December 3, 2013 | By: Matthew and Ellen Gerwitz
I’m sure the title of this blog has caught some of you by surprise. Would you believe that I, a veteran homeschooling mother of three who completely homeschooled adult children, once said that? I know. I know. Looking back, I can’t believe it either. But, it’s true.
Let me explain. In order to understand, you need to know a little bit about my background. I was one of those rare people who actually liked schoolwork. (I know. I know. Now, you hate me. That’s okay.) For the first five years of my schooling experience, I attended a small, local public school. From there, my parents put me into a small, private Christian school and there I completed the rest of my schooling except for lovely year abroad in Spain. Upon graduation, I was accepted into a private, local university to earn a degree in Spanish. But, I had also felt God tugging at my heart to be a stay-at-home wife and mother instead of a career woman. Thus, when my future husband asked me to marry him halfway through my first year of college, I said yes. (Besides, who could say no to such a good-looking Christian man who played the guitar and sang, right? Not me!)
We married in May of 1988 and found out in July that we would be expecting our first child in April. That fall, we moved to a little town to work in a small church. The pastor had been my high school history teacher. One evening, while we were at his house for dinner, he asked me if I had heard of this new idea of teaching your children at home. I had not and told him so. He then asked me if that was something I would ever consider doing. You can see my general reply in the title of this essay. But, what I really said was this: “Absolutely not! My child will be on the bus as soon as he is 5 years old!” Why did I say that? Well, the thoughts that ran through my brain at the time were things like these:
– “If I keep him home for school, I’ll have no free time for myself.”
– “If I keep him home for school, they’re never learn how to function in society.”
– “If I teach him at home, how will I know if they are where they are supposed to be academically?”
– “if I teach him at home, ..wait just a minute, I am NOT going through Algebra and Geometry again!”
And so, like Peter in the Bible, I opened my mouth and words came out. I spoke what was in my heart. I failed to heed my father’s advice of “Never say never.” (That’s good advice, by the way.) I also failed to take into account that God has a strong sense of humor!
Two years later, we were working in another church back in my hometown. We now had two children (yes, two babies in two years – that’s another story altogether!). God decided to place me in a church with three homeschooling families. I think he knew that I would need to see homeschooling in action before I could grasp the idea. Over the next three years, I observed these families and learned many things. I was still not sure about high school. However, I figured that I would homeschool for the first few years and worry about the rest later.
So, after three years of being encouraged by these other families, I prepared to dip my toes into the waters of homeschooling. After all, how hard could teaching Kindergarten be? Right? Wrong! Oh, it was not the academics. My son was a bright boy who had taught himself to MULTIPLY by age four and was reading short words by the time he was 5. He knew his shapes, colors, numbers, address, and telephone number. No, that was not the issue. The problem was that he was just like his mother and did not like to be told what to do! Mind you, this child obeyed me in all other areas of his life. He ate his meals, took baths, brushed his teeth, and went to bed at my command. But, when I sat him down at the table to practice his printing or to complete a simple assignment, he suddenly decided that I was no longer in charge!
My (now) favorite memory is the time that he argued with me for over 20 minutes that the apples he was supposed to color red (because both I and the directions had said so) could be colored green instead. His reasoning was that he had just seen green apples at the store and this meant that he should be allowed to color the apples red OR green. The issue was not really the color of the apples, but who was going to be in charge.
By the end of his Kindergarten year, I was done homeschooling with a capital D. My next child was due to start Kindergarten that fall and my son would be in first grade (that meant even more instructions to argue about) and I also had a one year old to contend with. There was NO WAY I was going to be able to do this homeschooling thing and (a) stay sane and (b) keep everyone alive.
So, I told my husband that I wanted to put them into a Christian school. He told me that we were going to homeschool the kids and if that meant that he had to educate them himself in the evenings, he would do that. But, I persisted and asked if I could at least ask about the cost of tuition. He agreed, but still said that we were going to homeschool. You will not be surprised to learn that the tuition of the Christian school was completely out of our price range (which frankly was almost zero anyway).
You would think that I would have admitted defeat then and there. But, no. I simply decided that I was going to put my child in the public school no matter how bad it was. I informed my husband of this, but still he continued stating that we would be homeschooling. Once again, I figured I would get my way if I just held out long enough. (As you can see, to my shame, in my early years of wifehood, I was not the most submissive wife.)
That summer, my four year old daughter became friends with a lovely little girl from church whose father was newly separated. The girls continued to ask to have a play date, but none of the parents involved felt comfortable sending their young daughter to an unknown home. So, we decided that it would be best to meet at a local park. A friend of mine told me that there was a lovely playground at the local elementary school just down the street from my house that she and her children used on a regular basis. I had never been there, but from her description I knew it would be suitable for our needs. We set up a play date for the following Sunday afternoon.
That week, I had a dream. In my dream, I was heading to school to pick up my son to take him to the doctor for a check-up or something or other. I arrived at the front desk and explained who I was. The secretary greeted me and told me he was in Mrs. So-and-so’s class down the hall. I headed down to find my son only to be told that he had just been sent to another classroom. No problem. I simply turned around and headed to that room. But, that teacher said the same thing when I arrived at her door. I was irritated, but not too concerned and headed on to the third classroom. This continued over and over until I was in a panic and realized I could not find my son anywhere in the school. Then I woke up.
Now, you would think that I would have realized that there was some meaning to this dream, but you would be wrong. My reaction was simply one of dismissal. You know, something along the lines of – “That was a weird dream. I must have eaten too much pizza!” I went on with my day and my week and did not give the dream a second thought.
On Sunday afternoon, I drove my children down the street to meet our new friends for the play date. (My husband was away for the afternoon playing in a gospel outreach band. This was yet another reason that we all felt that a public park was the best place to meet. We all wanted to avoid any appearance of evil.) I pulled into the driveway of the school which was rather long and began to drive towards the playground area. I could see the white van of the other family already waiting for us. Then my eyes happened to look to the right towards the school building.
I almost drove off the road because, to my shock, the school building before me (one that I had never seen before in my life) was the exact same school building from my dream! I also knew in that instant that God had been trying to tell me through my dream that if I put my children in a public school, I would lose them and never be able to find them again!
I recovered enough to safely guide my mini-van to a stop next to the white van and helped my kids get out so they could go play. They ran ahead to meet with their friends and as I approached, the father of the other family moved towards me to say hello. Upon reaching me, however, his first words were not hello. Instead, he asked if I was okay because I looked like I had just seen a ghost. I was not sure if I should tell this newly saved Christian about my crazy dream and the school building, but I figured I had nothing to lose. So, I did. Imagine my surprise when he told me that sometimes God chose to speak through dreams and that I should take it seriously!
I resolved then and there that I was going to homeschool my children for as long as God told me to do so. We finished our play date and headed home. I told my husband what had happened and apologized to him for not being willing to submit to his decision to homeschool. I vowed to try again that school year and to work with him until we figured out how to make it work.
God rewarded my obedience and miraculously my son was extremely compliant during his 1st grade year. My daughter (Praise Jesus!) after witnessing the misery of her brother’s Kindergarten year, decided to just go along with whatever I told her to do. My one year old was the easiest child I had ever seen and played happily while we did school. We had the BEST school year! We continued on year by year (some easy, some not) and by the time my oldest was in 4th grade, God had shown me that his plan was for families to homeschool and that meant I would be doing it all the way through. I was still not sure how I would teach high school at that point, but I also knew that I would rather end up with children that were as dumb as bricks, but still followed God than to have “brainiacs” who were lost to the world. I just put one foot in front of the other and worked through each year.
Now, let me tell you the results. I have three adult children who were homeschooled from K to 12th grade who love and follow God. Oh, they are sinners like the rest of us, but their heart is to do what God wants them to do. They are all hard workers and now live on their own. They are strong examples to their peers and friends of what living a godly life should look like.
Yes, they were good students and got excellent grades. Yes, they did well on the standardized tests. Yes, they were entrepreneurial and began earning their own money by age 12. Yes, one chose to take the SAT and scored very high and got two very big scholarships to two private colleges. But, just like Paul the apostle, I count these things as worthless when compared to the goal of being a follower of God.
Raising three more disciples of Christ is the measure of our success as homeschooling parents, not the achievements valued by the world. I am and will forever be humbled to have been given the privilege to be part of this journey called homeschooling that God designed to raise up the next generation of worshipers.