Issue 25 | September 21, 2012 | Community Service

Our featured home schooling family has lived a life that slightly resembles Lemony Snicket's series of unfortunate events.     The story is long, but gets better and better.  You don't want to miss the ending. Just as an example of what you are in store for, as she was writing this article, the Clucks were having their well worked on - it hadn't worked properly for three weeks - when the equipment doing the work managed to start a brush fire.  The fire, of course, went straight for their house.  Even with all that, she was only 2 and a half hours late for a meeting (and getting this article written)! Before meeting the Clucks, though, we will take a quick look at something that many homeschool families do (and would like credit for), but at times have a difficult time keeping track of: Community Service.

Inside NARHS: Recording Community Service

If you and your family value community service as a character-builder for emerging young adults, then check out this handy form that we make available for you to use.  College enrollment officers love to see community service as part of the student's high school career.  But even if your student is not college-bound, volunteering time in the community is an excellent habit to get into.  Having diligently filled out this form after every volunteer opportunity, simply turn it in with the portfolio at the end of the academic year to ensure "service learning" will be on the transcript.  Also include it on the home school transcript with amount of credit earned. 

FEATURED Mom: Kathy Cluck 

 Cathy CluckHome Schooling... If you had told me years ago that this year, 2012, would be the beginning of our fifth year of home schooling, I would have smiled and very politely told you that you were nuts!  While I was a college graduate, with a Masters degree, I had been a business, not education major, and certainly not qualified to teach my children the things they would need to know to be successful in the lives we, as loving parents, had envisioned for them.  Subjects like English, Mathematics, Science, and the Arts.  Having studied these subjects to varying extents myself, I was in no way to qualified to teach them to my kids, or so I thought.  Besides, I had met a "Home School Mom".  I still remember when and where and quite frankly she was an amazing and lovely woman, and in my mind, an amazing force to be reckoned with.  She was the proverbial Proverbs 31 woman.  A woman, I was convinced, that was genetically predisposed to organizational skills with an innate gift of creativity, the patience of Job, and who probably never slept as she oversaw the keeping of her home, the care of her husband, and the education of her three amazing children who were always polite, a pleasure to encounter, and probably versed in Latin... Although, I'm not absolutely sure about the Latin part.  Before this friend, all I really "knew", and I use that word loosely, about Home Schoolers, was that they were most likely to win the National Spelling Bee, and that their parents were probably taking a leave of absence from teaching careers to educate their kids at home.  Boy, did I have a lot to learn.

 In the two years that followed, I became acquainted with several other Home School families and began to realize that they were more likely to be moms and dads that were not professional educators, but rather parents who loved their kids and had a passion for giving them an education that involved something more than what they were finding in the traditional educational environments. 

 I was consistently amazed by the variety of curriculums available, and how generally helpful and encouraging Home School parents were when it came to the limitless possibilities of curriculum options.  I began to realize that my friends, whose children were so unique and different in their interests and learning styles, were utilizing programs and schedules that they were tweaking and refining, or simply using straight out of the box, delivered right to their front door, to meet the educational needs and interests of their kids individually, and their families as a whole.  I began to think there might be more to this Home Schooling thing than I had first thought.

 What I didn't realize at the time was that a seed had been planted and my view of a "good education" began to change and evolve.  I kept thinking of a verse in the Bible that says, "Bring up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they shall not depart from it."  Another translation says it this way, "Bring up a child, according to their bent", or according to how they are wired, mindful of their uniqueness, their giftedness, their interests.  This is what I began to see Home School accomplishing in the lives of these young people.  They were being educated in ways that not only took into account their learning styles, but their unique interests and skills, and these families were flourishing in their endeavors.  The whole idea of "socialization", or lack there of, for students who had been "removed" from the traditional class room setting began to seem more and more ridiculous, as these homeschooled children were being "socialized" by loving parents, setting high standards for achievement and excellence, reinforced by curriculums designed to meet all their academic needs and the individuality of their kids!  And, these families were interacting with other like minded families, raising amazing kids, well rounded and firmly grounded:  Home School families were regular families, committed to raising great kids and the road to graduation was paved with limitless possibilities.

 As I look back now, I am so thankful for all of the different Home School families I encountered because it changed our opinion - my husband's and mine - about home schooling completely, and just in time for our own home schooling adventure to begin.

 In late 2006, my husband was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease.  We had known something was wrong, and although he continued to work, his health continued to decline.  While multiple doctors gave varied opinions and suggestions pertaining to different treatment options for the variety of symptoms they couldn't quite explain, the Lyme bacteria raged on, unabated, and quietly wreaked havoc on his body.  When we finally received the official diagnosis, we were relieved to have a label for his illness and a treatment plan.  Little did we know where that road would lead us.  As the Executive Director of the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, and having spent many years developing various organizational relationships at local, state, and national levels, he had become the "go to" person when it came to the programs and issues regarding poverty housing.  When he was recruited by a local bank to take over their low income housing program, the opportunities seemed endless:  a job that incorporated his expertise and his passion was the job offer of a lifetime.  After five years, to be forced to leave that job, because of illness brought on by a bug bite, was a devastating turn of events, and turned our lives upside down.

 Our decision to begin home schooling was two fold.  First, while disability income was continuing to provide for our family's basic needs, the private school we had planned would meet the educational requirements of our two daughters from Kindergarten to graduation, quickly became a financial impossibility.  Second, and more importantly, our opinion of home schooling had changed dramatically.  The decision to home school became an anchor for our kids and for our family.  It allowed us to walk, and sometimes plod, through such an array of unexpected circumstances that would have otherwise crushed us.  One key element to our survival was the flexibility of curriculum and scheduling we were allowed through the varying degrees of chaos and crisis that ensued over the next few years. 

 Shortly after having a PICC line implanted for IV antibiotics, by husband developed a massive blood clot along the outside of the line, inside the vein, running about 7" into his chest.  The clot actually grabbed the line and prevented its immediate removal.  That was ten very long days in the hospital and six months of ongoing treatment to bust up the clot.  Our girls were able to trek back and forth to the hospital, or to grandma and grandpa's, with their books and their PJs and were able to plug away on their studies as best as we could manage, keep their lives as close to "normal" as possible and not be stressed by a rigorous traditional class room schedule that would have been impossible to keep. 

Shortly thereafter, we had a severe winter storm that blew into town and after a cold and snowy trip to Home School Band, came rushing home after receiving a phone call informing us that frozen pipes had sent water flooding the ceiling and walls of our family room and garage and resulted in our family room ceiling collapsing.  It was a mess.  School continued, although with an adjusted curriculum from a hotel for a while, where we, along with our three dogs, set up housekeeping while the work crews began drying out the ceiling and the walls, in order to begin the repairs.  This was two weeks before Christmas.  We talked math and measurements with the carpenters.  We discussed weather, freezing temperatures and construction methods as the walls and pipes were replaced.  Home schoolers find teachable moments everywhere!  The craziness of our lives and home schooling went hand-in-hand, and we were the stronger for it, and learned to laugh at the oddest things.

 With the restoration almost complete, we were treated to what we anticipated being a restful mini-vacation by Grandma and Grandpa.  After one day, my husband came down with the most horrific case of the flu, and while the girls moved in to the room with their grandparents to prevent the passing of germs, we managed to work in two trips to the ER for Grandpa with a racing heart.  While we survived our so-called "vacation", we were very glad to get home, even though the carpet and paint were yet to be completed. However, the next several months continued to be, shall we say, interesting, with home school lessons being done under a variety of less than ideal conditions and in the oddest of places:  hospital rooms, doctor's offices, Grandma and Grandpa's.  If it wasn't my husband, it was my dad.  When summer came, we were still plugging away on the year's curriculum, adjusting as we went, completing what was absolutely necessary, and letting go of the rest.  My kids became experts at spur of the moment trips to the hospital, packing their bags, and yes, their books, and taking care of each other, as well as watching out for grandma and grandpa, their daddy, and me, who was trying to take care of everybody.  They learned history along with compassion and patience.  Science and nutrition became the subject of "teachable moments" as we took our youngest daughter to Childrens' Hospital when we discovered she had Diabetes.  Division and multiplication tables had practical application when we, as a family, began the journey of counting carbs and insulin ratios.  Home Economics, budgets, and meal planning became part of our daily educational experience as a life on disability income began to require a bit more "creativity".  Flexibility, patience, persistence, kindness and the cultivation of a "Servant's Heart" became natural extensions of our home school general studies while books and computers were packed from pillar to post.  When the day came for Grandpa's total knee replacement, after the installation of a pace-maker, Grandma fell and broke her femur.  If at this point you are thinking, you have got to be kidding!  Let me assure you, we were thinking the same thing.  Two weeks after Grandma's surgery to put her leg back together, Grandpa had his knee replacement done.  After 60+ years of marriage they spent the next many weeks in a convalescent home together.  As precious granddaughters, not only did they provide a constant source of encouragement, but as a team, we provided a fairly dependable laundry and latte delivery service as well.  Literature and math continued, even along the bedside of a convalescing grandparent.  These are the un-sung praises of home schooling.  Exceptional kids?  As a parent I would say, "Of Course!", but not necessarily as the world at large would define it.  Not because of innate or prodigious ability, but because of education designed to incorporate life's teachable moments that build character, honor, integrity into a child at every opportunity:  Education that allows the fundamentals to be the practical building blocks of every day real life.

 Over the course of the last several years, we have experienced our fair share of what we like to call "Job moments".  Home schooling has allowed us to walk the road together as a family.  We've learned to find joy and laughter, peace and comfort, in some of the oddest places and under some of the most difficult circumstances.  The flexibility of our home schooling experience has provided a strong foundation across a wide spectrum of subjects.  More importantly, it has provided the wiggle-room for the unexpected adventures that make up "real life". 

 The biggest surprise I discovered about home schooling was this:  While we have been trying to teach our children the subjects and skill sets they will need to be the adults that God is uniquely designing and calling them to be "according to their bent", He has graciously and patiently continued to teach me the same thing.  What an amazing lesson...You just gotta love Home Schooling!