Why This Missionary Couple Decided to Homeschool

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Back in seminary, my husband and I began to think about options for educating our children. In the forefront of our minds was our desire to serve the Lord in overseas missions. We knew at least for the foreseeable future that we would be moving around quite a bit before settling at the place where God would lead us.

At that time, homeschooling was just beginning to become popular, and there were limited options for curriculum. But after doing some research and spending time in prayer, we decided to give it a try for one year. Not only did we want to be intimately involved in the spiritual and academic formation of our children, we also wanted to give them a stable learning environment that would not change every few months. My husband was pastoring a church during those days, and homeschooling was perfect for our lifestyle. We had flexibility to schedule the children’s education around his ministry and travels, and could take full advantage of opportunities for field trips, homeschool co-op meetings, park days, music lessons and sports activities in the community. Our children were able to actively participate in our ministry, whether visiting the nursing home, accompanying dad on visits, or spending time at the park with a family needing encouragement during the week.

Each year for several years, we re-evaluated our decision to homeschool. We wanted to make sure our children were getting a great education, that we were adequately involved in the community and church, that we had a balance of relationships with believers and unbelievers, and that we were not missing some key components in our children’s development. What started out as a one-year probationary period turned into 25 years of teaching and supervising our children through their formative years.

We eventually moved our family to Brazil, where we have served as missionaries for 22 years. We never did find that place to “settle,” as we have moved nearly every five years to new locations, not including our furloughs back to the US for sharing our ministry. But homeschooling was a constant in our children’s lives, which prepared them for college and life after college.

Homeschooling allowed us to redeem time that is often lost in other learning environments and gave us as parents the freedom to personalize their education and focus on areas that specifically related to our children’s needs and interests. They became independent thinkers and developed a love of learning, which continues until this day. They learned to stand firm in the face of peer pressure and developed the courage to suffer various trials. They actively participated in the ministry in Brazil and have developed deep heart relationships with Brazilians. How much of this was a result of homeschooling and how much was tied to their cross-cultural experience would be difficult to separate; certainly the two went very much hand in hand. But there is no question that homeschooling enabled us and our children the flexibility and consistency to have a vibrant ministry and well-balanced cross-cultural lifestyle.

Was homeschooling a perfect scenario? No. One day Mark came home and called me into the bedroom. I was upset, irritable and angry after a long day of homeschooling. He kindly thanked me for investing my life in the education and development of our kids, and then gently ended with “…but if they don’t survive the experience, what benefit will become of it?” That particular day was not easy either for me or the kids. Just this morning before getting out of bed, my husband said, “I wish I had been a better father.” Homeschooling was challenging! We were not perfect parents, nor do we have perfect kids. And when our last child graduated, the person who perhaps celebrated the most was her mother! I was happy to say goodbye to the homeschool life. But that would not be the case. Now we have the privilege of watching our grandchildren being raised in homes which value Christian education and a biblical worldview which is carefully fostered in their own homeschool environments.

Little did I know that God would once again open the door to my involvement with homeschooling, this time with Brazilian people. We now have an opportunity in Brazil to see the face of an entire country be transformed through Christian home education. Brazil is where the US was back in the 70s and 80s—just beginning to discover the blessing and impact of teaching children at home. The Brazilian public schools are increasingly more compromised; private schools are increasingly more expensive and out of reach for the average family, not to mention the lack of Christian worldview in both the public and private sectors.

Our missionary passion for 22 years has been the spiritual formation of biblically committed leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ in this great country. What better way to develop solid emerging leaders than to provide biblically-based homeschool materials that will affect the formation of not only parents but also the next generation of children who are being raised up with Biblical values. There are limited resources for Christian curriculum in this country; even the curriculum in Christian schools has been infected by Marxism and liberalism. But because of our 25 years of successful homeschooling experience, we have a voice which is being heard by pastors, Christian educators and parents.

We are thankful that we had the opportunity to invest deeply in our children’s lives—spiritually, emotionally, academically, socially—as a result of our homeschooling experience. May the Lord use this experience to affect the next generation of God-fearers both in our personal families and in the body of Christ.

This article is one of series of articles examining education and educators. 

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Diane Ellis

Diane Ellis has been married to Dr. Mark A. Ellis for 37 years. They have 5 children, 3 daughter-in-laws and 8 grandchildren. Mark and Diane have been missionaries in Brazil for the past 22 years, serving 20 years with the IMB in the areas of leadership development and church planting. They now serve with BEA Ministries. Diane’s passion is women’s discipleship, and she has recently become involved in a project to promote the development of homeschool curriculum and support materials with a strong Christian worldview for a budding homeschool community in the country of Brazil.

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