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Welcome to the March 2012 edition of the " Face of Homeschooling ", where I have the honor of featuring one of the many faces w...

Interview with Debi Taylor-Hough from Charlotte Mason Home Education

February 29, 2012 Unknown 4 Comments

Welcome to the March 2012 edition of the "Face of Homeschooling", where I have the honor of featuring one of the many faces which makes up the grand mosaic of homeschool families. This month I am interviewing Deborah (Debi) from Charlotte Mason Home Education.

Q. When did you first learn of homeschooling and what was your impression of this concept?

A. I first heard about homeschooling in the early 1980's. I worked with a man whose family was homeschooling.  I'd never heard of the concept and my first knee-jerk response was, "Oh my gosh!  How horrible!"  I valued education so highly, that I thought it was bordering on serious negligence to not send kids to school.

Silly me. At the time, I was equating "school" with education. But I learned otherwise soon enough.
Q. Tell me a bit about why you decided to homeschool.

A. The story of my homeschooling co-worker and his family continued.  I grilled the poor guy almost non-stop whenever we had time at work just to chat.  Fortunately, he was calm and incredibly reasonable about all my questions.

Almost before I knew it, I had an "Ah ha!" moment and realized that one-on-one tutoring was the single best style of educating someone and that tutoring was essentially what homeschooled students would get everyday of their lives throughout their educational career.

With that one sudden flash of insight, I became a dyed-in-the-wool homeschool believer.  And this was before my husband and I even had children of our own!  It would be another four years before we even had our first baby.  I feel I can honestly say we've homeschooled from birth because we knew long before we even had kids that we would home educate and I started researching educational methods way back then.

family on a nature study
Even grown up kids like to take Nature Walks with their Mom!
Q. What method/approach do you use?

A. We've used a combination of Charlotte Mason's methods and unschooling.  I was inspired early on by the books Homeschooling for Excellence by the Colfax family (unschooling) and For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer MaCaulay (Charlotte Mason).

I've returned to college recently and in one of my classes, I wrote a research paper about which homeschooling methods are most effective, depending on what results you want to see in your children.  You can actually read my paper online at: 

Are All Homeschooling Methods Created Equal?

Q. Has this always been the approach you have used? If not, what were you doing previously and why did you switch?  
A. The only time I ever tried anything different was the very first year of Kindergarten for my oldest daughter.  I guess I was feeling insecure about teaching my own kids, so I purchased the complete Kindergarten package from Calvert School.  I felt it was the program that best fit with Charlotte Mason ideals at the time (there weren't a lot of curriculum options back then).  Much to my surprise, my daughter had already learned EVERYTHING in the entire Kindergarten curriculum already just through us living our lives naturally and educating organically.  Rather than feeling I'd wasted my money on that year's curriculum, I always felt it was the best money I ever spent on homeschooling because it bought me confidence in my abilities to teach my own.  Never bought another box of curriculum again.
family exploring tidepools
It's always a good day to find creatures in tidepools!

Q. What are the advantages and disadvantages, as you see them, with this method/approach as it applies to your family?
A.  Since I was already committed to home education when I first read For the Children's Sake (my introduction to Charlotte Mason), the book helped to cement my dreams and visions for our family, and gave me reassurance that I, as my children’s mother, could provide -- not just an adequate education -- but a rich and full educational experience for my children.

I remembered all too well the long hours spent idly during my own childhood sitting in school reading dry-as-dust textbooks, studying only to pass the test, learning to play the “game” of pleasing the teacher, and always feeling that there was so much more out there in life to learn about, ponder and experience.
I wanted so much more for my own children. I wanted them to feast their hearts, souls and minds on fine literature, awe-inspiring art, majestic music and great thoughts.

I wanted them to learn how to think—not just learn to pass a test. I wanted them to be prepared spiritually, intellectually, morally and academically to pursue wholeheartedly whatever passions in their hearts for the future, whether in the fields of medicine, art, missions, or even homemaking.

I can honestly say that my children have grown into thoughtful, strong, self-assured, ethical adults.  They're well-prepared for college.  Critical thinking is second nature to them.  They're not peer-dependent.  They've each been able to pursue their individual passions fully (social sciences, philosophy, art) which is something they probably wouldn't have had time for in a regular school setting or even in a more traditional textbook and heavy curriculum-based homeschool.

Q. What kinds of activities outside of your curriculum are your kids involved in and how did you determine what they would or wouldn’t do?
Over the years my children have been involved in both formal and informal cooperative types of groups and classes with other homeschoolers (science, history, Moms/Kids group at church).  They were involved with writing, editing and publishing a newsletter with a group of unschoolers from our community for several years.  We studied a number of short stories with some friends.  My kids (all three) took ballet.  There have been music lessons, a neighborhood 4-H Club, nature camps, Vacation Bible School, and the list goes on and on.

Who says homeschoolers aren't socialized?  Sometimes I felt I needed to guard against too much socializing!  ;-)

I usually would limit my kids to one activity of their own, so I wasn't driving all over town all the time.  I wanted to homeschool, not car school.  A lot of the outside things we did were things all the kids could be involved in at the same time.  For example, when my younger two were going to a local summer Camp, my oldest daughter and I volunteered as Camp Leaders.

Other than an official science/history co-op we did with four other families for a year, I never really liked using the local homeschooling cooperatives that were springing up.  I found that the other parents really didn't understand the direction I was going with my homeschooling.  They were just basically recreating a pretty traditional classroom setting for their kids (which was actually what I was trying to avoid through homeschooling).

I wasn't motivated to homeschool from a desire to shelter my kids like many of the other homeschooling parents I was meeting back then.  I was motivated mainly by educational and philosophical goals which sometimes put me at odds with the power-that-be in local homeschooling support groups. So I usually just ended up forming my own groups, usually pretty casual and easy-going groups, with other like-minded home educators.  I guess I've always been a bit of a rebel and willing to forge my own path and avoid going-with-the-crowd.

Q. What have you learned most about your children and about yourself during your homeschool journey?
I've learned that even though my kids all have the same biological and social background, they're each very much individuals, and I'm so glad they were home educated so that they were able to bloom into their full potential without someone trying to place them into an educational or social box that wouldn't have fit any of them.

I've also learned that I can trust my own instincts.  Sometimes I would find myself comparing my laid back, casual homeschooling style to some of my textbooks and full-blown curriculum friends and wonder if my kids were missing something.  But I kept reminding myself that it didn't matter what other people were doing.  What matter was what I was doing and if it was successfully working out with my children and our family.  I also noticed that many of my more traditionally homeschooling friends were burning out and sending their kids to school, even if they personally didn't believe in school.  I thought that was sad.  I never felt burnt out. 
Not only did my children develop a lifetime love of learning, I developed a lifetime love of teaching!

Family walking in park
City parks and nature walks ... 
pretty much the mainstay of our outdoor educational adventures.

Q. Do you plan to homeschool all the way through high school (or have you)? What do you think will be (or was) the biggest challenge of homeschooling high school students?
My two oldest children are both in college now and long finished with their official homeschooling years.  My oldest daughter is 25 and my son is 21.  My youngest just turned 17 and is about to finish up her high school years and begin taking classes at the local community college.

Probably the biggest challenge of homeschooling high school students is letting go of the fears of whether or not they're learning what they need to be learning.  With my first high school student, we used the fairly free-form version of Clonlara School's home study program.  They can work with any style of study (from textbooks to unschooling) and the child comes out of it all with an official high school diploma.  It was a great program and I highly recommend it, especially if you need an official diploma for some reason.  It's also a great option if you have family members who are concerned about your ability to homeschool your older kids.  Just being able to say my daughter was enrolled in a real school and that we were in contact with a "real" teacher seemed to set all the naysayers at ease.

Also, by using the Clonlara program with one child, it had a similar effect as buying that Calvert curriculum years before.  My confidence grew by leaps and bounds, and I also learned a lot about record keeping and what constitutes a solid high school education.  My other two will both be graduating from our homeschool without using Clonlara.  A testimony to my increased confidence as a teacher but also a testimony to the fact that five years ago I became essentially a single mom when my husband was diagnosed with a fatal degenerative brain disorder (Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia) and I had to survive on a super limited income after it became necessary for him to live separate from us.  No money for paying for a program like Clonlara anymore, but that's okay.  I'm glad I had it for the one student so that my confidence level was prepared for this next stage of life.

Family visiting pumpkin patch
You're never too old for a family trip to the pumpkin patch ... 
or for a ride in a wheelbarrow!

Q. What is your family situation (married, single, how many kids, working mom, etc) and how does this affect your homeschooling?
I've been married to my husband for 32 years, although he had to move out five years ago due to his progressive health problems.  I'm essentially the single (though still married) mom of two adults (25 and 21) and one high school student (17).  All three children still live at home in order to save money while they're in college.  I work as much as I can from home doing freelance writing and promoting my books and web-resources.  I also pick up hours as I can at local businesses.  I worked full-time through the holidays at the REI Call Center, for example.

While the kids were young, I was a stay-at-home mom.  Homeschooling was easy back then, but difficult, too, because money was super tight.  I learned to keep our homeschooling expenses as low as possible, and even ended up writing several books on living frugally as a result of our family's lean financial times.

After my husband's diagnoses and the subsequent loss of the majority of our family's income, I've never stopped the whole frugal thing. I found my kids were always willing to do odd jobs and find part-time work to provide for their own spending money -- which was probably an education in itself for them.  They have a great appreciation for the simple things in life, and never take for granted even the most normal blessings.

My oldest daughter works part-time and attends school so she helps with rent, etc.  She's majoring in Arts, Media, and Culture.  My son (middle child) has experienced some health problems the past couple of years,  which has slowed down his progress through college and working, but things are looking much better for him and his health now. Hooray!  He recently started studying radio broadcasting at the local community college, and is also recording some of his own music now. My high school daughter is the artist of the family. She thrives on drawing, singing, and acting.  She hopes to study Fine Arts at a local private college after completing her AA at the community college.

Q. Finish this sentence: Homeschooling is…
Homeschooling is the single greatest choice I've made in my life and has allowed my children (and me, too!) to grow and flourish, even in the midst of some incredibly difficult life challenges.

Deborah (Debi) Taylor-Hough has been homeschooling for nearly 25 years.  She's the editor of The Charlotte Mason Monthly eNewsletter and author of several popular books, including Frugal Living for Dummies®(Wiley) and the Frozen Assets cookbook series (SourceBooks).  You can visit Debi's homeschooling website at http://charlottemasonhome.com

*The views, beliefs and opinions expressed in interviews are those of the person being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect those of Michelle Cannon/The Holistic Homeschooler. 

Happy Homeschooling!


  1. Jan Berry3/01/2012

    Fantastic post - very inspiring!

  2.  I agree! I find Debi to be an inspiration as well!

  3. KristianaP3/01/2012

    Thanks, this is just what I needed to read.

  4. loved loved this interview! Thanks do for sharing :)


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