Interview with Angel Thompson

Angel ThompsonAge: 36
Ages of Children: 12, 9, 5, 3
Location: Wisconsin

1. Why and when did you decide to homeschool your children?

Hmm, now that I think about it, there was never a light-bulb moment when I thought, “Ya know what? I’m gonna homeschool my kids.” For me, homeschooling was sorta spontaneous. It all started way back when… (Don’t worry, I’ll make a long story short.)

According to developmental milestone charts, my firstborn was a late talker. When other toddlers were yapping their parents’ ears off, he was having difficulty forming one-syllable words.

But I realized he had a high level of understanding. His speech just hadn’t yet caught up with his intellect. Instead of rushing him off to therapy and accepting that something was “wrong”, I decided to give him the chance to develop without pressure and intervention – in a nurturing and ridicule-free environment. (After all, Einstein didn’t talk until he was 4!)

I truly believed in my child’s capabilities, so I continued to read to him, introducing him to new topics and vocabulary. Before I knew it, we were having full-fledge preschool!

When my son finally started talking, it was like a geyser of stored knowledge and vocabulary erupting from his mouth. I could tell that he had understood and retained the information from our one-on-one learning sessions. It was so captivating to hear him talk that even passersby would stop and listen.

That entire situation made me realize the significance of being taught by someone who totally believes in you.

I kept teaching him, and he kept soaking it up. I didn’t know much about homeschooling at the time. I just knew that I was doing what seemed right for my child.

Today my son is 12-years-old, still homeschooled, and still talking. And, boy, can he talk! His voice is music to my ears.

IMG_9751(He’s standing on a step in in this photo. He’s not taller than me yet. 🙂 )

2. Did any of your children ever attend a traditional school? If no, have they ever expressed a desire to attend school outside of the home?

No to both questions. Since my children have always been educated at home, they see homeschooling as a way of life, our family culture and a major component of our family bond.

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bondThe only reference to attending traditional school ever made by one of my children was when my 9-year-old said that he is never going to another school. (And of course, he didn’t mean college.)

IMG_97603. What qualifies you to teach your children? What’s your level of education?

Wait a minute, are you trying to pick a fight?! It’s okay, I’ll answer anyway:

Besides meeting my state’s legal requirements for homeschooling and having sufficient understanding of core subjects, what qualifies me to teach my children is that I am aware of their academic needs and interests. I have their best interests at heart. And every single day, I passionately strive to help them cultivate those interests.

But I’m pretty sure that’s not what you wanted to hear, so here’s what you really want to know: I have a bachelor’s degree in business management.

However, I must note that “having a degree” doesn’t make my list for qualifying someone to educate their children at home. (Most days I forget I have a degree.) It’s the aforementioned that truly qualifies.

4. How do you handle teaching lessons that you may not know much about yourself?

In all seriousness, those become the best lessons. I enjoy learning alongside my children. When I don’t know something, I research, plan, and execute – just like I would expect any instructor to do.

5. How do you manage teaching four children at four different grade levels?

Let’s see…The best way to explain this is by providing an example: Last year, we studied human body cells (including blood cells and blood components). My 5-year-old learned that her body is made of tiny units called cells. My big boys went a step farther and learned about cell division.

But I didn’t put restrictions on what my 5-year-old could learn. She voluntarily joined in and made meiosis and mitosis diagrams, too.

IMG_9050Also, I like to assign group projects after each lesson. This helps with retention. When the entire cells unit was over, they all challenged each other to see who could make a liquid substance that most resembled blood.

bloodprojectThe benefits of teaching children at different levels are: (1) younger students are exposed to a wider range of information, and (2) when younger students learn new lessons, the information is recalled and reinforced in the memory of older students.

6. What’s the downside of homeschooling?

Every homeschool is unique. No two are exactly the same, just as no two traditional schools are the same. To specify a downside is to make a generalization. For instance, let’s say there’s a group of homeschools lacking organization. That doesn’t mean “lack of organization” is a downside of homeschooling. Many homeschools are well organized. So it’s not fair to put everybody in the same boat.

Don’t get me wrong, homeschools (just like all schools) are led by humans, so each has its own imperfections. Our homeschool isn’t perfect. But I chose to focus on progression rather than perfection.

7. What’s your favorite subject to teach?

I enjoy teaching them all, but reading has a special place in my heart. Reading is the foundation of independent learning. Teach people to read and there will be no limit to what they can teach themselves. (Wow, that’s a good quote, if I must say so myself!) Every subject requires reading. Every subject has been explained with words, even math.

8. Is there an area of your home designated for homeschooling?

We have a school station, not an entire room solely for school. A lot of learning takes place at the kitchen table. And magic happens on the sofa. The sofa is where my children learn to read, where book discussions take place, and where they read to each other.

image-readingWith that said, I hope my children won’t limit learning to a specific place or time. Learning is everywhere, all the time.

9. Are you the sole teacher of your children? Does your spouse help out with teaching?

I’m the one who teaches school subjects. My husband trusts me to “do my thing”. (Yeah, I’m blushing.) Still, I like to say that he’s a teacher, too. The lessons he teaches are priceless. While I’m teaching algebra, he’s teaching “Life Lessons 101”. 🙂 He’s guiding our sons to become God-fearing, respectable men, showing our daughter how a man should treat her, and teaching them all about diligence and perseverance. But he’s not just a teacher, he’s a living example. This past May, our children were able to witness their father earn his doctorate degree.

DT-PhDimage-graduation

10. What do you like most about homeschooling?

In addition to providing an environment in which education and faith in God go hand in hand, I like being able to know my students well enough to give them a tailored education. For instance, if we’re studying another country, I know that my 9-year-old would be most interested in the architecture, infrastructure, and transportation of the area. I know that my 12-year-old would be most interested in the food and culture, wildlife, and sports. And my 5-year-old…well, she’d be interested in how the girls dress and style their hair. I can grab their attention by having them focus on their areas of interests first. Then we could focus on how their areas of interests are related to the other topics, such as history and government.

I also enjoy the flexibility. Just this week, I had our social studies lesson planned and ready to go. Then my 12-year-old asked why Iowa is so important to presidential elections. So I changed our lesson and we studied caucuses instead.

Additionally, flexibility allows us to study a lesson longer if someone didn’t fully grasp it. And, of course, having flexibility means that if I need a break and want to make it a “field trip day”, I can.

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IMG_8174fieldtrip11. Describe your homeschool in three words.

Loud, at times. (C’mon, what do you expect? I have two little ones.)

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12. What’s your proudest homeschool moment?

Good question. But there’s not one particular moment that makes me proud, just a type of moment. I am most proud of my children when they display a love for learning.

But since you asked, I’ll give you two recent examples:

Just the other day, my 5-year-old asked, “Mom, where are dollars made?” I answered, “The U.S. Mint.” Then my 12-year-old corrected me by saying, “No, the U.S. Mint only makes coins.”

I had never taught him that. (Obviously) But he learned it through independent reading.

Another example is when my children explored sand this week and put it under the microscope. They found joy in learning about something that many people take for granted.

IMG_1704IMG_1950Moments like these make me proud.

13. What would you say to someone who may be contemplating homeschooling?

My advice is for the person on a budget: Don’t let the cost of expensive curricula overwhelm you. I keep my yearly budget low by utilizing resources from our public library system. With organization and planning, you can design a curriculum at a low cost. My library card is like money in my pocket. I don’t leave home without it. (Sorry, American Express. No pun intended.)

14. What do you wish you would have known before starting your homeschool?

Oh how I wish a veteran homeschool educator would have told me not to let my children write in workbooks! Aargh! (Pulling my hair) I could have saved so much money by having my children write answers in notebooks and then passing down workbooks.

15. What’s your goal as a home-educator?

I have a long list of goals, but one of my long-term goals is to teach my children to teach themselves. (Sounds weird, I know. But stay with me, I’ll explain)

Ponder this quote by Rebecca Rupp, Home Learning Year by Year: “A major aim of a good educator is to ensure that the teacher becomes obsolete.”

I want my children to develop into life-long learners with a love and thirst for gaining knowledge. In due time, they won’t rely on me. They’ll have the know-how and desire to seek knowledge for themselves.

16. How can we connect with you?

Send me an email message: angel@homeschoolstrong.com

Who’s next? To share your homeschool experience click here.
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Comments

  1. I love the photos! So lovely to see your family. Once again, we think so much alike. Thanks for the glimpse into your homeschool.

    • Angel Thompson Angel Thompson says:

      “We think so much alike.” : Coming from a veteran homeschool educator who has graduated students, that’s a nice compliment. Thanks, Karen!

  2. Nona Sterling Honore says:

    Angel, I am a good friend (and a club member) of your Mother In Law, Breeda.. I enjoyed reading your story. You teach with joy and bring your subject(s) to life! Your God given talent is phenomenal! God Bless You and your beautiful family.

  3. I enjoyed reading this, Angel! Your post made me smile and reminded me of all the things I love about homeschooling.

    The pictures are awesome!

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