Kris and Carissa Jones have been homeschooling for the last 13 years, and God has blessed them with eight children.
Tell us about your kids.
I joke that we make one brand, with two flavors. Our kids are either light haired with blue eyes, or dark haired with brown eyes.
There’s no denying that they are all siblings. But for as similar as they look, they have eight distinct personalities.
Kathryn (18) is a questioner who won’t accept pat answers. She tests everything to see for herself if the answers are true.
Andrew (16) is quiet and steady. He’s the one you want around in an emergency.
Rachel (14) is our artistic, creative one.
Ryan (11) is the class clown. He has the best sense of humor, a quick laugh, and a willingness to pitch in and help every time he is asked.
Elijah (9) is our deep thinker. He asks big questions. He is an observer.
Phillip (6) wants to do important work. He’s a hard worker and is always trying to keep up with his older brothers.
Rebekah is 4 going on 14. She loves to spend time with her older sisters doing girl things, especially having them paint her nails.
And Benjamin (2) is the classic baby of the family. He loves to be silly, but is also a little bashful outside our family.
Tell us about you, Carissa Jones.
I’m a 40-something mom of eight, who has to work to remember that my identity is first as a child of God, and not as a homeschool mom.
So much of what I do revolves around that role, that I have to fight the temptation to let it identify me.
I taught elementary school before I had children of my own, and swore that I would never homeschool. Funny how God changes our hearts.
I love to knit and collect yarn. I am a researcher, especially on the topics of natural living and healthcare.
I am an introvert who loves people, and I would chose one-on-one and small group interactions over large groups every day of the week.
What does a typical day for you look like?
Well, no two days are the same in our house. We try to focus on school in the morning, and use the afternoons for play and out-of-the-house activities.
My goal, once the kids are reading to learn, is to have them doing bookwork independently, and to have lots of family conversations about all the things they are learning.
Those conversations happen organically in the car, over dinner, and swinging in the hammocks in our backyard. One of my favorite things to hear is, “Hey, Mama, did you know…”
Why did you decide to homeschool?
Our oldest daughter missed the cutoff for kindergarten enrollment by three days. She wanted to start school and was ready so we decided to homeschool “for a year.”
Fourteen years later, we are still at it. We have grown to appreciate the homeschooling lifestyle, especially the flexibility it offers and the time we have to spend together.
In the language of the public education world, homeschooling has been the perfect IEP for each of our kids. We have been able to tailor their education to their strengths and weaknesses, as well as linger over the topics that are of great interest to each of them.
Homeschooling allows Kris and I to foster an environment that promotes positive values and understanding, while minimizing negative influences.
Something to tell the younger Carissa Jones starting to homeschool?
So many things! My attitude and style of homeschooling have changed so much in the last 14 years.
I’d want the younger Carissa Jones to know that homeschooling is a lifestyle, not just an educational choice.
As an offshoot of that, I’d want her to remember she was intentionally bypassing the public school model, and that she didn’t need to hold her children to the standards of the institution that she didn’t think was in their best interest.
I’d encourage her over and over to remember that she and Kris are the experts on their children, and to listen to their God-given intuition; to get extra help if they thought something was off but not to do it because of the expectations of others.
I’d want her know that there are gaps in every education and that one of the biggest gifts she could give her children would be teaching them how to learn and ask big questions.
I’d also remind her that play is the work of childhood and that formal academics can be delayed much longer than most Americans practice.
I’d also want her to know that more does not mean better. Short lessons with high quality products are better than large quantity of mediocrity. In fact, I’m still working on following this advice!
Editors’ note: The Jones have been greatly enriched by Youth Leadership Alliance (YLA), a local Christian organization focused on developing youth into godly leaders. To achieve their goal, YLA charters a Boy Scout troop, as well as an American Heritage Girls troop.
Understandably, some homeschooling families have chosen not to partner with the Boy Scouts in any way, and use great alternate programs such as Trail Life. The MPE Board respects that individual decision.
On the other hand, we have met with the leadership of YLA at great length, and have determined that they are decisively Christian, and are able to tailor the Boy Scout program to fit their unique goal of raising up godly leaders. The MPE Board also respects that individual decision.
In essence, this is a Christian liberty issue, and we therefore celebrate the diversity of choices in this area. Why? Because each family is unique, and is trying to teach and disciple their kids in a unique way. That is a good thing to celebrate!
Tell us how YLA uses the Boy Scout program as discipleship.
The mission of our chartering organization, Youth Leadership Alliance (YLA), is to train Christian, homeschooled youth in leadership. The faith of our member families infuses all areas of our program.
Young scouts gain confidence in public prayer. We have opportunities to serve our community as an organization. At the Boy Scout level, boys emulate the servant leadership that has been modeled for them as they assume the increasing responsibility for the implementation of their program, not avoiding hard areas like conflict resolution and accountability.
YLA also encourages each scout to progress through the four levels of the nationally recognized God and Life program.
In what ways has scouting positively impacted your family?
One of the greatest impacts has come from the relationships that have formed between ourselves, our children, and the leaders and scouts in our Troop and Pack.
Our own children have seen other godly men and women living out their faith, which encourages them to pursue more depth to their own faith as they have been challenged by their peers’ examples.
The messages of honesty, integrity, faithfulness, and leadership have been reinforced through our scouting adventures. And we’ve all made friends!
What other area resources have been a blessing to your family?
We have used many local resources over the years to enhance our homeschool. The two that are most important to me right now are a local Facebook group of homeschooling families and our co-op.
Co-op, in particular, has been a blessing to our family. I have been able to outsource some upper level classes, my elementary kiddos have participated in some excellent enrichment classes, and all of us have found a smaller niche in the homeschool community to call home and make friends.
The library, homeschool classes at the zoo, ballroom dancing, Christ Prep athletics, and our IEW writing class also make this list of important components to our homeschool.
Thanks so much, Kris and Carissa Jones!
About this series, Faces of Homeschooling…
You have heard them before – the stereotypes that some people believe about homeschoolers.
You know, like when people think that all homeschooling mothers wear homemade denim jumpers or that all homeschooled kids are shy, socially awkward geniuses who are not ready for the world. Maybe you have even heard people say that all homeschoolers are conservative Christians and that we all think alike.
As fellow homeschoolers, we know that these stereotypes do not represent reality. We also know that there is plenty of diversity within the homeschooling community, not only in demographics but also in why and how we homeschool.
In short, homeschoolers do not all look the same, think the same, and act the same.
At MPE, we want to highlight these differences by introducing you to some local families enjoying their unique journey of home education.
We hope these interviews will encourage you as you homeschool your children in your own special way!