Saturday, September 12, 2009

Meet Maggie, A Single Parent Homeschooling Momma

Hello, my name is Maggie VanDolah, I have 3 fantastic children that have been a blessing beyond what I ever imagined before having children. I have been a single mom for the past 11 years, which was not a choice I would have ever wanted or chosen but God has been so good to us in so many ways that it is hard to even consider this as anything other than an extremely blessed life. It has been a great joy for me to be able to homeschool when I thought it would be impossible. I also have worked at Sears Medical Associates for the past 9 years and have been able to have a flexible schedule which is great with homeschooling. Currently, my only hobby is doing home improvements as I have time, I have 3 storm doors and a ceiling fan that are waiting to be installed when I find a free day or two or three to get to them! My favorite meal is any meal I don’t have to cook, except fish! My dream vacation is spending time in the Colorado Rocky Mountains but I would also love to go to Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, Washington D.C., the list could go on and on.

Here is a little about my favorite subject, my children! William is 24, he lives in Ft Worth with his wife, Elizabeth, and their dog, Bella. William is a very considerate and caring son and husband. For the most part he was my most compliant child but also the most adventurous. He would get mad at himself if he was ever too afraid to try something; I learned to almost force him to do the things he seemed afraid of. One time after we were getting off a roller coaster at Six Flags, he hugged me and said, “Thanks for making me go on that ride, Mom!” Ben is 20, he currently lives at home and is attending NCTC in Gainesville. He has played the drums for over 7 years and he has always loved video games. Ben loves to tease his mom and siblings; he has always had a very quick wit, mind, and mouth! He is the one that could (and still can) outlast and outwit me, most of the time! I wouldn’t change a thing about him because he has been an exceptionally fun son to raise and has challenged me to look at many things in a different light. Molly is 14, my little girl that’s not so little anymore. She plays piano and loves to hang out with her friends. Molly is a very sweet and loving daughter, I’ve noticed as she is maturing she is developing a very level head and has quite a bit of common sense. She was only 3 when her Dad and I divorced. She recently told me she wouldn’t change her parents or life because she feels she wouldn't be the same person, she believes God will use what she has been through to help others. That was so awesome for me to hear. I have always encouraged my children to focus on all the wonderful things they have and not the few things they don't have, I have never wanted them to think of themselves as victims of divorce.

Our homeschooling adventure began twelve years ago with Ben when he was going into 3rd grade. He seemed to have trouble staying out of trouble in class because he would get bored waiting for the teacher to teach the next subject. He begged me to homeschool so I called my brother and his wife, Ray and Joyce Hall, who had homeschooled both their girls before anyone thought homeschooling was an option! They assured me that I could do it and even continued to encourage and assure me that I could still homeschool even as a single mom. We had tried public school and private school with William and he just never enjoyed school and had quite a bit of trouble learning to read but when he started school at home in 8th grade he realized he could learn so much more and he gained a confidence in himself that he hadn’t had before. He even got the opportunity to teach guitar to several other kids. Molly has been homeschooled since the beginning and she will be in 9th grade this year. I have tried several curriculum and my favorite was Sonlight, it comes with so many books and covers so much and if I had more time to spend we would still be using that. I have used Abeka with Molly for several years and she started doing the Abeka videos last year. Even though the videos are not my first choice they give a very well rounded education that my children can do without waiting for me to find the time before or after work to do school with them. I can help with anything they are having trouble grasping and they can tell me what interesting things they learned each day. The benefits to homeschool far outweigh any disadvantages. The flexibility is a huge benefit, it is so nice to be able to take vacations when everyone else is in school, to be able to see things and spend time together. For us when a hard issue would come up it was so nice to be able to talk it though and work it out as we needed to instead of waiting till they got home from school. My children have a bond with each other that they would never have had without being homeschooled. They have always had so much fun together and did so many more things together than they ever would have done had they not been homeschooled. William and Ben played in a band together and even recently have started playing golf together. All three of them loved to go on adventures together exploring anything they could find to explore.
What is it like homeschooling a teenager? Just like anything with a teenager, hard but totally awesome! When they start enjoying learning and decide they want to learn it is so very rewarding, you feel like you have given them a gift they will use and cherish for their whole life.

Are there ever bad days? No, never!! Of course there are but it’s usually the bad ones that teach you the most afterwards. You definitely figure out what not to do! When things got too bad for us, many times I would decide to take the rest of the day off of school and regroup. We might go to a movie, or just watch one of our favorite movies at home, sometimes we would just go do a little shopping, the idea was to just take a break to be able to objectively look at the situation without the emotional unrest.

One of the biggest challenges for me with homeschooling is knowing if I taught them enough and worrying that I failed them by not teaching them something they might really need. In the end though I realize that if I can teach them a thirst for knowledge they will be able to learn the things they really need to know.

I have experienced “burn out” and my advice for anyone going through it is to just step back and know that you are doing something great for your children. You may not feel like it at times and they may tell you differently at times, but be assured that your children will be given something from you that they will be able to use the rest of their lives!

My advice to any single parents thinking about or homeschooling their child is to pray often, to be patient and to talk about things with your children. Sometimes the emotional trauma of being a child of a single parent can be internalized by your children and I have found that when I can get mine to talk about what they are thinking we can work out so much and their whole outlook on life and school completely changes.


  1. That was great! Thanks for sharing, Maggie. Your kids are awesome. I've enjoyed having them in my classes at EC.

  2. From Kari Davidson:
    What a great interview! I love all your kids! William was our first student teacher at EC. Even though I did not take his class, it was because of that first class he taught that got me to learn to play the guitar. And now Molly, at 14 is teaching a class at EC. WOW!I have often used Ben as an example at EC orientation when I tell the tale of him being the only boy in the sewing class and asking if he wanted to switch since he was the only boy and his reply was, no, that is why I want to stay! You are such a great inspiration to me, Maggie.
    I love you and your family.
    Kari Davidson