Over the past 3 months, I have had the amazing opportunity to meet, e-mail or talk with over 100 homeschooling families. I LOVE stories and I love hearing how families have embarked on their homeschool journeys. Inevitably, as I talk with people, there are ‘small world’ connections that immerge. Either they know my family, I know of their family, they visited our church, we have mutual friends, etc. And in the coming months, I hope to meet more folks.
As I meet with people and meet with the ladies on our steering committee, each day refines the vision and goals that we have for this new cooperative. Of course, we started with what I call the ‘3 C’s’….We are cooperative and that means that each family participates in some way. The second is that we are classical and will strive to teach ‘stage appropriately’ (if this is foreign to you, please read Susan Wise Bauer’s book The Well Trained Mind) and to teach the ‘grammar’ of each subject in regular rotations. While many of our subjects have finalized curricula, we are still praying about science and history choices.
The third ‘C’ is the most important piece of what we are doing and that is the banner we hang the highest…we are Christian.
If someone were to ‘pin me down’ and make me choose just one of these to put as our mission or most important ‘piece,’ I would have to choose that we follow Christ first and foremost. To that vein, every decision, every worry, every challenge has been handed off to Him because He does ask that we ‘cast our anxiety upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). As this ‘idea’ of forming a 2-day a week cooperative began to bloom, it was obvious that God had created a pathway. Facilities were open to housing us, families were interested, resources abounded. But more than that, there is a need for solid Christian communities that ‘pull away’ from the noises of the world and can learn together, pray together and support each other in meaningful ways.
If you are not aware, this world is turning more and more toward dark and ugly places. Sin took a foothold in the garden, but has spread exponentially throughout humankind. We are all ‘prone to wander’ and ignore our ‘maker’s voice.’ We have all come through a particularly ugly political season and the media continues to surprise us with new zingers every single day. We watch as Planned Parenthood convinces the world that cells growing in the womb are not important. In addition to that, the traditional family is slowly becoming the ‘odd man out’ as divorce rates rise, families blend, same sex marriages become popular and now transgender families immerge. My pastor recently addressed this as humankind moving ‘inward’ for the answers of identity. We are each using our own ‘expertise’ to define who we are. And that, my friend, is the problem. We no longer look to our Creator to give us our identity, but we look to each other. That is going to get us into some serious trouble.
So, pin me down…why should we do this? Of course, we want to educate our children. We want to enhance our own thinking skills and find support. But, first and foremost, we should find solace in this community that is being created to focus on Jesus, our great redeemer and friend. And from that, springs the education we want for our children, as we seek to explain things in light of WHO created and ultimately purchased us for Himself.
But it doesn’t end there. We cannot just stay in our little community. NO WAY! We ultimately do this so that we can go out into the world and THINK, REALLY THINK about the messages that are hitting us. We must be able to recognize false teaching, fallacies and illogical thinking and know how to respond through thoughtful conversation and winsome debate. The world will NOT change because of who is speaking the loudest or protesting with the biggest, well-worded signs. It will change because people see Jesus in us, loving them, accepting them, but challenging them to seek their identity in the one who carefully knit us together. Won’t you join us as we seek to hear our ‘Maker’s Voice?’
I have been honored to have visited with a bunch of homeschooling families in Frederick County over the past two months. For a long time, I have been a lover of ‘stories.’ I love to hear journeys of faith, how couples met, how they ended up in Maryland and how they decided to homeschool. These stories often lead to ‘small world’ moments where we realize we know some of the same people, or went to the same college, etc. Often, the conversations have led to ideas for curricula, or ideas for the administration of the co-op or aspects of the classical education that I have not considered. I thought that this piece of putting the co-op together would be exhausting and draining over the spring months. But it has been quite the opposite. I have been invigorated, and excited to see the gifts, talents and ideas that God is shaping together in this endeavor.
So, since many of you have shared your stories with me, I thought that I would share a little more of mine. I am often asked why I am starting this endeavor as my youngest nears graduation, why I am starting something when Classical Conversations has well-established programs and communities in the area and other co-ops provide academic and elective options. After all, most moms my age, who are finished homeschooling, will go back to work or to school to pursue things that were ‘packed away’ long ago when they began homeschooling. I don’t like to talk about myself, but because I know many of you a lot better than I did a couple months ago, it is only fair to bare my soul to you.
Many of you know that I grew up in Maryland, graduated from Brunswick, and am a true blue country girl that still dreams of living in Jefferson again! My parents became Christians when I was about 10 and began a Christian singing group called the Ecumen. They traveled throughout the area singing in local churches. Both my parents sing, my mom plays the piano and organ and I followed in their footsteps. I love music and was trained in woodwinds, piano and guitar. So, ministry ‘seeds’ were planted in me from an early age. Education was also important and I attended James Madison University, graduating in 1985 with a degree in Communications/Business Marketing/PR with a further emphasis in English and Journalism. My plan through my Junior year was to graduate and ‘climb the corporate ladder’ working in Public Relations within the recording industry. However, during my time at JMU, I became involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and began to consider ministry with them. By my senior year, I was convinced that God was calling me to be a campus staff member with IVCF. I worked with IVCF for a year in Charlottesville, VA (UVA) and then transferred to eastern North Carolina where I was the campus staff member at East Carolina. That is where I met my husband, Jeff, who had attended ECU and was teaching math at a local high school. After five years, I left staff with InterVarsity and began working with abused and sexually assaulted women at an abuse center in ‘little’ Washington, NC. I served as the Executive Director and LOVED every aspect of working for this non-profit.
During my time at this program, our first son was born and parenting became our priority. As my oldest grew, I knew that I didn’t want to work full-time. God opened the door for us to move back to Maryland, where teacher salaries were higher. We moved back in 1993 and when my son turned 4, we began to homeschool (only because all my friends were doing it!). We went on to have 3 more children and continued to homeschool. I have to stop here and say that homeschooling is the HARDEST job I have ever done! We had our ups and downs (and still do), tried various curricula, went to tons of homeschool fairs, tried several co-ops and read a TON of books. But, through it all, I have to say it has been VERY worth it. I have been with my children for the majority of their formative years. I helped to shape their world-view instead of having their friends shape their world-view. I talked with them about controversial subjects and issues, shared scripture with them, had Bible study with them, prayed with them. I also read great books with them, re-learned history and FINALLY, learned Chemistry because I was teaching them.
Throughout my 20 years of homeschooling, I have been involved in various ministries. I volunteered with InterVarsity at Hood for about 5 years, worked with our Women’s Ministry and Worship Team Ministry at church, and served on the Board of Directors at Heartly House. I enjoy serving and enjoy mentoring.
And, I found a new love when we began at Christiana Homeschool Academy. I went ‘kicking and screaming’ into teaching in the classroom and found that I loved to teach middle school students. They will still laugh at my jokes and will pretty much do what they are assigned, making it a joy to teach them. I taught a full day one year, teaching 7th and 3rd Grammar and Writing, 8th History, Algebra I (I am really a math nerd at heart!), Public Speaking and Logic. This year I took on 5th grade science. I LOVE IT!
But this year, I also grew in my desire to mentor and to lead/administrate. I have ministry in my blood, 20 years of homeschooling classically in my blood and a love of teaching in my blood. Christiana is transitioning its leadership this year and it was my desire to take my gifts and experiences and to lead there. But that was not God’s plan. I have to say that I was disappointed. We loved Christiana and I really didn’t think that I had it in me to start something new. However, a new ‘start-up’ seemed to continually pop into my head and as I worked through the disappointment and began to realize that God was telling me that my CHA time was nearly over, I decided to explore this option. But I did tell God that He would have to make it clear and obvious that this was what I was supposed to do. And that He did.
Out of the ‘ashes’ of my disappointment, God led me down an unknown path and I was afraid. I knew that I would carry a HUGE responsibility on my shoulders. People would entrust their children’s educations to me in a sense. And most people in Frederick did not even know me because I had been in the Carroll County homeschool world. But God has paved a relatively smooth path and so many of you have joined in the journey. While much of the work has been mine to do here at the start, it has been a great joy. In addition, I am enjoying watching some friends ‘bloom’ in their leadership and look forward to seeing what God does in others as we continue to build.
So, why am I doing this? I am 53, my youngest is a junior next year and I could probably find a corporate ladder somewhere to climb. But that isn’t my heart’s desire anymore. My desire is ministry. I began to desire that last summer. And with my youngest in high school, I now have time to do what my heart loves. I want to mentor moms (and dads) as they begin or are in the midst of their homeschool journey. Titus 2 instructs the older women to mentor the younger and I relish the opportunity to do that. I don’t know everything there is to know about homeschooling, but I can walk alongside when things get tough and celebrate with you when you see success. I love the 2-day a week, classical educational model, I love homeschooling and I love to watch families grow in this very hard endeavor.
I have come home. All of the things I have loved I am doing. I love working in non-profits, I love doing ministry, I love classical education. God has put them all together in this beautiful little package called Frederick East Classical. For a while last fall, I lamented and wondered why God didn’t chose me to lead at CHA. But one day, He gently whispered that He DID choose me. He chose me for this. It is a little scarier, a little riskier and a little more costly both financially and time wise. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.