I am so excited today to be a part of Simple Homeschool‘s worldwide homeschooling linkup, Growing Up Around the World. If you’re not familiar with this blog, Jamie Martin and fellow blogger Sarah Mackenzie have been hosting a summer book club encouraging parents to read books with their children that take place all over the globe. Each Friday, Jamie has been posting interviews with homeschooling families from all over the world, and now it’s our turn!
Growing Up Around the World
Tell us about your family.
I’m Shelly, and my husband, Shawn, and I have been together for 24 years and have 11 amazing kids together. As a child, I always jokingly told my mother that I was going to have 10 kids…I never realized that I’d even surpass that number!
Our kids are Brendan– 22, Devin– 17, Dillon– 16, Arianna– 14, Caollin– 12, London– 10, Bailey– 9, Luke– 8, Ireland– 6, Summer– 5, and Kenzie– 3.
Our oldest is beginning his sophomore year at the community college this year, and I homeschool the other ten children.
Tell us about where you live and how long you’ve lived there.
We live in the beautiful Lehigh Valley, in eastern PA. I’ve lived here my whole life, and my husband has lived here for most of his life, although he was born in central PA. We are about 60-90 minutes away from Philadelphia, depending on traffic, 90 minutes away from New York City, 60 minutes away from the Poconos, and about 2 hours away from Hershey, PA, the hometown of the chocolate bar!
What do you think is unique and special about living where you do?
Oh, where should I start? First of all, this area is literally a melting pot of so many different cultures. We have friends from Japan, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Syria, Lebanon, and South Africa- just to name a few!
We live about 20 minutes away from Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, where I practically grew up since my dad was the maintenance foreman there, and we got free season passes every year for the entire family. (Coincidentally, my uncle was in charge of the concession stands and my aunt ran the miniature golf course, so let’s just say I was a happy girl when I was there. :D).
Our downtown area has recently been revitalized, so we now have an arts walk and a brand new hockey stadium which hosts not only hockey games, but music concerts, ice skating shows, and more.
Probably my favorite thing here is “Lights in the Parkway,” a Christmas light display that runs throughout one of our largest parks.
They run horse and buggy rides, offer pictures with Santa, and sell hot chocolate. What could be better for childhood memories?
What languages are spoken there? If it’s different from English, can you help us learn a few common phrases?
Although English is the official language, there are many residents who speak Spanish, Arabic, and a great many others.
What are some traditional foods there?
Since the Pennsylvania Dutch culture, which is simply a variation of German, is almost exclusive to this part of the country, (as well as in my own family), here are some traditional PA Dutch recipes:
Potato buttons– diced potatoes cooked and wrapped inside a dough mixture that is boiled and then covered with melted butter
Beef chips– any type of thin steak dipped in an egg/milk mixture, then breaded and fried in hot oil
Shoo Fly pie– a molasses pie with a crumb topping
Funny cake– a cake inside of a pie crust with melted chocolate syrup at the bottom (my favorite!)
Tell us about the climate where you live.
If you’re one to enjoy the changing seasons, this is the place to be. We’ve got hot summers, warm and breezy springs, cold winters, and crisp autumns with the most beautiful foliage imaginable.
What does school look like for the majority of kids where you live?
Most of the kids here attend public schools or publicly funded charter schools. Since we live in the city, the school districts are underfunded here, unfortunately, which is why so many students have been turning to these charter schools. We also have an abundance of Christian schools- my church is actually a site of one of them- and several Catholic schools (which I do realize are also Christian, but that’s how the distinction is made).
What does school look like for your family?
We are a relaxed homeschooling family. Our three teenagers are all so different in their approaches to learning, it’s unbelievable that they’re related! Devin is very school-minded, so she does most of her learning through textbooks, although she does a ton of learning on her own through all of the research she does online for various topics. Dillon hates reading and textbooks, so most of his learning happens through field work (he wants to be a wildlife photographer), and Arianna would be perfectly happy just reading all day long, so she takes a very Charlotte Mason approach.
All of our other kids focus on the three Rs and then do unit studies together in two separate groups. With our past experience with unschooling, we’ve learned to appreciate the learning that comes through real life experiences, so I’m very easygoing when it comes to throwing out the curriculum for the day in exchange for another exciting opportunity.
Are there any special festivals or traditions you’d like to tell us about related to where you live?
Since this is such a “Dutch-ified” area, we’ve got a ton of festivals and events to go with it. Some of the most popular are: Musikfest, Das Awkscht Fescht, and the Kutztown Folk Festival. Musikfest is basically like a huge county fair with lots of food and a ton of music concerts all going on at the same time. Das Awksht Fescht is a classic car show, and the folk festival is a huge fair celebrating the Pennsylvania Dutch culture.
If you ever had to move away from where you live, what do you think you’d miss most?
I would definitely miss all of the beautiful mountains, the cherry blossom-lined streets, and the beautiful changing leaves in the fall. Although we live in the city, we can drive for just a short distance and end up on top of a beautiful forested mountain overlooking rolling hills of farmland. Just gorgeous.
Do you have a favorite book that takes place in your region/country?
Don’t laugh, but there are several ghost story books about our area. In fact, the street I grew up on- and that my mom still lives on- is the focus of one of these stories! Growing up, other kids were always astounded to hear where I lived, and several used to ask me if I was afraid of the crazy albino lady. Ah, youth.
So that about wraps it up. You’ve probably learned more about my family in this post than in the other 200 posts I’ve published, combined! So now it’s your turn…where are you from, and what’s it like? Leave a comment; I’d love to know more about you. 🙂