This year (2002) marks our sixteenth year of home schooling, and it only is by God’s grace that I still can say I love home schooling! Sixteen years ago, we had just moved to Austin to start a new job in a new city. My oldest daughter Krista, was a sweet five-year-old. It was time to start school. Partly because we were uncomfortable in this big city, but mostly because we were not ready to send Krista off to a place we knew little about, my husband, Mac, and I decided we would homeschool “just for this year.”
We started with Calvert’s program and quite simply loved every moment of our days together. Home schooling awakened me to the idea that being a mother was far more than meals, diapers, naptimes, and schedules. Suddenly I was interacting with Krista and our three-year-old son Zachary in a far more focused and intentional way. At the end of the first year I asked, “Why stop now when it is working so well?” We continued to grow and learn together.
Five years later God graced us with another daughter, Claire. By this time, Mac and I were enjoying serving the home school community through our support group, Christian Home Educators of Austin, as logistics chairmen. Later Mac was elected for a term as chairman. Four more years went by, and God surprised us with a special blessing in August of 1993 … our youngest child, Jacob. Soon after, our peaceful little world fell apart.
In November of 1993, after weeks of headaches and what we thought was the flu, Zachary, 9, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Our world screeched to a halt. These kinds of things happened to people in Reader’s Digest or the movies, not to us, not to Zachary. We had four young children, ages 12, 9, 4, and 4 months. Surgery followed two days after Christmas, and we waited for the biopsy report. We were optimistic. I felt God’s glory was to be seen in this and soon the doctors would be amazed at the quick recovery and perfect healing. But we had more bad news. Our doctor explained with tears in her eyes that this tumor, a glioblastoma multiforme, was deadly. It would continue to spread, and Zachary had less than a year to live. We did what any loving parents in that position would do. We said, “No way. Not to my child!”
The following year was one of intense searches for a cure or treatment that would save Zach’s life. We tried reputable alternative therapies. We knew God could heal him, and we prayed, begged, and agonized before God’s throne. Surely this was an opportunity for God to show the world how truly powerful He was! We waited, and Zachary grew sicker. Finally, in desperation, and at Zachary’s request, we agreed to radiation and chemotherapy that would prolong his life for a few months. The treatment gave Zach a few months without symptoms – a time we now look back on with gratitude. We had a wonderful summer together as a family.
But the fall came and, with it, new symptoms. By this time, we had begun to sense that the Holy Spirit had different plans for Zachary than we did. That summer, with his sister, Zach did a Bible study, “Hinds Feet on High Places for Children.” It is a phenomenal book that deals with learning to trust God in places that look very hard and frightening to us. Something happened in Zach’s heart that summer. He did not want to die but trusted God to do with his life as He desired.
The body of Christ was truly the best thing in our lives that year. Our parents, my brother and family, and Mac’s sister and daughter were a steady support. And then there was our home school community. I do not have room here to tell of the feats of generosity and the lengths to which they went to minister to our suffering family. I do not think I cooked a meal for eleven months, as there was a steady supply of dinners in our freezer. We experienced God’s love in the most tangible ways, and we will always be grateful to God for the enormous way His people rallied to us in that time.
Zachary died that fall on November 13, 1994; a part of us died with him. We sensed we could never be the same again. We were right. Now began the task of healing, of trying to understand why, and of finding our lives again. We did not hurry. Grief takes enormous energy and lots of time – far more than most people allow themselves. I found that my perspective on life had changed. Somehow, my children were more important to me than ever before. I knew that our time together was valuable and that I could not take anything for granted. I found they became a greater priority than ever before.
I began to understand a little more about God, too. He did not do things the way I wanted Him to, and for many months I was very angry with Him. It is hard to explain, but I knew He was okay with my emotions; I never sensed anything but love and patience from Him while He waited for me to find answers to my questions. I have come away with a deeper respect for His omniscience and a deeper love for Him too. I KNOW where my son is, and it is a comfort to know we will be together again someday.
It is funny how life just marches on no matter what happens. It has been 8 1/2 years since Zachary’s death. Our oldest daughter, Krista, will be twenty-one when this is printed and finishing her junior year at the University of Houston as a violin major. Claire is thirteen and is our budding writer. Jacob, our youngest, is nine. Jacob and Claire are both being homeschooled.
A few years ago, I attended a Whole Hearted Mother’s conference. Jean Flemming was teaching, and at one point she shared about a women’s Bible study she was leading. A prayer rose up in me: “Lord, how I would love to mentor young mothers…” Then I laughed at myself – like I had time or ability to do that! A week later, Mary James called me. We did not know each other very well yet, so I was very surprised as she shared a vision she had of starting a support group for new home schoolers. She was just wondering if I might be interested in helping. The prayer I had prayed instantly came to mind. I told her I would pray about it, but I suspected God had already put the prayer in my heart so that I would know what to say when she called. As we worked and dreamed together, Smoothing the Way was born, and it now serves new home schoolers across Texas and beyond. Now Smoothing the Way is a place where mothers can learn the how-tos of home schooling in order to minister to and nurture their children.
I am amazed as I look back over the years I have homeschooled and see how faithful God has been to our family! Through tragedy He has brought the restoration and rest that comes from embracing His plan and has allowed us to know Him better. I could not have said those words a few years back. But God.… He has truly begun to heal and change us through this fire. Life really is not that long for any of us. My mission to homeschool has a sense of urgency to it, a realization that my children really are on loan from God. What a privilege it is to have the opportunity to capture their hearts for God so they can be a light to this new generation of young people who are so hungry for a God they can know! Together the home schooling community can make an impact on our culture for Christ.
Diane Broadway, along with Smoothing the Way co-founder, Mary James, was THSC’s 2002 Home School Leader of the Year.