Episode 1 – Wendy Hilton, Co-Owner of Hip Homeschool Moms, Shares Her Homeschool Story

You are listening to episode 1 of Homeschool Conversations. Today Trish Corlew is interviewing Wendy Hilton. We learn about Wendy’s family and how her homeschool journey began accidentally!

Show notes are below.

Our first episode is sponsored by Apologia. We are HUGE fans of Apologia and we both have used this curriculum throughout our homeschool journeys. This series is literally our favorite science series offered in the homeschool arena. We encourage you to spend a few minutes visiting their site to see why.

Episode 1. Interview of Wendy Hilton.

[00:00:00] Good afternoon. This is Trish Corlew . I’m one of the owners Hip Homeschool Moms and I am here with my business partner, Wendy Hilton.

Hey Wendy.

Hey Trish, how are you?

I’m good. I am doing well.

So we thought since we are now starting the new podcast called Homeschool Conversationx, that we probably ought to have a conversation between Wendy and I – to at least start this podcast and so y’all can know a little bit about us.

Today Wendy is the guinea pig and I’m the interviewer. [laughter]

I’ll be nice Wendy, I promise! [laughter]

Thank you. I’m gonna hold you to that because you’re next. [laughter]

Whatever I do to you you’re going to do to me? [laughter]

That’s right. I’m taking notes! [laughter]

So let’s talk about how who [00:01:00] we are and what we want to be. How’s that? Okay. All right, that sounds good.

So Trish and I have owned Hip Homeschool Moms together for about seven years now and when we first bought the site, we really didn’t know exactly what we wanted it to be. We really had no idea what it would grow into.

We’re really happy with how things have gone and what we’ve done and with the support that we’ve gotten … so at this point Hip Homeschool Mom’s the website is a place where moms can go, for example, to get curriculum information and reviews. They can get information about how to homeschool. They can get information about special needs homeschooling, which we’ll talk a little bit more about as we go, there are all sorts of articles and [00:02:00] ideas and things like that that we share on the site. We have science experiments and activities and printables for language arts and all sorts of things.

We have a good number of articles that are just encouragement because we know that a lot of homeschool moms don’t have a lot of local support and encouragement. We actually got such good response from our articles that just focused on encouragement that we realized there are so many moms out there who don’t have supportive families. Or if they do have supportive families, maybe those families live in a different area of the country. Maybe some of these moms don’t have a great in real life homeschool support group…so from the website we discovered that these moms were really missing that support.

That led us to create the [00:03:00] Hip Homeschool Mom’s Facebook page, which from that we created The Hip homeschool Mom’s Facebook group called the Community. That Community is where a lot of our moms (who just desperately need some great in real life support) can go and we share questions, we share information…
Really we share life together.

Anything that has to do with the life of a homeschooling mom, not just information about curriculum or information about how to homeschool.

Is there anything I left out there Trish?

No, I think that was a great description and we’re going to announce here that we actually have a new place to join together. It’s on our website and it is called The Neighborhood. If you go to Hip Homeschool moms.com at the top in the header you will actually see a tab for neighborhood. So we’re [00:04:00] excited about that. I know a lot of families have mentioned not wanting to be on social media, especially the moms and so we really felt like this was going to be a great place for them – to help them get off social media, but also still give them that group of moms. We have heard many times the only reason why many moms stay on Facebook is because of the fellowship and sense of community they have with us.

We don’t need more social media distractions and those sorts of things but we still do need that place where we can connect with other moms. And so our vision for this is to have a place that is just for us. It’s our own platform. It’s our own little Neighborhood where you don’t have the distractions of all the other stuff that goes on in social media. It’ll just be for us for Hip Homeschool Moms. Y’all be sure to join us over there!

[00:05:00] But let’s get back to you Wendy. Tell me your homeschool story because everybody has a homeschool story, about how they started this journey. So why don’t you share yours with us?
Okay. Well my husband and I (Scott is his name), we have been married for 28 years. We were high school sweethearts and we got married after we had finished our first couple of years of college. About four years after that we had our first child Hannah. Hannah is now 24 years old and that’s just unbelievable. I told Scott the other day, he’s getting old and I am staying the same! [laughter]
Y’all, she looks at if you have ever met Wendy, she looks like she’s still about 25! [laughter]

So yeah, Trish is not telling the truth. But if she was standing right here, I promise I would give her a big old hug and a kiss just for saying that – even if it’s not true! [laughter]
it is [00:06:00] true! [laughter]

But yeah, so we had Hannah 24 years ago and Noah is now 22. I’ll talk a little bit more about both of them later. Our youngest is Mary Grace. She is now 16 and she is obviously, you know by her age, she’s my last homeschoolers. She’s the last one that I’m still teaching at home.

I started with Hannah – she is autistic, she’s severely autistic and when she was about two years old, I started teaching her at home. Now back then (that was 22 years ago) you just didn’t hear much about homeschooling. There were some people who did it – those homeschool pioneers did homeschool. But that long ago but you didn’t hear much about it. So I really didn’t know anything about homeschooling.

I have to say, [00:07:00] looking back, I don’t even know for sure that I even knew it was a thing – nor did I know if it was something I could do.

Y’all Wendy is a certified teacher…. Hello! If she didn’t know if she could do it, now wonder the rest of us were all scared when we started, right?

When you started homeschooling Hannah she was only two. Did you know she was severely autistic? Of course, you knew she was nonverbal. Right?

Right, right and my whole reason for teaching her at home was … I knew that when she got to school, when she became school age, that she would have to know things that she didn’t know. Our neurotypical kids learn how just from watching other kids and playing with other kids. They learn to take turns. They learn to share. They learn give-and-take. They learn how to talk to other kids back and forth. They learn how from us, to [00:08:00] take directions and instruction, and how to follow those instructions and those sorts of things.

Many autistic kids don’t pick up on those things. We have to specifically teach those things. I also knew that she would need to know the basics about how to sit in a desk and maybe even beginning writing skills and numbers and letters and things like that. So. I started to teach her those things as a way of preparing her to go to school. And then when she was about 6, I did send her to school part-time for several years. She had a really fantastic teacher who worked specifically with autistic children… so for a while it went really well!

But what I noticed was when that teacher retired, the following teachers [00:09:00] didn’t realize Hannah’s potential because she’s nonverbal. She is still nonverbal. She’s 24 and she still nonverbal today and they just didn’t understand how much she really did know and how much she really was capable of learning because of her being nonverbal. School quickly went from something that she enjoyed where she was learning to something entirely different.

Now. I have to say all this time. I was still teaching her part-time at home, and then she was going to school part-time and so she was still learning in both places. When she was at home, her younger brother was picking up on everything that I did with Hannah, especially as we moved into more academic skills. He was really just starting to just pick up on everything she did and everything she learned and that honestly is when I first realized wow, [00:10:00] this homeschool thing really does work!

I wasn’t even intentionally teaching him, but he was still learning!

That was when I saw the light and when I realized okay, this is really a good academic alternative for us!

That’s fantastic. Were there other factors besides watching Noah learn so quickly and Hannah being Autistic or other factors that made you want to homeschool? Or were those really the two big ones?

Well, I have to say those really were the two big ones. But I also I enjoyed spending time with my kids. I didn’t like having to send them off, well having to send Hannah. Noah has always homeschooled. I didn’t want them to have to leave. I didn’t want to take her to school [00:11:00] every day and leave her half the day and honestly with her being nonverbal, it adds a whole new facet and perspective to her being away from me all day. I didn’t know what happened during the day, and she couldn’t tell me. I didn’t know how her day went. I knew what her teacher told me but her teacher didn’t know exactly what she was thinking and how she felt about things and what went on in her head and things like that. So, more and more I realized that all that she knew, she had learned at home and this became more and more often that what she knew were things that I had taught her at home. She was actually showing her teachers at school what I had already taught her and was really not making a lot of new progress.

I just thought we’re getting up early every [00:12:00] morning. I’m dragging her….

[laughter] We know the truth now – Wendy is finally telling the truth. It was all about that early morning!

[laughter] Well now that is not the truth… Trish will admit this and I will be sure to bring it up during her interview [laughter] the truth is I am the morning person! I want to get up in the morning. Trish is the night owl and I don’t know how the two of us manage to work together because we’re total opposites. But in a lot of ways, that’s a really good thing.

[laughter] it’s true. Okay, I’ll confess Wendy is up really early and really is the early bird. So getting up probably was not that big a deal, but I do know you like your quiet time! I bet that was really hard. So even if it wasn’t a major decision factor, I’m sure that played a part in the decision!

Well you know we hear from a lot of homeschool moms who [00:13:00] are concerned about lack of quiet time, lack of time to themselves and those sorts of things and the truth is it is a factor. Trish, you know that you and I do encourage moms to take some time for themselves, if they possibly can. But on the flip side, we only have our kids for a certain number of years! My children are 24, 22, and 16. How old are your children Trish? Chase is 19, Gage is 18, and Blake is 15. So yeah, the years do pass by so quickly! I remember the days of my kids being small and, even when Hannah was older, she still functioned more like a younger kid. So, you know, essentially I’ve kind of had a toddler for 24 years and so [00:14:00] it IS difficult sometimes. To not just think ah, will I ever get a minute to myself? Are these kids always going to be little and always be hanging on me and needing something constantly? The truth is they grow up. They really do!

There’s a quote that the days are long but the years are short.

Yeah, and there are some days, even now even with my kids being older, there are some days that just seem so long! Bt looking back I can see that the years really have passed quickly.
I have to admit if I had it all to do over again, even though we all know homeschooling is not easy, and as I talk more (probably in other podcasts too) about homeschooling special needs kids, homeschooling [00:15:00] just in general is difficult. But homeschooling special needs kids is even more difficult, but I would do it again. I would make the same decision again. Even knowing how hard it would be. I would still do the same thing!

Wendy is going to be way too humble and not tell y’all but I’m going to tell you… Wendy can hit me later, her severely autistic daughter, Hannah, is brilliant. I’m not going to tell the whole story because it’ll make Wendy cry and I’m not going to make cry, but I was with Wendy when she was first able to hear what Hannah thinks – through a talker. Wendy taught this beautiful child Spanish and Hannah really does know Spanish! She can tell that by the way Hannah interacts with things. How did they work Wendy, do you use Spanish on the talker? Is that how how you can confirm that Hannah knew Spanish?

It’s so interesting the way autistic kids minds work and so many are just smart. Crazy smart! We don’t realize it because of their extreme social limitations the way we noticed it was we had done reading level tests where you use flash cards that have words. If you ask Hannah what Spanish word do you use for this word, She could pick from 20 or 30 flash cards and point to the right one. and say a word and she can immediately point to it. You could tell she really does know those words, she just can’t get that many right that many times – with 30 words in front of her! We would buy or rent books from the library Spanish books, Dr. Seuss books or even chapter books – things that were written in Spanish. Then we would get the audiobook to [00:17:00] go with it because she loves to listen to audio books and then follow along in the print book and she would fast-forward the audiobook to whatever chapter or whatever page she wanted to listen to! Then she would find it in the print book.. She didn’t do this after listening and reading the book a hundred times. She would do it almost immediately the first time she picked the book up she would scan through it! There was no way it could be a coincidence.

And to go back to her school experience for a moment… That was another thing the teachers just had no way of understanding. Moms teaching at home have the flexibility to allow our kids to do things like that. Well at school they have certain things they’ve got to teach on certain days and they have to teach the whole class [00:18:00] and those sorts of things. They really didn’t have the ability to be flexible. The ability to explore and see what she knew and what she could do. Hannah, and honestly a lot of very neurotypical kids too, will shut down and just quit working if they get bored. So we noticed she was doing that too. She really got to the point where she was not demonstrating what she knew because she was so bored at school that she just didn’t want any part of it. Hannah kind of shut down and the teachers understandably thought well, bless her, she doesn’t know. But what she was saying was she was bored. She was trying to tell them the only way she knew how – I don’t want to do this anymore! This is boring! Her only way to do that was to just refuse.

[00:19:00] Wendy, you have some great stories that we’re going to share over the course of the life of this podcast – stories about how to homeschool even a nonverbal child… which I find fascinating. Wendy is an amazing teacher, but we won’t go off in that direction right now because we just don’t have the time.

We’ll just keep going through the interview and we’ll come back to that at a later date. I know y’all are going to be interested, and I know you’re going to send us all kinds of messages saying, please give me more information… and I promise I’ll pick her brain constantly about it.

So Wendy, what excites you about homeschooling? Well, I have to say when my kids were younger, it was just me, I was one of those people who felt fairly comfortable homeschooling because I had been a classroom teacher. At first I thought that was an advantage. [00:20:00] I learned after the first year or two it’s really not an advantage and that’s probably something we should talk about more right in a future podcast because that could be a whole subject all by itself! So I wasn’t terribly nervous about starting to homeschool. Some moms are very worried about teaching their kids to read and honestly, I taught junior high when I taught school, so I had never taught a child to read but I guess I naively just thought… if I can live through teaching middle-schoolers, I think I can teach my my little kids to read ahead!

What keeps you up at night? I know there’s still things that worry us. Even though how long have you been home schooling now Wendy?

Well, I really started when Hannah was too so it’s been [00:21:00] 22 years. And are there things that still keep you up at night?

You know at this point I have graduated my first two and the only one that I’m still teaching is my 16 year old. She’s got two possibly three years left if she decides to do a gap year for high. At this point I am so thankful to say that she knows what she wants to do with her life and she’s very independent doing her schoolwork. She wants to be a sign language interpreter so she’s taking a sign language class through our local Homeschool Group. And then we have a tutor that comes to the house and works with her once a week in sign language. So at this point, it’s great to say if there’s something your child is really interested in that

You don’t know anything about a subject – Outsource it! You do not have to be an expert in everything. So at this point Mary Grace is just [00:22:00] such a good independent student that I don’t worry a lot. Now, of course the thought of her moving away and going to college and that sort of thing is a little unsettling because … this is my baby!

I was going to laugh and say something about that! I know how worried you were with Mary Grace driving home in the rain the other night at dark!! [laughter]

It’s true as far as real-life worries, let me give you my list! [laughter] Yes. I can give you a lot of those! But as far as homeschool goes, I’m very thankful to say that that we’re to the point now where

I don’t worry a lot about that. Now I could do a whole series of podcasts and talk about homeschooling my son because – bless him – he was never a super diligent student and if he were sitting right here with me at this moment, I would say the same things! And honestly, he would say them to you too. I [00:23:00] promise I’m not saying anything he would be upset to hear me say. But with him, there was a little more struggle all the way through to the end when he graduated just because he was not as diligent. He didn’t care as much about doing his schoolwork and that sort of thing. He was very smart. Very smart, and thank the Lord, he made it. He made it all the way through. He learned what he needed to know to graduate and he graduated. But I think honestly, that’s one reason why I’m really just totally enjoying these last few years with Mary Grace because she is just the opposite as far as she does her work independently and gets it done and is an excellent student and I’m very thankful for that.

Noah also is on the autism spectrum and so there are some of those challenges are just typical boy. You know boys can be challenging – more challenging than girls sometimes. In the end I know Noah.

So I have to say too as far as Noah being on the autism spectrum – just because I feel like he would want me to mention it – he is super high functioning autism… to the point that most people wouldn’t even recognize him as being on the autism spectrum. They used to call it Asperger’s and they don’t call it that [00:25:00] anymore. He’s super, super high functioning. Like you mentioned some boys, not all of them, but some boys are fantastic diligent students, but like a lot of boys school was not his number one concern.

I have one of those. I have one that is very diligent. One that is not so diligent and then I have one in the middle

You have been very fortunate that y’all have a very strong co-op, right? Yes.

Yes, we sure do and I’m so thankful in our area. We have a homeschool support group. The last time I checked it was about a hundred and twenty maybe a hundred forty families.
Wow that is big!

Yeah, it’s a good size. It’s a good support group. Now the honest truth we spent a lot of time there when my kids were all much younger. We were a lot [00:26:00] more involved then in our local homeschool support group. And I used to wonder when the parents of the teenagers didn’t show up for a lot of activities and events. I used to think why did the parents of teenagers never come to our meetings, or our holiday activities, or even our field trips and things and I thought well, that’s just too bad. And now as the parent of a teenager, well a teenager the other two are older, I understand completely and I apologize to all those moms for wondering why they didn’t participate!

As they get older it does give us some freedom back and so for us we’re working a lot of the time. There are many homeschool moms who are also working … Actually, that’s probably one of the largest growing segments that I see. So we will [00:27:00] actually have a lot of segments that do talk about homeschool moms who work whether it’s in the home or outside of the home. As they get older it gives us the luxury of doing that [working]. When they were younger, especially with your two older ones Wendy… when they were younger, there’s no way you could have done this.
No, there’s really not and I honestly believe it was all God’s timing and if we ever do a show telling about how we actually came to be Hip Homeschool Moms and how we do what we do and the progression of all that, then you’ll be able to tell that it was truly a God thing!

I agree God brought us together and oh my goodness, he keeps us together. I can assure you somedays I’m sure she’s (Wendy) ready to kill me (Trish). So it’s a good thing. We live in two different states. [laughter] It takes a little while to [00:28:00] get to me and by the time she got to me she would be calm!  [laughter]

It is good that we live so far apart. She’s the same way with me [laughter] . Trish is the organized one, who has it all together, knows where everything is, has all the information we need. And I’m the one saying Trish, can you send me this email because I can’t find it. Or Trish, can you send me this registration form? I don’t know where it is. Trish, do you remember when we’re supposed to do this or have that phone call or that meeting or what? [laughter] I have no clue and she does. Yeah. Trish does what she just did (laughs) and she sends it to me. She goes on and she’s nice about it. [laughter]

Well, honestly Wendy has to do it to me too. Really we joke about that all the time. It takes both of us to run this company because we both have half brains and together we have one whole, functioning brain. [laughter] So there you go.

That’s right that we do joke about that a lot.

Now let’s talk about some of your favorites. Do you have a favorite curriculum or favorite home [00:29:00] school style? Our favorite planner. What would you give credit to things that have helped you be so successful? Is it any one thing or is it a bunch of things or what?

Prayer! It really is true because homeschooling is just not easy. That really has been a big factor also as far as curriculum goes I have several companies that I really loved:

  • Science: Apologia 
  • Math: Teaching Textbooks My 16 year old is not a math person. I already mentioned that she wants to do to be a sign language interpreter math is just never anything. She has enjoyed or loved or really wanted to do and teaching textbooks is worked working so well for her, she loves it.
  • History: Veritas Press This is the curriculum that my son absolutely loved for history.
  • Beautiful Feet Mary Grace is a reader! Yes, you know if you can relate something to her in a story she’ll remember it! Beautiful feet is a company that we absolutely love Mary Grace because it’s a lot of reading novels and things like that and that is what really causes the information to stick in her mind.
  • Calendar: The Happy Planner

These are truly companies, curriculums, and systems that we absolutely love regardless.

I’m going back to the interview. Sorry. I got you a little distracted. This is a question that I love to ask and this is one that’s always hard and I’m going to throw [00:33:00] Wendy under the bus… because I didn’t prepare her for it. So if you don’t feel prepared for it, skip it and will come back to it at another time. What have you learned about yourself since you began homeschooling?
I have learned about myself that it is a complete and utter and total myth that homeschooling moms have more patience than everybody else. [laughter]

Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. I’ll tell you what, I think that I have developed patience sort of as a trial by fire sort of thing. I have learned to be patient. But I’ve also learned that yes, there are some inconveniences, there are some scheduling issues, there are things like that that go on when we homeschool our [00:34:00] kids. I’ve also learned that I absolutely just love spending time with my kids…. whether we’re playing a game or we’re working around the house or in the yard or if we’re on vacation or traveling. I just love to spend time with my kids. I just love it and I guess part of that is I see the years with them living in my house slipping away. Now Hannah will always live with us because of her autism… but I see the years of the other two dwindling. It won’t be long before they are [00:35:00] literally grown and gone. So I really cherish and treasure the time that I have with them now because I do see that it passes quickly and whether it seems like it at the time or not! ‘m very thankful for the years that I’ve had with my kids at home. Honestly I really am even thankful for the times that haven’t been so wonderful and, Trish you know that you and

I will talk about some of those times in our future podcasts… It’s not all sunshine and roses!We admit it because that’s one thing we do – we like to tell the truth and just be honest about who we are and our homeschools and how things go and that sort of thing. So folks will hear about that too. Like I said before, I would definitely do it again if I had the choice, the chance to go back and do it again, I sure would.

The final question is [00:36:00] about words of wisdom. I know literally you could write a book and maybe one day we will write a book…

That’s right.

That’s right, but briefly what words of wisdom would you share for the mom who is struggling or scared or doubting if she can do this, especially moms of tther autistic children or even special needs children? What words would you give them?

I have to say we moms tend to doubt ourselves far too much we do and sometimes we have friends or family members or other people who help us doubt ourselves. We hope they are well-meaning (I’m giving people the benefit of the doubt), but who helped us question ourselves at times.

Yes. That is a nice way to put it Wendy – you’re [00:37:00] being very very tactful. Tell the truth. Come on.

Well, I think we you know, we teach our kids everything. They know. I’ve never heard of mom with a newborn say, oh my goodness…. How am I going to teach this child to talk? I’m just not sure I can do it. Right? But we do it all the time. It happened with every one of my children effortlessly. Not that homeschooling is effortless. It’s not! We do put a lot of work into it, but my point honestly is we teach our kids so many things just naturally but when it comes to school we doubt ourselves and we let other people cause us to doubt ourselves even more. My biggest piece of advice I would have to say is if [00:38:00] homeschooling is something that really is important to you, if it’s something that you have a desire to do, or if it’s something that you feel like God has called you to do, or if it’s something that because of a special need your child has or something like that … if it’s something you feel like is necessary to do, jump in there and do it! Don’t waste time worrying whether you’re smart enough or whether you’re good enough or whether you have enough patience. Instead of spending that time worrying, spend that time doing things with your child. Spend that time reading. Spend that time building and strengthening your relationship with your child and you’ll be surprised how much that good, strong, happy relationship with your child will carry over into making your homeschool successful.

Amen. That is [00:39:00] actually perfect Wendy. You did great.

We want you thank you for being here today. Wendy got to be the guinea pig, I literally threw her right in. I cannot wait for us to get deeper and get into some of these topics that you brought up .
Next time I will be asking Trish a lot of these same questions that she asked me and you’ll hear a little more about her background and how she became a homeschooling mom and those sorts of things. So we’ll learn some about all of that and about her curriculums and her boys and how they homeschool and all those kinds of things.
We like to have fun and we like to goof around but we’ll talk about serious things too. And hopefully a lot of things that will really be helpful to the moms who listen to us. So thanks for joining us today, and we will see you again soon.

It’s going to be fun. We look forward to meeting y’all (virtually) and seeing y’all soon. Be sure to leave a comment. Ask us questions. Give us ideas, and you never know, we might actually talk about it on the next episode.

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