I love the internet. Because of this blog and your blogs and email, I have met some of the loveliest people who have become dear to our family. One of you even bought our van last year ;)
One such internet relationship is our friendship with the Warren family. I really can't remember how long ago it was that we "met", but since that time, our families have been in each others' homes and swapped kids and planned "halfway" (between California and Texas) trips and cried and laughed with each other.
John and Cathi Warren have 9 children, most of whom are adults and 5 of whom are married and 1 of whom is getting married in May and... well, I'll let the rest roll out here in a bit.
I asked their 6 girls if they would be willing to share about having been homeschooled and now homeschooling themselves. It's a legacy, for certain, and I knew they'd have valuable things to tell us.
Aubrey, oldest of the Warren9, is 37. She is married to Dirk, pastor and teacher, and together they produced 5 boybarians and 1 lone girlie: Jonathan (16), David (14), Joshua (12), Isaac (10), Abigail (9), and Samuel (7). When she is not settling arguments about superheroes, she keeps busy chauffeuring children to lessons and co-ops, playing church secretary, scrapbooking, freezer cooking, and bossing the rest of the Warren9 by phone or Skype.
I had been homeschooled since the 7th grade. By the time I was about to be a junior in high school, I was assuming my parents had been wrong. Very wrong. I wanted to go to school. Badly. And the Lord gave me the desires of my heart… my father went to the Middle East at the beginning of the First Gulf War. My mother, understandably overwhelmed with 5 children and worried about my father, enrolled my sister and I in the local government high school. I thought my life had finally begun! No more embarrassing answers to "where do you go to school?" And no more waiting until Dad got home to discuss history and philosophy with us.
Though there were things about school that I enjoyed, I cannot adequately describe the culture shock. I went from sleeping in and doing my Algebra when I felt like it to: very early mornings, forgotten locker combinations, drug dealers sitting beside me in Spanish, never getting to talk to my Dad about history and philosophy, and knowing more than the coach who had to teach my Economics class. I asked my teacher, the football coach, why I couldn't just take the final for Economics and be finished with this class where I knew much more than was in the textbook. He said something that I will never forget: "Because its a check mark in a box. You are the check mark and Economics is the box. You will finish it their way or you don't get your mark in the box. Testing 'out' is not in their box."
Wow. So I was a check mark, or the box?! This system didn’t even know my name, just whether or not my box was checked! I was beginning to see the beauty of learning at my own pace and studying what my parents and I wanted me to study instead of what the State demanded. I finished out that year relieved to see it end. Even though I probably wouldn't have known how to articulate it (and probably wouldn't have wanted to admit it to my parents), I knew I would have learned more Spanish, Economics, Geometry, etc. had I not been a check mark. But, I will be forever grateful for my time there because the lessons I learned that year have stayed with me forever.
I knew long before I had my own six children that I wanted to school them on Life and not "boxes" of subjects. Daily, I strive to be more concerned about character, interests, and the ability to think than I do about how many boxes we can check off. Some days, that’s easier said than done! When discouraging times come (and they do come), I try to remember that God gave me these children for a reason, He has me schooling them for a reason, and He has shown me how inadequate I am for a reason. And none of those reasons have to do w/ academics.
Homeschooling is not just about teaching and discipling our children; it’s about Him using this to refine us. Refining is never fun but its necessary. If He didn’t use homeschooling, then it would be something else-also not fun. My husband and I are here to be the Gospel to these 6 children, lead them through what God brings their way, and pray daily that He will cover over our missteps with Grace. Sweet Grace. God had a perfect plan for my life that my parents could not mess up and I believe the same is true for my children.
My senior year was spent finishing Algebra 2, studying Shakespeare, reading the works of Francis Schaeffer, and traveling Germany with my family. That was what I needed, not what fit a government's idea of what I needed. I am thankful for parents who never treated any 9 of us like check marks and for Christ who knows my name.
Kristen is 35, and 2nd child of the Warren9. She married Dave in 1997, and they have produced 6 interesting children: Molly - 13, Warren - 10, Henry - 9, Carrie - 7, Liam - 5, Donovan - 8 months. She is homebirther, craft-beer aficionado, die-hard fan of Notre Dame football, and lover of winter. In any spare time that magically appears, she reads, listens to Over the Rhine (if you don't know them, you're missing out), corrects everyone's grammar, complains about the coming summer, and makes sure her children are well-adjusted by teasing them mercilessly.
I was first homeschooled in 6th grade, and was initially thrilled at the prospect of avoiding the 6 AM school bus and homework all evening long. Moving quickly through subjects and having more free time for exploring (we lived in the country at the time) was a bonus, in my book. But as is inevitable with many teenagers, my super-extroverted self soon became restless and I began to resent "missing out" on all the things that my friends were a part of in school. I'm sure that plenty of times I made my parents' lives hell as I complained and moped. Possibly unlike my older sister, I am glad for the year back in school in 10th grade. I didn't so much learn anything necessary, but it did help me to see concretely what high school is generally like (and this was a good school), and that there is lots of baggage to even out the benefits.
Making the decision to homeschool was not automatic for me. For me, being homeschooled did not give me any added confidence that I could succeed, though having a husband (from a public school education) who could see the results in my family DID give that confidence I needed. I feel like we skated through those first years uneventfully, without too much pressure and seeing generally happy kids learning and reading.
I will be honest: we are struggling more than I'd like to admit to you. My oldest is straddling middle/high school, and is not doing very well. With 3 younger students, a busy (read: difficult) preschooler, and that 6th, unexpected blessing keeping me up all night for months now, the academics for my oldest is suffering. Today, sitting here and writing you, I do not have answers. I am nervous that I am not preparing her well enough for whatever future God holds for her, and nurturing her gifts. One thing I am sure of: God is gracious and does not give that grace sparingly. There are answers, and while I do not know what those answers are, and if I can continue to teach her on my own, He knows.
My goal is to nurture kids who are prepared academically, spiritually, and emotionally for all that God calls them to, in their professions, relationships, and service to Him and His Church. That is a huge responsibility. Too big, really. Good thing God is really big.
Anne is the third of the Warren9. She's 32, married to Caleb, and mother of three great kids: Erin (almost 7), Judah (4), and Savannah (18 months). Her free time is more than a little exciting and consists of reading, crocheting, and speaking condescendingly to others about politics and theology.
I'm that home schooled kid. You know, the one who never stepped foot inside a classroom. All twelve years. All of them spent at home. Through those years, my feelings on being home schooled vacillated quite a bit - it was nice going at my own pace, but I just knew I was missing out on the "important social aspects" of public education. I was such a smart kid.
Looking back over my grade school years, it's obvious to me why the Lord wanted me home with my family... I was born a people-pleaser. I would've been very easily pressured into acting and talking certain ways, and would've been trained quickly to think like other people instead of thinking for myself. And THAT, my friends, is the greatest gift that homeschooling gave me - the ability to think for myself.
Now that I'm a homeschooling mom, I'm even more grateful for how my education was administered. I know now that I got plenty of socialization, and it was balanced. I learned more life skills at home than my peers did in a classroom. I got a well-rounded education that continues to this day, because when the love of learning is instilled at an early age, it never dies.
And yet... I am still insecure about my decision to homeschool my children. How can I render judgments on a public education that I never experienced? Maybe it's not as bad as I've been told. Maybe I'm not equipped to teach my children all that needs to be learned from 5 to 18 years old. That's a lot of stuff, man.
I don't know where this road will lead, but we'll travel it until we see the writing on the wall that tells us to re-route. In the mean time, I'm glad that God protects my children from my inadequacies.
Thanks Aubrey, Kristen, and Anne. CJ, Bethany, and Shelley did not contribute. Aubrey says, "One is pregnant and nursing, one is in pre-med classes, and one is a bride" ;)