Saturday, August 22, 2009

Empty Nest Homeschoolers: Wanda Bernal

Welcome to a new feature of the RRCH blog: Empty Nest Homeschoolers, where we will interview moms whose homeschooling journey has come to an end. They will share their advice, regrets, curriculum choices, and other thoughts to those of us still on the journey.

Wanda Bernal has 2 grown children, Dustin and Nicole, who are both attending college. We hope you will enjoy her insight!

Would I home school if I had it to do all over again?

Probably, though I often wished that we had had a charter school in the area where the kids and I could have been involved.There are no perfect parents except God and even He grieved over imperfect children in a perfect garden.

The best advice I ever received was from Joyce Hall around the second year I home schooled. She advised that we write down our reasons for home schooling and that we review those reasons often throughout our teaching years.

I had many reasons for home schooling and I did write them down, but I didn’t keep them nearby. I wish I had narrowed it down to one reason and I wish I had kept it in my Bible and prayed over it daily. In hindsight I would pick this reason or goal: To prepare my children to be missionaries. You see, that is the purpose of each of our lives. We are here to bring glory to God - - wherever we serve/work. We are to be missional at home, at work, with friends, at play, on vacation and at church. (Church is a filling station as well as a mission station.)

Our greatest problem as believers is that we are so easily distracted. Public school is a huge distraction for kids. At home we are often distracted too. Home schooling parents must avoid making their kids, their gods. Kids make crummy gods!

So, write down your reason/goal for home schooling and keep it close. You will probably fine tune it, revise it or change it. That’s okay. Just keep it in a place where you see it often.

I used one curriculum throughout my home schooling years. I have no regrets for that choice. I didn’t need to “reinvent the wheel”! I did supplement with 2-3 other curricula in the elementary years. By junior high and especially high school, I think it’s important to know what works for your children and then stick with it. Learning is cumulative and bouncing around too much can be counterproductive, in my opinion.

Initially, I was so concerned about socialization that our family involvement in extra curricular activities was over the top. I burned out. Super mom became a worn out old lady!! I finally realized that 1 or 2 activities plus church was plenty for each child. I encouraged them in the areas in which they were interested. My kids didn’t get into 4-H. I gave them and myself permission to drop 4-H. My kids loved sports/dance and enrichment. Church wasn’t negotiable. It was mandatory.

Moms need adult time. My last two years of home schooling were practically round the clock school. Nic and I chose fun classes at enrichment because we had so much academic pressure at home. We did get into BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) which was my sanity! I’m not sure how we could have done high school differently. I do know that I became more reclusive those years and I regret that. Women need other women. I am reacquainting myself with dear friends now that I am done home schooling, and it is such a blessing.

There were a lot of sacrifices in home schooling. I had to have boundaries. School wasn’t optional for my kids or for me. I lost some friendships when I stopped answering the phone during school hours. That was okay. True friends respect each other’s boundaries.

School is boring sometimes. Memorizing is exercise and exercise isn’t always fun. Coming from a very academic family myself, it didn’t hurt my heart to tell my kids that they had to do this. It didn’t turn them off to learning. They both love college. They love to learn new things. Those early years of memorizing have paid off!!

Our kids will question our values sooner or later. It breaks our hearts when that happens. There are many things my kids can do to hurt me, but I have always emphasized that lying is the worst thing of all. As long as we can talk openly with each other, we can work through our conflicts. We have had some huge disappointments and betrayals of trust, but we keep on talking (yelling at times!). Afterward, we reaffirm our love, even when we are angry, hurt or dumb-founded. Ultimately, our kids will answer to God. They are His first. We are their “house parents” for a season.

Kids will sometimes seek out other adults to complain to. As parents we need to avoid becoming defensive. In our home we have always admitted our faults to our kids. We apologize often. Pride has no place in a Christian home.

I worked with youth for many years and sometimes they would talk badly to me about their parents. I knew that I was only getting one side of the conflict. It’s important to remember that, when another person’s child is critical of his or her parents. I try to encourage kids to be loyal to their families and to talk to their parents when there is a problem. I personally have known very few parents/guardians who were not doing the best that they knew how, with the knowledge that they had at the time. We need to offer one another grace in a world which is so quick to find fault.People have a lot of opinions, especially about the way other people do things. Don’t let opinions of others rule your family life and your parenting/home schooling style. Be the best you can be. Strive for excellence and consistency. That is what your children will see and hopefully emulate.

1 Peter 4:8: Above everything else, love. Love covers a ton of mistakes - - including parenting and home schooling mistakes.

Finally, I realize that it really does take a village to raise a child. Not a government village! People need people. Children need friends. Parents need friends. In community (village) we find belonging. This makes us healthy. Healthy people use their time more wisely. We have a short time here. May we use it wisely as missionaries bringing glory to Christ.

It’s an incredible journey and soon it will be over. Enjoy the process!


  1. These are great insights, Wanda. I appreciate your application of 1 Peter 4:8/

  2. Wanda, This a wonderful article and great insights. I, along with my husband, will be writing down our reasons and placing them in our Bibles. You are a great encouragement.
    Kari Davidson

  3. What a wonderful reflection of your motherhood. Thank you so much for the encouraging insight.

  4. I would agree with everything you have said here. And as I am coming to the end of my homeschooling years, I would say I have experienced much the same. I have raised my kids to be independant and they are leaving with confidence and still want to connect on a regular and resonable rate. What I was hoping to find here was advice in how to cope with the aftermath of homeschooling. Did you go back to work (or begin for the first time)? What did you do to fill the void, refresh your marriage, and discover your non mom side?