School at home makes sense for some families

Students and their parents survived last spring’s sudden disruption to school classes and a summer of social restrictions to varying degrees. This fall, some parents have chosen to keep their children home rather than send them to school – it’s a road less travelled – but here is an account of a family who knows the road well.

Homeschooling is a huge commitment and it’s a choice that some local families, including this Oak Lake family, made years ago.

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Patti and Russel Thiessen are raising their family at home on the range, so to speak. They are horse lovers who run a cattle farm near Oak Lake.

Russel was homeschooled and now, following that path of independence, Patti is the teacher of their children. She says she visits with other homeschool moms to get ideas. “We have friends who homeschool plus most of my sisters-in-law homeschool and my husband was homeschooled, so I have many people I can receive wisdom from.”

How they do it

The children use workbooks for both English and math. There are science and history texts to study and online resources such as Blue Planet videos are interesting supplements. Along with workbooks, the older kids have test booklets to grade them on their knowledge. Individual learning at their own pace has been a good thing for her children Thiessen says.

“If [a student] is struggling, we can take longer until they can understand what is being taught. Or if they’ve caught on quickly to a new concept, they can move ahead. That is one of the blessings of homeschooling, being able to go at the pace that suits each child. Our eldest will get her school [work] done by mid-morning and then she has the rest of the day to ride her horse.”

Thiessen admits that there are days she doesn’t enjoy the dual role. “Homeschooling does create more work for me as their teacher and mom, but we’ve also made some very fun and amazing memories. We LOVE doing experiments but I have learned to do them outside.” That’s because of the clean-up.

This farm lady was busy when she was approached for this interview. “I was finishing up canning/harvest of the garden, since they are calling for frost.”

She explained, “Life skills such as raising a garden and harvesting it, taking care of animals, raising them from small to butchering, baking and cooking are all part of that aspect of preparing for life.”

Writing, directing and acting in many home movies is a creative aspect of their homeschooling.

“We find that everything in life is a learning opportunity, it doesn’t all have to be book learning. All

though that is important, it isn’t all that school is.”

For families who start the fall school season as a homeschool, there won’t be any sudden calls for a pick-up if their child gets a tummy ache or the sniffles, or if a class/cohort has a COVID-19 case arise.

Where a child or a parent has a health issue, or if parents are essential workers, educating their kids at home makes sense this fall.

For those wanting to know more, homeschool support can be found online: Westman Homeschool Connection is a Facebook. A website provides other links as well:


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