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“Homeschooling is for hippies and organic gardeners!”

How my mom persisted when it seemed everything was against her

That’s how my mother felt about homeschooling back in the early 80’s – back when homeschooling was quasi-legal at best. But as it happened, it was her best option for a variety of reasons.

And it was an incredibly daunting project considering how fringy homeschooling was back then. But she did it anyway, and, I would say, did it very well.

How she got to the point of going where only “hippies and organic gardeners” tread is somewhat longer, but the short story goes something like this: She was in her early 20s and had already been married for a few years. She had three of us then – me, my older brother and older sister. My brother and sister had been struggling in the public school. There was bullying, bad influences, etc. By the time it was my turn to go to school, she was getting worried.

When, as a five-year-old, I fell into depression and stopped eating, she knew it was time for a change.

Private school seemed like the only option, but she wasn’t the first one with the idea. As it happened, back then, in our area, parents were pulling their troublesome kids out of public school and sending them to private schools – which just concentrated the problems.

A friend suggested homeschool. “No way! Homeschooling is for hippies and organic gardeners!”

And yet…

She knew she had one job in this world. She knew that no matter how successful or brilliant or talented her children might become, if they didn’t keep the faith, if they didn’t “love the Lord,” she would be a complete failure and our lives would be radically diminished.

She said, “I have one job: to teach my children to love the Lord. If they have good careers and a great education, but reject the Lord, I have failed as a parent. But if they are ignorant, illiterate and unemployed but love the Lord, so be it.”

I remember these times well, despite the years. My parents were coming out of bankruptcy, money was tight, and we were a one-car family (not uncommon in those days – or even now, for a lot of families). Dad took the car to work, which meant library access was uncommon, at best. It was 1983, so there was no Internet (the horror!), and those who did homeschool tended to be, well, cultish.

There’s a reason homeschooling maintains vestiges of that reputation today…

But she persisted.

My father’s whole side of the family thought we were crazy.

On our first day of homeschooling, a fever swept through the family. I’ll never forget that our first school lesson was how to shuffle cards.  In that first year, my mother’s mom passed away. She was was devastated.

But she persisted.

After we began homeschooling more children were added to the family – a total of seven. No one ever entered an industrial school environment after that. 

The outcome: we are all educated with productive and happy lives and we all Love the Lord as our mother taught us. 

But we did not only learn our faith. It turns out we learned how to get by in life quite well.

Now, my older sister has a law degree, is an author and a professor at a university. My brother is a successful business owner in the tech industry. I had a career as a journalist. My baby sisters are freakishly successful as musicians. One speaks five languages and travels several times a year to the middle east and is studying medicine. 

This academic excellence was not the goal of our education – it was the byproduct of putting the first things first. 

My point in all this is to illustrate that if ever there was someone who had every reason to believe that homeschooling was not for her – it was my mother. But she had two things working to her advantage:

  1. She had the unshakable support of my father. He was primarily busy with providing for the family, but he was her rock, encouraging her to stay the course whenever she wanted to throw in the towel.
  2. She also had a clear grasp of her duty as a parent – to lead her children to Heaven. She knew that all other options available to her stood as obstacles to that duty and so she had to choose the only option left – no matter how difficult or how much she didn’t want to.

 


 

When choosing is homeschool right for you, I would suggest that the framework you need to work within is this: What is the best environment that will nurture these children’s true design and purpose which finds its fulfillment in the love and service of the God who created them? Any education which is antagonistic or even neutral to this end should not be considered a good education or a safe environment.

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