This is Part 2 of my interview with Chip Franks— entrepreneur, family man and home educating dad. In this episode Chip talked more about how they have learned to meet each of their children’s learning needs, how his daughter Mandy was accepted into College as a homeschooler, and advice he has for other parents looking to home educate.
Chip’s oldest daughter was a junior in high school when they started homeschooling.
They both decided that a part of her home education would be getting a job. She found a job as a barista at Starbucks. The experience has been fantastic for her. She is learning life, and how to deal with people. Even with her job, Mandy still completed her last two years of high school in one year. The day of our interview was her first day of college.
Attending post secondary has always been Mandy’s goal but they were unsure how this could be possible as homeschoolers. So after a speaking at a Harvard University event Chip spoke with a college application counsellor. He was worried that homeschooling may hurt her prospects getting into a good college. The college counsellor told Chip that it’s actually benefit. He told them that if they concentrate on the experiences they have learned, and the things they have done then package it up beautifully she can get into any college she wants. (For the US, this package also includes a good SAT score.) His biggest recommendation to Chip was to make the application interesting, make it fun and show how Mandy learned. Schools see the same applications every time. When they see a unique application, that’s what gets you in the door.
Mandy looked at Harvard and found out she would not have a problem getting in but Mandy wanted to stay fairly close to home. For her college application they had to make up a curriculum and create a transcript for her. They figured out which classes she had to have in order to graduate. She completed those with independent focus. They knew their outcome and focus–to get into college and have fun while learning and enabling her to become a great person. Mandy applied and got into quite a few colleges. Since she is young she decided to do her first year at community college while living at home before she moves off to a larger school in two years. She plans to attend Texas A&M.
Aly, Chip’s other daughter now attends an Acton Academy affiliate – ESTEAM Academy which fits Aly’s learning style well. The school focuses on the Hero’s Journey because they know each kid can change the world.
The school day starts with a Socratic circle. They start with a question, the kids answer as they see fit and then defend their answer. The first day Aly started at the school the question was-“what are the biggest problems in the world and how can we solve them?”
The school has guides, not teachers. They learn how to think critically, and speak publicly. The school uses Khan Academy as a tool with their core curriculum, D.E.A.R. time(Drop everything and read) and afternoon quest time. Students choose their own books for school but they have to explain to the teachers why these books should be used in their personal curriculum. In High school the kids do more apprenticeships. The school is housed out of the same building as a working film school which the kids are involved in. The projects are all hands on, including entrepreneurship projects where they showcase their business to parents and community. It’s not just show and tell but they sell, service and try to turn a profit. For Aly, this school is ideal.
I asked Chip what he sees for the future of education. He has strong opinions about how the education model works now but says he is not going to be a instigator of change for the whole of the schooling system. But he IS an instrument of change for his kids and their lives. He knows he can also set an example for others. He feels that parents need options and choice as to where they educate their kids. Tools like the internet change the game. People are seeing the unique opportunities in education that exist. There will be a revolution and the rumblings have started. You will still have detractors. But it starts with YOU. As a person, and parent. Take the initiative to do something on your own.
Alec, their youngest child has Down Syndrome and Chip spoke of the joy and differences that he brings to the world. Alec is currently attending their local school. He has been in the school for the last 2 years as part of a special education class. This year Alec started an inclusive kindergarten. They will keep an eye on how the change in structure will be for him but are considering moving because of the distance they are from both Alec and Aly’s school. The move would also bring them closer to an alternative school if need be. Alec currently gets picked up at their doorstep at 6:35am and once he finishes school at 3:50 he attends a childcare centre. It makes for a very long day and week.
The RISE school is an independent school they have looked into. RISE is made up of gifted and special needs children. The unique focus of the school is having the students teach and learn from each other. For now Chip is happy with where Alec is. They will continue to observe, try and will change if need be.
Chip left me with wonderful heartfelt advice. “If you are thinking about the homeschooling journey know that you are not perfect, but that is okay”. Chip said he was scared when they started homeschooling but he realized that being scared is okay. Getting it wrong can be the best lesson. He suggested doing a trial session, and talking to friends.
“As a parent, you have to be okay with yourself and love yourself enough to make mistakes”. Everyone is doing the best they can, and you don’t have to make it perfect. Showing your love to your children is the gift. Everything is a lesson.
For those families where only one parent is on board– Chip recommends both spouses get together to talk about it and get on the same page. The goal is always to do what is best for your children. Be willing to explore all options. From that viewpoint you can then try things out but you don’t have to burn your bridges. You can always go back. As a dad Chip says his duty is to provide options for his kids. It’s also important to talk to your kids and see what they think. Have your kids speak with your spouse.
Look for more advice from Chip in his book– Advice From Dad, The Book