I’d like to introduce you to homeschool mom, Dawn Cole. She is mom to 8 children. The oldest has graduated, the youngest is too young for school. That leaves 6 children that she is currently homeschooling at Cornerstone Christian Academy, they are in grades 12th, 10th, 7th, 4th, 3rd, and 1st. That is certainly quite an array of ages/grades to cover in one academic year isn’t it?
When her oldest child was about to turn 5, Dawn dreaded the idea of sending her little girl away from home for school. Couple that with seeing others whose kids were struggling in that environment she tells me that her inner voice kept telling her that her daughter should be home with her.
During a summer trip spent at the home of a friend who homeschooled she felt compelled to give this new world of home education a try.
“We stayed up late that night as peppered her with questions, which she patiently answered. For the rest of the trip, I talked my husband’s ear off about this strange new thing I just had to learn about. He was listening, but far from convinced.”
She of course was determined to learn all she could about homeschooling. She spent the next several weeks researching and reading all she could about home education. Then she would find a convenient time to read aloud ideas of interest from those books to her husband.
I’m going to let Dawn tell you in her own words what it was like coming to the decision to take on the full responsibility of educating her child/children.
” A group was giving a homeschool conference, and I was so on fire to attend, I didn’t care that it was an hour drive. Not only did my husband take the day off to watch our little one, who was two by then, he also handed over enough money to pay the $25 admittance fee, gas money, and lunch without a single complaint. Eager, and with a notebook in hand, I arrived at the conference bright and early, knowing that I was about to be given the magic formula I needed to make my child the best and brightest.
As each session went on I felt the weight of taking full responsibility for my child’s education press on me as I listened to the talks about learning styles, curriculum choices, schedules, record keeping, and educational codes. My straight shoulders actually slumped a bit more with each passing hour.
Finally, at the end of the day, I dragged myself home. When I walked in the front door, my husband asked, “So how was it?” I offered a sheepish smile and said, “Honey, thank you for letting me go today, and for paying for everything, and for listening to my crazy ideas, but after hearing all that today, I know that there is no way I can homeschool.” He simply looked at me and gently said, “Well, after everything you’ve read to me, I decided that we will homeschool.” I knew that look in his eye, his mind was made up. Stunned, I went to my room without saying a word. After closing the door, I promptly burst into tears, fell to my knees, and prayed for the Lord’s guidance and help. Once God and I pulled me together, it was just a matter of finding a way to homeschool, because the decision was made.”
He has continued to be a huge advocate for homeschooling and recently attended the CHEA convention in Pasadena along with Dawn. When he’s home with the family he will often help one of the children through a difficult question or needs a bit more support.
The Cole family is a military family. Mr. Cole served in the Marine Corps Reserves for 19 years, and for 6 years now he has worked in the National Guard. Dawn maintains the home, homeschooling and family through extended stretches of time when he’s training or through the 2 overseas deployments they’ve experienced.
For the Cole family homeschooling has come to mean freedom. Because they homeschool they are able to move as needed to his military base to be closer to him. Or, they’ve been able to pick up and make a trip to visit with him before he was deployed overseas. It would be more difficult to do either of those things while kids are in public school because there would be concerns with unexcused absences.
But it also means they’ve been able to give each of their children an education that best fits the individual child. Dawn understands that some children need to approach math slowly while other need to be challenged with a higher difficulty level or even prepare ahead to get ready for a future nursing program, or other collegiate level field of study.
“Most of all, homeschooling means getting more time with your children, and being there for those heart to heart talks that give you a peek into who your child really is. They grow up so fast, I can’t imagine only getting to see them for a few hours each day. I will give this one caveat that I give during my talks on homeschooling: The best thing about homeschooling is that your children are with you all day, but sometimes, the worst thing about homeschooling is that your children are with you all day.”
Yes, she hit the nail on the head. As homeschoolers we know the joy of spending all day with our children. But, we also realize the challenges that come with spending all day with our children.
While the ideal place to homeschool in their home is at the kitchen table or the couch as children grow older and into high school Dawn finds that they prefer to do their work in their rooms. They maintain their own books and school things in their bedrooms.
Each of the younger children has a book bag that they keep their own smaller books in while larger books are kept on a bookshelf. While cabinets in the living room hold their bulkier study items, like blocks and microscopes. Rather than having a dedicated school room, Dawn has thoughtfully used such a room as a home library to store their vast amoutn of books. She offers this excellent advice:
“Do yourself a favor, new homeschooler, invest in quality bookcases. I mean it, buy the heavy oak ones, if you can. You’ll thank me later.”
Ironically, Dawn went from that first homeschool conference where she came home terrified and telling her husband she couldn’t do it, to being speaker from time to time at homeschool conventions.
This homeschool mom admits that her biggest struggle is getting everything done. Between school, housekeeping, family scheduling, and life in general Dawn feels that her plate is quite full.
“By the way, I NEVER (ever, ever) get it all done, and that’s okay.”
She shared with me that she used to worry about “gaps in my child’s education” but she also shared that the Lord has shown her that He will supply her children with what they need. B
“By the way, moms, it’s not the end of the world if your child has to remediate a subject in college. It’s not the ideal situation, but it does happen.”
You can see her attitude displayed in the way that she homeschools. She uses the same material for all of her children. Yet, she varies the requirements based upon the child’s needs. She might read aloud an English lesson to her auditory learner while allowing her visual learner to read through the material themselves.
She uses Rod and Staff English for the elementary and Jr. High grades. She told me that her absolute favorite resource is WriteShop
“Teaching six children means I need them to have self-directed studies where I can.”
She likes using hands-on science kits, and those can be found in a variety of places like Wal-Mart, or can be ordered online.
Dawn admits that she doesn’t like teaching math, in fact she says that she and math are enemies. She says that last year they discovered Khan Academy they will continue to use that for math. She said she used Math-U-See for several years, but found that it took a long time to get through the material she also uses Teaching Textbooks for the higher grades. She prefers math curriculum that provides the teaching aspect with each lesson.
She also works from the home to bring additional income into the household as a Cyber Assistant. And recently she started a small business as a theatrical costume designer. She told me that she is an introvert by nature and needs quite time to alone to unwind. I image that’s hard to come by with 8 children in the family. She said that in her spare time she enjoys writing to help her stay sane, but struggles to find time for that endeavor.
Dawn is trusts the Lord. She trusted Him after husband to made the decision to start, to relying on Him while her husband has had to be away for military training and deployment, to understanding that He supplies to each of her chilren what they need to be successful in their educational journey.
That’s why I think Dawn is a real life superhero homeschool mom, because she’s trusting God to supply all of her needs through her homeschooling journey and through her life. She’s an inspiration to me.
This post is part of my Real Life Superhero Homeschool Moms Series.