Homeschooling – Our Family’s Journey
Guest Author: Susan Ragle
Fifteen years ago this summer, my family began our homeschool journey. Today, we are the proud parents of a PhD, Lauren, and a very artistic Katy, who recently graduated from the University of Memphis with honors.
So there I was back in 2003, at my first homeschool conference, unsure of what to do. I was afraid. “What if I mess up?” You know this question; it is a question we all ask ourselves. But, we felt led by God to homeschool our daughters, so I dove in head first. I had done my research and knew what curriculum I wanted to buy. I went to the first conference and joined everything in sight (HSLDA, MHEA, and Bartlett-Wolfchase). I purchased all new curricula from Bob Jones University. We had decided to leave Katy in the public school system and homeschool Lauren through high school and then pull Katy out and homeschool her from sixth through high school. Things have a way of changing, as you will see.
We had a good first year; a test year. It was a year for Lauren and I to get used to being together virtually all of the time. We learned things about our chosen curriculum and how we wanted to change things up for the following year. We also learned that French was not her favorite language and this prompted a change to Latin (which comes in very handy for her chosen field). You see, Lauren had decided at age 11 that she wanted to be a doctor. In our minds, we always thought “MD”. Turns out God meant PhD
In our second year to homeschool, Lauren was able to join Bellevue Baptist Church’s Victory Marching Band (as she had several years of band experience in the public school setting) and she also became a member of Eta Chapter of the National Homeschool Honor Society. She was also very active in Girl Scouts. Throw in academics on top of all that, and she was one very busy girl. I just have to laugh when people ask me about homeschooling and socialization. I will tell you now; our girls were way more active as homeschoolers than they ever where as public school students.
Lauren’s junior year saw an addition to our homeschooling activities; we pulled Katy out of the public school system and went ahead and brought her home. She had a horrible third grade year at the local elementary school and we could not send her back. So, we laid down some ground rules and for the next 2 years, I homeschooled both girls (while holding down a full-time job from home). Lauren’s junior year also showed us something significant. We enrolled her in Crichton College as they had a program for homeschool high school students to come and participate in their chemistry lab. I knew I could not do this at home, and wouldn’t you know – this is where Lauren fell in LOVE with chemistry. So she knew what her college major would be, though we still did not yet know her path. It was just a simple thing of me driving her down to that college once a week for a lab class and she KNEW. This is one of the many ways God showed us the Path.
Senior year for Lauren continued to be busy. She started taking the ACT her junior year and continued for a couple more times her senior year. She even took the SAT once “just to see what it is like.” She started her college applications that fall. One of the things I had her do for a “class” her senior year, was to research for college scholarships and to apply for the ones she qualified for. When Christmas got close, she had several offers from the colleges she applied to (6) and narrowed her decision down to 2. Then ultimately it came down to receiving full scholarships at the University of Memphis.
Lauren graduated with honors with MHEA in 2007. In 2011, she graduated with honors from University of Memphis – a four year Biochemistry degree for $10 (Those science fees that last semester were killer!). She received her Masters in Organic Chemistry in December 2013 and she successfully defended her doctorate in Organic Chemistry in 2016. The graduate program was wonderful as they paid for her tuition and even gave her a monthly stipend. I could not have dreamed for it to be any better. Who knew 15 years ago this is where she would be?
Katy was very involved with MHEA bowling during her homeschooling years (she comes from a long line of bowlers on her dad’s side). She was actually able to earn some scholarship money with bowling and participated in several local and then state tournaments. She was also very involved with our church youth group and carried that tradition on at the University of Memphis, being very involved with SOMA (Christian Student Center) and has gone on several mission trips with this group. She is my artistic child and has discovered a love of photography pursued a communication degree with a concentration in film and video production with a minor in photography. I have to admit, the kid has talent!
With homeschooling Katy, I was a little more adventuresome with our curriculum choices and as the years have passed and we have had her tested each year, I would see where I might need to tweak some areas (personally, a good reason to test) and we tried several different curricula. She was also involved in a Scrabble Club and we were very involved with our local support group and participated in a lot of activities with them. It was different homeschooling Katy from 4th grade where I had only homeschooled Lauren from 9th, but with a lot of prayer and due diligence, we made it through.
As a side not, a lot of people ask me about dual enrollment. We did not do dual enrollment for either of our daughters – with Lauren it was still so very new and extremely pricey and then again with Katy, it was just not a good fit for our family.
So what did we do? How did we train up these amazing young women? I really feel like at times we did a lot, and other times, not much at all. We put God first. He is the one who got us here, He is the one who has helped us all along the journey, and He is the one that has made all of this possible.
But seriously, let me tell you a secret about homeschooling (especially high school) – you will build absolutely wonderful relationships with your children. You will be so very close to them. I cannot imagine what our relationships would be like if our girls had stayed in public schools.
So, if you are facing the daunting task of homeschooling, especially high school – take heart, don’t worry. God is in control and You Can Do It!
Susan Ragle is a Christian wife and mom who resides in the Memphis, TN area with her family. Since “retiring” from homeschooling, while she still continues to have a regular full-time job with Baptist Hospital, she has now created her love of vacation planning into a secondary job working as an independent travel agent with an agency specializing in all things Disney. When not working or being involved with family activities, she enjoys playing with her collie-boy, Mac or working on one of her many crafting projects.