I finished reading Joyce Swann’s book, Looking Backward: My Twenty-Five Years as a Homeschooling Mother today. My grandmother recommended it to me several days ago, and I wasted no time in starting it. She is a friend of Joyce’s, and my mom knew the Swann family when she was a teenager living in El Paso, Texas.
Each of the Swann children earned Master’s degrees as teenagers – from home. In fact, it was Joyce’s oldest daughter Alexandra who wrote No Regrets:How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen – a book that inspired me years ago and gave me the first inkling that one did not have to be on campus to earn a college degree.
Many parents see their homeschooling duties end when their students finish high school, but Joyce Swann taught her children all the way through graduate school. She read every textbook her children were assigned and taught herself the material so she could effectively teach her children. It is obvious Joyce was and is a highly diligent individual who drove herself to accomplish great things. Homeschooling was her vocation, and she learned there was no shame in focusing on her children instead of working in the church, holding another job, or doing anything else that would distract her from what was her God-given responsibility.
The Swann family took a rigid, highly scheduled approach to their schooling. It was fascinating to read about the way they ordered their days and accomplished school and household tasks. She was basically running a little school in her home, and that school was very separate from the rest of her children's lives. It definitely worked for their family and there is much to glean from her experiences even if I do not plan on fully modeling my own little school after hers. First of all, that would be impossible: I am not (and could never be) Joyce Swann. Trying to be just like her would most likely result in being a less than successful me. Our personalities are very different from each other, and we have been shaped by different families and situations.
Personally, I desire more flexibility and personalization of the learning process. If Zachary and I have more than one child, it is my hope that each of them will be able to study in a way that suits their own pace, learning style, and interests. I feel they do not need to necessarily read the same books (though they might) or graduate in the same way or at the same age (though they could).
Having said all that, I admire Joyce Swann and acknowledge her wisdom, dedication, and love of the Lord Jesus Christ. She is a pioneer in the homeschool movement and went years without meeting others families who taught their children at home. Her primary goal was to be a good steward of her children and train them to be faithful followers of Christ. She struggled physically and spiritually at times, but she trusted her life and the lives of her children to her Heavenly Father. When others failed her, she learned to lean on the One who would never leave her.
There are several things that encouraged me from her story.
First, homeschooling a large family does not entail chaos. It is still possible to maintain a clean and tidy home.
Second, young children are capable of more than our modern culture gives them credit for.
Third, you do not need complicated or expensive curriculum to teach your children.
Fourth, it is possible to be directly involved with the individual studies of children in even large families.
Fifth, homeschooling may be simple, but it is not easy. With God’s help, I can develop the self-control needed to be a successful homeschooling mom.
I am glad I read this, and it may be time I reread Alexandra's book.