Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Home School Beginnings

I am a second generation home educator, so it seems only fair to give some background.

I realize that I am at a distinct advantage because of former experience.

However, my parents most certainly were not familiar with it but somehow, through persistence and grace, failures and successes, they were able to learn and adapt. I just want to encourage anyone reading that it does not take prior experience or expertise. (Or necessarily a college degree!) You can start completely from scratch and still have amazing results.

It does require discipline, research and a fair amount of stubbornness. Ok, check! We've all got that last one. 1/3 ready! Booyah!

Here's what I remember about our beginnings:

We were not a family of means.

We somehow landed in the middle-class bracket but our living was closer to poverty.

Bought clothes were rarely heard of; we lived out of garbage bagfuls of donated hand-me-downs or the occasional homemade garment when Mom had energy to sew.

My mother never questioned whether or not she'd stay home with her kids. She just knew it was what she wanted to do for her family.

In whatever town Dad's teaching jobs landed them in, they'd purchase a junk house to fix up during the summer months when he was off.

They jumped through humiliating government hoops (yes, little five-year-old me could easily recognize when programs are designed to make parents feel stupid and inferior,) to get nutritional assistance through WIC. Of which I have no shame for myself or them. (Sad, but true, careers in Christian schools, as in many other ministries, usually leave the pocketbook quite a bit short.)

There were many days of just enough, but God always provided. Mom never got tired of telling me that. I don't think she ever will.

I don't recall ever hearing Dad complain about all the time and effort he put into his job or of the many hats he had to wear while investing his life in secondary education. Did he ever have some stories, though!

He was hired as a science teacher. In addition, he was also a math teacher. Somehow he got roped into teaching Spanish as well. He was also always involved with the school computers with whatever use they got out of them in the early 1980s. (Joking. I'm sure they were highly useful!) He has been Mr. Fix-It or at least Mr. Find-A-Solution for as long as I've known him. In whatever ways he could, he contributed heart and soul to the well-being of his students and fellow faculty members.

I remember sitting in the teacher's lounge after school, watching my sister do homework, waiting for the high school to let out.

Sometimes Mrs. J, the cleaning lady, wide as she was tall, dazzling smile contrasting against her beautiful dark skin, would let me help push mop or broom around or even washing the chalkboards with a wet eraser which was the best job! Beautiful soul; how I loved her! We always made each other laugh.

Sometimes Mr. V, another teacher, whose curly hair I worshiped, would tease me and call me "Pamie."

I remember marching with my idolized big sister down the long hall to Dad's classroom at the end of the day. I remember seeing his dark red thermos, coffee-scented and stained, always faithfully waiting on the desk. His dress shirt always looked crisp, his tie smart, his mustache neatly trimmed; I thought my daddy must be the handsomest man in the world. I was so proud of him! I also saw that he was tired but he only ever had a smile for his little girls as we paraded in with our lunchboxes and our stories of the day, ready to go home.

I would say his was a thankless job from some points of view, but every time I was introduced to one of his former students in a chance meeting they were all gratitude and "You were my favorite teacher, Mr. Wright!" He even sacrificed some weeknights to tutor some of those students in our home. I often wonder what the count is of all the futures he bettered. I wish I could know. I wish they'd host a thank-you party. But they've all gone on with their lives and faded out of his.

He certainly didn't make a salary that one would call adequate for raising a family. At least 22 years of faithful teaching until the amount of underfunded high schools closing down and leaving his family high and dry suddenly made an insurance company with benefits look like a good option. Then he discovered the joy of the computer programming world. As far as I could tell, computers were one of his favorite hobbies; why wouldn't he jump at the chance to make it a career?

As it turned out, losing the private school teacher discount made for a rough prospect for his oldest three daughters' schooling.

For one year, my mother stretched herself tight and spread herself thin; she was on call for substitute teaching and she also played the piano for the children's choir. It was a deal they made to keep us in school. Her youngest daughter was permitted to come with her and either hang out in the classroom or be supervised in the teacher's lounge. Little sis was doted on by pretty much the entire school and somehow managed to behave well enough to make the situation manageable. But goodness, what a life!

And then one day, a good friend sent Mom some books on home education. She was hooked and picked up some additional books to research this alternative that would make life so much better for the whole family.

Somehow, she came up with a plan, persuaded skeptical Dad, (he was a teacher, c'mon! There was not a lot of awareness in those days!) So, at the beginning of the following school year, we embarked on our adventure into the world of homeschooling.

And we never looked back!


  1. Wow! What memories you bring back! I love reading your recollections of those times! When Dad read the last line he said, "That's right, we never looked back!" I remember when I said something to our friend about her kids being almost ready for school she said, "Not if I can help it!" And I thought, What???? So she told me she planned to homeschool and that was the first time I heard that homeschooling was an option!

    1. I sometimes think we started up just in time since I had begun to experience those anger issues in the 5th grade. It was still a lot of work and grace to fix, but the timing was truly providential! God is cool like that. ;)


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