HSLDA writer and homeschooling mom (with three years under her belt), Abigail Dunlap, interviewed Claire G. about her experience homeschooling three of her kids over the course of 19 years.
Her three kids have successfully graduated: Rachael is working on her master’s degree in psychology, Joshua is in his last year of his undergraduate degree, with plans to be an English professor, and Michael just started his freshman year studying cyber operations.
Below is their discussion, lightly edited for clarity.
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Abigail: Claire, thank you so much for taking the time to have a conversation about your homeschooling journey with us! As a newer homeschooling mom, I love hearing the stories of parents who have recently graduated their kids. It’s so encouraging to know parents who have finished strong.
Claire: Certainly. It’s my pleasure.
Abigail: What factors played into your decision to homeschool?
Claire: My first two children went through the public school system. I was dropping my daughter Rachael off at preschool one day, when I ran into a mom I hadn’t seen in a long time. I asked her where they had been, and she said they were now homeschooling. I didn’t even know what that was. After a little bit of reading, I proposed to my husband that homeschooling would be a great opportunity for our family. I already had two older children that had been through the public school system, and had seen the negative consequences of their time there.
My husband was very hesitant, but told me that if I could teach our daughter to read by Thanksgiving (which was about three months away), he would be agreeable. Rachael learned to read in two weeks. And the rest is history.
Abigail: Wow! Two weeks—sounds like you were very motivated. So what kept you homeschooling?
Claire: Well, ultimately the Lord. But truly, I just loved being with my kids. We did everything together. Every single day. There was not one day that I ever regretted our decision to homeschool.
Abigail: I want to say that at the end of our homeschool journey, too. What did an average homeschool day look like? Or did you guys have a lot of variety in your schedule?
Claire: To be honest with you, every day was completely different. The kids got up whenever they got up, and they knew what they had to get done. We would check in with each other to make sure things were being finished. Sometimes we would do field trips or hands on learning activities instead of doing formal schoolwork.
Abigail: Another thing I like about homeschooling: flexibility! Now how did you juggle homeschooling multiple kids at different grade levels? Was managing your time ever a concern?
Claire: I know that you probably don’t believe me when I say this, but no, I did not struggle with time management. And part of that is because it was never about finishing the book. It was always about my children successfully learning.
Abigail: That’s great advice for moms like me for whom time is a battle. I think some of my issue is the unnecessarily high expectations I put on myself. You’re right—it is about our kids learning and growing—not completing a book or course or doing all the math problems on a page. I should try starting my homeschooling day with that mindset and see if it’s easier on myself—and my daughter.
Claire: Yes, we got done what we needed to do. What we didn’t finish we did the next day.
Abigail: What unique opportunities did your children have because you homeschooled?
Claire: Oh my goodness, where do I even begin. When I say that we did life together, we really did life together. Everything was a family activity. We were able to travel. We did the National Parks Junior Ranger programs. Every opportunity was an opportunity to learn something new.
Rachael and Joshua got to participate in a Food Network program, called Cupcake Wars, and pursue their interests with cooking. All the kids are very good bakers and cooks.
A few years ago, I took a trip to Paris with Michael, and that turned into a World War II history lesson right there in Normandy—where I was learning from Michael! We had so much fun together.
Abigail: I love that! How have these experiences shaped them as they’ve grown into adulthood?
Claire: Joshua served in Awana. He loved teaching others, and now he is pursuing a degree program at Grand Canyon University that will lead to a teaching position at some point.
Also, we had a pet sitting program in our home. The kids spent a lot of time around animals, which I believe with all of my heart made them more compassionate human beings. They helped take care of the animals, and I paid them a portion of what I made. They were able to get a head start on making money for college.
Abigail: What did you love best about homeschooling?
Claire: Spending time with my kids. Just being with them when the lightbulb went on. Discussing history. Discussing art. I learned more while homeschooling than I ever did in college. It was truly the best adventure of my life.
Abigail: Having homeschooled as long as you have, are there any "myths" of homeschooling you found untrue?
Claire: Well, there’s always that great question of how do you socialize your children? I know that everybody’s family is different, but my children were able to socialize with people of all different ages, and I feel like they have better social skills than most of their peers.
People would also ask about sports programs, and other things like advanced classes. Homeschooling for me has always been about raising my kids in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I wanted them to have a biblical worldview. I wanted everything they did to be filtered through the Word. I knew that if that was first, everything else would fall into place. And it has.
My children did play a little bit of sports. All of the children participated in gymnastics. The boys did a little bit of flag football, but they weren’t really interested.
Abigail: If you could go back and tell your younger self something about homeschooling, what would it be? Is there something you wish you'd known when you started?
Claire: I wish I had learned about homeschooling sooner. That being said, God’s timing is always perfect.
I wish I had learned earlier on that worksheets and grades don’t really matter. It’s not that they don’t matter. It’s just that there are other things that are so much more important. By the time I got to high school with my first child, I realized that all of those things are somewhat important—because it is the way that the world measures what you know. But in the grand scheme of things, they are not as important as we make them out to be.
Spending time with our kids. Learning together. Sharing life and making memories are so much more important than any of those things.
Abigail: That is so true. It’s vital to try our hardest, but I think what leaves the biggest impact are the people you spent the hours with. One last question. What would you say to homeschooling parents who are in the thick of it and barely keeping their head above water?
Claire: My greatest advice to them would be just to let your children explore their own interests. Have healthy boundaries, but allow them to pursue their learning adventure. Try not to make it harder than it really is.
Homeschooling is not school at home. It is an adventure that you take with your children into the unknown. It is an opportunity to allow your children to explore who God made them to be. It’s an opportunity for your children to learn at their own pace.
My prayer for every family out there pursuing homeschooling is that you would find joy in this opportunity of a lifetime. Just do it.