Our interview today is with Jojo Tabares: a wonderful mom that has homeschooled for many years, all while dealing with chronic illness, running a business and more. She has kindly agreed to share her perspective, her experience, and her sense of humor with us in this interview. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Interview With JoJo
1. Hi JoJo, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a Christian, Work-at-Homeschool mom of two with a penchant for humor and anything purple. I have a passion for two things outside of God and my family: 1) Educating a society who seems to have forgotten the importance of effective communication and 2) Supporting those struggling with chronic illness/issues. I have a degree in Speech Communication and over 35 years of experience in the field and have written many books on various aspects of communication skills and my work on Art Of Eloquence has been Homeschool Approved by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and Endorsed by HSLDA. I have an honorary degree in chronic illness given to me by over 40 years of life experience beginning in my high school years. My article on www.JoJoisms.com have been picked up recently by various chronic illness and Christian sites. I also write (usually funny, but sometimes inspiring) one liners I call JoJoisms several of which I’ve created in visual form. This is my 17th and last year of homeschooling as my daughter is now 26 and married and my son will leave for college in the fall. It’s been an amazing ride!
2. What prompted your decision to homeschool? Could you tell more about that first step?
17 years ago, we moved into a new home in Chino, California. The previous owners were homeschoolers and we had been struggling with a decision whether or not to keep our daughter in her Christian private school. She was going into the 5th grade that fall and there were only about eight other kids left to enter that class. Additionally, she was competing in figure skating and we were struggling to get her to practice at 5am before school started. We decided to try it for a year and see how it went. We never looked back.
3. Throughout the years, what was your homeschooling approach? Were you an unschooler, or a more traditional ‘school-at-home’ approach? Which did you find works best for you and your family? How did it change?
I’m not sure how you would categorize my style of homeschooling because it changed so often. We only have two children, but each had different needs at different grade levels so we went into each year with that in mind. Also more materials and options were available each year so we did try things out. If they worked, great. If they didn’t, MOVING ON!
My son’s schooling was the most difficult as he has Asperger’s (On the other side of the Autism Spectrum). He’s highly intelligent, but there are tons of things we’ve had to adapt over the years. College prep has been one of the biggest issues for him, but he’s already been accepted to one university and we are awaiting news of the others. It’s a VERY long story or I’d tell more here.
4. As homeschooling parents, we often encounter curious looks, and questions from people around us. For me, the usual experience has been a positive one. Normally people are just curious to know more. What has been the question you encounter from strangers most often, and how do you answer it?
We started so long ago and in California so the questions we were asked were different then. I don’t find many asking here in Indiana where homeschooling is so easy. Back in the early days, I was asked, “WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO MESS YOUR CHILD UP LIKE THAT?!” and “How will they ever get into college?!” They stopped asking about eight years ago when my daughter was accepted at one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, Vanderbilt University.
The strangest question I ever heard wasn’t one we received, but a friend of ours back in California. At a family gathering, she was asked, and I quote, “Do you KNOW anything?” LOL
5. You have been dealing with a lot of chronic illness throughout your life and motherhood. How did it affect your homeschooling process? What would you recommend to a parent facing a similar circumstance?
This is a tough question because each family and each person with chronic illness is so different…as is each homeschooling family. I have many more issues now than I did in the early days of homeschooling so it didn’t affect me as much then…which was good because my kids were younger and needed me more. With Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Adrenal Fatigue and several of the other issues I had in the early days, I would just take time to rest and be sure to schedule field trips further apart. Now that my daughter has graduated (grad school) and my son is almost in college, I don’t need to spend as much time teaching as discussing. There are less field trips and he is able to help me more. Most of his classes this year are online, but he does attend two elective classes at the local high school which is very friendly toward homeschoolers.
My best advice is to take stock of your situation as a whole and be flexible. Also ask your husband and even your children for help when you need it. Sometimes we just can’t take them to a particular event. Sometimes they can get a ride instead.
6. You mentioned running several business throughout your homeschooling years and now. Is there anything in that respect that you would like to share with the readers?
I think my best advice is about the same as the last question. What you can and cannot do will depend upon your family, homeschool, financial, and personal situation. Choose wisely and be flexible. I tend to take on too much. Many small business owners do. My schedule and to do lists were my friends. If it wasn’t on my to do list, it didn’t get to done. I had to make sure I scheduled the most important items first and got to the other stuff if and when I could.
Art of Eloquence is an online business I’ve had for 14 years so it was easier to be flexible. I worked in the wee hours when my kids were asleep. I wrote my blog articles in between lessons. If you have a brick and mortar business, this would be more difficult.
7. When your kids were growing up, you had a lot going on: homeschooling, running a business, and dealing with chronic illness. How did you manage to keep it all going?
Flexibility, Flexibility, and more Flexibility! Do the things you can do when you can. Use all the time you can. Enlist all the help you can. I had my kids working the business with me. It was a great lesson in economics. My daughter was my editor. My son was my tech support. Even when my son was young, he copied my materials on to CDroms that I was giving away free to TOS subscribers. Now that he is older and is a future Film Student, he does all my YouTube videos and promotional materials.
As I said, I work in the wee hours. I have had insomnia for almost 18 yrs so I would do a lot of my creative work from 3-5 am. Just use what you have and can at the time and be open to changing that when things no longer work for you. Experiment to see what does.
8. What was the biggest challenge that you have faced during your homeschooling career?
I think the biggest challenge has been this year because my son has had a tough time focusing due to his Asperger’s and because I’ve had three surgeries in the last six months. I have felt guilty for not being on top of things that my husband has had to deal with because I just wasn’t up to it. I have had far less energy and more pain in the past several years and the surgeries have only increased that. It’s a long and strange story that I wrote about on my blog. Here is the LINK.
9. Now that the kids are grown up, and either in college or headed to college, could you help de-mystify the college process for those of us (myself included) that are have all of that shortly ahead of us. How did you go about applying, and getting admitted?
My daughter wrote a book about that. It’s a few years old now, but we still sell it on our site because a lot of it is still relevant. The most important things to remember about college prep is:
- Start early. The earlier the better. It’s best to start even in Jr High, but at the latest in 10th grade. That way there’s more time and less pressure. Starting early allows you to look up the requirements, keep careful records the way they require, begin to introduce extra curricular activities that the schools might consider advantageous, etc…
- Look into what your child might want to study first. That way you know what colleges would be best. Not all colleges have every major nor are they rated well for that major.
- The most prestigious universities are HUNGRY for homeschoolers and will be more likely and willing to work with you on the tuition. So don’t count out Harvard and Vanderbilt because you don’t think you can pay for it. They usually find a way if your student qualifies!
- Be careful of the state schools. They are the ones who require the most from homeschoolers (especially the Cal State Schools). They also don’t count any of the courses your student took if they were Christian based. Or at least they didn’t last I looked so be careful.
10. Now that your homeschooling journey is nearing the end, what will be next for you?
I’m going to continue what I am currently doing. I am working to bring more attention to the challenges that the world has due to miscommunication in our relationships. So much of the difficulties people have with one another is due to poor communication. Relationships suffer tremendously because of this. Society has become a people who value free speech, but pay very little attention to the consequences thereof.
Also as I continue to experience the struggles of chronic illness, my goal is to let others know they are not alone. My JoJoisms.com site will continue to post weekly articles that uplift and inspire.
I also plan to author a few books for traditional publication about faith during struggles. One of which will share the miracles God has performed in my family’s life. The above blog article will be expanded and included there. Another book will discuss how easy it is for those with chronic issues to lose their faith and how God and other believers can help, inspire and support us though the Lord may choose not to heal us.
I also love to make people laugh and so I will continue to write JoJoisms and Visual JoJoisms that I post on social media. (I have attached a few to this email you can share here).
11. If you had the chance to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I never really look back. I think we do the best we can with what we have and then we move on.
12. If you had to give a single piece of advice to young parents looking into homeschooling, what would it be?
Wherever you and your kids are, start there, take it one year at a time, reassess, be flexible.
13. Describe your typical day today? How is it different from when the kids were younger?
I don’t really have a typical day. My son attends the local high school on Blue Days so it’s not like he goes MWF. Some weeks are MWF, some are TTH, some are Wed and Friday. I have various doctor appointments sprinkled in. I fit things in as I can. In the early days, we did school in the mornings, took a Lucy Break (I Love Lucy) to have lunch, and then went back to school until I needed to make dinner. Very different now that I don’t need to be with my son for the lessons, just for the tests. Much easier for me since my illnesses and issues are worse now.
14. In your eyes, how did the homeschooling life shift from when the kids just started out, when they were little, to when they are in high school? How does it compare: homeschooling the younger ones, to homeschooling through high school?
Homeschooling little ones are easier in that you know how much 1+1 is. You can make it fun and it’s easy to do it even without materials. What’s hard when they are young is all the one on one attention they require. Homeschooling high schoolers is easier in that you don’t need to be with them for lessons. You can have online classes, CD courses, books they read themselves. Then you only need to be there for testing and when a problem they can’t handle arises. However, it’s harder in that you need to keep on top of grades and activities and college prep. However, there is a LOT of help now for these things.
15. What makes you happy?
Purple makes me happy. My kids are incredible and they make me happy. God has saved me for some purpose and that makes me happy. My husband is very understanding and helpful and that makes me happy. What makes me even happier is when I touch someone with something I’ve said. Unless you are a major published author, you don’t get much feedback on your writing. It is so inspiring to me when I receive an email or a reply or comment that something I wrote touched a reader deeply, inspired them, uplifted them, made life easier somehow.