COURT HOUSE – The coronavirus pandemic shook the world, in 2020. Yet, life goes on, including preparing the next generation.
Faith Matters found three mothers willing to share their experience, in homeschooling, and how it intersects with their Christian faith.
The U.S. Census Bureau March 22 released a study revealing homeschooling gained ground since the Covid lockdown (https://bit.ly/3vvveCo).
As classroom instruction came to a halt, parents sought alternative schooling; 5.4% of U.S. households with school-age children reported they were homeschooling, increasing to 11% by fall 2020.
“True” homeschooling is not the same as virtual learning from home, according to the report.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New Jersey experienced a 10.7% increase in homeschooling families.
People choose to homeschool for various reasons. For some, it’s a matter of faith.
“I think there is a general curiosity about homeschooling, in Cape May County,” Shannon DeVol said, during an April 19 interview.
DeVol’s husband, George, is the pastor of the First Baptist Church, in Court House. Together, the DeVols homeschool their four children, combining education with ministry and real-life experiences.
Shannon DeVol studied elementary education before becoming a pastor’s wife.
DeVol’s children’s ages range from elementary school to 10th grade. Her motto for every school year is “one kid, one year.” DeVol views homeschooling as a personal journey for her and her children/students.
“I wanted time with my children,” DeVol said, explaining why she embraced homeschooling.
“Homeschooling allows us to make sure our children are being taught from our worldview, as opposed to a politically driven agenda that may be taught in a school setting,” she added.
DeVol’s worldview revolves around faith in Jesus Christ and preparing her children for life.
For 2021, DeVol is preparing to begin her homeschool co-op, a place where families can come together and learn different subjects. A co-op already exists in Upper Township, but DeVol wanted a more centralized location.
DeVol calls the co-op “Koinonia,” meaning faith and unity among Christians, in ancient Greek. Four families expressed interest, according to DeVol.
What’s a Homeschool Co-op?
Traditionally, a homeschool co-op offers classes taught by other parents in the group, i.e., science, art, literature, math, etc. Students can socialize with others in their age/grade, and moms can interact with each other.
DeVol’s co-op will focus on science, history, literature and memorization skills. She embraces a classical approach to learning, cultivating communication and writing skills.
“I want to raise people who love to learn and communicate,” DeVol said.
“Our first year, I thought we might all hate each other, but if I gave up because it was hard finding a rhythm, then they might not be where they are today,” Amanda West wrote via email April 22.
West, the wife of Pastor Tim West, of the Seashore Community Church of the Nazarene, in Erma, served in the Marine Corps before embarking on home education.
Her daughter, Kat, graduated from homeschool, in 2019.
“Homeschooling has helped each of our children discover how they learn best, and college is so much of doing it on your own that without that foundation, she (Kat) may have really struggled,” West said. Her son Kaleb, 18, and daughter MaryKatelyn, 17, are still at home.
Not every homeschooling path is the same. Stereotypes abound, but, as Stephanie Wiscott learned, they are not etched in reality.
Wiscott grew up in Cape May County and lives near Cape May. She taught fourth and fifth grade at Wildwood Crest Memorial Elementary School until 2018.
“I did not appreciate what the schools were pushing on young children,” Wiscott explained, in an April 22 phone interview. After much prayer, Wiscott said God called her to step out in faith. She left her job and opened Deeply Rooted Learning Center, in Villas.
The center provides resources and activities for families, including a full library, Russian classes, reading, and a nature club.
“We operate on donations and grants,” Wiscott said. Families participate free of charge. Socialization is encouraged and fostered at the center.
From 2018 to 2020, 50 families came to the center. Today, 150 families attend various activities.
“Homeschooling is growing,” Wiscott said. The center’s growth reflects the national trend in homeschooling.
For DeVol, West and Wiscott, homeschooling may not be the easiest choice, but it is rewarding. Finding the right method and curriculum for each family is a personal journey.
“Don’t give up. Finding what works for your child or multiple children is hard. Someone else has studied their behaviors in learning and you might be just learning what works best for them. Allow yourself grace and error. It’s ok to have bad days, don’t let those bad days rob you of a lifetime of memories of all the good days,” West said.
DeVol believes homeschooling teaches flexibility, preparing the student to face a changing world.
“I believe many people who were forced into teaching their children at home have realized they can do this and are pursuing homeschooling for the future,” DeVol concluded.
Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share should contact the writer at [email protected]