Israel Wayne: In what year did you begin homeschooling, and what was your initial reason to start home educating?
Steve Demme: We attended our first homeschool conference in 1982 and were committed from that point. We knew from scripture that it was the parent’s responsibility to teach, train, and raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Hearing Raymond and Dorothy Moore (who if they were alive should be at, or near, the top of the list of Homeschool Pioneers) show how it had been done and could be done was a huge encouragement.
Teaching our children from a Biblical Worldview was also important. But most of all I think it was the desire to have close familial relationships with our sons was the primary motivation. We met families with teens who were still close and they attributed this to home education.
Israel Wayne: What obstacles did you face in attempting to homeschool (resistance by family, legal threats, lack of access to resources, social stigmas, etc.)?
Steve Demme: We didn’t experience many of the obstacles listed, but the health of Sandi, and John, who was born with heart issues and intestinal problems as a baby with Downs Syndrome posted very real challenges.
Israel Wayne: In what ways were/are you involved in serving the homeschooling community?
Steve Demme: In the early 1980s our education law in Georgia was being formed and I became a registered lobbyist so I could spend time at the capitol working with other homeschoolers to meet with legislators and shape the final bill. Many of these dedicated parents devoted themselves in that initial struggle and God wonderfully made the difference as GA was granted a wonderful law for homeschoolers.
During this time I was also a member of the board of GFFIE which was an inclusive statewide group of home educators.
In 1990 I published the first MathUSee book which later grew to be a complete K-12 math curriculum especially designed for home educators. We have recently added a spelling program with the same philosophy. While I am no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the company I still provide customer support and counsel at fairs and on the phone.
I am presently an author and speaker and attend conferences throughout the US as well as overseas to encourage and train parents under the auspices of Building Faith Families, another branch of Demme Learning.
Israel Wayne: What do you wish had known when you first started homeschooling? What would you do differently?
The first year we did what most do and used textbooks, refinished desks, a room set aside for “school” and taught subjects. A few years later any room was fine, and we chose to use the unit study method, Konos, which was a wonderful multi-sensory, family integrated approach to education that imparted a love for learning to our four sons.
The biggest thing I would do differently is allow God to work deeply in my own life because while we often think of children first in home education, I now recognize I had significant issues in my own life which affected my relationship with my wife and children. I just learned of these 30 years after we began.
Some of the contributing factors were a misguided understanding of authority and leadership, an unbiblical sense of submission, and an unwillingness to ask for help particularly from a counselor or therapist.
Israel Wayne: What trends have you seen in homeschooling today that concern you? Do you see new things about homeschooling today that you appreciate?
Steve Demme: I will mention two things that concern me.
- Peer pressure among homeschool parents. Homeschool kids turn out well and I love interacting with them at conferences but so many of the parents are being influenced by the latest trends in particular the academic pressures to perform. Let kids be kids. Take a deep breath and just be. Play together. Take naps. Sleep in and have fun. Remember what first influenced you to homeschool.
- We are becoming schools again. Coops abound, concerns about testing increase, there is widespread hiring of “certified” professionals to teach at coops, and grade levels are accepted in these same settings. Home educators are tutors, not classroom teachers. These are two conflicting paradigms. No one knows your child like the parent. Let your student(s) move at their own pace and not some textbook. Develop a love for learning. Trust your gut. Listen to your heart. I’ll stop there.
What encourages me is that God is still moving in the hearts of His people and turning their hearts towards home. In this busy hectic world, Dads and moms are making sacrifices to disciple their children at home. I have rarely been asked to speak on family discipleship outside of the homeschool arena. It is only there that I see a hunger to learn how to train children to live forever.
Israel Wayne: What advice would you give to young families who are just starting on the homeschooling journey?
Steve Demme: According to Deuteronomy 6:5-7, before I can teach my children to love God and His word(7the verse), I must love God and His word with all my heart. My personal relationship with God impacts my horizontal relationship with my wife and children. Then when I am in a good place with my Heavenly Dad, focus on my children’s heart more than their head.
We can become so focused on the children that we sacrifice our own relationship with our spouse. It is vital to maintain the proper priorities of God first, marriage second, then homeschooling.
Israel Wayne: Please tell us what life is like for you today, and give us an update on your family.
Steve Demme: The math curriculum I authored many years ago is now a part of Demme Learning, a family owned business. All four sons are joint owners in the company as well as employees. I am also a speaker addressing family topics with at homeschool and men’s conferences. I also write books, produce weekly podcasts, and send out a monthly newsletter.
I wrote a book called the Christian Home and Family Worship. This is free for any parent who will pledge to read it within 30 days of receiving it. Send me an email and I will send you the book! firstname.lastname@example.org
We also sponsor a contest to encourage parents to have regular family worship in their home. You can learn more about this contest here: http://www.buildingfaithfamilies.org/bible-resources/
In short, the fire to encourage parents and promote God’s design for the family still burns in my heart and I have no plans to retire. I am continually looking for ways to encourage and inspire parents.
Israel Wayne: Please share anything else that you think might be of value to our readers.
Steve Demme: As discouraging as the news is on a human level, I am not discouraged. God is still God and the best thing I see is the work of the Spirit of God turning parent’s hearts to their children and children’s hearts towards their parents. I do not see home education as an education movement as much as a restoration of the family which God created and designed.
The Building Faith Families website is: http://www.buildingfaithfamilies.org.
My Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/stevedemme