Homeschool Pioneer Shelly Drew


Shelly Drew

Drew Homeschool 1993–2010

Shelly is originally from Houston, Texas where she taught high school math for three years and hated it.  After Shelly and her husband, Phil, had children, a friend encouraged her to homeschool.  She thought that was a bit weird, and Shelly was not convinced home educating was her best option.  When it was time for her son to go to kindergarten, she enrolled him in a very small private school.  Even though home educating was not her plan, her three years teaching public school had shown her that public school was not the direction she wanted for her three children either. Soon after enrolling her son in the private school, Shelly’s chemist husband’s job transferred them to Vancouver, Washington.  Their son would not be able to attend the private school in Houston.  Shelly had to rethink her plan.

When they arrived at their new home in Washington, there were many others home educating their children.  Homeschooling did not seem so unusual.  In September of 1993, Shelly drove to Target and purchased Golden Step Ahead books to begin her home educating journey.  It was her strategy to just try it for a year, but Shelly says, “It went so swimmingly, I did it the next year.” Her children continued that year with the Golden Step Ahead books, got a library card, and they read many books together.  In the beginning, they wrote thank you notes to family and friends to teach them to write.  Later they included passages of scripture for practice in printing and then cursive.  She was very confident in teaching math, and was creative in her approach.  She liked to use cracks in the sidewalk to create giant number lines.  She never purchased manipulatives, but used whatever was on hand—counting geese at the park, sorting laundry, and M & M’s were a few. Their home education style was eclectic in nature; they never had just one curriculum.  Shelly picked what they liked for each subject.  Her opinion of history textbooks was that they were rather boring and dry.  For history, they spent time reading G. A. Henty novels and other books.  One adventure took them camping for two weeks from Mount St. Helens in Washington, to Mount Lassen in California–a hand’s on experience in nature that cannot be duplicated in a book.  Learning was her objective and not merely finishing a textbook.  They continued on their homeschool journey and home educated through high school.  Only once did Shelly decide to try private school again for one of her children, but she could not find peace in the decision, so her daughter went one day.  Shelly cherishes all the time she was able to invest in her children.

In 1999, they were transferred back to Houston, but only for a year and they moved back to Washington.  In that year the Drew family connected with old friends and influenced several of those to begin home educating.  It was not so much what Shelly and her husband said, but the positive impact the friends saw.  As the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.”

As home educators know, one of the questions asked of them is, “Are you really qualified to teach math and science?”  Shelly would have liked getting that question, because she and her husband have very strong math and science backgrounds. However, one question that stands out that was asked by a friend who was concerned for her chosen method of education, “How will you teach them home economics?”  To Shelly it was an absurd question to ask, but she answered.  They all researched purchases together so the children could be smart consumers; the children helped to select groceries to understand cost and nutrition; and because they were there to work alongside with household chores like cooking and laundry, they learned all kinds of “home economics.”  In my opinion, they would probably know more home economics than a child in public school.  All home educator’s love those questions that make us roll our eyes in private, but smile politely and answer the questions in public.

Shelly’s children are now grown; one is single and is a dynamic car salesman in Vancouver, one is an accountant (CPA) and a stay-at-home mother who is married and has one daughter of her own, and the youngest daughter is an RN, is married, and at the time of this writing expecting her first baby at any time.  After living in their beloved Northwest for 20 years, Shelly and her husband moved to Edmond, Oklahoma to be near their daughters’ families in 2014.  The girls had moved to Edmond to attend Oklahoma Christian University and made their homes near Edmond.  Today, Shelly is a math tutor and Phil does statistical analysis for Oklahoma Christian University.  They are not crazy about Oklahoma’s hot summers, but love the people and the conservative attitudes of Oklahomans.  Many of Shelly’s extended family live in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, so she is pleased to be closer to them.

Now that the dust has settled on the homeschool journey, and the Drew family have had opportunity to reflect, they are all glad they chose to home educate.  Shelly’s top discoveries about homeschooling from her experience are these:

  • Children learned to think and solve problems
  • Know and understand each other well
  • It is actually cheaper to homeschool
  • Children developed valuable life skills that taught them to be responsible adults
  • Children learned cross generational communication
  • Children learned to be better citizens and care for others
  • Delayed exposure to negative influences
  • Able to focus on developing each one’s strengths
  • Gave the most valuable resource—Time

Let’s Play Dress-Up

Do you want to keep your preschooler busy and entertained?  Create Dress-up Boxes.  Use a plastic tote (or whatever you choose) and make a Chef Box by adding a chef hat, chef coat or apron, plastic pots and dishes, pretend foods, etc.; make a Doctor’s Box by adding a stethoscope, tongue depressor, thermometer, etc. and be sure to include a doll or stuffed animal for a patient; make a Police Box by adding a kid size policeman hat, badge, hand cuffs, etc.  Make as many as you can think of, and rotate them so they stay “new” to your preschooler.  They can be a chef one week and a Dr. the next.

Savoring a Memory & April’s Carrot Cake


Remember when grandma used to make “name of your dish here?” Every time you eat certain foods, you think of a special someone, or a time, or a place, or an event.  Some of those you have the recipes for and you make them for your family.  When my oldest son moved away, he would call me and ask how to cook a certain food or the recipe for that special family dish.  For his birthday, I took a few weeks and wrote down many of our family recipes and a paragraph or two recalling a memory of why the recipe was special.  He loved it!  I have “updated” and added to the cookbook over the years, and he is asking for the latest copy.  Below is a sample from the book:

April’s Carrot Cake
My older daughter’s favorite cake is carrot cake with no raisins or pineapples. As a child she loved bologna sandwiches with a glass of milk, ramen noodles, and beans and wieners with macaroni cheese.   Her taste buds have become more sophisticated and she’d rather have a chicken salad sandwich than bologna.

This daughter excels in school, has read all Miss Manners books (some of them more than once and even requested one for a Christmas present), enjoys languages, knows how to pinch pennies, and cannot tolerate unfocused men who would like to date her.  She is a little too concerned at times, but this conscientiousness makes her an excellent student and employee.  The girl likes to cook, but really doesn’t like cleaning up.  She is a good cook and makes delicious casseroles and yummy cakes.

Recipe:      6 eggs
1 ½ c. sugar
3 tsp. lemon zest
4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 c. grated carrots
2 c. ground almonds
½ c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt

Grease and flour a rectangle cake pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the sugar thoroughly. Add lemon juice and grated rind, carrots, almonds, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well.  Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into cake mixture. Pour batter into pan and bake 45 minutes or until done.  Frost with cream cheese frosting. (At My Table, 2003)


Go Bananas!

Kids can help with these, and they will eat them up!  These are so healthy, you won’t mind them eating ice cream, or having a stack of pancakes.  Gluten free!

Banana Ice Cream
2 Frozen bananas
1 to 2 Tbsp. milk
Put into food processor and blend to smooth and creamy (start with one tablespoon of milk and add the other if needed).

Banana Pancakes
2 eggs
1 banana
¼ tsp. pumpkin spice
Mash together to make smooth “dough.” Heat pan on medium and spray.  Pour silver dollar size pancakes, cook 30 to 45 seconds on each side.  Serve with syrup.


The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham Book Review

Book Review
The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham
Billy Graham’s personal exhaustive study of the Holy Spirit led him to write this book. He explains the complexities of the Holy Spirit–who He is and what He does, and our enormous need for His power in our lives.  There are great chapters on how to be filled with the Spirit, recognizing and using our spiritual gifts, and how the Spirit’s fruit is produced in our lives.  One passage in the book that inspired me as I read, “While we read the Word, its message saturates our hearts, whether we are conscious of what is happening or not.  The Word with all its mysterious power touches our lives and gives us power.”  Consistently read the Word and activate God’s power in your life!

Microwave Brown Betty

This is a very quick individual, healthy desert when one just needs a little something sweet.

Microwave Brown Betty
1 green apple, peeled and cut up
1/8 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. butter
Dash salt
Dash cinnamon
1 heel whole wheat bread (or any bread), toasted and torn into pieces

Stir together. Cook on high for 3 ½ minutes. Stir about midway.


7 Steps to Great Public Speaking

I developed this quick guide for students, but this could also be used by anyone giving a speech.

7 Steps to Great Public Speaking

  1. Pick a subject to speak about which you know.
  2. You will need an introduction, a body (with points) and a conclusion.
  3. Intro: You need an attention getter at the beginning of your speech—“bait” to grab your audience attention and “hook” them into paying attention. Then tell your audience what you are going to tell them.
  4. Body: Tell them. This is the main part of the speech where you educate, persuade, and/or inform your audience. Typically there are three main points. Once you have an outline of your points, just expound upon each point.   If it is a short speech, then just add a couple important sentences about each point.   If it can be a bit longer, then say a bit more. If you have a lot of time, then you may want to come up with more points instead of rambling on and on about each point, unless more detail is needed. Just don’t bore the audience. In a demonstration, the body would be the steps of how to make something. This is probably the easiest kind of speech to give.
  5. Conclusion: Tell them what you told them. This is your wrap up where you summarize. You could end with a good quote, a challenge to the audience, or rephrase your attention getter. When you are finished, ask if the audience has questions. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, buy I will find out.”
  6. It is better to learn those main points than to write out a speech and memorize it word for word. If you must, use note cards. Only put the outline on your card. DO NOT READ your speech. A glance at a note card to remind you of your next point should be enough to keep you going.
  7. PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! Practice will prepare you more than anything else and make you feel confident.

Philosophies of Homeschooling

DISSECTINGAre you thinking about “homeschooling” your children? (I prefer “educating at home,” but society has taken the moniker for this to be homeschooling.) Or do you just want to know how they do it, or maybe why do people do that?  Maybe you have seen the stereotypes of homeschoolers and are just curious.  On the one extreme stereotype, the children do nothing but play all day and never crack a book;  on the other extreme stereotype, the children sit at the table and study all day, every day drilling those math facts and spelling words for hours on end.  Most homeschool families are somewhere in the middle of this broad spectrum.

There are those who have tried to label the different ideas that are given for home educating. Others have broken these labels into six philosophies: Traditional, Classical, Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies, Eclectic, and Unschooling.  Below I have attempted to describe how I see these.

Traditional looks very much like public education. You pick a curriculum of textbooks and read, have study questions, and take tests.  The teacher explains and grades papers.  There are many companies that cater to this approach—Bob Jones, Abeka, Alpha Omega (workbooks instead of large textbooks), Switched on Schoolhouse (computer based), and others.  I admit I started with this one myself.  It is how I was taught and in my narrow vision, I thought it was the way to do it.   With more than one grade, however, this method was tiring for me, and boring for my children.  The easiest thing about it was that my planning was minimal as the textbooks are all ready to go with all the information laid out that you need to cover and students just have to read, work, and regurgitate.  This works for some families, but I soon discovered when I tried a satellite program (Christian Liberty) that my children were doing a lot of unnecessary busy work, and not enjoying learning.

Classical is an approach in which we never immersed ourselves. It would need total immersion to truly be Classical.  The idea is to take one back to a time when young children memorized many facts and Latin was used and studied.  However, I do agree with the thought that children do learn at different stages and that we should cater to this in our education.  In that way, I am very agreeable to the Classical style.  There are three basic stages of learning and in Classical they refer to these areas as Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric.  Grammar is for the younger children who can only see things literally, just facts.  Dialectic is for the middle age children who are beginning to analyze and look for reasons; they have begun to ask a lot of “Why?” questions.  In the older stage (usually high school), Rhetoric, they are taught to communicate what they are learning; communicate and debate, explain the “why and how” themselves.  All of these are ideas are good ones, but there is not a good boxed curriculum for this philosophy.  However, some places to go find out more is,,

Charlotte Mason wrote a book, Home Education, in 1886 and later was the founder of “House of Education” in 1892.  She had come to the conclusion that education, as it was being done, lacked understanding of how children learn.  Many have read her work and others have written about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, summarizing and giving modern touches to it.  The basic idea is that you teach children the three R’s—reading, writing, and math; and give them opportunities to learn through nature, museums, interviews with people, and reading real books called “living books”, not just dry textbooks. I combine this approach with two others referred here as Unit Study and Eclectic.  I don’t fit neatly into a category, and many others do not either.

Unit Study in its purest form takes a topic and incorporates every subject into learning about that topic. There are now many who have put together unit studies over numerous topics.  The first packaged curriculum was Konos, and many families love it.  It is great for learning if a topic is chosen that your child wants to learn about, but there is a lot of preparation and planning for the parent teacher.  Personally, I could not keep up with so much prep work.  However, at my house we tweaked the whole idea, and we did do unit studies in our own way.  We would pick a topic they wanted to study in science and go to the library, museums, nature parks, or wherever we could learn more about our subject.  We had written, oral, art, home economics, and more that we used while presenting information about our topic.  Sometimes they chose how to present information and sometimes I did.   At the same time as these unit studies were happening in science, we were working through history chronologically.  For history and for science, we used textbooks as resource books.  In history, they read fiction and non-fiction about the period, wrote papers, made food of the period/place, drew pictures, made models, visited museums and places, etc.  I continued to have math separately on their grade level.  Occasionally we had a review of grammar, but they were reading and writing a lot with the science and history, so the review was short and just reminders of what is a verb, noun, etc.  This works well for self-motivated learners, and it is exciting to learn new things together for all of us.  Even those who need a little prod loves to chart their own course for how they would like to go about finding the information about a topic they choose.  In this method, I realized my children were learning, and not just studying facts for a test.  As stated earlier, there is a little Charlotte Mason and, as you are about to see, Eclectic mixed into Unit Study for my family homeschooling philosophy.   To learn more about a true Unit Study, look for Konos. For the very young, I successfully used Five in a Row.

Eclectic is the approach that is the closest to describing our homeschool style. In this philosophy, we pick and choose from different curriculums, and very rarely use it as instructed.  We pay a lot of attention to the learning style of each child and cater to their personal need.  Learning styles can be verbal, visual, kinesthetic, reading/writing, or a variation of these.  One child must touch it; one must read about it; one may need to hear it; there are many ways children learn.  In public school, they are unable to teach to a specific style because of the number of students to teacher ratio.  At home, we have the freedom to figure out the way our children learn best, and in our eclectic approach, find the curriculum that fits.  In this approach, the biggest challenge is to learn about your own child and find what is best for them.  Since each child is unique, you may not use the same approach with each one.  One may love the Alpha Omega workbooks, while another will fail with the workbook method.  One of my children was an auditory learner.  He learned best with oral work.  Discussions were very important in his education.  He hated workbooks.  One of my others did love workbooks and writing.  Therefore, different approaches and different curriculum choices were needed.  I bought a lot of used books at local homeschool used book sales, and tried different ones to find what worked best for each of my children.  Of course, they each had to learn to write and speak publicly, but I did allow them freedom to learn new things in the way that was the best fit.  It does sound like a lot of work, but teaching was a breeze after figuring out the learning style.  Eclectic is all about mixing all the philosophies and curriculums to fit your children’s needs.

Unschooling is the last one to discuss, and it is one that is probably one of those extremes. I have not met many of those who adhere strictly to this philosophy, but the idea is to allow the child the freedom to direct their own learning.  As can be expected, there is not a curriculum for this one.  In the best scenario, there are a lot of good books in the home library, the public library is visited often, and many opportunities are given to learn by taking field trips and exploring.  Personally I would not recommend this methodology for my own children.  They would want to play video games all day, but everyone knows their own children and perhaps in your unschooling there are no video games for distraction.

Whether you are thinking about home educating, or you were just browsing about this weird idea, I hope you are more informed after visiting me here in the Mulberry Grove.

Potato Soup

My husband and my first meal after our marriage (I was 16 and he was 21) was canned potato soup. We had no stove; I warmed it on the waffle iron. We had no table; we ate on a cardboard box. We had no chairs; we sat in the floor. It was winter, 1978, and cold. We had no heat and huddled near our defective furnace. We slept on a waterbed mattress on the floor. It had no heater. We put my electric blanket between the cold water mattress and us. We had no refrigerator, but it wasn’t necessary. The house was a refrigerator until a week later; we borrowed a gas heater from a friend. Then we just put everything on the back porch to keep cold. The   biggest problem was that sometimes everything froze. The second evening, I made deviled eggs by boiling the eggs in my percolator coffee pot, and warmed beans and wieners on the waffle iron. That year there was snow on the ground until the end of March.  I had to think outside the box to feed us without eating out.  It was a fun challenge.  Now I make homemade potato soup and it brings back the memory of that first can of soup.  See recipe belowG hero 039:

Potato Soup
About 10 medium potatoes, peeled and cut up
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt to taste

Cover with plenty of water and boil ‘til tender.
Add 1 lb. Velveeta cheese and cook to melt.
Add flour or cornstarch to ½ cup cold milk and mix with fork.
Pour this mixture into the hot soup to thicken.

Sometimes I add leftover ham. Serve with hot cornbread.


My Best Kitchen Secrets

My Best Kitchen Secrets

  1. For dry beans, 1 ½ cups makes about 4 cups of cooked beans
  2. wooby pics 083Use freshest eggs for baking, and older eggs for hard boiled.
  3. When making cornbread, make sure your cast iron skillet is HOT when you pour in the batter. Fabulous crust!
  4. Test your baking powder if you have had it a while; put a teaspoon in HOT water. If it is really fizzy, you are good to go. If there is little or no fizz, it is not usable anymore.
  5. Add a little sugar to foods with a large percentage of tomatoes (spaghetti sauce, chili, etc.). Delicious!wooby pics 023

6.  In a hurry? Use angel hair pasta    which cooks in about 3-5 minutes versus spaghetti that takes 8 to 11 minutes. Open a jar of pre-made sauce and heat while the pasta cooks, and you even have time for making a quick salad. Dinner in 10 minutes is no problem.

7.  When cooking a meatloaf, you can cut the cooking time in half by making it into mini loaves using a muffin tin. Your “muffin meatloaves” can also be frozen for individual servings later.

8.  Save bread heals in the freezer and when you need bread crumbs in a recipe, toast and run through the food processor.

9.  When making a fruit tray or salad, drain a can of pineapple chunks and dip your bananas and apples in the juice to slow down the enzyme that turns these fruits dark.