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20 years of homeschooling – An extraordinary experience

Updated: Jun 14, 2021


The baby car seat was attached to the back seat with a belt as we drove home from St. Veit's hospital in the south of Austria. Our first child was handed over to our care. Mixed feelings of joy, insecurity, growing responsibilities, and many others. Suddenly there was no longer a midwife or nurse. Now we were responsible for a 50 cm long, 3 ½ kg heavy, new life. Like most young parents, after a few sleepless nights we found a rhythm and everyday life began anew. Two years later, a sister was added to our family and family life became even more colorful. We were motivated to start homeschooling through the literature of E. G. White, the example of family friends, and our stay at the mission schools in Uchee Pines and Wildwood. Independent of each other, and even before our marriage, we got to know and appreciate the “homeschoolers.”

At different times in our lives, we spent one year at Bogenhofen, an Adventist university for theology, in Austria. There, it was especially the lessons with Brother Pfandl about Christian education that left a deep and lasting impression. Thus, with these many impressions, we made the decision to homeschool our children for the following reasons. Very important to us was the protective factor; we did not want our children to come into close contact with the influences of the media and their consumers (teachers and children) too early. Since we did not have a church school close to our new home, in Burgenland at that time, homeschooling was our only option. Furthermore, we had different goals for our children than those of other caregivers. They [children] “…should do good, benefit their fellow-beings, gain eventually the reward of the righteous” (CG 91.1). As parents and followers of Jesus, we can certainly strive best for this goal.

Every beginning is easy...

When we started homeschooling, we already had the privilege of living in the countryside. We were also already in contact with a number of homeschoolers and had a lively exchange with one another. Full of idealism, we were happy about the works of art in the art classes, and the A, B and C's that were written with a stick in the sand, or in the snow in wintertime. It made our hearts beat faster. Chestnuts in math classes, a story read aloud to retell in German, and a walk in the garden in social studies, are just some examples of the inexhaustible wealth of ideas of a parent couple enthusiastic about homeschool. Music education was promoted by dedicated teachers at the local music school and the lively musical participation in the church services created an ideal setting for our children to practice. This was a luxury that other children often do not have.

The exams at the local elementary school, and later at a different school in Vienna, went smoothly; the district school inspector was pleased with us. She even connected us with another homeschool family who lived in our area and embarked on the same adventure. A long-term friendship developed from there.

Back to the start...

When our first two children, Christian and Sonja, started secondary school, they were able to attend the church school in Herrnberg. We were involved with some very committed families in founding this church school. There, our children were taught with passion by professionals and that was a huge relief for us. As a result, the transition to high school was possible without any major problems. But it was back to the beginning for us with Lydia, and again four years later with Josiah. Unfortunately, we no longer had the opportunity to attend the church school because it had closed (after thirteen years). So we rolled up our sleeves and moved forward. Homeschool life is a big challenge for most families and it was, it still is, for us too, every day. School, work, household chores, meal preparation, babysitting small children from time to time, in addition to everything else that life has to offer, must all be brought under one roof. People who strive for perfection are quickly over their limit. Without the help and support of others we would have soon run out of strength, but God has always provided for us through other people. For example, it was during these years that my wife's parents came to spend their retirement years with us. They, too, have enriched our lives and are invaluable in our children's development. We are very grateful to all of them.

Countrylife a key to success...

All four of our children enjoy life in the countryside and gardening in different ways. Christian, our housebuilder, can be found in the garden, hoop houses or pruning fruit trees, every chance he gets. Sonja and Lydia are particularly skilled at picking berries and processing the delicacies of the bushes, trees and of that which comes from the soil. Josiah, our youngest, is a farmer himself. He populated our property with a flock of chicken, drives the two-wheeled tractor to the neighbors, and sells small boxes of vegetables to finance his projects. Since last year he has four beehives that successfully withstood the winter. Recently, a few sheep and two goats have been added. For a few months already he has been planning to buy donkeys to offer donkey tours. A carriage would be nice too. We are curious as to what is next! He studies all day long...sometimes even from school books.

Homeschool a marathon...

As we have already mentioned, all homeschool parents will confirm that such a “company” is exhausting and energy-sapping over the years. If both parents haven’t played their part and, in our case, the older children also, it wouldn’t have been manageable. We got most of our encouragement from reading EGW literature. "Work as if you were working for your life to save the children from being drowned in the polluting, corrupting influences of the world." {CG 308.3} The regular meetings with the many homeschool families from all over Austria have given us a lot of motivation. We witnessed children grow up like this and follow Jesus. The awareness of not being alone is important. The shared sympathy during the school year through phone calls, tips and advice, will never be forgotten. During the baptisms, which were often carried out together, brought many to tears. Tears of joy, of course. And the part played by the praying fathers and mothers leaves us amazed. “While we are to work diligently for the salvation of the lost, we must allow ourselves time to ponder, to pray, and to contemplate the word of God; for only work carried out with sustained prayer and sanctified by the merit of Christ will in the end produce good.” {DC 124.4}


An attempt to summarize...

Have we achieved our goals? Yes and No. Yes, because we could keep our loved ones away from much that would have harmed them and provided positive content instead. Yes, because they made their way into professional life and made it well.

Today, Christian is an engineer and a team member of TGM mission school/ Country Life lifestyle center where he is responsible, among other things, for structural renovations. Sonja is an elementary school teacher and is about to complete her Masters in Education. Lydia is preparing for her graduation examination at the high school in Bogenhofen next year. She even succeeded homeschooling for her ninth grade. Her further path could lead to a music degree. Josiah doesn’t really like to be a student. His gifts are more practical. Yet even if he dreams of a simple farm with animals and equipment that are as old as possible, he knows that you can’t get around school work in life. We still have a little time to decide how things will continue for him after secondary school.

Would we do it again? Yes, because we see that they, and others that have been homeschooled, have not suffered any “social damage”. This is always one of the biggest concerns of authorities. It may well be justified in some circles, but it does not affect our understanding of upbringing and that of all the homeschooled children in our environment. They are well integrated in groups of friends, can work in a team, and are also in demand outside of the church. And the last, and most important “yes,” is because we see that they have followed Jesus and are working for Him. We are exceedingly pleased because that is our main goal. What could be more gratifying for parents than to see how their children work for the Master and actively help in winning people for eternity? Even if the fruits are not yet seen, we can be confident that the seeds have been sown. There are still many surprises waiting for us in the near future.

We would say “no” because all human activity is only a patchwork and because we have certainly not exhausted all of our potential. We have made mistakes. Also because there is still a lot of room for improvement and we certainly do not see ourselves as the ideal teachers. But by God's grace we are what we are...not there yet, but already a grateful and blessed homeschool family.

How much our efforts are worth in our children is particularly evident in a crisis like the one we are currently experiencing. Are your children independent thinkers? Can they stay mentally healthy in a seemingly hopeless situation? Is their trust in Jesus so strong that they do not give in to the pressure of the majority even in emergency situations? Are they among those who proclaim the final warning message with clarity and love? Hopefully they have good role models in their parents!

 

"The Purpose, Privilege and Principles" by Tom & Alane Waters



"The Trueprint: A Radical Vision for Training and Educating Your Children"by Scott Ritsema



Child Guidance by Ellen White (chapter 52 "Choosing the School)

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