Lori Stephens could not stop her children from learning. Seven years ago, their oldest daughter was 5 and, because of her birthday, missed the cutoff to start kindergarten in Florida. “We could not imagine holding her back another year to start school,” the Clermont resident recalls. “She seemed so ready to learn.”
The New York native holds a degree in early childhood education and taught pre-kindergarten before having her two daughters, “so teaching kindergarten to my daughter didn’t seem like such a crazy idea,” she says, adding, “I could not imagine sending her off to school for hours each day.” After much discussion with her husband, Chris, they agreed to try homeschooling to see how it went. “We always knew that if it didn’t work,” Lori acknowledges, “she could go to ‘school’.”
Ultimately, though, Lori and Chris are happy with their choice, as they continue in their seventh year of homeschooling. “As of now we have no plans to stop,” she declares.
Lori describes the Stephens family’s homeschooling philosophy as “very laid back,” not strictly following one curriculum or method. “We really enjoy unit studies, lapbooks and notebooking,” she explains, “and try to take advantage of the many and varied learning opportunities that Central Florida offers. We attended co-ops for several years, but have decided we need a break from them for the time being and each year re-evaluate our needs.”
Fittingly enough, considering their eclectic approach to home education, the Stephens family belongs to several different local homeschool groups, which offer them opportunities for classes, field trips and socializing. Lori also draws a great deal of support from attending the annual FPEA Florida Homeschool Convention, noting that “the FPEA Guide to Homeschooling is also a great go-to for the legalities of homeschooling in Florida.”
All these various means of support have enabled Lori and her family to overcome obstacles to homeschooling, most notably her work commitments outside the home. “Scheduling has been our biggest challenge,” she confesses. “I work two weekdays each week, so trying to fit everything into the other three days can be tough.”
According to Lori, though, any inconvenience has been worth it. “Homeschooling our daughters has been an amazing experience,” she states. “That said, it is not always easy, and there have been days I wonder why we are doing it. But the time we have with our daughters and seeing them learn and grow is an amazing gift that we feel blessed to have the privilege to experience.”