Making Time to Help
Talk about time management: Cheryl Bastian has turned juggling her various homeschooling roles into an art form.
First, there are the children; all seven of them, including a newborn, with two boys and five girls ranging in age up to 21. The oldest is a college junior and another graduates from high school this spring. Aside from the two oldest, a preschooler and an in infant, three middle children are currently homeschooled. Then there’s the homeschool leadership and support she provides, along with her speaking engagements and writing endeavours. And for good measure, she helps her husband conduct annual evaluations for other homeschool families.
“It’s about self-discipline,” says Cheryl, who lives in the Orlando area. “And time management, and then teaching those things to my children as well. I’m just very frugal with my time.”
And to think homeschooling wasn’t her idea. Cheryl was teaching preschool when her husband, a public school teacher, asked if she would ever consider homeschooling. She enjoyed the classroom and didn’t know if she could make the leap to come home full time. Socialization of her children was also a big concern. However, the more Cheryl researched homeschooling, the more she understood the possibilities and benefits of children communicating and interacting with a broad spectrum of people of all ages, not just their peers. “By the time he (the oldest child) got to kindergarten, I was pretty sold on home education,” she recalls. “Although it wasn’t easy at first, it seemed like the natural step for our family.”
To teach multiple levels and abilities efficiently and effectively, Cheryl embraces a variety of educational methods. While she uses traditional textbooks, she also tries to make the most of every opportunity as a vehicle for learning. A sandwich, for example, can be sliced into quarters, and an orange broken into eighths to teach fractions. Audio books can be listened to while on the road. Careers can be studied while visiting local businesses. Sometimes simple things can make a big difference, like playing an educational game with one child while another finishes a math lesson. “I take time to incorporate and apply academic skills to life,” Cheryl comments. “Everything and every event is a learning opportunity.”
Moreover, homeschooling means no sacrifice in the quality of her children’s education. Quite the opposite occurs. “You can build your student’s character and academic skills by leveraging his or her strengths, talents and giftedness,” Cheryl explains. “In addition, homeschooled students have time to explore and develop areas of interest they might not otherwise develop, for example learning entrepreneurial skills by starting a business, reading classic literature, or apprenticing for a specific trade. My oldest tailored his senior year of high school toward his interests in classic literature and business management. He is currently a business major in the Burnett Honors College at the University of Central Florida and will graduate in May.”
Cheryl’s passion for education prompted her to provide resources for other families desiring to homeschool their children with excellence. Seventeen years ago, she began networking with homeschool mothers at her church. As that group grew, she helped create the operating policy, worked with a board to plan monthly support meetings, scheduled educational opportunities for parents and children, and wrote and edited a monthly newsletter to keep families informed.
As her leadership roles increased, Cheryl found it necessary to become more efficient with her daily activities. She scheduled a specific afternoon for the family’s weekly library visit. Making a meal plan and shopping once a week reduced visits to the grocery store. Time was set aside each day to return e-mails, edit writing projects or plan community events.
For the past three years, Cheryl has coordinated vendors and workshops for Books & Beyond, a mid-year conference intended to equip and refresh homeschooling parents. Public speaking opportunities grew out of her leadership roles. She wrote her first book about children’s literature — how to choose good books — out of the need to provide answers to the growing number of questions she was being asked by homeschooling parents during annual evaluations she and her husband provide. This book was followed by another offering practical idea to parents who asked her how to incorporate math into everyday life experiences. In the long run, Cheryl’s books provided her more time with her family, as the resources addressed frequently asked questions.
A simple request to consider homeschooling has transformed into a whirlwind of helpful opportunities for other families and a lesson for Cheryl herself to apply to life: “You have to be very wise with your time.”