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The Moms Who Grew Homeschooling

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The Moms Who Grew Homeschooling

By Linda Dobson

homeschooling moms

Terri Willingham and Linda

The homeschooling movement unfolded largely through the dedication, creativity, open minds, patience, and tenacity of what were to become known as stay-at-home Moms who also chose to homeschool.

As the homeschooling community was growing – then thriving – then gaining society’s acceptance, at times I wished I was a fly on the wall at the National Education Association headquarters, or Columbia University’s Education division, or some state senators’ or school superintendents’ offices. The folks in these places were worried mostly, I think, because they didn’t know what we were doing. And it’s only now, decades later, that I can admit we didn’t know what we were doing, either!

Homeschooling Moms Jumped Off the Cliff

Don’t take that wrong. We were, by and large, few in number, geographically dispersed, lacking rapid, inexpensive communication options, and unable to find much “how-to” information. Given this, you realize that the Moms who grew homeschooling were, basically, jumping off a cliff to see if they had wings. One might say each was “reinventing the wheel” in her own home as she figured out how to get resources, how to fix problems and – literally – what we’re going to do tomorrow.

In retrospect, I’m glad we were so few in number, so separated, and extremely happy that no one in those early days chose to write the definitive, expert’s guide to homeschooling. If someone had, in those early years, defined homeschooling and outlined the way to do it, all of those pioneer mothers wouldn’t have been so creative. They wouldn’t have experimented, failed, and tried something different, discovering, each in her own way, that the word schooling is not a synonym for learning.

The Moms who grew homeschooling wouldn’t have compared notes and realized homeschooling took on a unique flavor in individual homes. They wouldn’t have found out that in homeschooling they held the key to strong families, and that key was simply to make children and their learning the family’s central priority. This is what formed the roots of the immensely open, flexible, customizable, out-of-the-box, successful practice that you know and love as homeschooling today.

I’ve done a fair amount of traveling on behalf of homeschooling, and so have had the great fortune and privilege to meet and befriend many of the “mom veterans” who took love of family and homeschooling to the advocacy level. I’ve met, worked with, and/or spent extensive time talking or corresponding with folks like Jean Reed, Becky Rupp, Lillian Jones, Helen Hegener, Cafi Cohen, Luz Shosie, Jane Boswell, Shirley Minster, Micki Colfax, Nancy Plent, Ann Lahrson Fisher, Susan Kaseman, Paula Harper-Christensen, Paula Russell, Barb Lundgren, Terri Willingham, Nancy Greer, Katharine Houk, Pat Montgomery, Wendy Priesnitz, Kyoko Aizawa, Cindy Wade, Judith Allee, Marsha Ransom, Mary McCarthy, Izzy Lyman, Ann Zeise, and so many more.

Secrets of the Moms Who Grew Homeschooling

I hope they don’t get upset, but I’m sharing two secrets that the homeschool-growing Moms hold in common no matter where they are or how they homeschooled. Contrary to images of fame and fortune you might harbor, homeschool advocacy was pursued for love, not money. It was inspired by the heart, not the pocketbook. It was grounded in conviction that if a family doesn’t pay attention to its children’s education and happiness, nobody will.

It was fueled by personal experience and affirmation that one need not suffer inferior life and learning circumstances, no matter how many others do. Finally, the pioneer Moms’ advocacy has always been sprinkled with a vision for the future, a vision of a society in which children are allowed to play, build curiosity, exercise imagination and creativity, experiment with what works and what doesn’t, commune with nature, and receive the down-time necessary to process the remarkable amount of information they’re receiving.

See also “A Tribute to Homeschool Support Groups

The other trait common in our pioneering Moms is that, at least through my non-trained eye, no one was what one might call a “natural born leader;” nor did they strive to be. They had little or no training in advocacy, nor many of the skills that advocacy requires. So how were they so effective in igniting one of the fastest growing, most successful educational alternatives in our country’s history?

By engaging in the act of homeschooling with their children, they realized a basic truth about learning: When motivated, human beings can find the information they need and learn anything they want to. In other words, they took the same principle they were exercising with their children, and implemented it in their own lives.

Applying this principle profoundly transformed their lives. Their love of homeschooling focused their attention to learn whatever skills were necessary to get the job done.

Many times, lessons came quickly in a baptism by fire. There were many “firsts” as they gulped before saying yes to hosting their first meeting, granting a radio interview, submitting an editorial to their newspaper, appearing on television, lobbying legislators, writing a magazine article or book, or actually standing up and speaking to a large group of people.

Many of their children are now grown. I wish I could report that the process of becoming empty nesters was painless, but it wasn’t. There’s just something about watching the first-born leave, or the baby, or the middle child, well, you get the idea. On a more positive note, though, most haven’t let grass grow under their feet after the kids fly away. They have learned how to learn. Now they have time for themselves. Put these together and you have a group of some of the smartest ladies I’ve ever known, doing what they love, be it now for money, personal fulfillment, or pursuing a passion that sat on the back burner while they raised children.

Thank you, moms who grew homeschooling.

Originally appeared in Home Education Magazine.



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