EPISODE 153| Why do you homeschool? There are any number of answers to that question and sometimes homeschooling comes before or after a bout with public school and at times homeschooling co-exists with public schooling. Does the idea of homeschooling feel daunting? Listen as Janna and her guest Katie Wolfe discuss Katie’s journey of homeschooling her son from pre-k to 12th grade and how she learned that just because you homeschool does not mean you do it all yourself! 

Read and listen to Part Two here.

As part of being our guest Katie is offering $5 off on her site Use code TWP5BSK.

 ABOUT OUR GUEST| Katie Wolfe is a former classroom teacher who will graduate her one and only kiddo from their Lone WOLFe Academy in 2024. She's a firm believer that homeschool moms don't need to actually "do it all"...they just need to find the right resources and then manage the process. This belief has allowed her to create and share hundreds of quality printable resources, travel the country with a renowned math teacher, and serve as chairperson on her local library board (in addition to homeschooling and doing her best to cook and clean too.) She lives with her little family, mini Aussie, bearded dragon, massively fluffy cat, and mixed terrier in the middle of Kansas.

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Podcast Transcript

Janna  00:3: Welcome to Homeschool Your Way I'm your host Janna Koch and BookShark’s Community Manager. In today's episode, I am joined by Katie Wolfe. She is the creator of the Wolf pack. Katie is a former teacher who turned homeschool mom to her only child, David. She's going to talk about the adventures that they've had over the years and how homeschooling through high school has been a joy for her and her son. Katie, thank you so much for being here.

Katie  01:02: Hi, thanks, Janna. I'm so glad to be here. So I have homeschooled David from the very beginning. The kid has never stepped foot in school. So we've gone from pre-K all the way to 12th grade. He's in 12th grade this year. So we are in our last year together.

Janna  01:17: I feel like we should all be clapping for you. Maybe throwing some confetti, just popping some champagne like you did it start to finish. And I'm sure there were bumps along the way. And we'll talk about some of those but accomplishing a task that you set out so many years ago.

Katie  01:38: Yes. And actually, it's funny you say that because when we started homeschooling like you mentioned, I taught in the classroom. So I taught first grade. So when I went into homeschooling my husband and I were both like, Okay, you got this because you know how to teach like primary, teach kids how to read how to write kind of thing. So I'm like, Yeah, so I went into it with all this enthusiasm and confidence. But somewhere, well, middle school, we were like, we're gonna reevaluate this year to year and see how we're doing and see if there's a need to send him to school kind of thing. And so we actually started taking it year by year. And, yeah, we're in our 12th grade now. So we just kept going. But we definitely had our eyes open to reassessing every year to see how we needed to adjust and if we needed to, like send them to school for part-time and things like that. So, but we have done it solid all the way through. So I'm still kind of surprised that we made it so.

Janna  02:33: But you are you have definitely in the years that I have known you and David, you definitely look like you're thriving, as you're homeschooling through these high school years. And so that's an encouragement to a homeschool mom like myself, who is just at the beginning of high school with my youngest. I did outsource my older two in high school. But we're we are taking a different approach with our youngest and so fingers crossed that will all work out as well as it has for you. 

Katie  03:00: Yeah, now we didn't outsource him like physically but we definitely outsource classes. So I am a really strong believer in outsourcing if you need to, or if you feel like you should, like math and science my son wants to go into like math or not math, he wants to go to a science field. And so I knew that we needed to be really serious about math and science when I got to middle school in high school. So we've outsourced that for years. I kept doing a lot of the other subjects but this year I have to say we're outsourcing pretty much everything and if it's not being outsourced, he's just doing it on his own because he, you know he is a senior so but I am a firm believer in homeschool gets to look like how you want it to look. If that's a blend of sending them you know keeping them at home and sending them part-time to school or keeping them at home and outsourcing you know online classes or doing it all yourself whatever works best for you and your family. And like you just said it'll change for you know, I have lots of customers I also work for Nicola the Math Lady, I'm throwing that out there to like, so I work with a lot of different families. And it looks different for all of the different kids that you have. So you can you know you to tailor it, how it works best for that particular kid if possible.

Janna  04:11: I feel like there is a common misconception that if you choose to homeschool, it has to look the same from beginning to end, or it has to look the same for each child. And as a mother of three. I know it has looked very different for each of my children in different phases of their education. Let's talk about focusing in on one and how that still applies.

Katie  04:35: It totally does. I will say it's definitely easier to have just one in the sense of being able to cater exactly, but every single year I would look at what his needs were, and what subjects he needed to be working on and I always tried to do like I've always been an eclectic so I've always just gathered a bunch of different curriculum to use and like I said outsourcing things. I also created, the reason I create content for others now is that I started creating content for David when I couldn't find something I wanted. So I've always been eclectic in that sense. Again, it's easy to do with one, but it's one of the wonderful benefits of homeschooling an only child because you can literally cater super specifically for every single year, every single subject. And you can reassess throughout the year and, you know, throw things out and start doing something new. It's a lot easier with one, I totally get that part of it. So, it's amazing that it has made it such a wonderful experience for him. Because he, you know, loves he gets to love the classes that he's taking and the subjects that he's doing. And of course, I still make him do things that he doesn't love, necessarily, but I can find the best approach for him to hit those subjects too. So, yeah.

Janna  05:51: Another unique situation that you and David have had is to be able to travel together throughout the school year, and work together in your job. So explain how you've been able to enhance his education while traveling the United States and going to homeschool conventions and promoting your employer. Right?

Katie  06:13: Yeah. So like Janna's talking about, I work for Nicole the Math Lady. And I go to all the conventions with her. And David has been going with me for two years now. And he started going with me, it was actually the series in Alaska because I didn't want to go by myself and Nicole couldn't go. So he went with me to like, just be with me. So I wasn't by myself, and kind of, you know, carry the heavy stuff and whatever he was such an immense help. But the thing that we learned on that first series of conventions is that the customers loved hearing from him, because he was he had used the product, Nicole the math lady, and he was homeschooled or he'd been homeschooled from the beginning. So it was phenomenal for parents to be like, Oh my gosh, especially brand new parents are like, you're like living proof that you can homeschool and you know, turn out great, because he really is a great kid. I'm like, that's been phenomenal as, as a mom to see him, it's been very rewarding, because I'm like, wow, look at him. But all the time we've spent together is out of this world. I can't even like I'm always talking to Janet, but like, I'm sad that he'll be going away next year because we just spend so much time together. And it's such a wonderful time together. But like watching him interact with customers watching him just like speak, and just volunteering information and sharing himself and his expertise on the subject. And it's been so good for him just like the public speaking and then getting to know other people because he is homeschooled. So you know, just not on purpose. But that shelters you know, just the amount of time you're outside the home, he is an only child. So that definitely makes for an interesting, more complicated social situation a little bit because you don't have built-in siblings, you don't have built-in competition or built-in, you know, different requests and stuff like that. It's like everything's about him. Um, so getting him out there into that variance has been really wonderful for him. But also, just like I said, it's been very, I can think of the word I want but like, not really, I mean rewarding, but the word I want is like, it's given me confirmation that we've done a good job with him just watching him with other people in that environment. So traveling to all these different states, we always try to go to like the zoo because he wants to go into animals. So we try to do something educational while we're there and just make memories in those different cities and stuff. And it's been phenomenal. And I love, love love seeing different homeschoolers and all these different states. And I know Janna you can speak to that to just seeing the homeschoolers across the country and how different we are and get how we all have the same goal in mind. It's just it's such a wonderful thing to see.

Janna  09:08: It is and the confirmation I think is very important, especially for new homeschooling families, and maybe for veteran homeschooling families, too. Because we are self-doubters, by nature. We are never confident if you find a homeschooling parent who is 100% confident and every choice that they've made for their child. I want to meet them and have them on the podcast because I need some of that I think we just naturally remember what we did wrong. We think about what didn't go well. And those are the things that I think as humans we tend to dwell on. Instead of the positives, my girls are so frustrated with me because I'm a picture taker. Wherever we are, whatever we're doing, whether whether it's whether it's my arm in every single photo frame because I Doing the selfie. Because I need to remember those things. I need to lay in bed at night and flip through those photos and go okay, especially after having like a blow-up with my eldest, and flip through those photos and go, Wait a second. No, I am a good mom, we have had good times, and there are things that we have enjoyed together. And maybe it wasn't the last 15 minutes. But I have proof, I have living proof. And I'm not talking about staged photos, right? Where everybody puts on their smile and matching dresses and is happy. I just mean like the goofy. Here we are. I like you. I'm the type of mom who wanted to experience alongside our book education. And so I was Hurry up, let's get through the curriculum, we use BookShark. And there's a lot of reading, which I love. All three of my teenage daughters are avid readers today because of it. But I also don't want to be caught up in someone else's story. I want my children to have their own story. And, that's been hard too, because when they were little, it was my story. They went where I wanted to go, they did the activities that I wanted to do. And now like you having 2/12 graders, my twins, and it's like, Wait, you're creating memories without me. And you're doing fun things that I wasn't invited to. This summer, my girls took our paddle boards and went to the lake more than I ever got to get out there. And part of me was happy because they were doing something like that with their friends. But the other part of me was grieving the fact that they were moving into independent adulthood. And I'm not always invited to those things. And I think we have to separate ourselves, from our children slowly and in a healthy way. And I think this is the age where we're starting to see this. But I do really encourage homeschool parents like, Yeah, you don't want to be on your phone. 24/7. But you definitely want to have those pictures to look back at and go. Yes, we did go to the zoo with Katy and David in Phoenix in the middle of July, and it was 119 degrees at 10 am. We have photos of that, right? Like, we cannot only say that, okay, this was educational. But as a mom, as parents, we can look back and go, Oh, that felt so good. When we laughed about that. Or when they thought how ridiculous we were that out-of-staters thought they would go to the zoo.

Katie  12:34: It was. Yeah, it's funny, you mentioned getting to the point where like, you're not involved in everything. Going back several years, I remember vividly. David like, saying something. And I was like, I haven't taught you that. I've taught you everything, you know, I thought you didn't mean like, if you're, if you're homeschooling you're responsible for everything that's going into them, you feel like, and I mean, you really aren't for the most part, right? And I was like, where did you learn that, like, I didn't get that to you. And I mean, obviously, that just expands and expands and expands every single year. And now he's somewhere along the line, we have switched to like he knows way more about certain subjects than I have ever known. And that just goes to show you that he, I mean, you know, our goal is for them to like develop this love of learning. And there are a lot of times where I felt like all we're doing is just like getting the work done. He always did what he was asked, and he did really well. But he was he was, you know, a typical boy of just, you know, certain ages of just like wanting to get it done. So we can move on and go play Legos or go play on the PS5 or go outside or whatever it was go play with his friend, just to get it done. And now he really has developed that love of learning. Now he doesn't want to learn everything. He wants to learn certain subjects. But it's really rewarding to see and like confirming to see. Wow, you know, he did there was like a switch. And I don't know, I don't know exactly when it happened. And like, he's not just doing it because he has to do it. He's doing it because he likes doing it. And he knows that it's a) it's good for him. But he also knows that he, I mean, enjoys doing it. And like we're looking at colleges now. And he is going through all this listening to his number. He has like these criteria that he's looking at, of course, and he's dismissing this one and that one because of this or that or whatever. And I want to say, Oh, we don't do that. And then like, you know, it's his I mean, obviously, we'll be there to help make the decision but like he's, you know, the locations really important to him. The environment is really important to him. What he wants to study like he's literally looking at the classes that that major would require and like I didn't not put that much effort I was choosing. So it just Yeah, it's so wonderful to see He, you know, going from teaching them to read, you know at four up to now and it's like, yeah, it's been a phenomenal journey and I would not trade it for the world. But it's not like we didn't, I made several mistakes. I mean, I could take three podcast hours to talk about the mistakes that we made. But what you do is you make a mistake, you learn from it, you know that there was something good that came out of that mistake, and you were you adjust and you make a change. And, you know, it's I mean, you do that, well, you do that with life period, and you get to do with homeschooling too. So yeah, it's been a wonderful journey.

Janna  15:37: Well, the idea of that failure is a first attempt and learning does not only apply to when our children are learning, we are learning right alongside of our children. Age to just be parents. I know I've said this before, but I had said to my eldest, I've not been a parent to a 17-year-old girl before. And she was very quick to point out that it was obvious that I had not, which, in a way cracks me up because it's like, okay, well, you've never been parented by anybody other than me. So please share your wisdom. But this idea that we have to wait until they're older, to start allowing them independence or interest-led learning is also a falsehood. I wish that I had started younger with my girls, allowing them to kind of lead me a little bit more in what was interesting to them and what they wanted to learn.

Katie  17:36: Yeah, I will say it again, that is, I mean, in defense of women, moms who have, you know, multiple kids like you, it's so much easier having an only to do things like this, but it's like, Yes, I totally believe in me, okay, they have to know how to do math, and they have to be able to read and they have to build, right, what they read and what they write about. You know, that's pretty open. There's nothing in my opinion that says you have to have read this, this this and this book, I mean, some classics, I think, are fabulous to read. But it's not like that's gonna make the person you know what I mean, I don't know, I let them read what they want to read. In the classroom, I read, like I said, I was taught first grade, and boys loved nonfiction way more than fiction. And it was just something as, as a beginning as a when it was first teaching. At first I was like, oh, but there's such great literature, blah, blah, blah, in my brain. And I'm like, why the goal is for them to read and to learn. And if they want to learn about spiders more than they want to learn about, you know, you know, some fairy tale. Let them you know, I mean, doesn't mean they can't learn the fairy tale too, but like, let them let them guide. And I think one of the reasons that David is so keen on finding the right place for college is because he knows what he wants, he doesn't know exactly what he wants to do, but he knows what field he wants to go into. So he has that completely narrowed down. And he will look at the list of classes and say, Oh, that'll be fun. I won't love that. But I know I have to do it, Oh, that'll be fabulous. I know, it's gonna be amazing or whatever. Because he has, like we have allowed him to guide a lot of his instruction over the years towards the sciences and the animals and wildlife and all of that. And so unlike he's done a zoo internship for four years now, that has been phenomenal, and flexibility with homeschooling, you get to do that. So they love him because he can come at, you know, different times of the year in different times of the day and stuff like that, as opposed to other interns. So yeah, interest lead, I think is really important. Doesn't mean you have to, you know, go hog wild on everything and ditch everything else. I mean, again, they have to learn certain things or they're not going to make it. But, you know, you can definitely cater and tailor to some of those interests. So I'm a firm believer in that too. 

Hmeschooling Pre-K through 12th Pt1Hmeschooling Pre-K through 12th Pt1

Janna  20:09: And some of those classics really won't make an impact until you want to read them. I did not read some of those classics until after college, even just a few years ago, I started going through a list and going, Oh, these are books that people say, are supposed to be very impactful, it took me about four tries to get into the Great Gatsby, if I had been forced to read that as a freshman in high school, it would I, I probably would have just tanked the class because I tried so hard several times. And it wasn't until I listened to the audio a couple of years ago, that I finally was able to go, Okay, I see now what they thought at the time when they, you know, put this on the list, like a lot of cultural references, time period, what was going on in society. Another example is Shakespeare. Shakespeare is not meant to be read I mean, this just blows my mind that we create all of these classes and curricula around Shakespeare to be read it was never meant to be read, it was meant to be observed to be watched. And it's not until now at my, you know, young age of mid-40s, that I'm starting to appreciate some of these things that go, okay. I don't have to be afraid, if my children don't read Shakespeare, if they have a love of learning like I have, they will seek it out later on in their life. And it may be more impactful. There are a lot of times when we talk to parents, at customers that BookShark, they get really worried because their child's not really enjoying this book. And it's like, roll it out. I mean, because what my child really enjoyed your child might not and there's enough literature in the curriculum that it's okay. You know, I say, Well, is there a movie, then watch the movie? And answer the questions as best you can, and then move on. Because different mediums are also very helpful in learning. And it just, I don't know, of course, it's all these years, right that we have behind us that we can go, oh, that doesn't matter. It's gonna be fine. You'll make up for it later. But I think that's part of the reason we have this podcast is to just really encourage parents that just, it's okay, if the goal is lifelong learning, then you cannot be so strict on some of the things that you felt were non-negotiable. Right?

Katie  22:43: And remember that, like, always go back to why you're homeschooling, the vast majority of people homeschool. I mean, there's always some differences, of course, but like, because they want to do it the way they want to do it. They want to be told how to do it, they feel like they know what's best for their child, or they just know that they know better for their child than the classroom. That's a lot of the reason behind it. And so like, I always laugh when people come to us, whether it's, you know, through my content creation, or like Nicola Math the Lady, and it's like, but I have to do it this way. And I'm like, if you have to do it that way, you might as well put them in school, but you don't like you get to own it. So you need to own it, if you want to create for them, what's best for them. And what's best for you. I mean, it can't just be all about them. It has to be what works for you, too. But you're in charge of that. And I'll tell you that's like, you know, a double-edged sword like, you're in charge of it. It's phenomenal. I love that. On the other hand, you're in charge of it. And so when you get to the end, you're like, oh my gosh, did I do at all? Or did I do enough or whatever? See, I mean, you have to be responsible for it. But you are in charge of it, you get to create that however you want it to look and how and again, reassess readjust after every year or during the year, but you are in charge of that nobody is telling you that you have to read this book. Now, obviously, you have to follow your state standards, your state regulations, you have to do that. But even if you buy a curriculum, you know, like BookShark, or you use a certain math like Saxon, yes, there's a lot of information about how that should be done. That was designed a certain way for certain reason. There's a lot of thought and expertise and years and years and years of education. You know, put into how that was designed. But still, you get to take that and tweak it if you want to throw that out. Bring this in. I mean you that is what you get to do as a homeschooler. But if you don't want to do that some things can tell you exactly how to do it. But again, if your kids not enjoying that book, I wouldn't I mean, I wouldn't fight that it's let that book go, bring in a different book.

Janna  24:56: I have found that when I have given myself Grace to let something go more than likely, we have actually circled back to it. And it ended up being one of our favorites, which is just ridiculous. But some days, it doesn't fit. And it's like, then let's just go outside. Let's go to the zoo today. Let's, I mean, these impromptu things that you can do. And I remember specifically, there was a book we were reading through, and we were having a hard time and I felt behind and I was like, close it moving on. Well, we came to our Winter break. And I said, Well, you know, we're not snowing out. We're not doing anything. Let's try to read this book ended up being a phenomenal book. And we were all like, wow, that was really good. Okay, let you know, if you think that these instruction manuals, right, like, they're the experts, they know. And, yes, they let us that they are, there's a lot that goes into them. And there is purpose behind all of it. And sometimes it's just circling back to it. If it's a struggle right now, it might not be a struggle next week, or in three weeks from now. And so just giving yourself the flexibility. I know that in my first year of homeschooling, I was completely inflexible. I was like, This is how we're going to do it. I had a certain idea in my mind. And if you were to ask my girls now, thankfully, they were young enough, it was new enough that they didn't feel like it was torture, they will tell you that we lost they lost a whole year of math. And I'm like, Yeah, I tend to just agree with my adversaries quickly. You're right. You did. But you turned out okay. And you know, I didn't I didn't necessarily or really ever score their writing. We had rubrics, I could look at it, I would read it, I would understand what they were trying to tell me I'd ask them some questions, but I wanted them to love what they were doing, and not feel like they could never get it right. And so when they went and started taking college classes, they did give me some, you know, feedback that it would have been nice, had I instructed them a little bit more. But in my defense, I said, You know what, I felt like that was better suited to somebody who you could receive it from without having hurt feelings at the same time. Because writing is very personal. Math is math, right? I mean, there is something about math that sometimes if you feel like you can't get the formula, right, something's wrong with you, right? Like, why can't I get this, writing can be so personal. And I refuse to wreck my relationship with my girls by trying to instruct them in their writing. And they ended up going into college writing as high schoolers. And they did just fine. And I just kind of the same path that I had had, when I went into college, I had to take a remedial writing class. And then after that, I was good to go. But those are the things that you have to know, as you're doing this, as you're on this journey. What's important, and for me, it was not taking a red pen, because I tried that. And then there were tears and then they never wanted to show me anything they wrote again.

Katie  28:10: Yeah, definitely pay attention to those things. For some families, they'll be you know, math that sets people off because, like, for me, when I was first teaching math, I was like, it just is two plus two is four. Don't ask me to explain it. I'm not gonna I mean, I mean, um, so for some people math, you really need help like to remove mom from math. Because I told you the writing thing to like David was the same way. And I started teaching, homeschooling him the way, I taught in the classroom and I was a phenomenal classroom teacher, I really was. But I quickly learned that I didn't need to kind of schedule and do everything the same way. I remember like, two things when he was really little. He liked to sit on top of his desk to do his work. And at first, I was like, I can't do that. And then I'm like, why? And I seriously spent many nights wondering, Is my kid ever going to be able to sit at a desk and do his work? Am I creating a monster? Okay, yeah, he doesn't sit on his desk and do his work anymore, you know, but when he was four, why not? I mean, it works. You can't do that in a classroom of 30 kids, obviously, but he could do it at home. It was perfectly fine. He did everything he needed to do, sitting on top of his desk.  

Janna  29:20: Turn in next week to hear the rest of Katie’s adventures with the Wolfpack.


Read and listen to Part Two here.