This week’s Ask the Grad reminds me why I am thankful for home education. Rebekah McBride’s story shows us that being a homeschool graduate is not about following a cookie-cutter recipe for success, or even doing what works for your family. Rather, home education is truly discipleship toward God’s plan for each individual life, following His path for His own glory. That is something to praise God for now, and every week of the year.
Be sure to read how God is using this amazing young woman to share His message with others in her article below. Rebekah has a special offer at the end for WhateverState readers, too!
Looking back on my homeschool years, it’s evident that God blessed me tremendously and was directing my footsteps even then, by directing my parents. My schooling didn’t start at home but, when I was entering the second grade, my parents decided to keep me and my sisters home. To get a different perspective on homeschooling in the same household, you can read my older sister’s Ask the Grad post here. Being older and very social, getting pulled out of the school system and away from her friends was, to her, a tragedy (though now she’s very thankful for our parents’ decision and she homeschools her own children!). However, for this shy homebody who couldn’t sit still in a classroom, homeschooling was a welcome decision.
As I’ve been thinking about all the benefits of my homeschooling experience, I narrowed it down to the ones that I think were the most obvious in my life. The four I see the most clearly are what I’ll call “Learning as a Lifestyle,” “Teaching With Your Child’s Strengths,” “Flexibility and Opportunity,” and “Preparation for the Future/Learning What Matters to You.”
Learning as a Lifestyle
We started out homeschooling with a boxed curriculum that provided each of us with textbooks, workbooks, and general “busy work” in eleven different subjects. Eleven! And this was when I was only in second grade. As my mom’s understanding of homeschooling expanded, she altered and adjusted our curriculum until it was primarily unit studies. This was beneficial to her because it meant all four of us younger girls (my oldest sisters were already finished with school by this point), and any foster kids living with us, could study the same materials on different levels. The benefit for us was that instead of following a text, answering the questions, and then putting it away, we were immersing ourselves in a subject through research, hands-on experiences, and living books. This method encouraged us to treat everything as an opportunity to learn, taught us how to look things up for ourselves, and created not just students, but lifelong learners.
I appreciate that now, as an adult, I know how to use a dictionary and the encyclopedias, look up information on the internet, or seek out the right person to ask for help. If I come across something that catches my interest, I know how to study it further and can pursue new interests. My parents did a great job of teaching us to learn for ourselves, rather than trusting a text or a teacher to give us all the answers.
Teaching With Your Child’s Strengths
I am a kinesthetic learner. Hardly a Sunday went by that one of my sisters didn’t nudge me or smack my legs because I was shaking the pew with my rocking or leg-kicking; most of the time I didn’t even realize I’d been moving. In order to pay attention to what the pastor was saying, my body had to move around somehow. If I stopped moving, all my efforts were concentrated on sitting still, and I retained nothing I heard.
My mom understood this about me and implemented small, seemingly insignificant strategies for helping me focus on what I was learning, rather than focusing on sitting still. We learned math facts with videos that incorporated jumping jacks, stretches, and kicks. We played history, science, and art appreciation games that allowed me to wiggle as much as I wanted. There was a long period of time when our dining room table was graced with maps covered in a clear plastic sheet. As we ate, we were having our heads filled with geography and, many nights after dinner, Daddy would pull out blank maps and we would race to see who was fastest at at filling in the countries or states in the proper order. When required to sit still for dictation or other workbook lessons, I was allowed to chew gum, swing my legs, and tap my pencil on the table. Instead of fighting me to sit still, or ignoring or medicating me as many school systems would have done, my parents embraced the natural wiggle God put in me and found ways to help me succeed with the motion, instead of training it out of me, which would have destroyed the person God created me to be. When I was 13, my parents enrolled me in ballet classes, and I’ve been dancing and/or teaching dance ever since; if my parents had forced me to be still and tried to train the wiggle out of me, they would have squelched the gift God put in me. I’m thankful that they realized that God made me to move.
Flexibility and Opportunity
One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the freedom to be flexible when opportunities arise. Injured bunnies and orphaned fox kits became science lessons and inspired discussion about animal rehabilitation centers, veterinary clinics, and death. History lessons and reading assignments turned into plays in the backyard and the kitchen. Nutrition lessons became real as we ground wheat to make flour that we then baked into bread.
As we got older, the opportunities changed, and my parents allowed us to to accept much of what was offered to us. I took off for weeks at a time in order to do missions work in India, witnessing on the streets, working in orphanages, and learning firsthand about India’s culture, caste system, geography, history, language, and government. Another time I spent two months as Anne in a production of The Diary of Anne Frank at a local theatre; it was a paid production and I had to get up almost every morning for two months to the same thing again, answer after-show questions the school kids would pose to the cast, and make sure I was prayed up, as I was the only Christian in a worldly arena.
Both of these experiences garnered me invitations to speak at churches and private schools in the area. I remember one classroom in particular where the teacher grilled me with question after question, trying to shake me up. One question she asked was how I found the time to do all these extracurricular activities and still accomplish all my schoolwork. I was able to confidently reply that my algebra book would still be there when I returned, but that these experiences I’d been given, and all the lessons I was learning through them, were invaluable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and I was blessed to have the flexibility to pursue them because my parents strongly believed that they were a part of my education.
Preparation for the Future/Learning What Matters to You
I don’t know about you, but calculus is not something I’ve ever been inclined to learn, and I always knew it was something I personally wasn’t going to have much use for later in life. Other subjects were the same–useful to some, but not to me. Obviously, when we were in our elementary school years, we couldn’t just decide that we were never going to need long division and just skip it. However, as we got older, my parents evaluated what we hoped to do with our lives and helped us plan out what information and skills we needed in order to reach those goals. Since my plans and dreams always dance and theatre, as well as orphanage work in India, my mom didn’t see a need for me to spend all my time fighting through higher math. I finished Algebra and Geometry and then went through a consumer math program, learning about saving and investing, rather than calculating numbers that made my head spin. My foreign language studies were all over the map–I focused primarily on ASL, which I use in interpretive dance, but I also studied Hindi and Telugu, because they were related to India (one is the official language of India, the other is the language spoken where I work when I’m there). I also dabbled in Latin and French, which are related to writing and ballet.
When I was 16, I worked for my dad for a few months, as the office administrator for his telecommunications company. That year I also began working at the dance studio where I took lessons, working my way through the ranks until I was hired as an assistant director. I assisted my mom in her various positions from the time I could type, helping her with convention prep, typing up the directory for our support group, and publishing the support group newsletter.
All these small jobs were preparing me for where I am today, and where I hope to be tomorrow. This summer I married my best friend and we are praying about opening a dance studio that we hope to turn into a full-fledged performing arts school, which will eventually support a children’s home in India. Homeschooling, and all the opportunities that I received because of it, helped ready me to tackle this project, and our out-of-the-box way of living prepared me for a life that’s different from the cultural norm.
The Most Important Lesson
When my parents first pulled us out of the public schools, they did so with little knowledge of homeschooling, no support, and not one friend or acquaintance who homeschooled. They simply followed the prodding of the Holy Spirit and stepped out in obedience. Although not directly related to education, their one small step, and many others like it throughout the years, was an education itself. I learned through their example to listen to the Lord and discern His voice amidst the noise of the world. Being with my family all day every day, the importance of relying on God and following where He leads was something I was surrounded with constantly, instead of something I only heard about on Sunday mornings and during bedtime prayers. I never had to wonder whether I should believe my parents or my teachers, and I didn’t have to be untrained when I got home from school. God was just as much a part of our school days as my mom and it was only through the lessons I learned in hearing His voice that I received as many of the opportunities and experiences as I did.
And now for our reader-submitted “Ask the Grad” question! Today’s question comes from Traci, who writes:
“Were you ever embarrassed to tell people you were homeschooled?”
I’m probably not the best person to ask, since I was so glad to be homeschooled! There were times when I felt out of place as the only homeschooler in a group, but I can’t think of a specific instance when I felt embarrassed by it.
Rebekah Bentley McBride is a dance teacher, homemaker, and happy wife to her best friend, Michael. They live in a little house in the Virginia countryside and Rebekah blogs about their life at www.honeyandcheese.com. They are making plans to open a dance studio that will eventually be able to support a children’s home in India. Rebekah also publishes A Lady in Waiting, a magazine for stay-at-home daughters. To find out more about the magazine, visit www.aladyinwaiting.com or follow the magazine on Facebook. Rebekah would like to offer a downloadable “Christmas Countdown” to readers of whateverstate. Please write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll send you the link when the download is available after Thanksgiving.