Dabney Hedegard on Being a Professional Patient, Author, and Homeschooling Mom

(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 & FamilyGarden School: Dabney, can you tell us what made you decide an alternative education was right for your family?

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.

What’s that?

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.)

When God IntervenesGS: You recently wrote a memoir about some pretty miraculous things that happened in your life. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

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.”

No lie.

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!

About Dabney:

Dabney HedegardDabney 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.


Make Room For Rest

    by Elizabeth Veldboom

Sitting in church, I stared in shock at the picture on the side screens. It felt as though the pastor had gotten inside my head and projected what was there for the entire world to see.

I’d been praying the day before, begging God to show me what was wrong with me. I was depressed and exhausted, but I couldn’t figure out why.

leaking-bucket[1]In response, God gave me a vision of a bucket being filled with water. However, because the bucket was punctured with holes all around, the water flowed out as quickly as it went in.

It was the very same image I was looking at now.

When He’d first shown it to me, I’d immediately felt something click. Yes! I thought. That’s exactly how I feel, Lord! Like you’re pouring into me with all of your grace and love, and yet, it’s going out just as quickly as it’s coming in. I should be filled to overflowing! What does it mean? Why am I so full of holes?

He’d been silent then, but now, staring at the magnified version of what had been in my head the day before, the message was clear: it definitely had something to do with the bucket.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had God grab an image from your brain and broadcast it to an entire church, but this was a first time for me. Let’s just say I didn’t fall asleep in that service.

Pastor Hooper’s message centered on how we all have three “tanks” that need to be filled: physical, spiritual, and emotional. That particular day he focused on the third–our emotional tanks.

He talked about how important our emotional tanks are and how we can have so many things we’re pouring ourselves out for, we have no time to be filled back up.

I wonder if you can relate to that image as well? As a homeschooling mom, you have so many things that vie for your attention and time. Spouse, friends, kids, lessons, laundry, volunteering, boss, Bible Study. The list goes on!

If we’re not careful, we can have so many obligations and duties that we pour ourselves out faster than we can fill ourselves back up.

So what do we do to ensure we’re not trying to give out of a leaky heart? It’s important to realize that we all need time for rest in our lives. Without it, we set ourselves up for exhaustion and burnout.

Here are three quick ways we can all make rest a priority:

1) Resolve to Make Room

Unfortunately, rest doesn’t just happen. It’s something that has to be worked for. Kind of an oxymoron, I know.

But if you’re still waiting for that magical “someday” on a beach in Hawaii, you’re gonna be waiting a long time.

You’re the only one who can make time for you. I can guarantee it won’t be your kids who make the time. Neither will it be your husband, boss, or children’s soccer team.

As one of my favorite quotes says: “If you don’t do you, you doesn’t get done.”

2) Read. My. Lips: No

If we want to maintain a healthy balance in our lives and home, we have got to learn how to say no. If not, we’ll end up with a schedule filled with a thousand people-pleasing tasks and only a handful of God-honoring ones.

But it can be extremely hard to know when and how to say no, which is why we need the Holy Spirit to help us discern both our own limitations and whether or not a certain activity is worth our time.

Learn to bring any decisions you face concerning a time-commitment or emotional investment to the throne of God before committing, and then act on whatever He tells you to do. If it’s a yes, then trust Him for the strength and energy to help you complete the task. If it’s a no, then trust Him with that as well.

We cannot do it all, and we shouldn’t try.

3) Reschedule Time for Rest

Finally, make room for yourself to rest. Literally schedule it if you have to! Maybe rest for you means one day per month where hubby takes the kids and you treat yourself to a spa day. Or maybe it means taking that date night you’ve scheduled for the day your kids turn eighteen, or spending a night out with the girls. It could also be some sort of hobby like painting or gardening.

There are so many options, and I encourage you to have fun with them! Rest is not rest if you won’t have fun while doing it.

If you’re unsure what gives you rest, start now by setting some time aside to pray and begin writing a list of things you enjoy. (As a special bonus, check out the “Freebies” tab for a few ideas to get you started!)

The next time you begin to feel overwhelmed, pull out your list and pick something to do to recharge your batteries.

Before God got my attention, I wasn’t doing a very good job of making room for rest in my life. I felt guilty whenever I acknowledged needing rest or told someone no, feeling as though it was selfish or lazy of me. However, He has since helped me see that it’s not selfish or lazy at all. Accepting rest when you need it simply means allowing God to minister to you before trying to minister to others.

When we set safeguards around our heart and time, we can love and give on a deeper level, without worrying that it will empty us in return.

But the greatest rest of all is the kind only He can give:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

(Matthew 11:28.)

Is it hard for you to allow yourself to rest? If you had one day completely to yourself, how would you spend it?

P.S. Check back this Friday when we’ll have a very special guest interview with author Dabney Hedegard. Find out the one thing she wishes she would have known when she first started homeschooling, what she does to try and balance her time, and why she calls herself a “professional patient.” You won’t want to miss it!


Elizabeth V. PicElizabeth Veldboom is a proud 2009 graduate from The Garden School, as well as a graduate from Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. Along with working as one of The Garden School’s preschool teachers, she also enjoys writing and has been published in places like Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters and CBN.com. She’d love connecting with you, so visit her blog anytime at http://www.thefearlist.wordpress.com.