Fall 2017 / by Diane Helfrich

Are you a new homeschooler beginning your first year, questioning if you have made the right choice for your family? Maybe you are moving into the high school years for the first time, fearing that you will ruin your child’s chances for good colleges. Perhaps, you have homeschooled your other children, but the child who is coming of age has learning disabilities, and you know the journey will be different this time. Your high schooler may be going into concurrent enrollment at the local community college, and you question not only his readiness, but yours. Possibly your senior is graduating next spring, and either this is your first venture into letting go, or your last; and you are now facing the upcoming empty-nest, feeling tugs at your heart and questioning who you are now that your household is changing. These are some of the situations that can create anxiety and make you question your choices. I would like to share my experiences to give you encouragement!

Isaiah 42:16 begins with, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them.” I remember well the first year we decided to homeschool. I had no idea about curriculum or how to structure our day. I went to the NCHE homeschool conference in Winston-Salem and dashed through the three days, running from one speaker to the vendor area for ideas and then dashed back to another speaker. About mid-morning on Saturday, I felt saturated with ideas and overwhelmed by the choices. I was swimming in advice from all corners. If you saw me that morning, you may have thought I resembled the deer in the headlights, and if you asked me a question, you may have wondered if anyone was home in my brain! Nevertheless, I made my purchases and went home to pore over them and try to schedule our year. As we began, I realized homeschooling was a different environment from my previous corporate life with a department full of adults. Even though I knew I had organizational skills, I was frustrated that the things I wanted to accomplish didn’t fit the schedule I’d set. I had little idea what to do with my third grader!

In looking back, I see now the God-connection that led me to a homeschool group: a co-op that met weekly. We started with one class that met every other week for one semester; we were real joiners! What happened, however, was that I listened to parents around me and soaked up conversations. I started getting to know parents I respected. As we became more involved with classes and other activities, those parents became my friends. As we had kids in classes together, and as we discussed things on the playground and in the halls, God provided the exact mentors I needed to proceed with more confidence. The parents who had become friends had children older than mine, and the transitions into high school and college came with enlightening discussions that prepared me.

We had always bathed our school in prayer, but I could not always see how God was working until I could look back. You are not alone. God has you in His palm, and He will guide you, provide for you, and answer your questions. Not every day is easy—it wasn’t in corporate America either! The darkness does meld into light, and you often don’t even realize it until you stop to see what you have accomplished. Isaiah 42:16 goes on to say, “I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.” If your darkness level is high, remember that the sun comes up every day. It will not be dark for long. That is a certainty of nature!

Let’s talk about making the “rough places smooth.” In your school, you will inevitably run into the season when your child does not want to do what you have planned—maybe, the curriculum doesn’t fit the child’s personality or learning style. Maybe, something traumatic has happened in your family—cancer, death, a family move, a hurricane that brings damage and the loss of school materials. Perhaps, a new baby arrived at your house and schedules are up in the air. We were not immune to those things in our school, and sometimes, when I look back, I marvel that we kept going. What I learned, however, was that fighting the rough places wasn’t my job. When I could submit to the flow, I found that even if we didn’t finish what I had planned (yes, or sometimes even start what I had planned), the kids turned out fine. Sometimes, I think they turned out fine despite me! If you look at that statement, you unavoidably conclude that this was a process less about me than I ever could have imagined! You see, it’s God’s job to make the rough places smooth, the crooked paths straight, just as He makes the sun rise every day. He promises us that, and His promises are perfect. Your schooling may not look at all like what you envisioned, or it may reflect very clearly your vision. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you trust the process and keep focusing on the love of learning in your household, on excellence, and on broadening horizons. What matters is that you trust the process that is bigger than you!

The last statement in this Isaiah verse is, “These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” I try to make my promises perfect, both to myself and to my kids. I am human, and mistakes are part of my existence, often too much so. God, however, is perfection. Trust your blindness, the darkness, and the rough places to Him. He said handling them was His job, and He meant it. When things are unclear or unsettling, know that God’s promise is for you, and He will not forsake you. One day, you too will look back and see that it was much less about you than you expected—and your kids are just fine!

Diane Helfrich is an empty-nesting fourteen-year veteran of homeschooling. Raised in Nebraska, Diane grew up driving wheat trucks and showing cattle, modeling, sewing, and cooking—all the while raising spiders in jars, molds in drawers and entertaining pet snakes and salamanders. She attended Nebraska Wesleyan University, graduating with a BS in biology. She began employment in December 1979 with IBM in Rochester, Minnesota (notice how that biology degree played out!) in a publications department doing manual proofreading. One thing led to another, and she found herself learning to be a programmer. She eventually became a personnel manager and a multi-location technical manager. Once a second child came along, Diane decided to trade an industrial career for one at home. Homeschooling began when her son was in second grade--and was quickly tuning out. The DDIA Center of Achievement was initiated! (Be careful in naming your school…David, Diane, Ian, and Anna, when put into an initialism, look remarkably like a government agency!) Her eclectic life and unbounded curiosity have worked well for homeschooling! They continued to homeschool both of their children through high school. During her homeschooling tenure, she taught many classes for the HOME (Homes Offering Meaningful Education) co-op day ranging from elementary choirs and science to high school biology, chemistry, and philosophy. She served on the HOME board for five years. She is now doing some freelance editing. She also decided that life without children was not fun, and she has adopted a yearly class of sixth graders for Confirmation at her church. Diane is married to David, a civilian intelligence specialist for the Department of Defense at Ft, Bragg. Ian, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, received his European masters in economic policy at the Barcelona School of Economics, his American masters in economics at Indiana University, and is working on his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech. Anna is at George Mason University in Virginia as an honors college student. She is majoring in conflict analysis & resolution with a focus on justice and reconciliation; she hopes to use her degree to work with human trafficking populations, particularly in war-torn countries. Diane is the NCHE Region 8 liaison and is excited to serve homeschoolers in her area. She is passionate about getting homeschoolers started correctly and welcomes new contacts.