Homeschool mothers and facilitators Michele Barter, Rachelle Godin and Maria Waldner took part in a panel session March 11 at the Western Canadian Catholic Home School Conference.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Homeschool mothers and facilitators Michele Barter, Rachelle Godin and Maria Waldner took part in a panel session March 11 at the Western Canadian Catholic Home School Conference.

March 21, 2016
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Michele Barter remembers one particularly difficult season in homeschooling.

She was outside hanging up laundry one morning, while her perfect children were diligently doing their school work.

"As I watched the school bus go by, inside I pleaded 'Stoooppp!'" she said.

Barter, a panel speaker at the Western Canadian Catholic Home School Conference on March 10-12 at Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton, shared some of the struggles and stresses she and her husband of 30 years, Mike, have faced during 22 years of homeschooling their nine children.

"Even when I felt I was doing a terrible job homeschooling (and sometimes I was), I still felt in my heart that they were better at home and our job as parents was to keep trying, keep praying and trust God to fill in all the cracks."

Barter is grateful for the many blessings that have come from homeschooling. If one were to ask her kids, some of the best memories would be reading good books, going to band camp together and a two-month trip across Canada. The flexibility in their schedules helped them manage the demands of family life and the ministry of serving other homeschooling families as facilitators.

Over the years, the Barters faced a variety of challenges, including losing a baby, dealing with depression, trials in their own marriage, and having two children with disabilities.

"All those experiences and challenges just helped to draw us closer to God and gave him the opportunity to draw closer to us," said Barter.

The conference panel, called Perspective from the Field, featured three homeschool mothers and facilitators.

Marla Waldner had graduated with a bachelor of education from the University of Saskatchewan and taught Grade 1 in Wainwright before her career took a surprising turn.

The only job available to Waldner when she moved to Edmonton with her husband Darryl 20 years ago was as a homeschool facilitator. Prior to that, she had not considered or even heard much about homeschooling.

NOT INTERESTED

"It was just nothing I was interested in. I really didn't understand how you guys could do it. I didn't understand how it could be done because the teacher in me went to school four years."

Her husband, just as skeptical, thought she had joined a cult.

"Long skirts, Birkenstocks and long hair; that's pretty much what he thought about home schooling," said Waldner. "There is still some of that. But there's so much more."

After her first year as a facilitator, she saw homeschool families do things she could not imagine doing in a classroom.

When she became pregnant with her second child, she could not muster the courage to send her kindergarten-age firstborn to school. She reasoned that she would try homeschooling until her daughter reached Grade 3, then take her out.

That daughter is now 23 years old, graduated from university as a teacher and never attended a regular school.

"Looking back, I wouldn't miss a day of it," said Waldner.

Rachelle Godin was expecting her fourth baby with three other children at home - aged six, four and two - when she decided to start homeschooling.

"We wanted our kids to know and love God and know and love us and spend time with us, so we were really convinced homeschooling was the best way to do that," she said.

Godin was introduced to homeschooling through her husband's family. His parents had homeschooled in the 1970s.

"My parents weren't as crazy about it because they thought it was really weird," said Godin. "We did it anyway because we weren't worried about being weird."

One of the best things about homeschooling for Godin, who also has an education degree, was the excitement she felt at seeing her daughter learn.

"I thought, if I had sent her to school I would have missed out on all that. I wouldn't have got to see the light bulb on top of her head."

It was not always easy. Sometimes she would stay up all night worrying that her children were behind, that they were missing out. Sometimes she would feel guilty about her parenting.

FEELING OVERWHELMED

"I should send my kids to school so they could spend less time with me," she thought. She worried that her kids were picking up her own bad habits.

"You should pick up the good ones over here!"

At one point, when she was feeling overwhelmed, she surrendered her children to God.

"I was like, 'What am I doing? How could I think I could do this?' I just realized, these are God's children, not my children."

She accepted the fact there would be gaps, things missed, concepts she did not understand and would skip over, gaps in their education. She prayed, "Lord, I'll do what I can, and you fill in the gaps."

"I felt like there was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders; that their entire future wasn't dependent on me."

RUINING THE KIDS

Parents think they can ruin their child in six months, said Godin, offering advice to new homeschoolers:

"Relax, it's OK," she said. "You can't ruin them that quickly. . . . It takes years."

Keep your vocations in the right order, she added.

First is your relationship with God; Second is your relationship with your husband or wife; and third is your relationship with your children. "Everything else is underneath that," said Godin. "Homeschooling falls under everything else."