Julie Anderson is ASD’s first guest contributor, and I am proud to share her story with you. In it, I hope you find encouragement and inspiration. To read more about Julie, read her bio at the bottom of the page.
Although I didn’t know I was going to be homeschooling three boys someday, God did. And, He went before us in so many ways as we made the decision to leave our school and become homeschoolers. ~Julie Anderson
Well, for most of my life that was a decision I had already made: I was not going to do it. I am the product of Christian schools with 2 advanced degrees, trained to teach college-level students, not young children in a one-room schoolhouse. And yet, God had always surrounded me with homeschooling friends. In spite of how exciting and enjoyable they made it sound, I had decided I wouldn’t (ever) homeschool unless the world ended or we moved to a third-world country. I was safe, or so I thought. This is the story of how this “never-going-to-homeschool-ever mom” became a “crazy homeschooling mom” of three!
Over the course of a school year, God started working in my heart to prepare us to leave the Christian school that my boys had attended for almost 4 years and where I had taught for 3. This was the same Christian school my parents helped found 30 years earlier. My dad had served on its first school board. Even my husband and I had helped start this school when we were children by passing out fliers in the nearby neighborhood. This school we were talking about leaving was a part of my family history, and the thought of giving it up just seemed unbelievable. And, yet, as God stirred in my heart a desire to homeschool, events happened in our lives that made leaving just a bit easier.
When I first realized that we needed to make a change, I simply started asking questions of friends who were like me – who had also sworn they would never homeschool, and yet, God had called them to it anyway. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how to ask someone about homeschooling. So, I started with very tentative questions: Do you like it? How did you decide? How do you homeschool?
When I finally broke down and realized that I had to have some answers, I contacted my college friend, Kristin. Here’s how she replied:
I had to laugh at your message today. First of all, you sound exactly like me 3 years ago, and second of all I had a thought out of the blue about 2-3 weeks ago. The thought was “I wonder how long before Julie thinks about home schooling.” I have not thought about it since and have no clue why I thought it in the first place, but your message reminded me that day. Guess God was preparing me.
So while the first answers from my friend about how to begin this process of homeschooling were quite practical, they were also wrapped in a reminder of God’s goodness and provision for our family as we pursued something new, something different, and even something a bit scary. As I read through the rest of Kristin’s email and shared it with my husband, then later with my parents, I was reminded of the precious promise of God in Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord.” God knew what I would need before I did! The decision for our family to homeschool was and is God’s plan for us: a good plan that He has and will prosper and bless!
This confirmation gave me the courage to press forward, to ask more questions, and share my concerns. As Kristin and I exchanged more emails and I listened to others’ stories, God showed me over and over again that their reasons for homeschooling, their experiences, and their situations were so similar to mine. And, these friends shared with me the joyful changes in their homes, in their children, in their families as a result of homeschooling. Suddenly, I realized that I wanted that joy and peace in our home more than I wanted to tell the world that my boys were finally attending the school that their grandparents and parents helped found.
My asking simple questions like “how and why do you homeschool” and “what helped you decide” helped me further articulate goals for homeschooling: to create a safe learning environment and ensure academic excellence for my children.
Kristin and others friends often shared how social issues played a role in their decision to homeschool. Similarly, I had witnessed issues in my sons’ classrooms for years, situations that I tried to explain as normal kid stuff but I knew differently in my heart. I knew my sons were hurting and that things were getting worse with each year. Those sorrows opened my eyes to the better gift God had prepared for us.
I also realized that my friends’ concerns over academic success were much like mine. I was frustrated over the lack of academic progress I saw in my sons. One of my sons was not reading half way through kindergarten. The teacher told me if he was not reading at a certain level within a few weeks, he would have to go to the pre-first program rather than start first grade with the rest of his class. I was shocked. I sat down and taught him to read with a week to spare before testing. My other son was barely testing at grade level after 3 years in private school. I really did not understand why his national test scores continued to be lower than what I expected. I realized not everything could be measured by national test scores, but my son is bright and inquisitive and obedient; he should have been testing above grade level. I knew their education was not measuring up to what I had hoped it would be.
Saying these experiences were difficult would be an understatement, but they helped me to realize that I could homeschool my own children successfully. After all, I had taught one of my sons how to read. And, I was teaching math every afternoon to my other son. I might have been trained to teach college-level students, but I was becoming sure that I could make this one-room school house thing work.
But there was just one more thing I had to figure out; I had to figure out how to homeschool. Psalm 37:4 says that when we take delight in God, He will give us the desires of our heart. God had placed this desire in my heart, and I knew that He would equip me to teach my children. And again, He used my friends. Since Kristin shared my passion for learning, she put me in touch with one of her friends who answered MANY questions about how to organize my day and what co-op (if any) to use. Through several emails with Kristin’s friend and conversations with another friend, I realized that what I wanted to use was a co-op that followed a classical model of education. Once again, God had provided the answers and means before I even knew I would need them.
As I look back at how I made the decision to homeschool, I see that God worked in my heart for much longer than I realized. God prepared the way for me, surrounded me with like-minded, experienced, and wise friends. He planted the seeds of desire in my heart so as we faced trials at our old school, I was prepared, and the trials worked for my sons’ and my betterment.
Twenty years ago, I never would have homeschooled; I wouldn’t even have agreed to homeschool ten years ago when I held my firstborn in my arms. What I wanted was for them to experience school. But, thankfully, God had something better for my sons, for me, for our family.
I will never forget how excited and happy the boys were the day we told them we were going to start homeschooling. My oldest immediately made a picture of what he dreamed our homeschool room would look like. A few months after we started homeschooling, my mom stopped by for a cup of coffee. She told me that our home was such a different place: the boys were content, happy, and thriving; I was clearly at peace, and there was joy in our house.
When I decided to homeschool, I learned that God prepares, equips, and provides for each moment He gives me; this is always true.