By Kimberly Miller
Ask any homeschool mom, and she’ll tell you that one of the secrets to success in homeschooling is in the opportunities you give your children for learning. No one knows this better than Elizabeth Caruso. Elizabeth is the homeschooling mother of two sons ages 16 and 17. Giving her sons an array of opportunities for learning and involvement has been one of her missions since she started officially homeschooling them 12 years ago. The way in which she approached fulfilling that mission has led her into some interesting opportunities of her own.
With advanced degrees in engineering and business administration, Elizabeth left her job in the corporate world for a life in rural Maine, and she has never looked back. She felt called to be home with her sons, who were still quite young at the time. Her love of the outdoors led her to discover an all new career path; she became a registered Maine Guide, started a guide service alongside her husband, established a bed-and-breakfast for the clients they served through their guide service, and opened an outfitters’ store to supply all those outdoor enthusiasts who hired them to guide them on excursions in the Maine woods. The flexibility of this new career path allowed her the ability to raise and educate her young sons herself, right from their family’s home.
Because it mattered to her what her sons learned and how they learned it, homeschooling was a natural choice for their family. She realized when they were still very young that learning starts at home that she didn’t have to wait to teach them things and that they could learn from her at any time, not just while in school.
She fell in love with her home in the Maine woods and became interested in serving in her local community in whatever ways she could. Looking for opportunities to serve in her community eventually led her to become the first Executive Director of her area’s Chamber of Commerce. She was also chosen as the first selectman ever elected in the town of Caratunk. These positions afforded her an opportunity to serve her community while also working from home and raising her two sons.
Twelve years ago, she started a homeschool co-op in order to give her sons and other homeschool students a chance to participate in learning opportunities they might not have otherwise had access to. The co-op is for students in grades K-12 and serves 50-80 students in a given year. It meets weekly. Elizabeth believes in giving fellow homeschooling moms the support and encouragement they need to succeed in educating their own children at home.
Elizabeth wants to encourage other homeschoolers to feel hopeful in looking for opportunities to learn and participate in activities. Homeschoolers never have to feel as though they are missing out on anything. They should think big when it comes to opportunities. Her sons have participated not only in their co op, but also in sports, SMASH (a Shakespearian theatre group for homeschool students), and a robotics team which Liz herself started and helped to lead. The robotics team consisted of homeschoolers and she successfully coached them to win several competitions.
Elizabeth feels a keen sense of connection to her family’s homeschooling community. In her own words, she admits that, “Being a part of the homeschool community for the past 11 years has really given me an inside view of what homeschooling looks like to a variety of families... and also, that people homeschool for different reasons, i.e. education, religious, medical health, and social concerns. Some families live in very rural locations, other more suburban. Some homeschool parents are college educated, some are not. Some students are driven for trades while others are looking to college. On another note, my homeschool community has been very supportive of my candidacy and are looking for an elected official who is like-minded and one they can trust to have integrity and to fight for their families.”
Her involvement in local politics recently led Ms. Caruso to run as a candidate to represent Maine’s Second Congressional district.
When asked her secret to balancing all of her many roles (homeschooling mom, elected official, homeschool co-op leader, Congressional candidate), Elizabeth responded: “My peace and foundation come from staying close to the Lord throughout the day and making sure I have His perspective, His heart, and His direction. He asked me to run for office, so I need to walk with Him and trust that, as I obey and walk by faith, He will enable me to fulfill all my other responsibilities well.”
Kimberly Miller is the mother of nine children and has been homeschooling them for over twenty years. She has served HOME for almost fifteen years as the Publications Coordinator and a Regional Representative. In addition to those roles, Kimberly is also a freelance editor and a published author of several books, both fiction and nonfiction. In her spare time, she loves reading good books, sipping tea, working in her garden, and enjoying the animals on her family’s hobby farm in Western Maine.