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Heart of the Matter: Homeschool as a Lifestyle

September 7, 2013
Sherri Wilson Johnson

Cynthia: This is Cynthia with Heart of the Matter broadcast,
for women who want to obey God in a less than perfect world.

School has started and mothers out there are sending off
their kids, but some mothers are doing it at home. And I want to address those
moms at home today, because I know how heavy the responsibility felt for me as
I started back to school. I always feel, in the summertime, like I had enough
just running my house and when I had to restart school I just felt oppressed a
little bit. But I wanted to do it because I wanted to obey that Scripture in
Deuteronomy 11:19 where it says that you’re supposed to teach your kids when
you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, and when you lie, and even
when you rise.

So this was a huge job that I wanted to do right. And today
I have a guest here named Sherri Wilson Johnson and she homeschooled her
children for fourteen years. Welcome, Sherri.

Sherri:  Thank you.
Thanks for having me.

Cynthia: Sherri, can you talk to us just a little bit, just
encouragement for those moms who are taking on this responsibility again.

Sherri:  Every year
when we would finish up for the year, I would think to myself do I want to do
this again the next year. I was tired, I was ready for my summer break, a
hundred and eighty days seemed to be eighteen hundred days it seemed like at
times. They would ask me are you going to keep doing it, how long are you going
to do it. And I just said I’m taking a year at a time, I want to do what the
Lord wants me to do. I wanted to homeschool, but I wanted to leave it open for
if the Lord led in a different direction.

And so every year when we would finish I would take that
breath of oh, I’m done I’m done! But it didn’t seem like any time at all before
I already had those juices flowing, I was getting ready for the next year, I
was excited about it. Even though it was a challenge. It was just something
that I kept, every year, I couldn’t wait till the next year to see.

In fact, that was one thing I had a problem with. I would
often live in the next year while I was still trying to accomplish the current
year. So I’d have to rein myself back in. But I always tried to encourage
homeschool moms who would feel like they were burned out, take a break from it
a little bit. And do a lot of praying. If you’re just not sure about where
you’re going, what curriculum you want to use, if something didn’t work, you
want to try something different but you’re not sure, prayer is the number one
thing.

It helped me more than anything just to sit back and listen
to what the Lord was leading. And it always calmed my nerves. Talking to other
homeschool moms got me launched back off ready to go again. So that’s one thing
I encourage moms, always be involved with other homeschool moms. Because if
you’re not, it is so easy to become discouraged with what you’re doing. You
feel like you’re out there by yourself and no support.

Cynthia: That’s exactly what I would have said. There were
so many times, especially with a disabled child, that I came across problems
that I could not solve any other way besides prayer. I would call my friends,
or I would call my education specialist, and say this is what’s happening. And
he would make some suggestions, which I would have tried, and then I would just
say okay. Well, I’m going to have to go pray, and I would figure it out. As we
kept going the Lord would just guide me. And I think that’s something that you
can’t ever replace is that relationship with Christ.

Which, I think, that’s one thing about children that’s good,
because it makes you depend on Christ. Because we need that.

Sherri:  Oh yeah. Oh,
definitely. I found too, like when my children became teenagers, they’re three
years apart, so we had a lot of hormones going on in the house, we had a lot of
mood changes and things like that. And a lot of times just stepping back from
where we were at. Taking a break, stepping back, assessing the situation. A lot
of times I found that we didn’t really need to do anything but just hang out
for a minute. I would always just want to scratch everything and start over.
We’re failing at it, and we weren’t. We just needed to step back, take a break,
reassess, do that prayer, read some Scripture, and then it seemed like we were
always refreshed and can go a little bit longer.

Cynthia: There were a few times I would say I’m not going to
homeschool, I’m absolutely done with it, I’m quitting. And within thirty
minutes, forty-give minutes, I would be okay and be able to restart. But just
that power of being able to say I quit just felt really good.

Sherri:  I found a lot
of times my kids would kind of take advantage of me when they knew that I was
at my weak point, and they would just really play off of that. And when I would
get to the point that I was ready to quit, they would both come, no we don’t
want to go to school! I went well then you better straighten up and you’ve got
to do your work. Just because I’m your mom, I knew some moms who didn’t really
push the school work very much. It was more just hey, we’re at home and we’re
learning and doing whatever. And I was not that way.

If I was going to homeschool them, they were getting an
education. And I was strict on that. We might be flexible or creative in the
way we did it, but we were going to do it.

So once my kids realized that they had pushed me a little
bit too far, I could rein ‘em back in a little bit and we could get going
again. Somehow, fourteen years passed. I really don’t know how, but it did.

Cynthia: I think you’ve hit on one of the problems that a
lot of parents describe to me. Because when they are at home they feel like
it’s okay to be who they really are. They’ll act the way you taught them at
other places, church, school, wherever, but with you they feel like they can
let all their whatever hang out.

Sherri:  Oh yeah.

Cynthia: And so you do have to kind of sometimes think about
motivating them, giving them something to work toward, to give them some
rewards or whatever. And I tell parents don’t be afraid to keep a new idea
coming. Because your kids are always growing, so always come up with a new idea
and go ahead and launch a new incentive program. That’s okay.

Sherri:  Oh yeah. And I
tried always, cater to their individual learning styles because my daughter is
very very creative. She’s very artistic, and was into photography and things
like that. Which she is a photographer now. But I found that certain subjects
that were very difficult for her, if I would allow her to express herself
artistically through her work, if it was history I would allow her to paint a
picture, or maybe she didn’t always write a report on something. She might have
presented it in a different way.

My son is very musical. He did better with a guitar in his
hand while he was working on his school work. Or if I was reading something to
him he would have his guitar and be playing. They couldn’t have done that if
they were in a classroom. But it helped them to be able to focus and learn
according to their learning styles. And that’s very important too.

Cynthia: Absolutely. There are some kids that move and learn
at the same time. That’s why I got one of those bouncy balls for my disabled
child, because he did need to be able to learn to bounce and move because he
could concentrate better. And if they need to do that you have the environment
at home to be able to offer that to them. Go ahead and do it. You don’t have to
create a classroom in your home.

Sherri:  Exactly.
That’s the beauty of homeschooling, is whatever works. And I did find that what
worked for one didn’t work for the other. But there were times when I was able
to combine things. Like I remember when my son was in ninth grade and my
daughter was starting her senior year, it was time for her to do the government
and economics. So he was in ninth grade, so I thought well why not go ahead and
let him do government and economics. It didn’t say it had to be done at a
particular year. It just needed to be done in high school. 

And so we did that together and it worked so great because I
got a bunch of videos from the library on the different presidents. It was like
these little documentaries, and we watched those together. They did projects
together. Their assignments they did together. It was a subject that they might
not have been very interested in, but working together, we went on some field
trips and things like that. But that’s what I love about that, is that you have
the ability to customize everything.

Cynthia: Right. And to make it kid-friendly depending on
what’s the best way they learn. And things that they would not normally care
about you can find ways to make it fun.

I know we took time to make a volcano in our kitchen one
day. And not all the kids were studying that particular thing, but they all got
involved in the volcano cone and all that. And we put the stuff in there to
make it blow up and we enjoyed it so much that we had it blow up in all
different colors. We started coloring it blue and green and yellow and orange.
And everybody got interested in the volcano.

It can become a family memory as well.

Sherri:  Definitely.
Like the dissect thing of the owl pellet. I loved that. My kids were grossing
out, but I loved it. I thought it was so interesting to see the little bones
and all that that was inside of an owl pellet. And my husband, we were all four
in there doing that. We still talk about it, and he’ll actually, when he’s out
in the woods, I’m like if you ever find one, and he’s just like what? Because
we’re not even homeschooling anymore. But it was just an interesting thing to
do and it was a fun memory to make.

Cynthia: We hung a hummingbird feeder in our office right
where we sat and worked. You could look out the window and watch the
hummingbirds. And we had so much fun because there would be one coming and the
other would chase that one off. So you got the kids interested in nature
because they’re watching it right in front of them.

Sherri:  Exactly. Oh
yeah. When kids were younger I actually wrote a magazine article about this. I
love birds, always have loved birds. My kids have always loved being out in
nature. And the house that we used to live in was more in a country area, we
had like two acres. We had a screened-in back porch. We would always leave the
door open. For some reason it just always got left open. Well, birds would fly
in and get stuck. And so we would have to go out there and rescue these birds.
Throw a kitchen towel over, catch the bird.

But what was so neat about it was we would have these birds,
the kids would get to pet them. All different kinds of birds. What kind is
that? We’d go in and look it up. They might even color a picture or paint a
picture of that bird. We actually rehabilitated one that our Labrador tried to
eat, and had it for several months in a bird cage. It even came back the next
year, landed on my shoulder when I was out in the backyard one day.

Just the neatest things. It’s like taking what God has
already created and then using that to educate your children. Especially when
they’re younger. It’s just so awesome. It’s so much fun to do.

Cynthia: Yeah. It makes it part of the family life, and it
makes it so natural that you get your kids interested in education. While at
the same time you enjoy them. And that was the thing I enjoyed most about
homeschooling, myself.

Sherri:  Yes. Me too.

Cynthia: We made it into a lifestyle. When we went on
vacation we would do field trips together, which was wonderful fun. Made great
memories looking at all kinds of historic stuff and things.

Sherri:  I know. We get
tickled at the fact that we have been to more zoos outside of our state than we
have ever been to the one in our state. That’s just something we would do
whenever we would go, we’d want to go see the local zoo or the local water
place. The whales and the seals and all that stuff. But we would never do it
here, but it’s always because Dad was at work and we just didn’t go do it as a
family thing.

Some of my friends are like you go to the zoo when you’re on
vacation? I’m like yeah, why not? It’s something educational and I would tell
the kids we’re going to count this as school today. All right!

Cynthia: Absolutely, yeah. You can learn so much as a
family. And like I say, you’re also enjoying your kids. There’s lots of ways.
Can you think of anything else that you did to kind of make school part of your
every day life?

Sherri:  At first I
tried to separate it when they were younger. I had a school room, I’d say it’s
time for school and we would go off to the school room. And all of life stopped
while we were in the school room for those couple of hours. But as they got
older, more involved in different activities, that was harder to do.

I tried to be organized and have a schedule, but like with
my son, he tended to work better at night when the house was quiet, because he
was kind of ADD. His school work he would do at night, usually from midnight to
three in the morning, put his folder outside of his door, I’d pick it up in the
morning, check through everything, and then we’d have any lesson stuff together
the next day.

I didn’t want them to feel like they were going to school. I
wanted them to feel like they were learning. Like we all do, even now when
you’re graduated from school you should be learning. Even if you’re just
reading something on the Internet or go out in your community or whatever. We
should never stop learning and stop growing in that way.

So I always tried to just not be like the school principal,
I’m going to get my paddle out if you don’t do your work. I tried as hard as I
could to just instill in them the joy of learning. I didn’t really want to be
their teacher. I wanted to be their mom who was helping them teach themselves.
Because once you get out in the world you’ve got to desire to learn, or you’re
not going to learn anything else.

It just became a part, as we kept going year after year
after year, it just became a part of who we were. I did organize. In summer I
had my days scheduled out because I did want to finish the school year before
it got hot and we would have summertime and then not be sitting there just
bored and ready to do stuff. I always planned and organized.

I was flexible, if we needed to be flexible. One year my dad
was dying with brain cancer and he lived with us during that time. And it ended
up being the year that I was going to put them in private school and go to work
there. The week before I was going for my interview, my dad got sick. All of
that got put on hold and I said well, I guess, Lord, you’re wanting me to
homeschool one more year.

That ended up being the best year we’d ever had. Because the
kids spent a lot of time with Dad. They were at the doctor’s offices with me,
they were meeting adults and things like that. They were learning things about
hospital and doctors and just life experience, really. But if I had not been
able to be flexible with that and incorporate that into our every day life, we
wouldn’t have gotten any school work done that year. Which would have led me to
feel even more frustrated and want to quit.

I don’t know. I feel like every year I just tried to let
school just be as natural as possible. Especially reading and things like that.
I mean, there’s some subjects like math and stuff that you just have to do it.
Whether you want to do it or not. There’s no way for it not to be school. I
don’t know. I just tried to stay focused and teach them that life was all about
learning. Whether you did it at home, or whether you did it at school. That’s
what life’s about, is learning.

Cynthia: I hear several different themes in what you’re
saying, and one of them is I strongly agree with lifelong learning. Because,
you know, if it’s not inside of you and you don’t want to do it, and you see it
as difficult or uncomfortable, you’re not going to pursue it the rest of your
life. And I think as Christians we have that responsibility to keep growing as
Christians in the word, and knowing more about who he is.

And so that idea of implanting that is just, I really
strongly agree with that. That’s one of the reasons I homeschooled for so many
years is because I wanted to implant that growing desire in my own children.

But I also hear you saying that you also had them
interacting with adults and doing adult things. Caring for your father, and
dealing with real situations. That’s something that you simply cannot do in a
school situation. You get more caught up in got to be cool for this person, or
I’ve got to be part of this group. As a homeschooler I think you have an
opportunity to be more a part of the real world, and it’s healthier. It’s a
healthier life I think.

Sherri:  Yes. And it
helps them not be so peer-oriented. Which, I mean, they are going to be,
especially as they become teenagers. And my children, the church that we
attended had 350 high-schoolers. And there were very few homeschool kids. So
even though we were in a homeschool group and that’s where the majority of
their really close friends were, as soon as they became involved in that youth
group their eyes were opened up to a lot of things that I didn’t even realize
they would be experiencing at that young of an age.

But I loved the fact that we had that foundation already
established in there before they started that. And that they were comfortable
talking with adults. Because it made them, both of them, more willing to jump
in and volunteer to do some things that kids normally wouldn’t volunteer to do.
Because they weren’t afraid to step up in front of an adult.

My daughter went on mission trips to Jamaica and for awhile
said she was going to move there. I’m like no, don’t move there! She was so
comfortable being a leader. I think homeschooling, if we do it the right way,
we do encourage our children to become leaders. Even if it’s leaders in a small
group, they’re more comfortable. To me the benefits, I still see the benefits
even now. I really do.

And also just in teaching them purity and that sort of
thing. Working with youth at church I realized that there’s just a lot of
warfare that they go through. Sometimes they don’t even have an opportunity to
realize that they’re being hit with it, before they’re already hit with it. I
loved that opportunity to be able to pour that into my kids before they got out
into that real world, of what our guidelines were and what God’s view of things
were.

I don’t know. I think I’ll be counting those benefits for
the next fifty years.

Cynthia: So overall, I’m glad I did it, and it sounds like
you’re very glad that you did also.

Sherri:  Oh,
definitely. Definitely. And now, I mean I have friends that they want to quit
sometimes and I just keep encouraging them. Of course I don’t tell them, oh you
should do it, you have to do it. Because I mean, everybody’s situation is
different, everybody’s life stage is different. But I’m always going to be the
advocate for that.

I’m around very few homeschoolers now. I still, I light up,
I know I light up when I find out somebody is homeschooling. I’m just like
whoo! I just love it. I’m glad I did it and I will encourage people as much as
I can. 

And having wanted to quit almost every single year, but not
quitting, I feel like I can help people when they start to really doubt whether
or not they can do it. But it’s so worth it. Definitely worth it.

Cynthia: We’re giving a message today that you need to hang
in there and keep going. Because it really is worth it.

Sherri, tell me where we can find you on the Internet.

Sherri:  I have a
website, I’m on Facebook and everywhere else. Pinterest and all of that as
well. But my website is www.sherriwilsonjohnson.com
I do all kinds of stuff. I blog, I interview different authors. I also write
two monthly blogs on purity for a ministry called Choose Now Ministries, and
then I also blog for Habits For A Happy Home, which is a homeschool, primarily,
homeschool and family oriented website. So I’m on there too.

I tend to be floating around all over the place these days.

Cynthia: I appreciate your time and your encouragement. And
thank you for being with us and helping us out here.

Sherri:  Well, thank
you so much for having me.

Cynthia: You’re welcome.

Listeners, we’d like your feedback. Let us know what you think, and what subjects you’d like us to cover.  

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