When God called me to home school my son 5 years ago, I thought the job was almost too easy. After all, curriculum choices and learning methods overflow from the pages of books, blogs, magazines and catalogs these days. My mother didn’t have any of that available when she home schooled me in the 80’s.
Then I realized God wasn’t calling me to home school my son. God was calling me to home – educate my son and my step-children!
All of a sudden I had three grade levels and learning styles to consider. Suddenly I wondered, is it even legal to home school step-children? Did I need to list that somewhere in my paperwork to the school district? God used those first uncertain and panic-stricken weeks to introduce me to my state home school support agency. They assured me that not only was it legal to home school my step-children; there wasn’t any additional reporting required to do so!
Everything seemed to be falling into place! With the blessing of both parents and state, I embarked on the mission of home schooling all three children. It wasn’t long before the struggles began.
Anyone can Home School
The children took to homeschooling eagerly. Their grades went up and our hopes were high. But the early days of rosy success sent an unintended message to our children’s extended family: “If she can home school, anyone can home school.” Before long, I started getting offers from all over to “pitch in,” and, “do a few workbooks,” with the kids in exchange for visitation time! Everyone looked at our home school, shrugged and said, “At this age, how hard could it really be to home school them?”
Life in a Glass Doll House
Under the watch of many eyes, we struggled to find a curriculum and a schedule that worked for all of our children. Though we lived in the same house, our students came from three very different backgrounds and situations. Our students went home to other parents, and those parents had a say in their child’s education. We realized for our home school to succeed, we would have to think like a private school. We had to get serious about structure and format in our school.
In a traditional home school setting, if the year doesn’t go well, you simply change what doesn’t work and try again the next year. Imagine though, if you had an entire gallery of onlookers ready to pronounce your home school a failure. Our home school became less of a peaceful educational journey and more of a desperate run for our lives. Ex-spouses and concerned family members scrutinized our progress. One of them remarked, “You’re providing all of the education and you’re raising the child. If they fail in anything, or have any learning problems, that’s on you!” The stress was intense.
The Turning Tide
We adhered strictly to the 180 day school year and mirrored our local school district’s calendar. Before long, the friendly offers from the children’s family turned to frightening threats and accusations. “How can anyone teach children anything useful without at least a Bachelor’s degree in education?” became the chorus. Soon, family members began to demand that visitation be based on their work schedule instead of the children’s school year, arguing, “They aren’t in real school anyway, so what difference does their schedule make? They can visit for months at a time now!” Our insistence on keeping our students on a schedule soon landed us in a lengthy court battle.
We were pounded with conflicting legal jabs. We stood accused of not educating, educating to strenuously, being too entrenched in the local Home School community and being too isolated all at once! Never have we relied so deeply on prayer as when we faced our second, terrifying lawsuit demanding we lose all custody of the children! National organizations that defend the rights of home school educators could offer us little help once child custody was thrown into the mix. We were on our own with our convictions, our kids and our faith.
After much bitter struggle, many tears and an untold number of difficult crises, we are blessed to say that God has given us permission to go forward with our home schooling, and He’s blessed us with two more children to add to the classroom when they’re old enough.
While we now have very different reporting requirements than other home schools, we persevere because we believe home schooling is God’s mission for our family. We continue to document our activities and our learning diligently and to work with our local educational resource-providers as professionals whose students deserve no less opportunities or assistance than a student of any other institution. We have named our home school, we created a student handbook, and we proudly emblazon our school motto on every report card we are required to present. In the end, fervent prayer and a biblical worldview were the only defense we had to protect our children.
We continue to learn and grow as we face educational challenges and triumphs. We take great pleasure in bringing glory to God by sharing our story at www.StirredUpFamily.com and encouraging others to home school with God’s blessing, no matter how impossible it seems.