Thursday, July 30, 2015

Our High School student shares her experience of Unschooling

One of the unique benefits that our school offers is that our students have the freedom to customize their own educational program to suit their individual needs. This can include everything from an eclectic, interest-led, unschooling approach, to purchasing a curriculum for every subject, as well as everything in between.

In this blog post we are sharing what a student in our High School Diploma Program says about her experience unschooling. 

“Unschooling is much like regular homeschooling.  The only difference is we don’t have a curriculum telling us what we need to learn, and when we need to learn it.  I have always had the freedom to choose what I wanted to learn every year.  They never told me I had to learn something at a certain time, which I loved.  It has made my years of school a million times more interesting!  I was never bored out of my mind learning about something that I am not even close to being interested in.  My parents have always pushed me to seek what I was interested in, and to always go at it full force.  I remember my parents sitting me down every year, and asking me what I wanted to learn.  They wrote down everything I said, and made it happen for me.  That’s something I will appreciate forever.”

Two common questions that those unfamiliar to this educational philosophy may have are: “Will a child learn if they are not told what they should be studying?” and “Will they be socialized and mature if they are not in a classroom with other children their own age?” This student gives her take on these questions. 

“I remember so many of my friends complaining about how much they hated school.  I was never able to relate to my friends because I have never been forced to learn anything.  I have always wanted to learn things on my own, and honestly, nothing has ever helped me out more in life.  I am always curious about everything.  The urge to learn has constantly kept me moving forward.  Being unschooled and having parents that treated me equally as an adult has allowed me to have my own opinions.  I feel it has helped me to mature very quickly.  One thing that has always stuck out to me when I have a conversation with an adult is that they are always very surprised to hear that I am only seventeen. They say my communication skills are very good.  Being unschooled has given me many opportunities that most young teenagers never get because of the limitations of a school schedule.” 

How does she feel about preparing to graduate high school after a lifetime of unschooling?

“So for now, I am finishing up my unschooling adventure and moving on to a new chapter in my life.  I am excited and a little anxious for these next few months as they represent the end of an era for me. Thank you for West River Academy.  This school has enabled my parents to give me the freedom to learn without the constraints of traditional schooling.”

We’re happy to support students like this one in their educational journeys, whatever form they may take. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

World-schooling an exemplary life

This week we are spotlighting a family who are world-schooling their children by living at the moment on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Originally from a Middle European country, their inspiration to start traveling began with their children 7 years ago. They felt a desire to show them the world; how big it is, and how much is possible. Beyond their own children they feel a responsibility for the world. They strive to live an exemplary life by not smoking, drinking alcohol or using medicine. They are also environmentalists who recycle, are vegetarian and live a low-cost life. Modeling this wherever they live in the world is important to them. They have faith that they world can improve, and want to provide an example of how that can be accomplished.

They have a 2 year old son, a 6-year-old daughter and an almost 8-year-old son. The children are naturally curious about new things, and have become accustomed to adapting to new environments. They say that the most important element to traveling as a family is that the children trust them and have confidence in their decisions, because the children know that their own happiness is important to their parents. As a result, they have fun everywhere!

The family stays in one location for a year so that they have time to explore their surroundings and experience the local culture. They do not have an easy lifestyle and there are a lot of uncertainties. However,  they draw strength from their faith that they can contribute to making the world a better place. They find that if they are stable, then the children are stable too. 

For them, homeschooling while traveling is accomplished through the richness of their environment, as well as from their books and toys. They can use their tablets to access the internet and learn anything they want to know. Their philosophy is that life is experience and experience is learning, so they are always learning!

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Bee" the Change... through Worldschooling!

Homeschooling provides freedom to explore the world. For some families that is the world immediately surrounding them, and others take the opportunity to go farther from home and make traveling their lifestyle. We have some families here at West River Academy that are “worldschooling” and have taken their education on the road! Let’s hear from one family directly about what they are doing and how it works with their homeschooling. 

Meet the “Caring Bees” family: Fritz, Terra, Ky and Kai! They were living a comfortable, normal suburban American lifestyle, but dreamed of roaming the world. Sound familiar? Well, this family took the radical step of selling their belongings and taking off for New Zealand! They created a website focused around their family’s passion for health and bees. Here’s what they say about what is inspiring their focus:

“Caring Bees was created because our family is passionate about our health and discovered Manuka honey, specifically, to have amazing versatile natural caring/healing properties, above most other foods and herbs!  Also, we have great concerns about the future of our lovely bees and would like to look deeper into this issue, find out what we can do to help and share with the world!” -

I wondered what the children’s reaction is to this big change in their lives. Terra said “Well, actually, we keep praising our kids on how well they are doing with all of the changes and uncertainty a day may bring, while traveling. We are learning so much each day, there is not enough time for anyone to complain or irritate each other, like they did at home. Such a win/win!”

What does homeschooling on the road look like for them? “Every evening, the kids will journal their day's adventure. Once it is done, they will go further with either research on any questions they need answered, draw what they liked about the adventure or create a project from it. We also use an iPad app called "Homeschool Helper" to keep a detailed log of learning hours and studies. This has been an invaluable tool for us in keeping on track with all different areas of study.” 

Curious to see where this adventure takes them? You can follow this family in their adventures following bees and learning from their travels on their homepage, and their social media outlets: Facebook Twitter Instagram and Pinterest!

P.S. - Next week, we’ll feature a European family that has been traveling for 7 years. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

A homeschooling year in review

This time of year we love receiving the year-end reports from our families, who inspire us with everything they’ve been learning over the past year. We leave the content of the report up to each family. Our primary goal is for them to summarize what they feel was of educational value for each child in the past school year.

We sometimes get inquiries from families who would like to see some samples of what year-end reports look like. To help provide that, one of our families who is homeschooling their 13-year old daughter has given us permission to share the year-end report that they created. They have been homeschooling for the past 6 years. 

This is a great example of how to write a report. It is a short summary of hands-on projects mixed with academics, illustrating an eclectic approach to homeschooling. They say:
“Homeschooling is a journey and we seem to be changing just a bit each year, but I try to include any curriculum we've used or experiences she's gotten to have that contribute to her learning (or as we seem to say more and more: "Anything and everywhere is a chance to learn!”)”

Scholastic Daily Word Ladders, grades 4-6 workbook
Wordly Wise 3000, Book 7
Learning Language Arts Through Literature, The Tan Book
Creative Teaching Press: Sixth Grade Math Minutes workbook
Math U See, Zeta: instruction book, workbook, dvd, and test booklet
Holt Science & Technology, Texas Edition, grade 7
Creating America: A History of the United States – McDougal Littell
The Care & Keeping of You, Books 1 & 2 – American Girl
The U.S. Government (workbook) – Remedia Publications, 2009
Wordly Wise, Book 4 – Kenneth Hodkinson & Joseph G. Ornato
Youth Digital Mod Design 1, Learn Java using Minecraft
Youth Digital Server Design, Program Your Own Minecraft Server

We had a house built between June 2014 and November 2014. Our daughter got to see and participate in all of the planning, designing, and creation of our new home. She saw “real world” applications for knowing area and perimeter. She saw framing of the house, wiring, instillation of fixtures, and all of the work that finished the inside and outside of our new home. She also got to see how much paperwork is involved in buying a house!

Activities this Spring included: “Crazy Chemistry” at the local library March 31, a STEM event for girls at St. Mary’s College on May 2, 2015, a visit to the local Civil War Memorial: Point Lookout Prisoner-of-War Camp on May 17, explorations of the beaches around the Chesapeake Bay with our guests on May 17- May 20, a visit to the local Naval Air Museum at NAS Patuxent River on May 19, a trip up to the National Mall which included visits to the Washington Monument, the Vietnam War Memorial Wall, The World War II Memorial, The Lincoln Monument, and the Korean War Memorial, on May 20.

This Summer our daughter will continue to work on her Java script course and her server design course on the computer. She is participating in Minecraft events at the local library. She attended one on June 30, and she has two more this month: July 14 & July 28. She will be spending the night in the National Archives in D.C. on July 25 and gets to sleep in the rotunda with the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence! In August, she will be taking a Nature Trekkers Art Class August 4- August 7 in Leonardtown, Md. 

Grades              30days  60days  90days 120days  150days  180days Final Grade
Vocabulary          94.8       99.3     93.7      93.3       93.9        97.8         94.6 A
Language Arts     94.7       93.2     93.6      96.3       95.9        99.2         95.4 A
Math                    91.4       95.4     95.5      93.2       89.9        86.5         91.9 A
History                 96.6       96.4     95.0      93.3       93.8        95.5         95.1 A
Science                97.0       99.0     97.4      95.0       96.7        96.6         96.9 A

Monday, July 6, 2015

Pursuing a passion-driven life

2015 West River Academy High School Graduate, Chris Bones, exemplifies a life of pursuing passion. In an interview with Entertainment Scoop’s Vivian Adaobi, he answers her question on what drives him with one word: Passion. “Without passion, I would have quit a long time ago” he says.  “I wake up early, I go to sleep late, I work and I have fun while I do it! Because, that’s passion.” (Ent Scoop, 4/16/2015;

He’s been pursuing that passion since he was young. His first experience was acting in a musical theater show at 6 years old. Ignited by the passion of acting, at age 9 he moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to New York City to pursue a professional career in acting. While there, he played a role on Emmy Award winning daytime television show “One Life to Live”.  

A few years later, in 2009, he followed his love of music to Los Angeles to launch his career as a recording artist. In April 2015 he did his first tour, touring with High School Nation. To see him in action on stage, doing what he loves best, check out his YouTube video “Chris Bones - Live on Tour!” here;

To get a taste of his musical talent, watch his covers of Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran at and Jealous by Nick Jonas at

He is currently working on his first original album, due out this summer. Watch for its release by following his Twitter channel (@thechrisbones) and Facebook page (

Congratulations to Chris on graduating from West River Academy! We look forward to seeing where his passion leads him to next!