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The Full Life of a Homeschooler

Tajia Hammack

Tajia Hammack has homeschooled each of her six children, ages four to twenty-two, at some point in their life. She has used traditional homeschool teaching methods along with starting and running her own nature school for five years. Currently, she has created a homeschool pre-school co-op with other families in her community. Her full life also includes owning a dance studio, working as a family and women’s advocate, and teaching a Makerspace class at her local public library.


TLJ: Tajia, what led you to the decision to homeschool your children?

TH: I have six children and have homeschooled each of them at some point in their life. Originally, I began homeschooling my twins who are now 19, and one of them from a very young age. I knew he had some pretty series learning disabilities. I had been a teacher for a school with many students who had developmental delays, and through that, I was able to pick up on many of the signs.

When my son was really young, I knew he sat on the spectrum, I just needed the “piece of paper” so I could get the help he needed. Strangely, it was really difficult to obtain. I don’t know if it had to do with labeling and the stigma of it all at the time, but I knew he needed the diagnosis to get the resources he needed. Since it was taking so long, I just decided I could teach him myself and that is how it all began. From there, it just became an awareness and want to be with my children, and fear of having them in an unsafe school community where there were guns, gangs, and drugs.

“I just decided I can teach him myself and that is how it all began”

TLJ: What does homeschooling look like for you and your children?

“When left to his own devices, my son is a phenomenal student”

Nature School: Learning in the great outdoors

TH: For instance, when left to his own devices, my son is a phenomenal student. When I can say to him, “this is what needs to be done and this is how you do it,” and then just leave him alone, then he will do it. With my other son who is dyslexic, and has attention difficulties, for him to engage, we had to be busy with our bodies. So, taking him out hiking and climbing and doing a natural history type of education was really beneficial to him because while he is fishing, he is also learning history or any other subject. This is where the concept for my Nature School began. Nature School is the person who I am, and it was a wonderful five years. It is the meat of the sandwich, and it was amazing!

“It is the meat of the sandwich, and it was amazing!”

With my daughter, we were in the middle of moving to a new home and new community, dealing with the issues of change and things. She began her high school career in a charter high school which was homeschool based. It was an interesting education path. It was like homeschooling with the guidance of the traditional high school experience.

Whereas with the twins, I had created my own curriculum. With my younger children, I utilized the Oak Meadows curriculum which I really enjoyed and is very popular in the homeschool community.

My now 9-year-old daughter, who has found her place in the world, a few years back was really struggling with separation anxiety, and just wanting to be home and not wake up so early or deal with the drama of life away from home. So, I decided that was the time for her to start homeschooling. It was really a special time for us. At that point, there were more online resources which we utilized. It was a helpful new strategy.

This year I get to start preschool with my youngest. We have a few children in the community who are at the same age and are on the same path, so it has become a co-op preschool which is another new adventure for us in the homeschool community and it is very exciting. I am really looking forward to this process. It’s new and fun and it is including other families which is always a positive.

“It has become a co-op preschool which is another new adventure for us in the homeschool community and it is very exciting”

Makerspace: Learning through problem solving

TLJ: What might a typical day look like for someone who decides to homeschool their child?

“There is not one way to do it”

TH: It really depends on the child and on the family. People homeschool for many different reasons. So, maybe your little one doesn’t do mornings, or maybe your child has some disability that makes it difficult to get started early. Maybe your kiddo is in your hip pocket at the dance studio. If you work nights, you may trade your nights for days. If you travel, maybe you take your children with you. Every aspect of one’s life can be fit into homeschooling.

There is not one way to do it. There are as many ways to homeschool as there are people in the world. In my younger days, we were much more free form and I would let the children guide the day – a more child led-education. Now that I am doing the co-op preschool with other parents in the surrounding communities, it looks a little different. We set a schedule week by week while still trying to maintain flexibility. For instance, if the weather is bad, we may work on projects indoors and then go to the dance studio to get some physical activity in. It has been a completely different experience with each of my six kids. I have had six different homeschool experiences. I don’t think I have ever acknowledged that before.

TLJ: Have there been challenges along this path of homeschooling?

“Sometimes I just want to go get the bread”

TH: Often being the parent and the teacher is a challenge. There becomes a break in “Who is mom and Who is the teacher” and how those two differentiate, and how are they the same. Sometimes it feels like you are turning everything into a lesson and that can be daunting. I just want to go get the bread sometimes and not have it be a teaching moment. I do the best I can and not get too hard on myself because everyday is not perfect, and I am OK with that. Letting go of expectation helps. It is trial and error.

“Letting go of expectation helps”

TLJ: Along with being a homeschooler, you mentioned you own a dance studio. How did you get involved in the world of dance?

“I want them to know that this is their body, it’s their mind, they have power over all of it, nobody else has that”

TH: When I was little, around 4 years old, my parents decided to put me in ballet class. My very poor and very hardworking parents didn’t want this little pigeon-toed girl to grow up and be made fun of, so they put me in ballet class. And even though my feet turned in so much, it was something that my terribly shy self really enjoyed. I could be part of a group, but I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I was good at following directions and so they kept moving me up into the bigger classes. Being this little tiny kid in a group full of really big kids doing class gave me this pride in myself that I didn’t have before and therein just became this really big part of my heart.

It’s what I love, and that ability to create confidence and self-awareness and strength and power in my own self, is something as a dance teacher, that I want to offer to the kids. For them to be able to grow and be strong even if they don’t grow up and dance on stages. I want them to know that this is their body, it’s their mind, they have power over all of it. Nobody else has that. I want these kids to grow up with that confidence and that strength in themselves. It will reach every facet of their life. I think it is a very positive thing and I just love dancing.

“I was like, why don’t I just do it!”

I’ve done it all. As a child I did all the basics, tap and ballet and jazz. As I grew older, I was an under-study for the Cirque de Soleil. After that I came back and was teaching ballroom, learning and performing which I really loved. Then we moved away from the city and came to this lonely quiet town, and I was really depressed not having dance in my life. And then with all the hopes and dreams that somebody would please start teaching, I was like, “why don’t I just do it!” This month coming up is exciting because we are starting adult classes. We have a huge group of adults in our community who are really excited to do this. So, I am beyond thrilled to be able to offer this fun and safe place to express themselves and be strong in that.

TLJ: Tajia, along with teaching dance, you said you teach a Makerspace class at the local library. Could you tell us a little about this experience?

TH: Yes, I love doing Makerspace! So, what is Makerspace? Makerspace is a time when we meet at the local library and we experience problem solving through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) experimentation. We think of a problem, whether it be a real current problem or a problem from the past, or something we are going without and could use, or possibly something we can build that may better something else.

Somedays I will have the kids choose. Usually, I will have something already picked out that will coordinate with the books we read in the library. And then we may think about, “oh, he wants to build a rocket in his backyard to go to outer space, what would we need to create the combustion or the force that would be strong enough to boost him into outer space.” We then read about it, we talk about it, and engineer these designs. And then we drop Mentos into Coke bottles and explode them in the courtyard. It is really a fun gathering. I have a lot of kids interested in building cause and effect, like domino style tracks. It is a fun place for exploration and creativity through STEM.

TLJ: What does your community advocacy involvement look like?

“We have to create our village”

TH: I feel like this life that I have lived is made up of these little bits and pieces. Such as having a child on the Spectrum, having a different child with learning disabilities, having a child with anxiety issues, being in a domestic violence marriage and surviving that. And through these experiences, I have accumulated all these tools to be able to thrive and be able to survive. And learning through that survival, how much help is available. Also, learning how important it is to have some tools to keep in your pocket.

I think it is important, especially during difficult times. Because we easily isolate ourselves when times get scary. I don’t want for anyone or any family to struggle through those times alone. It’s important to me to be able to be the ear or the guide. I want to let families know they don’t have to do this alone. And while we are on that page, let me show you the different resources that are available.

It’s just very important to my heart. I feel thankful. Thankful that in my life we have been able to survive what we have survived. And have come out of it all with the gifts we have been given. Along with being able to offer these gifts to other families. Through all of this, with the help of our local behavioral health center, I am able to do this. I am able to listen to individual’s or different groups’ stories, and offer help and direction. Whether it is to find a resource to feed a family, or help someone in a domestic violence situation to find the right group or resources for them.

“The more we get comfortable with ourselves, then the more we can offer to everyone else”

The more we get comfortable with ourselves, then the more we can offer to everyone else. That goes with everything, with homeschooling, with community action, with dance, everything. Just trying to create a common thread in our community has been a beautiful thing to watch come to fruition.


Tajia, thank you for sharing your story.

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