“I can assure you that all of those things that seem super important, like, “did you get through the math book by the end of May?”, actually, in the big picture, are not all that important. I would say some of the least important part about growing up is the academic side. The most important part is the adventures, and the breadth of knowledge and experience and of course above all the relationships and the spiritual enrichment, that is so much more easily facilitated when you’ve got the time and space and priority to do that.”
Yvette Hampton: Hey everyone, I am so excited about our guest today. Before we started the Schoolhouse Rocked podcast, we sent out a question to our Schoolhouse Rocked followers and just said, “Hey, we’re starting this podcast. Who do you want to hear on the podcast? What guest do you want, and what do you want us to talk about?” Of course, many of you wrote in and said, “Andrew Pudewa.” We saw his name over and over again, and so many of you are very excited about hearing him and wanted to hear more of him because those of you who have heard him speak know that he is just full of wisdom and knowledge and insight when it comes to homeschooling and family and education.
Yvette: We, of course, are really excited to have him as part of the Schoolhouse Rocked cast. Welcome, Andrew. We are really excited to have you on today.
Andrew Pudewa: Hey Yvette, it is great to be with you. Thanks for the invite.
Yvette: Sure. Tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your family.
Andrew: Well, my wife and I have homeschooled all of our children. The oldest now is 39, and the youngest just got married at 18. That’s seven kids, six married, 11 grandchildren. I’ve been at this teaching business for a little over 30 years and the time has flown by. I have a little company called the Institute for Excellence in Writing. We publish video material as well as books and activity types of curriculum to help students with language arts, really to help teachers and homeschool parents help kids learn how to write better, but really, it encompasses all of the language arts, listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Then of course, the result of good listening, speaking, reading and writing is better thinking, so a little tagline on our company. If you’re go to our website, iew.com, you’d see our little tagline. It’s listen, speak, read, write, think. It’s a good role. I’ve been at it full time for close to 20 years now, working with homeschoolers all over the world. I had the great privilege and pleasure of going with my wife to Russia for the Global Home Education Conference in St. Petersburg in Moscow, Russia last May. Then I went on an undercover trip over to China, I won’t even say where, to do a three-day conference for expat homeschooling families who live in China. We came back, finished up the summer, and then in August went to New Zealand and did a six-city tour of New Zealand to serve the homeschoolers over there. I’m looking forward to when that movie is out and ready and everyone in the world can stream it and see it.
Yvette: Well, we’ll have to, of course, translate it into Chinese obviously.
Andrew: I’d go for Russian first only because homeschooling in Russia is it’s exploding. I mean, it is going to grow so rapidly over there.
Yvette: That is amazing.
Andrew: The government evidently is either neutral or supportive about homeschoolers in almost all places. There are classical conversations, programs, I think. Many dozens of them. There may be as many as a hundred CC communities now across the huge country of Russia, and that’s just going to grow.
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Yvette: It’s been so encouraging to find out that when we started Schoolhouse Rocked, we, I think, had a very narrow vision of, “Well, this is for the United States because we were kind of in our little California bubble,” and that was what we knew. We didn’t realize that homeschooling is growing leaps and bounds across the entire world. It’s not just in America, and so it’s been really exciting and encouraging. Like you said, we really desire to get the movie out. We changed our focus. The movie is obviously filmed in the United States, and all of our cast members are from the U.S. but it has changed our focus to just say, “Wow, this is not just a movie that can change people’s hearts in the United States. It can change people’s hearts around the world.”
That is so exciting. I love that you’ve had the opportunity to go to all these different countries and talk about homeschooling. This is actually not the exact direction that I want the podcast interview to go because I have some questions for you, but can you tell us just in a nutshell what the flavor of homeschooling is? What are parents like in other parts of the country as you’ve gone there and talk to them about homeschooling?
Andrew: Well, I’ve been around a long time. I’ve been speaking at homeschool conferences really 20 years now, and so the demographic has changed, of course, as homeschooling has grown more and varied types of people have become interested in it. Well, I would say once upon a time, almost everyone was homeschooling for moral or religious reasons. Now, we’re meeting people who are coming into it through all different directions. Their primary reason may be academic. They just know they can do a better job teaching their kids one-on-one or three-on-one and in an individualized focus setting than any school and teacher no matter how good the teachers are just because of the nature of institutional education, again, people coming in from that side.
You’ve got people coming in with special needs and special circumstances saying, “this child has this thing going on”, and it could be health. It could be neurological. It could be some type of learning challenge. It could be giftedness. They’re just saying the schools are not equipped to maximize this child’s potential. I can do that better. They’re coming in on that side. Then there are other people that are just looking at the whole situation saying, “Well, there are so many things about that school I don’t like, and I can’t afford that option. And I’m not really sure that I want to homeschool, but I don’t see any better options.” I like that because they come in, and then hopefully, they begin to taste and see the goodness of the homeschool world and the culture and all the resources and opportunities that are available now that weren’t 20 years ago.
It truly is a case where I think more and more parents are realizing everyone homeschools. It’s just some people do it full time. Everyone has to teach their children at home. It’s just are you going to make that a primary part of your life, or are you going to do it on the side? We meet a lot of parents that are coming to conferences now saying, “Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do this. Maybe I can, but I’m not sure I want to, but man, all the people here are so happy.”
Andrew Pudewa on School at Home
Yvette: Yes, and you see whole families together, which is really exciting. That’s one of my favorite parts of going to conventions is when you see mom and dad and kids walking around together and looking at curriculum and going to the different workshops. It’s really exciting just to see that dynamic of the entire family being together.
Andrew: Absolutely. The family is so under attack. In the western developed world all around the world, the family is under attack, so homeschooling seems to be on the vanguard of, “Let’s recapture. Let’s retain. Let’s rebuild. Let’s communicate to the world the great beauty of families functioning, learning, operating, growing together rather than being split apart by the busyness of life and technology. The institutions that can distract us.
Andrew Pudewa – Homeschooling Brings Growth
Yvette: I know for you, because you travel so much, you’re always on the road – I imagine it has allowed you to be able to have a really special kind of relationship with your kids because when you’re home, you’re able to be with them and instead of them being away at school. You actually get that time or got that time, because most of them are adults now. They’re all adults.
Andrew: It was a trade off because when you’re gone for three or four days, 30 weeks a year, that’s a lot of time to be gone. There’s mom feeling like having to do both sides of the parenting, but then when I’m home, I was always home. That was good. I could schedule classes and do things. Then a part of it, in our case because it was a family business rather than me working for other company, I would often take one or two kids with me. In the early days, I needed them. I needed their suitcase space to bring the books, I need them [inaudible 00:09:48] the booth.
Growing up in a family business, I think, it has its pluses and its challenges, but overall, I think all of them gained a lot of very practical, very memorable, positive and maybe a few bitter moments, but it certainly cultivated attitude of entrepreneurship that I can see in all of them now. They’re all grown up, and they’re all very entrepreneurial thinking, and a couple of them have started businesses on their own. It’s great to see. Great to see the… It’s wonderful, Yvette, to have adult children. You don’t have adult kids yet, do you?
Yvette: Not yet. Ours are still young.
Andrew: Well, one thing I would say to everyone who’s in that case of young children or in the thick of it with a teenager and a four-year-old all at the same time is it’s so great to have adult children because I can assure you that all of those things that seem super important, like, “did you get through the math book by the end of May?”, actually, in the big picture, are not all that important. I would say some of the least important part about growing up is the academic side. The most important part is the adventures, and the breadth of knowledge and experience and of course above all the relationships and the spiritual enrichment, that is so much more easily facilitated when you’ve got the time and space and priority to do that.
Although, it’s easy for us as homeschool parents to get caught up and worried about the academic side because we’re responsible for keeping the transcript and having grades and being sure that this kid is going to make it into college and get a good job someday. There’s that anxiety, so we’re always balancing that freedom along with that anxiety about academics.
Andrew Pudewa – Homeschooling is Efficient
Yvette: That’s a real struggle of course for homeschool moms. Our oldest is in seventh grade this year. I’m now starting to think, “Oh gosh, she’s going to be in high school in two years, and I have to start keeping real transcripts for her.” They’re seriously… I mean, there can be a lot of anxiety that goes along with that. Like you said, it’s not about just the academics. I mean, those are important but it’s so much more. School is so much more than just academics. It’s about character building and family and relationships and stuff like you said.
It’s so exciting, but that doesn’t always take away the questions that the moms have. It’s a big responsibility that we put on ourselves and that God gives to us when we choose to take on this role of home educating our children, because it is an important thing in so many areas. I mean, it’s their whole life that you’re holding in your hands. Only by the grace of God can we get this done effectively.
Andrew: That’s what you realize is they were God’s kids all along.
Andrew: I’m a big supporter of HSLDA. They, of course, are strongly behind the support for global home education freedom. In the early days, people would join HSLDA because they thought, “Oh no, if social services comes banging on my door, if the truant officer calls, what would I do? I want this insurance,” so they would join HSLDA for that purpose. I believe that we’ve become a bit complacent in the homeschool communities because we haven’t had too many huge legal problems in most dates. You and I both homeschooled in California for a while and that’s a very homeschool friendly state.
I’m in Oklahoma now. It’s probably the most homeschool friendly state, and even the less homeschool friendly states, which I will not name by name – You out there who live there, you know where you are. We take for granted now the freedoms that we have to do this, but honestly, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association does so much more than provide “legal representation” insurance in case you have a problem. I would just encourage everyone to join the HSLDA, not because you think you might need their services, but because what they’re doing is a tremendously good work and that is holding every single agency or government or office that interfaces with homeschoolers accountable in subtle ways.
Not just, “Is it legal or not,” but do homeschool graduates have the same opportunities and rights? Is someone infringing on that by saying, “No, no, your school diploma doesn’t count.” Then of course they provide some wonderful services. In fact, as having kids going to high school, you might want to look into their transcript service because they have a great little service. It’s not very expensive, and it will help you to stay organized for this next decade of having kids go through high school and all that. I wish everyone would join the HSLDA, because more than any other organization that I know of, they are standing on the front line of the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children.
I fear that right, while we may be taking it for granted, could be not only infringed, but actually cut in many cases very quickly without us even noticing it.
Yvette: I appreciate that, and you’re welcome, HSLDA, for that commercial! That was not planned, but I love that. You and I, last month, I think it was, we were at the HSLDA national leaders conference in Washington, D.C. We’ve been members of HSLDA for many, many years. I guess, this is our eighth year of membership with them. We’re now actually lifetime members because we figured we’re going to do this forever, so may as well just go for the lifetime. I really didn’t know all the things that they offered, and we’ve been members for a long time. There’s so much stuff on their website, but they really are a fantastic organization.
The freedom that they have fought for and the freedom that they continue to fight for and protect for homeschool families is incredible. Like you said, I think we do take for granted that we have this freedom to homeschool. When we started, we really didn’t know all of the backstories that had gone on in all… I mean, there were parents just like you and I who were regular homeschool parents, who were threatened in big ways for choosing to take their kids out of school and saying we’re going to home educate them. They fought long, and they fought hard, and they fought tough to get these freedoms for us today.
Most people don’t know about that. The other thing that I really had my eyes up into two were state organizations. They don’t fall under the leadership of HSLDA, but I know they work very closely sometimes with HSLDA, but on their own, they really work hard to protect their freedoms and their individual states and then they’re there for their own state families to encourage them and equip them and to keep their own freedoms for their own individual states. I think a lot of people… We’re actually going to be doing an interview later this week with Rebecca Kocsis. She’s one of the state representatives for Chia, which is in California.
We’re going to talk with her about state organizations. I agree. It’s so important to stand behind those people who are standing in front of us and keeping those walls broken down so that we can continue to homeschool our kids. Anyway, so I have a couple of questions. You and I could talk all day long. When we interviewed you for Schoolhouse Rocked, I remember, I think I might’ve asked you maybe four questions, and your interview was two and a half hours long. It was awesome, and it was funny we came away from there. We said, “Well, goodness gracious, how do we pull the gold out of this?”
The way we do that of course is we’ve got the Schoolhouse Rocked Backstage Pass, and we will at some point have your full interview up on there that people can view, but I do have a couple of questions for you. Like I said, we had people write in and ask specific questions, and they wanted to know some things. There are a couple that I thought you would be just great at answering because I know you talk a lot about motivation in the homeschool day. One mom wrote in. She said, “How do you motivate the daydreamer to buckle down and complete their assignments quickly but well so that they can have more free time to pursue their passions? We’ve tried everything and even a scaled back assignment will take all day because she has no drive to finish. Do we just have to nag?”
How would you answer that mom? Help her out.
Andrew: It’s hard to give a specific answer to a specific question without knowing a few more details, but I would talk about principles of motivation, which I have studied extensively and talked about and written about. What I have come to understand over these decades is that there’s really four forms of motivation. One, I would call intrinsic, so something has intrinsic relevancy, right? If something is relevant, meaningful, interesting, engaging, applicable, useful to some degree, it’s easier to learn. Wouldn’t you agree?
Andrew: If something is not interesting, applicable, meaningful, useful in some way, it’s harder to learn.
Andrew: This tangible quality of relevancy when you can get it there, when it’s present, teaching and learning are easier, and when it’s less present or absent, teaching and learning are harder, so four forms of relevancy, I would mention here. If anybody wants to listen to this in more detail, there’s a 90-minute talk. You can get off our website called Teaching Boys and Other Kids Who Would Rather Be Making Forts All Day.
Yvette: I love that title.
Andrew: It’s a very popular talk.
There’s intrinsic relevancy. That’s when something is just so interesting that you are totally engaged. You want to learn about it. You lose your sense of time. You’re fascinated. You’re excited. You tell everybody what you’re learning and doing. That’s a super blessing when it happens, but unfortunately, it’s not something you can force. It sometimes happens more often with some kids than others. I mean, there are some kids who are just naturally more inquisitive and curious and will get excited and go pursue something and others who are just a little bit less so, a little more passive, wait around what to do.
To the degree that we as homeschoolers can find things that are intrinsically interesting to children and get them to do that, they’ll be motivated. They’ll use their time. They’ll use their time to be productive, but you may or may not find something that the problem usually comes between what mom believes would be useful learning and what the child believes is relevant and interesting. There could be a gap between those two.
Andrew: On the unschooling side of the philosophical spectrum is don’t ever tell kids what to do. Just let them pursue their interests all day, and they’ll learn and come out great in the end. That feels a little dangerous to most of us. Although, I have families that have done that, and there were schools actually around the world that are based on that principle. In many cases, the kid too seem to have come out pretty good on the other end.
Andrew: I think that total unschooling freedom idea is pretty – Most of us are a little bit, “Well, that’s too risky.” Then there’s things that people have to learn that maybe they’re not interested in intrinsically. The next form of relevancy to motivate with would be inspired relevancy. You may not be particularly interested in something but because someone whom you love or respect is interested in that thing. You hang out with them, and you catch vicariously a desire and interest to relevancy from that thing. I’ve seen this happen in any number of cases of parents who put kids in a class. The kid’s like, “I don’t want to do that class.”
Andrew Pudewa to Homeschool Dads, “Support and Encourage”
Then the teacher or one of their friends or they make a new friend, someone in that environment is so inspiring, but suddenly that kid likes that class and wants to go and want to read more, and wants to study and wants to become good. I would say probably the most frequent story I hear is the public speaking or speech and debate. Kids are very shy. I don’t want to do public speaking. I don’t want to stand in front of people. I don’t want to memorize the speech. I don’t want to do a debate. You just get them in there and do it for a while. Pretty soon, it’s the bug. The bug bites like the acting bug.
That’s, “Wow! That was cool. I got to do that.” Not only do I want to do that. Again, I want to be good at it. I’m going to polish this speech. I’m going to practice this thing. I’m going to do extra research so I can be good. That speech and debate in my world, is the most obvious example of power of inspiring. For us as homeschoolers today, we have a lot more opportunities to help get our kids connected with people who love something. I personally don’t really like science very much. I’d never wanted to teach science.
If you said, “Here, you have to do biology or physics with your kid,” I’d say, “Well, let’s hurry up and pretend we did this so we could do something meaningful,” but now with coops and classes and programs like Aquinas learning, classical conversations, online classes, which are really very surprisingly interactive with experts, teachers, and many of these teachers now were homeschool kids themselves who are now adults teaching online classes and teaching coop classes for the next generation of homeschoolers. This is so exciting because of their enthusiasm.
I’m sure you’ve seen this.
Andrew: You go hear a speaker or a teacher, and you are so inspired to learn more.
“We must be a special creation from an infinite intelligence, because the things humans do, particularly this activity of writing, is so incredibly complex.”
Andrew: Kids are like that, but some things are just not interesting. A lot of work books that kids have to do, they don’t see the relevancy. “Why should I have to mark all the parts of speech in this grammar workbook? Why should I have to do all this math? Math is not part of my real life. I don’t use double digit multiplication in reality. It’s just a few exercises and futility that stresses me.” What could be like that? English spelling stuff, even in our world of teaching writing, a lot of kids don’t like having to stay in one spot and wrangle their brain around the process of thinking of something, saying it to themselves, hearing what they say to themselves, remembering what they say to themselves.
Find a few letters to make a word they might know how to spell and not forget all that while they’re doing it. I mean, I’ve been often about thinking about the writing process. It’s so phenomenally complicated. For me, it’s proof that humans could not possibly have evolved.
We must be a special creation from an infinite intelligence, because the things humans do, particularly this activity of writing, is so incredibly complex. Anyway, so how do we help kids with that stuff? Well, this is where we’d move into the third area, and I think this is most applicable to the person who asked that question. That is contrived relevancy. It’s not intrinsically interesting. Nobody’s thrilled about it. Nobody’s going to inspire you. Now, how do you get wanting to do something? That’s when we can try to change it into a game. Sometimes, it’s a very small shift from a chore to a challenge.
That’s the trick. If chores can shift the thing from being a chore to be procrastinated, avoided, done in slow motion, tedious, complaining, to a challenge, “I’ve got to get this done,” then we see really good success. I’ll give you an example of just the slightest little shift that makes a huge difference. Let’s say you have a grammar workbook kind of thing, and you turn the page, and it says, “Identify all the prepositional phrases in the paragraph below. Underline each prepositional phrase with a single underline, and the preposition itself with a double underlie.”
I mean, who wants to do it? I wouldn’t want to do it. You will write stupid. I mean, what’s the point? It has no relevancy, no bearing on reality, but we have to do it. Well, now here’s the shift. In the paragraph below are hidden 13 prepositional phrases. Find them all and you win.
Yvette: Let’s make it a game.
Andrew: That’s just different. For boys in particular, but also for a lot of girls, it’s like, “Oh, well, I like to win. Okay, great. I’ll play the game.” Now, at some point, just saying you won isn’t quite enough.
Yvette: There must be candy involved.
Andrew: Some kind of economic system.
Andrew: Whether you use pennies or points or pop charts or peanuts, the thing that’s interesting about that is that’s the physical manifestation of something of value to the child that communicates to the child, “Your efforts are valued. I appreciate your work.” Now, some people would say, “Well, you’re bribing the kid to do what he should do anyway.” Well, bribery’s when you pay someone to do something illegal or immoral. That’s neither. You’re creating a game. I love my job. I love working, and I love traveling around the world.
I love teaching, but I’m not sure I would do it quite so much if there wasn’t some kind of economic side to it. Children are… They’re preparing to be adults, boys in particular. If you can set up some type of system to say, “Hey, if you do this much of whatever in this amount of time, then you get these points or these chips or these whatever, and that has value.”
Andrew: You can exchange those for some privilege or benefit. Then just be sure the privilege or benefit is something that you would want for the child anyway.
Yvette: Sure. Well, if you think about that even in life, whether you’re an entrepreneur or have a job where you’re employed by someone else, you do the work and then you get paid for that work that you do, and so you’re still getting something in return. You’re not just going and doing the job just for the sake of doing the job. That’s life. That’s actually a life skill that they’re learning, that you do this because it’s going to produce this result or you’re going to get this in return.
Andrew: If you don’t go that route, then you are stuck going the last… get down to the worst and least effective form of relevancy, which I have termed enforced. Enforced relevancy is when you say you will learn this or you will do this or you will suffer some penalty. I’m not talking about discipline. I am saying, of course, there are things that we all have to do we don’t want to do, and the consequences for not doing them are negative and children need that, but in terms of learning, what happens when you use that type of forced relevancy is you most likely to get the appearance of learning or a very temporary.
I’ll do everything on this page, but when I turn the page, I’m not even going to remember it. I’ll study for the test. As soon as I pass the test, I can forget all that stuff because it wasn’t really important. I really never cared. I just didn’t want to suffer the consequences of getting a bad grade or whatever.
Andrew: Sometimes, we resort to that. I mean, I would be the first person to say… I have said things like, “You’re going to have that math finished or you’re not going to eat ever.” I don’t have an easy solution to that person who asked that question, but I think by contemplating some of these basically principles of motivation, and like I said, I don’t know the specifics. My guess is that this person who has a fairly young child who is probably easily distracted. Maybe as young as six or seven. I don’t know. Maybe as old as eight or nine, but it’s possible that she’s taking kind of this let’s do school at home approach, and here’s the pile of books with the number on the cover, and you have to do x number of pages in each of these things every day.
“Some kids read and do math grade at five or six, but as the schools have pushed the academics lower and lower, we in the homeschool look at that and say, “Oh no, we have to do that. We have to start pre-k curriculum, which to me is the most ridiculous, oxymoronic thing you could ever say.”
Andrew: “So we stay on schedule and get done by the end of the year. And if we don’t do all that, then we can’t do other learning activities or anything else.” Sometimes, people start there, but then, I think, they come to maybe a little bit more organic understanding, especially, of younger children. I think, we start school too young.
Yvette: Yes, I agree.
Andrew: We try to press your kids at five and six years old into reading and doing abstract math when they’re not ready for it. Now, some kids are.
Andrew: Some kids read and do math grade at five or six, but as the schools have pushed the academics lower and lower, we in the homeschool look at that and say, “Oh no, we have to do that. We have to start pre-k curriculum, which to me is the most ridiculous, oxymoronic thing you could ever say.
Yvette: Sure. That’s the stage where kids still need to wiggle and move around. That’s one of the things I have heard you say several times about read-alouds and audio books and things like that is it’s okay for your kids to be flipping around on the ground or playing with Legos or doing whatever it is they do as long as there is moving, because in a classroom, we expect our children to sit still. They have to sit in their chair. They have to sit on their carpet and crisscross their legs and put their hands in their lap and be still.
Well, many kids can’t learn that. They are physically incapable of learning that way effectively. They need to move. They need to explore. They need to be able to do things with their hands and draw pictures. I mean, my 12 almost 13-year-old, she still is like that, and she’s not a real high energy person. She’s pretty mellow, but she still needs, even in church, I mean, she’s always drawing. She has to draw. If she doesn’t doodle on her paper, she’s not going to hear anything that the pastor is saying.
You can find Andrew Pudewa and IEW online at IEW.com.
Andrew Pudewa recommends the following resources in his interview.
“I feel like we have always homeschooled since we became parents because I believe that homeschooling starts at birth. I don’t think homeschooling begins with a formal curriculum. In that sense, we have always done it.”
Brittney Howard is a homeschooling mom of 5 children who range in age from toddlers to teenagers. She has been homeschooling for 17 years and loves Jesus, reading, coffee, and good conversations. She’s operates a successful home business and has been able to bless her family financially while also successfully homeschooling her kids. She lives with her husband and kids in a tiny town near Savannah, GA. She loves empowering others to reach their potential and is passionate about leadership.
Yvette Hampton: My sweet friend Brittney is with me today and to talk today about homeschooling with little kids. She has multiple ages and is working from home while homeschooling. Whether you are homeschooling or thinking about homeschooling, wherever you are right now, I hope that this article will be a great blessing to you.
Yvette: Our readers can’t hear your voice, but podcast listeners may recognize your voice, because in our very first Schoolhouse Rocked movie trailer that came out about a year and a half ago, at the very beginning, it’s your voice that people hear. You say, “I felt like I was messing it all up.” Now you get to hear her on the podcast and be encouraged by her. Brittney, tell us about your family. You are married to your wonderful husband, Anthony. You guys have a great family. How long have you been homeschooling and how did you get started with homeschooling?
Brittney: I have five children. They range from toddlers all the way to teenagers and we have always homeschooled. I feel like we have always homeschooled since we became parents because I believe that homeschooling starts at birth. I don’t think homeschooling begins with a formal curriculum. In that sense, we have always done it. 17 years, my oldest just turned 17 yesterday.
As far as a formal curriculum, we started right away when he was in kindergarten and I have just always valued freedom. Freedom is a word that is super important to me and I wanted that freedom with my children’s education as well. I wanted to be free to choose what they were going to be learning. I wanted the freedom to choose what influences we’re going to be in their lives because when they’re not with you all the time, you really don’t have that freedom to choose what influences are going to come into their lives.
I wanted that freedom as well and just wanted the freedom to give them an individualized education, rather than the, “you’re eight years old, you learn this”, kind of in a box model. I wanted the freedom to encourage them to pursue whatever their talents, gifts and abilities that God had given them are. I also wanted freedom to be able to protect them from just worldly things and things like that.
This transcript is generously provided by MakeCrate. MakeCrate provides your homeschooler with the STEM skills they need for the future! Fun, hands-on electronics kits paired with an online learning platform teach your middle or high schooler engineering and coding fundamentals right at home! No technical expertise is required. Order your MakeCrate today at MakeCrate.Club/SR.
Yvette: Yeah. You have multiple ages. Like you said, your youngest one is just going into preschool and your oldest is finishing out his junior year this year. One of the questions that we get asked all the time is how do you homeschool with multiple ages and what do you do with those little ones when you’re trying to focus on homeschooling the older ones? How have you learned how to balance the different ages?
“Don’t feel like you have to be the one that teaches them everything. You do want to be a primary influence, but you’re not necessarily the one who has to teach them everything and they can learn a lot on their own. My children do not feel like they’re dependent on me to get all of their schoolwork done. They just know what their responsibilities are and they go and do it.”
Brittney: Yeah, that’s a great question too. The struggle is real. Lots of things. I have lots of thoughts on this. It is definitely difficult when they are little, but I think implementing a few simple systems really help. When my littles were even smaller than they are now, I had like a toy rotation system.
I had four different bins of toys. They were labeled week one, week two, week three, week four and I would give them one box at a time for a week. That was the only time they can play with those toys from that box was that week. The other three boxes would go in the attic, out of sight, out of mind. Every week, they would feel like they were getting a new box of toys. I could have my littles playing with their new box of toys for a period of time while I was working with the older ones and that would keep them occupied and entertained. Another thing I would do was playpen time, just train those littles to play independently and not depend on someone else for their entertainment and something.
Another thing is having older ones work with the little ones while you are doing one-on-one instruction. I did a lot of that because I do have a broad range. I might have an eight year old work with a two year old while I’m working with the 10 year old, et cetera. I think another thing that’s really important is to delegate when you can because I do have five kids so there’s no way that I as one person can teach my five children everything they need to know about life, fate, health, everything they need to know.
I’ve learned to delegate well. I like to say that I’ve hired master tutors to teach my children two plus two and things like that. Things that I don’t necessarily feel like I have to be the only one who teaches them that. We do a lot of online learning, we do a lot of video lessons and things like that. That is delegating. I will teach them the things that I’m really passionate about. Then delegate everything else. I’ll delegate their Math, they’ll do BJU online or they’ve done teaching textbooks, they do Saxon online. There’s a lot of different things you can do. The options are endless at this point, but I will teach them things like Bible or just things like that that I feel like I do want to be the primary influence.
I will teach them the things like that. Another thing is train them to be independent learners. If you just teach your children how to learn, they can learn anything they want to learn and I will never forget the day my oldest son, he was probably 15 years old at the time, but I was cooking dinner and he walks in the kitchen. He’s like, “Hey mom, guess what? I’m on iTunes.” I was like, “Really? How did you do that?” He taught himself to play guitar. He taught himself to write music. He taught himself anything he wanted to know about performing, music, all of that. Now he writes songs. He’s a musician, he’s an artist and I have not taught him any of that. All I taught him was how to learn.
You just start there and don’t feel like you have to be the one that teaches them everything. You do want to be a primary influence, but you’re not necessarily the one who has to teach them everything and they can learn a lot on their own. My children do not feel like they’re dependent on me to get all of their schoolwork done. They just know what their responsibilities are and they go and do it. Then the last thing would be in a group. Anything that you can do in a group such as memory work or just grouping kids together that are similar in age or level, then you can get a lot more accomplished that way too.
“I have learned to ask good questions. Whenever my children come to me with a question, I will often do what Jesus did and answer with a question. I don’t really directly answer their questions a lot of times, I will just show them where to find the answer instead of answering. Even if I know the answer, I would say, ‘Oh, that’s a great question. Why don’t you go research that and then you come tell me what the answer to that is.’”
Yvette: Let me go back to teaching them how to learn because oftentimes we say that in the homeschool world, and especially for the mom who’s brand new at homeschooling or who’s just thinking about homeschooling. The big question is always, well how? How do you do that? How do you teach your kids how to learn? How have you gone about doing that with your kids?
Brittney: That is a great question too. I have learned to ask good questions. Whenever my children come to me with a question, I will often do what Jesus did and answer with a question. I don’t really directly answer their questions a lot of times, I will just show them where to find the answer instead of answering. Even if I know the answer, I would say, “Oh, that’s a great question. Why don’t you go research that and then you come tell me what the answer to that is.”
Yvette: That is a fantastic answer. Now let me as a mom, one of the things I think about in doing that is there’s so much on the internet that could be dangerous for kids. Do you have a way that if they’re going to go use the internet to research something that you can protect them from seeing something or stumbling upon something that you don’t want them to stumble upon?
Brittney: Yeah, absolutely. We have internet filters, we use Covenant Eyes. Anything that would be questionable would be blocked, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be internet-based. Books are also a great resource.
We have tons of books like you can see. We have lots and lots of books. If my kid has a question about volcanoes, then I’m going to point them in the direction of a book that would provide the answer.
Yvette: Right. We went to a thrift store, this was several months ago and I was with my youngest daughter and they had a bunch of Encyclopedia sets and I was like, “Oh, encyclopedias.” And she said, “What are encyclopedias?” I was like, “Oh no, where has our role to them that we don’t know what encyclopedias are anymore.” It was really fun. I got to open some of them up with her and actually show her like, “This is how we did it when I was a kid. We did not have the internet. We couldn’t just pull anything up on Wikipedia or ask Siri, tell us about volcanoes. You actually had to research it through a book.
You had to go to the library, you had to find resources to bring them into your home in order to actually learn about them.” That is a fantastic way of course to do that. I think it’s healthy for kids to take that extra step of just saying, “Not everything needs to be found on the internet because half the time it’s not true anyway when you research things online.” Of course, not that everything you find in the library is true either. But, I think finding other ways to research those things are fantastic and having great curriculum in your home that also provide answers. Whether it’s science or history or reading, reading good literature, things like that. You can find so many answers through those resources as well.
Brittney: Yes. One more thing you can do is asking an expert. Just ask them, “Who do you think we could ask to find out this answer?” Then they can start brainstorming of people they know who might be an expert on that. Then just that cultivates leadership skills, social skills and all of that good stuff.
Yvette: That is fantastic. I love that answer because people are always excited and willing to help especially when it comes to kids and if you’re an expert in something, people always want to be that one that someone else comes to and says, “Hey, how do you do this?” Or, “Can you explain this to me?”
That’s always a blessing to the person who’s being asked as well so very, very exciting. I want to ask you because I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast that it was your voice in the beginning of that interview that we did.
We interviewed you for Schoolhouse Rocked the movie and your interview is hands down one of our favorites and I love it because what we did with the movie was we interviewed several homeschool experts. We’ve got the Andrew Pudewa and Christopher Perrin and Sarah Mackenzie and Heidi St. John and Ken Ham, all those people and a whole lot more, but we didn’t just interview the homeschool convention speakers and writers and experts. We interviewed real families just like you and I who are in the thick of it right now who have just figured out this homeschooling thing with the help of other people. One of the things you said was you said, “I felt like I was messing it all up.” Like most homeschool moms, you felt like you are not well enough equipped in the beginning to teach your children at home. Why did you feel that way and then how have you overcome that feeling?
Brittney: Well, I just thought this could not be right. This cannot be normal for it to be this hard and also, I don’t know if I’ve shared with you a little bit of my background, but I was actually a teenage mother when I had my oldest child, I was only 17 and I had no idea how to raise a child.
I understood the statistics were stacked against us, but I was determined that I was not going to be a statistic and neither was my son. I got to work learning how do I raise children who are productive citizens who love the Lord and all of that. I’ve just started reading and learning a ton about just any parenting book from a biblical world view that I could find.
I just knew. I was humble enough to understand that I didn’t know it at all. The same thing when I decided to homeschool, I just started learning. Just any book I could find about homeschooling, I would read it. I did the same thing with building a business. I had no idea how to do any of that either. I just decided to learn.
I just, I believe when I say I teach my children how to learn, I do the same thing myself. I set that example for them that there’s anything that you want to know, you can learn it. We live in an information age. I overcame that feeling of I don’t know what I’m doing, just simply by learning and also at this point, my children are… I have two teenagers. I am beginning to see that fruit of the diligence that I put in when they were in their younger years and my younger children benefit from that because now I don’t have so much fear attached to the daily activities and wondering am I doing it right? Because when I see my smaller ones doing the same things my older ones did and now I look at my older ones and I’m like, “Okay, well, I didn’t ruin them. They’re okay. They’re actually doing really well.” Then that has just given me the confidence to not feel that way now.
Yvette: Did you have a mentor or mentors that came alongside of you? Because I know for myself, when I first got into this and into homeschooling and I felt like I have no clue what I’m doing, I really needed to have that community around me to just help me figure it out and help figure out what it would look like from my family because of course, it looks differently for every family. Did you have that in your life? Did you have those who came alongside of you and just encouraged you?
Brittney: When I first started homeschooling, no, I did not, but along the way, I met other people. It was something I had to be very intentional about. When I first started homeschooling, I had no idea that there were actually homeschool communities and somehow I heard about it maybe a year or two into it and I just showed up one day I found out where they were meeting and I was scared to death, but I pulled up and the parking lot was full of minivans.
I was like, “I must be in the right place.” Yeah, I met other homeschooling moms and that was extremely helpful as well, just learning from them, asking questions, good conversation and we … I felt like that is so important and needed as a homeschooling mom. You definitely need a community of people who can encourage you, especially the ones who have done it successfully. Yeah, definitely very encouraging.
Yvette: Brittney, you are one who… You work from home. You actually have a pretty neat family and I want to talk about two different things because you work from home and you’re able to bring in a pretty significant income and just help support your family financially, but your husband also works from home.
I would love for you to tell the story first about how your boys took a whole lot of time off of what someone would consider traditional school a few years ago and they helped your husband build the house that you live in which is a beautiful house. Tell me how that whole scenario unfolded and what impact that has had on your family.
Brittney: Well, thank you for the compliment on my house. I do love our home that my husband and my sons built for our family. Yeah, my husband is a carpenter. He actually would be considered a lot of different trades, but carpentry is something he’s really good at. He did endeavor in building our homes for us and they just took a summer to frame the whole thing.
My boys learned a lot of life skills and hands on practical skills. There were no casualties although there was one minor injury that’s kind of grounded, I won’t go into detail on it, but they learned so much. It brought them together as dad and sons and it’s skills that they will be able to take to their family and maybe just this few short years, who knows?
Yvette: Yeah, that’s great. Talk about being a work at home mama. I was actually recently reading Proverbs 31 and you think about that Proverbs 31 wife and how she toils with her hand. She works and she helps to bring so much stability to her home, not just and caring for her home, but financially and oftentimes, moms need to do that especially if maybe a mom is working and she needs to … She wants to stop working so that she can homeschool her kids or if she’s already homeschooling in their one income family which of course is very typical for homeschool families and she needs to just bring in some extra income.
How do you go about working from home? You work in sales. How do you do that? How do you balance work and homeschool and family?
Brittney: Well, that’s a great question too. I love the Proverbs 31 woman too and a few years ago, I was just really studying that proverb and taking a close look and evaluating and I found some things that I was doing right, but one thing I felt like was missing was I wasn’t contributing financially.
The Proverbs 31 woman wore many business hats. She was a real estate investor. She made things and sold it. She was definitely industrious and I wanted to be her. I wanted to be just like her and we were a one income family and that sometimes that can be a stretch because it’s not that money is everything, but everything you want to do with your family, it costs money.
I did want to bless my family in that way. I was already homeschooling. I felt like I was doing, being a godly homemaker, but I did start looking for something that I could do that would allow me to keep what is the most important as the most important, but also contribute financially at the same time.
Balancing I would say … Again, it goes back to just implementing a few smart systems because you definitely need to manage your time well. I know in the beginning when my kids were smaller, especially there was a lot of getting up early and staying up late. There was a lot of working through nap time. There was a lot of, “Okay, you’ve got it.” While you’re doing your schoolwork independently, Mommy’s going to work on building this. Things like that. Does that answer your question?
Yvette: It does. Tell us maybe what a typical day would look like for you at home. You’re saying get up early, stay up late, but how do you do that to where you’re not? Because I work from home, I guess I could say now, we’re filming the documentary, I’m doing this podcast now.
Even for myself, I find that it’s often difficult to balance accomplishing what I need to accomplish. I’m sending emails and making phone calls and podcasting and doing all of these things during the day and then figuring out how do I bring my girls into that with me, what can I do with them?
Then not feeling like I’m ignoring them because sometimes I find myself doing that, not intentionally ignoring them, but just like, “Okay, I’ve got to get this email out. I’ve got to make this phone call. I have to get on this meeting that I have with a few other people.” Or whatever it is and feeling like I’m having to push them aside for a time.
I feel like even for myself, I’m still figuring out how to balance all of that. Like you said, independent work is excellent for the kids and they’re able to do that for … I mean, they’re doing that right now. They’re in the other room doing their schoolwork, but what would a typical day look like for you? How many hours typically do you work? Then do you bring your kids into your work with you? Do you involve them with that and how do you do it without feeling like you’re ignoring them?
Brittney: Yes, these are all great questions. Okay, the mom guilt first of all, let’s address that because that’s a very real thing and I think it’s important to understand that balance is not necessarily daily. It’s more like over a period of time.
If I were trying to achieve daily balance, I’d probably would lose my mind because when you are building a business or building something significant, there will be periods of long hours, but then there will be other periods where you have time off.
There will be a lot of times where you feel like, “Oh my gosh, I’m working way too much.” Then there will be other days where you feel like, “Oh my gosh, I should be working more, but I’m not.” I would say be present mentally and not just physically whenever you’re not working, be present.
That is a discipline that anybody can develop and it’s difficult, but that’s why it requires discipline. But just being present when you are with your children goes a long way. I think also it’s important to realize that you are teaching your children even when you’re not eyeball to eyeball with them, they’re learning from you.
They’re learning a work ethic, they’re learning what it takes to be successful. They’re learning what it takes to build something that’s going to impact a lot of people and they’re learning that through watching you. That should encourage you to keep going because you don’t have to be in the floor building blocks with your littles all day every day in order to teach them or build a relationship with them.
Sometimes, just understanding that the quality … You want quantity too. You do want quantity. Nobody wants their career or their business to consume them, but quality really does go a long way. As far as a typical day is concerned, I get up very early way before my kids do. Several hours before my kids do so that I can read because reading is very high on my priority list and I can work out and take care and have my coffee in silence that way I’m nice when everybody gets up.
I take care of those things before everybody wakes up and then I’ll wake my kids up and they will get started on their chores. They will get started and we’ll have breakfast together and then everybody just gets busy on their schoolwork or whatever it is, whatever task, everybody knows what they need to complete.
We have basically, we have a system in place that way everybody knows what they’re supposed to be doing at any given time and they’re not all coming to me waiting for direction all day long. I don’t have to tell everybody what they need to … I mean, I do have to get them rolling, but once everybody’s rolling, they know what to do.
Everybody goes to do their schoolwork and I will start working. I don’t have any infants at this point. My day definitely looks a lot different now than it did when I first started. At this point, everyone is actually okay doing book work and stuff like that. We’ll all work sometimes independently, sometimes as a group, depending on what time of day and what subject.
We definitely have all of our meals together and everybody’s just pursuing usually whatever subject or interest they have going on at that moment.
Yvette: I find that with my girls. One of the things that I really try to do with them is if I’m in the middle of working and they come to me for anything, I try really hard to stop what I’m doing in that instant and look at them and give them my full attention.
Sometimes that’s hard because I’m in the middle of doing something, but I realize more and more that it speaks volumes to them because they need to know that they are actually the priority over everything else, but at the same time, I still have responsibilities to fulfill what God has called us to do.
Yeah, it’s fun and I love that we get to have our kids with us at home and we’re building a family business just like you are and getting to show them this is what it looks like to work diligently throughout the day and teaching them responsibility because that’s important for them to learn.
Brittney: Yes. Another thing I would add is delegating well. I mentioned this earlier, but I delegate most of the housework. My children are all trained as soon as they can walk, they are working like I want … I expect my children to have a work ethic and I think you can’t wait until they’re 18 to instill that in them.
As soon as they’re able to, “Hey, go help mommy by throwing this diaper in the trash.” Or like whatever they can do, I expect them to do it and we have a system for chores. We have a system for schoolwork. Systems help, but just knowing that you can’t do everything. If somebody can do something 80% as well as you can do it, then you should delegate it and you should do whatever the most important things God has called you to do it.
Yvette: Yeah, that’s right. I would love for you to give encouragement to the mom who’s listening right now who’s thinking about homeschooling because at this time of the year, there are many mamas who are thinking about what they’re going to do next year for their kids, and they’re trying to decide, “Is this homeschooling thing legit? Can I actually do this?” Can you encourage that mom who’s considering homeschooling? What would you say to her?
Brittney: I would say you should. It’s worth it. It’s not easy, but nothing that’s worth building is ever easy, but it is worth it. The resources that you have available to you now are unlimited. If you want to homeschool, you can homeschool successfully and you have every tool that you need to be successful at it and it’s worth it.
Yvette: Yes, I agree completely. Then I want you to do one more encouragement. Encourage the mom who is just tired, who is overwhelmed. She just doesn’t know she can continue on for another day. How would you encourage that mom?
Brittney: I would say cry it out – like legit cry – because research shows that tears, like stress tears, they actually do release stress hormones. Crying does make you feel better and then pray and sometimes pray and cry at the same time, but just know that Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s the daily consistent effort that’s going to produce big results overtime.
You don’t have to do a massive amount every single day. You just have to be consistent. If you’re overwhelmed, your expectations may be too high and that is very common when people start homeschooling. I think homeschooling veterans understand that they don’t need as much as what’s in those books in order to be educated. Scaling is important and just knowing that consistency really is the key.
Yvette: Yes. I agree. Slow down a little bit. Take a breath and get back to it. I love the constant encouragement we get and that God will equip you. He’ll give you everything you need to accomplish what he’s called you to.
“I just don’t want any barriers of entry to any parent who wants to home school. They don’t have to join Classical Conversations. I just firmly believe in homeschooling.”
In teaching study skills for over 30 years to children and adults, Leigh Bortins has written several books including The Core,The Questionand The Conversation, a series which explores the classical trivium from a parent’s perspective. She has also authored complete K-12 curriculum guides for parents and homeschool tutors all across the country.
Yvette Hampton: I am super excited about our guest today, and I know you’re going to be too, because many, many, many of you have asked us to have her on the podcast. Her name is Leigh. I know that that name to many of you is a very familiar one. She is the founder and chief visionary officer of Classical Conversations, and she has had a great impact in our lives and in the lives of hundreds of thousands of families around the world. So Leigh, welcome to the podcast.
Leigh Bortins: Thanks for having me, Yvette. I’m so glad to be here.
Yvette: Yeah. We’re just absolutely thrilled to have you on. Before we even started the podcast, we sent out … I think it was to our mailing list, maybe on Facebook … just a “Hey, who do you guys want to have on the podcast and what questions do you have?” And so, hands down, yours was one of the names that was repeated over and over and over again. People said, “We want Leigh Bortins.” You have been just an inspiration and blessing to me and my family. We did Classical Conversations for three years when we were back in California, and it was the greatest blessing of my homeschool life at that point.
Leigh: Well, thank you.
Yvette: The only reason that we’re actually not in a community now is because we travel of course, because we’re making this documentary, Schoolhouse Rocked, so we’re not settled in a place to be able to do so. But, I’ve actually shared this-
Leigh: Well, I appreciate that sacrifice that you’re making to get this movie out there.
Yvette: Thank you. Thank you. It’s been so great. And, Classical Conversations, you guys have been … I can’t even put into words what an encouragement and blessing you’ve been to us. You have supported us financially, you’ve supported us with prayer. We’ve been really in close contact with Robert and your marketing team, and it’s so great. You know, we’ll talk to them, and they’ll say, “How can we pray for you?” That has just been over the top an encouragement to us, and it’s what’s kept us going. So thank you for how you have come alongside of us and supported us in this endeavor to film this documentary on homeschooling.
But I don’t want to talk about us. I want to talk about you and Classical Conversations and the great things that you guys are doing there. For those who have heard of Classical Conversations, or CC as most people will call it, I would love for you to just give kind of an overview of what Classical Conversations is for those who are maybe just coming into homeschooling, and they’ve maybe heard of it and they’re not exactly sure what this Classical Conversations thing is.
This transcript is generously provided by MakeCrate. MakeCrate provides your homeschooler with the STEM skills they need for the future! Fun, hands-on electronics kits paired with an online learning platform teach your middle or high schooler engineering and coding fundamentals right at home! No technical expertise is required. Order your MakeCrate today at MakeCrate.Club/SR.
Leigh: So, we’re a kindergarten through 12th grade educational support organization for homeschooling parents. The parents are our clients, they’re our customers, they’re our community. The children are not our emphasis, though our programs include the children. What’s really important to me is that we work hard as adults to sharpen one another, and our Christian worldview, and in our classical training. We’re trying to recover skills that we’ve never seen before. So, I wanted to put together a business where adults met once a week to try to work on a rigorous classical education together, and of course it’s much more effective if you practice on your children and they’re with you. Then, students and the family go home, and they have assignments for the week, and then they come back the next week and work together again. A lot of parents think that we’re some sort of a school, and we are in the sense of we’re a school for the family.
We’d like to say that we helped but there we’re tutors. And that we would like to help the parents in the room just continue to improve at this mission. The other thing I think about Classical Conversations is, our tagline is Classical Christian Community. That really is what we’re about. But, sometimes I think it should have been Homeschool with a Friend. So many of the moms and dads that are a part of the programs say, “You keep us going because I’m meeting each week with my friends and it’s a little PTA meeting.” So it’s not just about how do you do better at Latin, but also, my child has learning issues or my in-laws are coming and I don’t know what to make for dinner because I’ve never cooked a turkey before. It’s all the things that go along with families that are like-minded, trying to raise children for Christ, because the world is not going to offer us a model to do that well.
And so, we need to meet regularly with each other. And the body of Christ is just an amazing thing to be part of. And you go to church on Sunday to get that really depth in the word of God. And that’s exactly what our pastors are supposed to be doing. And yet still we need to also know how does the world work, and how does math work, and how does language work? All those things that are academic skills that help us to know God’s world better. And so Classical Conversations offers that in the middle of the week for the families that are interested. So we help folks who need help. And we also encourage people who are really competent in homeschooling to come in as directors, and leaders, and trainers and a to avail their services to the folks that maybe feel less confident teaching Latin, and physics and things like that. So that’s a … I would say, about three minute elevator pitch.
Yvette: That was a great elevator pitch. I love this system that you have set up. It has been so effective for my family. When I started homeschooling I, like many moms had no clue what I was doing. I just knew that the Lord was calling us to do this. My husband knew it, and we just dove in and the first two years I really … it was okay because we started in kindergarten and so kindergarten and first grade were, they were just challenging in the sense that I felt like I was trying to figure it out. But you know, my oldest was, she was so little at the time and I didn’t feel like I was really messing anything up too terribly bad.
But then we were going into second grade and I was like, “Okay, I know I need more, but I don’t know what to do.” I wasn’t trained as a teacher and I just didn’t know what direction to go. And so I heard somebody actually who, ended up being my director, my sweet friend Annette, she came in and she spoke at a meeting that I had gone to, a local homeschool meeting. And she started, she just presented Classical Conversations in a few minutes and I was like, “This is it.” And I was so excited and I went home and I told my husband, I said, “We have to go to this information meeting.” That, “I really think this is the thing that we need.”
So of course, we signed on and the funny thing was, that first year I signed, she was in need of a tutor. I signed on to be a tutor and I had never been in a Classical Conversations classroom before. So I started tutoring that year without having seen it, and I was terrified, actually. I will tell you that the tin whistle was the most terrifying thing to me ever. It was the crack. I could do all of the other stuff, and then I had to stand in front of about seven or eight seven-year-olds and teach them the tin whistle and my palms were sweating and I was shaking. I was so nervous and I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing.
But we got through it and I had a very gracious mom who, couple of moms who were with me, who helped me out.
Leigh: Yeah. And see you learn something new.
Leigh: Do all things through Christ. And he pushes us right off the comfort couch every time that you will let them.
Yvette: He absolutely does. But it was fantastic from the academic standpoint, but like you said, the community of coming together with the other moms and the other families was just something that there was no comparison to that. I didn’t even know how much I needed it until I got into it and I realized that they became my family. As a matter of fact, when we left California to travel and start filming for Schoolhouse Rocked, leaving our CC community was by far one of the hardest things that we had to do because they were our family. We did life together always every week. And, so it was such a blessing and I love that it has spread so far and deep throughout the world. I mean, because you guys are all over the world now. It’s not just …
Leigh: We are.
Yvette: In America, right?
Leigh: Yeah, they were … we have a hundred communities in Russia.
Leigh: We are opening up with … I don’t have the final number. They just had been in February in Brazil. And I think that we have a couple of dozen programs there for the first time. They’re working in English in Brazil with the expats while we get it translated into Portuguese.
Leigh: And then in Russia, we’ve already been working on the translations for a while. So it’s in … it is translated. So they’ve got foundations and essentials in A, I think is what they’re offering.
Leigh: In Russia. And then we’re also … we’ve begun translating Mandarin.
Leigh: Because have a Far East market that’s using the curriculum and more and more programs at our first practicum in actually mainland China this year.
Leigh: It was in the kind of a clandestine situation. Very, very fun to hear.
Yvette: Yeah. Okay, so you just mentioned practicum and I would love for you to talk about that because when I first started with Classical Conversations, I heard this word practicum being thrown around and I was like, “I do not even know that word and I don’t know what it means.” So explain what a practicum is because those are going to start coming up, and this is something that for people who are not familiar with CC, would be fantastic for them to attend. And of course those who are familiar with it usually love going anyway. So explain what a practicum is.
Leigh: So, I just don’t want any barriers of entry to any parent who wants to home school. They don’t have to join Classical Conversations. I just firmly believe in homeschooling. And so one of our hallmark events throughout the summer is to offer three day parent practicums where, we basically get together three days in a row and you bring your family and there’s camps and care for the littlest ones. And the teenagers go to camp, but they’re academic camps. And the reason we’re having the academic camps for the kids is because mommy and or dad are sitting in a room also practicing teaching classically. And so every year has a theme. It might be a math topic one year, or it might be Latin. It might be history, it might be English, but you can only do one thing well and you only get the three days.
So, we try to do, in the morning really emphasize just a big overview conversation on what is the Classical Model. And then the afternoon is more training on a specific subject. And that’s where that practice part of the word practicum comes in. And so we encourage not just home schoolers. If you’re thinking of homeschooling, if you’re headmaster of a Classical school, if you’re on a school board trying to figure out what are some better resources for your school, anybody can come to them, they’re absolutely free. And we do charge though for the kids’ camps. It’s pretty cheap. It’s like $40 for three days.
Yvette: It’s well worth it, yeah.
Leigh: Yeah. Well thanks for saying that because we do have to pay that staff and they got the background checks, supplies, cookies, all that. There’s a cost to that part, but it’s … we’re happy to donate our own time for the adults that are there. And so, you know, everyone’s welcome.
Yvette: Yeah. So practicum is just kind of this three day intense, almost like a homeschool conference. Kind of a local with your own people kind of thing.
Leigh: Yeah. We try to keep it between 20 and a hundred people depending on the facilities with the children. Think of if you have 60 adults and they took two or three kids, that’s a big event. Yes. And so it’s just, it’s more focused than a conference where you pick and choose things. Yeah, real particular. And in some ways, it’s both the best and the worst of Classical Conversations. People have to make some real effort to spend three days learning something, so sometimes you just don’t want to do it. But mostly when people get there, they’re so glad that they did it.
And the folks who stay with us the longest of course end up going year after year, and even many times in the summer because they just want to learn how to teach classically. Yeah, it’s, I mean, you can go online. There’s so many ways to learn how to do all kinds of things now, but we just feel really convicted that the best learning is in community. That you have someone to touch your back, and answer your questions, and have a glass of water with. And then the kids running around the playground together and you feel like, “Okay, this Christian Classical Community’s going to really work.”
Yvette: Yes. One of the things I love is, we would go to practicum each summer and you always see those moms who, it’s their first time and they kind of have that deer in the headlights look. And you can point them out every time. And it’s so neat to be able to just connect with those moms and just go up to them and just say, “Hey, are you new to homeschooling? Are you need to see CC? Are you new to classical education?” And it’s a great way to build relationships with these moms, especially with those who are just getting into homeschooling and trying to figure it out. It’s fantastic.
Yvette: I want to back up just a little bit because you explained what Classical Conversations is, but I want to very shortly if you can just kind of give a picture of what a typical day at a Classical Conversations Community looks like for those who have never attended before and they’re like, “Okay, what in the world is she talking about?” Just give a glimpse into, into a day.
Leigh: Sure. So let’s say your community meets on Tuesday at a local church. Your Challenge students, which is the middle and high school program, they may have to be in their classrooms, say eight o’clock. And while you’ve dropped them off, you’re gathering your little guys and getting them to their classrooms, and you’re making sure they have their supplies and the lunches are out of the car and that kind of thing. So your older students are in a cooperative with up to 12 other students. That’s their cohort. That’s who they hopefully will travel through from Challenge A onwards and you know people move. So you don’t have to stay with …
Yvette: And Challenge A begins in seventh grade, correct?
Leigh: Right. That’s our middle and high school program. And so that very much is more peer based with one of the parents that’s already at the facility tutoring. Usually doesn’t have to be this case, but usually the tutor would have their own children in the program. So, me and mom, a mom and dad, if both come are also on the same church campus with their little guys. And we encourage the parents to stay with the children that are four to 12 years old in the Foundations and Essentials program because there’s two things. Those children need the most help. And that’s generally the age group that the parents most involved with and wants the most help with, right? Once you’ve been homeschooling for six, seven years, those older kids know how to do quite a lot on their own.
And so, but we still encourage you not to treat the Challenge program like a drop-off program. Let the tutor know of your older child, how old or what’s going on with your younger ones and say, “Hey, let me know. But, if my kid’s struggling in a course, tell me what time you’re going to be talking about that and then I’ll be there in the room with them.” I’ve also had parents in there, so welcome to stay the entire time with the Challenge program. And they just sit in the back, and they’re quiet, and they do the work and they figure out what’s going on with Latin, and history and, and chemistry and all those things we’re doing, and can go home and help their older child. So at lunch time, the little guys, they’re pretty much finished for the day and sometimes there’s an afternoon nursery kind of opportunity. It’s not really a nursery like you think, it’s more like playground time.
Leigh: And then the fourth, fifth and sixth graders have an additional two hours of the Essentials program where it’s just too hard for the little guys and they’ve been sitting for a long time. They need to get out of there. I mean, while the Challenge students continue. So they, the Challenge students have a six hour day and then everyone goes home around three o’clock and it’s one day a week. And so it’s a big commitment, especially to we homeschool moms. We don’t like anybody tell us one when to be where. So we have to … you got to have lunch, you got to have their shoes on. You got to have the pencils in the case.
And so, it’s this one day of work and hard to work, not just for your own benefit and learning more, but compromising, being part of a community and saying, “You’re good. Yeah. You didn’t get to do your speech today. Did you listen to three other kids?” Right? It’s not all about you. We need a bit of give and take in our school situation and with education. So there’s just a lot that goes on and the older kids are working on six different subjects over six hours, versus the littlest ones through third grade are really, it’s the parents that are doing the work, right? They’re the ones that are trying to understand the Classical Model.
The younger kids are there playing games and singing songs, just doing various activities. And so everything’s kind of designed for the age of that student. And the fact that no matter who you are as a parent, you’re going to juggle between kids and there’s no way to make it perfect for everybody. And so we all come together and work on, just as a community, how do we get better at Christian classical education?
Yvette: Yeah. One of the things I love about the Foundations program, which is kindergarten, so it starts at four years old and goes through eight … yeah. Eighth grade. No, no, no.
Leigh: Well through about 12 years old.
Yvette: Right. Sixth grade.
Leigh: Sixth grade, yes.
Yvette: And, it’s so much fun because these kids get to come together, and they get to learn what Classical Conversations calls memory work. And they just, they memorize different things about all different subjects, science, history, Latin, English. But it’s really fun and so they get to do it, with jump roping and I should say jumping rope. And games and all kinds of fun activities and stuff. And so it really makes school fun. But they also get to do it with their friends and they get to build those relationships as well, which is really, really exciting for them. And so my girls always loved it. We couldn’t wait until CC day, except for the packing of the lunches. That was always the dread of my weekend. My favorite week was always when we had potluck, and I only had to think about bringing one thing and we always had a wonderful feast. It was lots of fun. Or pizza day, so that was fun.
Leigh: Yeah. And also, the only thing is it’s one day a week you have to not wear your pajamas all day.
Yvette: That’s exactly right.
Leigh: You have to get dressed.
Yvette: I always would think, “I cannot believe people actually do this five days a week.”
Leigh: I know. It was exhausting.
Yvette: I could never do it. I can barely do it one day. I want to talk about the high school years. I know that this is even for myself, my oldest is 13 so she’s in seventh grade respectively, and as we’re getting into those high school years, it’s starting to become a little bit terrifying for me. I did not like school as a child and so those years kind of scare me, but I know enough about homeschooling now to know that God has gotten us this far. He’s going to take us all the way through. How can you encourage the mom who is going into the high school years and give her some support?
Leigh: Yeah. Well, I’d love to say, think back to your own high school years. I know that my mother and father were involved in my academic work at that point. They were around for resources. They were around to ask questions. Around to say, “Well, did you talk to the teacher?” That tends to be what happens with homeschool older students, too. They do a lot of the work on their own and they really use their parents as a resource.
One of the things I found very helpful because I had split, right? I had two in the Foundations program and I had two in the Challenge program. Those little guys can take up a lot of your time and home schooling stops being home schooling for the older ones, and can become what some people call loans school and you don’t want that to happen. So one of the things that I would do was schedule specific tutoring appointments with my older two twice a week for two hours each, and we could get so much accomplished in that one. The one time that they were able to do everything else thoroughly the rest of the week.
So academically I wasn’t doing all that much with them, once they got to about ninth grade. And then with Classical Conversations you’re there once a week and their classmates are using the same materials. Their tutor’s trying to help them with the assignments so we would make a list of questions to ask when they got into 6th. And so besides our encouragement and then … it’s your mom and dad are going to be good at some of the subjects that they’re studying. And then of course the program itself, that was adequate. But one of the things that I think that parents forget about, or actually you don’t forget about it, you don’t really even know about it since this is your first time through with having older children. You don’t know what it’s going to be like having them.
And so, you had this in your mind, this kind of imaginary world that they’re about to enter. And a lot of it’s skewed by your own schooling experience. And that’s not what you’re doing. Your life is very different. They’ve been at home, they know the ropes, the part of the team, they enjoy their family. You figured out what their activities are that they’re going to focus on. And what’s really interesting is they’re finally old enough to be responsible and we send them to a room and stick them there and tell them to do it. Some stranger that doesn’t have our worldview wants them to study and to do. So, don’t do that. The high school years is when it’s finally fun to homeschool. They’re finally beginning to think like adults. They’re able to engage in these conversations we’re preparing them for, and they’re able to be trustworthy.
That’s one thing that I just really focused on a lot, especially being the mom of four boys. They have a great dad. He was around a whole lot, but we began looking for mentors that were males and other adults for them to hang out with, and because they were homeschooled, they had the time for it. And so it wasn’t just mom and dad, their CC tutor and their books. They had each other and they took other courses. They all had different interests, whether it was sports or art, or we found other folks and engaged with them. All my boys were very interested in Bible studies and they, every single one of them had jobs and their employer oftentimes became their best friend through high school. Provide a lot of opportunities for them. Sometimes when people tell me their high schooler’s not happy in homeschool, I’ll ask them, “What are you doing?”
And all they did was brought school home. And I would be unhappy, too if I was in high school and that’s what happened. The world really is our classroom. And then if you mean that, raise children who you trust and then stick them on a bus and say, “Go to New York City. I want you to study what it’s like at the art museum there. I’ll see you in three days.” See, people won’t do that with their high school students anymore. They’re frightened by what the world has opted, and we didn’t have that attitude with our boys. They were all over the East Coast when they were in high school. And our one rule was, “You have to tell me what state you’re in.” Just in case they get lost.
Right? We meant what we said. And I think how fortunate people are who live at where there’s like a bus system or like in Europe, I mean goodness, I would never be home, homeschooling. I would be, have a backpack on my back and get on the bus or train and be somewhere different every day if I was in high school. So really mean it that this is the … We’re missionaries to the world and then the opportunity to learn how the world works, get them on planes, trains, buses, and boats.
Yvette: Yeah. Oh. So funny.
Yvette: I love that. You mentioned a few minutes ago, worldview, and it’s one of the things I love about CC is that you teach everything from a biblical worldview. Why is that important, to teach from a biblical worldview?
Leigh: Well, if for me, the point of education is to learn how to pursue truth, and to me, truth is a person whose name is Jesus Christ. So if you’re not pursuing truth, why are you even engaged in that activity? Right? You say what it is, it’s entertainment. So to me, the difference between them and so recognize when you’re being entertained and recognize when you’re actually are trying to understand how the world works. And so the world’s kind of confused in that. So maybe that’s why it’s important because we’re, … I got up every day when the boys were at home and for people who don’t know all four of them, now they’re all grown men. But I literally would when my feet would touch the floor, I would say, “Okay, I’m the Queen Mum. I’ve got these four kings to raise. What am I going to do today with them, Lord?” Because his mercies are new every morning and we will fail throughout the day.
But just thank God that we can go to bed at night and die, and be resurrected again in the morning with this mercy being new. And so if you have that as your worldview, fear just escapes and it just goes away. There’s no place where it’s reside because you know who you’re serving each day. And people, a lot of times they’ll say, “My kids have to be prepared for the real world.” And I’ll say to them, “Do you mean the one where every knee will bow and every tongue confess?”
Yvette: Oh yeah.
Leigh: Is that your real world? We’re confused by what in the world is going on, even when we claim to be Christians. And so this whole trying to recapture worldview and knowing, whose we are and remembering it. It really difficult and no one is going to try to help you in that endeavor except, I would say, your Christian friends.
Yvette: Yeah, and homeschooling gives us the opportunity to continuously train our kids in that. Constantly reminding them you are here for a purpose and, God is so good and he’s so big and being able to teach them all of those things through the things that we teach them, is so powerful. And, I think that moms, I love that you talk about his mercies are new every morning, because I think so often moms just get into the drudge of that everyday homeschooling and just dealing with the responsibilities and pressures of life. And we forget. We forget the importance of what we’re actually doing and what’s in front of us. You said you’re raising four kings and that’s right. We’re raising queens and kings and we’re raising the future generation who is going to … they are the church, they are the future leaders of this world.
And so, it’s so important to keep that focus and be reminded that God has a big job for us as moms and dads, and he will continue to use us as long as we continue to be used by him, and allow him to use us to do these great things. I want to talk really quickly, we’re almost out of time but, about two more things. So …
Leigh: I’ll make it shorter.
Yvette: Okay. Oh no, no. I’m loving your talking. So in Challenge Two, Classical Conversations offers what’s called concurrent enrollment, which is different than dual enrollment. Can you explain that a little bit?
Leigh: Yes. So what we’re doing is we’re working with a variety of universities. One or two in particular who have just looked at us and said, “Wow, your high school students are doing what our college students should be doing. Is there some way we can partner with you?” And we were actually on the lookout for folks that would do this with us. I mean we initiated this and we knew what we were offering. And so concurrent enrollment means that somebody else has looked at our materials and said, “We will credit that. Accredidate that for you.”
So, you don’t go somewhere else or do something else. It’s all CC. It’s all about CC. But a accrediting body has said, “Concurrently, we will call that college credit.” So we don’t have it for every subject, every year. We have it for about two for Challenge Two, Three and Four. And you can pick and choose, you can do them all or you can just do one of them. Because there’s a little bit of extra work you have to do. You got to get the assignments to the person who’s grading them for you. So you just have to be willing to be organized in order to get those credits. And it does cost a little bit more each year for those. And so I’m not going to say what the price is, because I don’t know what it is. It’s not particularly expensive.
Yvette: Yeah. That’s awesome though. Because that gives them the opportunity to go into college already with some credits, that they would otherwise have to do once they get there.
Leigh: And a lot of parents don’t know this, but that looks good on your resume and it’s a good thing to do. But it’s not an important thing to do because think about it, wherever your child goes to school, they’re going to have their own standards. And so the credits may not transfer. And a lot of schools have stopped taking credits from other people because they want your money, and they want you to pay for their credits. So don’t think it’s this great big amazing thing that’s going to solve lots of problems and save money for you. You’re doing it more as a resume builder and it’s something to help your students know, kind of, “Yes, this is college level material. You’re doing a really good job, someone else has approved it.” Then you may save some money by doing this.
Yvette: Yeah. Well we have, in filming for the movie, we’ve actually talked to several college professors and hands down, every one of them have said that they can almost always spot the homeschool students because they typically are our better students in college. Not always, but oftentimes they are, and there’s just something different about the way that they learn, the initiative that they’re able to take. They’re not always surprised by being handed this whole syllabus of something and saying, “Hey, go do this,” and waiting until the last minute.
Leigh: Because you’re self-directed by then.
Yvette: Exactly. Exactly. They’ve learned to be self-directed and so that really will benefit them, not just in college if they choose to go to college, but in life because that’s important in life. I want to ask you about one last thing. So you’re working on a math curriculum. You’re developing a math curriculum right now that maps the structure and learning, K-four through 12 math, from a Classical Christian perspective. I know that’s in the process right now. Can you talk just a little bit about that?
Leigh: So, basically, I feel like, and I know I’m short in time. That may put pressure on me now.
Yvette: That’s okay. Go ahead. It’s okay if we go over for a couple minutes.
Leigh: I have to gather my thoughts and make it quick. So basically one of the confusions about math, why people don’t like math, is they don’t know where they’re going or where they’ve been or why they’re doing it, right? That’s number one question, “But why do I have to do this?” Right? “And I’m never going to use this.” And so most adults don’t know why either. And so we raised kind of kids that are cynics. We make them do something that then they go and they never do anything with it anyway. And so it is, it’s an odd situation. Especially all of us went through K to 12 math. So I feel like one of the reasons we don’t know what’s fun is curriculum is not really well designed. It doesn’t lead you through a specific map, year after year that you recognize. A mathematician will recognize it.
It’s not set up to train the student or the teacher, even if it’s a school situation, to understand why you just did and how it’s going to apply next year. And there’s also, if you have an age range of children, they’re going to be in different books at different levels. And you can’t turn to page 78 in all and say … if you got three kids. In my curriculum, if you turn to page 78 in all three years, the kids are going to be doing the same activity. At a different level. So I as a parent, well no, I have one thing to work on with all of them, whether it’s in calculus or whether it’s in digits. Right? And so that’s what’s unusual about the curriculum we’re developing, and it’s going to be really hard for people to wrap their brains around that. But so far so good. It’s coming along.
Yvette: Yeah. Very cool. Well that’s exciting. We will definitely keep an eye out for that as it is going through development and, I’m excited to see it when it’s done. So Leigh, thank you so much for your time. You are an absolute blessing to us and to many, many others and we appreciate all that you guys are doing and all that you continue to do. I know you’re not stopping anytime soon. You guys, every time we talk to you, there’s something new and exciting and so it’s really neat that God is continuing to use what you’re doing there.
Leigh: And we can’t wait for Schoolhouse Rocked to make it into the screen. It’s not just because my Robert’s in there and I know half of your cast, but it’s really important what you’re trying to say. So thank you very much.
Yvette: Yes. Well we appreciate the encouragement and the prayers very much. God is, he is such a big God and I can honestly say that all the glory goes to him. Because the things that have been accomplished over the last two and a half years make no sense, except that we can just point to God and say, “Only you, God. Only you could have done what you’ve done. So thank you.”
For those of you who, maybe you’re listening to this for the first time and you’re not sure what we’re talking about, go to schoolhouserocked.com and you can see a couple of our movie trailers there. Learn more about the documentary that we are in production on. Many people know this, but many don’t. We are supported completely by donations at this point. So if anybody feels led to support us, what we are kind of like missionaries right now and God has been so faithful to provide.
But if the Lord prompts you to do that, you can actually go on schoolhouserocked.com, under support and can make a donation to help us as we are working on this. A much needed documentary that’s all about homeschooling and debunking the myths and misconceptions of homeschooling and encouraging people to do it. Because it’s a fantastic opportunity that we have and a fantastic freedom that we have in our country to be able to homeschool
“my job is that general contractor role where I have to know what’s going on in the family. I have to know my children by heart. I have to know where their weak points are, where their strengths are. I have to be able to identify when one of them is not doing well spiritually, when one of them is failing academically in some way. I need to have those conversations with my wife because she’s on the frontline, right? So, she sees … every day and have those conversations; “How are the kids doing? How are you doing? What do you need?”
Yvette Hampton: Today I am with Israel Wayne. I know so many of you are familiar with his name because you have seen him maybe on Facebook or you have heard him speak at a convention or you have read one of his books. Sometimes, Israel, I think you’re known as the Homeschool Guy, right?
Israel Wayne: Yeah, that’s kind of my moniker, the Homeschool Guy. I’ve got to trademark it.
Yvette: Right. I think you should. Tell us a little bit, Israel, about your family. And then, I’m really excited to have you on, today, and for you to just share about you and what God is doing in your life through homeschooling and having been homeschooled and all of that.
Israel: Sure. Well, my story goes back a little ways. My family started homeschooling in 1978 when I was just a little tyke. I had an older sister who had started into kindergarten in the public school system, and things didn’t go so well for her. She was very academically advanced when she entered kindergarten, but her teachers told my mother that they thought she had a learning disability and that she wouldn’t be able to learn. And, my mother knew that wasn’t correct and my sister hated going to school and she always complained about having stomach pain, and the other children made fun of her. She was kind of a quiet child and fairly studious, and she just didn’t fit into the kind of wild rambunctious type of activities and play that they did in the school, and so she really wanted to stay home with my mom.
After a few months of that, my mother actually took her out and began teaching her at home as she had done before sending her off to school, but unfortunately, we didn’t realize that, in those days, because of compulsory attendance laws, that was against the law, that you weren’t allowed to do that because your child had to be in school. And so, we ended up in court facing … possibly even having my sister removed from our home, having my parents lose their parental rights and having my sister put in foster care and then never seeing her again. That’s actually what homeschooling was like when we were being homeschooled.
The judge thankfully threw that case out of court. We ended up being in court several other times, but homeschooling didn’t actually become legal in the state in which I lived until the year after I graduated. I graduated in 1991 and it didn’t become legal until 1992 in that state, so it’s interesting how homeschooling has grown from 1978 when my family started with just a few hundred families back then, all disconnected. None of us knew each other. There was no network of homeschooling to what it is now with about two-and-a-half million students being home educated.
So, I was homeschooled. In 1988, my mother started a national homeschooling magazine. And so, when your mom publishes the national homeschool magazine, you’re kind of homeschooled. So, my wife, [Brooke 00:03:03], her mom started homeschooling in 1983. Her mom had heard Dr. Raymond Moore on Focus on the Family, on that very famous broadcast that kind of launched the homeschooling movement and started home educating, and her mom was part of the founding of the Arizona State Homeschool association, so we both grew up not only being homeschooled, but being homeschooled kind of in the national state leadership levels.
And then, in January of ’93, I started working as marketing director for Homeschool Digest Magazine, the publication my mother published and did that for 20 years and wrote my first book on homeschooling in 2000 giving my perspective as a homeschooled graduate, started speaking at homeschool conferences, keynoting homeschool conferences in 1995, and have just been doing this, now, for over 25 years full-time, serving the Christian homeschooling community and love what I get to do.
Five years ago, I started a ministry called Family Renewal with my wife and my sister, my older sister who was the one who kind of launched our homeschooling experience, and my children, so, for the last five years, I’ve done nothing but just travel around the country speaking at conferences and writing books, so, yeah, I’m somewhere between chronically and terminally homeschooled, I think, so that’s probably where that Homeschool Guy terminology comes in.
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Yvette: Yeah, it is literally in your blood. You win the prize. You are the homeschool guy. I don’t know that I know anyone who has actually been homeschooled as long as you. I know that there are people who have, but, yeah, you’ve been through it in … gosh, going through the whole process of it becoming legalized in your state and all of that, that’s pretty big. That’s quite something to experience, because we take it for granted that, “Oh, well, of course we get to homeschool,” and, I think oftentimes we forget that it hasn’t always been this easy. Tell us about your family. You have a couple of kids.
Israel: Yeah, we have nine, so far. The Lord’s blessed us with nine.
Israel: Our oldest is 18, and he’s just started two part-time jobs and he just got an offer for a third, so he’s just kind of jumped right out of high school into the real world, and he’s getting some good life experience. We’re pretty happy about that. We have … our children are about two years apart, so our youngest is two years old, and so we have nine children ages 18 down to two. We have four boys and five girls, and we have always homeschooled them and, by God’s grace, always will.
We got married because we had both been homeschooled. We just knew that there was nothing else that we would consider because for us, our experience is quite different, I think, than most people. Most people, when they close their eyes and think of the word education, they think of a big brick school building and a football field and they go in the building and there’s locker rooms and there’s a classroom and a blackboard. That wasn’t our experience. We just didn’t grow up that way. We didn’t go to government school, so for us, homeschooling was the natural conclusion. It’s like eating and breathing.
It’s like asking ourselves, “Will we feed and clothe our children?” It’s like, “Well, of course we’ll feed our children. What else would we do? Of course we’ll educate our children. What else would we do?” So, for us, we haven’t had this big paradigm shift that a lot of other people have. We haven’t had so much to try to unlearn, and homeschooling for us has never been … the plumb line for that has never been the school system. We’ve never thought about, “How do we try to do what we do the same way the school system does?” or, “How do we stay on the calendar of the school system or how do we teach the way the school system does?” Those questions are just completely outside of the scope of our experience.
So, I think homeschooling for us is a little bit different than it is for other people, but because of my day job, that I speak at conferences and I meet in person about 20,000 homeschooling families a year out on the road at conventions and so forth, I get to rub shoulders weekly with those families that are new to this process and hear their struggles and hear their questions. So, it helps us to remain relevant and be able to remember how difficult it is for them to try to come into this new world that, for them, it’s like visiting an alien planet or something. It’s this really strange other thing.
Yvette: Yeah, isn’t that fun, too? I love … it is literally one of my favorite things to meet a mom or a dad — but, typically, it’s the mom — who is just starting to think about homeschooling, and they’re like, “I keep hearing about this homeschooling thing, but I’m not so sure. I don’t know what it’s really all about,” and then you get that opportunity to just tell them, “Well, let me tell you what it’s all about,” and it’s so much fun, which is so much of the reason why we are filming this documentary on homeschooling is because we really want people to see the real picture of what homeschooling looks like, and we don’t make it all daisies and roses. It’s not always easy, but it sure is a blessing. I love it, and I love it when that light comes on and those scales fall from their eyes and they’re like, “Oh, homeschooling is amazing and your kids are not socially awkward and they can be well educated,” and there’s just so many benefits and it’s so fun. I love, love, love talking to new homeschoolers or those who just don’t know yet that they are new homeschoolers. That’s always fun.
Israel: Yeah, everybody homeschools until they stop, right? So, everyone homeschools their children, I think, threw the most difficult stages of teaching them how to be potty trained and how to feed themselves with a fork and how to tie their shoes and these really epic difficult things that we think … really, you need a PhD in engineering to teach a kid how to tie his shoes, in my opinion. Potty training? That’s psychology and sociology and anthropology. It’s all kinds of stuff.
Yvette: Physical science.
Israel: Yeah, exactly. It’s terrible, and it’s like we get through all that and then we’re like, “Oh, colors and numbers and shapes, I don’t think I can do that. I’m just a parent. I’m not an expert,” and it’s just so sad that, the fact that 6,000 years of human history, people have always taught their children. Now, all of a sudden, we’ve been crippled into thinking, “Oh, we couldn’t possibly do what people have done for thousands and thousands of years,” because in the last 160 years, we have a different paradigm. It’s really an odd perspective. The institutional school system is really the new kid on the block. It’s the untried, untested method.
Yvette: Oh, yeah, absolutely, yes, yes. So, you also had another kind of twist to your childhood in that your mom, for part of your childhood, was a single mom and homeschooled you as a single mom.
Israel: Yeah, that’s right. About the time that I was hitting high school, my mom became a single parent and I had had an abusive stepfather, unfortunately. My parents divorced when I was six and she remarried and so, really, he was more of a detriment than anything, but, eventually, he ended up leaving, and so then it was like we had to learn how to build some stability into our family. So, I had these younger sisters that, she was homeschooling full-time, so when I hit high school … my mom had dropped out of school in ninth grade, so she didn’t even go to high school, so, here she was, had these two high school students, and at that time, she got us Abeka video school, and that worked out great for me because all she had to do was basically create a lesson plan, and I knew how to follow the lesson plan by that time, and I ended up doing all four years of Abeka Video School in two years. So, it was kind of accelerated distance education before that was even a thing.
And so, I graduated a few days before I turned 16, got a really good academic education at home, but I remember before I entered high school, my mother said, “I have these younger girls that I have to teach. I have a business that I’m running. I don’t have time to hold your hand all day, so, basically, I’ve taught you how to read. I’ve taught you how to think. I’ve taught you how to study. I’ve taught you how to learn, and so, this is going to be what you make of it. If you want to learn, you’re going to have an opportunity. If you don’t want to learn, I can’t make you. I can’t force you. Nobody can. Even if you were in a school, they can’t force you. They can’t make you learn. They can incarcerate you and make you sit there, but they can’t make you learn.”
So, she said, “It’s really up to you. If you want to learn, you’re going to have an opportunity,” and she said, “You have all the tools you need,” so teach yourself,” and that’s what I ended up doing through high school. So, people who feel like, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly homeschool,” my mom homeschooled six kids as a high school dropout, a single parent, and when she became a Christian when I turned 12, one thing she told us is she said, “We’re going to go off government assistance and we’re not going to get food stamps anymore. We’re just going to trust God and God’s going to provide.” And, I thought two things. I thought, first of all, number one, you’re crazy. Number two, we’re all going to starve. And, God blessed her business and it prospered and she was able to provide for us and homeschool, just a real testimony to her willingness to follow the Lord, that … I believe God doesn’t call you to something and then fail to equip you.
Yvette: Sure, oh, absolutely. I agree completely, and that’s been our experience with homeschooling for sure. I think you and I have talked about this and stuff, that we said we would never, ever high school, and part of the reason for that was that … I mean, there were many reasons we said that, but part of it was that I hated school, and so did Garritt. We were not good students. We did not enjoy school at all, and the kind of ironic thing is: we actually hated going to school and so we thought, “Well, why would we ever homeschool our kids. We’ll send them to school.”
Oh gosh, anyway, but I thought because I hated school so much, “Why would I want to homeschool my kids,” and I thought that I was not equipped enough to be able to do that, and God has proven that, like you said. He has given us everything that we’ve needed, and our schooling looks incredibly different than a whole lot of other people’s. We travel a lot. We’re filming this documentary. We just have a very different lifestyle right now, but, God is working. My girls are learning and, quite honestly, they’re learning the necessary things, but quite honestly, if all they ever learned was to love the lord and love the word of God, then I’m okay with that.
Israel: That’s interesting. Could I jump on that real quick?
Yvette: Yeah, of course.
Israel: You know, in Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you,” and the other things he was talking about there were material provisions. He was talking about our clothes and needing food to eat and daily provision and that kind of thing, and he said, “These are the things you worry about; are they going to be able to make a living? Are they going to be able?” all that kind of stuff that people worry about, and they think, “Well, if I homeschool, they’re going to be deprived. They won’t be able to take care of themselves in life.”
But, Jesus has already promised that that will be a given if we seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and he also said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the entire world and forfeits his own soul,” and so, in terms of our priorities, I think some people think that we’re saying, “Well, we’re going to focus on godly character to the exclusion of academics,” as though somehow these two things are enemies. What was fascinating to the researchers 30 years ago when the first homeschool research came out from Dr. Brian Ray, when they started testing homeschoolers, was these homeschooling students whose parents had a high school diploma or less were scoring 30 percentile higher on the standardized achievement tests than students in government schools whose parents were PhDs or had teaching certificates and so on.
The academic schooling of the parent didn’t really factor in. What factored in was parental involvement, and so these moms and dads who had high school diplomas and less that just loved their kids and tried to instill their values in their kids, their kids actually did better academically, as well, and it’s that Matthew 6:33 principle. It’s not that the academics aren’t important, but they’re not our primary focus. They’re not our primary objective, so, I didn’t mean to preach, there. It just came out, so-
Yvette: No, I love that, and you’re absolutely right. And, you know, we’ve told our girls, “I don’t really care about them knowing science or history or math or English for any other reason but because it points them back to Jesus.” They have to know how to write so that they can write about God. They have to know how to read so that they can read his word. They have to understand basic science because God is the creator of it all and they need to understand their creator and the awesomeness of his creator. They need to understand basic history because, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and they need to understand the history of God’s creation and God’s world and what he has done with it and his perfect plan as it has unfolded throughout history.
But, if they’re being taught those things apart from the word of God and apart from a biblical worldview, then they’re not really being taught those things properly at all and who cares that they’re learning them at all. And so, while academics are certainly not the most important thing, the Bible is, but I love that as a homeschool family, we get to use all of those things to just point them back to their savior and creator, and it’s so much fun to be able to be the one to do that with them.
Israel: Yeah, and teaching them how to love God with all their heart. Those things bring out the wonder in all of who he is. The second factor of loving your neighbor as yourself is that if you’re truly going to love your neighbor, some academics actually help in that, because if you sloughed off during the anatomy class and you’re a surgeon and you got extra parts leftover that you don’t know where they go at the end of the surgery, that’s not a blessing for your neighbor, or you’re an airplane pilot and you just didn’t think that those physics classes were all that interesting and you’ve got 240 people screaming in the final minutes of their life; that’s not a blessing to your neighbor when you’re … so, in loving God and loving our neighbor, academics help us to love God more and they help us to learn how to love our neighbors as well.
Yvette: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Let me back up really quickly because I want to talk about something that you kind of just breezed through it, but I know the lights went off in my brain and I know that there’s others listening to this who go, “But how?” You said your mom came to you when you were in high school and she said, “I’ve taught you to read. I’ve taught you to think. I’ve taught you to study. I’ve taught you to learn. Now go do it. I can’t spend time holding your hand to do this.” How does one do that?
And, I think I’m even in that season right now with my girls. I’ve got a seven-year-old and a 12-year-old where I’m trying to teach them. They both can … well, my seven-year-old is still learning how to read a little bit. She’s getting much better at it, but I’m teaching them how to think and we’re trying to teach them how to study and how to learn so that they can go out and do that, and because, once they’re out of our home, I don’t want the learning to stop. I was one who, like I said, I didn’t enjoy school at all, and I remember, oh man, I could not wait until my high school graduation because I was never going to have to go back to another classroom again and sit in a class and have a lecture. That was just torture to me.
And so, I just thought, “Well, my learning is done,” and I crossed that off my list and I was like, “Okay, I’m ready to get married and have kids and move on with my life,” and, for my girls, I don’t want that for them. I mean, I want them to move on with life and get married and have kids, but I want them to have a life of learning and knowing how to study and knowing how to study the word of God and study whatever God has bent them towards in their interests. How did your mom teach you to do that and how are you teaching your kids to read and think and study and learn so that they can continue to do that?
Israel: Oh, there’s so many things. My mom was good at asking questions. Very rarely would she give me an answer to something. She would ask questions. She would ask questions that would lead me to figure it out on my own. She would encourage me to go study it on my own. There were times where I was … I remember when I was 15 telling her, “God doesn’t have an opinion on education. It doesn’t matter how you educate your children,” and she said, “I would like for you to write an article or write an essay on that and try to support your view from scripture.” So, she gave me an assignment on it.
Interestingly, that became a book that came out a couple years ago called Education: Does God Have an Opinion? And so, throwing it back at me was one way. Reading real books I think, is an important thing we do. We do that a lot with our children, having them read firsthand historical accounts, having them read real history as opposed to just novels. Having them read a lot of biographies gives them a broad perspective of the world. It opens their mind to thoughts and ideas, real life experience that’s outside of just a textbook and the academic at-a-desk learning, but a lot of asking questions, teaching them how to think through something, teaching them how to communicate through … I mean, my mom would say, “If you know what you believe, you know why your beliefs are true and you can communicate effectively through written and spoken communication, you’ll get to be a leader.”
Well, I was a nobody kid. I was an ADHD dyslexic kid that nobody thought could learn, and I’ve made a pretty successful living as a national conference speaker and author as a kid who didn’t learn how to read until he was 11. How does that happen? It happened because I had a context, first of all, where my love of learning didn’t get killed, and that’s what happens in institutional schools. They just systematically kill the love of learning for most students. And, thankfully, that didn’t happen to me. And so, I was a late bloomer, if you will, but just being just given the opportunity to learn the way that I learned and learn on my own time schedule, learn at my own pace, and just that constant unlocking of this world of discovery and inquiry rather than trying to fill my head full of facts and data and information, just unlocking doors to help me go explore. I think that’s way more effective in the long-run than trying to force your kid to remember information they’re never going to remember anyway.
Yvette: Sure, and I love asking questions. Garritt, my husband, he’s really good at that with our girls. Every day, we have our family devotion time and we always usually … we either memorize scripture or we read through a book of the bible, and so any time we’re reading through a passage of scripture, he always quizzes them at the end. “Okay, what did this talk about? What does this mean?” And, it’s so amazing to realize how well they understand what it is that they’re hearing.
And, when we first started doing that, it was a little bit of a struggle for them and they kind of go, “I don’t know. I don’t know what that meant,” and as we’ve done it over the years, of course, they get it. They understand, and if they don’t understand, then he’ll say, “What do you think it means,” and they’ll give their answer and then he’ll say, “Well, not really. This is what it actually means,” and, oh, it’s such a fantastic way for kids to understand the word of God and what it is that they’re hearing and learning, so-
Israel: One of the books that I wrote is a book called Questions God Asks, and it was based on a study I was doing through the Old Testament. I started noticing repeatedly that God asked questions of people, and so I started to write down any time I saw a question that God asked a person, and I asked myself, “What’s the purpose of this question? What’s the topic? What is it that God wants these people to think about?” And so, I ended up writing a book on that of 19 questions in the Old Testament that God asked people, and then I wrote a sequel to it called Questions Jesus Asks: 20 Questions in the New Testament that Jesus asked his disciples and the Pharisees and other people, and it just struck me as I wrote both of those books how God teaches and how Jesus taught through the art of asking questions, not nearly through didactic prose or some sort of teaching where you’re standing up telling everybody what to believe, but through drawing them out and saying, “Who do men say that I am? Who do you say that I am? Why do you call me good?” and so on. So, I’ve learned a lot from just even studying the questions God asked and the questions Jesus asked in the Bible about how to be a better question asker for myself as a parent.
Yvette: I love that. I think you’re familiar with Ginger Hubbard, right? You know who she is, so we recently did a podcast episode with her as well, and she literally … we talked about that exact same thing, and she said that’s one of the most important things, because, you know, when we’re teaching our kids to obey, it’s not just about their actions. It’s about their heart, and so one of the ways you get to their heart is by asking heart probing questions, you know, “Why did you make that decision?” just asking questions about the choices that they’re making that make them really think about what it is that they’re doing, so that is awesome.
Okay, so you’ve … let’s shift gears a little bit. I want to talk a little bit about a couple of the books that you’ve written. You mentioned one already. Well, actually, I think you’ve mentioned two of them. What books have you written? And, we’ll actually link to these in the show notes so that people can have an idea of what they are. They don’t have to write them down.
Israel: Sure. The books that are still available in print are Questions God Asks and Questions Jesus Asks. And then, on homeschooling, I’ve written Education: Does God Have an Opinion? And that, I believe, is really, probably the most comprehensive book written to date on what a biblical philosophy of education looks like, and I actually go through each of the major academic subjects and teach how this subject will be taught either from a humanistic worldview or from a biblical worldview, and how most Christian homeschoolers who are teaching their children at home using a Christian curriculum are actually giving their child a humanistic view of geography or science or math or language arts or history rather than a biblical worldview because they don’t have the right paradigm. They don’t know how to think biblically about that topic.
And so, I actually walk them through each of those academic subjects and teach them, “How do you teach these subjects from a distinctly biblical philosophy?” I don’t know of any other books out there that are quite like Education: Does God Have an Opinion. And then the latest one … well, and then, there’s a parenting book that my wife and I wrote called Pitching a Fit: Overcoming Angry and Stressed Out Parenting. That’s probably our best seller, actually. Most parents have children, and with children come stress, so it’s kind of a universally relevant book.
But then, I wrote one called Full-Time Parenting: A Guide to Family-Based Discipleship, and that’s really the big picture of: how do we disciple our kids and how do we get their hearts and keep their hearts. And then, my latest book that just came out this year is called Answers For Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask, and this was one that, after I’d written Education: Does God Have an Opinion, I thought, “Man, I’ve covered everything. I’ve addressed this whole biblical philosophy of education,” and Master Books, my publisher came to me and said, “You know, the thing is, this book is really comprehensive, but there are a lot of the basic fundamental questions that people still here and they still get asked or they wonder themselves, ‘How can I teach my children on a single income?’ Or, ‘What if I’m a single parent?’ Or, ‘What about sports?’ Or, ‘How do I keep a transcript?’ Or, ‘What about college?'” and just all these questions that people had.
“What about salt and light? Should my children be in the schools to be salt and light, and maybe we should send them as missionaries,” and all those kinds of things. They still get asked, and so, I wanted to take the top 25 objections that people have to homeschooling and reasons that they say, “Homeschooling’s a bad idea because …” and then, I wanted to systematically dismantle those objections in a way that would give someone confidence if they’re looking at this and saying, “I’m thinking of going into homeschooling.” I wanted them to have all their questions answered in one resource. But then, also, there are people that are already homeschooling, and they’re sold on it. They don’t need convinced to homeschool, but they have a skeptic in their life whether a parent, an in-law, a neighbor, unfortunately even sometimes church leaders, you know, just people that say, “Oh, well, how do you know you’re not going to ruin them?” or whatever.
And so, I wanted to give them a book that would help them to defend their position and give them solid answers just like in Christian apologetics. You read an apologetics book to learn how to defend your Christian faith so when somebody says, “Well, how do you know the Bible is the word of God?” Or, “How do you know that people didn’t just make up the Bible and wrote it 500 years ago?” all that kind of stuff, how are you going to give your answer? What’s your apologetic. This is kind of an apologetic for homeschooling, a defense for homeschooling.
Yvette: Yeah, that is great. What I love about this book is that it’s written by a dad. Because, oftentimes … and, I know you hear this and I’m certain that you talk to men all over the country. Oftentimes, it’s the wife who wants to homeschool, and Dad is saying, “I don’t know about that,” or, “No, that’s not a good idea. We need to put the kids in school,” and so, many homeschool books are written by moms, which are great. I mean, there are so many great books out there, but I love that this is written by a dad because it can be for anybody, but I think this is an excellent book to give to dads or to grandparents. That’s another huge group of people that are from a different generation, and so, oftentimes, grandparents will say, “You want to do what? You want to homeschool our grandkids? Why would you do such a thing?” and this is a great book to be able to hand to people.
Again, that’s partly why we’re making Schoolhouse Rocked is because we want to give people a tool that they can hand to their husband or to their parents or two their friends or siblings and say, “Here’s why we’re doing this. Just read this book or watch this movie and you’ll understand why it is that we’ve made this decision for our family, or why I want to make this decision for our family.”
Okay, you said … you have been to how many conventions, this year?
Israel: Oh, goodness, this year, I don’t know for sure, but I know I’ve spoken at 245 events in the last five years. I calculated that the other day.
Yvette: Oh wow, that’s a lot of speaking. And, all of those, are they all homeschool related or are those-
Israel: Now, some of those are family camps. I do a lot of parenting seminars. I speak in churches sometimes. I just did an apologetics weekend where I was actually teaching Christian apologetics in England at a church there, and so I do a lot of different kinds of things, but I would say probably three quarters of what I do is homeschool and family discipleship related.
Yvette: Okay, now you’ve got top 25 questions critics ask in this book. If you had to narrow it down to maybe the top five concerns that people have for homeschooling, could you narrow it down to that?
Israel: Yeah, I think I would say the top five would be socialization. “What about sports? What about college? Am I qualified to do this?” And then, what comes to my mind is the fifth is just a myriad of excuses why they don’t want to. That’s probably not an answer, but that’s what came to my mind because sometimes you realize at the end of the day, these objections are actually not real objections. I wrote an article one time and I called it The Dog Ate My Lesson Planner, because it’s like eventually you kind of realize that some people just don’t want to, and, fair enough, you don’t want to, you don’t want to.
And, people who don’t want to won’t, but my view is: if you really want to, you may not be able to get where you want to go in one easy step. You may not be able to get from point A, where you are now, to point B, where you want to be financially and your situation and work-related issues and all of that, but, I believe if it’s your desire that you want to disciple your own children at home, God will make a path for you, and you give it time and you give it prayer and develop a strategy, develop a game plan, and I believe God will allow you to realize that, because I think it really is his heart for parents to take responsibility for teaching and leading and disciplining their own children.
So, if you want to do it, I believe there’s a path. That’s why you’re doing this video. That’s why I’m doing this book because we believe you can and we just want to help remove the barriers. People that don’t want to, at the end of the day, it’s just, “Well, then, don’t,” right? It’s kind of as simple as that. So, sometimes, I think we just kind of have to be honest. I remember reading a survey that was done by a major Christian organization and they asked a question, “If you didn’t have to pay for it, would you give your child a Christian education,” and 77% of the respondents said, “Yes, I would homeschool or put my children in a Christian school if I didn’t have to pay for it with my own money.” And so, to me, that really kind of shows a big priority issue with a lot of people that that’s really the hiccup for them. They don’t actually believe the public school system is the best thing for their child. They don’t want to foot the bill for it or feel they can’t right now, and so I think that’s a huge issue, is the money.
Yvette: Yeah, and I think so many of these things really point back to misconceptions. People, they have misconceptions about what homeschooling is and what it’s going to look like for their family. I know we were in that same boat where we thought all the same silly things. “Our kids aren’t going to be socialized and they’re going to be weird and they’re not going to have a good education and they’re not going to get into college and they’re not going to be able to go to prom and go to football games,” or whatever it is that society has told us are the important things. And, as we have come into homeschooling, of course, you know, the Lord has completely changed our hearts about it and I’m so thankful for that.
But, again, like you said, part of the reason why we’re filming Schoolhouse Rocked is because we want to debunk all of those misconceptions and negative stereotypes that people have, and, surprisingly enough, we have had so much fun. One of my favorite parts of filming has been doing street interviews and just walking up to random people on the street and just saying, “Hey, can we ask you some questions and interview you about education?” Some people are like, “Oh, no, we’ve got lunch plans in two minutes,” and they’ll walk away and then other people are like, “Sure,” and we thought, going out, that more people would say, “Well, homeschooled kids are socially awkward and they’re not well-educated and they’re this and they’re that,” and we’re not finding that. It has been so fascinating.
We, I think, have only had a couple people say that, but, overall, I think our society is starting to shift for sure and say, “No, homeschooling …” we’re seeing it. We’re seeing that homeschooling is a good thing, and most people are saying, “Well, I’ve got a cousin who homeschools or a niece who homeschools or something like that, and, you know, their kids aren’t weird and their kids are really smart,” and so, people, I think their eyes are being opened to answering these questions without them even realizing it.
Israel: It takes a while. Yeah, I posted on Facebook a while back, “1982: ‘Don’t tell anyone you don’t go to school.’ -My grandmother. 2012, 30 years later: ‘Everyone should homeschool.’ -My grandmother.”
Yvette: Yeah, oh, that’s awesome.
Israel: It just takes time because people have biases, and sometimes they just have to see that the myths are really that; they’re just myths.
You know, I think that nine times out of ten, the best rule in parenting is: go with your gut. You almost never regret it. When you have a strong sense, an inkling that something’s not right or that something needs to be changed or that you need to be doing something with your child, we usually talk ourselves out of doing the thing that we know we ought to do.
Yvette: Exactly, that that is all that they are, and we’re desperately hoping to be able to show that homeschooling is not what people think that it is. And, so many people are at a loss right now as to what to do with their kids with school. They can’t afford private school or don’t want their kids to go to private school, and they’re not so sure anymore about public school because, “Is there going to be a lockdown? Is my kid going to be safe? What are they being taught in the classroom?” And so, I think a lot of people are coming into homeschooling scared. Talk to those parents who are coming in and they’re hesitant, but they feel like, “I know I’m supposed to do this, and I’m in. I’m buying into this, but I’m really, really scared.” What do you say to those parents?
Israel: You know, I think that nine times out of ten, the best rule in parenting is: go with your gut. You almost never regret it. When you have a strong sense, an inkling that something’s not right or that something needs to be changed or that you need to be doing something with your child, we usually talk ourselves out of doing the thing that we know we ought to do. That’s just a bad idea and we allow other people to talk us out of what we know is the right thing to do for our child. Nobody knows your child better than you do. No one loves your child better than you do? God didn’t give your child to somebody else. God gave your child to you. He gave that child to you because he believes that you, more and better than anyone else in the entire universe, are qualified and capable to make the decisions that are best for their future.
You have to trust that. Do you believe God makes mistakes? Do you think God is inept and incompetent and incapable and that’s why he gave that child to you? No, that’s not true. God doesn’t make mistakes. God gave that child to you because he believes you are the best person in the universe to make the right decisions for that child, so do it. Make the right decisions for that child and never apologize to anyone for being a good parent. And so, I just say: when you feel that pit in your stomach that just says, “I just don’t feel like this is right. I don’t think this is good. I don’t think we’re doing the right thing by our child here,” you need to listen to that because, a lot of times, that’s the leading of the holy spirit.
Yvette: Yeah, oh, absolutely, absolutely. I want to talk a little bit with you about your role as dad and leader of your home. You mentioned this briefly a few minutes ago, too, about leading your home spiritually. What does that look like in your home? I’m hoping that dads are listening to this, too, but I know it will mostly be moms, probably, but, how can you encourage dads to take that role? Because, with homeschooling, typically, it’s mom who does the educating part. Though, you know, homeschooling is life. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not just, “it down at a desk from 8:00 to 2:00 and do your worksheets,” but … okay, let me ask this a couple different ways. One, how can a dad encourage and support his wife and his kids through homeschooling? And then, my second question is: how can a dad lead his family well spiritually?
Israel: Great questions. I have a chapter in the New Answers For Homeschooling book specifically for dads where I address: what’s a dad to do? What’s the dad’s role in all this? And, the metaphor that I use with a lot of men just because I know it connects with them or they’ll at least understand the concept, is I say, “Suppose that you are a general contractor in construction and a homeowner hires you to build a house for them and you are supposed to oversee every facet of this construction project and you’ve been given this responsibility. You may subcontract out pieces and parts of that so that you have a drywall guy, an electrician, a plumber. You may not actually be physically doing all of the labor. You may do some of it, but you might not do all of the physical labor on the project. But, if something goes wrong in that process, you have to be aware of it. You have to be involved on a daily basis so that your workers have the tools that they need; they’re equipped to be able to do the job right so that … they’re provided for adequately to be able to accomplish what you’ve given them to do. But, ultimately, the responsibility is with you. If there’s a problem with the house, the homeowner’s not going to talk to the plumbing guy or the electrician? They’re going to come talk to you because you’re the general contractor.”
And so, we look in scripture. We see in Ephesians 6:4 … out of many, many passages that I could pick, I’ll just grab that one where Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” And, in the Greek, that word admonition is the Greek word paideia. And, it’s interesting: if you look that up in, say, Encyclopedia Britannica and you look at the description that’s given there, in the Greek culture that Paul was writing to, that word was so pervasive, it was so universal that every single academic subject or discipline that could be taught was contained in the word paideia.
So, Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, says: gymnastics, history, literature, logic, philosophy, all of the subjects, all of the academic disciplines; they’re all contained within the word paideia, and so Paul says something super powerful there. He says, “Fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath, but train them up in the paideia of the Lord,” not the paideia of the world, but the paideia of the Lord. And so, what does that look like? Now, the Greeks, they knew what the paideia of the world looked like. They had the Socratic schools and they had that whole pagan academic educational institution system. They knew what that looked like, but what was the paideia of the Lord? That’s what Paul was calling fathers to be responsible for, and it literally is fathers, there.
And so, it’s interesting that, unfortunately, in our Christian evangelical subculture, men have been more or less convinced, somehow … and, it’s been at least allowed within the church culture, this notion that as long as you go to work and you bring home a paycheck, that’s all you have to do. It’s your wife’s job to raise the children, discipline the children, feed the children, educate the children. Well, usually, it’s the government’s job to educate the children. It’s your wife’s job to raise the children. Scripture just doesn’t say that. It’s not what scripture says.
So, being a dad who has, at times … like I said, for 20 years, I had a day job, and so I would go to work and come home and so I was like all these other dads where I didn’t have the ability to be as involved on the academic day-in-day-out side of things as I would have wanted. I looked at it as: my job is that general contractor role where I have to know what’s going on in the family. I have to know my children by heart. I have to know where their weak points are, where their strengths are. I have to be able to identify when one of them is not doing well spiritually, when one of them is failing academically in some way. I need to have those conversations with my wife because she’s on the frontline, right? So, she sees … every day and have those conversations; “How are the kids doing? How are you doing? What do you need?”
And, another thing … again, I don’t know if any guys are going to listen to this, but, wives, make sure your husband hears this and play it back for him and make him think it’s his idea, but, guys, seriously, we spend money on what’s important to us, and I know guys that spend money on boats and on guns and their hobbies and golf or whatever it is that they do that’s important to them, video games, whatever, and yet, when their wife wants to get curriculum to teach their children, they get all put out of sorts about it and they’re like, “Well, we don’t have the budget for that.” Are you kidding me? Are you serious? You don’t have the budget for that? Better find a way to make the budget for that because these are your children. These are eternal souls that are in your home that God has given to you, and I just would say to the men, “You will never ever regret any money that you put into helping your wife become more effective as a woman of God, more effective as a mom, more effective as a wife,” even if that’s time away for her to just regroup or whatever.
You will never regret money that you invest in your wife and that you invest in your kids. Your boat, your hobbies, that sport scar, whatever, those things are going to rust, but these eternal souls and these relationships we have that are … hopefully these children are going to embrace our faith and are going to follow us into eternity. These are not something you want to go cheap on, and so I just would say any money you put in that direction is money well spent. Go to the homeschool conferences with your wife and support her. Go together. Talk about these things. Have date nights that are strategy planning sessions, and, as much as you can, teach the subjects yourself if they’re subjects that you like, that you’re good at. Whether it’s history or math or whatever, be involved as well on the academic side. And, just quickly … I went on a soapbox with that.
Yvette: Yeah, no, I love it.
Israel: But, I read an article where they asked kids in public schools, “What’s the most important academic subject that you could learn?” And, I was surprised to find that of all these thousands of students across America that they polled, every single student gave the same exact answer which academic subject was most important. You know what it is?
Yvette: What was it? Not a clue.
Israel: I wouldn’t have a clue, either, but it was in Scientific American or some magazine, Popular Mechanics, something like that. Turns out that it’s whatever subject Dad helps them with in homework.
Israel: Because, apparently, kids realize Dad has limited time, and so, if Dad is taking his precious time to help me with math, then math must be the most important thing. Or, if he’s helping me with science, then science must be the most important subject. Kids just automatically made that connection. So, one of the things that I think is super important — you asked about the spiritual side — that I do as a dad, the two most important things I do as a dad is homeschooling my children, and then secondly — you mentioned this about Garritt — doing daily Bible time with my children. I lead them through the scripture verse by verse all the way through the Bible, and I’ve done that since they were born. And, that wasn’t something I grew up with.
Yvette: Yeah, it wasn’t something I grew up with, either.
Israel: It wasn’t something I had modeled for me, but it’s the most important thing that I do apart from homeschooling, and I would strongly encourage: dads, if you haven’t done that, to make that a priority. And, there’s not necessarily a right way. You don’t have to do it like I do it. You don’t have to do it like Garritt does it. You can do you. You do you. If you just-
Yvette: Right, right. Yeah, and I think some dads feel like, “Well, I’m not a pastor. I’m not a church leader. I don’t know enough about the Bible.” Simply open it up and read. If you can read, then you can lead your family spiritually, and it is such a sweet time. I love that time with our family and it’s all our girls know. If we come to … we usually do ours in the morning time, but sometimes, you know, if we have to be somewhere early and we don’t get it done before bed, our girls will say, “We haven’t done family Bible time yet,” because it’s almost … you feel like you haven’t put on your seatbelt when you get in the car like you’re just missing something, and, you know, it’s just so, so, important.
And, I think, also, our kids seeing us spending time in God’s word is so incredibly powerful. A lot of husbands don’t take that step of leading their family spiritually, and that’s where I would tell the moms, “Pray, just pray, and ask that the Lord would convict them of that, and that doesn’t mean that their husbands don’t love the Lord, but, you know, pray that God would give them that conviction of leading their family spiritually, but, for the moms, too, goodness gracious, especially if your husband is not leading your family in family devotions each day, let your kids watch you, and not to do it like the Pharisees and have it be a show, you know, “Look at me reading my Bible, kids,” but, let them see you in the word of God. Let them see you on your knees praying. Let them see you digging in and trying to learn because like Heidi St. John says all the time, “You can’t give your kids what you don’t have. You can’t teach them what you don’t know.”
If we don’t know the word of God, we can’t teach it to our kids, but, you know, we can take the time to learn it on our own. So, wow: so much good stuff. You are so encouraging. I feel like I could talk with you for hours and hours and I’m so encouraged by what God is doing through you and through your ministry and through your family. I appreciate that you take your time to go and talk at homeschool conventions. Conventions were huge for us, for Garritt and I when we first started thinking about homeschooling. And, the reason that we decided to homeschool was because we really didn’t have a choice. We’re from Los Angeles County. The schools in our area were terrible and we thought, “Well, we don’t have any other options so I guess we’ll homeschool even though we said we would never ever, ever homeschool,” and, when we decided … and, we started talking about it. We had some friends invite us to CHEA, which is the California homeschool convention, and so we went there our first year, and, literally, in one weekend, our hearts were turned around and God just opened our yes up and we said, “Homeschooling is not what we thought it was, first of all. And, second of all, this is going to be amazing and it’s going to be hard at times, but it’s going to be the best thing for our family.”
And we’re so thankful for speakers like you. God has given you that platform to go out and to encourage families face-to-face and through books and through your ministry and your podcast and your Facebook page and all of that, so thank you for all that you do. Thank you, Israel, so much, for your time and for your ministry and just for how you’ve blessed our family and how you continue to bless others. And, thank you for being part of Schoolhouse Rocked. We are super excited to have you as part of the cast, very exciting.
Israel: Well, I’m excited about it, as well, and thank you guys for what you do. I believe God’s going to do big things for this film.
“In fact, my mother-in-law had asked me, a couple years before I even had kids, if I’d ever consider homeschooling, and I said absolutely not. And it wasn’t anything against homeschooling, I just thought I had the perfect gig as a mom, that my kids could come to school with me, we’d have the same vacation time, I’d be able to spend quality time at school with them. So on paper, everything looked like I would continue teaching and everything would be great. But God’s plans are so much different than our plans, and he began to just slowly sprinkle that idea in my thoughts that homeschooling might be a good path for us.”
Jamie is a Christian mother to five blissfully abnormal kids, and wife to her formerly homeschooled husband, Dain. She is a former school teacher who can now be found encouraging and equipping a growing tribe of mothers all across the globe on theMom to Mom Podcastand through her blog,The Unlikely Homeschool. She speaks at national conferences. And in addition to writing and speaking, she loves talking faith and family over a cup of coffee, and hanging out with her family.
Yvette Hampton: I am excited to have a return guest with me today. Jamie Erickson was on the 11thepisode of the Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast, and we had such a great response to her episode, she was so encouraging. It’s one of the most listened to episodes that we’ve ever done, and so I’m excited to have her back, talking about her new book that she just released, and a new podcast that she is doing with a couple of other mamas.
Jamie Erickson: Thank you for having me back.
Yvette: Yes. I am so glad to have you back. You are a homeschool mama who loves to encourage homeschool moms. It is one of the big passions that God has put on your heart and you do it well, so I am thrilled to have you again.
Jamie: Thank you.
Yvette: I want to talk about two things. I want to talk about your new podcast that you recently launched and about your new book that was just released. But let’s talk about the podcast first really quickly, because I really want to spend most of the time talking about your new book. So tell us about your podcast.
Jamie: Okay. It’s called the Mom to MomPodcastand I cohost it with Kate Battistelli, and September McCarthy. Kateis the author of Growing Great Kids-Partner with God to Cultivate His Purpose in Your Child’s Life and the The God Dare. She’s been married for 35 years and is mom to GRAMMY award-winning artist Francesca Battistelli and Mimi to her four children. September McCarthy is a mother of 10 and a homeschooling mom. We’ve all homeschooled at various places on the journey. And what I love about our podcast, and kind of why I initially wanted to take on a project, is we’re three moms, three different stages and seasons of motherhood, and we’ve really seen the gamut of motherhood, because Kate and September have grandchildren, and we’re all in different places. And we don’t always agree on everything, but we have the common thread of Jesus weaving all of our words together, and so we have the same goal, to see our children come to know the Lord and love him. And so it’s a really gospel-centered podcast that hopefully encourages moms in every place. It’s really a podcast, at least I hope, for every mom for every season.
Yvette: Yeah. So it’s not just about homeschooling, though you guys talk a little bit about homeschooling on there.
Jamie: A little bit, but it’s really just for any mom, we don’t necessarily focus on homeschooling. Obviously we all homeschooled, or homeschool currently, but we recognize that not every mom is called to that and not every listener will be a homeschool mom. So it’s really, hopefully, for every mom.
Yvette: Yeah, it’s excellent. I’ve listened to it a few times and it has definitely become one of my favorite podcasts to listen to. So thank you for doing that. I love listening to podcasts. Oftentimes, people will say, “When do you find time to do it?”, and I’m like, “I don’t have any more time than you have, trust me,” but that’s usually my, “when I’m in the shower and getting ready in the morning, putting on makeup or whatever”, I can get in a few minutes, 20 or 30 minutes. Sometimes it’s in spurts, but-
Jamie: Yeah. Well, and I love to read, but I don’t always have the time to sit down and read. A podcast is a really easy go-to, to listen to while I’m doing the dishes, folding laundry, and yeah.
Yvette: Yes. I’ve just really, for myself, jumped on the audio book bandwagon. We’ve done it with our girls for a really long time, but I’ve never really done audio books myself. And I found myself not reading as much, because like you said, I just don’t have time. By the time I fall into bed at night, I’m so tired, and I will pick up a book and try to read it, and then I’m closing my eyes, and before I know it I’m asleep and I’ve read maybe a page. But I can do audio books, and I love that. Those keep me a little bit more alert, and so I am enjoying audio books a little bit more. And I can play them on a little bit faster speed, so-
Jamie: Yeah. Oh, that’s nice. Yeah. I think it’s always good for moms to pour into themselves, because you can’t pour out from an empty cup, so if you’re in-taking some great information or even just reading to expand your own horizons, anything that you do that sort of maybe only looks like is adding to you really adds to your whole family, because you come ready to teach and to share, and you have a wealth of knowledge to bring to the table.
Yvette: Yes. And I feel like there’s such a good balance between that, that we have to find as moms, because we don’t want it to be all about me, me, me, and how can I serve myself, and how can I make myself happy. We’re serving our families, but at the same time, like you said, if our cup is empty, I mean, we then have very little to give, and so we need to make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves as well. Not in a selfish or idolatrous ways, but so that we have more to give to our families, that we’re resting and exercising and doing the things that we need to do so that we can care well for our families. So, yes. Well, okay, so that’s the podcast, the Mom to Mom Podcast, and that can be found on iTunes, Spotify-
Jamie: iTunes, Spotify, you could go to momtomompodcast.comand go directly to there, or we’re also on Instagram.
Yvette: Great. We’ll put links to that. Let’s talk about your new book though. I am super excited about this book and I actually love the title of the book. That was the first thing that really captured me. It’s called Homeschool Bravely: How to Squash Doubt, Trust God, and Teach Your Child with Confidence. But I love the Homeschool Bravely part of it, because so many moms … We’ve spent the last two and a half years filming for Schoolhouse Rocked, and the number one thing that we hear from every single mom, it does not matter who the mom is, everything that we hear is mom doesn’t feel like she is adequate enough to home educate her children.
There has only been one mom, in all of our interviews, who said, “Yep. I totally felt like I was capable of doing this,” and she has her doctorate in education, and she did her dissertation on homeschooling, and so I would say, yes, she has every right to say that she felt like she was totally equipped to teach her kids. But for the most part, most of us do not feel like we are capable of doing that. And the reality is, we’re really not. That’s why we need the Lord to help us through this. But we also need to just take that step of bravery and just say, “You know what? This is what we feel is best for our kids, and so we’re just going to take this leap of faith, and we’re going to do it.” Talk a little bit about why you decided to write … Well, first, talk about why you chose to homeschool, yourself, and then talk about what led to writing the book.
Jamie: Well, I was a teacher for several years, even before having kids, and my husband, like you had mentioned, was homeschooled. And homeschooling was never in my radar. In fact, my mother-in-law had asked me, a couple years before I even had kids, if I’d ever consider homeschooling, and I said absolutely not. And it wasn’t anything against homeschooling, I just thought I had the perfect gig as a mom, that my kids could come to school with me, we’d have the same vacation time, I’d be able to spend quality time at school with them. So on paper, everything looked like I would continue teaching and everything would be great. But God’s plans are so much different than our plans, and he began to just slowly sprinkle that idea in my thoughts that homeschooling might be a good path for us.
“When I had my first daughter, I just honestly couldn’t envision myself handing her off to somebody for six to eight hours a day. Not that I didn’t trust anybody else, it’s just that I loved her so much and I didn’t want to miss out on those moments with her.”
And part of that, I would say that the real catalyst for that was that … It was kind of twofold. One, when I had my first daughter, I just honestly couldn’t envision myself handing her off to somebody for six to eight hours a day. Not that I didn’t trust anybody else, it’s just that I loved her so much and I didn’t want to miss out on those moments with her. Even when she was really little and she wasn’t even … school was just a few years down the road, and we weren’t even close to sending her off yet, I still had those painful thoughts of, “What am I going to do when she has to go to school?” So that was part of it. And I also think that, if I’m being really honest, part of my reason to want to homeschool was that, as a teacher, I had seen sort of the underbelly of what it was like for kids in school, and I think teaching sort of ruined me for anything but homeschooling.
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Yvette: So then, was it hard for you, since you’d been in the classroom … In the classroom, whether it’s public school or private school, you have to kind of fit kids into a box, you’re forced to, there’s no other way to do it when you’ve got a classroom full of anywhere from 20 to 30 kids, or more. Was it hard for you, when you started homeschooling, to break out of that?
“Actually, because I do have a teaching degree, I can say that I came to homeschooling with sort of a burden on my back. I had all of these preconceived notions about what schooling was supposed to be, because I had been trained to teach the masses.”
Jamie: Yeah. I often hear from moms, in fact, I just wrote an article about this, about how helpful, or actually unhelpful, my teaching degree was when it came to homeschooling, because I think moms without that teaching degree, moms without that doctorate and dissertation, feel lesser than and feel like they are ill-equipped, but actually, because I do have a teaching degree, I can say that I came to homeschooling with sort of a burden on my back. I had all of these preconceived notions about what schooling was supposed to be, because I had been trained to teach the masses, and that looks so much differently, and has to. I mean, even the best of teachers, they have to maintain order and they have to teach sort of with this herd mentality. And when you bring that, you take that square peg and try to fit it in this round hole of homeschooling, it just doesn’t fit. And it really was a burden more than it was a blessing, for the first few years of homeschooling. And then I found my groove, and realized I could cast off the chains of the old guard down the street and do it my way. But right away, I think my degree wasn’t helpful.
Yvette: Yeah. But loving your children a whole lot was. So was there-
Jamie: Absolutely. And knowing them well helped a lot.
Yvette: Yeah. Right. So much. So you said, obviously, you loved her, you wanted to spend time with her, you wanted to be with her. Do you remember that kind of aha moment, of like, “Oh yeah. I actually do want to homeschool. I said I never would, but I think this is really a good idea”? Do you remember that moment or was it more of a process of time?
Jamie: I think it was a process for me, that God slowly started to show me, I’ve been teaching her all along, and that doesn’t have to necessarily stop just because she meets this magical age that the school district determines she has to then be taught by someone else. Who was it that taught her to walk, that taught her to talk, all … If you look at, statistically, child growth and development, 90% of what a person learns, they learn by the time they’re five. So in those first five formative years, I had already taught her 90% of what she needed to know. Why did I need to pass it off to somebody else?
Yvette: Yeah. I’m with you.
Jamie: But it was a process for me, I guess.
Yvette: Sure. Yeah. And I think it was for me too, a little bit. We’d said we’d never homeschool, and then I think it was kind of like you, at that moment when I held this baby in my arms, I had waited 11 years to be a mom, and I was like, “I really like her. I really genuinely like her, and I love spending time with her, I love being with her. I love watching her grow. I love getting to experience all her first things, her first steps, and her first word, and just the things that you would miss.” And the same with school, I love getting to watch her just figure out what her life is meant to be and how God designed her. And so it’s really exciting to be that mom who gets to come alongside of our kids and experience … I think it’s Israel Wayne, he talks about that kids are in school, if they go to school from kindergarten through 12th grade, it’s like 10,800 hours, somewhere around there. 10,800 hours-
Jamie: That you miss out and-
Yvette: I mean, think about that. That is a long time to miss out on your child’s life. And then, of course-
Jamie: And what-
Yvette: … they grow up, and move out of your house, and …
Jamie: Yeah. What you get on the back end of that, when they do come home at the end of that long day, is really the leftovers. You get the extras that are left over. They’re just tired and they don’t really have much else to give. I didn’t want the leftovers.
Yvette: Yeah. Yeah. Well, okay, so I’m sitting here recording with you and this is really funny, I emailed you last night and I said, “I haven’t gotten my copy of the book yet,” and so you sent me a little bit more information on it, because I’d been waiting for it to come, and my husband literally just walked in as we’re recording and he handed me my new copy of your new book.
Jamie: Here it is.
Yvette: So here it is, you guys. This is so exciting. So I’ve literally not even opened it. He just wants to-
Jamie: Does it have the new book smell?
Yvette: It does. I love the smell of books. I love the smell of libraries. They smell so good. They have a certain smell. And it doesn’t matter what library you go to, anywhere in the country, they all smell the same, California to Georgia.
Jamie: If only we could bottle that smell and wear it as a scent.
Yvette: Right? Yes. Maybe we can make candles and market those to homeschool moms, right?
Jamie: Yeah. That’s an idea.
Yvette: Homeschool Bravelyis your new book. Walk us through it a little bit. Tell us about some of the chapters that you’ve got in it. I mean, I’m looking at it right here, but walk us through the book a little bit.
Jamie: Okay. Well, it’s divided into three different parts. The first part really touches on the fears that homeschooling moms struggle with, because I think there’s some really prevalent universal fears. As moms, we naturally kind of have this lifelong relationship with self-doubt, all moms, I think. But then you go ahead and you add on the weight of your child’s education, and that’s a whole different ball game. That’s a whole mess bag of additional fears that you carry, because now the burden of proof is on you, for those 12 years of schooling. So the first part talks about fears.
And the second part is really referencing some of the struggles that we have as homeschool moms. I think there’s some key ones, when you’re trying to homeschool, when you have lots of little ones under foot, and trying to live in the tension of being mom, but also being teacher. There’s the struggle of teaching a struggling learner, or somebody who just regular academics doesn’t come easy or click with. Then there’s the struggle of teaching sort of that child, one of those wild ones that doesn’t want to color within the lines, and who always has the crossed arms. What do you do on the days where all you see is just chins raised in the air, and defiance, and, “I don’t want to do this”? So hopefully I speak to that in that particular section. And then just the struggle of the crazy chaotic days of just combining home and school. Even if you don’t have a struggling learner or you don’t have toddlers, anytime you try to mesh together a bunch of imperfect people in the world, you’re going to have struggles, because Jesus told you would, in this world you will have struggles.
So that’s the second part of the book. And then the last part is the solutions. Where do we go when we need bravery and it’s just not coming? What is the source, the hope that we have? Where do we look to, to squash all those fears?
Yvette: Yeah. I love the solutions. We always need those. I mean, we can work through all of the problems, and talk about them, and be frustrated about them, and even pray about them, but it’s so great to have actual solutions. And in reality, God’s going to give us what we need. But I love that in this book you offer actual practical ways to deal with those things.
Jamie: Yeah. Hopefully there’s lots of take-aways. And it’s not a homeschooling how-to book, because I think there’s plenty of those on the market. Some really great women have already written them and have done a much better job than I could. But there’s plenty of practical tips and take-aways, I hope, within the pages.
Yvette: Yeah. So why this book? What made you want to write this book? Because there are, as you mentioned, there’s a lot of different homeschool books out there, many really excellent ones. And I’m sure this is definitely in line with all of those. So with all of those out there, what made you want to write this?
Jamie: I think this is a little bit of a different book in that it’s not a homeschool how-to book. So a mom who’s been homeschooling for 20 years could hopefully pick up this book and really glean some truth from it, as well as the mom who’s just starting out, because it really speaks to the pain points that we have and the fear that we have. It’s a book of encouragement that really sets your gaze back on your very source of bravery, and that’s God. And so the reason I wrote this book is because there are lots of homeschooling how-to books out there to sort of give you marching orders, and your 12-step programs, and your checklists, and those are very helpful, but at the end of the day, you can’t tack a pretty system onto soul work. And so I hope that my book really helps a mom sort of quiet the voices of not good enough.
Yvette: In the book, I know one of the things that you mentioned is about how one third of all new homeschool moms quit after the first year. Why do you think this is?
Jamie: That’s a staggering number, isn’t it?
Yvette: It is.
Jamie: That’s 33%-
Yvette: Yeah. That’s huge.
Jamie: … of mothers who start end up quitting. I think there’s a couple of different reasons. I don’t think you can peg it on any one thing, but I think some of the biggest contributing factors are, one, homeschooling can be a very lonely road, and very isolating if you do not surround yourself with a community of other moms sort of circling the wagons and showing you the way. But I realize that there are a lot of moms who are in very isolating communities. And what do you do with that? I mean, you can’t just go dig up friends that aren’t there. So I think isolation is one of the factors. I-
Yvette: So really quickly, on that point, do you talk about, in the solutions part, how to go about finding community?
Jamie: Absolutely. There’s a whole chapter about it, and also how to sort of speak to the naysayers, because I think that’s another reason that a lot of homeschool moms, maybe not the reason they give up, but definitely something that adds to their fears and leads them to giving up, is the naysayers. We talk about how to answer the naysayers, because anytime you choose a different path, homeschooling or otherwise, there are always going to be people, other folks, shouting from the curb, telling you you’re doing it wrong, while you’re actually down in the trenches doing the work. So you have to be able to have some real practical, tangible things, hold them in your hand to know, “When those naysayers come, how am I going to respond? And actually, as a Christian, what is the biblical response when people question your decision to home school?”
I think those are a couple of the reasons. I also think that the fear, the fear of the unknown, you don’t always see the immediate fruit. This is a life work, just like motherhood is, and you’re not going to see the fruit of it tomorrow. In fact, sorry to say, you might not see the fruit of it for years and years and years to come. And we’re such a quick-fix society, that if we don’t see the fruit tomorrow, or by the end of that first school year, we want to give up, because we think we failed, we think we did something wrong. Our life doesn’t look like the curriculum catalog cover, with the smiling children and the mom who doesn’t have any gray hairs. So I think we sit in the weight of this failure-centric thought or mentality. And if there’s nobody to come alongside us, and to cheer us on, and to help us carry that banner, then it’s easy to give up.
Yvette: Yeah. It is. I can say that there have been many times, not where I’ve wanted to give up on homeschooling, but where that fear sets in, and like you said, because oftentimes, we can’t see the results right in front of us. And so my oldest is in seventh grade this year, and I’m like, “Oh, she’s getting ready to go into high school, and I hope we’re doing okay, hope we’re filling in all the blanks.” And it is a little bit terrifying. We were in Nashville recently, at the Teach Them Diligently convention, and I was talking to Rhea Perry. She is a former homeschool mom. She’s a grandma now, but she has a home business company, and she’s fantastic. And she just sat down with me and she said, “How’s homeschooling going?”, and I didn’t break down, but I just was like, “Oh, Rhea, I don’t even know how to answer that.” I said, “I just feel like we’re not always doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Now, understand, we’ve been recording … or filming for this movie for two and a half years, and I have had multiple moms sit in front of me and say, “Just take it easy. Take a breath. Let God have control of this. Allow him to fill in all of the gaps, and your kids are going to be fine. You do what God’s called you to do, and your kids are going to turn out fine.” And I still have that anxiety of like, “Oh, I hope I’m not messing it up. I hope I’m doing all right.” And she just sat me down and she said, “You’re doing a great job.” She said, “God has you guys exactly where he wants you to be. He is going to fill in all the gaps. It’s going to be great. Your kids are going to be so much better off for having been homeschooled,” and it was just great. I needed an older mom to come alongside of me and just remind me once again, because I feel like I need to be reminded of that over and over and over and over again.
Jamie: Well, and I think that’s the enemy’s biggest trick when it comes to homeschooling moms, is to, one, make us think that we even can do it in and of our own strength, like God will only give us what we can handle. But that’s just not true. Of course, he’s going to give us some things that we can’t handle. Otherwise, if we could handle it, what would be the need of Jesus? So he wants us to first think we can get it all done, if we just pull up our big girl pants, we can do it. And then when we don’t, when at the first little tripping or stumbling, we feel like a failure, we’re face down in the muck, and we want to throw in the towel, that’s all a part of his scheme.
Yvette: It really is. It really is. So, and going back to community, that’s so much part of why we need community, because we need other moms to come alongside of us, and we need to encourage one another, because there might be a day where I’m feeling really low, and discouraged, and frustrated, and I have a friend who’s like, “No. You’ve got this,” and then another day she may be feeling that way and I can come alongside of her and say, “No. You’ve got this. Let’s keep doing this. Let’s link arms and let’s do this together.” So community is so important.
We have a few more minutes left, so I want to talk about a few more things. Let’s talk about the feeling of being overwhelmed. I know I find myself here, oftentimes, I’m sure you do, I’m sure pretty much every mom does, where we feel like we’re trying to just juggle life, all of these things, being a wife, being a mom, being a teacher, and being a taxi driver, or being whatever it is that we’re doing with our families. Maybe oftentimes we’re involved with ministry, or we’re helping to lead a co-op, or there’s just so many things. How do you encourage that mom who is just dealing with feeling overwhelmed?
Jamie: Well, I guess I would say that, “Remember, anything worth doing is going to be hard. Think about marriage, parenting, any of the eternal things that have eternal value, they’re going to be difficult, and it’s going to require digging in and doing the hard work. Don’t be afraid by that and don’t be surprised by that.” I think it’s very easy for a homeschool mom to be overwhelmed. And I also think that no one else around you, but other homeschool moms, are going to truly understand right where you’re sitting, and will truly understand the overwhelm. It’s easy to look at a homeschool mom who’s at home all day and just think, “Well, she must sit around in her jammies eating bonbons. And if I need a babysitter, I’ll call that homeschool mom, because what else is she doing all day?” They just don’t understand.
I think it’s really important, like you said, with the community, to have other women who recognize, and see you, and see your struggles. And then I think, too, I find it very helpful … and this is a boots on the ground, practical tip that seems to work, at least for me, I find it very helpful to really set … I don’t want you to think of homeschooling as a job, but in some ways you kind of have to, you have to be able to say, “This fits in this timeframe of my day, and I’m not going to let it commandeer and strong-arm the whole day.”
We start homeschooling around 9:30, in theory, on good days, and then at 3 o’clock … I’m teaching five, so they’re not always doing school from 9:30 to 3:00, but I am, because I’m one person and there’s five of them. But at 3 o’clock, I have a hard and fast rule that I’m done, because then I need to go on and do other things. I work from home, so I’ve got to juggle that. Like you said, there’s ministry things that need to be done. And plus I’m also a wife and I want to love my husband well, and I want to love my children as a mother.
I think sometimes you just have to give homeschooling the right weight and importance in the day. And I think too often, especially at first, homeschool moms, because of just the weight of a child’s education, we give homeschooling way more control of our lives, and make it harder than it’s supposed to be, and make it bigger than it’s supposed to be. Yes, academics, education, absolutely important, but your life is worth more than a textbook, or the next test, or that next worksheet. So I think it’s really important to put homeschooling in the proper perspective.
Yvette: Yeah. Yes. I love that. Unfortunately, we are out of time for the podcast, but I would love to stay on with you and continue talking, because I want to talk about a few more things. I want to talk about moms who don’t feel called to homeschool, because some feel like they need to homeschool because maybe their child’s being bullied, or maybe they don’t feel comfortable with the public school but they can’t afford the private school, and they just feel like it’s their only option, but they don’t necessarily feel like God is prompting them to homeschool, so I want to talk to those moms.
I want to talk about community. We touched on this a little bit earlier, but I want to give some practical advice that you give in your book. But I want to, for those who have ordered the book and maybe they haven’t received it yet, talk about how they can go about finding community, because for those introverts it might not be as easy. And then I want to talk about the naysayers. We talked about that as well a little bit, but I want to give some practical advice on how people can respond to those naysayers in their lives.
Yvette: So we are going to close out the podcast right now, but for the backstage pass members we’re going to stay on, and they can listen to the rest of our conversation. For those of you who are not yet familiar with the backstage pass membership, Schoolhouse Rocked is a film that we are in production on right now, looking to release in summer of 2020, but we have a backstage pass membership site, and with the membership site we have a ton of resources on there, mostly videos. So a lot of them are the full length videos, video interviews of people that we’ve had in the movie, like Heidi St. John. Oh my goodness, there’s so many. I should have the list in front of me right now. Israel Wayne, Sam Sorbo, there’s a bunch of people that we’ve got, so we’ll have their full interviews on there. Many of them are already on there.
And then for our podcast, oftentimes like this, I just have more that I want to talk about, so we will continue the discussion and people can view that discussion on video on the backstage pass membership site. So if you’re not familiar, go to schoolhouserocked.com, click on backstage pass, and you can find out more about that. And it’s a great way to support what we’re doing with the podcast, and with the film, and all that we have going on with Schoolhouse Rocked, so we would love it if you would check that out. Jamie, tell us where people can find you.
Yvette: Okay. Great. We will link those in the show notes. And then, again, the name of your book is Homeschool Bravely: How to Squash Doubt, Trust God, and Teach Your Child with Confidence. And that is already out on Amazon,probably through your website, right, and you can pretty much find it anywhere.
“It is not our job to make sure our kids don’t get bored. Actually, boredom is the number one thing that breeds creativity. When you get rid of all that, and you send them outside in the rain, or the mud, and they have to find a stick, or a log, and they end up coming together and working as a team, and the worlds that my children create when they’re outside are absolutely incredible to me. And the stories that they live out when they’re out there, because you’ve taken everything away, and they have to use their creativity.”
Above all, Aby Rinella is a follower of Jesus, but she is also a lover of the outdoors. She writes and speaks on homeschooling, motherhood, parental rights, the culture war, and more, and she has a passion for encouraging and inspiring women to live the life they were designed to live.
Yvette Hampton: Aby’s first visit to the Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast to talk about “The Why of Homeschooling” has been, by far, one of the most popular episodes we’ve ever done. We have gotten such a great response from that episode, and letters that have come in from some listeners tell how God has worked through that episode and really encouraged their hearts as to why they are homeschooling, or why they are choosing to homeschool in the coming school year.
Today, we are going to be talking about something that we haven’t talked much about, A while back we had someone ask us to talk about the importance of outdoor play, and I thought, “this is the perfect one for Aby”, because the Rinellas are a huge outdoors kind of family.
Aby, tell us what that looks like for your family.
Aby Rinella: Well, my husband and I have three kids, in fifth grade, second grade, and soon to be kindergarten. We very outdoors oriented before we had kids. We loved to do anything and everything outdoors, and we happen to live in a mountain town. We loved to hike, backpack, fish and hunt, and that’s just kind of who we were and what we did.
So when we had kids, we really just didn’t believe that that part of our life needed to end. We believed that God had given us these kids, and we could work them into that. So from the day we first had our children, they have been out with us. You know, three days out of the hospital with one of my kids, we were out hunting with that child, and so it’s really been the way that my kids have been raised. But really, we spend, I would say, more time outdoors than anything else, and we have been taking our kids with us from the beginning and all throughout. It’s really important to our family, but more than that we really think it’s really beneficial to our kids as a whole.
Yvette: Yeah, you and I lead completely parallel lives in a lot of ways, and completely separate lives, in a lot of ways, and it’s so funny when I talk to you and we, you know, you talk about you guys being outside, because you live in Idaho, where it is stinking freezing cold. Now, I’m a southern California girl, and we’ve been in Georgia for a little while, but I’m in the part of the world where it’s hot. And even through the wintertime, it’s not unusual for us to wear shorts and a T-shirt, because it can still be hot. It gets cold too, but that’s unheard of in Idaho, you would… well, I don’t know, maybe you would wear shorts in the middle of winter. But typically, it’s really cold there.
And so, you, even through your homeschool time, you still find ways even in the snow and in the middle of winter, to get outside and experience just the beauty of God’s creation. And now we’re getting into summertime, and so people are finding different ways to spend time outside with their kids. How is summer break unique to homeschool families, and how can we make that fun for our kids?
Aby: I’ve given that a lot of thought. I think summer break is really unique to homeschool families, in that, with many families who send their kids to school all year, it takes them a while to acclimate to being home, and to being together. Those siblings haven’t been together a lot, and it takes mom a little bit of time to kind of get her footing when there’s kids under her feet all day, and that’s kind of new to them. Or kids come home in the summer, and they haven’t seen their toys in all year, they’ve been so busy, and so a lot of those kids are really content to sit inside and rediscover those things.
Homeschooling is unique in that we’ve been together all year, and we don’t need to re-acclimate when it’s break time. So summer break, I feel like, for everybody but especially for homeschoolers, is really an opportunity to get outside, do some of the things outside that we normally do together, because we’re still together, we’re still learning and growing all summer long. And I think summer’s also a great opportunity for those that historically don’t spend a lot of time outside, to get out. The weather’s a little nicer, it’s a little easier, honestly. So for homeschooling families, our kids don’t have the newness of being home in the summer, so it’s a great opportunity to really get out of the house and enjoy that time.
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Yvette: Yeah, it is. I’ve really had to work on that myself, with getting my kids outside, and being comfortable with it. When we were back in California several years ago, Brooklyn was pretty little, and we had bought a new house, and we had this beautiful backyard put in with a big playset, and grass and everything. But before that was put in, there was just dirt in the backyard. And she would go out there, and she would play for hours and hours in the dirt, and I really had a hard time with that, because I was not a kid who played in the dirt.
I wanted my hands always to be clean, I still am like that. I never gardened, or did anything, because I can’t stand the feeling of dirt on my hands. And so when she would do that, it would kind of freak me out, because I was like, “Her hands are dirty. I don’t know what to do with this!” And we had this backyard put in with the grass and everything. And I vividly remember, she was probably four years old when we had this done, and she went outside, and she looked at me, and she goes, “Mommy, where’s the dirt?”
And I was like, “We just spent all this money to make this beautiful, park-looking backyard, with a swing set, and grass.” And I thought it was the greatest thing ever, but she was disappointed, because she didn’t have dirt!
So she found a little area… I mean she did, of course, play in the grass and on the swing set, but she found this little area of our backyard where the grass didn’t grow very well, because it never really got sun, and that was her dirt area. And she would go out and she would find worms and enjoy the dirt. It took me quite a long time to actually get comfortable with her playing in the dirt.
Aby: Honestly for kids, I believe wholeheartedly… I mean, I know, Biblically, that’s how they’re designed. That’s how we’re created. We were created in the Garden, we were created… I mean, before sin crept in, the ideal setting for a human was outdoors in the Garden. We really didn’t even need shelter, because there were no storms, and all that we needed shelter from. So kids are, it’s in them, and the only way we get it out of them is by training it out of them, by pulling them inside, or giving them the perfect grass lawn. And then we kind of train that deep, that what’s inside of them, out of them, because there’s not a kid early on that doesn’t love to be outside and play.
And you know, we as a culture, we’re such a clean culture, we’re so, “Sanitize your hands,” but honestly the physical benefits of kids being in dirt, it’s shown scientifically to boost their immune systems, honestly. And it’s so good for them, and it breeds just so much creativity, too, like she was out there coming up with new games, right? And inventing things that were fun for her to do. So it’s in every kid, and it’s just our job as a parent to not train that out of them. And if you have older kids, you can get that back, because it’s in all of us, it just, we have to do it.
Yvette: So, what are some ways, practical ways, that you can do that? If you’re maybe a family who is not a big outdoorsy family, your kids don’t go play in the dirt, how can you encourage that in them? What are some things that you can do? Because I imagine, now my girls, they have kind of I think a balance of indoor play and outdoor play, but I’m always surprised at the things they can come up with when they’re outside. What are some practical ways that people can instill that in their kids, and help them to become creative? Though I know they don’t always need help being creative, but…
Aby: Right, they don’t. But we need to get them back to that state. I think the first thing a parent can do is just find the passion themselves. Like, eliminate… Like you said, it took you a while to get used to that. But I think one of the ways that parents can just fuel that in their kids, is themselves knowing how good it is for the kid. You know, in the last two decades, it’s unbelievable the changes that we’ve seen in kids. It’s now, the average child now spends 30 minutes a day with unstructured play outside, and seven hours a day… this statistic blows my mind every time I read it… in front of a screen.
It’s totally shifted in the last two decades, so we as parents need to un-train that in ourselves, and retrain what’s best for our kids, and just educate ourselves knowing that physically, outdoor play is so beneficial for our kids. It’s good for their health, it’s good for their mental health, there’s less depression and anxiety in kids that play outside. ADHD symptoms immediately drop when they’re outdoors, and that’s why after working in the public school a lot, kids are often on ADHD medications in the school to get them to be still. But parents take them off in the summer, and that’s because when they’re playing outside, it’s not just that they’re allowed to be free, but also it lowers those symptoms. Because it’s just a release for them to be out there, and they use their creativity, and they get fresh air, and vitamin D, and it’s just physically good for kids.
The academic benefits, also, when they study schools that have, like, environmental programs, or more recess, those kids are scoring higher on tests. They’re doing better in all across the board academically. So we as homeschool parents, we just have the freedom to do it anytime we want. We can, our kids can be outside any time they want, because it’s physically, emotionally and mentally good for our kids.
I think when parents get on board with that, then it’s going to be easier to facilitate ways of getting our kids out there. So I think that’s probably the first step, is knowing how good it is for our kids, and then how to actually do it, it really depends on where you live. I know not everybody lives like we do, not everybody’s going to go spend nine days in the back country with their kids. But it doesn’t have to be that, honestly, it can be a community garden, just having your hands in the dirt in a community garden.
Or if you have a child that loves to read, just send them outside to read. Find a stream, find a park, find somewhere outside and take them and do what they already love to do outside. So those are really good ways of just practically doing it. Go for walks, ride your bike, it really does come naturally once you start doing it, because you naturally feel better, and you see the benefits in your kids. So those are some practical ways, whether you’re living rurally, obviously if you live rurally it’s a lot easier, but there’s so many ways anywhere you live to be outside.
Yvette: Yeah, I think being intentional about it is a big thing for people. For moms especially, like myself, who it doesn’t come naturally to me. You know, my kids don’t… I mean they have very little screen time, but they also don’t go outside nearly as much as I think that they should be outside, and so it’s really, for myself, I have to be intentional about them going outside, and playing, and doing the things that they should be doing, and just being creative.
But one of the things that I find for myself, and this might sound really weird, to somebody like you. But one of the things I find for myself is that I become fearful of them getting ticks, or getting sunburned, or… There are all these fears, you know, that there’s going to be a snake outside, or something. And so I really have to check myself and just think, “Okay, God made the outdoors, it’s okay, and if something happens, well then we deal with it at the time.” But not living in fear all the time of something terrible happening to them. And I know that’s a strange fear.
Aby: For me, when I go to a place where it’s very congested with people, I feel that same fear that you fear. Like that, “Oh my goodness, people’s germs, and the disease,” and so I really believe that that kind of fear just comes from what you’re used to, what you’re familiar with. If you’re not familiar with the outdoors, but what an awesome opportunity then to go to the library and get books on what kind of organisms live where we live. What’s growing in our yard? What kind of animals? Let’s do a snake study, so that we can identify a rattlesnake versus a boa. Which animals live out there, and also, to really teach your kids that we do need to be aware. We live in an area where there are a lot of rattlesnakes, so my kids have identified rattlesnakes.
But to release that fear, and know, but also to speak to kind of probably more moms that are more like you, than me, it doesn’t have to be that you’re going out into the middle of nowhere. It can honestly just be that when your kid wants to do watercolor paints, you lay a blanket out in the yard, and let them watercolor out there, because they’re still getting the fresh air, they’re getting the sun. It doesn’t have to be extreme. We are probably more extreme than most, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The benefits of your kids being out, it doesn’t have to be extreme.
Go take them to a garden center, and pick out plants, and pots, and bring them home and let them plant. And even just that, there’s your biology. You’ve got so much you can learn in the outdoors as well, giving kids a hands-on approach rather than reading about it. So those are some ways that parents can work that into their kids’ lives.
Yvette: Yeah, even going out in the rain. You know, when I was a kid we didn’t go out in the rain. It’s so funny. My mom always thought, “Well if you go out in the rain, you’re going to catch a cold.” And we’ve since learned that that is not true. Not true. And so I remember years ago, we used to have an exchange student from China, she lived with us, this was about four years go. And she lived with us for the whole school year, and one day, she was at home with us one day, and it started raining, but it was summertime, and it was pretty unusual for it to rain in the middle of summer where we lived in California.
But this one day it started raining, and it was really warm outside, or it was maybe late spring, but it was really warm outside, and so it wasn’t freezing cold or anything. And the girls said, “Can we go outside and just play in the rain?” And I was like, my first instinct was, “Of course not, why would you do that? You stay inside when it rains.” And then I thought, “Why not? It’s not going to hurt them.” And so they went outside, and I mean they… It was pouring. It was a torrential downpour, and they got drenched, and they had, they still talk about that until this day.
And I remember our Chinese exchange student, she came outside, and she looked at them, she was like, “What are they doing?” I said, “They’re playing in the rain,” she said, “Oh, we would never do that in China. Our parents would never, ever, ever let us do something like that.” And so it’s a cultural thing, for people too, but it was just so fun. And they still, like you said, they still talk about that day where they go to go outside and just play in the rain, and get completely soaking wet. And it was just, it was a fun thing for them to do. And so often I have to ask myself, why not? Like, what’s wrong with them wanting to do this? Why can’t they do it?
Aby: Yep. Why do I feel the way that I feel about them going outside? Why do I fear the things I fear? Why can’t they go in the rain? And I think one of the most, one thing that I love about homeschooling so much is that because we’re not bound by anyone else’s schedule, we tend to school around the weather. Like if it’s a day that they want to go outside, then that’s when our spring break is. Then that’s when they go outside. And if it’s a day when… you know, it’s been raining here for 10 days, which is not super normal for us, but for the first few days they were outside playing in the rain, and they loved it, and they played… I mean, the creativity that comes out of a kid when you get rid of the craft closet, and you get rid of the iPads, and you get rid of all the things that we feel it’s our job to make sure our kids aren’t bored – It’s our job to make sure that our kids have structured play.
When you really look at that, and you say, “That was really never God’s design for a parent. It is not our job to make sure our kids don’t get bored.” Actually, boredom is the number one thing that breeds creativity. When you get rid of all that, and you send them outside in the rain, or the mud, and they have to find a stick, or a log, and they end up coming together and working as a team, and the worlds that my children create when they’re outside are absolutely incredible to me. And the stories that they live out when they’re out there, because you’ve taken everything away, and they have to use their creativity.
It’s so good for them. It’s so good for their minds, and their bodies, and honestly it really goes back, I mean everything we do, and everything we believe, we go back to the Bible and we say, “Well what does God say about this?” And over, and over, and over in scripture, it talks about our relationship with God’s creation. And even in Psalm 23, when it talks about, “I’ll lie down in green pastures, and he leads me beside still waters,” he uses the image of nature for peace. For peace, you know? And in so many places in scripture, and if we can link to these, but Job 12, and Romans one, and Genesis one, it just constantly talks about how we can see God’s character in nature.
How it tells that the birds rely on him, and the animals need nothing, because they’ve been provided with everything. And when you get your kids out there, and really see God’s creation, it shows you the character of their creator, and it shows you so much about who God is. And so, we have to shake what we’ve been trained, and realize this is who they were designed to be, this is how they were created to even relate to God through his creation. They were designed to relate to him through his creation. So we have to shake this new, our cultural idea that we need to provide all these activities for our kids, and provide all these things for our kids, and every moment of their day has to be filled. Because that’s really not what’s best for them.
Yvette: I think oftentimes, when we think about homeschooling, we think about the academic part of homeschooling, and them sitting. Like, I know in my mind, I think well, “Okay, when we do school, we’re going to sit down and do a math lesson, or read together, or spelling, or whatever.” But being outdoors is such an important part of their academic being and development as well. And so we need to, yeah, I mean there’s a reason why schools have recess, because kids need to get out, they need to play. And so I think as homeschool moms, giving ourselves permission that that is just as important as them sitting down and reading, or sitting down and doing math. They’ve got to be out moving.
And even the exercise that comes with it. I mean, you think about young kids, and they naturally run. They just do, everywhere they go, I don’t know why, but they just run. And they go outside, and the first thing they do is run. And Lacey will tell me all the time, she’s like, “Mom, I have to get outside. I’ve got to get my wiggles out.” She’ll tell me that, it’s so funny. And she just needs to move.
Aby: And they jump, and they climb, and it’s all a part of, and we’re constantly saying, you know, “Don’t jump on the furniture. Don’t climb on the table. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t.” And really, we have to stop and say, “This is how you’re designed.” And even developmentally, children, they need to be able to do that to develop their body, and their muscles, and their sense of equilibrium and their balance. All of that, even just walking, they’ve done studies on, kids need to walk on uneven ground for their own mental equilibrium. It helps their brains develop, and when they’re indoors all day, being told to be still, stop jumping, don’t run, don’t climb, it’s mentally not good for children. It stunts their development, honestly.
Yvette: Right, right. I recently started reading a book, we were in Franklin, Tennessee, back in March, staying with some sweet friends of ours, the White family. And they live on this farm, and this farm is amazing. They’ve got all kinds of animals, and they’ve got a fun tree house, and they kind of have this, a little bit of a wooded area, it’s so cute, the kids call it the deep, dark woods. And my kids have so much fun playing with their kids. And they’ll be out there for hours, and hours, and hours, building forts, climbing the trees, playing with the animals, gardening. I mean they do so many things, and it’s so good for them.
She recommended this book to me, I think it’s called Balanced and Barefoot, or Barefoot and Balanced, one or the other. I’ll link to it, actually, in the show notes, because I started reading it, and I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s such a good book. And it talks about exactly what you were talking about, how it’s just so very important for kids to be outside, and to have that outdoor play. And for their balance, and for their… I mean there are so many parts of a child’s development that plays into them being outdoors, and just expressing themselves physically, through active play, and not sitting, and being in front of a tablet, or in front of a screen.
So, let me ask you this question then, because obviously there are so many kids who they sit in front of the screen all day, they sit… Even kids who sit in front of a book all day, because I know there are a lot of homeschool kids who do that. They love to read, and praise God, that’s a great thing for them, there’s so much good literature out there that they can read. But they will literally just close themselves into this little bubble of their fantasy land book, and they won’t get out, and exercise, and play, and experience the outdoors.
So what do you do with that child who maybe mom says, and maybe it has not been a good practice for this family, but now mom’s listening to this, and she’s like, “Oh, okay, maybe my kids need to get outside more,” but her kids are so used to being indoors, and glued to a book, or glued to their tablets, or something. Talk to that mom who maybe is going to have that struggle, and that battle, with their kid, who their kid is going to say, “I don’t want to go outside. It’s hot,” or, “It’s humid,” or, “It’s cold,” or whatever. How can she fight that battle with them?
Aby: I would first say to her, get rid of the mom guilt. Most moms, their kids are indoors, in front of a screen, in front of something. So I would immediately say it’s not too late. It’s not too late, it doesn’t mean… You know, it’s easier when you start kids little, I mean to the new moms listening, it’s easier when you start them brand new outside, where that’s just their world. That will make your life easier. But it’s not too late. Teenagers need to be outside as much as little kids. Since we have been a generation that have brought teens in, and plugged them in, our depression rates have gone higher. Our bullying, violence, all these things, the rates of those things have gone up, as our outdoor time has gone down.
So, teens need to be outside. Adults need to be outside, just as much. I’d say to the mom whose kid is bucking it, it’s not really that different than when your kid bucks you to eat healthy, or when your kid bucks you for anything. You have to remember that you know what’s best for your kid, and you want to do what’s best for your kid. But some practical things are, I think what you’ll notice first is when they go outside, they’re going to grumble and complain, and grumble and complain. And this is boring, and this is hot, and it’s too cold, and there’s nothing to do.
And even my kids, who are, they live, eat and breathe outdoors, sometimes they’re like, “We’re bored.” And I always realize that if I said, “Okay, then come in, let’s do something else,” they have to work through the boredom, and then all of a sudden the creativity breaks loose. So let them be bored. Don’t get sucked into their grumbling and complaining. Let them be bored out there.
And you can give them things to do, too. For example, if you have a very techy kid, a kid that has been in front of a screen their whole lives, and now all of a sudden you want them outside, that is going to be a shock to their system. So I would say, for example, let’s take your phone outside, and let’s make videos outside. Or let’s take pictures, and then I want you to make a really cool slideshow, or video, or I don’t know, if your kid is on social media, do a whole Instagram story sequence of all the cool things that you found in nature, and make it appealing to them with what they already love to do.
So, you can take technology into the outdoors. I mean, we see it all the time now, where if you have a child that, like you said, “Just don’t get me out of a book, I mean, I want to read all day, don’t try to do this outdoors thing with me now, I’m 15 and I just want to be lost in my books,” then that’s okay. So take your book and go sit by a creek. It is just as beneficial to put your feet in a creek, sit on the dirt bank with the sun shining on you and reading your book. So you can take who your kids already are, and what they already have going on, and take that into the outdoors. It doesn’t, we’re not trying to recreate people into being this outdoors family, we’re trying to make the outdoors work for everybody. And it does, it will naturally.
I think one way to spark interest in younger kids, or even older kids, is through books. There are so many really neat books about nature. Even Swiss Family Robinson, when you read that to a kid, and then you send them outside, it is unbelievable how they reenact books in the outdoors. So if you want to work more of the outdoors into your kids’ indoor life, read books about adventure, and outdoor play. And there’s so many great picture books that get kids excited about being outside, and I have a list of ones that my kids love that we could link to. But that sparks kids’ interests in the outdoors, and then when they go outside, you’ll see them naturally reenact or explore what they’ve read about.
So those are really great ways to introduce the outdoors to kids that have not previously been out there.
Yvette: Oh, that is such great advice, and yes, we’ll link to the book list that you have, that would be great. Because it’s really hard to just go to the library and look for books on nature. Here’s your five million, here are your five million options!
Great Books about the Outdoors
Books for Parents
Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children ~ Angela J. Hanscom
Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters! ~ Rachel Macy Stafford
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” ~ Psalm 23:1-2 (ESV)
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” ~ Job 12:7-10 (ESV)
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” ~ Romans 1:19-20 (ESV)
“God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” ~ Genesis 1:10 (ESV)
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” ~ Psalm 19:1-2 (ESV)
For those of you who have been keeping up with production on the movie, you know that last month some big decisions were made about the direction we would take in finishing the film. We asked you to pray for the Lord to guide us, and He has! We are SO excited to tell you that in a few weeks, we are driving west from Georgia to Washington to complete the filming of Schoolhouse Rocked with Heidi St. John! Here’s the scoop…
Yvette Hampton: Hey, everyone. This is Yvette Hampton and I am here with my oldest daughter Brooklyn for this update.
Brooklyn Hampton: Hi, guys.
Yvette: She’s 13. I love having a teenager. It’s so much fun. Most of the time.
Yvette: No, I’m loving it. It is so much fun. So far not at all as scary as I thought it would be. I love being a mom of girls and I love being a mom of a teen. God’s doing great things in her life. Speaking of your life, what are some things that God is doing with our family right now?
Brooklyn: Well, we are going to travel across the country and finish filming the movie with Heidi St. John in Vancouver, Washington. Yeah. It’s very exciting.
Yvette: It’s very exciting. Here’s the update. We are heading to Greenville. We’ll be there for about a week. We’re going to have some meetings with some people there and do a few things there, maybe a little bit of filming, but then we are trekking across the country in our big, blue Excursion and we’re really excited.
Yvette: On the way there we’re going to get to stop and see the Rinella family who we’ve gotten to know pretty well over the last year but we haven’t actually met them in person, right?
Yvette: If you listen to the podcast you’ve heard Aby Rinella for sure on the podcast a few times and so we’re really excited. We’re going to get to meet their family. Then we are going to go all the way to Vancouver, Washington, which is right outside of Portland. We’re going to finish filming the documentary with Heidi St. John. We are super excited about this.
We’ve filmed all of the interviews for the documentary but what we have left to film is the actual storyline that weaves throughout the documentary to pull all of the interviews together. That is going to be myself and Heidi are going to do that together and basically talk as homeschool moms about our journey of homeschooling and all that God has done.
For those of you who don’t know who Heidi is, which most of you do, but for those who don’t she is a homeschool mom of seven kids and she’s got a couple grandkids now but she doesn’t at all look like a grandma.
Yvette: California is home for us, for those who don’t know. We have not actually really been home for the past two and a half years. We went home for a couple of weeks. My mom was really sick and so we went to help take care of her. We haven’t been back there to actually get to spend time with friends and family and so we’re going to go back to do that and finish filming.
Between Vancouver, Washington, Portland, Oregon, and then our treks south from there to California – and in California we will finish filming the whole documentary, which we are really excited about.
Brooklyn: Yes. We are.
Yvette: It’s been a very exciting few years for our family but we are definitely ready to be done with filming and to get this movie out to encourage homeschool families.
Yvette: Here are some things that you can do to help us. We are in need of lots of prayer. There’s just a whole lot that goes into filming a feature length documentary like what we’re doing. God has been so faithful. I mean, do you want to tell some of the stories? I know that’s totally putting you on the spot because we didn’t talk about this beforehand.
Brooklyn: We didn’t.
Yvette: What are just a couple of things that God has done to provide for our family and to just show his power through the whole process of making this movie?
Brooklyn: I mean, there’s so many.
Yvette: I know.
Brooklyn: I honestly don’t know where to start.
Yvette: How about hospitality?
Brooklyn: Hospitality? All right. When we were coming to Georgia to start really editing the movie and all of that we had so many families just offer up their home to us and just welcome us in and be so hospitable and it was a huge blessing.
Yvette: Yeah. We’ve had that happen all across the country really. I mean, it has been absolutely incredible because, as you can imagine, of course, staying in hotel rooms and stuff can get really expensive. We have sometimes reached out and just said, “We’re coming to this particular area. If there’s anybody there who is willing to host our family we’ll be there from these dates …”
Every single time, without fail, God has provided a place for us to stay and then sometimes people just know where we’re going or … Last week, or I guess it was a couple of weeks ago, there was a family who just sent us an email and she said, “We live in the Modesto area in California.” She said, “If you’re coming through this area we would love to host you and have you stay the night at our house.”
These are people that we don’t even know but it’s such a neat way to just see the tangible hand of God working through the body of Christ to support this documentary because we can’t do it on our own. There’s just so much that goes into this. It really is a team effort of the whole homeschool community. That’s been great.
Brooklyn: While you were talking I thought of a story.
Yvette: Oh, tell a story.
Brooklyn: Yes. All right. It was about a year ago and we were going to head to Tennessee. We had nowhere to stay. We were just trusting God to provide a place and this family opened up their barndominium to us. We got to stay there for about five weeks.
Brooklyn: They were just amazing. Yeah.
Yvette: Yes. We didn’t even know until I think it was two weeks before we left for that trip …
Brooklyn: We had been planning this trip for like months ahead of time.
Brooklyn: Like we had this trip, we were going to Tennessee, and we didn’t know where we were staying.
Yvette: We didn’t know but we trusted that because God was leading us there he was going to provide a place for us to stay. Two weeks before we arrived in Tennessee he provided the most amazing place for us to stay on this farm. The White family, is just so incredibly hospitable and gracious. We have been the recipients. That has happened over and over again. The McCosky’s and … I can’t even list all of people because there are so many of them.
Brooklyn: So many.
Yvette: We have literally stayed in many, many houses, which has really stretched our family and our comfort because it’s kind of awkward sometimes, especially in the beginning, to just go stay with people that you don’t know.
Yvette: But we have made friends. We have friends now across the country. Like really good friends.
Brooklyn: Yeah, that we now text with everyday and they just say, “Hey, how’s it going? We’re praying for you.” Those are friends we didn’t even know before.
Yvette: Right. We are learning that where God guides he provides. Our pastor gave a sermon on that years ago, before we left California. This was probably just a few weeks before we left. I remember him giving a sermon and he said, “Where God guides, he provides. That really stuck with Garritt and I. We were like, “Okay, God is guiding us on this trip. He’s guiding us to make this movie. He is going to provide everything that we need” and he has unmistakably and miraculously provided for us in ways … The boxes.
Brooklyn: The boxes. Yes.
Yvette: Do you want to tell the story about the boxes?
Brooklyn: I was going to tell the story but I didn’t know if you were going to go into that whole thing.
Yvette: No. Tell the story of the boxes.
Brooklyn: Yes. Okay. We recently sold our trailer and we are heading across the country, as you guys already know. We just needed totes.
Yvette: Those plastic Rubbermaid tote boxes.
Brooklyn: Earlier that day we had gone to Sam’s Club and we saw these … I don’t even know how much they were like.
Yvette: I think they were like $8 a piece.
Brooklyn: $8. They were like top quality totes. We put them in the cart. We just were walking through and my dad was like, “I don’t think we should buy these right now.” We put them back. We had two of them. I don’t know if I mentioned that.
Yvette: We had two of them. That we needed.
Brooklyn: That we needed. We really did need them. Later that day … Oh my gosh. Later that day we went to my grandpa’s house and we were unloading some stuff and loading up some stuff.
Yvette: To store at his house.
Brooklyn: Yeah. He said, “Hey, I have two totes. Would you guys possibly be interested?” We were like, “Two totes? What?”
Yvette: Yeah. I mean, it was just amazing because it seems like such a small thing but it was one of those moments where I realized once again that God cares even about the little things. He provides for us in amazing ways. He provides for us even in the little things. He provides for us in big ways but he knows when we need plastic boxes and he provides those for us as well. He is a faithful, faithful God.
Just as we have gone to Tennessee and God provided a place for us we’re now trucking across the country to finish filming with Heidi. Heidi is excited about it. We are super excited about it. We know absolutely that this is God’s plan for finishing the story of Schoolhouse Rocked. We have prayed a lot about it. We’ve sought wise counsel. This is just absolutely the direction God is leading us.
It costs a whole lot of money to do this. We’ve got to hire a crew of people to help us finish filming. We’re going to be filming for probably five solid film days with Heidi but we’ll be filming for probably about 10 to 12 days in Vancouver and Portland area and then a few more days in California.
Yvette: It costs a lot of money to do that. We would love your help. We don’t very often ask for this. We would love it if you guys would be willing to come alongside of us and just help support us financially so that we can get to Washington, hire the crew that we need to finish filming, get the movie done, and then we can move into post-production.
We’re looking at some investors, talking to a couple of investors, but those people will come in for the post-production part to fund that part of it because that’s a big huge chunk of money.
If you would be willing to just pray about it and just see if the Lord might put it on your heart to help support the rest of filming for the movie so that we can get this part of it done and then move into post-production. We would love that.
Brooklyn: That’d be a huge blessing.
Yvette: That would be a huge blessing. We know God is going to provide. He provides miraculously. I mean, again, we have so many stories of what he’s done and how he has provided. Where can people go to find out more about helping with Schoolhouse Rocked? Schoolhouse Rocked dot com.
Brooklyn: Schoolhouse Rocked dot com. She totally likes those lines.
Yvette: I did. Though, you would have known that if I hadn’t said that, right? Would you have known to say that?
Yvette: Go to Schoolhouse Rocked dot com. Right on the front page you’ll see a button that says support … I think it says support.
It’s not for our recognition or our glory but it’s really to change the hearts of parents and call people to bring their kids out of the public school system, out of private schools, if that’s where they’re called to, and bring them home and disciple their children. Homeschooling is a blessing.
Brooklyn: It is.
Yvette: It’s fun. Do you enjoy being homeschooled?
Brooklyn: I love being homeschooled. I love being homeschooled.
Yvette: I didn’t pay you to say that either.
Brooklyn: No. She didn’t. I really genuinely love being homeschooled. Real fast, while you were saying the support thing, the other thing you can do to support is send us emails. Send us encouraging emails. That really helps keep us going.
Brooklyn: It’s like send us texts, send us emails. Those are really a blessing. I don’t think people know how much of a blessing that is to us. That really lifts our spirits and it helps us keep going.
Yvette: Yes. Well said, Brooklyn. That is true. People will randomly just send messages either on Facebook or email or sometimes they’ll leave reviews for the podcast.
Brooklyn: Do that too.
Yvette: Do that too. Yes, that is an easy way that you can just let us know that you’re praying for us, that you’re standing with us. Sometimes people can’t afford to support us financially but you can certainly afford to support us through prayer. We would love that. Thank you for saying that.
Brooklyn: You’re welcome.
Yvette: I appreciate that. Yeah. That’s where we’re at. Keep up with us this summer. If you are on our Facebook page it’s The Schoolhouse Rocked Facebook page. You can keep up with us there and we’ll keep up to date on where we are and what we’re doing. We’ll be doing Facebook Lives, especially while we’re filming because that’s just fun.
Brooklyn: Oh, yeah.
Yvette: We’ll give you updates on what God is doing and how he’s providing. If you would like to just be part of that we would love to have you on our team and just have you to be part of the Schoolhouse Rocked crew by being some of the prayer and financial backing that we need.
Thank you, guys, for listening and if you’re watching this on video thank you for watching. We are praying for you guys. We pray all the time that the Lord would use this movie to be a blessing to you and that it would just honor him and serve his kingdom well.
We love you guys. Thank you for your support. Thank you, Brooklyn, for being my guest today.
Brooklyn: I kind of asked for this.
Yvette: You did ask for it. She keeps asking if she can record something with me.
Brooklyn: Yeah. Be on the podcast.
Yvette: Be on the podcast. Here you have it.
Yvette: I’m glad that we get to do this together.
Brooklyn: Me too.
Yvette: All right, you guys. Have a great day. Bye.
In this special roundtable discussion, Karen DeBeus, Aby Rinella, and Yvette Hampton talk about ‘Who’, ‘Why’, and ‘How’ of Homeschooling.
Yvette Hampton: I am so excited to be here with you today! I am the host of Schoolhouse Rocked: The homeschool Revolution, it is a feature length documentary that is currently in production, and I’m also the host of the Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast. I am mom of two amazing daughters, and wife to my husband for 24 years now, and we are in our eighth year of homeschooling.
Karen DeBeus: Hi everybody, I’m Karen DeBeus from Simply Living for Him, and I am the host of the Simply Living for Himpodcast. I’m also the author of several homeschooling books, and the owner of SimplyLivingForHim.com, which is a ministry to encourage all people to live more simply; whether it’s in your home, school or in your life. I also have four children, we’ve been homeschooling since my oldest was entering kindergarten, and now she’s just getting ready to graduate.
Aby Rinella: And I’m Aby Rinella, from His Calling, Our Passion, and I write and speak for different homeschool organizations, and you can find me over at CalledToTheTop.com. I’m the mom of three awesome kids, we’ve been homeschooling from the beginning. Above all, I’m a follower of Jesus and the wife to Jesse Rinella.
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Yvette: We are so glad to be with you today. We have been praying about this session, and just really excited to come together and encourage you as homeschool parents, whether you’re a mom or a dad, and just talk about some of the reasons why we’ve chosen to homeschool. So we’re going to answer three questions today, we’re going to answer the ‘why’ of homeschooling, the ‘who’ of homeschooling, and the ‘how’ of homeschooling.
And so, I would love to talk with you, Karen, because you’ve been through it now for 12 years. Your oldest is graduating high school this year, and so I would love for you to tell kind of your story about how you began homeschooling, and why you have chosen to homeschool.
Karen: I was an unlikely homeschooler, an accidental homeschooler, I never intended to homeschool; but God had other plans. I really believe that he called us to this journey, so when my daughter was just turning five, and getting to that time to register her for kindergarten, I was absolutely 100%, never thought about anything else she would just go to school.
The school was right around the corner from our home at that time, and so it just seemed like that was the next natural step. And I walked into the school building to register her for kindergarten, and as soon as I walked in, something happened to me that I have yet to be able to really describe in words. But I sort of became overwhelmed, and panicked, and almost physically ill. And all I could think of was, “She’s not going here.”
And it was really confusing because I had no idea where that was coming from. And so I registered her, because I didn’t want to look weird and turn around and get off the line, but I really felt deep down, “She’s not going here.”
And so I left that day, and I was crying, and I had my other children with me, and I started to talk to some people about what was going on. And they were all saying, “It’s the first time jitters. Once you put her in school, you’re going to see how you’ll have so much time to yourself next year.”
: And I really felt that wasn’t it, it was not the first time jitters; there was this deep sense of, “She’s not going here.” However, the really interesting part of this story is, I had no idea what else I would do. I didn’t really know much about homeschooling back then, I really only knew the Duggars on TV; that was my perception of homeschooling.
And so that wasn’t an option to me, and I knew that private school would be way too expensive, and I didn’t know what it was. And there were many reasons why I felt like I didn’t want her to go there but, ultimately, God really called me.
I started to really pray about it, and a few people approached me and said, “Have you thought about homeschooling?” And I was like, “No, because that’s not something we’re going to do.” And so it really started, though, to chase me down; God started to chase me down. Because I think, deep down, I did sort of admire what I knew about homeschooling, but I just thought, “That’s not for us.”
And so, all of a sudden, it started to appear everywhere. I would run into someone in the grocery store and they’d be like, “Oh, hey how are you? What are you up to? Oh I started homeschooling.” And I’d be like, “Okay.” I’d open a magazine and there’d be an article on homeschooling, I’d see something on TV about homeschooling; it started to really just appear.
And so when I really started to research it, I thought it sounded a great option, but I still felt it wasn’t something for us. But I prayed about it, and here’s where the answer is ‘the who’, it’s who God calls. Because I really felt that when we prayed about it, my husband and I sought scripture, we prayed about it, that God was really calling us to do this.
And I know deep down, 100%, he was calling us; however, sometimes when he calls you to do something, you don’t want to do it. I really knew he was calling us to do it, but I didn’t want to at all. And so, the more I searched the scriptures, the more I knew that this was a calling.
However, we had one more obstacle, my parents, my mother in particular, has always worked in public schooling, and I knew she’d be very upset. And so when I went and finally let them know what we were doing, it was far worse than I ever dreamed. I mean, they almost disowned me, I feel like, over it; I mean, that’s a strong word.
But, in my mind, I thought that would happen; I mean, they were you like, “You will not do this, you will ruin our grandchildren.” And I was like, “I have to do what God’s calling me to do.” And that’s really hard, because I fought with God like, “I know I have to follow you, and I know it says in the scriptures follow you, and not man.”
But these are my parents, we want to please our parents, but I decided to take that leap of faith and do that for that one year when it seemed absolutely crazy, but God was definitely calling me. And I figured, we’ll do it for one year and get it out of my system, and I’ll answer God for one year.
And here we are 13 years later and those very same parents who are so against it, are now our biggest cheerleaders, they are 100% on board, God has completely changed their hearts; but it took about 10 years until they were accepting. And not only accepting, now they’re telling everybody, “My daughter homeschools.”
So I really feel that God called me to homeschool, it was never something about me and my decision, and I have seen how he has worked through this whole situation. I mean forget the schooling part, just in our family, and it’s showing me that when you really follow him, he’s got the whole thing under control.
Yvette: Yeah, I love that story so much. When we started homeschooling it’s so interesting, because our ‘why’ has changed so much; and, Aby, you and I have talked a whole lot about our ‘whys’. But when we very first started, it was because we were fearful of the public school that my daughter would have gone into, and it was more of a … We were fearful for her, physically, to go into this school.
It was not in a great neighborhood, and she just wouldn’t have been safe to go to this school, we felt. And so that was kind of our initial reason, and then we went to a homeschool convention that summer before she was four years old, and we went to this homeschool convention. And we were invited by some friends and we’re like, “Well let’s just check it out.” As matter of fact I remember saying, “You guys have a convention for homeschoolers?” That’s so weird.
Karen: That’s weird.
Yvette: Really weird. And we went, and that weekend alone, the scales just fell from our eyes. And I’m so thankful that the Lord opened our eyes up to what homeschooling is. And the reason that we had said we would never do it was because we had so many misconceptions about what homeschooling was. We believed all the negative stereotypes, I thought, “Well I hated school as a kid.” Saying, “Why would I want to do it more, and then why would I want to homeschool my kids?”
And, I mean, we just had so many good reasons that we thought were good reasons. And we’re so grateful that the Lord changed our hearts about it because now, eight year later, we look back over what God has done, over the past eight years, and our ‘why’ has really changed, like I said.
And now our ‘why’ has really become … Because there’s so much happening in our culture. I mean, I know we all see it, it’s all around us, you can’t ignore it even if you try; and we really believe that revival begins in the home.
And as Christian parents, we have such a great opportunity to be able to speak truth into the hearts of our children. You think of Deuteronomy 6:5-7, and you hear homeschoolers talk about this all the time but, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children, you shall talk with them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise.”
And, basically, what that’s saying is, all day long. All day long you get to do this, you get to speak truth into the heart to your kids, and you get to teach them to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind.
And so that is why we have continued to homeschool, because it gives us the opportunity to be able to be the ones to shepherd our kids, and disciple them, and train them the way that we feel God has called us to train them.
We’re not perfect, by any means, we screw up all the time, but the great thing about that is that it’s not us doing it, it’s the Lord doing his work through us because we’re simply willing to be obedient to what he’s called us to do; and so it’s good.
I was actually just talking with a friend of mine about this today, and we’re saying it’s great that we’re inadequate, that we feel so ill-equipped to homeschool our kids, because if we felt like we had it all figured out, we wouldn’t need God to come alongside of us and help us fill in all the gaps and help us figure out this homeschooling thing, and this parenting thing, and this marriage thing. God does his work through us, all we have to be willing to do is to just say, “Okay.” And be obedient. So that has become the reason not why we started, but why we continue on this journey of homeschooling. So Aby, how about you?
Aby: Well I actually came from a line of public school teachers, and I was a public school teacher myself. I went to college and was trained to teach in public school. And I taught in both private Christian school and public school for years, and then when I became pregnant with my first, the minute I held that little girl my hand, I realized, “This is my child, this isn’t anybody else’s child.”
And my husband said to me … I was working full time, and so the initial decision was do I come home? And it was a no brainer, he said, “God didn’t give us these kids for someone else to raise.” And so when our first turned five, that truth that he spoke didn’t change, all of a sudden, just because she’s give; it didn’t change that, “Well, now it’s someone else’s turn to raise.”
And it wasn’t that I had a bad experience in the public school, as a teacher, it’s just that I raised 26 other kids, every day, not their parents; and now God gave me my kids and it was my turn to raise my own children.
And so that’s how it started with us and then, like you said, it kind of morphed for you. I truly was passionate about being home with my kids, I know not everybody, it’s not their …. I don’t know how they’re wired, they don’t love it the way I love it, but I love being with my kids.
But then we had to go to God’s Word and say, “There’s got to be more, because I’m sure there’s going to be days where I don’t love changing diapers I’m sure that’s coming.” And so when we went to God’s Word just over, and over, and over it pointed us to, “This is God’s design, this is God’s design.”
Every time God talks about children, he’s talking to the parents, “Train up your children and the way they should go. Teach them when they lie down, and when they get up.” It’s all to the parents. Other than when he was speaking to the disciples, who were trying to keep the children from him, but when he’s talking to the parents he says, “Teach them, and train them.”
And so we just realized this is awesome, we love it, but it’s also God’s plan and his design. And so that’s what’s kept us through the harder times when it hasn’t been all joy, and wonderful, and laughter; but when we’re obedient to God, that’s where the blessings are.
So that’s kind of where we started and I have a story similar to Karen’s that my parents were both educators and when we said, “Homeschool.” They thought, “Weird.” And they just couldn’t wrap their heads around it. They trusted us as parents, but they really had a hard time wrapping their heads around it. But eventually, they’re sold out, they tell everybody, I think [inaudible 00:13:12] sharing about homeschool, and how much they love it and how great it is. So that’s our journey, and that’s our ‘why’ is God’s Word. It’s pretty clear in there that this is what he’s called us to do, and so that’s how we do it.
And another struggle I had is for the ‘who’, who is called to homeschool? So many people say, “Oh, well, you have the college degree to do so,” And, “Oh you have the state certification to do so.” And, honestly, that was my greatest struggle; that was the greatest thing I had to overcome to be a homeschool mom.
Because I was bringing the system into my home, and I had a dear friend say to me one day, “You might as well ship your kids out, and go get a cup of coffee if you’re just going to bring that into your house.” So nowhere in God’s Word does it say that you need a certification, and nowhere does it say that you need to have a college degree to do this. It says that as parents, through him, we’re called to do. So that means everybody, that means every parent that has a child, God will equip to teach and train their children in righteousness.
Karen: And I appreciate you saying that, because I spoke at a homeschool group this week, in fact, and there was a woman there just thinking about homeschooling and she said to me, “But I don’t have a college degree.” That was the first thing she said to me.
Aby: And I say, “Praise the Lord.”
Karen: And I said, I haven’t been asked that question in a long time, but I remember in the early years getting that question a lot. Once in a while when people find out I homeschool they say, “Do you have a degree?” And I was always caught off guard, but I’m like, “But I’m their mom.”
And I remember thinking … And I said to this woman the other day, “Public school training or a trained teacher is completely different, it’s comparing apples and oranges; it’s completely different to what we’re doing at home.”
So we don’t need the college degree. I said, “Plus there’s so much resources, so many things available.” But, honestly, if somebody out there is new to homeschooling, or just thinking about it and they’re thinking, “Well, I can’t, I’m not the person cut out for this because I’m not a teacher.” So grateful you brought that up, 100% encourage them, “Absolutely, you can.”
When I first decided to homeschool, and told my mom, and she said, “You’re not organized enough, you’re not disciplined enough, you weren’t a teacher, you didn’t even like school.” Same thing and, “How are you going to do this?” And I was like, “You know what, let me introduce you to my God-
Because I cannot do this and you’re right, I’m not organized enough, I’m not disciplined enough, I wasn’t a trained teacher; you’re absolutely right, but God is calling me, and he will equip me.” And I have seen, and I feel I can finally say that we’re the end of the road, at least, for my first one instead of saying, “Oh we did it.” I’m like, “He did it.” “He did it, he is faithful, he did it.” So it’s such an exciting time. But I would say anybody out there who’s thinking that they don’t fit the ‘who’ is That they’re not! I mean, I remember thinking the same thing. But looking back over this journey, God is calling you, and he’ll use different circumstances to call each one of us. We’re all in different circumstances, or we all have different reasons but, ultimately, it’s because it’s a calling; I really believe that.
Aby: And like I said, I had to shed that degree. So parents ask me that all the time, or they say “It’s, it’s hard for me.”, or “You can do it, because you have the degree.”
And I say the only thing you need is a love for your kids…
Aby: And a Bible. Honestly, that’s all you need is God’s Word. And the years I have in training, I mean, four years in intensive training to be a teacher, I spent four years on how to fit kids into a box, and then I’d enter the classroom and go, “None of them fit in that box anyway.”
They’re all designed and gifted with different gifts and talents that God has given them, and no amount of training is going to give you the ability to teach that, it’s only going to be, Karen, like you said, by the hand of God, and a love for your own children; knowing and loving your own children.
And you might not be organized, and you might not love to lesson plan, but the reality is that’s the mom that God gave your kids, and those are the kids that God gave you. And so he perfectly meshes those things together, and there’s no piece of paper that any state can ever give you that qualifies you any more than the God who created both us and our children qualifies us; he’s the one that qualifies us.
Yvette: Yeah, and the truth is that there are, like you said Aby, you used to teach in the public school system, and you loved your students. And there are a lot of really good teachers out there in any school; private school, public school, there are some excellent teachers, excellent administrators who really love the Lord.
But nobody knows your kids the way that you do, and no one loves them as much as you do because they’re your kids, and you know them, you know their quirks, you know their gifts, you know their shortcomings, you know the things that they struggle with. And no matter how much a teacher might love them, that teacher cannot take time out of their day with 30 plus students in a classroom to focus on the character of your child; as much as they might want to they just can’t.
And so, as parents we have that great opportunity and privilege that we get to be the ones to train their character and to just care for them, and love them, and raise them up the way that God has created them to be.
And we tell our girls all the time God made them on purpose and for purpose, and God has a great purpose for each one of our children and for us, as well. And so, as parents, part of our purpose, whether you homeschool or don’t, part of our purpose is to train up our children. Well, are you leaving that to someone else to do, or do you get to take that responsibility and do it yourself?
Both of you have already talked about the ‘who’ of homeschooling, and I think that there are so many misconceptions, still, even though homeschooling is growing by leaps and bounds, which is really exciting. There still is this misconception that only a certain group, or certain type of person can homeschool.
Maybe they have a certain look, or maybe they have a certain financial status, or whatever that ideal might be in your mind. And the fact of the matter is, God calls all of us to train up our children, and so we all are called to do this. And it’s something that God will give us the ability to do when we allow him.
Aby: And I think we have to say “Yes.”, because God often doesn’t show us how first. We have to show our obedience and our yes before he starts showing us how it’s going to happen.
Aby: Karen’s graduating her first, and I’m sure she didn’t have the whole plan.
Karen: Not at all.
Aby: But she said, “Yes.” And God gave her the steps and that’s how we’re at now is I don’t know the plan. We didn’t even know, financially, how I would come home, but we didn’t need to see God’s blueprint before we said, “Yes.” We said, “Yes” and trusted because he said he will do it. He said he will do it. And so I think I want to encourage parents to say … Don’t wait until you see the 10 year plan or the 18 year plan, and Karen’s great to have because she’s there, she’s at the end that we’re all going for. But she didn’t know the plan from the beginning, she just knew God’s plan and that she would just follow in obedience to that and trusted him.
Karen: And I-
Aby: And it worked, right?
Karen: Oh my goodness, he has blown the doors off our plans, you know what I mean? It was all right we’ll do this will do it maybe for one year and then try it again and again. Did I know that I would have a whole ministry birthed out of homeschooling, or that just our family’s journey? I can’t even wrap my brain around it, but had he told me all that back then, you don’t even really get a glimpse, it’s like, “Just do it.”
This homeschooling journey for us was one of the biggest times in my life, and in my walk with the Lord where I can say that I truly stepped out in obedience, not having a clue what was going on. And I often tell the story how a homeschooling mom had talked to me about homeschooling back then when I was sort of on the fence, I didn’t know anything about it.
And she had me over for lunch, and she kind of told me about homeschooling and then she gave me her kindergarten curriculum that she had hand-me-down from her daughter. And I thought, “Great God told me to do it and now I have a curriculum.”
And I often look back at that, and I laugh, and I wish I had that childlike faith, because I didn’t know there was anything else. I didn’t know there was any other curriculum, it’s just so funny that she gave me this and I was like, “Good we’re ready to go.”
I didn’t research, I didn’t compare online, I didn’t even go online, I didn’t know. There was no Facebook and all that stuff there, wasn’t conventions that I was aware of. And so, once I told somebody, “Oh, we’re using this curriculum because my friend gave it to me.” And she said, “Oh, you are? Did you know there’s others?” I was like, “No, I didn’t.” And then the Christian Book Distributor catalog came.
Yvette: Oh gosh.
Karen: And then the Internet exploded and then I started to… But I look back at that and I’m like … It was like you said, a Bible and God said so. Listen to God and do what he says, right? And that’s what it was, it was like I need to often remind myself over these years of that childlike faith I had. It’s an absolute step of obedience and you do not see the full picture; you’re not supposed to. And I never would have believed it if I seen a full picture.
Aby: Or done it maybe.
Karen: Right, I never would have believed it, I never would have imagined. So, and even as we’ve gotten to the end of these years, at least for my daughter, this year we were not knowing what was going to happen after this year. What happens after homeschooling? Is it college, is that a gap year, is it no college, is a community college? And it was that very same principle I went back to like, “Guess what? We don’t know but God does.”
Karen: And our job is to wait, and to keep seeking him, and he will have the plans unfold. So we often do not, at all, get the full picture. So if you’re out there, and you’re thinking about it, or you’re in the middle of it, and you’re ready to quit-
Karen: Just keep following God-
Aby: Yeah, and “Seek first the kingdom of God.”
Yvette: That’s right.
Karen: Yes, that’s our life verse.
Aby: “And all these things shall be added”
Karen: Yes, he will provide everything-
Karen: And more than you could ever imagine.
Aby: Yeah, for sure.
Yvette: So many great things there’s so much freedom and being willing to just follow what God has called us to do with so. So let’s talk about the ‘how’ of homeschool. And when I say the ‘how’, I don’t mean that let’s show you how to come up with a schedule, and you start at 7:00 in the morning, and you do math for 30 minutes, and then you take a little break.
Because the thing is that we’ve all recognized in our own families, and like you talked about Abby, is that homeschooling is not bringing the classroom into your home. And a lot of parents who are just coming into homeschooling, like we all did, think that that’s what it is.
We think we need to set up the desks, and we need to have our perfect schedule, and we need to make it look like school was as we knew it growing up; because it’s all we know, it’s what makes sense to us and it’s really hard to break out of that mold.
And, there certainly needs to be some sort of structure to your day, but it’s not the classroom in your home. It can’t be, there’s actually not a possible way to do that because life still happens all around schooling. You still have doctor’s appointments, and you have grocery shopping, and you have lunches and dinners to make, and you have sick kids, and there’s so many interruptions; and not bad interruptions, but things that just interrupt our day that we have to learn to work around.
But the great thing is that’s life, and so we’re teaching our kids, at the same time, that we’re educating them academically, we’re teaching them how to deal with life issues. I remember when I got married, I was young, we had just turned 20, and I felt very ill equipped for life; I didn’t quite know what to do.
I remember going to the grocery store and I was like, “I don’t know what kind of meat to buy. I actually don’t know how to purchase meat.” Because I don’t know what to do with it, because my parents always cooked.
And so it’s great, my 13 year old now she can cook a full meal, many of them. I can just say, “Honey, can you go make dinner?” And she won’t go into the kitchen and make a full meal for the whole family, and it’s fan- … I could never have done that at 13.
And so when we talk about the ‘how’ of homeschooling, what have you found with your families, what is your kind of … How does it roll with you?
Karen: I would say exactly what you just said, we’re not teaching for a test, we’re teaching for real life; and I always feel I just want my kids to be equipped for life. And we have done it all over the years from trying to schedule in 15 minute increments, trying to stay up with all that to, “Let’s have no schedule.”
And, in the end, it’s always been just what works for us is a happy medium. Having a outline of our day, but knowing … so important to know that life is part of the curriculum. Every year, especially at this time of the year, homeschooling families … Whenever I speak at this time of the year and I bring this up, they all start cracking up because they know it’s true.
Every year, this time of the year, every homeschool mom is like, “That’s it, this year is done, this year is over, it’s a wash, I’m dead, burned out. But next year is the year when we get it all together.”
And I’m like, “Guess what? Thirteen years haven’t got it all together, there has not been a perfect year yet.” Every year something has happened, whether it was job loss, or one year we had five deaths in those same amount of months; I mean it was a horrible year.
We’ve had great things happen, birth of babies, we’ve had family emergencies, we had so many things to deal with, but yet I feel like you said, our kids have seen how to live life by being immersed in life. People would say to me early on, “Well, how are your kids going to be prepared for the real world?” I’m like, “They’re in the real world every single day.” Right? It’s an immersion classroom.
When we moved, they learned about mortgages, and inspections. They knew more and they know more now, like you said, than I ever, ever did as a young adult or a teenager. And so, the curriculum is, I believe, so secondary, I believe God will work with whatever you choose as long as you’re following him.
And you have to choose a schedule, and a rhythm that works for your family; but, ultimately, it goes back to what we said before it’s all about following God. And not relying on curriculum, not relying on a style, not relying on a method of homeschooling to make your homeschool successful; it’s merely relying on God.
Yvette: Yeah, that’s right.
Karen: And he will work no matter what you choose, no matter what style, what method. If I had used that little kindergarten curriculum that somebody gave me, the point is if we’re following God, we cannot go wrong.
Yvette: Yeah, right.
Karen: And that’s how to homeschool. Follow God. Do what he says.
Aby: And I think God already has a path laid out for kids. I mean his word says that he has a plan for them, a plan for good and not evil. And I think sometimes as moms, we carry that weight like, “I cannot miss fractions.” I just realized my daughter, the other day, I’m like, “You are not on top of fractions the way I thought you were.”
And it’s we carry that weight, they have to have every standardized … And I know new moms come in feeling like, “How am I going to do it all?” I think we give ourselves more credit than we should, it’s “God has a plan for my kids, and if I miss something that’s not going to derail God’s plan for my kids.”
He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” And as long as my kids are pointed to Christ, ff they never learned fractions under my home, and I’m not suggesting that, but if they don’t and God has a plan for them that includes fractions, he’s going to give them what they need. And I think sometimes our pride sneaks in to say, “Well I have to do this, and I can do this, and it’s up to me.”
And we carry that which leads to anxiety and that really is pride that says, “I can either make or break my kids.” And as long as we are obeying God’s Word, which really it doesn’t talk about math and language, it talks about his word and teaching and training in righteousness. As long as we’re doing that, he’s going to add all those other things into it.
Aby: So as you said, if we use the worst curriculum out there, God can still use that; he’s God for crying out loud, he’s God can use anything. And so it isn’t this debate of the different kinds of schooling, the different kinds of curriculum. As long as we’re focused on where we need to be focused on, and trust our children, and my husband always tells me, “As much as you love your kids, God loves them more, and he has a plan for them, and they’re going to succeed at whatever he has planned for them, which might be different than our thoughts, as long as they’re speaking him.” So that takes a lot of weight off of our shoulders as a mom too. To just be able to breathe and say, “Today we’re going to spend today together, we’re going to get done what we can get done, but we’re going to do life together and glorify God and, and there will be fruit in that.”
Yvette: Absolutely. Karen, I would love for you to talk on that because, I love everything Aby just said, and we’re talking about how, even if we had just God’s Word it would be enough. Talk about the year that you use the Bible as your core curriculum.
Karen: Yes, there was one year in our homeschool were, again, just the calling of homeschooling, I felt that God was calling me, for that year, to just put the curriculum aside and just study everything out of his word. And so we did language arts, science, history, everything except math, we did have separate math, I always have to say that because I don’t trust myself with the math. But we did everything from the Bible, so I put together a plan, which wasn’t comfortable for me, because I’m more of ‘write it down’ after we did it and then plan out the whole … But I did, I made a plan of how this would look. And I thought to myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? I can’t possibly ruin my children if we’re in the Bible six hours a day, and we’re basing all of our studies off of God’s Word. Because he’s the creator of history, he’s the creator of science.” And we even did supplement some math in there.
So we did that for one year, it was our most amazing year ever, and it was also the year that my husband lost his job, and now he’s self-employed. So it was, at the time, going from that, “Okay, now you’ve lost your job, and we’re going to take this leap of faith and start our own family business.”
And wouldn’t that God knew,. It’s so amazing when I look back at that, because God knew we would need to be in his word, as a family, more than ever; that was such a difficult year. And we started in September, he lost his job in October, and we didn’t make the decision for our family business till March.
So, in that time frame we were like, “We don’t know what we’re going to do.” But here we were in the Bible every single day and guess what? I didn’t spend any extra money on curriculum that year, God knew; he even provided financially. I hadn’t purchased all the stuff I wasn’t going to end up using and wasted any money on curriculum.
We merely used the Bible, we brought in other supplements from the library, and DVDs, and things that; but we did not use any other curriculum. So I do have a course coming up that I’m outlining that because, over the years, that is one thing that I have been asked so much about is how we did this.
And it was the most amazing year, we don’t do it anymore, we don’t have the Bible as our main textbook, we have since used curriculum; however, the Bible is always, always the foundation of everything that we do.
Yvette: Yeah, that is so fantastic. We often have talked about the academics of homeschooling, and we’ve told our girls, “It’s not about the academics, but you have to understand the things that you need to be taught.” Because math is one that people say, “Well, how can you tie that into math?” Well simple because God is a God of order, not chaos, and God created math. He made it to make sense.
Karen: I love that you see God in math because it’s absolute, right?
Yvette: You’re so right.
Karen: “because two plus two is always four.” I tell my kids. Just like God is always God, and His Word is always true.
Yvette: That’s right.
Karen: You can’t change it.
Yvette: He made it. The same with science, if you’re being taught science that is an opposition to God and his word, and you’re learning the lies of the world, it’s not pointing you towards Christ. And so with our kids, “Well, you have to learn the basics of science, you don’t have to be a scientist-
Yvette: But you have to learn the basics of science because science helps you to see the glorious creation of our great God.” I mean it’s just amazing, you cannot look at any part of science, whether it’s the universe, or the human body, or animals, or anything, you can’t look at that and just think, “Yeah, yeah, it all just came about by chance.”
And so, science points our kids to Christ, if you’re teaching them science, according to God’s Word. History is the same way, “In the beginning God created.” And that’s what I love about you having used the Bible as your core curriculum because you start in the beginning. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That was the beginning of time. And so when we teach history, you teach it from the beginning of time because, again, it helps to point our kids towards their Creator. And when kids understand who their Creator is, that they were made by their loving creator for a purpose, it changes everything.
We’ve been talking so much about what’s going on in the culture right now, and you think about all the things that are going on and you think about, the abortion Holocaust; that’s going on. And all the insanity of what people are believing to be true, and you think about those people, it’s because they don’t understand their purpose. And even the men and women who are making these decisions in our culture right now, it’s because they don’t understand their purpose.
And it’s because they haven’t been taught that, or maybe they have been taught and they have chosen to reject it, for some reason. But I think that homeschooling is such an integral part of the revival that is coming about in our nation, and that is needed in our nation and in our world.
Because, again, we talked about this at the beginning of this, is that revival begins in the home; it has to begin with parents. Whether you have your kids in school, or homeschool them, or whatever revival has to begin at home, you have to speak truth into the hearts of your kids; it’s just a whole lot easier to do it when you’re homeschooling.
Yvette: It’s almost impossible to do it when they’re in a setting that is teaching them everything that’s contrary to the Word of God, and then having to try to undo that at the end of the day. And there is a revival that’s going on, and it’s very exciting to see it happen. People are waking up, the scales are falling from people’s eyes, and homeschooling is part of that revival, for sure. I’m absolutely certain of it, you see it I see it, people around the globe are seeing it; and so, it’s a neat place to be, it’s a neat time to be homeschooling our kids.
Aby: And there’s going to be a change and a shift, and more people are staying, I think that’s why homeschooling is becoming a thing is we’re seeing it. And we were looking at our door the other day and there were some deer just right out on our street, and there never used to be deer here because we’ve gotten so much snow, historically, that they migrate out.
And the younger generations learn to migrate because the older generations, year after year, they teach them they have their new fawn, they migrate out. Well we had a few dry years where there wasn’t snow, and so these animals … The older generations did not, they didn’t migrate out so the younger generations never learned how to get out of this incredibly snowy place where they’re, starving, they’re being slaughtered by predators.
And as we were looking at this deer we thought it’s due to several generations of not teaching them and showing them the way to safety, and now they’re trapped, and they’re stuck, and they’re being slaughtered left and right in this valley because there’s there’s too much snow they can’t get out now; they’re they’re stuck and they’re trapped.
Karen: That’s an amazing picture.
Aby: And we we’re just thinking … And that’s God’s creation; there’s your science!
Aby: That’s your biology, that’s God’s creation. God designed the older generations of these deer to teach and train these younger ones to migrate out of danger, how to get out of danger in hunting season.
And because that hasn’t been happening, this is where we’re at and we thought with our kids, we’ve had several generations … I mean, it used to be in the schools you hear grandparents say, “Well, schools never were as bad as they are now.” And then the next generation, “Oh, they’re so horrible now they’re teaching transgenderism.” And if we’ve lost this generational hand-down of God’s truth and, at this point, in our generation we have, I believe, no other option but to bring our children home.
Because there is a disconnect between what’s being taught them, and they are being trapped and they’re being led to slaughter; if we don’t get them home and be the older generation that teaches and trains them, the way to safety. So, even that, there was our science lesson. God shows himself in his creation all around us all the time. So we are called to teach and train our kids, otherwise we’re allowing them to be led to a slaughterhouse, essentially.
Karen: That is a great picture!
Yvette: Yes, it is. I want to talk really quickly about husbands, because there may be some husbands who are watching this; I’m assuming if they are they’re watching it maybe with their wives. But I would love for the three of us to maybe talk about how our husbands have encouraged us in this homeschool journey, because that’s such an important part.
I think, oftentimes, husbands don’t realize how very, critically important their role is as homeschool dad; even if they’re not the ones who are in the day-to-day academic part of it. And so, can you guys talk a little bit about, for yourselves, how your husband’s have supported and encouraged you?
Karen: Well, I feel very blessed because Steve, right from the beginning, when I had this little idea he was totally on board and he knew as little as I did. But he was like, “Sure.” He’s very laid back, so he’s just like, “Sure, if that’s what you want to do, we’ll try it.” So he’s always been supportive, so I appreciate that because I know it’s not always the case.
But, I think, when he came home from a traditional work place, and we have our own business, he has been involved in the kid’s education so much; but not at all with the curriculum or the textbooks. Just with teaching them, spending time with them, teaching them life, and he’s a very hands on, we’re a very together family.
So I think just the building of relationships; so important, way beyond the academic stuff. And he’s been involved in all of that relationship building, and just teaching real life. We live out here on our little hobby farm, and teaching the boys the animals, and the garden, and they do everything together, and building things; and all of that is education.
That is not the typical homeschooling curriculum but, like I said, life is the curriculum. So he’s very involved and, like I said, I’m very grateful, because I know that’s not always the case. I’ll have families come to me and say, “Well my husband isn’t on board and that’s difficult.”
But if your husband, if they work outside the home, and their schedule is busy, they can still be teaching so much; like I said, the stuff that’s even more important generally. They can still be teaching just by building that relationship.
We do our family Bible time every evening together, and that’s so important to us because, as I have these teenagers, they’re the ones that say to us after dinner, “When are we doing Bible? When’s Bible?” It’s so ingrained in them that this is what we do at night. And so, it’s a training that takes place over a long period of time, but never underestimate the power of a father, and a father who loves the Lord.
Aby: My husband was homeschooled for part of his education, so he was onboard from the beginning. And a little bit like, “This is what we’re doing with our children, so figure it out.” So true, which is really a huge blessing.
So he’s 100% on board, which is helpful when we waver, and I’m sure I’m not the only mom that sometimes is like, “Ah.” But he’s there and he’s the rock, and that’s huge. It’s huge for my kids to see that their dad’s sold out on this, and that this is what he knows is best for his family and he leads us in that direction.
So I’m very grateful and blessed that we’re in it together. Different families look different, my husband doesn’t do the math, the language, that whole bit, he really trusts me. And then sometimes I’ll be like, “What do you think of these two curriculums?” And he’s like, “Yeah, you got this. [inaudible 00:42:40] I can pray for you, I will pray for you.”
But some families the dad’s do a lot of the … I have a friend and the dad does the math, and that’s just how they work, so it looks different; and that’s the beauty of homeschool is that it looks different.
My husband’s very all hands on deck very, very involved. But I do want to speak to the moms that don’t have that. I have a very dear friend and her husband is not a believer either, and it’s very discouraging for her because you already, somewhat, feel alone sometimes in what we do.
And so she feels even more alone and I constantly encourage her and say, “You have an opportunity to lean on God in such a different way than a lot of people. And he is the godly father for your children and he is your husband and supporting you of this.” And that’s not to say that because you don’t have a husband that’s on board, and one of the greatest things I tell her is, “He’s letting you do this. He’s okay with you doing this, and that’s huge, and praise God for that.” So I’m very grateful I’m very blessed that my husband loves the Lord, above all, and wants to teach and train our kids in his word; but I know that’s not the case with everyone and that does not mean that it’s not doable.
Yvette: Yeah, yeah. And there are many husbands who are not on-board with homeschooling, they don’t want their wives to do it, and as hard as it is to say this, I would say if that’s the case, then honor your husband.
Yvette: If your husband is not on board and he is non supportive, then be respectful of him, because he still is the head of your household. And so I would respect that.
Aby: And entrust your children to the Lord.
Yvette: That’s right.
Aby: Trust that God will protect your children.
Yvette: That’s right, that’s exactly right and he will if you’re faithful. And that doesn’t mean that you still won’t have opportunities to teach them the truth of God’s Word, and to instill Godly character traits into them; because there’s always opportunities to do that.
And then there may be some who don’t have a husband, they’re a single mom for whatever reason. And like you said, Aby, just allow God to fill that gap. Allow God to fill that that role of husband, and he will be the one, and find an older gentleman … maybe your pastor, or your dad, or another Godly man to come alongside of you, and pray for you, and pray with you, and encourage you in this endeavor to homeschool. And God will provide, he will be faithful in those things. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, but he will be faithful in doing those things.
And yeah, and just like the both of you talked about, I’m grateful to have a husband who encourages me and we, from the beginning, we both together had said we would never homeschool. We used to joke about it, we’d say “We’d never, ever, ever do that to our kids or to ourselves.”
Karen: And now you’re making a movie.
Yvette: And now we’re making a move about it, directed by my husband; God has a sense of humor. But once, the Lord changed our hearts and, thankfully, he changed them together, I think it would have been really hard if my heart had been changed and not my husband’s, or the other way around.
But, thankfully, we went to that convention together that first year and God just said, “No, here you go, this is what you’re going to do.” And the same with you, Garret does not have a whole lot to do with the decisions about curriculum or anything that; he trusts me with that.
But he leads our family spiritually really well, I mean, every day we have our family Bible time, and he spends time teaching our kids the Word of God and praying with them; and it’s such a beautiful thing to see. And he’s committed to that, and I heard a pastor actually one of the gentlemen that we filmed for the movie, his name is Scott LaPierre, and he said, “Oftentimes, men will come to him to him and say, ‘I really don’t know a lot about the Bible, I don’t know how to lead my family spiritually’.”
And he says, “If you can read, you can read God’s Word. It doesn’t take more than that you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to be able to lead your family spiritually, you have to be willing to just open it up and read it.” And for goodness sake, even if you can’t read, you can listen to an audio version! So God is faithful though. I want to talk about two more things, really quickly, before we end. I want you each to tell about what your very favorite thing is about homeschooling.
Karen: I would say the family time, and the fact that we have … Now that I said we’re graduating one, and we have these three teenagers, and then my 10 year old, there’s nothing that can replace the amount of time we’ve spent together. And the fact that we can take trips whenever we want, when I go speaking, and I bring them all with me.
And the time, and seeing their relationships, I crack up every night because they’re in our room till the latest hours of night, and I’m like, “Get out of my room.” My husband and I, we’re like “Get out.” And then I look at him and I’m like, “Do you understand she’s 18 and doesn’t want to leave our room?” I mean, when I was 18, the last place I wanted to be was in daddy’s room at 11:30 at night.
Karen: So it’s just that we have so much fun together, especially now that they’re older. Some moms a little ones out there, I promise you it gets better. But having these fun people, and seeing that, it’s because I believe the amount of time we’ve spent together … And not that it was always joyful, there was horrible times, good times, but because we did it together, and we relied on God, and when we messed up, we went back to God. And so, I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Harvard, nothing academically, nothing at all could compare to having the relationships that we have built between and, like you said, we’re not perfect, we have our moments, we have our disputes. But when all is said and done, we are so close. it’s been a good thing; this is why we do it. So that these relationships, and so that we know that we have done our job to pass down our faith to the next generation, who then will pass that down to the next generation.
And not just those generations, but all those people they come in contact with; the effect is huge just teaching these four children. Because they’re going to teach the next generation, and the next generation, and everybody those people come into contact; it’s huge.
Yvette: Yeah, the ripple effect.
Karen: Yeah, there’s nothing that I would ever compare; that, to me, is the reason. It has nothing to do like, “Oh we learned this great lesson, or these academics.” It’s all about the relationships; that’s been my very favorite thing.
Aby: I would say, I mean, the very same thing relationships. And I’ve learned … You know that saying, “The days are long but the years are short when they’re really little.” And now that we’re further along in this, I’m realizing how fast it goes.
I mean, I’m going to blink and those kids will, Karen you see; they’re graduating. And I just think we have 18 years with them under our roof. I think how devastating to me to send them out for half of that, to cut that time in half, because I love spending time with my kids, I love getting to know them and who God made them, and they’re just everything about who God has designed them to be. And if I had to share those 18 years with somebody else, and send them out of my home for half that time, there’s no way I want to cut that time in half.
So, the relationships, the freedom of being able to … I mean, I love that when dad gets home early, we’re done. We go as a family, and just being able to do what God has called our family to do, and not be dependent upon another system’s schedules, and ideals of what we should be doing; I love that. And also too, I love being able to teach to who my kids are.
And that’s something that was really hard to do … Well was impossible to do as a public school teacher is I had to teach this and, hopefully, they fit in this. But I love how different God made my kids, and being able to teach them according to those things; that has been such a joy to do. And, again, pass down … I mean, big picture passed down who God it to my kids and know that they’re going to pass that down. So I think it’s kind of the same for all of us most likely.
Yvette: Yeah, well I’m going to piggyback on that from both of you and say it’s hands down, it’s the same thing. I told you Garrett and I said we would never, ever homeschool our kids and, one of the reasons that I, foolishly, thought that was because I used to think, “Why would I be around my kids all day every day?” I always thought that.
And the ironic thing about that is it took us almost 11 years to have our first daughter, and I desperately wanted to be a mom; I mean, all I ever wanted growing up was to be a wife and a mom. I got married young, and then it took 11 years to have our first, and I so desperately wanted this child.
And then I had her, and I remember she was maybe about three months old or so, and I remember one day just holding her and it was this moment where she locked eyes with me, and there was something about that moment where just my deep love for her was so real; like it almost hurt, that almost painful mom love where you’re just like, “I can’t even imagine loving another human being as much as I love this child.” That I waited for her so … Whether you waited or not, but this child that you hold in your arms and you just love them with such a deep love.
And then I would think, “But I don’t want to be around her all day every day, that would annoy me.” And then it came time to think about school, and that was one of the things that started leading us towards homeschooling is because I thought, “I genuinely love being with her.”
And I was recently talking to a mom who was saying, “It would drive me crazy to be around my kids all day every day.” And if you think about that, if you’re not around your kid all day, and they’re being raised by someone else, and they’re being instructed by someone else, they are not going to behave according to your standards, because they’re not with you, they’re with someone else most of the time. Most of their waking hours, they’re under the supervision and care of someone else, so they’re not going to be trained to the way that you’re going to train them.
Yeah. And so when we have them all the time, we get to train them. It doesn’t that mean it’s easy, I mean, we all deal with discipline, but we get to train them the way that we feel God has called us to train them, according to His Word. And so they become a delight, they’re fun, most of the time. I mean, you’ve got your moments…
Karen: Even at 11:30 at night.
Yvette: Even at 11:30 at night. But it’s such a delight. And I know for myself, if we have to take a trip apart from our girls, or even sometimes, honestly, if I’m gone for a few hours, I miss them. Because it’s almost like I feel like I’m missing a limb or something. And I truly enjoy being with my kids and the relationship that it allows me, because we homeschool them and we get to have them home with us; it is so much fun.
Karen: And it does take time, like you said, to cultivate that. If we’re sending them out, and it’s starting at six weeks that they’re outside of the home, and I’m living my life at my job, they’re at their daycare, and they’re at their school out, and we’re not cultivating that relationship. So then it does become difficult to build those bonds and, honestly, those bonds might not even be there. So it does feel like maybe you’re living with strangers, because you spend so much apart.
So that is a really good point. And so we do need to cultivate that by being together.
Yvette: Yeah, and even the sibling relationships that are formed between them. And, again, I mean there’s still going to be squabbles between siblings. It’s different, my girls have such a bond, they’re almost five years apart, and they have a bond with each other that is undeniable. And it’s really neat to see them because I never had a connection with my sister, I love my sister, but I never, ever had a connection or friendship with her like my girls have with one another. And so I love that they get to be each other’s best friends, I mean, and we told them early on, “You’d better learn to each other because you’re kind of all each other has.”
And they have other friends and stuff, but on a day-to-day basis, its them; and so, it’s such a blessing. So okay we have just, literally, a couple more minutes and I just want to end with an encouragement; and I want to encourage two different moms.
So first, let’s encourage the mom who’s maybe thinking about homeschooling, and she’s just not sure if this is the right thing for her. And then encourage the mom who’s in the middle of it, and she’s feeling discouraged, and just maybe ready to give up. So what would you say to those two different moms? Aby, let’s start this one with you.
Aby: Okay, the first mom that’s thinking about it, I say just do it; just hop in and do it. I think there’s a lot of moms that have three year olds, I’ve had three this week and their oldest is three and they say, “Can I meet to go over curriculum with you?” And I say, “Three? No, but you can meet and let’s talk, let’s pray, and let’s get our ‘why’ at least down. And let’s talk about what God’s plan is for you as a mom.”
And so I would say to them, “Don’t sweat the schooling, build the character, build the relationships, invest in the lives that God has given you to invest in. And above all, be obedient to God in what he’s called you, because I guarantee you when you’re obedient, he will give you all you need to do it, and you’ll be beyond blessed.”
And for the mom that’s in the midst of it, that’s tired, I’d say, “We’ve all been there, we’ve all been there, you’re not alone.” And probably the greatest encouragement I would say is, “Step back from the school.” Again, “Step back from this idea of school, and go enjoy your kids, go breathe life into your kids, go build those relationships, cultivate that unity and that bond. And pray that God would ignite the passion that started you there, and remember back.” It’s really fun for the three of us to tell our stories, I really enjoyed this because it reminds us where this all came from and what God put in us to do this. So go back and remember what God told you to do, and remember that he’ll do it through you, if you lay your life down.
Karen: I would say for the mom just starting out, just pray, pray, pray, and if God calls you to it, he will equip you. Echoing what everybody said, just do it, he will not fail you.
But you have to seek him. I would say, “Don’t listen to anybody else but him.” I say this when I speak, “Don’t listen to me, listen to God. This isn’t what Karen says to do. Hopefully, God will use me to encourage but, ultimately, this is between you and God.”
And so really try to drown out the other voices, which is so important, so that you can hear God’s voice. We live in a very noisy world, and everybody’s trying to say how to do it and what to do. So, this is between you and God, this is a personal decision, pray and Matthew 6:33 like we’ve been saying, “Seek mim first.” And then just do it.
I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I truly believe though that if God is calling somebody, you do need to just take that step of faith, and put the fear aside. Because if I had listened to fear, I cannot even imagine how different our life would be right now.
Because there was tons of fear, and then that would bring me to, if you’re in the middle of it, again, keep walking in that faith, don’t listen to that fear. And remember that homeschooling is a mission field, your children are your mission. And no missionary goes out on the mission field and it says like, “This is going to be so easy, and comfortable, and safe, and I can’t wait, it’s going to be so easy.”
Any missionary has difficulty and has to rely on God and sometimes it’s dangerous, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable, and it’s the same thing; nothing worth doing is going to be easy. So when it gets hard, does not mean it’s not working; in fact, that’s when God is working.
So if it’s hard, don’t throw in the towel and say this is too hard say, “Wow what does God want to do through this?” Because I can look back on all the years I did look at the school one year, the local private school the year that I thought, “I can’t do this anymore.”
And, thankfully, like you said before Aby, you look back and say, “Wait, God called me to this, he will equip me.” So really remembering what he’s done, but there’s been many times where I wanted to throw in the towel, and you always have to remember that it’s not going to be easy and, in fact, that is where the most work will happen.
Karen: And when you get through it on the other side, and you look back and you realize this was God’s plan; it’s amazing. So, I would say to the person starting out and the person in the middle, don’t rely on yourself; just fully rely on God.
Yvette: Yes, amen. And I agree completely, do it scared! I think that’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard is, “If you’re afraid to jump on this homeschooling train, jump on any way, do it scared.” And have people come alongside of you who can encourage you, there are lots of things.
Karen you have a podcast, I have a podcast, there are lots of great podcasts out there, there’s a lot of good … There’re YouTube videos, there are a ton of good books. Karen, I know you’ve written several books, and we’ll actually at the very end, again, repeat where people can find you.
There are so many great resources out there and, like you said, it can be noisy, and there’s a lot out there. But find somebody … hopefully someone who’s local who can actually come alongside of you physically and pray with you and help walk you through this.
And if you don’t have that, I mean, there are places in the country that don’t have that, I’m aware of that. Find people through podcasts, or books, or online. I say that with hesitation because you can get a lot of really bad advice on Facebook, believe it or not; not everything you hear on Facebook is true!
Karen: But if you are listening to God, you’re able to discern.
That’s what I always say. If you’re in the Word, and you have a good relationship with God, then you’re able to discern all those voices.
Yvette: Yeah, that’s right, and seek out wisdom. Our family, right now, is reading through Psalms and we often read through Proverbs, and we’ve actually been reading Psalm 8 and it’s all about wisdom. And so go read Psalm 8, and go read the book of James and if we asked for wisdom, God will give it to us; and so do it scared.
And then, again, for that mom who’s in the midst of it, just keep on. If you need to take a break, take a break; it’s okay. It’s better to take a break, even if you have to take a break for the rest of the year.
Take a break, it’s better to do that than it is to give up completely and put them in a system that’s going to teach them everything that you don’t want them to learn. So those would be my two encouragements.
Karen where can people find you?
Karen: You can find me at SimplyLivingForHim.com, which where also you can find the podcast there, the podcast is available on all the podcast streaming apps, you can find my books there. In just a few weeks, we are releasing the Bible-based homeschooling e-Course.
You can actually find some resources for the Christian homeschooling family at biblebasedhomeschooling.com, that is my other website. But if you come to Simply Living for Him, or you can follow me over there on Instagram or Facebook page, I have a lot of interaction with my audience; I would love to see you there.
Jessica is a homeschooling mom of two and the founder of Option-Adoption.com, which offers hope to the abortion-minded by offering them the love of Jesus Christ and support to make one of he most important decisions of their life.
Her passion is helping her husband and kids fulfill their God-given purposes and being on the frontlines serving Jesus in the areas of pro-life rescue ministry, adoption advocacy, sex trafficking ministry, and foreign missions. She speaks to audiences nationally and internationally about topics such as adoption, abortion, and homeschooling, so others are encouraged to go from the sidelines to the frontlines.
Jessica, welcome. Tell us about your family.
Jessica: Well, we have two kids. We have a son who’s 13 and a daughter who’s eight. We are a homeschool family who is just doing day to day life and trying to serve Jesus in some places that can be difficult, but pretty amazing when he asked you to show up. We’re doing life with our kids, and it’s been an exciting journey.
Yvette: Well, you’ve got a really neat ministry. I first heard of your ministry about a year and a half ago. We were at a home business conference with Rhea Perry together, and I heard of a Option Adoption, which is your ministry. It’s an incredible thing that God has called your family to. You guys are just soaring with this. I would love for you to tell us a little bit about Option Adoption and what it is that you do through this ministry.
Jessica: Sure. Option Adoption is a ministry that we started after we adopted our daughter. She’s really the inspiration for why we started it. We were all on the sidewalks in front of abortion clinics, and realized that most of these women and men just don’t see adoption as an option for them. We knew her story. We knew that her mom had chosen life for her against the odds, and then placed her into our family through adoption. This happens only about 2% of the time – where a woman will choose life and the adoption over death, abortion. We were just burdened.
We sought out another ministry that was doing something similar to what God had placed on our heart, but we couldn’t find anybody who was doing it front lines here in the US. The funny thing is, we had just decided to homeschool. We had just adopted this baby recently, and then I thought, “Oh my goodness, is the Lord calling us to start a ministry?” It was a big leap of faith for us, but we knew that somebody had to stand in the gap and this is such an important piece of ending abortion. We wanted to make sure that God was going to be honored by the church being able to give these moms and dads the true other option other than parenting.
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Yvette: I want to go back to the adoption story – your adoption story in particular. I love your story about homeschooling and how that came to be.
Jessica: My husband was pretty opposed to homeschooling because he had gone to school to get his Master’s degree in Education for public education. He had some pretty strong opinions about how our kids should be educated. To be honest, I didn’t really hear about homeschooling growing up. I didn’t know anyone who was homeschooled. It didn’t bother me that he was thinking more along the lines of traditional school. Somebody gave us the DVD series by James Dobson called Bringing Up Boys. We watched some footage in there and my husband’s heart was really stirred. He came to me and said, “I just don’t think we’re going to be able to put Rhett in public school.” I remember thinking this, I already knew that we were going to homeschool. God had already pretty much given me that piece of information, it was just waiting for my husband.
I laughed and thought, “Well wait a minute, you’re the one with the education degree.” I don’t know how this is going to work. I felt very ill equipped to be a homeschool mom, to be honest with you. I came out of corporate America. That was the domain I was used to. It was a real leap of faith for us. It’s been, it’s been an amazing ride. I wouldn’t change it. That’s how we got started into homeschooling.
Yvette: Your oldest is 13 so you’ve been homeschooling now for what, around eight years, right?
Yvette: Okay, because I love your kids and my kids are exactly the same age except you have a boy and a girl and I have two girls. You have an eight year old and a 13 year old just like me. We hear over and over again that moms feel like they’re ill-equipped. It doesn’t matter what their educational background is. It does not matter what they’ve done in their career. Pretty much every mom goes into it with the realization that “My child’s whole life education is in my hands.” If you think about it, their whole life is in your hands. God has given them to you for such a short time. He equips us to do everything that he’s called us to do.
Jessica: That’s right.
Yvette: With you adopting and starting to homeschool and starting this ministry all at the same time, God has clearly equipped you to be able to do what he’s called you to do. I love that so much. Your story of adoption and your ministry is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve mentioned probably on the podcast a few times that we were married for almost 11 years before we had our first daughter. I don’t talk a lot about the struggle that we had know. We tried for a really long time. We got married very young, and all I ever wanted was to be a wife and a mom, and so we got married. We had just turned 20 and I just thought, “Well, no one in my family had a problem getting pregnant. Why would I?”
For it to take so long for us to actually get pregnant was just, it was devastating. We had our first finally, I mean, and the interesting thing is, and I’m sure you’ve heard this story many times we had started looking into adoption because we couldn’t get pregnant. I just thought, “Well, you know what, my heart is to be a mom.” I mean, even though I wanted to feel that life inside of me, I really want it to be a mom. I thought, “If the Lord chooses to give us children through adoption, that’s just as exciting as pregnancy, and then I don’t have to go through labor and delivery.” We started looking into adoption, and sure enough ended up getting pregnant, I mean just within probably a couple of months.
Perhaps we should have started looking into adoption years earlier. It was really exciting when I finally did get pregnant. Then took us another almost five years to have our second daughter. We lost a couple in between there. God’s timing is perfect. I remember you spoke awhile back at an event. It was called Day of Mourning with Elizabeth Johnston and Heidi St John, and the [Bennen 00:07:04] brothers, and a bunch of other amazing people. One of the things that you said really struck me, and you talked about how there are two moms often times and you’ve got the mom who’s crying because she can’t have a baby and she desperately wants to have children, and then, and she just can’t for whatever reason, and then you’ve got another mom on the other side who’s crying because she has found herself pregnant and she simply doesn’t know what to do.
She knows that she can’t handle a child, and being a mom. I love that your ministry gives these moms and option. Like you said, I mean it’s so shocking I think when we hear the statistics of how many of these moms choose abortion over adoption, when there are so many parents who desperately want to have children and they can’t. I mean it when I hear of the list of parents who are waiting to adopt a baby, and they’re waiting for sometimes years, and then there’s thousands who are being murdered every day, that has to shift. I mean that paradigm just absolutely has to shift somehow. God has really given you and your family a platform and you get to do it together because-
Jessica: that’s right, we homeschool.
Yvette: … because you homeschool.
Jessica: That’s right.
Yvette: We love that part because our kids have always been able to be right beside of us whenever we’re ministering. It’s been really special to make it about that ability. I can’t imagine it any other way because obviously our daughter is very powerful in what we do. She does come to the sidewalks with us, so does our son. They’re both heavily involved in pro-life rescue ministry. It’s just a really special thing to be able to share with our kids.
That’s so cool. Maybe take us through what it would look like, because for many people it sounds really scary to be part of something like this, to go and actually confront the other side of it. What does it look like for you as a family when you maybe go to an abortion clinic or a pro-life center and you how you get to talk with these moms?
Jessica: My husband is really a huge prayer warrior, so he has the prayer component, and I am more of the sidewalk counselor. When I’m there, pretty much calling out to the men and women as they’re going in. A lot of times we’re on a microphone, we’re able to give the Gospel. So many times we hear them say, “I can hear you from inside the building. I’ve heard what you said.” Most of the time, it’s not the words that we’re speaking from our hearts, it’s the words from the word of God that just pierce their heart in those moments. We’ve had women come out who are almost just moments away from having an abortion saying that they’ve heard us, and then come on board.
We work with a local ministry that is a pregnancy resource center out of Monroe, North Carolina called HELP, and they actually use their mobile ultrasound unit in front of the abortion clinic and allow us to go on board and council these women while they’re also having the ultrasound, and so it’s really powerful. They also give free pregnancy tests, so it’s an opportunity for us to allow that woman a little bit of time to slow down and just breathe for a few moments and think about what she’s doing. That’s really what it looks like in our kids are there with us. My son a lot of times is there helping with whatever it needs to be done, whether it means holding a sign or helping with something else.
My daughter is a huge component because she’s a living example of what choosing life looks like. It’s undeniable the power that she has when she’s there. I’ve seen grown men who are driving even their wives to the clinic. She and I have been able to stop their car in the middle of the road before they went into the clinic and talk to them. She has been able to tell her testimony, and the men are weeping and realizing exactly what they’re doing. There is something very powerful that God has done, I believe with the children who were spared from the atrocity of abortion. He is raising them up and using them as a voice for the voiceless.
Yvette: Yeah, that’s so amazing. We recently have learned about something similar to your mobile unit that you work with called Save the Storks. It’s a neat ministry, that’s all. I mean, they’re all over the country, and they’re growing more and more. They say when those moms go onto the bus and they get to hear, see the ultrasound, they get to see their baby and here that baby’s heartbeat, four out of five moms choose life for their baby, which is just absolutely incredible. Tell your story about how you ended up adopting because your son is, he’s your biological son.
Jessica: That’s right.
Yvette: How did you end up adopting your, your daughter?
Jessica: Well, we had our son and I always tell everybody, it was probably one of the easiest things that we’d ever done. We kind of sat down and said, “We think it’s time to start a family”, and two weeks later I was pregnant, and I was young, I was really naive. None of my girlfriends had experienced any losses at that point in time. I just really felt like that’s the way it went for everyone. Rhett was about a year old, I think when Reggie and I said, “Okay, it’s time, let’s grow our family some more and start trying.” We tried and we tried in a year went by ,and we finally said, “Something’s just not right because it was so easy the first time. Let’s go seek some counsel from an infertility specialist.” We were told as our two year old son was sitting on my lap, my husband was on the side of me and the doctor looked and said, “Your son is an absolute miracle by the test results.”
“He really shouldn’t be here.” It just was such a shock for me. I was not prepared for that. I don’t know what I was prepared for. I just never thought I would be told that there’s little chance that I’d ever have children again, from my womb, at least. I walked out that day, we went to lunch and I just felt so defeated and so broken, but my husband didn’t. He had a different take on it. I’ll just never forget him saying, “Jessica, have you ever thought, God may have a different plan for our family?”
Just to be real with you and your readers, because that’s the only way I believe are being, I wasn’t on board with adoption right away. It was something that was really hard for me. It was like I was dying to this dream I had in my mind of having little stair step children who look like us, who had our talents and different things. It took me a while to die to that, and once I did, I opened my heart up to the possibilities that God would have.
It’s also important that everyone know for us, at least for me, it was still a scary process. Sometimes adoption, we see, we see certain things on Facebook and we don’t always see the whole, the whole picture. It’s important for the audience to know that sometimes God calls you out onto the water, and you just have to take one step at a time, no matter how scared you are. I’m sure we’ll get into it in a few minutes, but as I tell you more about our story, you’ll see that God totally blew my mind with the dreams that I had for myself, compared to what he had for us. It’s exciting. I want everyone to know that, that if you are in the midst of something and fear has gripped you, hand it to him because chances are once you hand it over, he’s getting ready to bless you beyond measure.
So after I opened my heart to adoption, and my husband was so sweet and kind during that process. He Never pushed me. He never told me how I should feel, or what I should think. All he did was look at me and said, “I’d pray for you. I’ll just keep praying for you”, and he did. One day, I let go of that fear. For us it led us to a private adoption lawyer. We were really excited because he said, our wait would be about six months. We were like, “Okay, this is wonderful.” We actually did get placed with a little girl, but the adoption did not end up going through. For a couple who has experienced loss already, it was very similar to losing a child again.
It was heartbreaking. We couldn’t figure out why this was happening. We just thought “We stepped out on the water, Lord, why would this be happening?” We, through a series of circumstances, we did not feel led to continue on with this lawyer. God led us to an adoption agency. I just will never forget the timing. It is so God. I love telling this story, because he gets all the glory. With this agency, they only accept a certain number of couples per year. The day that I had called, I believe they were having, it was like the week later they were having it’s kind of like you had to go to a conference and learn about what it meant to be an adoptive family. It’s like a two day thing. They had space for one more couple. That couple was us.
Jessica: We ended up going, and God really stretched me in the process, because they ask you so many questions. You really get to see what your heart is made of, and you get to see what’s in there and maybe what doesn’t need to be there. I remember our social worker looked at me and said, “Are you going to allow God to stretch you in this process?” Of course I told her “Yes”, but I wasn’t really thinking anything major would happen. Well, we were told that we would wait anywhere from a year to two years or maybe more for a baby. After we got our name on a list and got our books and into the agency, I believe it was only about two or three days before we got a call that an adoptive mom and her parents had chosen Reggie and I, and would like to meet with us, and that was really exciting. It was very fast.
Yvette: Yeah, that is fast, that’s amazing. How old was her biological mom?
Jessica: She was 19.
Jessica: She was younger. Yeah, she was in college and younger. She was just a brave young girl who knew she couldn’t give life the life that she wanted for her with two parents. She and her mom and dad made a really hard decision and as a family, that’s how they came across our profile through the agency. They interviewed us, and it was neat because she actually was homeschooled for a portion of her schooling. We had just decided a few days earlier to homeschool Rhett. It came up during our interview.
Yvette: That is amazing timing. What an incredible story of your adoption of Blythe, and then how God has used that to impact the lives of so many other people. He’s just used your family, and all you’ve done is said yes, and been willing to just obey and do what God’s asked. I think so oftentimes we don’t realize that it just takes a yes, and like you said, it’s just steps. You just take one step at a time. It’s not like end up deep in the middle of this ministry over night. You just take one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, and God just opens the doors and does what he does. We just have to be willing to, to surrender and to obey.
Yvette: Talk about homeschooling and not so much like what it looks like on a day-to-day basis, but you said your husband was a public school educator, has his master’s degree in public education. How has that transformed your family?
Jessica: Well, the homeschooling in general, I can’t get over how you get to share your life with your kids. One of the most impactful things for us as parents has been that we know their hearts so well. We know their sin bins, we know what God has gifted them with. I think it’s so special to be able to do life with them on a daily basis all during the day, and just have time with them. I really don’t know how I can know them at such a deep level if I wasn’t given that privilege. We’re just so thankful. I’m thankful to my husband that he works so hard to make it a possibility for me to be home with them, and that we just have just shared life with them.
Yvette: Does your husband still work in public education?
Jessica: No, he’s not. He’s in cyber security. He works from home too, so we’re all here together.
Yvette: Yes, us too. We’re the same. We love it. That’s so great. I ask because we’ve actually interviewed several people who are public school teachers or work in the public school world, and they always homeschool their kids. Not that every public school educator homeschools, but the ones we’ve talked to and, and it’s usually because they’re on the inside, they see what’s going on, and they say, “Not for my kids. I’ll go be salt and light and I will be a witness to these kids, but I will not put my children in in this type of atmosphere.”
I would love for you to talk a little bit about working from home, because you have this ministry now and I never planned to be a work from home homeschool mom. I actually never planned to be a homeschool mom, and then and God had a better plan than I did as he always does. Then I never planned to work in the midst of it, and God has called her family to film this documentary on homeschooling. I also get to work side by side with my husband, and that brings a whole new level of homeschooling, because you then have to learn to kind of juggle ministry and homeschooling and family and all of that stuff. What does that look like for your family and for you?
Jessica: It definitely takes some planning on my part because of the type of work that I do. I can get calls at 3:00 AM, or I can get calls at noon. My family has been so gracious when they have to share me. Just recently, a few weeks ago, they had to share me for about two or three the full days where I was a labor and delivery partner for a young woman who chose life and wanted to place for adoption, and that meant that, I was away from the home. My husband really stepped in. I would say for us, it’s just working as team. I’m very blessed to have a husband who just really sees that there are some parts of this ministry that only I can do as a female. He’s been gracious to be able to step in with homeschooling, whether that means taking them to, they’re in the speech and debate club for instance, or it means stepping in and helping teach some of the subjects when I’m not able to.
Then my kids are just amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything more. When it comes to them, they understand that our family has a call that most families don’t have. I’ll give you a for instance, I’ll brag a little bit on them. My son especially, he’s 13 ,and so when the Day of Mourning event that you mentioned earlier in the podcast came about, Elizabeth and I sat down and talked about what was God really calling us to do. Baseball season was getting ready to start, and Rhett and I sat down with his dad and we talked a little bit and he was willing to give up a sport that he really loves, and he’s actually a really good player. He saw this vision that God had put our family on phone the front lines of something, and this is where we needed to be. That’s pretty special when you see that they have a heart for ministry, and that they’re willing to give up some things that are really important to them.
Yvette: Yeah, that’s incredible. There’s nothing better and know better training for our kids spiritually, than to do ministry together as a family. It’s so important because we can take them to church on Sundays and we can read the Bible with them and we can say, “This is what you should do.” If they don’t actually see us doing it, and they’re not doing it with us, they’re not experiencing the life that God has called them to. God calls some families to do big ministries like what you’re doing. and then he calls some to, whisper scripture into their ears of their babies as they’re changing diapers and as they’re reading to them and reading God’s word to them. I mean, it doesn’t matter how big or small your platform is, God’s given every single one of us a platform and a purpose, and so bringing our kids alongside and doing that. I mean, it could be going to the park and just seeing a mom who’s maybe there alone with her kids and going up and meeting her and to just befriending her.
There just are so many ways to minister, because we live in a hurting world who desperately needs Jesus. They need to see and hear and feel the love of Jesus through us and through our children and our families to where it just becomes second nature. Our kids don’t know any different than to just do ministry. I remember several years ago, my husband, and I went to a parenting class and one of our pastors who was teaching it, he, he also loved baseball. He said, “I fully expect that my sons will grow up to love baseball, because I love baseball and we play baseball together and we watch baseball together and we talk about baseball.”
“I expect them to grow up understanding and knowing and loving baseball”, he said, “Just like my kids know that I love Jesus, and we learn about Jesus and we follow Jesus and we do Jesus together.” That’s exactly how it should be. When you, when you’re putting your kids in in school for 35 or 40 hours a week and doing ministry by yourself, apart from them, they’re not getting to experience that with you.
Jessica: That’s true.
Yvette: It’s just such a beautiful way to raise our kids. We talk a lot on the podcast about how homeschooling is so much more than the academics. I mean, I feel like the academics are such a small part actually of homeschooling. I mean, they’re necessary and important, but we’re preparing them for life. We want to prepare our kids for a life of serving Jesus, just like you are with your kids.
How can you encourage the mom who, who’s homeschooling? Maybe she’s thinking about going through adoption and I shouldn’t even say homeschooling. It could be a mom who’s not homeschooling, and maybe I’m just listening to this podcast, but who’s maybe considering adoption. Maybe she’s having a hard time getting pregnant or maybe she just feels like the Lord has put adoption on her heart. How would you encourage that mom?
Jessica: I would say, if you feel that prompting from the Lord, then chances are it’s something he’s leading you into. It’s not something to be taken lightly. We don’t always hear that message, but I’m a firm believer that not everyone is called to adopt, but we are all called to be part of the process. Some are called to bring a child into their family. Some are called to finance the the funding of an adoption. Some are called to pray. We are all called to be part of it, because it is the heart of God. It’s exactly what he did for us. He adopted us into his family. It’s a beautiful picture of the Gospel. I would just say if that prompting is there, then chances are it is from the Lord, and to enter into fervent prayer about it because it is such a special and sacred thing that you can do. It’s totally different than parenting a biological child.
I’ll just be real because there’s so much that comes with it, and there’s a whole another family or possibly two families that you are going to be involved with. In our case, we have an open adoption, and we have a relationship with Blythe’s birth, mother’s side of the family, grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, and of course the birth mom. Those are all things to consider. It’s a huge blessing. One of the things that doesn’t get talked about a lot that I would just love to share is I think that people are fearful of adoption. I get a lot of calls. I believe in being real. I was fearful too. One of my fears was would I love my daughter as much as my son because he was biological. How could it even be possible is what my mind was telling me.
I just want to say the bonding process did take a little longer for me than it did with my son. Honestly, in my heart, I don’t see any difference between my children. You’d have to remind me which one is adopted, that’s really how I feel at this point. And that such a fear. I just want to share that with you and your audience, because that’s something that doesn’t get talked about because I think people don’t want to ever seem as if adoption is something that would ever be a negative. It’s not a negative, it’s a growth process. I always tell everyone that I feel absolutely privileged, that God shows us to learn how deeply he loves us in the respect of adopting us into his family. He allowed me to see that through an actual adoption in my own life. I do feel very privileged. I wish that everyone could have that experience, whether it’s through adoption themselves or through walking with a family that has adopted.
Yvette: Yeah. Oh, I love that encouragement so much. In reality, every single one of our children belong to the Lord Anyway, they don’t belong to us. They’re just on loan to us for a little while.
Jessica: An adopted child just comes through a different avenue.
Yvette: That’s right.
Jessica: I firmly believe that our daughter was chosen for our family from the beginning of time. It was just a brave young girl who was used as the vehicle to bring her into the world and share her with us.
Yvette: Yeah, that is amazing. I love that so much. Thank you so much Jessica for your encouragement. Thank you for sharing your story and just opening up your heart and your family to us. I hope that that this will encourage others to just take action. A love that you talk about even if God’s not calling you specifically to adoption, he’s calling us all to do something. Even if it’s supporting an adoptive mom, just by loving her and loving her family or her family who’s going through it, I think everybody knows somebody who is somehow touched by adoption. I love the encouragement of just being able to be out there, to encourage that so much. Thank you again. I love what you guys are doing. You’re a blessing. We appreciate having you on this show so much.
Jessica: Thank you for having me. I so appreciate you being able to allow me to share my testimony. I think it’s something that only God could write.
Jessica: I’m not the same girl that I was 13, 14 years ago when we started the journey of parenting. He’s done a work in me and is continuing to do it.
Yvette: Yeah, that’s amazing. Well, I can’t wait to see what he continues to do and how he continues to grow your ministry. Where can people find you?
Jessica: Well the website is a great place to go. So it’s Option-Adoption.com. If you ever need a resource for someone that you come across that may be abortion minded or maybe a family that wants to learn more about adoption, you can find those things on our website.
Yvette: Perfect. I hope this conversation has been an encouragement to you. Go encourage a mom somewhere somehow.
Yvette Hampton: This is the type of interview that I love, though I love all of my guests. Sherri Seligson is one who has been through homeschooling with her kids. And she has a really neat story about where God has taken her and where she came from, and what he’s done through her homeschooling. So, I’m excited to introduce you to her. Welcome, Sherri.
Sherri Seligson: Hi Yvette. Glad to be here.
Yvette: Yeah, tell us, tell us about you. Tell us about your family.
Sherri: Well, my husband and I have four children. We homeschooled them K – 12. They are all out of school. I still have my hair and most of my sanity. They’ve made it through college and are actually productive adults. And before we had kids, I worked at Walt Disney World’s Living Seas Pavilion as a marine biologist, and then left that to what I consider a promotion, to become a mom. Yvette: Oh, I love that you say to a promotion because marine biology is a pretty amazing career to have. I love the ocean. You got to really experience God’s creation in a whole different way that most people don’t get to. Sherri: Yeah, it was amazing. It’s definitely not as glamorous as people tend to imagine it, but it’s definitely fun, definitely fascinating. And the more I studied it, the more I saw God’s creative hand in our world, just a beautiful testimony to Him. Yvette: That’s awesome. And so God has used that in some pretty amazing ways, for you as a homeschool mom, but for you also as just a homeschool leader, as a speaker, as an author. You’ve done some pretty neat things that help Mamas like myself who are in the middle of homeschooling right now and in the thick of it. We’re always looking for good curriculum. We’re always looking for the best thing to direct our kids’ hearts towards Christ. And so, you have been able to do that. But one of the things that you love to do is to encourage moms who struggle with the feeling of putting their lives on hold. Because some may have seen what you did as that. I would love for you to tell that story of you, “putting your life on hold” even though, like you said, you actually ended up getting a promotion. Sherri: Yes. You know, it’s something that we have as our… we imagine as a young parent or a young single person, before we have kids, we have this career, because society is telling us that it’s valuable to have a career and that being a stay at home mom is lesser, is settling for less, is not good enough. That is completely wrong in my opinion. Completely wrong. One of the best mission fields we have is our children, our family. One of the best ways to impact the world is through that.
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When I left my job, most of the feedback I got from coworkers, friends, even some family members was, “You’re nuts! What are you doing putting your career on hold like that?” And we tend to do that. We kind of think that we’ve got this plan that we’re going to do in our lives that’s significant. And then we become parents. Then we decide we’re going to homeschool. Which, you know, again, that reinforced the fact that my friends and family thought I was nuts. But then we kind of see that as a sidetrack to what maybe God has for us, what we’re going to do that’s great and mighty in this world. And so, we take this time, we count down the years, we mark off the calendar. “I’ve got five more years.” “Four more years until my last one’s graduated.” Or we even feel the pressure of, you know, putting them in public school or private school, or part-time. Because we just want to do something so that we can say we’re significant. But in my experience, if I did nothing else but… like people say, “What’s on your bucket list?” – and I’ve been to lots of fun places. I’ve been in New Zealand, I’ve been to Iceland, I’ve been to all over. My bucket list top check-off box is being a mom and being with my kids. So I’ve been able to check that box as I’ve been doing it, because that’s the best experience I’ve ever had. That’s the best place I’ve ever been. And God used that time to build skills in me, both spiritually and academically. I learned so much about history that I never learned when I was in public school. And that’s a whole entire topic right there. How much I believe homeschool moms and dads are some of the smartest people I know because we get the enjoyment of learning with our children and filling in a lot of those gaps that we had with the excitement of teaching them. And so He taught … God used this to teach me grammar that I did not have, writing skills, speaking skills, at encouragement, talking with my kids, teaching other kids. Because once you get pegged as a scientist in the homeschool community, you just kind of get volunteered to do co-ops, and to teach this class, which I loved. But it built skills in me that now I’m using every day. So, I’m able to have the blessing of writing curriculum for Apologia educational ministries. I get to teach. I get to film instructional DVDs that help go along with those courses. So we go on location. We talk about the science that’s happening wherever we are. And those skills that I learned going through that process of being a homeschooler, being a mom, were built in me because of that. I could not be doing what I’m doing today if it wasn’t for that amazing experience. And so, I believe that God uses His plan A. It’s not His plan B or our plan. It’s a plan A of bringing the children He has into our families, and then utilizing that experience to build in us humility, to build in us- Yvette: Patience. Sherri: What are those? In real ways … but then also building in us skills, whatever those skills are, that we can use to not only pour into our children, but prepare us for the next chapter that He has for us. Because, believe it or not, you may not believe it at certain times in your life. They will be grown one day. They actually will graduate. They actually will become adults. And then, what does God have for us at that point? And I know he’s got great things for all of us. And it doesn’t mean we’re all going to be like involved in politics or becomes famous whatevers. But we have a responsibility to use our time well and pouring into our extended family, pouring into our children and their children and then whatever it is God opens up to us. And so, I count the experiences that I had as a homeschool mom as part of that preparation, that it wasn’t a sidetrack, it was part of His plan A. And I continue to see, “Oh, I’m so glad I learned that. I would not have learned that had I not homeschooled.” So just as an encouragement to moms to continue building yourself as you’re building your children. Yvette: Yeah. Oh I love that so much. I love that you call it plan A too. Because I think oftentimes we feel like, “Oh, you know, we wanted to do this, we wanted to do that. And now, I’m stuck at home with these kids and I’m having to homeschool them.” And we feel like our work is insignificant and it’s not. Sherri: And it is not. Yvette: And the time goes by so quickly, which I’m sure you will relate to that. You know, our oldest is 13. And I cannot believe that she’s already 13 years old. I mean she was just born yesterday. How can she be 13? And I realize more and more how short our time is with our kids. I mean, it goes by in a flash. And I’m sure you experienced that with your kids. And now, God is using all of the things that you did before you had kids and took the things that you did from being a mom and homeschooling them. And now, he’s done something different with you. But he’s still using all of the gifts and talents and abilities that he created you to have to impact His kingdom. And there’s just no greater work than that. Sherri: Yeah, it’s not wasted time. It’s not. It’s the best thing we can do. And again, it’s the top of my bucket list. I have, you know, things I’d like to do, places I’d like to see, but that’s my bucket list topics. So yeah, it’s worthwhile. And there are days … I mean, I don’t know, I’m going to ask the Lord one day about this, but how time can feel like it’s fleeting, and then there are days or weeks or months where time feels like it’s standing still. I mean, there were those moments with our kids during those little years and I felt like time was not moving. There was no progress. There was no … like I was going to be in this moment forever. Yvette: Yes. Sherri: You know? I think that that’s when we need, even if it’s an hour break, or a perspective change, a friend we can chat with. Because within that tiny little moment of that little parenthetical moment in our life, where we feel like all we’re going to do is clean up liquids coming out of children … they do. That we feel like that’s going to be our life forever. And that’s a tiny little moment within the tiny little period of those young years, within the tiny little period of having them at home, within the tiny little period of my life that God’s eternal timeline … and He’s placed us in this spot for this time, for this period. That perspective helps me to say, “Okay, one more diaper. Okay, one more whatever it is, spilled honey with glass.” Yvette: Oh gosh. Honey is the worst. Oh no. It’s so sticky. Sherri: It is, especially in the glass containers. Come on. Yeah. And so, I think that a lot of it’s our perspective. But if we can get a vision of it, that God’s got a plan for us. And he doesn’t say, “Whoops, well this is happening, I’ll change the plan.” Then, it helps us have that right direction, that right perspective to keep moving, keep moving forward with what He has for us today. Yvette: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. What are some things since … So you’ve homeschooled your kids from kindergarten through 12th grade, all four of them. How many years apart are they? Sherri: They’re each two years apart. I married an engineer. So, we had four kids in six years. And then God just … We didn’t know how many we were going to have and God just said that’s your four is your number. And so yeah, we started with preschool with our first one, and thought, “Well, I can’t ruin preschool. I know my colors, I know my numbers.” And every year we would just pray and we assessed. And it’s usually like this time of year. We’re recording right now. It’s just now February. This is that. I would like check the computer, “How much is it for private school?” But every year, we’d reassess and we would pray and God just said keep going. Eventually our children said keep going. They enjoyed it, they caught it. And so, yeah, we went all the way through k through 12. And it was … They were lumped together, but the spacing was enough to where I could only teach certain groups. I mean, I had older and younger enough to where you couldn’t do everything with all of them. It was like spinning plates sometimes. But it was okay. Yvette: Which life is spinning plates anyway. Sherri: Yes. Yeah. Yvette: How did that build relationships between you and your kids and between your children and them as siblings? Sherri: I could tell you the perspective I have now watching my kids, watching ourselves with our kids, that that’s one of the best benefits of homeschooling is they are building relationships with you as parents and with each other. You know, if you think about the artificial environment of a brick and mortar school where kids are parsed into grades, and the fifth grade class goes on a field trip to the zoo, and they watch the elephant give birth or something. And they’re with kids that they’re probably never going to seek in the rest of their lives. And they’re not … When you’re as … as a homeschool family doing something like that, and the van breaks down and it’s raining and mom’s crying and the kids end up getting lollipops at the store because they’re waiting for the to truck to come. My kids have memories of that, that they share, the shared memories that built were their relationships. Oftentimes, I get the beauty of watching them come home for Christmas and we’re all sitting around having something to eat or something to drink. And they’re just chatting and reminiscing about their experiences. And some of them are misadventures and some of them are just, you know, inside jokes, movies they’ve seen together, things that have happened in their lives. They have shared memories that they get to enjoy together and relive together and that builds their relationships. They’ve been guided gently, sometimes not so gently, to get along. And even with us, we get to spend time with them through those challenging years, through those questioning years, wrestling. And so … And it’s not been easy, but it has been beautiful to see the pursuit. You know, God pursues us, He doesn’t let us go. We need to pursue them. Sometimes they don’t want it. Sometimes … At least, they don’t look like they want it. You know, when you give them a hug and they kind of go, “Oh mom,” they still love it. Tell them you love them, even though they may kind of give the eye roll. They, “I know that mom.” Well, I want to tell you again because they need to hear it. They need to know that we’re pursuing them. And it builds a relationship that is just beautiful, that’s wonderful, that never ends. And again, they’ll call each … When I hear that they’re going out together, two of them are going to go get dinner. I’m like, “Oh, I’m just so excited about that.” So, that will happen. And there were days where, you know, stop touching me, he’s touching me, that was our life a lot too. You know, my children, just like me, were sinners. So, we have to learn that. But just it’s a beautiful thing. The relationship building is such a blessing. And because we homeschool, we’re able to foster that. Yvette: Yup. I love it. I often tell our girls and you hear it all the time, we’re raising adults, we’re not raising children. And I desperately want my girls to grow up to have a great relationship and to be the best defense. ‘Cause I tell them, right now they’re almost five years apart, and so they feel like there’s such a big gap in their age. And it does seem that way, you know, between eight years old and 13 years old. There is a big difference. But I keep telling them, “When you’re adults, when one of you is 25 and the others 30, there’s not going to be a gap there. That gap completely closes.” You know, I’m friends with many, many moms who are 10 years younger than me or five years younger than me and it doesn’t matter. I don’t ask first, “How old are you?” You know? And if you’re five years younger than me, “I’m sorry. I can’t be your mom friend.” And so, that is one of our greatest desires for our girls is that they will grow to have a deep, deep bond with one another because they share life together. That’s what they get to do because of homeschooling. Sherri, I want to talk about how you transitioned your kids from the elementary grades into middle school and then into high school because it seems a little bit overwhelming to me. Yvette: Brooklyn, my oldest, she is in seventh grade right now, if we must label her with a grade. And I’m … that part didn’t seem as overwhelming as it does transitioning her into the high school years with transcripts and all these things that need to be taken care of. How did you deal with that with your kids? Sherri: Besides panic? You know, we … we … each child is different. You know, we actually, after having gone through the process with our oldest, everybody would say to me, “Oh, you’ve completed this transition. You’ve done it all the way through. You’ve got it figured out.” And I realized no, because each child is so different. Their direction was different, their giftedness is different. And so, the mechanics of how our courses that we had them doing and their experiences, whether they would work or not, whether they would dual enroll, it was different with each child. So, that’s going to look different. And that’s what we want. Because remember, we’re homeschooling them. We get that opportunity to adjust their needs, based on their needs, their direction, what God has for them. If we want to do the same thing with all of them, let’s just put them in a big classroom full of 25, 30 kids and do the same thing. And so it’s going to look different. But there are some things that we can do to help our kids in the transition that’s kind of across the boards the same, at least in theory or for the most part. Like as they exit elementary school years and enter the middle school years, we’re talking about adolescence. And it’s interesting that adolescence kind of falls at the same time as … I mean, physically, emotionally, mentally, developmentally, academically, there’s a lot of changes going on. And so if you imagine your child having that, it’s kind of like, I mean, we have to cut them some slack first of all. Their bodies are growing. Their bodies are doing things. They’re like, “What’s happening to me?” They’re having to … Developmentally, their brains are being able to transition from understanding only concrete information to understanding abstract ideas. And they’re questioning more, which is good, sometimes not so great, but good because they’re trying to process what this world is. Who is … what’s truth? How do I fit into this? So they’re going to have awkward feelings. They’re going to have questions. They’re going to be maybe inward. They’re not going to know how to respond. And we have to have that dialogue. That’s when we pursue them gently and give them space. And we also work on academically the transitions that are occurring. They are becoming more able as they enter sixth, seventh, eighth grade to become more independent. They want that. That can cause some of those issues in your household. They’re maybe loading the dishwasher differently than you want to because they see it as a better way to do it. And there’s going to be those questions or those, you could call them clashes, but it’s more of just really trying to see how everything fits. And so, academically, we want to help build those independent learners in them. And so … Like I love doing that as we design curriculum for the kids. Because, in those middle school years, we want to train them walking through it step by step, here’s how you do it, in the same way that you would show a child, let’s say, how to fill a dishwasher. You do it for them and show them. Then, you do it with them. And then, you let them try a couple of times. And you give them good feedback. And then, you’re ready to launch. And they’re going to make mistakes. And they’re going to put the non-hand-washable thing in there and ruin a couple of things. But that’s a process. And it’s the same way with learning. You’re going to give them … sometimes they may have access to solutions manuals or they at least know where they are. And sometimes they may kind of be tempted to find them and use them when you’re not aware. And those kinds of trial and error … This is the time to be addressing those things lovingly, gently, the temptations that they experience in that. They’re also spiritually going to be going from following mommy and daddy’s beliefs, belief system, to making it their own. And so, they’re going to ask questions that might shock us, you know, “How is it fair that a person over in wherever is born there and not hearing the Gospel like I am? Or how do we know that what they’re believing is not true and what we’re believing is true?” And if you don’t know the answer to that, that’s fine. Seek out the answer to that with them. Walk through. It’s not that they’re challenging you necessarily. They’re challenging questions. And we want to walk through that and it’s harder. And that, you’re going to find that in academics. You’re going to find that in how the household is run. You’re going to find those questions. But if you have an understanding that this is a child who’s maturing, this is a child who’s developing, and this is expected. We don’t want them to be elementary aged in their minds all the way through. Right? You don’t want an 18 year old like that. So, we want them to become thinkers. We want them to reason. And we want them to do it early on like this so that they have the benefit of dialoguing with us, of having those hard concepts. We started putting our kids in a co op that met one day a week for certain number … certain classes, not all of them. But I wanted my kids to experience external deadlines. I wanted them to take on that responsibility of communicating to me, “Well, you know, this is the way this teacher is doing this and how do I deal with that?” Or “Mom, this is not how we’re supposed to do it.” Okay, well let’s talk about that. We want them to be able to start navigating that a little bit at a time so that we can walk with them through those harder concepts, or how they manage their time. Let them fail sometimes. This is a safe place at home to fail versus a college environment or a career environment where they’re not knowing what to do and they fail something and they just fall apart. We can’t be … you know, we talk about helicopter parenting, when you’re all involved in everything. It’s really hard to do as homeschoolers because we know who their friends are. We know what they see, what they do, what their learning. And we tend to be helicopter parenting. But we also don’t want to be what I’ve heard as lawnmower parents. Like just push them on through. Just get them going. We don’t care what we’re mowing over. Let’s just get it done and check off the boxes and say, “We’re done.” We have to have … be somewhere between those two machines. I don’t know what we are. I haven’t come up with a metaphor for that. But it’s … We did it. I want to say we did it perfectly, but we didn’t. We did it vary fallibly. We made mistakes. We had lots of times where we would have just, you know, “Let’s have a family meeting and let’s talk about this.” Lots of tears, lots of apologies on our part and my part. But helping them to see that you’re navigating this process with them, through all of those arenas in their lives, helps to build conversation, helps to open up those doors for talking about those things, and helps them to identify that your heart is for them. You want the best for them in the same way that God wants the best for them. And it helps them to navigate those new experiences. I had the blessing. I’m right now working on my master’s in education and science design and science curriculum design. And I get the opportunity to talk with lots of teachers in the public school arena. Yvette: Oh, okay. Sherri: Part of this classroom. And it’s been so eyeopening to see what these dear, dear people have in their hearts for their kids that are in their classrooms and the challenges they face. And most of those who are in middle school, in those middle school years are just hitting their heads against the wall because they can’t influence those kids in the short time they have. They’re not the parents. We had that beautiful blessing of solving that problem, because the kids were home with us. We had those teachable moments. And you can’t have that quality time without quantity time. Yvette: Yeah. Sherri: ‘Cause you can’t just say, “Okay, sit down with me and have coffee. We’re making this appointment one day every month and let’s just talk about something important. Go.” And they just look at you. You know? It has to happen as I mess up, as they mess up, and those natural conversations occur because you’re with them. You’re with them all the time. Yvette: Yeah. Sherri: I mean, I don’t know. Does that help answer some of those- Yvette: Yeah. Oh, it totally does. And I love so many things that you said. You know, you talk about how they’re, at that age, kind of processing, what is truth? What is this life around me? What do I really believe? And what better way to navigate that with them then to be able to be with them day in and day out? Sherri: Absolutely. Yvette: Because we get to see … I mean, you know, no one knows our kids better than we do. No one. They can have teachers. And there are teachers, public school, private school, universities, there are teachers who love their students, truly genuinely love them. But they can’t … They just don’t have the ability. They don’t have the time. They don’t have the ability to know our kids the way that we do. And so they cannot walk through them … through life with them, and help direct them in every single way and, like you said, just allow them to figure it out. And one of the things you said really struck me as you said it. And it reminded me of Ginger Hubbard, if you’re familiar with her. She’s a sweet, sweet friend of mine. She has a book called Don’t Make Me Count to Three. And she talks a lot on parenting. And one of the things that she talks about is do overs and we do them with our kids. And so, you know, if you’re child disobeys and they … and we’re talking, you know, a toddler, maybe they hit their brother or sister because they’re mad for whatever reason. Instead of just saying, “Don’t hit your brother and sister.” And scolding them and then walking away, you show them the right way to act. So let’s do it over. If your sister took your toy, instead of hitting her, let’s figure out the best way to respond to her. And so, you take them by the hand and you walk them through how to respond properly. And I love that you relate that then back to our children and their life and their education. And that, even at the age of 13, 14, 15, you know, 18 years old, we can still take them by the hand and say, “Let’s do this together. I’m going to show you the right way to do it. And then, I’m going to let you do it on your own. And you may or may not fail. And if you do, then we’re going to do it together again.” And let them practice, but coming alongside of them. Because I think as homeschool moms, oftentimes we just assume that they know how to do things the right way. We assume they know how to write a paper. We assume they know how to do these math problems. We assume that they know how to, you know, make a speech or whatever it is. We just think, “Well, of course they know how to do that.” Well, maybe they don’t. And so they need mom to be able to come alongside of them, show them how to do it. Or if we don’t know how to do it, find someone else who does like the marine biologist mom. And you know … and that … I mean, that’s a whole nother topic, but that’s the importance of community in homeschooling. You must have community, you must seek out people. Don’t wait for people to come to you. You seek out people because there are people who are waiting to be sought out. And build community. And then, you come alongside of one another’s children as well. And you do this together, you do this life together. And it’s such a beautiful thing. And so I love that you talk about that as a great way to just transition them. Sherri: Yeah. Well, understanding also that what you do with one kid … you know, you may have … like we had this phenomenal lady that was homeschooler and she’s great for educating our kids on how to write. And I kept thinking to myself, “Oh please don’t retire next year. I’ve got three more kids. Oh, two more kids.” And yet, we have to realize that … I really believe God’s got His plans for our kids. And so, what He makes available for one child, He may not make available for the others, but for His good purposes. And so, we can’t rely on a curriculum or a human or a friend who’s doing something to have to be there for us, as long as we realize that God’s got it. You know, I can tell you example after example of things He did that with our kids. I mean, one of our children is a musician, full time musician, makes a living doing it. Yvette: Awesome. Sherri: And I’m thinking to myself, “Oh Lord, how is he going to feed my future grandkids?” But he has been gifted in that from the beginning and God opened up opportunities beyond what I knew to do. Yvette: Yeah. Sherri: To give him these experiences that he had during his growing up years to prepare him for what he’s doing today that I could not have done. He didn’t make those opportunities, the same ones, available to my other kids. It was just … And so, I see His hand throughout that and we have to trust that, that that’s going to happen to you. It’s going to look different. And as like you were talking about, the sharing thing or the hitting my child and having a navigator, maybe they don’t know how to write a paper. Maybe they did know how to write a paper. But now, as a hormonal 15 year old, they don’t, or they’re questioning it, or they’re saying, “Why do I have to use an ly word here?” I mean, the gamut. It’s there. And so, we have to walk through them… through the questioning season based on everything they’ve learned. “Why is this called red? Does everybody see the same red that I see? Can I call it something else?” I mean, they like to challenge, because they’re trying to reformat their world with their mature brain. And so, it’s just fascinating to see how the brain works, and how God in his amazing design coincided those adolescent years with their … all of that transition time, which makes it fun for homeschool families. Yvette: Oh, what a beautiful reminder that they’re not just crazy. Sherri: No. Yvette: You know, we’ve all been through it. But I think we forget. I mean, I honestly … I remember my junior high years and my high school years. But I don’t remember going through the insanity, sometimes it seems like these kids go through. But I’m certain I did. But I’m sure my mom remembers. I’ll have to ask her because I’m certain she’s got stories. But it’s such a good reminder to just show them grace because we were there once too. It’s how God created them. They are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and not to always see it as them challenging us, which I think sometimes we always feel like they’re butting up against us. They’re challenging us. They’re being disrespectful. And sometimes, that’s the case. And then, we need to redirect them and their attitudes. So, I’m not giving permission for that, but sometimes they are really just trying to figure out what this life and this world is all about, so I love your encouragement. Sherri: Absolutely. Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash