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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Today's featured homeschool entrepreneur is Patsy Brekke.  Patsy owns and operates a writing tutorial service called Writing Foundations where she is "taking the mystery and misery out of learning to write."  Her story is inspiring!  Please read the "long version" to receive the full impact of what she does and who she is!

Her name is Patsy Brekke, but just about everybody calls her Ms. B.  She is a business owner and homeschooling mother to three children:  Josiah (18), Zoe (15), and Anna (12).

Here's what she has to say:

How long have you been homeschooling? The decision to homeschool was made when I was pregnant with my first child. Friends from church homeschooled, and my husband and I were super impressed with their family relationships and lifestyle. I was an award-winning teacher in the San Diego City Schools at the time, but my greatest heart's desire was to be a stay at home mom. Thus, when my son was born, off we went. I have been homeschooling for 18 years!

What made you start up writing tutorial service?

The short version: 
Shortly after the birth of my third child, I needed to go back to work. I bumped into the teacher-training videos from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, and Writing Foundations was born from there.

The long version: 
Unfortunately, shortly after the birth of my third child, my marriage fell apart. I was devastated, but with no-fault divorce laws, there was very little I could do about it. I had just begun formally homeschooling kindergarten with the oldest. At that time I prayed that the Lord would show me what to do - I vowed to follow whatever He brought along, trusting that He loved the kids even more than I did. I laid the kids, so to speak, and homeschooling, on the altar before the Lord. In the interim, I started a tutoring service for any subject from my home as my youngest was still too young to even attend preschool. Eventually, I decided to offer a self-designed week long writing workshop at my church. A homeschooling mom found one of my flyers and called to ask if I was using the Institute for Excellence in Writing, which I had not yet heard of. I told her that I wasn't, and she said, "Well, I have all the teacher-training videos; would you like to take a look at them?" Then she added, "I'll be in your neighborhood this afternoon. I'll drop them off."

The minute I plugged in the first video, I was hooked. I remember praying, “Lord, this is the wheel I've been trying to reinvent!” That winter the kids and I enjoyed our last few months with me as a stay at home mom. We snuggled in bed together and watched Mr. Pudewa through all 9 units, just waiting for every one of his silly jokes. I took copious notes and started dreaming of all the possibilities.

On my way to an inner healing conference that spring, I once again lifted the kids up to the Lord and asked Him to show me what to do. In the most miraculous way, I felt like He directly asked me, "What do YOU want to do?" I burst out crying so hard, I had to pull over.

"Oh, You KNOW what I want to do!" I cried. "I want to homeschool them!" 

The divorce was still in process, so I was still home with the kids, waiting for things to fall into place for the next school year.  In June of that year, I was able to meet Mr. Pudewa at a local homeschooling conference. I shared my situation with him, and he loaded me up with materials, direction, and great advice, “Write your own lesson plans, and start teaching classes to other homeschooling students.”
Because my kids were so young, I wasn't very familiar with the local homeschooling community yet – especially at the teenage level, so finding a connection was my next challenge. The state homeschooling handbook clearly forbid soliciting among its group listings, and I had no desire to violate those terms. “But,” I prayed, “Lord, how do I tell them that this is what I have to offer?” I thought they must have some venue for it, so I decided to randomly call one of the group leaders and just ask about how/where to share my info. I left a message with the contact person, and the next day she called me back. She shared a bit about her co-op organization, a tutorial service for homeschooled teens in the metro area. Then she asked about me. I told her what I had to offer, and when I finished, there was silence on the other side. After a few seconds, she gravely responded, “You are the one we have been praying for. We have one language arts position yet to fill, and you are the one.”

At that moment, Writing Foundations was born. The co-op administrators adopted my whole family; they helped me set up child care for my kids while I was teaching, and from then on have provided business advice and support the whole way through. Writing Foundations classes have multiplied from three groups in 2001 to fifteen classes in 2011 via multiple co-ops and as far away as Shanghai via a webinar setting. I tell the Lord that as long as I have to work, I am so grateful that He has given me my "dream job".

How do you manage? 
Lots of prayer is number 1!  When the kids were younger, I taught only 8 classes per semester. That left 3 week days at home together, which we strictly guarded. As soon as they were able to, the kids also started taking co-op classes. The kids learned very early to keep track of their work and self-management skills. Workboxes, spreadsheets, and checklists have been a wonderful part of that. Saturdays are our "tie up loose ends/finish that chapter day".  

I work very hard to not compare myself to any other homeschool moms, and just do the best at what I was called to do - at what I was blessed to do. If at any time through this journey I could have quit teaching Writing Foundations classes and just be home with my kids, though, I would have in an instant. However, I will never give back the lessons and the growth that we as a family have learned and gained. 

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  1. I took Writing Foundations in 7th grade with Patsy and it was, without a doubt, the best writing class I have ever taken. I'm currently entering my senior year in college and am renowned as the best writing tutor in my school's writing center. I don't say this as a personal ego booster, but as a testament that Patsy is an incredible teacher and her program is the best I've encountered. My younger brother (19) is currently enrolled in one of her classes. For years he struggled to write coherently, but after taking just a few months of Writing Foundations classes, I was amazed by what he could produce! It was as though Patsy's program unlocked a hidden talent he had inside him all this time; now it can flourish. In fact, my brother is so excited with his new-found abilities that he often calls me to share what he has written for classes or otherwise.

    I would also like to add that Patsy is a wonderful, funny, and dynamic woman and I am thrilled to know her.

    Rosa Edholm

  2. Rosa,
    Thank you so much for your comment! You were one of the first babysitters the kids had, and they still remember you so fondly.

    I'm glad to hear that the class was a blessing to your brother. It was great to get to know him.

    Bless you!