The Joys of Motherhood and Homeschooling
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