The home schoolteacher who taught my children is retiring after a stellar twenty-three year career.
In the next few days we will withdraw our youngest child from her home school, high-school program. She then will prepare for taking the GED test in the next few weeks. For Sonya, my wife, it ends a twenty-three year home school teaching career.
When we made the decision to start homeschooling our oldest daughter it was not because we heard a word from God. It was not because we thought Deuteronomy 6 applied to readin', ritin', and 'rithmetic. Nor was it because we were on an anti-public school tirade.
It was pretty simple. When our oldest daughter was 5 years old we lived in the country where I pastored a church. It was 10 miles each way to kindergarten. If we drove her to school we faced forty miles a day round-trips. If we put her on the bus she would board around 7:30 in the morning and return around 5:00 in the afternoon every day. That was not appealing. Each school bus, like the one she would ride, had kids from K-12. That was not appealing, either.
So, we decided to home school.
As is the case with most home school families, Mom carried most of the responsibility. After twenty-three years and three kids my wife has done at least 98% of the teaching, grading, record keeping, encouraging, reproving, threatening, laughing and crying. I probably threatened worse judgments but she did more of it.
She sought the best deals on curriculum every summer as well as determining what of our old curriculum we could sell. And, she determined what we had to keep for another child or two coming through.
She told me what math I had to do with which kid on what night. She oversaw so many science experiments we could not even count.
Some of them actually worked.
All three of our kids could read, because of her emphasis on phonics, before they started school. One, however, sandbagged all the way through first grade acting as if he did now how. It was only when she informed him he would need to repeat first grade Reading that he picked up a book and, to her amazement, started reading it to her. I feel certain a loud lecture soon followed.
She read aloud more books than anyone could count. Classics, modern stories, the Redwall series, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, dozens of Agatha Christie mysteries. Thousands of pages, perhaps tens of thousands. Our youngest preferred to read than be read to. Finally Sonya would get two copies of the same book so they could alternately read aloud and follow along. To this day all our kids read, read widely and read much.
One thing instilled in our kids was a love of learning. I have heard more than one person say over the years they never picked up another book after college. Sonya never went to college but has picked up books ever since high school. She modeled learning, both biblical and the "schoolish" type, to our three. Education really should not be about reports and finishing courses, anyway. Education should be about creating the desire to learn and freeing the ability to do it.
We are not that home school family where each kid got a full-ride scholarship to Harvard while finding a cure for a major disease over the kitchen sink after successfully suing the government over the freedom of education. No, we had to evaluate every spring whether we would do it again in the fall. We also were not that family who went into the yard, picked a couple of dandelions and marked science off for the day. Sonya made sure there was structure. Field trips were planned judiciously. Going shopping did not count as economics. Well, not often...
Our middle child, and only boy, hated school (except for the reading part) and fought it every step of the way. He did not care for college either. But he is gainfully employed, promoted three times in a single year on his job. Our oldest got a scholarship and finished a philosophy degree at a state university. She helps run a coffee shop and thinks about the meaning of drinking coffee. Our youngest is in the choosing college phase. All three graduated at least a year early.
A local school principal once told me that, of all the homeschoolers she had ever seen, Sonya was the only one who did it right. It might have been hyperbole, but it was encouraging.
Sonya Duren passed up the choice to have a "career" so she could pour the best of herself into the three to whom God entrusted us. We forewent a lot of things to buy school supplies, books; VHS lecture tapes, DVDs and entire curriculum sets. Anything you see in the Bible about the rewards of sacrifice is embodied in her.
So, she "retires" this year with no pension, no admiring colleagues, no principal's speech, no plaque, and no pension. She just retires having changed three lives. Not to mention my unending appreciation and admiration.
The column was first published on Marty Duren's blog, Kingdom in the Midst.