Meet the Dowden Family
Our home education adventure began 8,000 miles from Texas, in Papua New Guinea (PNG). How we got there and how we got so involved in home schooling is the story of a life transformed through seemingly simple choices.
In 1981 I was focused on getting to the mission field as quickly as possible. I was a new Christian and planning to go solo, but God had other plans! I met Marinell “along the way,” and by April of 1982 we were married and headed to PNG.
By 1988 our firstborn, Corey, was ready to start school. We had the choice of a nearby international school in Wau, which cost $100 per month, or the option of trying to teach her ourselves. Like most missionaries, we did not have a spare hundred dollars, so it was school at home. Good for Corey! Confusion for her parents, who did not have a clue about how to begin. We hit our first road bump when the curriculum that was ordered got lost in the international mail. Marinell improvised by making flashcards and using the materials we had on hand. Little did we know at the time, that was how most others moms of the time got started.
Upon returning to the States in 1989, we had to consider public education– but not for long. We liked the family focus and the flexibility of home education, even if we still did not know much about it. Marinell was delighted to discover the home school support groups. Wow! What a concept! I am a do-it-yourselfer, but not when it comes to home schooling.
Marinell was soon asked to be the political liaison for the Wylie co-op, which threw us into a whole new side of home schooling. Through a serious of interesting events, Marinell and I became the head of the North Texas Home Educators Network (NTHEN). At the time it was not a book fair but a network of support groups where leaders could meet and learn from each other about what does and does not work. During the seven years I was president, we also began the Plano book fair, regional fellowships, quarterly newsletters, and a website. Since the NTHEN phone number was our home phone number, our life became a whole lot of talking with new home schoolers, book fairs, and oh, yeah, trying to homeschool our own kids at the same time. Our kids did not mind coming along for the ride. Corey and Ashley were “runners” at the book fairs, while Samantha and Josh played Duplos behind the curtains. We also delighted in the many opportunities we had to fellowship with Tim and Lyndsay Lambert and the board members of THSC.
Our curriculum was Christ-centered and unit-based. Many of these unit studies were literally dropped at our front door. Necessity required that we select the trade of roofing as one study. Ecclesiastes 10 reminded us that “because of idle hands, the house leaks.” We overcame idleness when Corey, Marinell, and I were up on the roof nailing down the new shingles while seven-year-old Ashley brought us the shingles and entertained newborn Samantha. Also, allowing the kids to take care of the horse, chickens, goats, and ducks we had through the years taught responsibility and scheduling. Living in an old farmhouse also provided lessons in fence building, barn raising, and lawn maintenance. Other God-motivated lessons included taking care of a preemie, housekeeping when Mom was bedridden, and, eventually, decorating for a wedding. Vacations were also a rich source for unit studies. We spent a semester preparing for our trip back East to visit Revolutionary War and Civil War landmarks. It was a huge advantage that we got to make these visits during the off-season!
In 1995 God completed our family with our first son after three daughters. It was not long until we realized that this new gift came with some special needs. Had we not chosen to homeschool years earlier, our family would not have been in a position to shape this new priority into our schedule. The National Association for Child Development provided great direction, but many hours a day were still required for Mom, Corey, and me every day for the next eight years.
After several years of not-so-much-choices-as-detours in our path, God dropped a new business into my lap: an advertising website for vendors at Canton Trade Days. It was great timing as well, since Samantha started worldview classes and Joshua began attending a private special needs school at about that time. With this, our last year of home education, we can reflect on this wonderful experience. There are some things we might have changed, but one is not the choice to homeschool.
On the THSC board, I serve on the publications and leadership committees. I am able to use my website, writing, and video skills in a more enjoyable, voluntary role. While I am the most junior board member, Marinell and I have been around THSC for twenty years. Tim likes to say that support group leaders are like cat herders. Imagine a board full of experienced cat herders! Despite our diverse backgrounds and opinions, the board is devoted to protecting and enabling home educators in Texas! It has been a pleasure to serve with them.
We love our many and varied roles that God has provided, the latest being that of doting grandparents to our cherished granddaughter, Bethanna. Her parents have already committed to educating her at home. And so this adventure continues. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness!