By Kathy Kuhl
For years, Joyce Herzog has been helping homeschoolers teach children who learn differently. The author of Learning In Spite of Labels, Timeless Teaching Tips, Choosing and Using Curriculum, Luke’s List, and more, Joyce has been a conference speaker across the country, a consultant, and a teacher of homeschooled kids. She’s helped thousands of families.
When I was a new homeschooler in the 1990s, I remember eagerly hearing Joyce speak. She was always expert, practical, and encouraging. Her books helped me, too.
Before helping homeschoolers, Joyce taught in public and private schools for twenty-five years. She designed her own program to help children who were not succeeding in the classroom, and was expert at adapting to suit each child and at using hands-on methods and field trips to help children enjoy learning. While a teacher, she also developed the Scaredy Cat Reading System, which presents phonics rules (and the exceptions!) through stories that kids can remember and enjoy, and reinforces those rules with games and activities.
This summer, Joyce started a new adventure—homeschooling her eight-year-old goddaughter. The goddaughter’s single mother wanted to homeschool, but needs to work. Since they live in another city, the goddaughter is coming and staying with Joyce and her husband Tom for ten days, then going home to her mom and grandma every other weekend, for the next few months.
I’m delighted that Joyce Herzog agreed to let me interview her about what the expert teacher has been learning since she started homeschooling six weeks ago.
Kathy: What’s been the hardest thing about homeschooling?
Joyce: By the end of the ten days that we have our goddaughter, I’m tired. So we take daily naps. I give her work to do while we rest. But some days, she naps. So we’re tiring her out, too!
Kathy: You’ve been helping homeschoolers for years. What’s surprised you most about trying homeschooling yourself?
Joyce: How much time we have her. When I taught school, the kids went home after school! My goddaughter finishes her hard-core homeschool work in two hours. But we have her 24/7 for ten days, so she’s around all the time.
Tom has taught her how to clean, use tools, cook, and garden. He is teaching her piano. [Tom’s had to become a house husband since Joyce’s spinal injury in 2007.] We trade off working with her. Soon I’ll be starting up my small weekly class for homeschooled children, and she’ll be joining that.
Kathy: What have you enjoyed most about homeschooling?
Joyce: Seeing the changes and progress. When disciplined before, this girl’s main escape was to laugh, giggle, and still put off her work. Now she’s sky high in her ability to sit, work, and produce. She’s just finished a massive lapbook on butterflies. We raised butterflies from caterpillars and just released them when her mom came to pick her up.
My goddaughter is reading books she “can’t read” because she’s interested. I’ve seen her sit and work four hours straight.
We’ve put her on a schedule. We figured out that she needs ten hours sleep a night, and now she gets that.
I’ve also seen her learn to take responsibility. [For each ten-day period she is with us,] Tom gives her five dollars to empty all nine garbage bins in the house. Any time Tom finds a bin too full to close, or one that smells, she loses fifty cents. She’s learned to be responsible. He’s also taught her to budget, setting aside fifty cents to tithe [give as an offering], and fifty cents to save.
Both Tom and I have been foster parents. So our goal has been, whether we have the children for two days, two months, or two years, to show them a different way to live. When they’re grown, they can choose how to live. But they’ve seen something different.
Another change is that she is never bored. The first time she told me, “I’m bored,” I told her, “Go clean the bathroom.” “I’m not bored anymore,” she replied. Now she finds things to do. And when you learn to live by yourself, you discover who you are.
Kathy: Tell us something you would say differently or add to your workshops for homeschoolers now that you’ve started homeschooling.
Joyce: I would reemphasize two things that I’ve said all along:
- You don’t have to do everything.
- You don’t have to follow a set textbook curriculum.
These are things I’ve always said. Focus on learning, not on completing a curriculum. Ask yourself, “What is he or she ready for?” Relax and teach.
Joyce Herzog taught nontypical learners in public and private schools for 25 years before moving on to encourage parents in the art of schooling at home. The goal of a teacher, she says, is “to enhance the environment to nurture and guard the learning, encourage the child’s unique passions, and draw out the built-in God-design that prepares this child to accept and develop his calling.”
Check them out and leave your comments about what you appreciate about Joyce below.