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."
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
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
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
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.