Our daughter Adrienne, our first baby, just turned 13! We constantly pinch ourselves and ask, “Wait, what? Where did the time go?” On the other hand, we have made the most of every precious second with Adrienne, and her younger brother Addison. We credit a portion of our success to our choice of independently educating our kids. In our homeschooling, we regularly spend everyday together, and have continued to do so for pretty much our kids’ entire lives.
We didn’t initially plan this life. Before Adrienne was born, I had full-time daycare all lined up to watch Adrienne while I went back to work. We intended for her to stay with my dear friend Rachel and her family. But as Adrienne’s birth drew closer, Rachel repeatedly advised, “I don’t think you want to do this.”
It’s as though she was speaking faith to me. And although I don’t remember the words even registering, they must have. The very instant I held Adrienne in my arms, I felt my logic being rearranged. Steve and I both began to work part-time at home with our new baby. Four years later when Addison was born, we owned a web business and I quit my job in radio.
Finding Our Why
Fast-forward to Adrienne as a 4 year old. She was ready to learn to read and too young for school. I had this idea – “Why not just home-school for a year?” Then we had Addison and thought, “Why send her to school when the rest of us are home together?” One year led to another until Addison was also joining us around the school table, also reading like a champ! (Proud moments – I taught them that!) At that point, we were a full-fledged homeschooling family.
Here we are, years later with our 8th and 4th grader. Our methods, our curriculum, and even our location has changed. However, our “why” has become increasingly obvious to us: we don’t want to hand off this brilliant opportunity to introduce our kids to the world around them. Both of our kids possess a massive appetite for knowledge. Their capacity to learn is positively boundless. We harness that energy and use it to shape our family experience.
…And Away We Go
I still order textbooks every year. But more importantly, we follow our kids’ lead into each new area of curiosity. Adrienne was enthralled with the movie Dolphin Tale, and Addison was fascinated with space, so we carved out the better part of a summer for a trip to Florida, visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and several rocket launches at Kennedy Space Center. Steve and I both search out opportunities tailored for them.
Because our work isn’t location-based, we regularly discover new places, find museums (hello, ASTC.org!), and try new adventures. As Johnny Cash sang, we’ve been everywhere: from Lindberg’s grave to Lincoln’s log cabin, from the Pittsburgh’s Carnegie to the Grand Canyon. We’ve stood in ancient meteor craters, sat on Rosa Parks’ bus, and met everyone from astronauts at NASA to Paleontologists in the Badlands. (Yes, our homeschoolers are socialized.) We frequently share about our latest books and plan documentary nights.
With each venture, we enrich our family in two major ways. First, our world becomes bigger and brighter as we see new places and things and learn about others. Second, we grow closer together through our shared experiences, and develop a myriad of mutual interests.
I’ll Tell You a Secret
Sometimes, when others learn that we home-school, we hear unfiltered reactions like, “Oh, I could never,” or, “We tried that one year.” To be completely honest, the road that led us here was far from smooth. For starters, it took nearly 6 years to not panic as the new school year approached. (I finally just told myself, “Every year you feel this and yet you succeed, regardless. Chill out!”)
Through these home-school years, We Brendtros have had our fair share of shouting matches, tears, ripped up papers, angry words, and fits of despair. Steve has been both principal and referee. So… many… apologies. We have discovered the grace of God in a million tiny miracles.
I especially butted heads with my mini-me, Adrienne. I remember our breakthrough that finally came in year #3 when we learned to communicate. I gritted my teeth and said, “When you don’t look at me, I get very irritated because I think you’re not listening.” She looked up at me with her big brown eyes and flatly stated, “When you snap at me, I think you don’t like teaching me.” We both melted. It was a turning point in our relationship. Friends, every year around that table together grows more rich!
Homeschooling is the path our family was meant to take. I remember my childhood friend, Andrea, whose homeschooling family was so different than my own fragmented one. Their home was a refuge; I loved being enfolded in the warmth of their deep connections. I believe God uses people’s joy to get our attention and to steer us. As we continue on this journey, Steve and I regularly borrow inspiration from beautiful friends like this. We feel encouraged to dream big, and to train Adrienne and Addison up in the way that THEY should go. It’s more than just knowing their Creator. Our kids continue to uncover the specific ways God designed them to thrive. And I must add, so do their parents!