to go back to school in July, but we all agree that having a week off at the end of each six weeks is completely worth the sacrifice of a shorter summer.

Second, don’t feel as though you have to jump into everything at once. We start with a core schedule for the first few weeks, then, add in other subjects as we readjust to the routine and schedule of the school year.

Finally, don’t feel like you have to teach everything. There will always be new discoveries and concepts to explore. Every education has gaps. You can’t teach everything. Teach your kids how to learn; the what is much more subjective than what we pressure ourselves to believe.


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