The Homeschooling Hesters
by Bridget Hester Green
I am thirty-three years old, and my homeschooling adventure began 24 years ago, when my mother pulled my brother and me out of our parish grammar school. Mom believed that she — a mother of 16 and a veteran parent of just about every type of school there was — could do better.
“I had become dissatisfied with the erosion of the educational program,” Mom says today. “I wanted a program for my kids that was at least as good as the one I had received.”
A Magna Cum Laude for Bridget
As far as I'm concerned, Mom was right. I spent nine happy years at home before venturing out to college — from which I graduated magna cum laude. This is not a boast; I say this simply to illustrate some of what homeschooling did for me.
Interestingly, academic achievement is not even the important part. What homeschooling really did was help my parents and we three homeschooled siblings grow closer to each other and to God. Homeschooling, to me, was a way of life — not just a question of a physical location where we were educated.
Later, as a wife and mother, there was no question whether or not to homeschool for my new family. As luck (or the Holy Spirit) would have it, my husband, a graduate of twelve years of Catholic schools (who’d never met another homeschooler before me) totally agreed. We've been happily homeschooling since our oldest was born.
We are not alone on this adventure either; far from it. All told, including my family, there are a total of 30 homeschoolers and five homeschooling mothers in my family. In fact, the majority of my parents' 52 grandchildren are homeschooled.
There are a total of 30 homeschoolers and five homeschooling mothers in my family. In fact, the majority of my parents' 52 grandchildren are homeschooled.
Mary Lou's Experience
Our multigenerational homeschooling family is a living, breathing testament to those first brave steps taken by my mother, Mary Ann, and my older sister, Mary Lou, back in the late '80s.
Today, Mary Lou, the mother of ten homeschooled kids, is philosophical on this question.
“When I started homeschooling 25 years ago I felt that I had been led there by God. It had taken a period of two or three years. And then I was knocked off a horse. Kind of like St. Paul.”
Mary Lou did not embrace homeschooling immediately, however.
“At first, homeschooling intrigued me…[but] it wasn't for me. When I finally took the leap it took me about a week to figure out that this was exactly where I was supposed to be and I should just move on…I keep doing it because I know it's where I belong.”
Mary Lou’s is a feeling that my entire family shares. It is our conviction that God calls us to homeschool, even when — as is the case of my sister Barbara — it's not what we would have chosen for ourselves.
“When I started homeschooling 25 years ago, I felt like I was knocked off a horse. Kind of like St. Paul.”
Barbara, the Reluctant Homeschooler
Barbara is not a typical homeschooler. She would be just as happy to send her five children out to a nice parochial school, such as the one she attended, where they would be safe and sound, learning about the three Rs and God.
The problem is, these schools no longer exist. As a result, she's a reluctant homeschooler.
More than just convenience, one loses separation of duties when one homeschools. Barbara would be happier to not be her children's teacher. Not just for her, but for most of us homeschooling moms, it's very hard, almost impossible, to have some sort of distinction between “Mom” who is kind and loving, who comforts, protects, and defends, and “Teacher,” who must be strict, demanding, and at times hard-nosed in order to get the work done.
“When I got married, I didn't intend on homeschooling. Obviously, God had other plans.”
Although she often jokes about being doomed to repeat the third grade ad infinitum, she also says that she knows it will all be worth it because she is following the path laid out for her by God.
Barbara would prefer nice parochial school, where her kids would be safe and sound and learning about the three R's and God. The problem is, these schools no longer exist.
Mary Ann's Battle
Barbara is not the only one who feels the mental and physical strain of being mother and educator. Our sister Mary Ann, with five at the homeschool table, looks at it as a battle. At stake? Our children's souls.
“Quitting is not an option if I intend my children to become strong, well-educated Catholics,” Mary Ann says.
I think, when it comes down to it, that's the ultimate reason any of us really has. God has given us a sacred duty to raise up our children to Him, and for those of us called to it, homeschooling is the best way we can ensure that this happens.