By Raylene Hunt
Is Homeschoolers of Maine becoming obsolete in the modern age of technology? Or are the services and support they offer still relevant? Over the last few years, I have thought about this as I am phasing (ever so slowly) off the HOME Leadership Team. I can’t let go. It’s been a major part of my life for almost 20 years. Things are changing without a question. That said, I continue to meet and talk to people about my homeschooling journey, and I still point them to HOME.
I’m an educator by profession. I’ve known for years that returning to the traditional classroom was not an option. Homeschooling has opened my eyes to some serious flaws in the American education system. Years of homeschooling have also taught me that even the alternative classroom isn’t the best fit for some children. It has only been in recent history, really, that public education for the masses has been the norm. It’s been less than 100 years since the move toward compulsory public education began. Before that, children were educated experientially. Children learned to farm, they learned trades, they apprenticed. They lived every day interacting with a variety of people of various ages.
The growing number of children being labeled, diagnosed and medicated, all to be able to function within the constructs of the current education system, indicates that there is a problem. The problem, however, is not with the children, but the system. We’re trying to force round, triangular, octagonal, rectangular pegs into a one-size-fits-all, square hole. And it doesn’t work. I believe that for many families the answer to this is homeschooling.
The numbers are growing, as families seek to find a solution and return to something that worked in previous centuries. In my own homeschooling journey, the services of HOME were critical. As a teacher, when my son was not reading by the appointed time, there was family pressure. Never mind that I was a teacher and had taught the children of others to read. It was because I was homeschooling that my son wasn’t reading, at least that’s what they tried to convince me. I had many frustrated, teary conversations with the HOME Office, and Kathy Green encouraged me. He was a boy, he would learn to read in his own time and way. And then after three frustrating years from the time he was five until he was eight, one day, he started reading. It’s still not his favorite thing; he’s a hands-on kinda guy. I’ve learned to meet him where he learns best by giving him every opportunity to hang out with people who are doing things he might want to do. Our school days seldom looked like a traditional school, but he knows things I could never have taught him with textbooks.
My daughter was the polar opposite. One summer, at the age of 13, she read Romeo and Juliet in play form for fun. Our crazy, chaotic life, that I was told was not preparing her for life in the real world (where she would have to get up early every day and go to work), did actually prepare her for the doors God would later open for her. I didn’t know when she was 13 that at age 25 she would go to work in retail, that she would work shifts, and that some of the hours would be crazy. She handles it, because our life prepared her for it.
HOME leaders supported and encouraged me during many years of homeschooling when the odds were against us. Not only was some of my family non-supportive, but I was a single mom during those years, as well. “You can’t do that! You need to get a real job.” “Why don’t you put the kids in school, it would make your life easier.” Those were the mantras I heard the most. Today, I know how important it is to say to a mom who is talking to me, “Hang in there, Momma. If God has called you to it, He’ll bring you through it!” My life is a testimony to this fact. Our lives are a testimony to this fact.
HOME is not optional. It is essential. The services HOME provides are often those that make or break a family when deciding whether or not to bring their children home to educate them. They are open to all forms of homeschooling, from the most traditional school-at-home approach, to the most extreme, loosey-goosey unschooling, where you might wonder if learning is even happening. I’ve homeschooled, literally, from one extreme to the other during our family’s adventure, and HOME has always been there. They are moving forward, changing the way they deliver support and encouragement to meet the changing demands of our culture and the next generation. In many cases, it’s the second generation of homeschooling families in Maine.
This weekend, my daughter and future son-in-law announced their engagement. My daughter said for years that a deal breaker for her was being able to homeschool her children. I’m encouraged to see that my future son-in-law is open to the idea. I love the idea that the seeds I planted, being willing to go against the grain of our culture and some of our family, have taken root, and that my future grandchildren will likely be homeschooled, as well. It’s important to me that HOME remains here to support my daughter and her family in their adventure the way they supported me through ours.
When looking for organizations to support during this holiday season, or any time during the year, please consider the important role HOME plays as the resource that families often need in order to be successful in their homeschooling journey. It’s worth the investment.