A Different Route
by Drenda Keesee
We originally planned to sacrifice financially to put our kids in the best private Christian schools. When it came time to put Amy in school, I chose a highly reputed Christian school with an all-day kindergarten program. Since we were a close-knit family, our family felt torn apart without her and missed her every day. Every morning Tim would say, “Mom, where’s Addie?” He called her “Addie” for some reason instead of Amy. “Where’s Addie? I miss Addie! When is she coming home?”
Gary had wanted me to home-school her, but I had concerns that I may be too impatient or get frustrated trying to teach. When Amy came home upset several days, telling me how the teacher yelled at the class, slamming things on her desk, I thought, I can do that myself and not pay tuition for it! Even if I occasionally lose it, I care more about her than any teacher. There was also a serious discipline issue with a troubled boy in the class, too. Amy would come home exhausted and tired as a little kindergartener, too tired to even play. Play and imagination are one of the most effective forms of learning.
By Christmas, I thought…
…There’s something wrong with this picture. This isn’t the way it was meant to be—families being ripped apart. These kindergarteners are gone from home the same amount of time as working a full-time job! Over the break I watched my son and daughter once again laughing and playing and being children, and I was moved deeply.
Around that time, we had a call from a business associate whose family was in trouble. They told us, “Our kids don’t want to be around us. Our daughter makes us drop her off down the street from the school. They don’t want to go anywhere with us, and our son struggles with a drug addiction. If we could do it all over, we wouldn’t have put them in a public school system.” I had seen pictures of the children hugging their parents when they were young and innocent, and I knew this family had a close relationship at one time. It made me rethink going along with the crowd to educate our children!
During that Christmas break, God dealt with my heart. I asked myself, “Why is it that we try to push our children out the door so early? Why do we let the world tell us we’re supposed to send our little ones off to institutions? Am I doing this because it’s the right thing for my family, or because it’s the socially acceptable thing to the world? Are we really supposed to make them sit in classrooms and act and learn the same, at the same time in the same way? There has to be a better way!”
Speaking with home-educating families, I discovered that they were completing the one and a half hours of formalized learning needed a day in the time it took me to drive Amy back and forth to school, and then time doing homework added on to that (not to mention repairing the exposure to negative influences). I was investing more time than they were, and their results were stellar. Their children had time to play and be kids. Many could afford music lessons and family learning excursions with the money they saved over private schools. I discovered there were literally thousands of curriculums, utilizing every media platform, and the best of all, that God had equipped me as a loving parent to train my children toward their natural bent. I studied the many people who had been home educated and found that scores of great leaders were trained this way.
There are many alternatives to putting your children in public school that I would recommend. Nowadays, your children can take classes from the comfort of your home through online programs. There is private schooling, parents’ cooperative (coop) classes, homeschooling, or you can do a combination of all of them. I know many families that put their child in one public or private school class and home-schooled them for the rest. They did this so their children could lead Bible studies at their school or be involved in sports and extracurricular activities. Depending on your current situation and time availability, I am confident you can find the education route that works best for your family. Whichever route you take, the important thing is that you stay active in your child’s education.
I chose the homegrown route, homeschooling our five children, but I also added in co-op classes for some seasons to enhance their educational opportunities with specialized classes or when time constraints made it helpful. We used DVD programs, field trips, seminars, business meetings, mission trips, family vacations, and every opportunity we could to expose them to learning and further their education. Once they were reading, they were off and running, learning subjects as their interests were peaked and maintaining a steady diet of reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s about finding the balance that works for you and what works best for your children.
Homeschooling is not a one size fits all program, but I am a big advocate for the benefits home education brings, and I believe it was one of the best decisions we made with our children. Home education is an amazing endeavor and definitely an option I encourage you to explore open-mindedly. Interestingly enough, aspiring young athletes, Olympians, musicians, actors, prodigies, and the socially elite are more typically educated by tutors or parents. It is considered a privilege and opportunity, so don’t let anyone look down on a commitment to home education if this is what you choose.
There’s a quote I love from a homeschooler whom I’m sure you know—Albert Einstein. He said, “It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom. Without this, it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. To the contrary, I believe it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry.”
It’s true. The best time to learn is when you’re curious and want to explore. When you coerce someone to learn something the way you want it done, when you want it done, in a set method of pressure and conformity, you lose the creativity. Add a classroom of children and one teacher to that equation, and your child is set to become what the system conforms him or her to be. You lose the gift. You lose the uniqueness. You lose what’s in that person. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
We’ve heard, “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they’re old, they will not depart from it.” We believed all along that our kids did not have to depart from the things of God. Our children are a gift from God, and God commissioned us to raise them up in His ways. We would account to Him for their training. Remember, a student will become like his teacher when he is fully trained, so it mattered who taught our children and what they were teaching them. The Son of God was trained in His parents’ home and the synagogue. He was about His Father’s business at age twelve with no rebellious years as a teen.
George Washington Carver, who was homeschooled, said, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” In the early years of our nation, homeschooling was the vintage approach to education. Many great people who have shaped our history, such as Abraham Lincoln, were homeschooled. In fact, families and community imparted most education until the turn of the twentieth century.
Excerpt from “The New Vintage Family” by Drenda Keesee
Drenda Keesee’s contagious zeal and humorous personal experiences help make her ministry of spiritual, emotional and relational wholeness one that will bless your life and spark a new fire in your spirit.
A wife of over 30 years and a mother of five children, Drenda has ministered at churches, seminars, and conferences, and through the mediums of television and radio, for more than 20 years.
Her books, The New Vintage Family, Better Than You Think, and She Gets It are available wherever books are sold. In these heartfelt books, Drenda shares her personal journey and the life lessons that have brought her to where she is today, as well as practical answers that all people need to live a joyful life.
Drenda and her husband Gary founded Faith Life Now, a ministry designed to spread the message of freedom in the areas of finances, faith, marriage and family. Faith Life Now hosts conferences worldwide, and sponsors both Fixing the Money Thing, which Drenda co-hosts with her husband Gary, and Drenda.
Through their own life experiences, the Keesees have found the principles from God’s Word to be powerful and effective. At one point, Drenda was a young, suicidal feminist with no hope of ever being “good enough” for her own standards of perfection. She never wanted the “inconvenience” of a husband or children, and she was on her own path to success. But the stress of trying to achieve perfection and perform for love left her broken and used. She had success, but it was nothing compared to the pain and loneliness it had also brought.
That’s when God got a hold of her heart. It was there—at her lowest point—that she found the One who accepted and loved her, faults and all. Since that transformation, Drenda has had a passion to reach women who find themselves where she once was.
She married Gary after attending college, and there she found herself in a personal boot camp of sorts. She says, “I cried and told God, ‘I can do anything but be a wife and mother.’” She committed to learning how to do it God’s way. Through the many years of raising their children and struggling to make ends meet, Drenda learned from their mistakes. “I didn’t know how to be a wife and mother, but God saved our marriage, taught us how to parent our children for success, showed us how to have financial success, and then irony of all ironies, He called us to ministry.” It’s truly because of these life experiences that Drenda can now share so many insightful principles for people who are now going through the same struggles.