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The Amazing Swann Family: Where Are They Now?

By Joyce Swann
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #93, 2010.

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Joyce Swann

I was a columnist for Practical Homeschooling from its premier issue in Spring 1993 until the fall of 1999. During that time, I wrote about my personal philosophy of home education and the trials and triumphs of homeschooling my ten children from first grade through Master’s degrees.

I am best known as a “proponent of accelerated education,” although, in fact, I am not any such thing. When I made the decision to homeschool, I did determine that I would have a 12-month school year for my family. However, I based my decision on practical considerations. I thought that if we were to take a three-month summer break, the children would forget much of what they had learned the previous school year. I wanted them to constantly progress, but I did not envision a marked acceleration.

Alexandra Swann
Originally, I had thought that they would graduate “a little early.” I was not prepared for them to enter college at 12 and begin graduate work at 15. Three hours a day, five days a week, just didn’t seem like it was going to be that big a deal. Yet, they did graduate early. Because of the way their birthdays fell, two were actually 17 when they received their Master’s degrees. The other eight received their Master’s degrees at 16. What I hadn’t factored in was that homeschooled children are able to get so much done in those three hours!

All of the children’s educations were entirely through distance learning, and we used the same curriculum for all the children. We used Calvert School in Baltimore for grades 1–8 and The American School for high school. Each child earned a Bachelor of Independent Studies from Brigham Young University and a Master of Arts in Humanities from California State University.

In late 2009 Mary Pride and I unexpectedly reconnected after having lost touch for about ten years. We exchanged e-mails and “chatted” about our children. It was one of those serendipitous experiences that I classify as a “God Thing.”

In the course of our exchanges, Mary asked me to write one more column, giving Practical Homeschooling readers a Swann Family update. I have given this assignment a lot of thought and have tried to provide information that I believe may be of interest to other homeschooling families.

When she was 16, Alexandra wrote No Regrets, a narrative about our family’s homeschooling experiences. When she was 18, Alexandra began teaching history at the El Paso Community College. After four years she decided that she did not want to stay in teaching and began working in sales. She quickly discovered that she loved sales and networking but that she did not like corporate life. When Alexandra was 27 she opened Frontier 2000 Mortgage and began doing residential and commercial mortgages. She loved being her own boss and has been very successful in the mortgage business. She has sat on numerous boards in El Paso and is currently on the board of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. When they contacted her and asked her to be on the board, she said, “I’d love to, but I’m not Hispanic.” They replied that they knew that, but they wanted to get some successful businesswomen involved. It has now been twenty years since Alexandra’s book about her homeschool years, No Regrets, was first released, and she is re-releasing it along with her writing program, Writing for Success. These titles will be available on Amazon.com in the near future.

Christopher Swann and his wife, Brenda
Christopher is the Operations Manager for the ABC Television affiliate in El Paso, where he has worked for the past 19 years. He also owns his own media production company. He has done work for Good Morning America and the movie The Day after Tomorrow. In addition, he has done work for ESPN and has worked on a number of national commercials. Currently, he has the contract to do all of the training videos for the Texas Workforce Commission. In March of 2008 he married the woman who is the News Director for the station.

Francesca began teaching history at the El Paso Community College when she was 17. When she was 21 she married. Francesca has three children ranging in age from 14 years to 11 years. She lives in Phoenix, where her teaching is now limited to her homeschool.

Dominic is a photographer for CNN. He has traveled all over the world for them and during much of that time worked with Anderson Cooper, as his photographer. He is sent to the most dangerous places at the time when the danger is the greatest, so that has been a real challenge for me. For instance, he arrived in New Orleans just before Katrina hit so that he would be there to get the best footage. He has also been to Iraq three times. His first time in Iraq he put together a lot of footage about the military field hospital. He admired the work that the American military doctors were doing there so much that he wanted to create a piece that would be a tribute to them. The result was an hour-long special, “Combat Hospital,” that aired on CNN in December of 2007. Dominic filmed, edited, produced, and directed it.

This is Benjamin and his family. From left to right are John Christian, Jason, Benjamin, Benjamin Jr., Brianna, Benjamin's wife Jasmine, and Isabel.
The only thing Victoria ever really wanted to do was get married and have a family. When she was eight years old, she began praying every day for a husband. When Victoria was 20 she married the answer to her prayers. Victoria and Jeremy have a little girl, age 8, and a little boy, age 18 months. She is homeschooling and loving it.

Benjamin has always had two loves: ministry and television. He finally found a way to combine both. Benjamin is the evening anchor for the NBC affiliate in El Paso. He does the 5:00 P.M., 6:00 P.M., and 10:00 P.M. newscasts. He is also the associate pastor for a local church where he delivers the sermon for the 11:00 o’clock service every Sunday morning. Benjamin has won numerous broadcasting awards, including an Edward R. Murrow award and an Emmy. Benjamin is married and has five children ranging in age from 9 years to 21/2 years. He and his wife homeschool and, yes, he actually does part of the teaching.

Israel became a news photographer when he was 17. When he was 23, Israel won both first and second place in the General Assignments category from the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters. Although I have not been able to get written confirmation of this next part, I have been told that this is the first time anyone has ever won both first and second place in the same category in the same year. A few months later Israel decided that he was tired of news. He is now studying to become a veterinarian.

Until a few months ago Gabrielle lived in Seattle, where she was the Operations Manager for a large bank. After much urging from her family, Gabrielle decided that she needed to be closer to home. Gabrielle is now working for Christopher.

Stefan is a Loan Officer here at Frontier 2000 Mortgage. He has been with us since we opened in April of 1998. Stefan lives, eats, and breathes politics. In 2008 he actually watched both the Republican and Democrat Conventions in their entirety during regular broadcast hours and then stayed up until 2:00 A.M. to see them replayed on C-SPAN. I am thinking that, since he is only 27, he may have a political career as a conservative Republican politician.

From left to right: Dominic, Gabrielle, Judah, and Stefan Swann
Judah is a manager for United Blood Services in El Paso. He has been there exactly one year and likes it very much. Judah was a Loan Officer at Frontier 2000 Mortgage, but when the market got so bad, he decided to look for something else. He landed a very good job with United Blood Services, so I guess he lucked out.

I frequently ask myself whether I would do things differently if I could go back in time, knowing everything that I know now. Some days I think, “I would do everything differently.” However, when I really stop to consider how I homeschooled, given my special challenges of teaching ten children with no two on the same grade level, I believe that I would probably do everything exactly the same way.

The reason I would do it the same way again is that my homeschool was a reflection of who I am and how I view the world. I think this is the key to any homeschool. The homeschooling parent must be honest about who they are and how they operate best. We all see other homeschoolers who seem to have it all together and appear to be doing a better job than we are. I know that I felt that way a lot, but, in the end, I knew that I just wouldn’t have been able to homeschool their way.

God loves diversity. He made each of us unique and gave each of us special abilities. I believe that He wants us to use those differences to honor Him. What better way to do that than for each of us to find the best way to educate our individual children so that they receive the maximum benefit from those hours spent in the home classroom? No two children are the same, and anyone who has taught more than one child knows that every student must be dealt with a little differently. However, we also need to remember that no two parents are alike. The homeschool that works for one parent will not work for another.

This is a picture of Victoria and her family. Left to right: her husband Jeremy McClelland, Victoria, Fascia, and Josiah.
All of my children who have children old enough to be in school are homeschooling. Although when they were younger some of them implied that they would not be riding that homeschool train when they had children, each of them is. Maybe that really says everything. Your children may tell you that they want to be more like other kids and go to a “real school,” but when they have children of their own, they will want them to have the same protections and advantages that your homeschool offered them. So take heart. Homeschooling is tough, and your students aren’t always cooperative. But a few years from now when your homeschool is only a memory, and your children are busy teaching their children, kick back and have a cup of coffee. And, from time to time remind yourself that imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.

Since 1978 Joyce Swann has lived in southern New Mexico with her husband, John. In 1999, after almost 25 years of homeschooling her children, Joyce went to work in the family mortgage company as a licensed loan officer and co-owner. Currently, Joyce and her daughter Alexandra are in the process of re-releasing No Regrets, Alexandra’s narrative about the Swanns’ homeschooling experiences, and Writing for Success, Alexandra’s creative-writing course for students seventh grade and up. Joyce and Alexandra are also releasing The Fourth Kingdom, a novel. These titles will be available on Amazon in the next few months. You can reach her at joyce@frontier2000.net.

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