Interview with Valerie Moon, Part 1

I first became aware of homeschooling mother Valerie Moon via her excellent website, The Military Homeschooler. Homeschooling families in which a parent is an active member of the military face particular challenges as they deal with homeschooling laws in different states and even different countries as the family moves from station to station. Even though she’s done homeschooling her children (through two different countries!), Moon has continued to maintain her site, a wonderful resource for military families contemplating or actively homeschooling, and her family’s story is an interesting one. Here we go:

Adrienne: My first question is the big one: What got you started in homeschooling?

Valerie: Working in school.

Our oldest son attended public school (and parochial school for two years), so I knew the drill from that angle. In 1988, his senior year and the year our youngest started Kindergarten, the overseas military newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, published an article about some new fad called homeschooling. This was the first I’d heard of it. It was intriguing, but I didn’t rush out and disenroll the kids from school. This was also pre-Internet for Germany, and no one at our (civilian) church mentioned it – Episcopalians aren’t the tip of the homeschooling spear – so my information on homeschooling was just that one article. Still, I remember the room where I sat, and the light glowing through the plants in the window as I read the article. It made an impression.

A year later I worked at the school in the glorious position of playground monitor. The vice principal recruited me after I showed up daily at school one week to give our youngest daughter some medicine. Tony, the school’s vice principal, said that I could put my lunch time to good use making money – five whole dollars an hour – wow, an offer I couldn’t refuse (and the school needed the help). I’d already been a “room mother,” I was writing a monthly magazine for the schoolkids to take home, I’d been on the School Improvement Plan committee, and was an elected member of the School Advisory Committee. Anything for the kiddos. So there I was, a playground monitor with a daily view of school socialization… that occurs outside the 25-foot portable no man’s land that surrounds playground monitors as they stroll around the playground. The hard-case kid said the f-word every ten seconds during a football game. I timed him one day.

I did this work to fulfill the prophecy that children do better in school when their parents participate in school activities. Maybe so, but my kids just avoided me on the playground as if I had a 100-foot force field around me. Still, their grades and standardized test scores were such that they all were in the “talented and gifted” (TAG) class so I figured that what we were doing was working well. Despite their TAG designations, there were still pressures and problems, but I saw these as normal given our experiences with our oldest son. It’s just the way it was.

The clinching moment came when I was asked (probably out of the art teacher’s desperation) to join two other ladies in judging an art contest sponsored by the PTA. This was after my own kids had come home telling me that they had to do pictures about “where the sky ends.” I told them “in the back yard” and didn’t think any more about it.

The two ladies (neither of whom I knew, and one was visiting the other) and I showed up at the art room. The art teacher gave a martyred sigh, waved at the seven stacks of 18×24 sheets of paper, said he was tired of the whole business, and left us to Judge. Well, how to proceed? I suggested we do a “quick and dirty” flip through with the stacks of pictures on the floor (and the kids’ names on the backs) to separate the yeses from the noes, and then pick three from each grade level. The two ladies agreed, and we started. We decided to go from “easy” to “hard” as the sophistication level increased, and so we started with the kindergarteners’ paintings.

The kindergarten pictures were so easy, and so sweet. The first graders’ techniques improved, as did the second graders’. The third graders’ were showing originality and verve, but the fourth graders’ pictures didn’t improve over the third graders’, and some looked … worse. The fifth graders’ pictures showed a lot of copying, and the sixth graders’ were worse than the kindergarteners’ but without the sweetness.

I was disturbed by what I saw, so after we finished my footsteps echoed up the stairwell as I trotted to the TAG teacher’s room to Let Her Know (!) what happened to the kids in the school. Rosemary sat cutting out construction paper manipulatives in her room, and she listened to my tale of woe, calmly snipping. When I finished she looked up and said, “In self-contained gifted classes, the kids peak even earlier. There it happens in first grade. Studies have shown that people usually don’t recover their childhood creativity until their 40s.”

“You mean people KNOW about this?? So I’m showing up every day, and going on field trips, and helping with science experiments, all to improve my kids’ school performance while the teachers know not much is going to change? And nobody told ME?”

I left the school that day, disheartened. (Plus my three kids’ pictures didn’t make it past the ‘quick and dirty’ cut – it wasn’t about not ‘winning,’ as it was that their pictures sucked.) What could I do to help my kids?

Serendipitously, I had recently received a new listing of children’s magazines that accepted articles. In that listing was one magazine whose name caught my eye: Home Education Magazine. I sent for a sample. As they say, the rest is history. Before the end of the school year we’d ordered our boxed curriculum (a strategy that lasted for one year). I couldn’t fix the system as my kids grew through it, but I could help my kids.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Internet Resources, Interviews, Military Homeschoolers

2 Comments on “Interview with Valerie Moon, Part 1”


  1. […] Interview with Valerie Moon, Part 1: I first became aware of homeschooling mother Valerie Moon via her excellent website, The Military Homeschooler. Homeschooling families in which a parent is an active member of the military face particular challenges as they deal with homeschooling laws in different states and even different countries as the family moves from station to station. Even though she’s done homeschooling her children (through two different countries!), Moon has continued to maintain her site, a wonderful resource for military families contemplating or actively homeschooling, and her family’s story is an interesting one. […]


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