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Welcome to the Real Homeschoolers interview series! My husband and I have been so encouraged and blessed by the Webbs. This is a fun interview because both Wyatt and Steffi answered the questions since they were both teaching their son. I know you will find them helpful, especially if yo are homeschooling a high schooler. Feel free to ask them questions!
Wyatt and Steffi Webb have been married for 25 years and homeschooled their son, David, all the way through high school. David finished high school at home in 2010. David is a talented drummer and still considers this his favorite hobby. He had the time and passion to teach himself to drum and drummed for his high school youth group for a few years. Now, it’s his favorite way to blow off steam.
Recently, he also discovered a passion for professional basketball. That led to his degree choice of journalism with the hopes of becoming a sports writer. David is now 22 and pursuing a journalism degree through an online program from Ashford University that he should finish in the Fall of 2015.
The Webb Homeschool
Wyatt: I guess our vision was to provide a solid, well-rounded education, without the junk, that reinforced our family’s values and beliefs and prepared him for real life. We didn’t go for the “this is what’s right, don’t ask why” approach because it crumbles in the real world. We went for, “Here’s what we believe and why. Here’s what other people believe and why. Let’s talk about which one makes better sense.” We wanted him to be able to hold strong (and sometimes unpopular) opinions and defend them.
We also felt strongly about letting him find his own passion and path without forcing anything other than to nudge him towards something that would be productive. No matter what he LOVED, we had to be honest with him about what he could live on. If he loved something that could become a job, great! If his love couldn’t realisitcally be a career, then he needed to find something to support his passion.
Finally, we were intentional about adapting to HIS learning style. If something didn’t work, we tried something else. We learned to read him to know when he really wasn’t getting it or when he was just being stubborn. You push through the stubborn moments, but there’s no need to force him through a style that doesn’t work. It just stresses everyone out.
Steffi: Letting our son find his passion was a big thing for us. And yes, we did talk about trying to find something that would actually make money at some point in time. Not everyone can make money being a musician. Here is where I think homeschooling has an incredible advantage for kids. They are able to be out in the real world and can try so many things before some other kids of the same age.
Our son loves to drum and was able to bring that to his church youth group. He also knew that it was something he was passionate about, but would need to find another way to maybe make a living. But he was able to take a passion and use it. When your kids love the act of learning, how awesome is that!
Our Basic Routine
Wyatt: I would work with our son after dinner. I would assemble a weekly plan each weekend that would include assignments, quizzes, tests, as appropriate. Our son very much needed to know what was coming so he could mentally prepare. The goal would be just to keep the week moving along, not necessarily to meet some deadline in a book or anything else.
Then, each night, we’d just work through the plan. It was usually some problem sets in science and math and a little language drilling in Latin. If there was a quiz, we’d take it. If there was a test, we’d take it. I’d always grade them on the spot, so he could know how he did right away.
Steffi: We discovered early that our son was not a child who could do much before lunch, so we waited until the afternoon. The mornings would end up being my time to get some of the house stuff done and clear away things for later. After lunch we would get the things out that we needed and just start working through things.
When he was in the elementary years, the school time did not last all that long. It took a while for me to adjust my own thinking that things should take longer. Being a child of public school. Wasn’t all of this supposed to take longer? Once I got over all of that, our days went pretty much the same. There were times where we kind of threw everything out the window if it just didn’t seem to be working that day, but who doesn’t do that anyway? It was good not only for him, but for us to have real life come into play every day.
How We Handled Pushback
Wyatt: It really wasn’t allowed. We started early giving him the choice to do one of two things. One thing was the thing WE wanted him to do and the other thing would be something HE really did NOT want to do. It was a little bit of a mind game, but the point was that he got to decide and then he was committed. On those nights when we butted heads particularly hard, we’d have to step back and have a philosophical discussion about his education.
He really did NOT want to go to public school, so we often used that as the alternative. “Do you want to work on math with Dad? Or, shall we trot down to the high school and sign you up for next week?” Worked every time. He did push back a bit, but the goal was always to end the evening with him realizing that it wasn’t going to get him anywhere. He could either choose to do the work or do something even less desirable… And, since we didn’t have some external schedule to meet, he knew we wouldn’t be skipping whatever he’d been complaining about. We’d get right back on the saddle.
Steffi: After reading what my husband wrote above, I laugh when I think back to this. I would have friends who would be horrified that we used public school in this way. I will add that for me, at least when our son was young, that the Daddy factor was a big thing. I would not wait until Dad got home to explain what had happened, I had our son call him and explain it over the phone. Whether it was being disrespectful or just not being nice, he would get to call Dad and tell him about it.
This really did only happen two or three times for he hated having to do this. I believe to him it held him accountable and the shame factor was huge! To this day it is still all about making sure that he does not disappoint his Dad. Must be a guy thing.
Our Biggest Challenge: Public School Comparisons
Wyatt: For me the biggest challenge was fighting the feeling that we were missing some key skill or knowledge. This was especially strong during high school when I knew he was heading toward college. I had the bad habit of comparing his progress to my own at the same age. But, I had been in public school, so it was apples and oranges. We had him tested every year to get a sense of where he was for his age and grade, but we didn’t let that panic us. We knew he’d be slightly behind in some topics, but had already decided to let him learn at his own pace.
Steffi: Fighting my own picture of what school should be was hard. And I was not a fan of school at all! If I am honest, I learned more while homeschooling than I ever did sitting in a classroom. It was not the best way for me to learn, so why should I care if my son is standing with one foot in a chair, leaning over the table to figure out a math problem?
Our Biggest Blessings: Catered Education, Time Together
Wyatt: I think my favorite thing was being able to shape the work to his preferences and skills. We tried several different science publishers before finding one he could function with. The fact that we had the ability to adapt and learn along with him made us feel like he was getting the best we could offer.
I also REALLY appreciated not having to deprogram him at the end of the day since I’m convinced a certain fraction of what he would have been taught in public school would not have meshed with our family’s beliefs or opinions. We showed him alternative viewpoints and opinions, but we made sure he was hearing a broader range.
Steffi: I loved being able to spend time with my son. Getting to see and know the person he was turning into was a blessing for me! We were able to let him grow and learn at a natural pace for him. Not that there weren’t times we had to push, but nothing compared to what it could have been.
To be able to live out new adventures on a daily basis is something that was really important. And to be honest, I think I ended up learning just as much as our son did, if not more. Being able to step out of your comfort zone, and try something new, such fun!
Advice for New Homeschoolers
Wyatt: The whole point of homeschooling is to customize your child’s education. Don’t start off by trying to mimic a classroom. Don’t kill yourself because you aren’t teaching 4 hours a day. Don’t feel bad if you have a day go sideways where nothing gets done. Just don’t let that one day turn into a week or a month. Give yourself time to figure out the right rhythm.
We finally learned that David could not do school before lunch. It sounds amazing, but we packed in what we needed to during a few hours in the afternoon and an hour or two after dinner every day. And we learned the ebbs and flows of our family to know when to push and when to let things slide.
Steffi: Remember why you are doing all of this. More than likely it isn’t to buck the system, or get back at anyone. You and your spouse have made the decision and know what is best for your family. Sure there will be times where you wonder what the heck you are doing, but give yourself some credit. You are a smart person, trust yourself and know that you are doing the best thing for all of you.
Homeschooling High School
Wyatt: You really have to know your child. They’re smart enough to fake anything or procrastinate endlessly. Don’t make it a fight. Figure out a way to make them recognize the value of doing the work they don’t like so they will cooperate and not see it as a challenge on how to avoid work every day.
Make agreements about work levels and their effort. Place consequences on both sides so they feel like it’s a fair shake. If they want to try to get a job along with school, make it fair, but don’t give them a break and cheat on school. Let them feel the fair consequences of their decisions, but forgive them and give them an opportunity to get back on the horse.
High school is a chance for them to learn how to “play adult” with a safety net. Let them fall, but help them back up, too. The idea is to work out the kinks in their adult behavior before it can get them into real trouble with an employer, spouse, or the law!
Steffi: I believe that the biggest thing here is including them in the conversations. They do need to know what you expect of them and what that looks like. And you might need to draw a picture for them. Let them know how much you love them and that you are helping them learn to become and adult. That comes with many different things in it and they are watching you and how you deal with it all.
I tend to make lists about things, our son tends to do that as well. But having the conversation about what would happen if school did not get done, let them decide before hand how that would hurt them. As my husband said above, they are unable to argue when they were part of what the solution would be.
And there were days where I would sit while our son worked on his school stuff, just to keep him a little more focused. I had to remember that nothing else mattered at the point but helping him become that man that he wanted and needed to be. It is amazing what a little time, eye contact and love will do for a young person.
Check out all the interviews in the Real Homeschoolers series as well as a complete list of the questions that were asked. Not all the answers were included, but I have been careful not to change anything about their answers other than grammar and structure for the sake of presentation.