A fifteen year chapter in the story of my life has now ended.
Fifteen years ago, I thought about homeschooling my kids. But the idea scared me because I didn’t know how to teach a kid to read.
Somehow that summer, my daughter taught herself to read. When it was time for her to begin kindergarten, she tried it in a perfect environment but asked to homeschool.
We said yes. We didn’t know anything or anyone who homeschooled. I bought her a workbook at Sam’s and looked at the What Your Kindergartener should know book. We figured we would try it a year and if it didn’t work, we would just have her repeat kindergarten. It was a leap of faith.
We ended up homeschooling for 15 years; my younger son has just finished high school.
Fourteen years ago, we decided to add to the homeschooling mix by starting a business from our home, which our husband still runs. I continued to work part-time to supplement our family’s income.
Thirteen years ago, two weeks after our school year began, when my son was in kindergarten and my daughter was in 2nd grade, our home and business burned. The primary things salvaged in that fire were our books, our business, and the kids’ school supplies. We took that as a sign we were to continue schooling them.
We have since schooled through challenges including a tough economy, surgery for me, and a heart attack 18 months ago.
I can only credit the grace of God who worked in many ways to keep us going. He helped us by many different paths:
- Help from friends. We made good friends who also homeschooled, and together we pooled our talents and resources to teach our kids. That is how my kids took classes in elementary school Latin, aerospace, and high school science.
- Help from coops. Local cooperatives gave my kids opportunities in choir, drama, Spanish, speech, strings ensembles, art classes, guitar, handbells, self defense, and grilling.
- 4-H. Our 4-H program gives its youth as much as they put into the program. We put a lot into 4-H and got far more out of it. In addition to the hard skills they learned through projects ranging from livestock to computers, they gained invaluable leadership and community experiences. Both of my kids went to Washington, D.C. multiple times through 4-H. My son flew to Atlanta for a trip, and my daughter got to participate in a team presentation at the U. S. Department of Agriculture. They both met Senators and Representatives as well as other government leaders.
- Kolbe Academy. For their high school program, my kids enrolled in a classical Catholic curriculum based in California. We tailored it to what the kids needed.
- Non-traditional learning opportunities. We’ve tried a lot of online options – Dive DVD’s to work with Saxon Math, Teaching Textbooks for high school math, and Kinetic Learning’s physics program. One semester, we tried a chemistry class through a virtual school. For one semester in high school, my daughter enrolled in our local Master Gardener’s program and called it botany. She credits that class with her success in courses she’s taken as a plant science minor in college. Both kids also successfully completed college classes in high school through bridge programs.
- Community Opportunities. We’re blessed to live in a city with a fantastic library system and fine arts opportunities. We appreciated the Suzuki violin program as well as the Evansville Children’s Choir. Our YMCA offered outstanding fitness opportunities as well.
As this chapter closes, I think the biggest thing our kids got from their homeschool education was not the academics – mind you, those are very important. But the real intangibles were far bigger:
- Family Bonding. We’ve hustled through tough times together and shared our talents. Our kids know we will do anything in the world for them, and that has given them a strong base.
- Faith. During those early school years, every morning after breakfast started with family Bible time. When our daughter started high school, we decided to try reading the Bible aloud a couple of chapters a day start to finish. We only read when all 4 of us were there, and it took 4 years to finish. But we did read the Bible aloud together as a family – both the action stories and the rest.
- Hard Work. We had a whatever it takes attitude with running our business and schooling our kids. It was often a team effort that taught our kids to take care of as much themselves as possible. When our kids were little, we sold Bethlehem Books at conventions to raise funds to pay for their schoolbooks. Both kids were expected to help us sell, set up displays, and inventory the books for each convention. When I had my heart attack, my daughter came home from college for Christmas and worked through grading, prepping, and tutoring her brother to help him finish that semester. Last fall, when we realized I would need to start working full-time 6 months ahead of schedule, we sat down as a family to figure out how Nick would finish his final semester with my being gone every business day. Both my husband and Nick worked together to make it happen. It helped that he was enrolled part-time in a college class. I see the fruits of their strong work ethic now as both my kids have pollinated corn for a summer job. My daughter worked in a distribution warehouse last summer and has just been certified as a forklift operator for her job this summer. My son worked food service part-time to both buy and pay for a car to work his way through college.
And now I understand why God had me start the next chapter of my life 6 months before this one ended. He knew I needed to focus on the future and new opportunities instead of mourning the passing of old ones.
When I was a kid, we listened to books on tape that said when a page was finished: Turn the page.
It is now time for me to turn the page as the final words on this chapter say: Mission accomplished.