About Us

Hi. My name is Jena, and my husband and I have been married since 1985. We have three great kids and live in Central Illinois, just two blocks from the town square. It's a university town of 20,000 when school's in session, 10,000 when it's not.

In 2005 we bought a century-old church building for the same price as a three-bedroom ranch. The fact that it didn't have any showers or a kitchen was beside the point. We put those in by the end of the first year. There's no grass associated with this property (the building takes up the lot), so I tell people the sanctuary is our front yard. Instead of mowing, we vacuum.

This old photo is a postcard a dear friend found for me one Christmas. That's our house! This shows when it was newly built, dirt streets, men in top hats, wow! We are sitting on the corner steps in the family photo above. In the 1950's a regular home was attached in back for Sunday school rooms. The regular house is where we do our regular living.

I've lived most of my life in Illinois. I love the Midwest for its changing seasons, it's self-sufficient attitude, it's slower pace...

I met my husband at college in 1983. He was pursuing a masters in music and I was getting an elementary education degree. Two weeks after graduation, we married and went on staff with a college campus ministry. Four years later, our first child was born, and homeschooling began! The employment record gets long and varied, so I'll spare you that.

In The Socialization Question I write about why we decided to home school, and in my other articles I describe my overall philosophy. I guess I'd call myself a relaxed home schooler or an unschooler who sets boundaries for her kids or a proponent of interest-led learning. I never felt completely comfortable with formal curriculum or keeping a school-like schedule, but I didn't know anyone who did it that way. So it felt like I was making things up as I went along. Once in awhile I'd find a book or an article that helped me see that I really wasn't the only one who schooled this way, but it felt like I was.

Because I wasn't sure my type of schooling would really work, I didn't talk much about it. And frankly, I was embarrassed that we didn't do much "school." Plus it was too hard to explain without making someone mad. But at home, everyone knew my philosophy was to “maintain the joy of childhood and the joy of learning.” I believed they should have the freedom to pursue their interests and be self-motivated learners.

Now, after all these years and the graduation of my oldest, I want to tell my story. In the eyes of the education establishment, he’s a huge success: a National Merit Scholar with a full ride to the University of Chicago, and now graduated and working at a law firm. But more than that, he’s a happy, confident, sociable young man, and we both believe his homeschooling experience had a lot to do with it.

Our other two children are girls. The youngest was homeschooled through eighth grade and decided to go to the public high school, just for the sports and friends, she says. Our middle child has graduated homeschool and is attending the college of her choice. She took choir at the high school and has always been active in local theater. After two years of college, she's taking a year off to volunteer in India, teaching slum children English and music.

Schooling is a journey. There are no guarantees, only a deep love for our children and a desire to see them grow into who they will become. As we fumble our way down this path, it’s nice to hear from others who are a little further ahead. I know I would have liked that when my kids were younger. I hope I can do that for you.

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