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How A Mom of 9 and Adoptive Parent Became a Life Skills and Social Skills Advocate

After homeschooling for 14 years, something broke…or maybe something clicked. It wasn’t working anymore and I was SO BURNED OUT!  I had played the role of SUPER Mom for too many years but now I couldn’t think straight…let alone act like super mom. 

For those 14 years, our family had been part of a homeschool co-op. I was on leadership…and then I was the Director. That will keep you busy but we added 8 years of fostering in there and adopting 3 kids. I used my free time to work a part time job. After our hardest year of fostering, I had our 9th child and then COVID. 

I was the champion of homeschooling and had poured years into homeschool leadership…but suddenly, it wasn’t working for me or my kids.  

Hello! I’m Sarah. My husband and I live in Ohio with our 9 kids and have done ALL THE THINGS to educate our kids. I started Ten Minute Momentum in 2021 at a time when I was experiencing burnout with our family’s educational choices. 

Homeschooled Before It Was Cool...A Couple of Times!

Before I tell you why I love life skills, I need to tell you my education journey…because its a bit mixed up and messed up….and probably why I am the way I am!! 

I was the oldest of 5 kids and my own parents were part of the early homeschool movement. I was homeschooled for Kindergarten in 1984, just one year after the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) was formally organized. There were no co-ops. I didn’t have homeschool friends. I didn’t know any other homeschoolers. After kindergarten, my parents sent me to public school. 

I tested into the gifted program there and had the opportunity to take accelerated everything. 

But by 6th grade, public school was very stressful and a lot of morally questionable things were popping up. My parents opted to homeschool me again! 

So for half of 6th and all of 7th, I was homeschooled. For a year and a half, all I did was read books (we didn’t have a TV) and do math…no other school work. I think my parents realized that I was not as self-motivated as I needed to be (other than reading!!) and my mom didn’t love homeschooling. 

So, in 8th grade I started a private Christian school. Having done very little for a year and half, I was once again in advanced classes. It was then that I realized that not much actual new learning happens in middle school!! 

I stayed at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy until my senior year when I left to go do college full time my senior year as part of the Post secondary program at the University of Akron and ended up graduating from Norton High School

I went on from there to finish my degree at Cedarville University getting  a B.A. in English. Besides meeting my husband Mike there, my favorite thing was studying at The University of Oxford in England for one summer! 

After all that high quality education, I graduated with a degree I didn’t know how to use and ended up making just above minimum wage as a school photographer right out of college. (que…life skills!! LOL) 

I Never Quite Fit In...But I Want Others to Know How

Despite being great at school work, I was never really able to crack the “Friend Code” in school. At any time during my school years, I had many acquaintances but usually had one friend, maybe two. 

In a large group, I would often sit in the back. I always brought a book so I could look “busy” while I was alone. 

I was active in school activities and in church youth group, which translated into a lot of connections, but really into friendships. I was surrounded by people but often felt very alone.

For most of my life, I made the Friend “B List.” 

Growing up, I usually had one good friend and other than that, I was usually a person on the “B List,” I was not usually invited to birthday parties, or sleepovers. I didn’t go with other families on vacation or any of the other things close friends do. I did not hang out with the popular kids. They barely spoke to me. 

And when I was in a conversation, I struggled to know the right things to say. Words came out that were awkward or intense and I got used to the uncomfortable silence that would fall when I said the wrong thing again. 

I was an adult before I figured out how to navigate social situations and how to talk to anyone!!

I want something different for other kids. I want them to be able to be in a room and talk to people…and not feel isolated by their own awkward tendencies. Social skills can be practiced and learned…just like Math.

Not all kids naturally understand social skills and our traditional education does not teach it! 

All kids are not one size fits all!!

6+3=9 Kids...How Fostering and Adopting Shaped My Understanding of the World

Growing up, I lived 2 doors away from the Hauer Family. At the time, they had about 25 kids…most of whom were adopted. And most of those kids had some kind of special need. Their family was amazing and I always felt at home at their house. Having challenges was “normal” at their house and everyone just worked around it. They believed that every child deserved a family, no matter how many struggles they had. 

Seeing that kind of love up close for many years, I knew that I wanted to adopt someday.

 When I married my husband Mike, I got to meet his aunt and uncle who also had more then 20 kids with special needs. We both had had amazing examples of people giving beyond their comfort but also stepping up to help just one child at a time. 

You can read Our Foster and Adoption Story here.

After having 5 kids of our own in 8 years, we started fostering and eventually adopted 2 siblings and later adopted another son before having one more baby to bookend the family. 

As a homeschooling mom, I had started our school journey thinking I would simply buy curriculum and recycle it for every kid. I would photo copy workbooks because I wanted to save money. LOL! That is not how our journey worked at all. 

In fact, my kids quickly taught me that what worked for one probably wouldn’t work for the next. Or maybe…if I was lucky…it would work for a couple before I would be on the hunt for something new.  Being foster and adoptive parents simply accelerated this learning curve because it threw a whole bunch of other needs and factors into the education equation!

Over the years, I found myself pivoting every year to try and get each child what they needed to succeed. From an academically gifted future engineer to a child with learning challenges but strong business aptitude, we had a diverse range of interests and needs. This child wanted to be on the robotics team and that child wanted to be a professional gamer while another wanted to read all day. This child was intrinsically motivated and that one preferred to stay in bed. Everyone needed something different!! 

Our school options over the course of the last 16 years have included: 

  • online charter school
  • homeschool
  • homeschool with a co-op
  • public school
  • homeschool hybrid drop off 
  • private secular school
  • private Christian school
  • early college
  • career center
  • public university
  • private university
  • brain training tutoring
  • reading tutoring
  • and more!

Every year has included adjustments for at least one child who needed something different in this season.

Our kids and families are not one size fits all!

Educational Choices HAVE to work for the WHOLE family!!

Every family is different…let me say it for the people in the back…EVERY FAMILY IS DIFFERENT!

And part of that “different” is recognizing that as a parent, I have needs too. In my year of burnout, one of the first realizations I had was that I was allowed to have priority in my own life. 


As a mom, I realize how incredibly selfish that sounds. But when your cup is empty, you have NOTHING to give. 

In 2020 and 2021, I burned out badly on homeschooling. At that point, I had graduated 2 homeschooled students but still had 7 more kids! I could barely function. 

In 2021, I Quit Homeschooling and Sent All My Kids to School. 

Part of healing from that burnout was realizing that I HAD to prioritize me when considering the best kind of education for each kid. In other words, if it was completely draining for me, but everyone else was great…that wasn’t the right balance. There had to be a way to educate my kids, for them to get what they needed and for me to be able to take care of myself too. 

Our kids and families are not one size fits all!

We all have different needs, numbers and resources and that matters!!

Letting Go of Perfection to Find Freedom

As I came face to face with my limitations in burnout, I had to admit that I liked having control over my kids education. I took that responsibility very seriously. And somehow I equated total control with the “perfect” form of education. 

I have no idea where that came from. Because even though I had complete control, its not like I was doing a perfect job delivering their education. It’s not possible to give every child my undivided attention all the time. And there were definitely gaps. 

When I was in the middle of complete burnout, the idea came up that we should sent our kids to school for a year. We had a couple of Christian schools relatively near us that would work for different needs. One school would serve our academically gifted son well and another specialized in helping kids with learning struggles. We are not wealthy people but the state of Ohio has funding options for sending kids to private school, so we decided to pursue that option. 

I Felt Very Alone

Choosing to quit homeschooling was a very lonely decision. 

I realized then that our education choices are very closely tied to the communities we are a part of. I had been a part of the homeschool community for 14 years and now I was out. And its much harder to make parent friends at private schools where most activities are drop off. It was even harder because one of our sons started school before the others and it was COVID…with all the masks, distance and isolation.

I could not find an a guide to help me confidently navigate pulling my kid from one option to start another. I could not find and “expert” that would support me as a mom as part of the education equation. 

I didn’t even have language for the challenge I was navigating. 

After all, the homeschool community before COVID was largely parroting the idea that “homeschooling is the superior option for EVERYONE.” And in the Christian community, there was language that your child might not follow Jesus if you didn’t homeschool. 

Where was the support for the mom who was trying to find the best education for each child? 

Life Skills Education As the Framework for ALL Education

Through all the pivots of education for myself and for my kids, I began to realize that a primary driving factor was the need to help each child develop the life skills they needed to succeed. 

Just like one child will easily learn math and another struggles, our children understand and apply life skills through different learning opportunities. If a child or teen is not learning the skills they need for success in one education model, it may be time to pivot or adjust. 

I have examples of this for every one of my kids but let me tell you about my third child. Flynn has always been academically gifted. He thrived in the homeschool environment and excelled in nearly every subject. I affectionally called him my “nerd” because he was always tinkering. By the time he was in 10th grade, he had 7 high school science credits. Homeschooling was clearly working for him. 

But I was running out of homeschool classes for him to take. He is gifted in science and needed actual instruction for higher level math. And even though he was very smart, he was socially more awkward. 

In my year of burnout, I asked him if he wanted to go to a private school with an engineering program…or if he wanted to do college full time for 11th grade. He chose to go to school even though college was a solid option. 

And in making this educational pivot, I watched him thrive as a person. Yes, he got to take more science classes…and he had actual teachers for Calculus. But the best part of his two years there was watching him become socially confident and independent. He developed relationships with men in the engineering field, was part of an award winning Robotics team and made a ton of friends.

He developed a whole resume of social life skills  that will serve him well professionally and personally.

He is now in college studying Chemical Engineering.  He has tons of friends and will start a research opportunity next semester as a college Freshman. 

Our decision to pivot his education was EXACTLY what he needed to fill in his life skills gap. 

Our kids and families are not one size fits all! It is our job to help our kids get the life skills they need through the education they get.

I Help Parents Teach Their Kids Life Skills using the BEST Options for Their Family!

Honestly…the best option for my family might not be the best option for you. Sometimes the best option has nothing to do with school and everything to do with other education options in the community that can support children in their unique interests, abilities and needs. 

Education is a funny thing because we are all so unique and finding just the right thing isn’t always obvious.

So today, I use Ten Minute Momentum to serve:

Education is not a “one size fits all” type of experience.

As parents, educators and business owners, we have the opportunity to redefine education to meet the needs of individual students instead of offering a cookie cutter education for everyone! 

At Ten Minute Momentum, we offer resources, coaching and books to promote “Out of the Box Education” options for all families.


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