Israel Wayne: In what year did you begin homeschooling, and what was your initial reason to start home educating?
Gary & Jan Bloom: 1982. We heard about homeschooling at a L’Abri seminar when Ranald Macaulay, husband of Susan Macaulay, who is the author of For the Children’s Sake, did a talk on “The Educational Philosophy of Charlotte Mason.” We liked the ideas presented. Later that summer Gary heard Jim Dobson interview Raymond Moore. We called Dr. Moore, discovered he would be doing a weekend seminar in Minneapolis that Fall, and attended the weekend, where we met the other 50 couples in MN wanting to homeschool.
We liked our children and were excited to be with them for school. We also lived in the city, and liked having our children spared the 45 minute bus ride to a school elsewhere across town. We really did not expect to homeschool them through high school, it just kind of happened as time went on.
I also think a few negative school experiences of my own maybe pushed me into thinking my children would not have to do this or that or suffer this or that if I homeschooled. Ah! The ideas we have…
Israel Wayne: What obstacles did you face in attempting to homeschool (resistance by family, legal threats, lack of access to resources, social stigmas, etc.)?
Gary & Jan Bloom: Our families were not supportive at all. We used to wonder which parent would turn us in for truancy first! We could not buy curriculum (except for Alpha Omega, which was VERY ugly on newsprint, or Christian Liberty Press, which meant enrolling in their school ), which ended up being a GOOD thing since we had to figure things out as we went along.
At church we usually were the only homeschooling family in those early years. Actually most of the time we were either the only homeschooling family or we had the oldest kids being homeschooled. Kind of lonely sometimes.
When we moved to a rural location, THAT was interesting. Kids are defined by the school, and parents know other parents due to school. We attended a church in a small town but since we were homeschooling, we were viewed with suspicion. We didn’t stay at that church long!
It was frustrating that our pastor at the church our children ended up in for high school, who became a family friend, still blamed homeschooling for any problems our kids had. He did NOT blame the public schools for problems those kids had. Seemed like a double standard. Kind of irritating and annoying! (Oddly enough his son married a home school graduate and they have seven kids already and (gasp!) are homeschooling!)
Israel Wayne: In what ways were/are you involved in serving the homeschooling community?
Gary & Jan Bloom: I’ve been a member of support groups and co-ops. We helped begin one of the first co-ops in the Twin Cities. I organized field trips. Then I started selling books. It was all downhill from there…
Israel Wayne: What do you wish had known when you first started homeschooling? What would you do differently?
Gary & Jan Bloom: The importance of routine. I regret my own busyness sometimes that got in the way of teaching.
At one point in time both Gary and I worked part time so we could each be with the kids. That was pretty wild. We also decided to have a back-to-the-land adventure that lasted four long, long years. Long, long years. Did I say that it was a long, long time? It was VERY hard to try to homeschool and tend goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, the garden, and make all our own food. Jenni, our oldest, even built a tofu press. We were isolated and poor and lonely. At least I was! Gary worked at the grocery store in the town 14 miles away, so he had contact with people.
Israel Wayne: What trends have you seen in homeschooling today that concern you? Do you see new things about homeschooling today that you appreciate?
Gary & Jan Bloom: Something I think about is that those of us who homeschooled without SCHTUFF understood more of what we were doing and why. So many younger homeschoolers just buy what someone has told them to buy. They haven’t developed a philosophy of education, which is what kept me going during hard times. I knew WHY I was doing this. I sometimes wondered HOW I was homeschooling…Principles, not particulars. What I mean is that people nowadays want that list that will show them what they need to read and study in order to be learned, as IF there is a guarantee. We cared about teaching our children how to learn so they had the tools to learn what they wanted to know, not what someone else wanted them to know.
New things? I appreciate talking to young moms who have just discovered good books, not having grown up with them. The delight and wonder is soul-stirring! I’m glad there are so many opportunities for homeschooled students to be a part of – drama, music, classes, speech and debate…sometimes it seems homeschoolers are never HOME ….
Israel Wayne: What advice would you give to young families who are just starting out of the homeschooling journey?
Gary & Jan Bloom: Simplify! Eat simply. Dress simply. Share chores. Teach your kids to WORK cheerfully. Read great books!
Israel Wayne: Please tell us what life is like for you today, and give us an update on your family.
Gary & Jan Bloom: Gary and I just finished our 16th year of traveling to conventions with our tons of great books that we’ve rescued. We never planned to do this, but it’s been an adventure.
I’ve written four books – two reference books about great authors (Who Should We Then Read?), a book about the importance of a family library (What Should We Then Know?) and a book about teaching business principles through good books, Business by the Books.
Our kids are OLD. Yikes!
Our oldest, Jenni, lives in a beautiful small town in MN with her hubby and 3 kids. She and Jason own a janitorial service, so their kids are learning how to clean and how to do great customer service. Jenni is homeschooling their oldest, Michael, who is 5th grade. He has some rather curious personality and learning issues and she hopes to get him through these next few years. Their school district is actually quite wonderful though there are a growing number of homeschooling families in the area. Jenni is viewed with awe since she was a homeschooler all the way through her years of schooling.
Jenni spent 5 summers in Europe after high school, teaching English at Christian camps in Austria, Poland, and the Czech Republic. She received her B.A. in Linguistics and Psychology from a state university and was in the Master’s program for English as a Second Language when motherhood hit. She also has taught piano and harp.
Our second daughter, Jodi, went to a Bible College in Colorado after graduation from homeschooling and currently lives there with her hubby, their daughter, and his two sons. She works at Comcast. Stan is a parole officer at a half-way house. I would be surprised if Jodi ever chose to homeschool her kids. She was not very happy as a teen homeschooler. If she could have participated in activities like speech and debate or drama or band I think she would have been much more satisfied with homeschooling.
Jodi has attended different college programs over the years but did not finish a degree. She likes to design and develop different fund-raising benefits. She organizes everyone at work and receives lots of kudos from employers and fellow employees.
Our son, JJ, is in the Navy, where he is currently on shore duty, working at a building that is not identified (That’s kind of a joke, though they have to take off their work id’s too upon leaving the building…) He is a computer geek. He got his first computer (an 8086) from a farmer in the church we attended for a brief time. He took it apart. He studied computers at the community college before going into the Navy 13 years ago. He is almost finished with an electrical engineering degree. He has two sons. He fixes my computer remotely, which is quite odd to see!
Israel Wayne: Please share anything else that you think might be of value to our readers.
Gary & Jan Bloom: Laugh. Don’t take yourselves too seriously. People have turned out well after public school and people have turned out well homeschooled. It is a puzzle, that’s for sure!
There is no guarantee that life will be wonderful and easy and painless if you homeschool. I would say probably the opposite is true! Life is challenging and parenting is HARD. But the relationships we have with our adult children are so incredibly different and so much better than the relationships we had with our own parents. I think it’s because we spent so much time together and we know each other so well.