A photo of Jennifer Vail

Jennifer Vail

Jennifer Vail proudly lives in the great state of Texas with her very handsome husband and three very funny children. All three kids are educated in three very different ways according to their very different needs, which is exhausting but fulfilling. Jen's hobbies include naps, 90's pop culture, Netflix binges, buying books with the best of intentions to read them all, photography, and extroverting. She holds a degree in counseling but has found her calling by writing for and spending time with families of differently-wired, outlier kids—the square pegs of the round world.

She stays up way too late and drinks way too much caffeine, but has no intention of changing either. She is the community manager and contributing author at Raising Lifelong Learners where she writes about homeschooling gifted, anxious, and otherwise different kiddos, but also rambles at This Undeserved Life from time to time. She feels compelled to mention that she still very much loves the Backstreet Boys and rarely folds her laundry.

How to Homeschool While Your Partner Works from Home

a dad works on a laptop as a child looks on

Whether he’s just taking a vacation day to catch up on a house project or has a random day off from work, I love having my husband home. Don’t even get me started on that wonderful family cocoon we cuddle up in during the slow and confusing time between Christmas and New Year’s. Having my husband home in the middle of the day is a treat equivalent to when I’d be on a field trip and realize that I’d normally be in math class, but was watching a show or taking in zoo animals. It’s out of the norm and always a surprise.

Well, it was.

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How BookShark Helps Me Homeschool Even with a Chronic Illness

a stack of readers and read-alouds sits by a window

“Oh, I could never homeschool!” I hear that a lot, as most homeschool parents do. When given a few moments of thought, it’s usually the reaction of most people. They imagine the time they’d be giving up, maybe a job they’d have to leave. Insecurity strikes, and we suddenly feel like we don’t know enough to ever have graduated high school, let alone teach our children.

Time and patience and finances—homeschooling can certainly require a lot of us as parents. Those requirements, though, can feel downright impossible as a parent with a chronic illness.

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Shaking Off the Shoulds of Public School

a black backpack hangs from an open school locker

It used to be that the first question I’d get after someone found out I homeschooled was, “What curriculum do you use?” It’s probably the only thing most people know to ask that doesn’t come across as judgmental. Heck, I asked it back before I signed my son out of public school for good.

Over the last year, though, the questions have shifted. What used to be polite queries have turned into interested, informed, almost intense interrogations about how they could possibly homeschool, as well.

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4 Ways to Handle Duplicate Books From Your BookShark Curriculum

BookShark novels fill the top rack of a metal cart

My kids consume books like air, and there are entire homeschool days when we get so lost in a story that we forget to do math. If you’re considering buying any of BookShark’s literature-based programs, then I’m sure you can relate. There is just nothing that beats the feeling of being swept up in words, and my kids respond really well to the time spent cuddled up together, lost in historical fiction.

BookShark, naturally, is a perfect fit for voracious and eager readers. Sometimes, though, an issue arises with my order that I know other readers can relate to: We already have some of the books included in the curriculum package.

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3 Things Homeschoolers Need to Unlearn

3 Things Homeschoolers Need to UnlearnHomeschooling has been on the rise in the last few decades due firstly to the flexibility and freedom it provides and then lately because of a worldwide pandemic. Changing the setting of instruction from classroom to kitchen table doesn’t always change the methods of learning though.

Whether due to societal pressures, status quo, insecurities, exhaustion, or just being unaware, there are still many obstacles to true freedom in homeschooling. These obstacles aren't the legal kind, the financial aspect, or even the question of who is qualified to teach their own children. (Spoiler: Everyone is qualified.) The obstacles that cause the most stumbles for homeschoolers are commonly centered on what homeschool parents need to unlearn.

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Why Literature-Based Schooling Is Perfect During Uncertain Times

Why Literature-Based Schooling Is Perfect During Uncertain TimesWith all that has changed around the world this year, one of the most obviously impacted areas has been schooling. Entire campuses closed with no notice. Co-ops were cancelled. Desks were placed yards apart, screens became instructors, and education became a series of boxes to check rather than an enriching experience.

Whether you’ve always homeschooled or find yourself at the beginning of your home education journey, it’s impossible not to have been affected by the current state of the world. Times are uncertain, and we find ourselves craving, needing, something solid we can cling to, look to, and depend upon.

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Yes, I’m a Packrat. And I Hoard Books for Homeschooling.

Yes, I’m a Packrat. And I Hoard Books for HomeschoolingThere has been a large movement taking place over the last several months, one that promises to improve your life, simplify things, and keep you from being overwhelmed. Your house will take less time to clean, your outfits will take less time to plan, and your life won’t be cluttered with what is unnecessary. Free yourselves from the guilt of having too much, we’re told. You don’t need as much as you think and you can absolutely be content with so much less.

This movement has a name—minimalism—and even the newest decor trends have embraced the impact of less.

I am not a minimalist. In fact, I’ve been identified by many as the total opposite. I am a packrat.

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3 Ways BookShark Sets the Stage for Accurate Homeschool History

3 Ways BookShark Sets the Stage for Accurate Homeschool HistoryHistory has been my favorite subject for as long as I can remember. I used to fall asleep every night watching History Channel documentaries when I was in high school, and I still read biographies just for the fun of it. Maybe it’s just because I’m nosy, but I can never get enough history. Fortunately there’s never a lack of it to devour!

Imagine my delight when my homeschooled kiddo showed the same interest and enjoyment in history. He couldn’t get enough, and I quickly found that the homeschool history textbooks available were not only insufficient to satiate his thirst for knowledge. They were also sadly, wildly, and infuriatingly inaccurate.

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Now is the Perfect Time to Try Year-round Homeschooling

a planner page sits beside a collection of colored pencils

Now is the Perfect Time to Try Year-round HomeschoolingWe are living in unprecedented times, about halfway through a year that will likely have its own chapter in future history books. Everything has been disrupted, from meat production and toilet paper availability to gas prices. Images we never thought we’d see have become daily observations. Even those living the most flexible lifestyles have found themselves out of sorts, out of routine, out of control, and that includes homeschoolers.

At first, when the nation’s public schooled children were sent home to learn, we homeschoolers felt like champions. We offered our help, our wisdom, and our experience. We knew this lifestyle and felt prepared to face whatever was to come because we’d been home all along. We were fine.

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Not Knowing the Answer Makes Me a Better Homeschool Parent

I hear this objection a lot: “I could never homeschool, I’m too bad at (insert any subject here)!” And I admit that in the beginning, I had this concern, too.

Accepting the sole responsibility for your child’s education is a heavy weight, yet there is a misunderstanding that we homeschool parents have to have it all figured out before we sit down with our first math manipulatives. We feel underqualified and insecure about the limitations of our own knowledge. We may feel sheepish about how often we zoned out during our own education or crammed for tests instead of truly absorbing the material. We think we can’t homeschool—or at least can’t do it well—because we don’t know everything.

But that seeming lack is precisely what makes us ideal as homeschoolers.

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