When my parents began homeschooling in 1980, they were the only people they knew who were doing it. It was my mom’s idea, simply as a matter of convenience. With four young boys, and another child on the way, the long drive to and from the little preschool 5 times a week to accommodate both of the oldest boys’ schedules was getting to be too much.
My dad agreed to try it for a year, and, as the old saying goes, the rest is history. What had started as convenience grew into a strong conviction that this was what God wanted them to do.
Hiding from Persecution
In 1982 my parents were taken to court on truancy charges. Though they had a perfectly legitimate case, (and homeschool today under the same law as they were back then), the judge refused to listen. He didn’t want to hear anything about religion, he said, and ordered my parents to put their children back in school.
To finish out the school year, my mom was allowed to use a classroom at their church’s preschool to teach her own children, and the following year she brought them back home. They knew to stay indoors and keep the curtains drawn during school hours; if anyone knocked on the door, they were to hide under the bed, knowing that if they were discovered, they might be taken away.
Meanwhile, my parents and others were lobbying for a new law, which passed in 1984. Now they were free to home educate without fear of prosecution, and they have been doing so ever since.
Six years later, I came along, as the tenth of the fourteen children that would make up our family.
Discipling with Family
In our house, homeschooling was not simply a different way of teaching us the basic academics, but rather it was a whole different lifestyle: the lifestyle of discipleship. As Jesus chose His 12 disciples so that they might be with Him and learn from His example, so my parents, though not perfect by any stretch, endeavored to follow Christ’s model, teaching us diligently, as it says in Deuteronomy 6:7, “when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
Early on in my life, I was taught that the Scriptures were to be the basis for everything we did. Everywhere you looked in our house, there were Bible verses. (Deut. 6:9) Mom made flashcards, games, and crafts to help us memorize Scripture, and Dad recorded books of the Bible on cassette tapes for us to listen to at night as we went to sleep.
I am so thankful for this training that I had in the Scriptures, beginning at such a young age. I learned from the beginning what was truly important.
Of course, we learned the academics as well; they just took second place to training in God’s Word.
Fun with Learning
Even though Mom at one time had 12 school-aged children at once, she managed to have time for each of us. Not only that, but we would complete our school work in about 3 hours a day! As every child learns differently, and no one curriculum fits all, Mom picked pieces from different curriculums, tailoring our education to our own individual learning styles. My brother Tucker, for instance, loved science, and for a time Mom performed experiments with him every day. My brother Rick was fascinated by history and politics, so he did a lot of extra reading on the subject, and for writing assignments he would write letters to the editor of our local newspaper regarding current events.
A typical day for us also often involved what my dad called, ‘incidental learning’-like the time dad and the boys were driving down the road and saw a freshly killed raccoon. What did they do but throw it up on the roof of the station wagon and bring it home to enjoy an impromptu lesson on anatomy-and, after the major organs had been identified, a game of ‘What is it?’
Or the time I learned all about energy and motion with a sheet of plywood nailed to the deck stairs, a croquet ball and a mallet…and a window…
Homeschooling also gave us much more time to minister to others. My dad and brothers helped out with numerous Habitat for Humanity houses, us girls helped make meals for families in need, we watched children for young moms who had just had a child, we frequently had guests over for dinner, and so much more.
One ministry that I was involved in was that of visiting some elderly folks from church with my Mom. One couple were retired missionaries, and their stories from the mission field were incredible! I loved visiting them, planning gifts to bring to them, writing them letters, making cakes for their birthdays…And while our goal was to be a blessing to them, they blessed me in so many ways. From them I learned about having a true servant’s heart, and saw what it means to be totally devoted to the Lord. I still regularly correspond with the one lady who is still living, even though she has moved out of state.
I always find it comical when people who are considering homeschooling are worried about socialization. In our home, at least, we were much better socialized than if we had gone to school, and spent all of our time with our peers. We learned how to interact with people of all ages, and were just as comfortable talking with an adult as with one of our peers.
High School, Ministry, and Beyond
I decided in high school that I would attempt to complete 3 grades in 2 years, and graduated a year early, at 17.
I also decided not to pursue a college degree, mainly because I did not fancy going thousands of dollars into debt to earn a degree I probably would not use. What I really want to do in life doesn’t require a college degree.
Since then, I have done lots of babysitting, worked as a tutor, volunteered with various ministries at our church, and gone on a mission trip to Romania. .
Currently I am working as a nanny 3 days a week, cleaning houses 2 other days, and volunteering in the tech crew at church. I also travel quite a bit in the spring and summer with my parents’ business, The Learning Parent. They have written several books on parenting/homeschooling, and speak at conferences all over the US and some other countries.
I love my jobs, especially nannying. To some it may seem mundane or unimportant, but I see it as an enormous privilege to be able to help train these precious children to ‘love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, and minds.’
Life in a family of 14 children was rarely dull. Having spent so much time together, we were (and are) a very close family. Even now, no one can make me laugh like my brothers. No one can laugh at my predicaments and then give advice like my sisters. No one can lend a listening ear like my mom. No one can embarrass me like my dad. I am incredibly grateful for the time we spent together, truly getting to know each other and cultivating such close relationships that will last for a lifetime.
One of the defining moments for us was when my brother Josh was diagnosed with leukemia in September of 1996. For seven months he suffered, most of that time being spent at a hospital about 2 hours away. It was difficult for Mom and Dad, as they tried to spend as much time as they could with him, while my oldest sister cared for us younger children at home. In March of the following year, Josh went to be with the Lord. It was a very hard time for all of us, yet the Lord used it to bring us closer to each other and closer to Him. For years afterwards, we were learning of people who had been touched by his testimony. In fact, God used Josh’s testimony to show me my need for salvation, and I gave my life to Christ just a few weeks after his death. I am looking forward to seeing him again one day, and worshipping our Savior together!
Overall, I had a wonderful homeschool experience, and cannot even begin to share how grateful I am to my parents for making the sacrifices they did to allow me to have that privilege. I know I will reap the benefits for the rest of my life.
Rather than sending me out to have strangers constantly bombarding me with their ungodly worldviews, I was discipled by loving parents who, although not perfect, desired to ‘train me up in the way I should go’ and teach me to be a servant of Christ.
Parents, regardless of the sacrifices you are making today, you will never regret the time and effort you are spending pouring into your children. They are arrows that you will one day be able to send out, to glorify God and fulfill His plans in ways beyond what you could have imagined! Yes, it takes much effort, and much sacrifice, but I assure you, it is worth it!