(Elizabeth here! Today I am proud to introduce author and homeschooling mom, Dabney Hedegard. I first met Dabney at a writing conference where she was trying to sell a memoir about her life. Her story is one of the most powerful I’ve ever heard, and the moment I found out she was also a homeschooling mom, I knew I had to have her here on The Journal! She is an absolute sweetheart and one of the most friendly people I know. Please give her a warm welcome by leaving a comment or two. And now, Dabney!)
Dabney Hedegard: After battling cancer twice (once while pregnant) and surviving four near-death experiences by my 30s, I honestly didn’t know how many days I’d have left to spend with my children, let alone teach them about life. So the short answer is, my clock was ticking. Homeschooling equaled precious time with my kids.
GS: What has been some of your greatest challenges as a homeschooling mom?
DH: Other than the classic furrowed brow from strangers and the, “Oh,” I receive after explaining why my kids are out of school, walking around CVS at 11:00 a.m. with me?
All kidding aside, I’d say teaching four children with different learning styles.
I assumed that since my first daughter sat for hours while I read aloud her history/geography/science subjects, that my second child would naturally follow suit. When daughter number two began kindergarten, I pulled out my favorite literature-based Sonlight curriculum, and read away. Only she twaddled fingers, yawned, and shrugged when I asked pop-quiz questions.
This obstinacy wouldn’t fly. Not at my Hedegard Academy, where the headmistress prided herself on bringing the child to the Sonlight standard. I reread the paragraph and slowed my speech to be certain my five-year-old daughter (who happened to be adopted from China) heard me.
Again, I got the blank stare and a shrug. It took me a year to realize my China-doll was a visual learner and enjoyed workbooks and DVD tutorials.
This workbook stuff flew in the face of everything I’d researched on how to be an awesome homeschool teacher. “Don’t do what schools do,” I’d always read. “You homeschool to give them a better education, which includes reading living books!”
Well, it turns out that my second child thrives when given workbooks and brightly-colored curricula. Eh, I surrendered my pride, learned from my mistakes, and discovered this child God blessed us with is wicked-smart—and she’s not an avid reader, but a superb memorizer and mathematician.
Sadly, I wouldn’t find out until the end of her first grade year that she had mild hearing loss in both ears. I thought I was a horrible mother until her doctor told me, “Whatever you’re doing to help with her pronunciation, keep it up. Her speech is incredible considering her hearing limitations. You might want to move her to the front of the class in school, though.”
“Well, that will be easy. I homeschool.”
“Oh,” his brow furrowed.
I couldn’t help but smirk.
GS: Conversely, what are some of the greatest advantages in your opinion?
DH: I have the freedom to reinforce that God has a plan for their lives. We all need someone to believe in us, and know that those desires placed on our hearts are there for a reason. Daily fostering that gift and watching it grow is a privilege.
Secondly, my kids love to cook, bake, read (well, three of them), paint, and write. These are activities they see me do, so they naturally follow what’s modeled. I’ve never required them to write at a young age, but since I’m an author, they see me set aside time for what I love most. Writing is fun for them. (Please don’t tell them it’s an academic requirement.)
DH: I could tell you that at age 25 the doctor discovered a football-sized tumor in my chest. I could also tell you that my greater fear of the unknown grew in my belly, inches below this mass: a six week old baby. But what I’ve learned is that life sometimes isn’t in the living. It’s in the surviving. That’s where our eyes readjust to the truths surrounding our circumstances.
10 years and four near-death experiences later, I figured out that life isn’t so much about me. It’s about what He wants to do through me. When God Intervenes (Tyndale House Publishers) is a story about an ordinary girl in search of hope.
GS: I think pretty much every homeschooling mom struggles with time management. How did you manage to write a book and homeschool, and what advice could you give to other moms who are struggling to balance their time?
DH: You can’t hear me, but I’m laughing pretty hard behind my computer screen, because there’s never enough hours in the day, it seems. The bottom line is: you make time for what’s important to you.
In the beginning, I scheduled my days into half-hour increments. I allotted time for school activities and evenings with my husband (if I didn’t pencil my man in, he may have been forgotten). Writing always followed my morning devotions. It had to. With limited freedom to think in silence, I woke at 5:00 am to scrawl the words out. I did this on and off for a little over four years.
Towards the end (the last six months), after my manuscript was picked up, my schedule went out the window. I’d wake a 2:00 a.m. with this spectacular thought (all God) and I’d write until 7:00 a.m., then crash for a few hours. Thankfully, my husband or my mother-in-law had the flexibility to help in the mornings or sometimes in the afternoons when I needed naps to keep up my nighttime habits. But, it was worth the sacrifice of sleep.
That’s what it boils down to: sacrifice. When God puts something on your heart, don’t question it. Run after it with everything you have, and expect Him to show up for the rest. The rewards far outweigh the effort. My kids have a legacy to pass on and the world has the opportunity to read the undeniable power of prayer and the proof that miracles still exist.
GS: What part does your faith play in your role as both a homeschooling mom and in your daily routine?
DH: Without Jesus, I wouldn’t have the patience to teach.
Let’s be honest. I’m human and determined and like things done my way. When you have a house full of kiddos, things typically don’t go as planned. This is when mommy needs an Almighty Counselor to stabilizer her semi-control freakish tendencies.
So the days I wake late and skip my quiet times, my now 10-year-old China-doll can sniff out my spiritless state just by looking at me. She typically asks, “Mommy, have you read your Bible today?”
After confirming that, no I haven’t, she’s said on more than one occasion, “Why don’t you go spend time with Jesus. I’ve got breakfast.”
There’s me inside of me and God inside of me. One is obviously more consistently peace-filled. How lucky are we that we can tap into His goodness every single day? Glory.
GS: What’s one thing you wish you would have known when you first started homeschooling?
DH: To chill out and not worry so much about what other people think.
And, that it’s not so much about which curriculum you use, but the time spent investing in your child. I was a die-hard Sonlight junkie. I mean, any chance I could, I sang Sonlight’s praises because my firstborn, who is now fourteen, excelled so rapidly and tested years ahead of her grade. Then when my second child floundered using my pedestal curriculum, we turned to workbooks and other supplementary tools. She still succeeded.
This year, now that all four of my children are school-aged, we switched curriculums yet again and joined a homeschooling community called Classical Conversations. The kids congregate one day a week and learn all of their history, geography, math, English grammar, science, art/music, and Latin facts from tutors. The parents then spend the rest of the week reviewing and delving deeper into each subject. The younger kids use games and memorize information, which again thwarts the technique I so once loved. But so far, this program works, too. Even for my wiggly 8-year-old son. That’s a first.
When tucking my youngest five-year-old into bed at night, I hear her pray, “Thank you God for Classical Conversations.” I know that she loves what we’re doing, and it took much adapting on my part to get there.
It’s not so much about the curriculum as it is about them loving to learn. Find what’s right for your family. Flexibility is the key. That, and lots of prayer.
GS: Any last words or advice for our readers?
DH: Make it pleasurable for everyone.
If the kids hide when you pull out the curriculum, this might be an indication something needs to change. Not that it’s your job to cave to their reactions, but listen to what they love and adapt. This makes for a much more gratifying school experience.
Oh, and do what homeschooling guru Todd Wilson says: “Enjoy them while you can. One day they’ll be gone.”
Thank you so much for coming on, Dabney! It was a pleasure to have you!
Readers: Find a link to my review of Dabney’s book When God Intervenes by clicking on the “Freebies” tab!
Dabney Hedegard is an author, speaker, and professional patient whose four near-death experiences are chronicled in a fast-paced memoir, When God Intervenes (Tyndale House Publishers, July 2013). Her journey of uncertainty and miraculous intervention is one she hopes will help others realize that God has the perfect plan for their life, even in the midst of their pain.
Dabney has been featured on In the Market with Janet Parshall, Chris Fabry Live!, and The Bob Dutko Show, to name a few. She and her husband live in West Palm Beach, Florida with their four children. She enjoys interacting with readers at dabneyland.com.