Hi, I’m Ken Gary and this is the MyHomeSchool.com web site!
I’d like to tell you a little more about myself, my family, our homeschooling journey and this web site.
I got the idea for this web site back in 2003 when my two sons, Isaac and Travis, were getting close to high school. I knew I was going to want to get them ready for college and I started looking into record keeping and transcripts and other college entrance requirements. At that time the tools available to homeschoolers for these types of things were still in their infancy and I thought I could do a much better job. So I purchased MyHomeSchool.com and planned to develop it in my spare time after work.
It’s been a slow ride up until now but things are about to change.
Let me back up to the beginning…
In 1986 I married my beautiful bride, Russelle. Three years later we had our first son, Isaac, in 1989. Four years later we adopted my nephew Travis and doubled our family. There is no better toy for a four-year-old than another four-year-old, that’s what I always say! The best way to have twins is to not have to go through diaper training with them at the same time.
We were going to a great church in Alvin, Texas called Living Stones which had a terrific private school. As an added benefit, it was also where my brother-in-law was a teacher. I thought I had my whole life laid out for me. Then one day my wife hit be with a bombshell and it changed everything forever.
Russelle told me she wanted to homeschool our children! I had to really think about that.
Our sister-in-law was homeschooling her children and that encouraged Russelle that we could (and should) do it. Russelle really liked the idea and started researching all of her options. She spent an entire summer sitting by the pool reading homeschool magazines and research material like Mary Pride’s Big Book of Home Learning to learn all she could about homeschooling styles, methods and types of learning. I remember being quite unsure about it myself but if Russelle thought it was better than our church’s private Christian school then I was ready to support her.
Russelle put together her own custom curriculum in the beginning by piecing together different “best of” homeschool products. The first big product that Russelle bought was called Play-and-Talk. It was a phonics program created by a very nice lady named Marie A. Le Doux, Ph.D. who had over 30 years of experience with it at that time. To us it was very, very expensive but we felt it was the best thing available and we wanted to do it right. It came on audio cassette by that time but originally it came on vinyl and so we still got the cardboard sleeves for the records because they had the instructions on them! Russelle says it was a great system but not very well executed.
To this day I’m still the most proud of and amazed at Russelle because she was able to teach our boys to read. If we never accomplished anything else…that stands out as one of the coolest things we’ve ever done. We taught our boys, not the public school. Think about that for a minute and let that sink in. If you’re an experienced homeschooler then you probably get that same feeling when you think about what you’ve done for your children. If you haven’t started homeschooling yet and if you have a pre-kindergarten child then just think what great things you get to do soon!
We put together our own curriculum for a couple of years but kept on researching. Around the time the boys got old enough for third or fourth grade we were ready for more of a complete program where the work was done for us. We had several candidates picked out and were trying to decide on which one to invest in. By then our sister-in-law was using Sonlight Curriculum so we decided to go with them too. It was already on our top-three list. I really liked the literature approach, because I love to read and I wanted my sons to get to read lots of great books like I did when I was growing up. The public school system didn’t assign me very many buooks but I spent a lot of time in the library on my own.
I can remember when we made the decision to go with Sonlight Curriculum, I was very excited because there was a big homeschool convention in Houston and they were going to have a booth. I went into full hunter mode and couldn’t wait to get to their booth and buy our curriculum. I was terribly disappointed because they don’t sell their products at conventions, they only give out catalogs and answer questions. I was ready to spend money! I had to be content buying some extra science stuff at the coolest booth in the convention which sold all kinds of science gear.
We went home and ordered Sonlight Level 3/4 and were very, very happy with it. We might have been better off with a lower level but I made a classic mistake. I just looked at their age and where that put them in public school and I insisted they start at that same level in Sonlight. Russelle knew better because she had been the one working with the boys and she knew them best. If I had stopped and listened to the Sonlight Curriculum Consultant more closely at that convention I would have learned that it is often better to start children at a lower level. Numbers are not important. The lesson I eventually learned was that you should match your student to the curriculum by their abilities and sometimes that means starting at a lower level and sometimes it means starting at a higher level when you pull your student out of public school. It depends on the child. Good thing Russelle and the boys were able to make it work in spite of me! Course corrections are a natural way of life in homeschooling.
Russelle started visiting Sonlight’s forums and received a lot of help and support from them as well as encouragement from the other Mom’s. One day she showed me a job posting on their site. They wanted to hire a webmaster. At that time I was working at the Johnson Space Center writing software for the Space Shuttle Simulator where the astronauts practiced their missions. I had been doing that for a long time already and I was ready for something different. I was actively learning and working on the internet in my own time after work and was doing several web sites for small businesses. I sent Sonlight my application and was told I was overqualified. I convinced them that they needed more than just a webmaster and to let me help them take things to the next level. So that is how I came to work for Sonlight Curriculum in 2000 as their Web Developer.
Keeping grades and records is completely up to the parent with Sonlight Curriculum. There are no tests and no grade-keeping except what the parent wants to do. It is still that way but at least now they are including questions for the parents to ask or give to the student each day. That is what got me looking at record-keeping software and transcript requirements in 2003 and gave me the idea that I started working on to provide such things on MyHomeSchool.com.
Another event with my boys got me thinking about some other things I could do for homeschoolers on this web site. Isaac and Travis got themselves accounts on MySpace without me even knowing about it.
Sonlight has some great student forums and they make sure that they follow the COPPA guidelines. I helped set them up and put the first version together so that it was COPPA compliant. So I know what is supposed to happen when someone under 13 (Sonlight set their standard at 18) signs up for a social website like MySpace. When I discovered that my two sons were participating on MySpace I was slightly in shock. Not necessarily because of the dangers there (though a parent should keep a very watchful eye) but just because they were able to do it without my permission and without my knowledge. But as I watched MySpace develop and as the whole social networking concept has grown on the internet it gave me the idea that maybe MyHomeSchool.com can become a “safe MySpace” for homeschoolers. Let me know if this is a concern of yours.
Sonlight Curriculum is a very intensive curriculum that requires a lot of parent/student interaction, which you have to be ready for. Russelle was and it went very well for several years. But some serious personal health issues made it harder and harder for Russelle to give it the time it requires. Reluctantly, we had to look for something that the boys could do more on their own. They were old enough now that a self-directed program would work for us. We decided to use Switched-On Schoolhouse for the last three years of high school, but we supplemented it with as many Sonlight books that we could. It is kind of strange to work for one company and use a competitor’s product, but the people at Sonlight were very understanding and incredibly supportive to my family during those years.
I’m extremely proud to be able to say that our family has successfully homeschooled from Kindergarten through High School. One of my sons has gone on to college to study the music business and one of them is pursuing a career and family…I’m a grandpa! They are still close with many of the friends they made in our neighborhood. But more importantly they had the chance to spend every day, all day with their mother and with me. If for some reason I or Russelle had been taken away from them at an early age they would have had that time together instead of being away in a public school for the majority of the time. You can’t take that away from us. Our family has very deep attachments that have survived a lot of stressful situations. I attribute much of our success to, among other things, our time learning together.
Now that Russelle and I are empty-nesters we get to spend more time together enjoying each other and doing things we dreamed of doing like riding our Harley through the local mountains of Colorado when the whether is good. We also get to live our dream of having our own business with this web site.
Thanks for visiting us at MyHomeSchool.com! Let us know how we can help you on your homeschool journey, that’s what we’re here for.
Developer of MyHomeSchool.com