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Meet the VanBaast family of Cedar Park, Texas! Parents, Greg and Melissa and children Karina 17 years old, Jeremy 15 years old, Toby 12 years old, Olivia 9 years old and three year old Jacob.

What brought you to Homeschooling?
There were many things that contributed to the VanBaast family's decision to homeschool, such as the elementary school's switch to "new math" which failed to teach the basics and the unexplainable lack of academic and cultural field trips. The VanBaasts live in close proximity to NASA and many fine museums, yet the schools only scheduled trips to amusement parks.

The straw that broke the proverbial camel's back was when the state of Texas issued their annual report cards for the schools. The local high school was rated "exemplary" yet further down the report showed that only 30% of the white students who took the SAT scored better than 1050, and NONE of the minority students scored 1050 or higher! Melissa concluded, "The schools were not preparing them for life after high school."

So the VanBaasts began homeschooling when their children were 15, 12, 10, 7 and 1 years old. At the time, Melissa was not aware of the many resources available to homeschoolers, so she went to the local teacher supply store and purchased Alpha Omega, the only homeschooling curriculum they carried. After four months, they began having second thoughts. "It [Alpha Omega Curriculum] was just like school." says Melissa. The children were learning material to pass the quizzes, then forgetting it right after. They realized the curriculum was not working and that doing school at home was not why they started homeschooling.

With excitement, Melissa describes what happened next. "We unschooled/deschooled for about a year and a half. I dumped the curriculum, bought Spectrum Notebooks, and left them out for them. We watched Discovery Channel, went places to develop our interests and get out of the schooling mode. That year, the children became more responsible for their own education."

Despite the obvious success of unschooling, Melissa reported that she did what most homeschooling parents do eventually, "I panicked! I went mad and bought a bunch of books!" In the midst of her buying spree, she stumbled upon the Trivium -- grammar, logic and rhetoric -- the foundation of the Classical approach to education, which Melissa remembers as "the best thing that happened." The VanBaasts started their homeschooling journey with a $1000 investment in a curriculum that did not work. However, using the Trivium and supplementing with additional books, they have spent only $300, and these materials are suitable for grades 1-12.

Now that the savvy homeschooling mom has found what works for her family, Melissa has many tips to share. "Get with friends and see what they are using and look at their books before you buy. Invest in an all in one printer/copier with a flatbed top. Buy one workbook, take off spine, copy and put in protector sheets." Melissa has also become an expert online shopper of gently used books and materials. The VanBaast's older children, Karina and Jeremy take advantage of Texas' dual enrollment program, which allows high school students to take two community college courses per semester, tuition free. Melissa states that she now knows where the resources are and that she does not have to spend a lot of money to homeschool.

What is the greatest challenge to homeschooling and how do you address it?
"Once you start doing it, there is no challenge!" Melissa explains that the hardest part of homeschooling is taking that first leap of faith. She had wondered if having five children at home all the time would drive her crazy. "I found out that they are really good people and I enjoy having them around."

What are the most surprising changes to your family life because of homeschooling?
"That we as a family are stronger than we thought we were. I didn't give my children enough credit for anything. I did a lot of hand holding, more than I needed to. They are much more resourceful and capable than I ever thought."

Melissa VanBaast recommends the following resources:

Harvey's Grammars

Latina Christiana

Destinos Spanish Videos

Swap Boards at

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