Editor's note: This article concludes last week's interview with Rachel Thomson and Carolyn Currey, authors of Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled. Read the first half of the interview here.
Jonathan: I want to talk about your new book in a moment, but first tell me more about your homeschooling experiences. When did your parents first decide to begin homeschooling, and what were their motivations for that decision?
Rachel: My parents started homeschooling me after I “graduated” from kindergarten. Dad was a teacher in the Canadian public school system and he just was not impressed with what he saw, academically or otherwise. He’s a visionary, and I think he wanted us to learn outside of the box. Homeschooling made total sense to him. Mom was a little more dubious at first, but she got behind Dad’s vision and totally supported it. At this point, homeschooling—this way of “doing life” together as a family—is the most natural way of life for all of us.
Carolyn: My parents originally planned to be the usual 1.5 child family on a double income. We would be sent off to school as soon as we were old enough. Gradually their convictions changed (Mary Pride’s book The Way Home had a lot to do with it) and I ended up with considerably more than half a sibling! Then they began looking at other non-traditional ways of life.
I’m told that I was a voracious learner from a very young age. I was reading by the age of three and steadily marching through chapter books at five. By then my parents couldn’t imagine sending me to school so I could learn my alphabet. They began homeschooling us for academic reasons and continued for character reasons. I don’t think you could pay them to put their remaining “school aged” kids in public school now!
Jonathan: Rachel, I know you’ve lived in both the U.S. and Canada. Have you noticed any differences in homeschooling between the two countries in terms of the legal climate or the public’s attitude about homeschooling?
Rachel: Definitely! I imagine the climate here is much like it was in the U.S. twenty years ago. Homeschooling is far less common in Canada. In the States, when I bring up homeschooling, I’m likely to hear “Oh, I know someone who does that.” In Canada, I’m still just as likely to hear “Is that legal?” In some ways there are less opportunities for homeschoolers here, but on the other hand, most homeschooling families are more likely to take it seriously!
As in the states, each province handles homeschooling differently. Some provinces have stringent requirements; others are much more open. Ontario, where we live, has a lot of freedom. I feel privileged to be part of the growing movement of homeschoolers in Canada.
Jonathan: Okay, now that we’ve gotten to know you a little bit, let’s talk about your new book, Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled. First of all, that’s an interesting title! What exactly do you mean by “heartily homeschooled”?
Rachel: We mean there’s a lot of heart in it! According to my trusty internet dictionary, “heartily” means to do something wholeheartedly and sincerely, wholly, thoroughly, with zest and gusto. That pretty much sums it up! We’ve never been “halfway homeschoolers.” This is a whole lifestyle for us.
Carolyn: My experience with homeschooling and big families has been one of rejoicing. The road has been filled with laughter, cooperation and camaraderie. We jump into many things whole heartedly—especially work and laughter!
My mom often reminds us, “We’re a team!” We’re all committed to each other through each person’s joys and sorrows because we love each other. That’s the heart of homeschooling for us.
Jonathan: I so appreciate that perspective on homeschooling! Home education really should be a complete way of life rather than simply an alternative approach to gaining an academic education.
Now that we understand the perspective behind the book and its title, tell me more about Tales. When did you first have the idea for the book, and what motivated you to write it?
Carolyn: Several years ago someone told me about my second cousin who lived on the other side of the country. She had a lot in common with me—oldest of a large family, homeschooled, and she loved to write. I emailed and she wrote back and we’ve written volumes since then! As we got to know each other we started exchanging family stories. It was something like the biggest fish story as we topped each tale . . . only it was all true. Eventually we realized we could write a book with all our family episodes, so we compiled them. We hope our readers will enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed telling them!
Rachel: Writing an actual book was probably my idea, because I tend to look at every subject that interests me and think, “I should write a book about that.” Every now and again I actually do it. It’s funny, though: I can’t count how many times people have told my family that we should write a book about our lives. Tales doesn’t come close to covering the whole story, but it’s a good snapshot. Our initial motivation in writing this was just to capture memories for our families, but since we started, we’ve realized how much other people can benefit from a positive look at life in big, solid families. If Tales has a mission statement, it’s to show others how much family can bless them and encourage them to make the most of what they’ve got.
Jonathan: In Tales, it’s evident that you’re sharing the lighter side of homeschooling and family life, as well as looking for the humor and joy of even the simple and ordinary things. Why is keeping a good sense of humor important in homeschooling?
Rachel: Because things will go wrong! A sense of humor can really help keep us focused and moving forward. In the book, we share a story about traveling through the prairie province of Manitoba, where we had a run-in with Manitoba’s “national bird”—the mosquito. I have never seen so many mosquitos in my life! They really could have ruined that leg of the trip for us, but our senses of humor (which somehow stayed intact) turned the experience from misery to something to laugh about. Proverbs says that “All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” A good sense of humor helps us enjoy today’s blessings, thank God even when times are rough, and look forward to tomorrow with contentment and joy.
Carolyn: Life sometimes pushes in and crowds out the pre-planned curriculum. I remember my mother speaking with a friend after a particularly hectic year and saying something along the lines of, “Well, we didn’t get through everything I planned but the kids learned an awful lot about renovations and hospitality and home economics!”
At first glance, a discarded schedule can be frustrating, but there’s more to homeschooling than book learning. Keep a sense of humour despite the interruptions and learn to see the value of practical learning too. If the roof starts leaking while the kitchen is in the middle of renovations and on top of that the in-laws come visit, maybe it’s time for the kids to take a brief course in carpentry and plumbing. Count it all joy—these times of life build family unity and great memories—which is perhaps of much more value than Calculus.
Jonathan: Before finishing up, let’s get down to business for a moment. Where can folks learn more about Tales, and how can they purchase a copy if they’d like to do so?
Rachel: We’ve published Tales through my publishing company, Little Dozen Press. You can read a lot more about the book (and about us), including free sample chapters, on our Web site, www.LittleDozen.com. You can also order the book straight through us.
Jonathan: I’d like to leave our readers with a last word of encouragement. As two homeschool graduates, what would be your message to homeschool moms and dads who might be feeling discouraged or are perhaps wondering if homeschooling is really worth the difficulty and sacrifice?
Rachel: Don’t give up! I really and truly wish that every Christian family would homeschool their children. Homeschooling has blessed me as an adult in so many ways. My parents’ determination to stick with it, through all of the ups and downs of life, has laid an incredible foundation for our lives. Yes, there are times when it doesn’t seem worth it. In those times, the question is, “Did God call you to do it?” If He did, stick with it, and let Him bring the fruit out of it.
Carolyn: Definitely, don’t give up! Your perseverance through difficulty will speak volumes to your children. I know homeschooling was not always easy for my parents but they stuck with it despite everything. Now I regularly hear my parents rejoicing over the family they have and I know we wouldn’t be like this if we had been sent to school. Keep your eyes on the reason you are doing this and the One you are doing it for. Raising up a Godly family is a high calling and worthy of all you can give it.
Jonathan: I couldn’t agree with you more! And many thanks to both of you for joining us today and sharing some uplifting words of hope and encouragement with our readers.
Jonathan Lewis is a homeschool graduate and enjoys working with his family on Home School Enrichment Magazine. In his spare time, Jonathan can usually be found reading, mowing the lawn, or spending time with his family.
This article was originally published in the July/Aug 2008 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, and to request a FREE sample issue, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.