Highly structured yet unpredictably eccentric, Jen does an impromptu chicken dance as she prepares breakfast or makes up a song, a natural for the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, woman whose dreams of becoming a singer-songwriter took a backseat when she and her husband, Jeremy, started a family.
Michael was still a toddler when a teacher in the family asked Jen where she'd be sending him to school.
The question had an odd impact on Jen, then 22.
"I hadn't really thought of school," she recalled, "but all of the sudden I had this feeling so deep in my gut that told me I would not be sending him to school ever."
Jen knew she had to tell Jeremy about her idea to homeschool when he arrived home from work. His response was enthusiastic and reassuring.
"It was the first time we both had the same strong feeling," Jen said. "We're sure it was God because there wasn't any other good reason for it. From that day on, it was settled, and we never thought twice about it."
A natural with children, Jen started an in-home daycare five years ago just as Michael, or "Mikey" as his family calls him, was ready for preschool. God's hand was at work again when a daycare mom introduced her to Alpha Omega Publications.
Jen now uses LIFEPAC for Mikey and Horizons for Milo's kindergarten work. Ellie typically joins Milo and occasionally pipes up with answers before her big brother.
"Having her sit with him helps him sit still," Jen explained. "Strange as that may sound, he enjoys her company, and they work better together, even though they are developmentally at different levels."
Figuring out how to homeschool Milo was a challenge for Jen after becoming comfortable homeschooling her oldest. While Mikey works well independently and loves to read, Milo, a natural athlete, struggles to sit still and learns best in short bursts.
"I let Milo and Ellie play card games like Memory and things that teach math and phonetics," she said. "They love it because they don't think they're learning, and Horizons is set up so perfectly. It challenges them."
Jen said homeschool parents have to recognize their children's different learning styles.
"If it's not working for Mom or child, try a different way," she said. "We do not stay home to be miserable."
Despite homeschooling for the past five years and running a daycare, Jen describes herself as an introvert at heart and openly admits that she sometimes gets burned out being with the kids 24/7. She compensates with quiet time.
"Pray constantly," she advised. "I'm in constant conversation with the Lord about my sanity."
On the days when she's knows she's not at her best, Jen keeps alternatives, such as learning videos she's recently discovered on YouTube, clearly bookmarked.
"I'm the type of person who always has a back-up plan," Jen said, "and I still write music. My kids are my audience."