Homespun and Hands-On® was born out of unconditional love for my children and tireless efforts to ensure a well-rounded and meaningful education for them. Nestled in the foothills of Vermont, I live with my husband, Charles, and our three children, Matthew, Meghan, and Michael, as well as two Cairn Terriers, Daisy Mae and Lily Lu and four goats, Billy, Callie, Nellie and Sallie.
I chose to homeschool my children in 2001, fully anticipating that homeschooling would equate to “school at home”. Charles and I transformed the entire third floor of our house into a schoolroom with desks, a chalkboard, a crafts room and library area – complete with handwriting prompt cards hanging on the wall. I purchased a comprehensive curriculum that came with all the materials needed for reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, science, geography, etc. – all neatly organized and laid out with a daily schedule for me to follow. Spelling was from 8:30am-9:00am, followed by arithmetic from 9:00am-9:45am, a snack break from 9:45am-10:00am, followed by writing – well you get the gist.
It was a warm October day, a mere few weeks into what turned out to be a decreasingly successful foray into homeschooling, and my five-year-old twins, Matthew and Meghan, were required to learn how to read an analog clock during the arithmetic time slot. They spent the entire 45 minutes trying to grasp the concept. By the end, and as the result of complete frustration, we were all in tears. Taking a deep breath and trying to compose myself, I thought, “Do I really think that if my children can’t tell time on an analog clock by the end of this lesson, they are doomed never to be able to read an analog clock in their lifetime?” The answer was, “Of course not!” I collected all the materials belonging to that comprehensive curriculum, took my children by the hands and said to them, “Mommy has made a big mistake. This school work is for the birds and it needs to be with the birds!” and out the window that comprehensive curriculum went. We ceremoniously tossed the entire thing from three stories high and watched as books plummeted and loose papers floated among the fall leaves. We laughed and giggled as the tears dried. I had discovered that “school at home” was not at all what I wanted for my children. Rather, I wanted to inspire a true love of learning for them. I wanted my children to grow up knowing that they could learn anything they put their mind to learning and that it didn’t have to happen within the constraints of a 45-minute time slot. I wanted them to understand that learning is not something to be dreaded, but something to find exciting, or at the very least, interesting, and to embrace – each and every moment throughout life.
All Matthew and three-year-old Michael wanted to do on that warm day in October was learn about dinosaurs; all Meghan wanted to do was to have Little House on the Prairie read to her. I gathered them up and off we went to the local library, where we found the entire series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and grabbed every single book about dinosaurs we could find. With a stack of books and a picnic lunch in hand, we proceeded to the shores of Lake Champlain. There, the four of us sat under the largest oak tree we had ever seen and read those books into the late afternoon. Providing my children the freedom to explore the things that sparked interest and enthusiasm within them was incredible. Being able to share those precious adventures in learning with them, I would have to call that – priceless.
I never bought another curriculum, but I certainly made sure that my children were reading, writing and keeping up with grade-appropriate mathematics. Everything else that I taught my children in those formative years, I taught through hands-on experiences guided by their passions.
Homespun and Hands-On® was recognized by other parents in 2005 when word spread about the innovative and creative way that I was homeschooling my children. By 2008, there were 50 other families with more than 100 students in our rural Vermont community clamoring to be a part of my 'hands-on' classes, workshops, and social activities. The meticulous and detail-oriented approach and commitment to quality education that Homespun and Hands-On® offers enriched the lives of many students as well as parents in the greater Burlington, Vermont area over the years.
Meghan and Matthew are now spreading their wings as first-year students at the University of Vermont; Michael continues to be homeschooled and is a second-year high school student, with aspirations of graduating early.
The natural progression, considering my background in art, creativity, education, and manufacturing, was to bring the proven successful Homespun and Hands-On® to as many children as possible, no matter what their means of education, by debuting it on the national stage. I have witnessed that given a nurturing "homespun" and fun "hands-on" educational experience (either at home or in a classroom setting), children really do come to love learning and that as a parent, we can inspire that love of learning - quite simply.
Oh! And by the way, we'd be ever so grateful if you'd...