Looking back, I remember the time that we lived in a little cul-de-sac early in my mothering years. There was a family whose children seemed to always be playing together outside and I wondered why they weren’t in school. One day my neighbor and I were both getting our mail out of our mailboxes at the same time. I had never met her before but we both pulled the same Christian publication out of our boxes. We looked at each other and said, “Oh! Are you a believer too?!” After that meeting I had the courage to ask her why her kids weren’t in school. I had NEVER heard of homeschooling at this point in my life. Nadia and I became good friends and after spending time in their home, seeing their interactions and what homeschooling was like, I was definitely interested in trying it out when my son was old enough.
When Caleb was Kindergarten age, I asked Nadia to show me the ropes. My husband agreed that I could give it a try for Kindergarten with the possibility of extending it to 1st or 2nd grade. He was certain that by 3rd grade we would need to enroll Caleb in traditional school so that he would not fall behind. He needed a good academic foundation for his future and from all that we had been taught in our own growing up years, there was no other way than in a classroom.
By the middle of kindergarten, I was struggling with homeschooling. I felt like I was failing my son and that I couldn’t actually accomplish school since I had a 3-year-old and twin 1-year olds. We decided to enroll Caleb in the local public school as soon as spring break was over. In the 3 months between his enrollment and the end of the year, we all learned a few lessons. Caleb’s academics certainly improved. He was challenged in his reading and I was back to the position of being, just mom. Because I was “just mom” now, Caleb had this idea that I could no longer teach him, that his teacher at school was the only one that he had to learn from. I don’t think she intended that her reach entered our home, but it did. When I attempted to teach him anything in the evenings or weekends, I was met with resistance because “Ms. H” didn’t do it that way. One of the saddest developments was that he no longer wanted to play with his sister “because she is a girl!” He also stopped playing with his little brothers “because they are babies”. The social attitudes that had developed in him were counter to how we had planned to raise our children.
Our kindergarten experience taught us that there was a lot more to school than academic achievement. We decided at that point to pursue homeschooling until there was a reason, just as apparent, to stop.
Though we made the decision together, homeschooling was still a mom thing. Many moms I knew attended the state homeschool convention together and one year, I went to the curriculum exhibit. The following year I asked my husband that as an anniversary gift, would he take me to the homeschool conference? He agreed to go to one day but, did not want to commit to two and I was content to attend at least that much.
Attending the state conference that year formed in us a much clearer vision for how to raise up our family. My husband, though being raised in the church had never heard such a clear directive about his role and our overall goals in parenting. While we were driving home Friday evening he asked, “What time do we have to leave to get there tomorrow?” What? We are going back for day two? I didn’t expect him to be willing to go back a second day. Not only that but at the end of day two he told me, “We won’t ever miss another conference, that was great.”
Our first conference was 15 years ago, and it was life changing. The speakers shared a wide range of knowledge. Some spoke of learning styles and others the logistics of running a home and a homeschool simultaneously. There were sessions that taught us how to teach our children to read, to write and the importance of nature study. But most of all, every one of the sessions we attended revered the idea that the goal of education is more than these academic practices. We were reminded in each session that the heart of homeschooling was really reaching our children for Jesus and training them to follow Him.
What began as somewhat of a probationary period of home education became a way of life. We have now home educated four of our children through graduation and have five younger ones that we are currently teaching. The opportunity to be supported and encouraged along the way by OCEANetwork at the state conference has been invaluable to us. The academics are part of our children’s education but the life skills, family ties and the Biblical values we are able to instill are the things that will truly stay with them forever.