Category Archives: Homeschooling

Technology On The Homestead… Say It Isn’t So!

Bringing some new web technology projects to the homestead can be an exciting endeavor. Come walk with me, talk with me, and tell me if I’m a little crazy…

Here we were, swimming along quite happily with no TV other than the DVDs we own and no internet other than the occasional usage when we tether our iPhones for school projects, research and an “I must Google this” moment when suddenly I took a Master’s course class titled “Powerful Technological Applications for the Active Learning Environment.” When one takes a class titled such as this you can pretty much count on a few classmates raising an eyebrow when you describe your “homesteading” lifestyle and homeschool type of environment.

We have had weekly projects and discussions encompassing a ton of different technological tools one could utilize in the “classroom.” Now brace yourself… There’s a bunch that I actually like! I know, me, the lady who has a couple degrees in the technology career field but refuses to utilize them much beyond my blog, Google searches, and Facebook. I blame my husband… he’s so gifted in the technology department he’s allowed me to become completely lazy and disconnected in this aspect of my life.

Seriously, when my husband is teaching our sons coding, game and server design, and networking should I really jump in and try to strut any of my stuff… *sigh*… no, it would be useless and they would gravitate to their dad every time. Don’t get me wrong, I love this… it gives me more time to go out and brush my horses, play with my goats, and play fetch with my dogs.

But guess what… I now have some new tricks up my sleeve. Better yet… these tricks have caught the attention of my sons without me even purposely “deploying “ them (the tricks I mean, I have no plan on deploying my sons anytime soon). I simply do my homework, my sons hear YouTube videos, catchy song clips, and my oohs and aahs as I create my weekly projects and they naturally gravitate to me like bees to honey. They can’t help themselves. The lack of constant streaming internet makes even the nerdiest songs and videos objects of their attention. Here’s an especially good one that they were humming for several days (as was I)… and then there’s the Spanish alphabet song with a bit of a militant undertone… .

So what am I getting at? Well, I’ve found a couple things through this class that are actually quite creative, easily understood, and utilize some great technology and learning tools beautifully together.

First, there’s Animoto. Animoto is a cloud-based video creation service that produces video from photos, video clips, and music into video slideshows. Most of the free ones are short and the website and program is quite easy to work with. I have made a couple and my boys are just getting into it. The only issue we have come across is that it takes up quite a bit of our data (when tethering our iPhones at home for internet) so we choose to do this when we are someplace using our laptops and the WiFi (library, coffee shop, etc.). My boys are working on making a “monthly video” each month for family that lives far away and don’t get to visit often. You can build your own Animoto videos/movies here…

Another tool that I have come across in my class is a Glog. No, I didn’t spell Blog wrong… there is such a thing as a Glog. According to their site, a Glog is defined as, “Canvas freedom allows expression to take over: mix text, audio, video, images, graphics and more from your files, our pre-designed graphics, or around the web using the inbuilt Web picker browser, yielding high-impact content with simple elegance” (Glogster, 2014, para.1). It is a lot like a poster about whatever you want to make it about. My boys especially liked playing around with Glogster because they could do it here at home (minimal data usage) and about whatever subject they would like. Guinea pigs… sure. Fence building… yup, why not. Assassin Creed video game series… yup, they did one on that. It’s one of these “They don’t realize they are learning” kind of things. Want to check it out and build your own? Go to .

Last but not least for right now, there’s Webquest. This was a new one to me up until about two weeks ago. I jumped right in for a project and was able to navigate quite easily and it reminded me of putting several Glogs together to form a complete lesson plan with an overview, tasks, assessment, and notes. I fell in love with this tool and think my sons and I could easily create several lessons for our own use and that of others! Want to create your own Webquest? Do it free here… .

The great thing about all of these tools is that you can publish yours if you would like and also view the work others have done. There are some really talented people out there who have a gift of making learning very fun and interesting using technology.

Oh and guess what, this was an assignment J We had to create a blog/website and a blog entry about resources (technology based) we either are using or would like to use in our education environment (in my case our homeschool). Thank you all for reading my homework J

This is how we roll…

I’ve had quite a few questions lately about “how” we school. Here goes…

The list of what I DON’T like to chat about so insanely short so it’s no surprise that when someone brings up education, animals, hobby farming, soap making, woodworking, parenting, fun fruits, underwater basket weaving… ummmm seriously the list could go on FOREVER… the point being that I like to chat to both learn from others, learn with others, and teach others. That premise is the foundation for every aspect of our schooling here at The Shepherd Hobby Farm.

The key is this: Learning never ends. It is not confined to a classroom, the kitchen table, or the library. It is a neverending and infinite amount of knowledge at your fingertips as you live your days and nights. Kids can learn something from everything! heck, everyone can learn something from everything!

If you would like to “label” our homeschool style it would closest resemble “eclectic unschooling.”

We started this homeschooling journey in 2010 and did the whole “classroom at home” type schooling to begin with. Strict schedule with a 6th grader and a 1st grader made our school day go from 0730 to 1400 with lunch at exactly 1115. Everything was structured, curriculum was in place (in the beginning my husband and I pieced it all together from various resources), and I was the type of teacher who wouldn’t accept work if it was sloppy or lazily done. Over the years we relaxed a bit as our kids started catching on to things rather quickly and their work ethic began to develop way beyond “doing just the minimum to get by.”

I started getting frustrated with watching my boys learn about things in the “curriculum” (we have settled on Alpha Omega LifePacs for many of our years and really like them) and when something lit their curisoity beyond the subject at hand feeling like we coudln’t chase the rabbit trail because we had to stay on task with the curriculum.

This last year we tried something new. We bought their curriculums from Alpha Omega as usual but math is the only thing we stuck to as far as “by the book”. We also did plenty of math in real life situations but the curriculum was our foundation.

For science we enjoyed exploring every question and experiment that popped into our heads and would go through the Alpha Omega curriculum and work with the material that interested the boys. I found that when left to their own discovery they willingly opened up the curriculum while at the same time exploring the world around them. Microscopes were a huge love of our 10 year old son this year so we spent many days and nights exploring microscopes and doing experiments involving the micrscope. Thank you to my amazing husband for the endless finger pricks and blood samples so we could play “forensic pathologist.”

Last year our 15 year old son took a composition class through a great friend of the family (she teaches many homeschool kids) and he’ll be taking it again this year. Our 10 year old will also be taking a composition class with her. This is what distinguishes us from some other unschoolers. We do still mandate that our sons do a couple things in the educational realm that they aren’t necessarily huge fans of. They both would rather not take the composition class (there’s h…o…m…e…w…o…r…k **GASP**) but it is good for someone other than mom and dad to set their eyes on our boys’ writing. I mean seriously… you all see how I love my run on sentences and complete and utter disregard for ending sentences with prepositions. Should I really be the only one teaching my boys how to write? I think not. Besides, their composition teacher actually makes things quite fun, though it’s like pulling teeth to get either boy to admit it.

We take time at every opportunity to learn. The boys have taught me just as much, if not more, than I have taught them. They LOVE being the experts in things and sharing their knowledge with their parents. For this they research and research some more. We greet their knowledge with excitement and listening ears. We want to know what they know and this makes them want to know more… it’s a weird and really cool cycle!

Our oldest son is a history lover like his father and can whittle away entire days on end with history documentaries and books. Our youngest is currently into rock samples and Minecraft. We only use our TVs for DVDs/Blu Rays and video games so the boys aren’t wasting away in front of endless hours of mindless programs. There are a few TV shows that we like such as The Andy Griffith Show, A Team, Dirty Jobs, Duck Dynasty, and Star Trek so we get those on DVD and often watch them as a family. Honestly, there’s A LOT you can learn with Dirty Jobs! These shows tend to get our curiosity stirred and lead to further research on all sorts of subjects.

So today, what happened today? Was it a school day? Yup. What did the boys learn? Well… this is how we rolled…

0730 Oldest son (15) is up WAY before usual becuase he is excited about going to the Sonrise Coffee Shop to download a new computer game that his dad purchased for him (we only have internet at home through the limited tethering for our iPhones). I ask him to wake up his brother (a job that is quite challenging as our youngest son thinks 1000 is “up early”).

0800 Client picks up her dog that we have been boarding for the past 9 days and I ask our youngest son to count the money and figure out how much she paid me “per day” of boarding her dog. I leave him to his calculating to go brush my teeth. I return downstairs to find out youngest son paid oldest son $1 to do his calculations so he could go back to bed. I talked to youngest son about his lack of obedience but kinda great ingenuity and he says he’s practicing his “delegating skills”… seriously, where does he learn this stuff?

0830 Oldest son is chomping at the bit to head out but a quick hair check by mom leads to the simple fact that my boys are completely unaware that they have backs to their heads and there’s hair back there which would like to see a comb once in a while (they both have long hair because they don’t want to “wait forever and chat” in a barber’s chair. Yet, they list Floyd the Barber as one of their favorite Andy Griffith characters… weird). We talk about how in the old days the barber shop and beauty parlor is where many people got the up to date news because there was no such thing as social media etc. Hair check fail leads to teeth check (both boys are in braces so I’m a little OCD about teeth cleaning right now) which surprisingly they both pass (not with flying colors though).

0845 We load up into the Sienna mini van (woohoo, soccer mom wannabe!) and I ask Jackson how big his game is that he has to download as we drive up our lane. We see a family of wild turkeys, we sit and watch a few minutes, and oldest son Googles “how long a family of turkey stays together.” We then debate for a little bit about whether or not a wild turkey tastes as good on a Thanksgiving table as a farm raised turkey. I have him look at the wild turkeys and he admits that yes, the breasts of the wild turkey aren’t as plump as the farm raised ones but we wonder if the meat tastes better. Probably tougher we all agree but stronger (maybe better) flavor. Any turkey hunters out there help us out on this? I also explain that almost all farm raised turkeys have to be artificially inseminated because they are unable to mate naturally (to produce fertile eggs) due to their size that farmers have bred them for (big big big).

Oldest son gets us back on track when turkeys have passed with a simple , “9GB.” I just give a, “Huh?” as I have no idea what he’s talking about. “Size of my game mom, it’s 9GB”…  and we go back and forth figuring out how long it will take to download based on edtimates of internet speed at the coffee shop. If speed is x then it will take y minutes to download the 9GB game. Youngest son, x minutes equals how many hours (with minutes left over)? No calculators but scratch paper is fine (though they both treat scratch paper like a vampire does garlic). We chat about the possibility of maybe starting each van ride out with a prayer. We will all think about it… We pass construction that we take our best guess at because none of us are quite sure what hey are tearing up the street for and putting small piping in all over the place. I want to stop and ask a guy who seems to be in charge but the boys say, “maybe on the way back” in unison… I don’t think they really care nor have any intention of reminding me to stop and chat with the guy in charge on the way back.

0900 We make it to the coffee shop and park next to a parking meter. I ask youngest son to figure out how many coins it will take to keep the meter going for an hour. Nickel at a time he puts in coins until it reaches 1 hour and figures out it takes $.25 for an hour of parking. We discuss what parking meter money is used for, what happens if you don’t put money in the meter, whether or not we would want the job of “meter maid”, and why there is a 2 hour limit on parking in that spot. Luckily today I know all the answers to these questions and I don’t have to Google a thing!

0910 We step into the coffee shop and…

to be continued…

Folks, this is a taste of what unschooling looks like. This is our life. We talk a lot, we read a lot, we listen a lot, we pray a lot, and we watch those around us A LOT!


~ Jhenna

Oh and seriously… how we roll… toilet paper is always over, never under. Get it right people!


Why EVERY parent should homeschool… (the reason may surprise you)

Family field trip to Marengo Cave!

Family field trip to Marengo Cave!

I’m guessing some of you read this blog post so you could start formulating your “How dare you tell me what I should do” letter to me while others read out of sheer curiosity. Alas, the majority of you read because I am still in the infancy of my blogging and most of my readers consist of friends and family… yes, my family, you are totally obligated to read my posts… mostly to see if I mention any of you! Thank You God for a big family!

Why should every parent homeschool? The answer is beautiful and simple…

You should homeschool because you already do and to quit would be to cease being a parent!

It is time to peel the stigma away from what most think of when they hear “homeschooling.” I’m hoping to give you a glimpse of our own homeschooling journey to show you how I was just as much of a teacher to my sons while they were in “brick and mortar” schools as I am now that they are not.

Our oldest son went to public school from kindergarten through fifth grade because I was active duty Air Force and my husband worked full time. He went to public schools in Germany (that’s where he started and they refused to speak English to him… talk about a steep learning curve, but it was so amazing for him and he soon became my little translator for our 90 year old German landlord who refused to believe I was anything but a nurse on the German air force base! I was not a nurse.). We experienced the public school system with that son in Germany, Nebraska, California, Wisconsin, and Indiana… we’ve been around.

Compare that to our youngest son who only attended half day kindergarten in public school and you get the basis of our oldest son’s common comment that his younger brother is more loved (not true…I’m adding this becuase they both often read this blog and I want to remind them that they are loved equally… you are both loved equally!). Apparently our oldest thought public school was some sort of punishment… not sure where that ever came from but I’m guessing it had something to do with the 6:45am bus stop.

Boys that like to hang out together... crazy ;)

Boys that like to hang out together… crazy 😉

My husband and I have educated our sons from the moment they were born as you have done with your children. Learning how to obery, respect others, and communicate effectively came from parents or parent figures for the majority of us. How to tie shoes… yup, parents. How to eat… yup, parents. Make their bed… you guessed it, parents. How to ride a bike… yup, parents. However, my best friend Minnette taught my oldest to ride a bike because I was horrible at teaching that skill (to say frustration and hesitancy do not mix well is an understatement) and to this day I still apologize to my oldest son for my tone of voice and words that day.

The fact that I reached out to another to help teach my kids in an area that I was ill equipped brings up a great point. Parents do not teach their children in a vacuum. Just as parents who teach all, or the majority, of their children’s academics at home do not do so in a vacuum. We all reach out to others when help is needed so in that way we are more alike than we are different. What have you had “outside help” in teaching your kids?

Panning for riches at Marengo Cave... this is where Gunner's geology passion began.

Panning for riches at Marengo Cave… this is where Gunner’s geology passion began.

We have always been very active in our kids’ education. Kevin is the go to math, computer programming and history nut (as well as mathemtaical based sciences… physics etc.) while I tackle language arts, biological and chemistry based sciences, foreign languages, and well… everything else. We were in the kids’ public school classrooms often helping and enjoying the interaction. We sat at the table with the kids when homework was being done at night to see what they were learning and be on hand should they have needed help. I did plenty of projects “for them” because I wanted them to get a good grade and impress their teachers. We fought about “our way” of doing things versus “the teacher’s way” and most often lost to the “teacher’s way” even though we thought to the very core of our being that our way was the best. We read, read, and read some more. With our kids, to our kids, and having them read to us. This has been a staple in our family from day one and really is a blessing if it is in your home as well.

I became a stay at home mom after my medical retirement from the air force and we moved to Indiana. I really liked the public school system here because it allowed for parents to be very involved in their child’s education both in school and after school. The teachers showed a genuine interest in getting to know our kids and would often report how much they enjoyed having them in class (bear with me here, I’m not putting my kids on any sort of pedastal). Our boys were raised to say, “yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir, and no sir” throughout their whole life (gotta love the military) and the teachers in these “civilian” sections of the nation seemed to really love and eat this up (Wisconsin, Indiana etc. The other schools were always on or near a military base so the teachers were used to the yes ma’am etc.).

Youngest son's first meme... awwwww

Youngest son’s first meme… awwwww

Then we noticed a disturbing trend… our sons were learning (quickly) to manipulate their teachers and the system. If they were quiet, respectful, and helpful (without being pushy) the teachers would lower the standards for them and let them get away with more.

Our sons have always had horrid handwriting (no secret, they know this). We work on it and work on it but to little improvement unless they take 10 minutes to carefully write one word (nope, not even I have the patience for that and it’s not practical). In public school my oldest son’s teacher would actually call him up to ask him what his answer said because she could not read it. He would try to read his own writing (many times he could not) and the teacher would let him get away with it without marking it wrong because he was so kind, polite, and followed along in class well. She mentioned this during a conference. We talked to our son and found out he wasn’t even trying to write legibly because he didn’t have to and got it right. He admitted in fact that sometimes if he didn’t know the answer he wrote “super sloppy” so she couldn’t read it… apparently she always gave him the benefit of the doubt. Well played son, well played.

This was the straw that broke the camels back so to say. We weren’t mad at the teacher, we were unhappy with our son’s attitude and choices. We thought we had taught our son to do what is true and right regardless if others expect it of you or not. Your actions are not determined by another’s. Just because his teacher let him get away with something does not mean he should continue in that behavior. Both of our sons had learned that all that was necessary at school was the bare minimum. Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous and proof that our work ethic training was not carrying through to time away from us at school.

The world is our classroom... youngest son volunteering at the humane society

The world is our classroom… youngest son volunteering at the humane society

It was at that moment I finally agreed to Kevin’s longtime plea that we pull the boys out of public school and take it to the home. It turned out to be the best decision of our lives and the lives of our boys. We are on year five and I am actually teaching a high schooler *gasp*! Our boys are learning work ethic, compassion, and good decision making now all day, every day, at a time in their lives when their brains are developing rapidly and outside influences truly have a huge effect on them. We are controlling the influences they are surrounded by as much as we can during this time of development so when they are adults and their judgment and impulse control are better cultivated they will have already developed good habits and sound decision making in their maturity.

Not every kid needs this type of intense structure and guidance. Our kids do. There are parents who work their tail ends off in the time that their kids are home to instill these things and their kids carry them through to their school days. I know so many kids like this and I love to be around them and learn with and from them. There are also kids who are naturally more mature, focused, and able to succeed easily in whatever they put their minds to and their parents encourage them in ways that are absolutely beautiful and breathtaking. Love these kids as well!

Everyone has to learn at The Shepherd Hobby Farm!

Everyone has to learn at The Shepherd Hobby Farm!

My point is, every kid is different just as every family is different. Just don’t assume that parents pull their kids out of school and tackle academics at home because they think their kids are better than yours or the school system is horrible (though truth be told with standardized testing and common core I may be leaning more towards horrible the more I see of it).

Below are the top reasons we homeschool

  • Instill work ethic in our children
  • Teach creation (Bible) based academics
  • To be together as a family
  • To guide our sons decision making at a time of great cerebral development
  • To teach each child based on their learning style
  • To link what we teach to real world application
  • Flexibility in schedules and traveling
  • To pursue passions and interests with ease and excitement
  • To ensure proper rest, exercise, and nutrition for growing boys (and the whole family)
  • To socialize MORE with varied peer groups and people of all different race, age, and culture
  • Increased community involvement

If you look at that list you will find that you, as a parent, are filling a lot of those boxes with your kids as well regardless if they are in public, private, or home school. Homeschooling just works well for our family because we were not capable of filling those boxes above when our kids were in public school.

I’d love to hear what led you to homeschooling, how you fill thses boxes with kids in public school, and/or myths/questions you have about homeschooling! Comment here!

Keep on keeping on and HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SPRING! (yes I know I shouted that)!