The Boxwell Family: From Homeschool, to WTMA, to Colby College

Well-Trained Mind AcademyFamily Interviews

homeschooling family

Homeschooling families are no strangers to criticism. If you are reading this, perhaps you have some of your own stories of people questioning your decisions to homeschool or scoffing at your child’s grades. One accusation leveled against homeschooling families is that homeschooling high school students puts them at an academic disadvantage to their peers in traditional schools and makes it harder for them to present competitive packets when it comes time to apply for university.

Meet the Boxwells: A Homeschool Success Story

Today we are chatting with Rebecca Boxwell, a homeschooling mother of three who has children at various points in their educational journey: Emily, who is entering middle school, Audrey, who is entering tenth grade, and Caleb, who is preparing to enter university this fall. The Boxwell children have taken classes throughout their middle and high school years at WTMA, as well as having been homeschooled by Rebecca for their elementary education.

Rather than being any sort of detriment, though, this combination of homeschooling, Academy classes, and some supplemental resources has proved to be a great asset to the Boxwells, providing the groundwork for Caleb to get accepted into over ten elite colleges and universities and setting the younger siblings up for their individual academic and personal successes as well. Rebecca estimates that he took 75-80% of his middle and high school classes at WTMA (the family supplemented some specific needs of his with additional outside resources).

Homeschooling Families Benefit From Their Unique Experience

According to Rebecca, the homeschooling transcript that Caleb turned in didn’t act as a handicap to his application process, but rather, Caleb “got into those [highly competitive] schools because of his academic record and the strength of his writing. If you look at a school like Tufts in particular, which had a crazy low admission rate this year, you might ask, “What makes him different?” Well, what makes Caleb different is that he is a homeschooled student. And in that sea of people, that’s his defining feature.” For Caleb, his homeschooled experience helped him to gain an education and experience that surpassed many of his peers, and many applications committees recognized and appreciated that feature of his application packet, in addition to his other competitive attributes.

The Boxwell’s Introduction to The Well-Trained Mind Community

Of course, every family’s educational journey starts somewhere. Rebecca recalls a pivotal moment that has shaped the last sixteen years of her family’s life. Many years ago, when Caleb was just a toddler, Rebecca was in a local bookstore browsing the parenting section for books on early childhood when she came across The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. Opening it up, she started to skim and was so taken with it that she had to sit down in the middle of the store and continue to read. She recalls thinking, “Oh my God, I had no idea that education could be like this….Why is this not how everyone is taught?”

From there, Rebecca learned more, and she homeschooled Caleb for his early education years. But when the Academy started in 2014, Caleb also started with us, taking classes even when we were new and our offerings were much more limited than what we have today.

Growing Alongside the Academy

Having been with the Academy from the start, Rebecca appreciates that the growth of the Academy has been so consistent. She says, “Even in the growth, there has been great consistency with your original mission, and it has been fun for us to see the class offerings grow in new and different ways; my kids have liked that there are academic classes and there are opportunities to do other things.” While working with the Academy has allowed Caleb, Audrey, and Emily to take rigorous and engaging classes in the core subjects, they have also taken advantage of some courses that they might not have had access to at a traditional public school, such as astronomy, creative writing, ethics and moral philosophy, mythology, and Japanese culture through film. 

How WTMA Supports Homeschooling Families Through Structure, Accountability, & a Sense of Security

The benefits of homeschool and schooling through WTMA extend beyond just the children of the Boxwell family, though. Rebecca reflects on her decision to have her children take classes with the Academy: “I found that I was much better as a facilitator than I was as a teacher. I’m not great at the daily grind of doing the things that nobody wants to do and being the one who motivates everyone all the time, and we really liked the outside accountability; we really liked having teachers and mentors who were not parents, because I think that it is valuable to receive feedback from other people.”

In relieving Rebecca of some of the pressure to be her children’s sole instructor, the Academy frees up much of Rebecca’s time to do more of what she feels better equipped for — overseeing her children’s education. This is especially important for the Boxwell family, given the wide age range of the three children and how much attempting to fully “instruct” each of her children in all subjects would have demanded of Rebecca.

The Academy provides a sense of security to Rebecca as she navigates her duties in maintaining a very busy household and administering the educations of three very bright, very active children. It also provides relief to Rebecca in terms of confidence that her children were getting all that they needed out of secondary education. It is important to Rebecca that her children stay competitive with public-school peers, so that, as she puts it, “If I got hit by a bus, they could go to school and be within the realm of what the other kids know, and having them at the Well-Trained Mind Academy gives me a sense of where they stand in relation to their peers.”

Pursuing Interests Through WTMA Classes & Extracurricular Activities

Rebecca realizes that she tends to “bite off more than she can chew” and registration season tends to find her overly optimistic about the family’s bandwidth for the following year. This tendency, coupled with the increased course offerings, has sometimes led to the Boxwells having to make some difficult choices come the end of summer as the school year draws near and it’s time to choose which classes they really want to register for! 

Outside of schoolwork, Audrey and Caleb are rowers, and the family spends many afternoons traveling to and from the lake — another avenue that Rebecca says the flexibility of homeschooling has allowed them to pursue. Emily, the Boxwell’s youngest, has an interest in creative arts and enjoys beading, drawing, and mixing videos on her phone. Each of the children are developing their own unique talents and identities that Rebecca and her husband Dan can nurture in unique ways because of their choice to homeschool their children. Of course there are tough days, but overall, the choice Rebecca made all those years ago turned out to be the best decision she could have made for her children.

Homeschooling as a Path to Success

Rebecca ends our conversation with the following reassurance to other parents who might be standing in her shoes: “If somebody had told me when I sat on the floor in the Barnes and Noble, ‘Hey, you can do this, and that kid’s going to have eleven college acceptances,’ I would have been like, ‘that’s crazy!’ And now here we are…And one day, I’m going to see Susan Wise Bauer on the street, and I’m going to hug her, because I feel like she has given us so much. She showed me what was possible, and the Academy helped me realize, on a daily basis, what was possible.” We agree with you, Rebecca, that sometimes, all you need is someone to help you realize what is possible. Thank you for helping other families to see what paths are possible when homeschooling by sharing your story today! 

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