Homeschooling mom Anna Lanier enjoying educational adventures with children
Source: The Cullman Times
By: Loretta Gillespie
April 4, 2012
Anna Willingham Lanier of Cullman has a full and rewarding life. The Cullman High School alum graduated from Montevallo in 1998 with a major in retail merchandising and a minor in business. But life took a turn for her with the advent of four children. So now, instead of selling purses and shoes, she is a homeschooling mom who runs a business and teaches ballet lessons.
During college she taught ballet in Birmingham for a year, afterward she worked in a bank for awhile before opening her store, Dance With Us, a retail store with dance, gymnastics apparel and workout clothes, in 1999.
In 2001, she married David Lanier, a talented musician, whose first CD will be released in the next few months.
Anna started ballet at the age of five under the careful eye of her mother, Elaine Willingham, also a dance instructor and owner of the Cullman Ballet Theatre School.
With her background in working with children as a ballet instructor, she felt that homeschooling was something she could do well. “I went into it with the attitude that I can handle it,” said Anna. “I felt as though I could do a better job that public school because I know my child better than anyone else.”
Her oldest child, Clara went to public school from kindergarten through the second grade, but wasn’t enjoying the experience. “She just wasn’t happy in school,” recalled Anna. “Everyday it was a struggle to get her up and ready. Some days she complained of a tummy ache, or a headache, but really she just missed me and didn’t want to go to school.
“With my schedule I never had enough time with Clara while she was in public school, and felt like I didn't know my child,” she said. “Homeschooling is great for my work schedule. We start around eightish each day and can be finished with all three school-age kids by noon or earlier. Then I open my store at 1:30 and the kids can either go with me or stay with their dad at home. It's such a blessing to us that we are able to do it this way.”
Because she teaches ballet at her mother’s school, four days a week and often works until 6:30, she would have had little time with them had they been in public school. This way, they get their work done in the morning, leaving the early afternoons for running errands, doing chores around the house, or just relaxing.
Clara, a seventh grader, is now 13, and thriving in the homeschooling environment. Anna has a fourth-grader, son Liam, 9, and Esther, a first-grader, who is 6, at her dining table classroom. She also has a 20-month-old, Violet, who soaks up a lot of education between naps.
“Actually, everything goes really smoothly,” said Anna.
“You can get a lot of school work done in a couple of hours a day when children don’t have to stand in line for 20 minutes to go to lunch or the bathroom several times a day, or take physical education classes,” she said. “Homeschooling can be a bit tricky doing three different grades each day, especially with a very demanding infant,” admitted Anna.
“For us, it works best if I start the six-year-old first, because she has less work and then can help by playing with her little sister while I help the nine-year-old. The oldest works independently most of the time, but I still have her at the table with us in case she needs me and so I can make sure she isn't slacking off,” laughed Anna.
“I love being the one to teach my children new things and I love being with them as they accomplish new goals and seeing how their face lights up when they finally ‘get’ any problem they've been having trouble with,” she said.
Clara and Liam have different learning patterns. “Clara was easy, with Liam it’s been a little bit harder, because they have different personalities,” she said. “Esther is just learning to read, and is coming along nicely.”
One of the reasons homeschooling works for the Laniers is that Anna can quickly tell what their weaknesses are, allowing her to slow down, making sure that they have grasped the concept before moving on to something else.
Anna says that she is probably fairly structured in her curriculum. “I teach the history, science, English, math and intensive writing courses, all of which are outlined in the Bob Jones University guidelines for homeschooled students,” she explained.
She teaches them Bible courses as a part of their everyday lives.
They also get lots of extracurricular instruction. “Liam isn’t into sports much although he takes gymnastics twice a week and loves that. He is also very artsy,” said Anna.
At 13, Clara is an aspiring writer, and the whole family loves to read.
David teaches them music when they show an interest, although it isn’t part of their class work, and the girls take ballet.
Working with her children has taught Anna much about the virtue of patience. “I’ve learned to be more patient, and I’ve also learned a lot about myself in the course of working with my children,” she said thoughtfully. “I’ve learned to take myself much less seriously — to laugh more often and to relax and enjoy life.”
Part of those life lessons she’s learned deal with stress management.
“When we have doctors appointments we don’t have school that day,” she said. “That’s really stressful trying to cram schoolwork into loading four children into the van for a drive to the doctor’s office. But we take those kinds of days off, which is another thing that makes homeschooling work for us — there are no make-up lessons like they would have in public school, no doctor’s excuses, and I can schedule their appointments around my work schedule.”
Since Anna teaches public school children in her ballet classes, she normally follows the public school break schedule, at least for major holidays. “I normally don’t break for President’s Day and things like that,” she laughed.
Her children have plenty of interaction with other children and with other adults. Each Friday they join a co-op of other homeschoolers and their parent/teachers for extracurricular activities and other group lessons.
Recently the co-op group studied astronomy, took drawing lessons and Clara, who is on the yearbook staff, met with her group to work on projects related to that.
Anna closes her store on Fridays to be able to make these outings without having to rush back to work.
“I’m really happy doing this, “she said. “There is so much less stress and we all get along and enjoy being together.”
They even get in some cooking lessons by helping to prepare meals and Anna teaches the girls crafting skills like sewing, quilting and knitting. “These are just parts of our everyday life,” she said.
She also weaves moral lessons into the fabric of their lives because by being with them 24/7, she can point out examples whenever certain situations arise.
“My mother-in-law, who is very supportive of us, is a public school teacher in Madison, so I know how hard teachers work and what they have to deal with on an everyday basis. I don’t mean to criticize anything that they do, it’s just that this is very important to me, and my work situation makes it possible for me to have the best of both worlds, so I feel very blessed to be able to do this for myself and my children,” said Anna. “If things change in the future, we always have the option of them going back to public school.”
As for now, though, the children are surrounded on a daily basis by books, art, music, nature, Christian values and a whole lot of love.