Meet Our Homeschooling Family

Some customers are just curious about the people who wrote the ARTistic Pursuits® Curriculum. Here we are!

I'm an artist and that had an effect on our homeschooling journey. I like to see things the way they really are. The misrepresentation of the size of the planets, as seen in books, bugged me. So I suggested to the kids that we make the planets and sun in correct proportions to each other. For visual appeal we needed the earth to be at least an inch in diameter. By the time we got to Saturn we were cutting every box in sight and gluing large pieces of cardboard together. The only surface large enough to hold the sun was our back yard, so we got out the tape measure and marked the circumference, which I then mowed and left for several days so the kids could see just how big it was. My original idea of displaying them from the ceiling hadn't lasted long! While reading about the Pilgrims it struck me that we should see how long it really took for the Mayflower to arrive in North America. So we drew and cut out a paper ship, launched it from a map of Europe at the top of the stairs and each day moved it forward about 4 inches. The kids thought it would never reach the map of America at the bottom of the stairs and I would remind them that this type of impatience must have been how the Pilgrims felt too and we would keep our ship sailing until it reached its goal. My third grade son and I drew a dinosaur full size with chalk on the side of our stucco house as part of a science study. Yes, we needed the big ladder. Who mows circles in the grass, tapes paper ships to the walls for months, and uses the side of the house for a canvas? A homeschool mom, of course!

I never dreamed of these things in 1989, a year before we began homeschooling. At that time I was trying to convince my son's first grade teacher that he was not reading, but guessing at the words. "But he's such a good boy. With parents as concerned as you, he'll do fine," she encouraged us. I was sure she was right, but could not see how I could help if he was in school during the best eight hours of the day and then required to do busy work for a full three hours after dinner on copies printed so poorly that I could not decipher them. I'd been a full time working mother during the first five years of his life and the year I'd spent with him at home, after the birth of my daughter and before he started school, was glorious. I watched a bright boy build castles from sand and entire cities from Legos. We read adventure stories like Treasure Island and Jurassic Park. Without knowing what would happen if I pulled him from school, I knew that I had to. That's how we started homeschooling. Two daughters, born five and eight years after my son were just raised into homeschooling. It became what our family did. Not only did my children learn more academically, but they had time to live the life a child should live - one of exploration. We started at 8:30 every day, dressed, fed, and ready to learn. We ended around 1:00 unless a subject had caught our interest in which we kept going until our appetites for learning were exhausted. In truth we may have been finished with our workbooks and reading texts at 1:00, but we kept on learning throughout the day and into the evening. The afternoons became free time to create in whatever medium and whatever ways they chose. Plays were performed, puppets made, sets built, drawings drawn. Bicycles, scooters, and skates came out. For many years we read chapter books before bedtime. Entire Series of books were consumed and discussed.  Sports teams were joined, dance classes taken, and you get the idea. Learning went on.

I felt that when my children were given time to create and the motivation to do so, they learned. It couldn't be tested or monitored and that upset those who felt that if success couldn't be measured, then progress wasn't really made. I did feel pressure to have my children perform academically. It's hard not to feel this pressure in a society  where four years of higher math and sciences become requirements for high school graduation while the arts are the first subjects to go when budgets get tight. I'm not opposed to academic learning, but I resisted extreme over emphasis of it to the point where our children are no longer living life, but drudgingly going to their rooms during family time to finish the work load. Human beings need relationship with others to be human and I did not want family time to be replaced with long hours of study and work alone. At times I felt that academic demands or a worse culprit, TV, had taken too much away from our relationships and that is when I made the adjustments needed to bring us back together. Mom, Dad, and both girls went through a video Algebra and Geometry courses together. Between the four of us, one usually understood the concept and was able to coach the others. We laughed at the "Aha!" moments and gave each other a break during the "duh" moments and it is one of those good memories for all of us.

Homeschoolers have great stories to tell because they have lived life with their children. I remember a few failed science experiments. I remember the wall that started with a successful paper or two and suddenly filled up with great writing and pictures and well, soon the room didn't have a bare wall in it. Older students made rock collections, which inspired the preschooler to bring in every rock she saw for observation, for months. I took interest in and admired each one she showed me.

When people I don't know ask about my kids, I imagine they want to know if my theories work. The ideas are not solely my own, but are lived out every day by creative homeschoolers. Thoughts on how children learn were written down by people like Charlotte Mason, living out homeschooling in 1892, Dr. Charles Gaitskell, who studied creativity and children's art and published his work in 1958, and many others. I tried to create an environment that was best for my children and found people writing about things I was observing with my children. My experiences as a child had allowed me time to explore the world around me. I went on to a private art college and was WOWED by all the creative energy. My husband and I pondered the idea of what it would have been like to be exposed to the ideas of creating as children. So we lived, breathed, and worked in the arts and our children grew up in an environment that allowed all types of creative activities. Our son plays guitar and writes music. Our middle daughter dances, sings, and graduated with a theatre degree. The youngest is currently in a culinary school. Let me say that creativity does not thrive in an atmosphere of performance to certain standards. Encouragement, acceptance, and open discussion of the creative effort is how children learn to become creative individuals.The values we hold as a family are being cemented into our children and I have to believe it makes a difference for the better. In my lifetime, the second half of the twentieth century, too many creative individuals got shut down by our schools' emphasis on the right answers only - not exploring an idea creatively, or perhaps by a teacher or family member. Many parents desire for their children to participate in the arts, but didn't have any training themselves and don't know where to start. I wrote ARTistic Pursuits hoping that it would fill that need. You will find that it is family oriented. Parents of young students read the lesson to them and look at the art with them. It is individualized - students make their own art out of their own interests. These aspects of the curriculum come from my deep belief in homeschooling as a wonderful method of learning academics, building family relationships, and birthing generations of creative, talented, and confident young men and women who go into the world and give something to others. 

- Homeschool Mom, Brenda Ellis. Photo taken in 2007. Article updated in 2014.

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