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Meet Debra

Hello there. No matter what journey landed you here, I’m glad you found me. I hope we have a few things around here that you will find helpful. Most of the content is the outcome of the identity crisis I had when I came to the end of my homeschooling years–so let me give you the backstory on that:  (If you aren’t that curious, just jump to my current status.)

How I Got Here

My four kids were home-educated K–12. (We didn’t start out with that intention, but that’s what happened.) They are grown now with families of their own. They all have degrees and jobs and we are on speaking terms–so I didn’t screw them up too badly (Depends on which one you talk to.) I’m also a homeschool Situ (Lebanese grandma). Really like the second-gen homeschooling experience. So much easier to be chill about it. (Of course, my grandkids are brilliant.)

A long, long time ago (like, during the last millennium), I was a high school English teacher. I was raised by public school teachers–my maternal grandmother was a public school teacher–lots of relatives are public school teachers–it’s kind of the family business. Even my two homeschooled daughters became public school teachers. Get the picture, lots of professional educators in the family tree. All the great things about public education were modeled for me–I love to learn, I love to read, I love to talk about ideas and have new experiences. But as you can imagine, our decision to homeschool was initially viewed as a betrayal of sorts–and subversive–which it was at the time (illegal, I mean–that’s how long ago this story starts).  It ends well–we were part of making homeschooling legal in Pennsylvania, and my parents became some of my biggest fans. Including them in our homeschooling was clutch. My dad use to carry a case of my books (I wrote a couple along the way) in the trunk of his car and pass them out to strangers, administrators, my former teachers, etc. At ninety-two, he’s still as sharp as a tack and calls me when homeschooling is featured in the news anywhere–which is pretty often these days.

So about the books–somehow during our homeschooling years I wrote two books about homeschooling (I have no idea how I did that!)–The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling and The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens. You can find the latest editions (I’m using that term loosely) at cbd.com or Amazon. They are kind of historical artifacts at this point, but if you want to know what homeschooling was like in the olden days, pick up a copy of either. They became best-sellers (weren’t a whole lot around at the time) and that changed my life, my husband’s life, all our kids’ lives. We got to travel around quite a bit during their teen years–I was invited to speak all over the country, and I’m a “go-big-or-go-home” kind of gal, so I also opened a homeschool resource store on Chocolate Avenue in Hershey, PA (how sweet was that?), started another venture called the Young Writers Institute, started a few co-ops as well–and taught at them for some time (I’m being evasive so you can’t calculate my age).

Because I has the foresight to marry a guy with a computer science degree–back when that was a novel idea–I had a website shortly after AOL was invented. I’ve had this domain name for . . . well, a very long time.

Eventually, all my kids left home and I didn’t know what to do with myself. All those years looking forward to when I was finally done homeschooling, and I missed it BIG TIME when it was over.  Besides all my girlfriends were still homeschooling, and I had no friends. So I went back to teaching English at the co-op. I also started teaching AP English online. When my oldest daughter, Kayte, joined the Philadelphia corps of Teach for America after college, I realized I could finish my PhD at Temple if she would let me live with her. (It wasn’t her dream to live with her mom at the start of her adult life, but when I offered to pay rent, she caved.) I lived with Kayte during the week and traveled home to hubby and cats in South-Central PA on weekends for three years. At one point my son Michael got his International MBA from Temple, and he lived in Kayte’s basement when he wasn’t overseas. That was one of the happiest times of my life–having my kids as college roomies, even though they asked me to stop saying that.

What I Do Now (or the point of the website)

I am a full time writer

My PhD is in educational psychology, which is a discipline that investigates how kids learn best. I keep up with the research and apply it to homeschooling. My goal is to identify “best practices” for homeschool parents and write articles about these. You can read them on my blog–or get them faster by signing up for my e-letter. I also write curriculum. My current projects are Writers in Residence, a writing-focused language arts program for 4th grade and up, and Readers in Residence, a reading comprehension, literature appreciation, and vocabulary program for the same age group. The curriculum is based on the latest research in learning, reading, and writing and my experience teaching homeschooled kids.

I oversee Aim Academy

Online learning is a big reason homeschooling is growing. And during my ten years teaching AP English online, I learned to love the advantages of it as much as I loved teaching live at our co-op.  A number of friends from our co-op have joined Aim Academy faculty as well as some of my former students, who earned teaching degrees. Other experienced online teachers I’ve met along the way have joined us too (We’re growing!). Everyone is a homeschool parent or homeschool graduate and qualified in their subject matter. I want Aim Academy to apply the latest research in online learning to our classes as we prepare students to eventually score high on SAT, ACT, AP and CLEP exams. My own kids were able to graduate from college on time or early because they accumulated college credits during high school through equivalency exams (AP or CLEP), and they earned college scholarship through high scores on their college boards.

That is Aim Academy’s niche–I want your kids to be equipped to maximize their high school coursework so they can gain admissions to the college of their choice, graduate on time, and have room in their schedules to take advantage of other opportunities — like study abroad. (My kids traveled around the world earning college credit as they went–and that has shaped their adult lives significantly.) Read “5 Ways AP Exams Cut College Costs” to find out more.

I volunteer

I’m still involved with my local homeschool community as president of this great organization: Encore! Home School Productions. Love, love, love being around this group of kids. If you are anywhere near enough to attend one of our productions, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

I am also wildly fortunate to serve on the board of the Global Home Education Exchange. Homeschooling is spreading around the world, and I’m an eyewitness to history in the making. (So glad I didn’t depart the homeschool world early–it sure has gotten interesting!) There is nothing more inspiring than our monthly Zoom meetings with twelve to fourteen leaders from around the world planning our next global conference. (The last one had over 1,000 attendees in Moscow!)

I travel

That’s what I live for. True story–I didn’t want to write my first book because I knew the publisher would expect me to get on a plane to do a book tour. My fear of flying was pathological. But by God’s grace (and a prescription for a few years) I now love to fly–I’d fly the plane if they’d let me. So I have to keep everything else listed above going to fund this habit. You can see some of the places I’m headed below:

Speaking Schedule 2019

Share Education — Feb 28–Mar 1 — Siófok, Hungary

Homeschool Global — Apr 20 — Dubai, U.A.E.

Home School Support Center — May 24 – 26 Moscow, Russia

HEAV – June 6–8 — Richmond, Virginia

CHAP — June 14–15 –Lancaster, PA

Christian Int’l. School — Aug 19 – 21 Prague, Czech Republic

Homeschool Global — Oct 5 Manila, Philippines

African Home Education Conference –October 17–19 Pretoria, South Africa

Speaking Schedule 2020

GHEX2020– Nov 5–7, Manila, Philippines

Dr. Debra Bell, author, speaker, educator

I am available to appear live on a limited basis. I am happy to be considered for your online event. Debra Bell Seminar Topics