Brooke Nordquist remembers her high school days fondly—on one birthday, she remembers going to Chick-fil-A in the middle of the day during the school year with her siblings.

Brooke and her five siblings were homeschooled, and the group of teenagers enjoying their lunch before public school let out caused the server to ask some questions. When he learned they were homeschooled, he offered Brooke’s 16-year-old brother a job. 

Each of the siblings was offered that same job once they turned 16, including Brooke. She spent three days a week focusing on her schoolwork, and the other two days working the morning shift and attending extracurriculars.

“That was my favorite,” she said. “I had so much flexibility and free time, but I didn't ever feel like it got in the way of my schooling. I didn't have to choose one or the other.”

Now grown and scattered around the country, Brooke and her five siblings meet for weekly video chats. Her three young boys love telling their aunts and uncles about what they’re learning through homeschooling.

It’s a Go

Brooke earned a degree in public health and worked an internship and part-time job before getting married and welcoming their first son in 2016. “I wanted to be the stay-at-home mom,” she said. “So, once I got that opportunity, I kept it that way.”

Thinking the separation would be good for her son, she sent him to public school for kindergarten. But homeschooling stayed in the back of her mind, and before she sent her son to school, she selected a curriculum to use if she changed her mind.

That January, her son returned from school saying he was punched in the stomach by second graders during recess. The school failed to notify her about the bullying.

“If he's being physically hit and there's violence going on, and I'm not being told about it, I can't do that,” Brooke said. She and her husband removed him from school immediately, and she ordered her chosen curriculum that evening.

Keeping the Dream Alive

Brooke has been a dedicated homeschool mom ever since to all three of her boys. But her family faced new challenges in the summer of 2022. Her husband faced financial difficulty at work, and national inflation was high. Her son expressed an interest in science, and she wanted to order him special science textbooks, but they couldn’t afford them.

Brooke knew about HSLDA because her mom was a member when she was homeschooled. She learned about their grant program and applied for a Curriculum Grant, which provides families with assistance to purchase school materials when finances are tight. 

That fall, she received the exciting news that she had been approved for a grant. “I was jumping up and down all around the house,” she remembered.

The Nordquist family

The Nordquist family

Allowing her children to pick what they want to learn during curriculum shopping allows them to “take charge of their schooling so they are more invested in it,” she said. Because of the grant, her son could select the workbooks that matched his interest without any financial strain.

“It felt like another added support to the homeschooling endeavor,” Brooke added.

Endless Possibilities

She loves creating a flexible learning environment for her boys and going on field trips. Having siblings all over the country, her boys love finding adventures enroute to their aunts and uncles, and she enjoys finding places to visit along the way.

Before they embark on a trip, they leverage their national museum pass and pick a place to go. Their most recent adventure was the Chattanooga Aquarium.

In the days leading up to their visit, they read books about fish and created a workbook about what they wanted to see, and what they thought they’d see. “They were just in awe of seeing all the fish and sharks right up close,” Brooke said.

Learning possibilities extend beyond a classroom setting or strict school activity. Brooke urged homeschool moms to “just go for it, and don’t try to recreate public school for your kids.”

“You just need a space for you and your kids,” she added. “Whether that's the kitchen table or the couch or the floor. You don’t have to have a homeschool room. Take it one step at a time.” 

Brooke creates a positive learning environment like the one she thrived in as a child. Homeschooling gives her the ability to customize each child’s education to their strengths, weaknesses, and interests.

She’s also able to incorporate her education in public health into her children’s daily lives. “My kids know all about calories and things like that,” she said. “They're just like: ‘Oh, calories give us energy. Well, I want to go do this. So, I need energy.’”

On Instagram, Brooke shares snippets about her everyday homeschool life. She documents field trips with their local co-op, like their bluebell flower hunting trip this past spring. Finding friends and ways to get outdoors helps her recover from discouraging slumps.

“I know I've gotten into a slump where things aren't happening the way that they should or the way that I pictured them going,” she said.

Making the changes towards a more positive day, whether that’s reciting their spelling words on the trampoline or standing on their heads for a quick break can turn the day around. “Just being engaged with your kids is going to overcome any mistakes you make,” she said.

Because of the grant from HSLDA, Brooke was able to sustain her sons’ vigor for learning, which in turn continues to fuel her passion for investing in their education.

“I love just being like, ‘Okay, let’s go! We’re just going to go somewhere,’” she said. “Getting that hands-on experience has been the most fun and rewarding.”