Will Homeschooled Children Be Our Message Of Hope For The Future Of This Country?
I’ve known for a long time that Comanche’s Michelle Reynolds “homeschools” her children, while husband, Rick, teaches in the public school system, but I’ve just never taken the time to ask her why so….I made the very short trek out to the Reynolds’ home recently, not at all sure exactly what a school day in a homeschool would look like, but knowing that I wanted to see just that.
What I found was beautifully controlled chaos, with children (who certainly are a cut above in knowing how to greet a guest and converse with him) doing their morning chores, tasks which are also all a part of their training.
“They normally get up, watch a little TV, and then after breakfast, they begin their schoolwork,” their mom explained. “They begin with either math or English, then reading, history, and we do science together.”
Because two of the Reynolds’ children are twins, they share books so they work on different subjects at same time and then switch. It was at this point that I realized that this Reynolds’ homeschool is the real deal, a well-oiled machine that is producing some very intelligent, well-trained children, led by a teacher who expects top notch work from the young people she is training to be Godly, intelligent, independent, and ready to take their role as productive citizens some day.
“A lot of their work is self-directed. I give an assignment, and they work on it. Then, they bring it to me, and we discuss it, correct it, or whatever we need to do to complete it and move on to our next lesson. For instance, I’m not going to sit and hold their hands while they read their history assignment. They do that on their own.”
Believe it or not, there is no testing in the state of Texas for home schools* since all that is required is reading, grammar, spelling, math, and citizenship.
The only regulations is that they must study a written curriculum that is taught in what Michelle calls a “bonafide” manner.
“I’ve never had a child in public school except for Rachel, and she was only there during Pre-K because she had a speech delay. The eldest two were never in an actual classroom until they went to college.”
And yet, the first two Reynolds daughters were perfectly equipped to walk out of their homeschool, enter a university classroom, and do very well! Today, Stormy (26) has two children, and she and her husband plan to home school them.
In fact, Michelle shared with me a recent conversation with Stormy, who said, “Mom, from where I am now and looking back on everything, I appreciate so much that you homeschooled me, and I appreciate your using the old books.”
Michelle did not have to explain that comment to me. Remember, I was a public school teacher for a long time, and part of the success of my students I attribute to the fact that my high school curriculum was built from “the old books,” Pallie Palmer’s books, to be exact. Even 30 years ago, there was no way that the newer books being turned out by the state could compete with what Stormy calls the old books, and isn’t that a complete shame?
Second daughter, Sarah, is now 25, and she too “liked” her homeschooling, but not the McGuffy reader!
“Sarah received her degree in political science and history. She has been to Costa Rica, South Africa, and she is going to Southeast Asia. I am so proud of her because when you talk to her about these places and the conditions there, she actually understands so much of what is happening in the world.”
And then, my conversation broke away from homeschool and the children who were working quietly around the table because I suddenly remembered that Michelle is actually going to school right now herself.
“Believe it or not, I am working on my teaching certification. I can see that my job here is quickly coming to an end, and I’m going to move on to a second career,” she smiled, knowing that her second career will simply be an extension of the path she has followed for many years now.
“The things I am having to read and learn [common core] really, really bother me. My dad once quoted George Washington to me, believing that political parties will be the downfall of the nation. He was 100% right.”
And then, she pulled out a text from an elementary/middle school mathematics course she is taking, and I too wanted to scream at what I read.
“I think it means that there is more than one way to skin a cat and get at the right answer. I agree with that, BUT it says right here that there is no right answer. A twenty-year-old is going to read this to mean that there are no absolute truths in life, and we both know that is incorrect and a dangerous theory.”
It does break my heart. Teachers have so, so much power and influence over the nation’s children, simply because they spend all day, every day with them. The entire nation truly does rest on the backs of those who educate, and turning out wonderfully intelligent, patriotic, Constitution grasping students, who understand this country, the hard work it will take to keep it afloat, and just how much better off we are than most all of the rest of the world…well, it’s all in the hands of the teachers.
At this point, the children, who has been quietly working on their lessons, looked up, and I felt free to ask Richard (age 12) what it was he liked about home school. He answered me with the perfect “boy answer.”
“The best thing about homeschool is probably the fact that if I work really hard, I can finish quickly!”
Rachael’s answer did not really surprise me because it confirmed a theory that I’ve had for a long time. A computer is a tool, but like anything else, a child (and an adult) will eventually tire of studying on it just as they tired of classroom lessons before the days of individual laptops.
“The best thing about homeschool is that we get to write, not just use a computer all day. My friends take longer to get an answer on the computer than we do on paper,” the 10-year-old twin shared with me.
Michaela is the studious one, and every classroom comes equipped with one, or mine always did. She is the child who learns for fun, who had rather read as play, or maybe I should say who thinks of reading AS her play.
“What I like is that I get to ask a question whenever I need to ask,” she looked up long enough to tell me before she bowed back over her book once again.
And then, I turned to the teacher of this machine and asked, “Why?”
Of course, by now I already knew what her answer was going to be. As I expected, it was multifaceted.
“For me, everything goes back to what God says so it doesn’t matter if we are struggling with a math problem or learning history. My focus is that I am training up these children in the way they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it. My command is to raise them up in fear and admonition of the Lord so for me it all relates back to that.”
I tear even today as I write Michelle’s story because I am in awe of this mother who has dedicated her life to the service God has given her to perform.
“We don’t necessarily find our answers to our schoolwork in the Bible, but we do go back to the scriptures when we struggle. Verses like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” remind us that we can rely on God to help with anything.”
Michelle continued, “Sometimes, if one of them just can’t come up with the answer to a problem, I will say, ‘Don’t you think God can help you, that He can speak to you so that you can understand it?’
“From a homeschool stand point, I don’t have to cover TEKS. If we need to spend six weeks until we completely understand multiplication tables, we do it. Grades are not an issue, but we ARE going to camp out here until they understand. They have to have a good foundation before we move on.
“With science, it really bothers me that in public school the only option taught is evolution. Our science curriculum does not just give the Creation theory; it gives both so kids are allowed the freedom to make their decisions. Bureaucrats dictate to really good teachers what they can and cannot do. Some don’t care, and are tough enough to stand for what they believe, and others have to have their jobs, not because they agree with what they are forced to teach, but their lives and their livelihood depend upon it.”
A part of the children’s homeschool experience is that students live life while they learn. For instance, if Grandpa needs help loading cows, they stop their math work and go load cows.
“This is real life that we live, and we do not have to hold to a strict time clock; we just have to learn. If we were to begin at 8:00 and keep to a completely strict schedule, probably even including stopping for lunch and doing the dishes afterwards, we would still be through by 2:00. I don’t have to do crowd control so if my student is acting up, not only does he have the fear of God, he has the fear of Mom, and I have a paddle. Of course, because they know I mean business, it is rare that we have to deal with those kinds of problems,” this unbelievable woman smiled.
The kids are also active in the Newburg 4-H Club.
“They show animals so if they need to go wash cows, we work our schedules around it, not a problem.”
One question that all kiddos who are homeschooled are asked is whether or not they go to school in their PJs.
“No! They get up and get ready just like everybody else. As a mom, people ask about socialization. I always answer that question with a question. ‘Can you tell me another time in your life when you will be in a room with 15-20 other people all doing the same thing? That’s not real life. Real life is learning how to talk to an adult, how to handle yourself in real life situations, having the knowledge you need to be successful in whatever employment you choose. That is real life.
“Homeschooling is not for everybody. I’ve been doing it for over twenty years, and I can guarantee you that if you have it in your heart to teach your kids, not only can you do it with the resources available, you will do a great job, and you will never regret it.”
Of course, I left the Reynolds’ home wondering as I have done a million times if I should have done this very thing, rather than choosing to work in the public school system. I think I have come to understand the old adage that says we bloom where we are planted and do our very best to make a difference in someone else’s life. Michelle Reynolds has definitely done that in the garden God gave her.