For Michelle Ellis and her husband, Kevin, the decision to home educate came long before the arrival of their two boys. The Ellises found inspiration from the Bible as well as affirmation from Michelle’s 25 years of experience as a public school teacher, where she taught a range of children from 2-year-olds all the way up to fifth-graders.
Fittingly, then, Michelle sees their family’s homeschool as a lifelong endeavor. “When asked how long we’ve been home educating,” explains the Lakeland resident, “I always say since birth, because for us, we took those early years as seriously as the years we’ve had our boys legally registered with our county school board. Those early years are the foundation to what we do now.”
In those initial years with their boys, the Ellises focused on math and reading. “All else builds from these two subjects,” Michelle notes, “so we wanted our boys to have a solid understanding. Each new academic year we’ve added another subject or two, and now our boys benefit from a full range of subjects.” The boys are currently transitioning into sixth grade.
The Ellis homeschool features structured academics for four to six weeks followed by a week off, though the family excitedly advances ahead of the usual timeframe in early August. As for curriculum, Michelle has found that variety works best. “Each subject comes from a different source and works to their strengths,” she says.
The homeschooling lifestyle also helps the Ellises bond as a family. “We gain great satisfaction from all the family time we get because of homeschooling,” Michelle declares. “Kevin is able to attend field trips, extracurricular activities and workshops around his work schedule, which strengthens his relationship with our boys.” She also recounts how the flexibility of homeschooling enabled the Ellises to care for a loved one last year during his final earthly days. “It created loving, tender, beautiful memories we would not otherwise have,” she says. “We want our boys to see God’s needs in our world, and further, be able to tend to those needs.”
In the homeschooling process, the Ellises have had to overcome challenges both external and internal. “As a family we have faced challenges related to Tourette Syndrome,” says Michelle, who helped found an organization that raises funds for the National Tourette Syndrome Association. “I have also had to learn to relax and be flexible, overcoming my own educational training from that of public school to adjust to the environment of our homeschool.”
Michelle has sought to give back to the homeschooling community through various leadership roles, including serving as external lifestyle curator with the FPEA Amabassador Program. “We are so grateful to those who’ve gone before us,” she states, “and value all the choices and opportunities our family now has. My passion is gathering and sharing information and our personal experiences, hoping to ease others’ journeys as our own has been.”