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Lead Me to the Homeschool Village

By Rhonda Barfield
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #95, 2010.

Rhonda Barfield tell how the homeschool community and other important people in our lives can be our "village."

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Lisa and Rhonda Barfield

You have probably heard the famous African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Although it’s not literally true, I find the central idea of the proverb compelling. It makes sense that parents sometimes need help in raising and teaching their children.

It’s true that our “villages” can be virtual, especially if real ones are not available. Homeschool books and magazines have helped hundreds of thousands of parents make the homeschool decision, get started, and stay current. And a nearly limitless (although unstructured) supply of resources, including chat forums, is available online.

Whether online or face-to-face, it’s great to have supporters who encourage us. I found this especially true at the beginning of our homeschool adventure two decades ago, when my mother was the only member of our extended family who was excited about the idea. My friend Lyn spent an afternoon trying to talk me out of the decision. If I hadn’t been convinced that God was calling me to homeschool, she might have succeeded.

Fortunately, we had allies who understood our vision—fellow Christians in a support group. My new friend Pam and I both felt overwhelmed with the idea of trying to “get it all together” with our kindergartners, especially since we also had younger children to tend. We often compared our experiences. We vented, brainstormed, and rejoiced in small victories.

We are all familiar with the process of finding expert help via books and magazines. It’s worth searching out local mentors as well. When Eric started kindergarten, Christian (age 4), Lisa (age 3), and Mary (a toddler) kept me too busy to spend time finding quality curriculum. Often I turned to my friend Candace. She’d done the research and field-tested materials with her own two daughters. Beyond that, she understood my kids’ learning styles and she knew me well. When I felt totally frustrated with our books and methods, I knew I could trust her to guide me to solutions that would work for us.

I also relied heavily on librarians. Through the years we developed close relationships that helped personnel steer us to Newbery winners, kids’ magazines, 3”-thick books of art prints, Bill Nye the Science Guy DVDs (which we used as the basis of a science course), classical music CDs, and a wealth of other treasures. Librarians acted as resource experts to supplement all our unit studies. They relieved some of the pressure I felt in choosing all the materials on my own.

Apart from difficult curriculum choices, I also struggled with the demands of parenting. I soon learned that people who offer us breaks are life-savers. As a young mom on call 24/7, I sometimes felt too exhausted to seek out friends. Fortunately, some sympathetic neighbors came to my rescue. My neighbor Anneliese and her son Alex often accompanied us to the apartment pool. Iris helped babysit. Ruth helped me organize Eric’s third birthday party. We shared many leisurely afternoons at the park, watching our preschoolers play while we moms rested awhile.

Later, our family joined a once-a-month co-op. When Lisa showed an interest in natural science, we started Nature Club with several other families. Then we got involved with a homeschool fine-arts program, where our kids made many new friends while participating in orchestra, choir, and drama. Thanks to helpful neighbors and friends, I got a much-needed break from “Lone Ranger” homeschooling.

I have been blessed by a community of allies, experts, neighbors, and friends who supported me through 20 years of homeschooling. They encouraged me. They shared my burden of making good educational choices. They helped me stay sane by enabling breaks from the intensity of parenting. I know I helped them as well. Together, as members of the homeschool “village,” we successfully homeschooled our children.

Rhonda Barfield is a wife and mother of four, former homeschooling teacher, writing coach for writeathome.com, and author of Real-Life Homeschooling and Feed Your Family for $12 a Day.

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