David & Linda Watkins — Minnesota Homeschool Pioneers

Israel Wayne: In what year did you begin homeschooling, and what was your initial reason to start home educating?

David & Linda WatkinsDavid & Linda Watkins: 1985. Our daughter has some learning issues and needed one-on-one help. We didn’t care for the public school “special needs” programs and the Christian schools weren’t set up to help anyone with special issues. So we decided to home educate.

Israel Wayne: What obstacles did you face in attempting to homeschool (resistance by family, legal threats, lack of access to resources, social stigmas, etc.)?

David & Linda Watkins: Family thought we were being too protective and not letting our kids live normal lives. We couldn’t get textbooks, so we borrowed some from the Christian school when they changed curriculum. Later, we were able to purchase textbooks, but not the answer keys. We were told we weren’t qualified to teach since we didn’t have teaching degrees. (Never mind my BS and my husband’s MDiv degrees.) We lived half a block from the local public Middle School. Our kids hid when the marching band came down our street.

Israel Wayne: In what ways were/are you involved in serving the homeschooling community?

David & Linda Watkins: We served on the board of MACHE.org and then my husband became the Executive Director of MACHE. I direct the annual homeschool conference now.

Israel Wayne: What do you wish you had known when you first started homeschooling? What would you do differently?

David & Linda Watkins: I would have enjoyed having an experienced homeschooling mom friend to compare notes with and to give/receive encouragement. No one told anyone they were homeschooling back in the 80’s because it was “against the norm” and we didn’t want any problems or to be arrested. (We were “underground,” so to speak.) So it was extremely hard to find a friend like that.

Israel Wayne: What trends have you seen in homeschooling today that concern you? Do you see new things about homeschooling today that you appreciate?

David & Linda Watkins:

  • The new homeschoolers are doing more of a co-op style of “homeschooling”. They take their kids to the co-op “school” to learn, rather than teaching their kids themselves.
  • They don’t volunteer to help the state organizations. The “pioneers” are looking from some good leaders to rise up and lead wisely. Home education may have some very bumpy roads in the near future and we need fresh voices who will stand firm in the Christian faith and keep a strong vision for home education.
  • Today, homeschool parents are more tech-savvy. (Don’t know if that’s good or bad or …)
  • There is not as much “homeschool community” as we had in the 80s and 90s. (We needed each other. They don’t need “that community” so much any more. They get all they need online.)
  • We had to fight for our freedom to home educate. I don’t think they appreciate that we fought for their freedom to home educate too. Today’s homeschoolers have it easy, with all the good homeschool laws, great teaching resources, co-ops with “teachers,” and a host of other homeschooling parents to get ideas from.
  • The co-ops are propagating unruly children (peer pressure) and giving a bad name to home education. We were our children’s “friends” back in the 80s and we could work on good character and manners where and when our children needed it and guide them to choose good neighborhood friends.

Israel Wayne: What advice would you give to young families who are just starting out on the homeschooling journey?

David & Linda Watkins:

  • Start slowly.
  • Don’t copy the public/Christian school format.
  • Learn about learning styles and teach your children the way they learn best.
  • Be creative with your lessons.
  • Make a schedule to keep you on track, but leave room to be flexible for the unexpected events.
  • Attend your state homeschool conference for some great ‘how to’ and inspiring workshops and see all your curriculum choices.
  • Dads need to be hands-on with the homeschool. The kids and mom need to know that he is supportive of it.
  • You don’t need to join a co-op to be a successful homeschool parent. Support groups (for the parents), on the other hand, can be beneficial in that they help keep you focused and encouraged during the times when you’re unsure about what you’re doing.

Israel Wayne: Please tell us what life is like for you today, and give us an update on your family. My eight children are all adults.

David & Linda Watkins: We have 18 grandchildren. All but the four youngest (and the oldest one) are being homeschooled. The oldest grandchild (15) started Christian school this year. He’s already seeing a difference in “the way things are done.” My husband is the executive director of MACHE, and I direct the annual MACHE conference.

Israel Wayne: Please share anything else that you think might be of value to our readers.

David & Linda Watkins: Today’s home educators need to “go home,” not continue the ‘public school style’ of teaching. Don’t be afraid to teach all the subjects to your own children. It’s okay to “learn along with them.”

Israel Wayne is an Author and Conference Speaker and Director of Family Renewal, LLC. He is also the Site Editor for www.ChristianWorldview.net.