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"Why on Earth would you want to do THAT?"
by Bette Holleman
Our Family's Decision to Home
People stare at us when we go out, and I guess I don't blame them. We
look like a military unit, our fearless leader guiding us, the troops
marching along, with bundles, backpacks and strollers bringing up the rear.
We vaguely remember our lives before this happy chaos started, but can't
imagine things any other way. My husband, John, and I have five children,
three boys and two girls, ages 16 months to 12 years. We will begin our
ninth year in home education this fall. Our five year old son, Ben, has
been diagnosed over the past year with a mild form of autism known as SPD,
so we are now moving into the area of special education along with dietary
intervention to help him achieve his full potential. Many people ask why we
would voluntarily take on the responsibility of educating our kids. Along
with the central tenets of our faith, life experience played a great part
in how we live our lives today.
The decision in favor of home education for our children evolved for
my husband and me over the course of our lives. For me, the seeds were
planted with my decision at the age of five to be an at home mom, and later
in college, when I saw, in no uncertain terms, how incomplete my public
school education had been. For my husband, it was years of labeling and
pigeonholing by the public school system, and all the social chaos and
isolation caused by it.
How The Concept Came About
We were introduced to the concept of home education when our oldest
son was about two years old. We had just started attending a new church
with three home school families in the congregation. What we noticed first
about them was that their kids were different from other kids we knew in
public schools. They weren't brainwashed automatons, but they were happy,
confident, well behaved, and very well educated. As we got to know these
families better, we could see the positive dynamic home education had in
their lives. There was little in the way of fierce sibling rivalry, and the
fathers were more involved with the day-to-day aspects of their children's
lives and education. But the mothers were the ones that impressed us most.
No, they didn't all have lots of money, perfectly clean homes, perfect
bodies or perfect lives for that matter. They were just regular people,
teaching their children with fantastic results. They were investing in the
future through their kids. They were sharing one of the most precious gifts
one being can give another: knowledge. Most of all, they gave us the
encouragement we needed to know that we could do it, too.
At the time, we may not have seemed like the most qualified candidates
to home school. Both college dropouts, my husband worked as a carpet layer,
and I sold insurance. We had a total income of about $18,000 a year. We
drove an old car, and had a lot of debt. When we began to home school two
years later, we had another son, I was pregnant with my oldest daughter,
and I had given up my job to be a full time mom. I had garage sales and cleaned
houses to raise money to buy my curriculum, and I
collected cans and bottles to buy the rest of my school supplies. We worked
at the kitchen table, spent a lot of time at the library, and visited the
local nursing homes as a charity project. After the birth of our daughter,
my husband felt led to go back to school, and I worked full time nights and
weekends, teaching the kids during the day. I saw my husband in the
driveway as we did the 'changing of the guard' each evening. It was not
easy, but it spurred us on to tremendous spiritual growth, and with that
came greater closeness and trust within our family, and later, financial
prosperity. Home education not only raised the standards for our children,
but also our expectations for ourselves. We have never regretted our decision.
No One Is More Qualified
When anyone asks us "Why on Earth would you want to home school?"
our response has been "Why on Earth wouldn't we want to?" No one else is
more qualified to teach our kids than we are. We know them, love them, and
will be directly affected by the outcome of their education. We can take as
much or as little time as we need for a subject, do extra work in areas of
interest for our children, or organize special projects. We can share in
our children's challenges, growth and triumphs. Home education is not a job
to us, it's a passion, a life's work. There is nothing we could do for our
kids that is more worthwhile.
I plan to cover the "how-tos" of home education in detail in the months
to follow. Home education is accessible to anyone, anywhere, who has a
genuine desire to take a positive role in the lives of their children. I
will try to give you guidance to ask yourself the right questions, find the
right resources and help you build your support system. I would appreciate
your feedback and questions about this column, or anything else pertaining
to home education.
Until next time,
A Home Schooling Parent
Bette Holleman is a WAH mother of five children, and a home educator for
the past nine years. She has been married to her best friend, John, for 15
years. In addition to her roles as zookeeper, slave driver and crisis
queen, she runs a financial referral service at