I don’t know about you, but my 2020 has not turned out as I had envisioned back in January. Coronavirus, cancellations, and closures have been the bywords. Lots of cancellations and closures.
My family and friends have been spared the tragic consequences of the pandemic so far, but four of our adult kids are essential workers, including our daughter Merryn, who is a nurse in the COVID-19 unit of the local hospital.
My wife Debbie and I pray more—and more fervently—and cherish the open-air gatherings in our front yard, made poignant because we cannot always give hugs or kisses. These too are the times that try men’s—and women’s and kids’—souls. And homeschooling has played an outsized role in knitting my family together in the bonds of love that sustain us through these and other trying times.
“Blessing” is the first word I think of when I look back on our homeschooling journey.
Many of our friends and neighbors who have not experienced this blessing are facing unprecedented challenges and near-impossible choices as the pandemic’s effects continue into the 2020–21 school year. While we do not welcome the reasons for this enormous disruption to the public schools, we cannot ignore that a historic moment for the homeschooling movement may be in the offing.
You and I will play a key role: we need to be ready to share the blessing.
And the Children Shall Lead Them
A 7-year-old girl named Leah Garber is why Debbie and I homeschooled all seven of our children.
In 1984, as a young, single man, I began attending a Bible study where we prayed for the absent Garber family. The Garbers were in Egypt on a temporary work assignment. I had never met them, but months later when they returned to Oregon, I felt as if I knew them. The Garbers were also my introduction to homeschooling.
I met Debbie, and we soon became engaged; she said she wanted to homeschool the children we hoped to have. Over the next several years, Leah Garber became my exemplar of a homeschooled kid. You would homeschool your kids too if you had known Leah.
After Debbie and I began having kids, Leah’s parents, Jon and Olga, answered our questions and, by example, relieved my fears—Debbie had a much higher level of confidence in homeschooling than I did. (Leah turned out okay too, insofar as she preceded me here at HSLDA and is now our membership director.)
Their generosity was repeated by other homeschooling families as we moved around the country. No matter where we lived, there has been a Jon and Olga, homeschooling a few steps ahead of us, helping us make smooth our own path.
The homeschool community today is a vibrant and diverse network of state and local organizations, co-ops, and support groups, made up of moms and dads like you and me. We offer the encouragement, mentoring, and practical helps that only real live people with arms to embrace other real live people can do. It’s one thing to “like” someone on Facebook; it’s quite another to love someone in person.
In‑person embracing may be complicated for a while yet, but many parents who have been on the cusp of homeschooling—and others who never considered homeschooling before but discovered these past few months that having kids learn at home can be a joyful thing—will be looking for their own Jons and Olgas.
And that Jon or that Olga just might be you.
At Home School Legal Defense Association, we are gearing up for what may be a homeschooling tsunami.
People considering homeschooling have many questions.
- How do I homeschool lawfully? (Click on your state here.)
- What should I teach?
- What kind of books or curriculum should I get?
- And sometimes they need reassurance that they can do it or a safe space to explore the nuts and bolts of homeschooling and to relieve their own doubts or fears about getting started.
HSLDA has resources for you to use to help your friends and neighbors. We can help your co-ops and support groups, too.
Years of hard, cold experience have taught us HSLDA lawyers that leaving the public schools can sometimes get messy, whether it is because of confusing paperwork, poor communication, bureaucratic tangles and inefficiencies, or—sadly—a school official who thinks he knows better than a parent.
And that is in a normal school year. Imagine what will happen if this year becomes a mass exodus.
As we have been since 1983, we at HSLDA are here to help. We want to help you help your friends begin their homeschooling journey. And as always, we are eager to help you too.
If you have questions or suggestions, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You are homeschooling's most important asset—especially in these unprecedented times.