Welcome to North Acres Homeschool
Come meet the family, read our journey, and check out some resources that may help you in your journey as well!
Dan & Julie Noraker live in Minneapolis, MN with their 4 children. Julie started as a reluctant homeschooler when she began half-way through the 2013-14 school year. However, by listening to the Lord’s guidance, she is now homeschooling elementary through high school! She is originally from Duluth, MN and has a B.S. in Computer Science from Bethel University. She enjoys biking, cross-country skiing with her family, as well as crocheting in her spare time.
We started our journey during Christmas break 2013 when our eldest, Nano, was in 1st grade. It became clear that public school was not the right solution for the way he learns. I was not interested in homeschooling and whenever Dan would suggest it, I just reminded him that HE was the one with the education degree and would have to be the one to teach him - so he did! I researched curriculums, bought My Father's World 1st grade curriculum, and he started homeschooling Nano when we pulled him from his elementary school.
We were able to jump right into a co-op mid-year at our church, which I am SO thankful for! We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and really needed the support the co-op offered. We plugged along until we moved in 2015 and landed in a new elementary district. Since our second, Fafa, was going to public school for Kindergarten, we gave Nano the choice - homeschool for 3rd grade, or go to public school with his sister. He chose public school.
In 2016, I left my job early in the year and took over homeschooling from Dan. We pulled Nano once again, and for 4th grade, we focused on reading, math, and playing - he dug a lot of forts that year! Fafa continued into 1st grade at the public school. We discovered she has learning struggles, but didn't really know what they were yet. By the next spring, she came home stating, "I don't like to read!" We convinced her to stay the course since there wasn't much school left and she could come home for 2nd grade.
With Fafa's learning struggles, and our third, Sessie, proving to be a quick-study like Nano, we figured it would be good to have the two of them together at home. So, all the kids were home when we started the 2018/19 school year. We continued using our curriculum, and I modified their schedules accordingly for a 6th, 3rd and 1st grader - with a 3 year old who wanted to be like his bigger siblings! It was our first year exclusively homeschooling and it was pretty crazy!
When the shutdown happened in 2020, that was probably the most gratitude I had for homeschooling - and already being a few years in by that point! Not much changed in our daily routine, but we had to get creative to get out of the house. We joined a cross-country ski club and got out to ski 3-4 times a week - it was fabulous! We did lots of park play dates since our co-op decided to cancel all our meetings for that school year. Nano was able to take an Environmental Science course at someone's home. By the next spring, some testing centers opened back up so he was able to take - and PASS - the DSST exam for that course.
That summer of 2020, I had many people asking about homeschooling - how we do it, what curriculum we’ve used, what has worked/what hasn’t, resources we’ve found helpful, etc. I discovered that helping share my personal experiences with homeschooling, some tips and tricks, really helped others, and I loved doing it! I had friends come over to the house to see our curriculum, the schedules I created, how we set up our school space, and talk through how we structured our day. That’s really when God planted the seed of having me share our experiences with others.
The 2020/21 school year was our youngest, Bud's, Kindergarten year. Up to this point, I had sent each of the kids to public school for Kindergarten. I figured it was a good environment to see what “school” is so they’d be better prepared to learn at home. Also, I was scared to teach a kid to read! They learned so much in the first year that I didn’t want to mess up his base! I had found CraftyClassroom.com the year prior and did a PreK-4 curriculum with him since he wanted to be included in the daily work with his siblings. He loved it - so when this year came, and I realized that having him go to public school wasn’t a good option, I used their READ K program. By the end of the year - the boy could READ!! I successfully taught this child his base knowledge, and it was fun!
We had a lot of changes for the 2021/22 school year. Our co-op started back up as normal which was great. I sold the 1st grade curriculum I had used for the older kids and did Crafty Classroom’s READ 1st program since Bud was already familiar with it, he liked it, and it worked! Nano started 9th grade and did dual enrollment at our local high school. We weren’t sure if we’d continue homeschooling through high school, but after going through a class from Credits Before College - I had the confidence that we could do it successfully. He took band, woodworking, design & fabrication, driver’s education, as well as auditioned into jazz band, Nordic team and track team. It was a really good fit and he enjoyed it! I’m thankful our school district is very willing to work with homeschoolers, they made the process very easy and answered questions as they came up.
Sessie cruised right along and discovered her love of reading. That child now devours books and we found a few series she really enjoys - even reading through them multiple times! Fafa made a lot of improvements in her learning journey, but at a 6th grade level, things started to prove more challenging. She joined a homeschool band that year and tested into their second level band on baritone - an instrument she picked up just a couple of months prior! I started noticing her math skills hadn’t improved as much as we’d hoped after vision therapy. Word problems were still a HUGE struggle as she couldn’t decipher what the problem was asking her to do. I had to ask her each time if she was being asked to add, subtract, multiply or divide by reading the keywords, and even then she still didn’t really understand. I started suspecting dyscalculia and researching that path to learn more.
We changed up her science and language arts curriculum so it was more visual and less memorization. Master Books has a wonderful General Science series that was right up her alley and she's enjoyed it - all the kids have! I also found their online videos that go with some of the curriculum and it has helped tremendously in her ability to grasp concepts. Our plan in 2023 is to go through an evaluation for dyscalculia and take steps needed based on the findings.
Nano is currently on the path to start PSEO in the fall of 2023, which is Post-Secondary Education Option in MN. It's a program where 11th and 12th graders can go to college and the state pays the tuition for those 2 years. There are requirements that need to be met, but he's meeting them without issue. The goal for each of the kids is graduate high school and obtain their Associates of Arts degree in the same year. They can then make the choice to continue for a Bachelor's degree, should their field of choice require it, or start down another career path entirely.