Meet the 2012 Leader of the Year – Sheila Kleinhenz

Written by Sheila Kleinhenz

My homeschooling journey began several years before God blessed me with children. I had always loved children and thoroughly enjoyed working with them. In fact, when my husband Keith and I married, we worked together in children’s ministry, and we still do.

After working many years with children, I began to think about having kids of my own. One night a devastating feeling struck me: dread−dread that one day I would have to send my children to public school. I knew in my heart that I would not want to do that, but everyone I had ever known sent their children to public or private school. Why would it be any different for me? Nevertheless, I sensed in the depths of my soul it had to be different, somehow, in our case. I now know that God was preparing me for what He was going to call me to do: educate my children at home.

When our first child was born in 1996, we were filled with great joy. While we were enjoying every moment we had with her, I remember occasionally having that strong feeling of dread again. I dreaded the day when I would have to send my precious daughter to a public school that I knew could be cruel and ungodly. I knew that I did not want to place my God-sent “baby” down the Nile River in a little basket and watch from afar to see what would become of her. So I rested in God, knowing that He would work all things out for our good.

When my daughter was about three years old, my sister-in-law began to tell me about home education. She, too, had been praying for an alternative for her family, since her daughter, who was enrolled in public school as a preschooler, was not getting the education she wanted her to receive. In fact, my sister-in-law told me her daughter was already learning behaviors and habits that were bound to get worse.

I was excited to hear that there was another option. I went to my first home school conference that year, with my second daughter in tow. It was a Southeast Texas Home School Association conference in Houston, and I loved it! This was what God had been preparing me to do. His call on my life was to educate my children at home. The conference speakers ministered to me, the vendors were very helpful, and I was greatly encouraged. Like most home school newbies, I felt a little overwhelmed, but after teaching my daughter to read, I knew that I would be teaching all of my children to read. I was hooked!

God blessed us with four more children over the next several years, each one becoming a new member in our home school. Although we have homeschooled for the past twelve years, we are all still growing and learning together. At times homeschooling has been a breeze, and we have had our share of struggles, but God has been faithful to see us through.

Thankfully, through our home schooling endeavors, God has brought so many wonderful people and groups into our life to bless and encourage us.  Our local support group, Gulf Coast Christian Home Scholars (GCCHS), was one of the first organizations we joined to connect with other home schoolers and to participate in field trips, museum classes, park days, etc. The members of GCCHS have been a great blessing to our family. The volunteers and members of Gulf Coast are the most giving and kindhearted people I have ever met. They have always been willing to lend a hand to those in need within our community as well as those not a part of our group. Our volunteers give of their time so unselfishly. I am amazed at how they all reach out to help and encourage each other in their home schooling journeys.

Several years after joining GCCHS, I was asked if I would be interested in becoming the chairperson of the steering committee. I felt that the Lord wanted me to give back to this wonderful group, so I said, “Yes.” The five years I served as chair taught me a great deal about myself and others. One of the most important lessons I learned was the importance of taking care of those wonderful and caring volunteers. In a business setting, workers are expected to get the work done, because they are being paid. However, in a volunteer organization, those who serve do so out of the kindness of their hearts and a desire to work for the good of the group. All of the work is done by the volunteers, so it is essential to make the volunteers want to volunteer again. The organization’s policies and procedures should be focused on making the volunteers feel appreciated and on making their work easier.

Another organization for which I am very grateful is THSC. They have been remarkable in their efforts to help and encourage home schooling parents as well as to preserve our home schooling rights. All the work that they have done and continue to do amazes me. After watching “Taking a Stand in Texas: The Battle for Home School Freedom, I was impressed by the David-and-Goliath struggle that the brave men and women, who were pioneers in this home schooling endeavor, undertook for us. I will forever be indebted to those who took a stand and made it possible for me to educate my wonderful children at home. I appreciate those who continue in the fight to maintain our parental rights. May God continue to bless us with the freedom He has granted, and may we be ever mindful that freedom is not free! May He make us strong in our stand for our children, for our rights as parents, and for our God-given freedoms to educate our children at home.

I believe my home schooling journey is similar to many home educating parents’ who look back at their shaky starts and smile at what God has done. So, whether your home education process is just beginning or you are a veteran of several years, whether you are a support group leader or a faithful volunteer, be encouraged, and remember Philippians 2:13: “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Sheila and Keith Kleinhenz have been happily married for twenty-six years. They are the proud parents of six extraordinary children; Kate (16), Emily (13), Kelli (12), Caleb (11), Joshua (10), and Nathan (6).