Jessica Rivas decided to leave her job to homeschool her first child, Pablito, about eight years ago. She had just become pregnant with Abby, her second child, and realized she couldn’t send Pablito to childcare because it was too expensive.

She and her husband, Erick, thought the best option was for her to leave her full-time job to homeschool Pablito. So, Jessica began homeschooling him during his preschool years, but she thought financial struggles would keep her from homeschooling him through elementary school.

A Little Push

When he was in preschool, Jessica would buy crayons, Play-Doh, and crafts for him. But as he grew, she didn’t know how she’d be able to buy elementary curriculum. Even buying books was out of the question.

“We were in a drastic situation, because we were learning to live on only one income,” she said. “And we couldn’t buy anything for him. We had to pay rent and buy food.”

The Rivas family

The Rivas family.

She had been thinking about how her family wasn’t going to be able to keep homeschooling without educational resources, and was feeling very unmotivated. She felt like the world was against her family––they were first-generation Hispanics, living on one income, with little knowledge of teaching at home.

But one day, she went online and discovered HSLDA. And after learning more about its mission, she became a member. She then learned about the possibility of financial support, and applied for one of HSLDA’s Compassion grants.

“’Well, let’s try it out,’” Jessica recalled telling herself at the time. “And sure enough, they sent me an email saying I was qualified for the grant. It was so exciting!”

Jessica and Erick’s children: Emita, Pablito, and Abby.

She bought Pablito’s elementary curriculum and books with the grant money, and still holds on to them because it reminds her of Pablito learning how to read for the first time.  

“I worked in a company for about 10 years, but I’d never felt I’d accomplished something as big as teaching my son how to read,” Jessica said.

She recalled how Pablito read the first chapter of My Father’s World in front of his grandma, aunt, and uncle, and how everyone was so happy. “My sister even cried because she was so proud of her nephew,” Jessica added.

His success motivated her and Erick to homeschool their other two kids, Abby and Emita. 

“A few months ago, we were cleaning, and I said, ‘We can’t throw this book away,’ because it was the first book Pablito read,” she added.

For Jessica, the grant was “the little push” she needed to keep homeschooling Pablito. She feels very blessed to have received the grant.  

She applied for another grant in 2020 to buy curriculum for Abby’s homeschooling, and she qualified for that one as well.

“If it had not been for the grants, I would have given up,” said Jessica. “And now, after seven or eight years, we’re still going strong. We’re about to start junior high!”

She added that homeschooling wouldn’t have been possible without her husband’s help: “Without his support, his love, and his amazing, adventurous spirit, our homeschool life wouldn't be the same. Ultimately, his sacrifice and HSLDA truly helped our homeschool be what it is.”

Homeschooling, sustainability, and art

When talking about her homeschooling adventures with her three children, Jessica was excited to mention an out of the box experience—their field trip to the town dump.

Her family is part of a homeschool group that organizes field trips in their hometown of Palmdale, Ca. And the group leader had once coordinated a trip to the dump for a tour of the area. Unfortunately, Jessica’s family couldn’t make it to the trip.

But Jessica kept thinking how it’d be very interesting to take their children to the dump sometime soon. She said her kids are used to taking out the trash, recycling, and mowing the lawn—they’re very conscious of where they put anything.

So, when Jessica’s husband told them he was going to the dump to throw out some trash, Jessica quickly told him they’d go with him. She wanted them to know where the trash goes, since they were very curious and had asked her about it before.

The Rivas family on a field trip to a local dump

The Rivas took a field trip to the dump.

 “They were fascinated,” she said. “Now they know where the trucks take the trash.” (To watch a video of their adventure, click here.)

Pablito also recently participated in an art contest. Jessica’s family receives a city magazine every three months that advertises plays, carnivals, musical groups, and baseball games. Once, they saw the magazine advertising an art contest, so Jessica asked Pablito if he wanted to participate.

He thought it was a great idea, so he submitted a work of art, and it got selected for an exhibit in the gallery of the City of Palmdale Playhouse.

“The mayor pro tem spoke Spanish and asked Pablito for a picture,” Jessica said.

Pablito with the mayor at an art contest

Pablito with the city’s mayor pro tem and his artwork.

Even though there have been challenges along the way, Jessica is truly happy to have been able to homeschool for these eight years. She strives to provide her kids with a safe space so they can keep learning and enjoying their childhood.

“It has been a life I had never expected,” she said. “I thank God that HSLDA was able to help us.”