Margarita Kershner, a Well-Trained Mind Academy parent whose two children are now thriving university students, took some time with Well-Trained Mind Academy Dean Julia Collier to reflect on her homeschooling journey. Her experience and insights are incredibly valuable, and we are lucky she took the time to share with us.
Laying the Foundations of a Personalized Homeschooling Approach
Even before their birth, Margarita had a clear vision of the educational environment she wanted her children to experience—a place where curiosity, intellectual passion, and academic inquisitiveness would flourish. It would be a place that celebrated the innate abilities and personalities of her children, as well as other students she would teach. As a young mother, she found inspiration in a neighboring homeschooling family. Observing the independence and unique schedules these homeschoolers enjoyed resonated with her. With a background as an ESL instructor for adults, Margarita valued personalized education and believed in creating a safe and joyful learning environment free from biases, where children could ask questions and explore ideas without fear. This commitment to fostering a love of learning in a supportive atmosphere was a driving force in her decision to homeschool.
When the time came for her eldest child to start kindergarten, Margarita took a proactive approach. She interviewed the kindergarten teacher and assessed the classroom environment. Her observation of how the aides interacted with the children in the classroom led her to make the pivotal decision to homeschool. While she loved the resources and socialization available in the kindergarten classroom, she felt as though the connection between the aides and the students was not one that fully recognized or respected each child’s personal strengths and personality. Ultimately, Margarita made the decision at that point that homeschooling her children would allow her to provide the type of support that aligned with the goals she envisioned for her children’s educational paths as they grew.
Adapting to Different Learners
One of the cornerstones of Margarita’s homeschooling approach was her ability to adapt her teaching methods to suit her children’s unique learning styles. Recognizing that each child has distinct needs, she personalized their education to each of them individually. When asked for advice on educating a second child with vastly different learning needs, Margarita gave Dean Collier a clear directive: educate yourself. Margarita embarked on a journey of learning, reading all that she could, and she (and her children!) made ample use of her local public library system to pick up books that would guide her through these years. Although the family followed a basic homeschooling “blueprint” for both children, it was modified daily to meet each individual learner’s requirements. In addition, reading up on child psychology gave Margarita a deep understanding of child development, which helped her to foster an environment where both of her children could thrive. By respecting their individuality and allowing them to make choices about their education, Margarita empowered her children to take ownership of their learning, which she believes has served them well as they have grown out of their homeschooled environment and transitioned into university life.
Finding External Help for At Home Education
Margarita credits The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home for providing her with a structured framework and clear goals in setting up her homeschooling plans. State requirements for quarterly reports and a home instruction plan served to focus and evaluate the Kershner students’ homeschooling journey, ensuring they covered all essential aspects of a state education. Margarita found the requirements to be a helpful means of outside validation of the work that she and her children were doing at home, and was, in fact, grateful for the structure that it provided.
Transitioning to Outside Instruction: The Rhetoric Years
Margarita was the main instructor for each of her children throughout their grammar- and logic-stage years. However, the transition from being the sole administrator and teacher for her children to outsourcing a majority of their educational needs during their rhetoric-stage years was remarkably smooth. She started by enrolling her daughter in writing, history, and science at the Well-Trained Mind Academy. Her son followed soon after with Latin, literature, history, and philosophy. Margarita’s confidence in the instructors at the Well-Trained Mind Academy and tutors she chose for her children played a crucial role–she was sure to review instructor biographies before enrolling her children in classes with them, and she and her children frequently chatted about what they were learning in their classes and the means by which these lessons were being shared. Above all, Margarita believes that open communication with her children about their instructors, materials, and experiences was one of the foundational elements of their homeschooling journey that allowed for this seamless transition.
Margarita’s homeschooling journey was marked by her commitment to nurturing independence in her children. She firmly believes in teaching children life skills and values that go beyond academic knowledge. Her goal was to raise confident, self-reliant individuals who are unafraid to explore, question, and advocate for themselves. Part of that skill set was developed during this transitional process, as Margarita became less involved in her children’s day-to-day instruction and instead allowed them to experience the perspectives and insights of other subject-matter experts.
The Power of Homeschooling
Margarita’s homeschooling journey epitomizes the power of a personalized education, flexibility, and a commitment to nurturing independent thinkers. Her story is a testament to the transformative potential of homeschooling when it is driven by a deep understanding of each child’s unique journey and a dedication to their holistic development, which resonates deeply with the classical education ideal of cultivating well-rounded, self-reliant individuals who are prepared to thrive in an ever-evolving world. And, it embodies the essence of what The Well-Trained Mind Academy strives to achieve – empowering students to become lifelong learners with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their academic and personal pursuits.