Interview with Shelly Sangrey

Age: 41
Ages of Children: 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, and 22

Why and when did you decide to homeschool your children?

I originally began homeschooling in 2007 because I was really starting to be at odds with what was being taught in the public schools. When my 14 yr. old son (who is now 22) was told by his health teacher to do a project with visual aids on the birth control sponge, that was the final straw for me. After two years of homeschooling with no model of what homeschooling actually looks like, I burned out and sent my kids back to school for two years.

I eventually began to miss having the kids home with me, and after a number of incidents with the school encroaching upon my rights as a parent, and with a boy in my daughter’s second grade class who was completely unruly being left undisciplined to the point that he was physically abusive towards the teacher and other students (including my daughter), I finally said, that’s it. That was in 2011, and we’ve been homeschooling ever since.

What would you say to someone who may be contemplating homeschooling?

First and foremost, do not feel like you must replicate school. If school was so great, you probably wouldn’t be homeschooling in the first place. 🙂 Another biggie- don’t feel like you must immediately jump into spending a lot of money on a homeschool curriculum. Take some time to let your child explore their interests so that they can ease into homeschooling, and so that you can observe and find out how your child learns best. Let them play outside, take them on errands with you, to the library, bake and do crafts with them, and above all, read to them. There is so much learning that happens in daily living; learn to recognize that. Investing in a curriculum should be one of the last steps of transitioning into homeschooling.

What’s your goal as a home educator?

I want my children to have a passion for learning- one that isn’t stifled by textbooks, grades, and standardized tests. I also want them to be equipped with the skills they need to succeed in a quickly changing world. I want them to know what to do in the instances that they may not know how to do something; rather than waiting for others to tell them what to do, I want them to be able to go out and do it!

How has homeschooling changed you?

Homeschooling has turned me from a mom that separated education and life into a mom that sees life as an education. By nature, I’m someone who tends to rush around all the time. Sometimes this is a necessity with a family as large as ours. Before bringing my kids home, life used to just pass me by. I never took the time to stop and smell the roses. Everything was about, “Go, go go!” Now I’m often the one to point out an ant hill to my children as we’re going for a walk, or to call the kids over to watch a fly wash its face. I’ve been given the opportunity to recapture the beauty of life that I had been missing for so long.

How has homeschooling benefited your family?

I could honestly write a book on this. 🙂 I’ll try to keep this as short as possible.

When my kids were in school, they had absolutely no connection with one another. They would come home at 3:15 and immediately start fighting. And this wasn’t your normal bickering. It was like they were trying to make up for the 7 hours they missed arguing with one another.

I’m not going to try to give the impression that they never fight now. All siblings do. But it happens so much less, and they genuinely care about one another. They make things for each other, they look out for one another, and when they aren’t together, they miss each other. Right now my 14 yr. old daughter is upstairs putting makeup on my 12 yr. old, and before that they were baking together. It’s beautiful to watch.

It’s also helped the relationship between the children and my husband and me. My teenage daughters constantly seek out my company and tell me their innermost thoughts. Oftentimes we’ll be at church or reading aloud when one of them will lay her head on my shoulder. My 16 yr. old son tells his dad and me that he loves us right in front of his friends without batting an eye. I honestly think I know more about my children than I ever would if they spent the entire day away from me all year long.

The word “team” doesn’t even adequately describe us. I think “unit” is a better word. We all feel whole when we’re together.

How has your homeschooling approach changed since you began?

When we first started out, I tried as hard as I could to imitate brick and mortar school to a tee. We had a chalkboard, school-type desks, educational posters all over the walls of our classroom- which was the only place they were allowed to do school, and my kids had to raise their hands to ask a question or even go to the bathroom.

Needless to say, this was a large factor in why I burned out and sent the kids back to school for that two year period. After I pulled them out again- this time for good- I was equipped with a ton of knowledge I had gleaned from reading up on unit studies and devouring everything I could find that was written by John Holt and John Taylor Gatto.

We morphed into a unit study approach. After a bit of reading about unschooling, the blissful-sounding lifestyle appealed to me, so we tried that for about two years. The problem was that it wasn’t so blissful for us. With a family our size, we really need structure, and unschooling wasn’t providing enough of that for us, and that unity that I spoke of in the last question started to dissolve as chaos erupted in our house.

We finally settled into a relaxed/eclectic homeschool routine, which is where we remain to this day. I’m so glad that I had the experience of trying so many different homeschooling styles because I’ve been able to take the best features of each and use them to our advantage.

At this point in time, I have one teen with a school-at-home approach, one with a more unschooling style mixed with a minimal amount of seat work, and one that is very Charlotte Mason in her approach. Everyone else combines elements of Charlotte Mason with unit studies. This may sound hectic, but it makes perfect sense for us because it works.

How can we connect with you?
Facebook: There’s No Place Like Home by Shelly Sangrey
Google+: +ShellySangrey
Twitter: @redheadmom8
Pinterest: reheadmom8

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Camie says:

    Great interview, Shelly! I love hearing other’s homeschool stories.


  2. Kendall says:

    Great post! Glad you shared so openly about all the things you tried as a homeschooling family! 🙂


  3. Jen says:

    I love that you are so real in your answers. Yeah this went wrong. Yeah I didn’t do this right. Hey this-this works for us. These are great points all parents need to hear, homeschooling or not! Great job as always Shelly!


  4. Katie Turner says:

    Thanks for sharing, Shelly! Your family dynamics and experiences resemble ours in many ways. It is a joy for all of us to be together. Blessings on your wonderful unit 🙂 ~Katie T.


  5. Love this perspective. As a former teacher turned stay at home homeschooling mama, I think that is going to be my biggest challenge! Looking at a homeschool day and not comparing it to a very structured public school day or feeling like I’m doing something wrong when our schooling looks different than it always has. Like you said, if public school was right I wouldn’t have made the choice to homeschool in the first place.


  6. This is such a great interview. I’ve found that the more I homeschool my kids the more I find ways of changing it and improving upon it too. I loved learning about your approach to it all.


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