by Mary James
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
In the span of one week, two different home schooling friends from two totally different cities have quoted this passage from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” This is not surprising; we home schoolers know quite well that we are in the minority, that we are going against the tide of society in the choices we make for our families. I, for one, am so very thankful that I took the road less traveled by, for that surely has made all the difference! But I am also thankful that while this road is less traveled, it is not untraveled.
My first experience with home schooling was setting my preschooler down at a Little Tikes© table with some Frank Schaeffer workbooks from a local Christian bookstore. I had a handheld dry erase board, a stack of magazines from which to cut pictures, and a hearty supply of construction paper. Some alphabet flashcards rounded out our education department, and we began our wild adventure. I had listened for more than two years to programs discussing home schooling on Christian radio. I had a vague understanding of the law in Texas–-enough to know I could legally teach my child at home. I had no knowledge of required subjects and was completely oblivious to the war that was still being waged in the Texas courts in the early 1990s.
After about a year of home schooling, I somehow came into possession of a catalog for traditional, Christian curriculum–-probably from the one other person I knew who was actually homeschooling. I bought the kindergarten program for my son and felt confident that I was truly homeschooling now! Over the next two years, I did become somewhat more connected. I knew there was a home schooling support group in Austin and had actually seen a sample newsletter. I was informed of their book fair and decided to attend. I was absolutely amazed at what I experienced there! I would love to look back at the figures to see how many people attended the Christian Home Education Association (CHEA) of Austin book fair that summer; there were probably two or three hundred people, but to me it seemed like two or three thousand! I looked at books, I listened to speakers, and I overheard conversations. I joined CHEA!
The CHEA newsletter became a lifeline to me. It contained information on activities all over Central Texas. It announced monthly meetings hosted by CHEA at a church on the other side of town. I eventually ventured out to one of those meetings. That was almost ten years ago, but I can remember so clearly the night I sat in that meeting. I cannot express the feeling of connection that I experienced as I sat in a room with more than one hundred home schoolers. I raced home to tell my husband about this group of families–-not just home schooling moms, butfamilies–-who were joined together to support and encourage each other in their efforts to teach their children at home.
One of the first activities that I explored from that newsletter was a soccer group. While my son learned the basics of soccer from a home schooling father who had a heart for working with kids in a fun, noncompetitive, team-building activity, I joined a group that became known as the Soccer Moms. We were not your average group of soccer moms, mind you. This group of moms not only did not stand on the sidelines yelling for their children, we rarely even noticed when the game was over. We had our own game going! It was during these visits that I first heard of Saxon Math and Learning Language Arts through Literature. On these afternoons I listened to other mothers discuss lesson plans, daily schedules, and resistant learners. We shared laughs and more than a few tears. We loved and supported each other, and I made some friends whom I will cherish for the rest of my life.
After twelve years of home schooling now, I actively work to inform new and prospective home schoolers about the law in Texas–-including the required subjects. I have been fortunate enough to hear the stories of the war that was waged in our courts from the very people who fought those battles. I am blessed to count among my friends some of the pioneers of home schooling in this state. They have been my mentors and continue to be my support network. They are my fellow travelers on this road less traveled.
Does it matter? Could I have gone it alone? Would I still be homeschooling if I had not found other home schoolers? I cannot answer that last question for certain; I am just thankful that I do not have to answer it. I am so very thankful that when God called me to walk this road, He did not require me to walk it alone.
In working with new home schoolers, I strive to impart to them a great deal of information about how to homeschool. We cover lesson plans, daily schedules, and resistant learners. I share with them those same stories I heard from the “Soccer Moms,” in addition to many stories I have heard in the years since from many precious moms who are traveling this same road. I believe, however, that the most important piece of information I can share with these new home schoolers is this: do not walk alone. Find another traveler with whom to share your journey. Learn about those trailblazers who went before you, and reach your hand back to those travelers who follow. When we walk together, we not only help each other with the “how” of home schooling, we build a very solid “why.”
Mary James is a home schooling mother of seven in Cedar Creek and serves on the Texas Home School Coalition Advisory Committee. She and her husband Lee have served on the board of the Christian Home Education Association of Central Texas. Mary currently heads Smoothing the Way, an organization that serves the needs of new home schoolers.