How in the WORLD do you homeschool FOUR children while telecommuting? Love, patience and a TON of coffee... Just in case you wanted it, here's a glimpse inside Mrs. Kastner's Klass.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Lessons from a homeschool graduation

Even though I am a teacher by training, this journey called homeschooling has been FRAUGHT with worry... self-doubt... and fear. I worry constantly if I'm giving my kids a good enough education. I worry if they will get in to college. I wonder if I'm making a huge mistake. And I do worry about that QUINTESSENTIAL homeschooling dilemma: will they be properly equipped to socialize with other people. These students were my most important students. My success or failure with these ones mattered the most.

Yesterday was Noah's last day. He graduated! by homeschooling... and I realized.... this child is PERFECTLY equipped for the future he has chosen. For the future that has been his desire since he was 10 years old. He is perfectly ready to "yes sir" and push up and salute his way through basic training. He is ready to SERVE this country in an honorable and dedicated manner. I know in my heart this child will be a BEAST in the Army. And guess what??? God knew all along that this was his next step.  When I was worrying and wondering about ACTs, portfolios, admissions interviews.... God was sitting there whispering "trust me"... because none of those things were THIS child's future. He aced his ASVAB. He is KILLING his physical fitness requirements. He is dotting every i and crossing every t the Army outs in front of him.

I think my biggest takeaway from the past year is the fact that it was OK that I didn't know the end game because God did. I didn't have to worry about college or SATs or even careers. My job was to obey God. He told me to homeschool these children. I just needed to be as faithful as possible in the teaching and loving and every day molding and then leave the outcome in His hands.  I knew this... but know I really KNOW this.

Mommas out there... homeschoolers... will you TRY to believe me... every changed diaper... wiped nose... sticky kiss... learned math fact... memorized Bible verse... they matter... do them faithfully but let God worry about orchestrating all those things into an amazing human being. Also will someone please remind me of this with the next three???

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Confessions of a homeschooling failure.....

I cry nearly EVERY, SINGLE day of homeschooling. I'm not lying. I'm not exaggerating. This is the SINGLE most DIFFICULT thing I have ever done. Juggling a job, a sick husband, caring for an old lady all while trying to homeschool 4 children... it breaks me EACH and EVERY day.  Somewhere around the 17th, "Mom can I skip number ____?" and the 14th, "Hannah is sitting at MY desk!" I fall apart... a hot, mad mess of tears and snot (can you guess that's exactly the posture from which I am writing THIS blog?) Many days this happens WELL before noon, and more often than not it is accompanied or more likely preceded by my very best "YOU WON'T LIKE ME WHEN I'M ANGRY" impression of The Hulk.

Most sane people would ask, then WHY do you do it? WHY do you put yourself through constantly feeling like a failure? WHY do you deal with the never-ending worry that you are missing some component of your children's education? WHY do you open yourself up to the frequent criticism of others who believe in "real school"?  WHY do you FIGHT and CRY and SCRATCH and CLAW your way through each and every difficult day?

The only answer I have:


1. I honestly LIKE the people my children are becoming because they are homeschooled. They are kind, empathetic, interested in others and becoming quite WELL equipped to interact in this world.

2. I love that my children are learning while keeping a DEEP interest in learning. One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is that it doesn't deaden my children to the wonder of learning. They become the kind of people who WANT to know how to spell things correctly or what is the right way to use this word or that word. They are EAGER to learn new things which is NOT the same as being EAGER to do their lesson (I'm starting to preach to myself here:  Jami!  Do not DESPAIR that they don't WANT to do 36 math problems! Their desire to LEARN is more important than that!)

So now that the veil is off and this post is revealed for what it really is:  a desperate attempt to get myself back on track after a meltdown that found me with my forehead plastered to my desk calendar.... I'm going to lift up my head, brush off that paper clip stuck to my forehead and give a little cheer for all of us homeschooling failures out there:

*You can DO this!
*Even when you're failing a little you're succeeding at SO much!
*This most difficult thing you've ever done is the BEST thing you will EVER do!
*Now get your head off your desk calendar and get back to HOMESCHOOLING!  

(That's what I'm going to do.)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer... Summer... Summertime....

As previously confessed here on this blog, we do NOT take a real summer break. In Mrs. Kastner's Klass we just keep plugging along almost ALL summer, occasionally taking a few weeks off in August. "Sooooooo," you might ask, "what do you DO all summer then?"

1. Math: We finish our math curriculum. Some homeschoolers just get through as much of the book as they can in a school year. I (the QUINTESSENTIAL penny-pincher) prefer to work cover-to-cover, getting EVERY cent out of the curriculum I purchased. So we finish our math books. Often I allow them to take off on their own working at their own pace once summer comes. (Noah POUNDS it trying to finish because he knows that means more time to play Xbox once he finishes Math. Jeremiah just takes his time. Elijah has to be forcibly encouraged to do ANYTHING even Math which he is GREAT at.) Once they are done with their Math books that is one less school task they have to complete each day (until fall comes and bring a brand new book... hee hee hee!)

2. Reading: We always have to keep on reading.  This year I started a summer reading program. I gave the older two boys a "Summer Reading List" filled with classic books I had recently stocked my library with (from the $1 section at Target!  OHHHHH do I get GREAT deals there!).  They both just finished Oliver Twist and are now independently taking on The Jungle Book (Noah) and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Jeremiah). I gave Elijah and Hannah blank lists to fill in a specified number of books they read this summer. I will admit that I had to offer a monetary reward (well actually it is Gamestop $$$ for the boys and Barbie $$$ for the princess), but for the FIRST time ever, I have caught BOTH of my older boys doing the Jami/Jodi (walking around the house while still reading a book). I welled up with a tear in my good eye!

Fun Fonix
3. Mechanics: This is what I call the bare bones things they need to keep up on in the summer. All my kids pretty much ROCK at math; therefore, this is typically something in the language arts family. (The irony of this fact is NOT lost on me.... the former Grammar Teacher with the English minor.... but my boys just do NOT enjoy reading, spelling, grammar, etc... *sigh*This summer Noah and Jeremiah are pounding away at some spelling while Elijah and Hannah are doing some phonics work.

4. Bible: We never stop teaching the Word either. We are currently reviewing several passages of scripture we have memorized over the past few years while we take a walk through the Bible. In fact last week, I found a GREAT book for this purpose.... before we were just kinda doing it on our own... this book helped us get a framework to work from.

5. Martial Arts: John is still working to start his Christian Martial Arts ministry Rising Sons Martial Arts. He is using a form of Martial Arts called, Christjitsu. Our 4 kiddos and 1 neighbor kid are his cornerstones. They haven't done Christjitsu since before we went to Georgia as they train outdoors and the heat has been pretty dangerous lately, but typically they do Christjitsu 2x per week.

6. FUN STUFF: We keep on learning through fun stuff in the summer too. Our trip to Georgia to see my brother graduate from basic training was FILLED with learning adventures:  

*first airplane ride for Elijah & Hannah
*first terminal train and monorail ride for many 
*first getting separated in the airport and watching mommy BREAKDOWN in front of tons of people as well
*the graduation ceremony was CHOCK FULL of history and instruction

Tanisha & Dustin took the kids to the Zoo. 

We are also SOON planning trips to the museum and the domes now that mommy finally got her new driver's license (worst DMV photo EVER! I'd rather go to jail then show a cop my ID!)

So anyways.... before you start feeling too bad for those poor Kastner Kids who have to go to school ALL summer long, remember that a lot of what they do in the summer is FUN too (yesterday I read on FB: reading is like dreaming with your eyes open!) and don't forget that all year long the Kastner Kids get to go to school in their pajamas!

Stay cool everybody! 

Monday, April 16, 2012


I've been doing a lot of thinking about homeschooling lately.  A few months ago, due to an open enrollment/school choice opportunity, we REALLY prayed hard about putting the kids in traditional school. Recently I've faced some challenges to my homeschooling choice.  Because of that I wanted to take a second to share a little of my philosophy on education.  It is CLOSELY tied to my philosophy on choosing a church, determining your convictions, living ALL of life!

See as a former teacher, I believe I have a unique perspective on homeschooling. I'm sure to some I am a bit of enigma... "Why in the world did you spend time and money getting a degree in teaching only to choose NOT to send your children into the traditional educational system????"

The best analogy I can come up with is:  ice cream.  My philosophy on choosing the right church for your family, determining what convictions you will hold to, living your life, making the correct educational choice for your children.... they all come back to ice cream.

The reason there are so many different flavors of ice cream is because there are so many different "flavors" of people. Not everyone likes chocolate... not everyone likes nuts in their ice cream... not everyone likes fruity ice cream.... therefore a MYRIAD of flavors exist so we can all be happy.

This fits churchs:  not everyone likes raising their hands in worship... not everyone likes the American Idol worship experience... not everyone likes quiet and reserved... therefore a MYRIAD of denominations exist so we can all be happy.

It also fits education. I believe that as parents it is OUR job to evaluate all of the educational opportunities available to us and choose the best fit for our children and our family. There are a MYRIAD of educational choices: public school, private school, religious school, military school, virtual schooling, homeschooling so we can all be happy.

I really and TRULY do NOT believe that EVERYONE should homeschool. I believe that as the world's best experts on Noah, Jeremiah, Elijah, and Hannah Kastner, John and Jami Kastner are charged with the responsibility of evaluating all the choices available and determining what is the best educational option for those 4 children. For right NOW, actually for the 2012 - 2013 school year as well... homeschooling is the best option for the Kastner children.  Only God knows what the future brings for them.

I challenge ANYONE who might read this blog to open your mind and evaluate ALL of the options available  for your child/children. Then make a prayerful decision based upon what is best for YOUR child and family.  God bless!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Benefits of homeschooling

There are so many benefits to homeschooling. Some are solid, backed up by fact. Some are fuzzy, warm intangibles. But all combine to make homeschooling a valid (and in my humble opinion), superior educational choice.

1. Small student-teacher ratio -- Even in VERY large homeschooling families, the student-teacher ratio is MUCH smaller than in the average traditional school. According to the IES National Center for Educational Statistics in this nation's schools, the average student-teacher ratio in 2009 - 2010 was 15.38 students to 1 teacher. The student-teacher ratio in the Kastner household -- 4 to 1. The Kastner children are getting nearly four times more teacher attention at home than they would in a traditional school. This means that they cannot get off task as much. They cannot daydream and zone out. They cannot write a note instead of listening to their math lesson. They cannot sneak a novel inside their science textbook and read during science class (YUPS! this book nerd DID that!) Bare bones: they get MORE time from their teacher, which I believe translates into higher quality education.

2. Individualized curriculum -- In a traditional school, the curriculum is standardized by a curriculum committee that dependent upon your district could take into consideration the needs of all children in a given grade for your entire school, district or even state. This makes some people very comfortable... knowing that all fourth graders in this school, district or state are learning ______________. However, this mom doesn't want her kids getting a one-size-fits-all education. One size DOESN'T fit all in this house. Noah is very interested in history, studying wars, and learning about weapons. Jeremiah has such a strong creative bone... devising stories, role playing, and pretending are all his forte. Elijah is a math WHIZ! He LOVES a great math lesson. Hannah just loves everything about Kindergarten so it is hard to say what her "leanings" are towards. By intimately knowing these children, I am able to individualize their curriculum so that while Noah is researching Pearl Harbor (HIS chosen research paper topic by the way) he doesn't even realize he is learning to research, form sentences properly, make an outline, organize a research paper. He is so excited to learn about Pearl Harbor I can sneak in all sorts of English lessons. And when something EXCITING happens around here I can use it as a learning experience. Most importantly I am able to incorporate our faith and our morals into every single lesson I teach. We start each morning by pledging our allegiance to our country, our Savior and the Word. We rattle through the books of the Bible next. We memorize LARGE portions of scripture. Every subject is taught from a Biblical worldview. Being able to individualize our curriculum choices to our family and our children delivers a superior educational experience for them.

3. Flexibility -- This one is a little more intangible, and it has been touched on in previous blogs. Homeschooling allows the flexibility to decide what will be taught, when it will be taught, where it will be taught. A homeschooling schedule allows children to go to dentist appointments without missing instructional time. It allows parents to take off on educational tangents that interest THEIR children. It allows learning to take place at home, in the car, even on vacation. Many homeschooling families educate year round. We in the Kastner household do an abbreviated schedule in the summers and around holidays, but we have VERY few times of complete and total abstaining from school. The flexibility of homeschooling allows me to give my children not only MORE educational time but higher quality time as well.

4. Learning Struggles -- There is no teacher in this world who loves Noah, Jeremiah, Elijah and Hannah as much as I do. [Please note that I say this as a teacher who LOVED her students as if they were her own. I CARED about those children A LOT, but still I know that there is NO WAY I cared about any of them more than their mom did.] There is no person in this world who is more committed to their educational success. There is no one who will more doggedly pursue solutions to their struggle, who will more passionately run after the tools needed to make them succeed, who will work as hard as I will work to make sure that these four children grow into functioning adults who love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and being. This being said, I don't believe I am an island. I employ the instructors at the TAG Center to teach my children swim lessons because they have an expertise in it. I will likely outsource other parts of their education as well: foreign language, musical instruments, geometry (AH! I hated geometry! Thank you Bob Miller and Mr. Welborn... I would have NEVER made it through geometry without YOU!) My point is with ME on the case these children will get through their learning struggles because it is INTENSELY important to me that they do. The fact that the teacher is the mom works to a child's advantage providing them with an intensely devoted educational program that helps them navigate the tough parts of their education.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying all of YOU have to choose to homeschool. I'm just laying out the benefits of homeschooling as I see them.... I welcome your thoughts, realizing that if non-homeschoolers stumble upon this blog, it could become a bit hot in here.

Have a GREAT day everyone!
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