Debby Frisk is a homeschooling mom from Athens, Pa. She is also simply a mom who cares about her children. She encourages other parents who want to homeschool their children, for various reasons, but don’t believe they can. I asked her if she would tell my readers a little about her journey in homeschooling and offer some advice for parents who might be considering this style of schooling for their children.
Photos by Lisa R. Howeler
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from, your family, your interests.
My name is Deb Frisk, married to Tim Frisk for 25 years, with 2 daughters, Elizabeth age 19, and Leah age 16. I’m originally from Ellwood City, PA. We moved to Bradford County upon finishing college. I enjoy reading, puzzles and games of all varieties, watching musicals, going on walks, cats, and spending time with my family.
What careers have you held or do you hold now?
I was hired by Towanda Area School district in 1992 to teach math and work with the deaf and hard of hearing students in the district. I worked there for 6 years before starting our family. Since then I’ve mainly been raising our children and homeschooling, but have worked for short times as a sign language instructor and for Early Intervention.
You are a homeschooling mom. How did you get involved in homeschooling?
Homeschooling was always on our radar as an educational option even before we had kids. Because I have a teaching degree, I was asked to perform homeschool evaluations for a few homeschooling friends of ours. I was impressed with the quality curricula that is available to homeschoolers and with the character and academic excellence I saw in the homeschooled children that I met.
When our first child was diagnosed with autism, we were strongly encouraged to enroll her in school to help with socialization. We listened to the experts and put her in a year of private preschool and a year of public school for K-4. Although she had fabulous teachers and aides in both places, it was obvious to us and her teachers that school was not a suitable environment for her to learn, so the decision was made to bring her home for kindergarten.
We first enrolled her in a cyber charter school, which is public school done in the comfort of your own home. This worked well for us for several years, but whens he reached middle school, it became cumbersome to jump through all of the hoops that the school set before us and the decision was made to begin pure homeschooling.
What is your advice to parents who are considering homeschooling?
I have a lot to say to people who are considering homeschooling. The first thing is that you CAN do it. You do not need a teaching degree to be a good teacher to your own children. Research has shown that parents without a teaching degree are just as successful as those with one.
The next important thing to know is that there is no one right way to homeschool. It looks different for every family. Sometimes it takes a year or two (or three) to figure out what works and doesn’t work for your family. It’s good to talk to other families and see what they like and what works for them, but trying to copy others will likely make you unhappy. Do what’s best for your family.
Next I’d suggest that you try to connect with other homeschoolers. Some people desire a lot of support others do it all on their own. There’s no right or wrong amount of connection either, but initially it’s good to talk to others to get ideas and to look at curriculum. Pennsylvania has an amazing homeschool convention in early June in Lancaster that I strongly recommend.
It’s a good place to attend seminars on homeschooling, pickup curriculum and examine it, possibly purchase some materials, and begin to network with others who’ve been-there-done-that.
My personal preference on curriculum is to buy used, sell used. This keeps cost to a minimum for us. There are several different places where you can do this — used curriculum sales in your area and online sales being the main ways.
Do you have suggestions for resources or web sites where parents can learn more about homeschooling?
For PA residents, my favorite resource is askpauline.com
For anyone in the United States, I’d recommend hslda.org
These 2 resources are great for telling you your state’s requirements for getting started and other required record-keeping.
Many use ebay for curriculum shopping, but my favorite is homeschoolclassifieds.com. I also use the Facebook group Homeschool Curriculum Marketplace.
There are probably hundreds or thousands of other quality websites to learn about homeschooling. I just don’t have specific recommendations.
What does homeschooling look like at your house?
Homeschooling looks different for every family. Some people do school at home, copying what they’ve experienced in the classroom. Some people use a variety of materials including textbooks, workbooks, instructional DVDs, computer programs, field trips, hands-on projects and experiments, etc. While still others throw out conventional methods of learning and just follow their child(ren)’s interests and explore the world with them.
One thing that we always say about our schooling is that the only subject that’s ever done at a desk or table is handwriting. Often you’ll find us curled up on the couch or in a bed reading together or alone. We use clipboards a lot when writing needs to be done.
We’re pretty eclectic meaning that we use a wide variety of resources for our learning. I prefer literature based curriculum. Usually whatever books the girls are reading for literature is related to the same topics they’re reading about in history. For some subjects my girls rely pretty heavily on traditional textbooks. In recent years we’ve moved towards instructional DVDs for some high school topics like chemistry and writing. They’ve both used computer programs for learning foreign languages.
I have one child who enjoys art, drama, and dance and we use a lot of outside lessons to provide instruction in those areas since that is not my area of strength. I also should add that what works for one child often is not appropriate for another. My girls have very different learning styles and strengths. I’ve often used totally different curriculum to cover the same subject material for them.
Some people have found that having a schedule is necessary for school work to be completed in their home. We’ve found that our girls work best when they can choose the order of their subjects and when they work on them. My only rule is that the assigned work needs to get done each day (though exceptions to the rule do happen). The girls have learned very good time management and planning skills. For example they’ve learned that it’s not wise to save their hardest subject for late in the day. One of my children likes to get up and get all of her work done as quickly as possible in order to be free for the rest of the day. This works really well for her. My other child does a subject and takes a break, does another, then takes a break. School takes her all day, but the result is the same at the end of the day and Mom is happy.
What do you like most and what’s the hardest part about homeschooling?
The answer to these questions is the same — Time spent with my children. I love the amount of time that I get to spend with my kids. I know them inside and out because we spend so much time together. I love being part of what they’re learning. We tried public school for a year or two with each of my girls and I really hated not being involved in what they were learning. I love being able to tie what they’re learning into everyday life, but if you don’t know what they’re learning in school, you’re not able to do that. I think my absolute favorite part of homeschooling ever was teaching them to read.
I will be honest though. As much as I love spending time with my kids, there is never a break. When they were younger, sometimes they would be the only people I’d see for days at a time. It’s easier when they’re older and do activities on their own and aren’t always in the house, but the younger years were sometimes tough, but just sometimes. Mostly the time is a gift and I try to enjoy every moment of it.
Oh, another perk for us is taking family vacations during the off-season. The crowds at most places are lowest in September right after all the kids go back to school. It’s the perfect time for us to hit the road. The same is true for any kind of activity or field trip. My kids have never been to Chuck E Cheese on a weekend.
What misconceptions do you think people have about homeschooling?
The most common thing I hear when I tell someone that we homeschool — “Oh, I’m not against homeschooling or anything, but I just worry about socialization.”
There are always exceptions, but I think it’s fair to say that most homeschoolers are better socialized then their public school counterparts. Most homeschoolers joke that we don’t know why it’s called home schooling because it sometimes feels like we’re never home. First of all, because we spend so much time with our kids, homeschool parents have lots of opportunities to train them on how to interact with people. Homeschooled kids as a group are extremely respectful and courteous. We attend a lot of group events (like roller skating, bowling, play practice, science fairs, and field trips) with other homeschoolers.
This gives our kids a chance to interact with other kids, but not just their age peers; they become comfortable with kids of all ages. Our kids spend more time in their communities than their public school peers. They go with their parents EVERYWHERE. They go shopping with us, to the dentist, to the post office, the gas station, you name it. They become very proficient and comfortable interacting with adults, not just other children at a young age. And like public school kids, you’ll find us participating in other things in our communities such as soccer, swimming, Little League, dance class, art class, piano lessons and recitals, etc.