Archive for the ‘Homeschooling Teen Profile’ Category


Teresa Scanlan

February 4, 2011

Teresa Scanlan

“Ladies and gentlemen, the 90th anniversary Miss America; your Miss America 2011 is… Miss Nebraska Teresa Scanlan!” The newly-crowned Miss America, 17-year-old Teresa Scanlan of Gering, Nebraska, is a mostly homeschooled Christian who lifted her eyes and hands heavenward in thanksgiving when she was announced as the winner on January 15, 2011. The pageant judges were awed by her confidence, saying she was quite poised for a person so young.

That came as no surprise to Miss Nebraska co-executive director Jay Engel. “Teresa is very, very well-spoken,” Engel observed. “She’s very intelligent and talented, so we knew that she had all the capabilities and characteristics that a Miss America would have.” In fact, Teresa didn’t place in the Teen Pageant two years ago because of the judges’ reservations that she didn’t act enough like a normal teen. “She…was too mature,” Engel admitted.

Teresa Scanlan was born on February 6, 1993. Although she is the youngest Miss America to be crowned in 74 years, she is actually two years older than the very youngest winner. Marian Bergeron was the youngest Miss America in history, winning the title at age 15 in 1933. Others younger than Scanlan were Margaret Gorman in 1921 (the first Miss America) and Mary Campbell in 1922, both 16. Rules now mandate that a winner must be at least 17. The most recent teenager to claim the tiara was Kirsten Haglund, 19, who won the pageant in 2008.

Teresa is of Croatian ancestry. Her maternal grandparents are Frank and Nives Jelich, who immigrated to the United States from the island of Ilovik in Croatia, formerly Yugoslavia. Her parents are Mark and Janie Scanlan. “They really sacrificed a lot to do what they did,” she says of her parents’ decision to homeschool. Teresa is the middle of seven children. Janie Scanlan recalled that when Teresa was a homeschooled third-grader, she always tried to keep up with the schoolwork of her fifth-grade sister.

Already advanced for her age, Scanlan decided as a freshman that she wanted to graduate early. She began attending Gering High School part-time for half of her junior year. She graduated early from Scottsbluff High School in the spring of 2010 after taking a double load of classes throughout high school. While at Scottsbluff High School, she played the lead role in Disney’s High School Musical Onstage. She also participated in choir, show choir, speech, and was named a Salutatorian for the Scottsbluff class of 2010.

Scanlan first started competing in pageants at age 13. A small-town girl (Gering’s population is about 8,000), she beat incredible odds to make it into the Miss America pageant. More than 1,000 pageants lead to Miss America, and over 13,000 contestants compete for the title. Teresa won the title of Miss Nebraska on June 5, 2010, and got to travel around the Cornhusker State participating in various events as part of her duties.

Teresa is a politically minded student who plans to attend Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, a Christian college popular with homeschoolers. Although she will have to defer enrollment until after her reign as Miss America is over, Teresa will be able to utilize the $50,000 Miss America scholarship to pay for her college education. She wants to study American government and eventually pursue a career in law and politics. “I am very interested in the political process,” Teresa affirms. “I plan to register as an Independent,” she declared, saying that partisanship in Washington is a lingering problem among our elected officials. Her dream goal is to one day become president of the United States.

Perhaps Teresa Scanlan is following in the footsteps of Sarah Palin, a Christian female politician from a small town who was formerly a pageant contestant as well. At age 20, Palin (then Sarah Heath) took second runner-up honors in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant after winning the Miss Wasilla contest earlier that year. Palin was the youngest person and the first woman to be elected Governor of Alaska. From pageants to politics doesn’t seem like too far a leap. The competitions are certainly as cutthroat as politics – and at times, just as dirty.

Scanlan’s platform as Miss America is “Eating disorders: A generation at risk.” She now has twelve months to educate children and adults about the signs and risks of eating disorders, as well as how and where to get help for themselves or a loved one. Her passion to combat eating disorders stems from a friend who struggled with bulimia. “Because I was home schooled, I didn’t see the pressures,” Teresa said. But after doing some research about eating disorders for her friend, she discovered how rampant the problem is among young women across the nation.

For the Miss America talent competition, Teresa impressed the judges and the audience with her piano performance of Calvin Jones’ fast-paced “Whitewater Chopped Sticks.” Although she was the only contestant who didn’t dance or sing in the Miss America pageant, in her spare time she does enjoy singing and dancing as well as acting, playing the piano and guitar, composing songs, baking, participating in activities with her local church, and making clothes out of duct tape.

Scanlan didn’t hide her dedication to religion during the pageant, and notes that she wasn’t the only Christian contestant. “Many of the girls who made it very high [in the competition] had a strong faith because that shows…the substance and purpose behind what we’re doing – and that’s why we’re driven,” she shared. “We knew that whatever happened is His plan,” Teresa acknowledged, “and now I’m just so excited to see what He has in store.” Scanlan concludes, “And so every person that I meet I know God has a reason why I’m meeting them. I just want to embrace that as much as I can this year.”

Many people think the new Miss America is too young. But when you hear her speak, she sounds so well-grounded and older than her 17 years. She has a sense of humor, too. When asked if she was dating anyone, Teresa pinched her face into a grimace and quipped, “17-year-old boys? … Enough said.”

Scanlan wrote on her blog, “I am so looking forward to sharing my experiences and travels with you as I begin this wonderful journey and represent this incredible organization during our special anniversary year. I hope to make not only Nebraska, but all of America proud, and will do my utmost to represent the amazing young women of this nation. Thank you for your support and for believing in the young people of our country. Love and Prayers, Teresa.”

You can send Teresa Scanlan a note of congratulations or share your personal story about facing or overcoming an eating disorder by writing to her at: 2720 Applewood Road, Gering, Nebraska 69341. Follow Miss America 2011 on Facebook at and follow her on Twitter at


Jaime Herrera Beutler

January 11, 2011

 Jaime Herrera


The 112th Congress that began on January 5, 2011, includes a huge class of freshman. Few of the incoming freshmen know Capitol Hill better than Jaime Herrera (R-WA). Jaime was one of the female Republican candidates who rose to prominence in 2010, and she was highlighted by Time Magazine as one of the 40 leaders under 40 who are “rising stars of American politics.” Jaime will also be the first homeschooled member of the United States Congress in recent history.

Jaime was born on November 3, 1978, in Glendale, California. She grew up in Southwest Washington where she participated in activities like 4-H, fishing at Battle Ground Lake, swimming in the Lewis River, climbing Mt. St. Helens, and helping with local political campaigns. Jaime was homeschooled through ninth grade. She graduated from Prairie High School where she played on the girls’ basketball team. Before starting college she performed 2,000 hours of community service at ground zero in New York after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Jaime received an associate’s degree from Bellevue Community College in 2003, and earned a B.A. degree in communications and political science from the University of Washington in 2004.

Jaime launched her political career in the same year she graduated from UW. She won a White House internship with the Bush administration, arriving at the tail end of the presidential campaign. As a college student, she had the opportunity to intern in both the Washington State Senate and in Washington, D.C. at the White House Office of Political Affairs. From 2005-2007, Jaime worked in Washington, D.C. as Senior Legislative Aide for Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Spokane). She was the Congresswoman’s lead advisor on health care policy, education, veterans’ and women’s issues. She also helped draft proposals, including a health information technology bill and an education-based competitiveness bill. Both measures passed the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly.

In 2007, Herrera was appointed to fill a vacancy in Washington State’s 18th Legislative District. After serving in the 2008 legislative session she ran for election and 60% of the voters in her district cast their vote for Herrera to continue her post as State Representative. During her time in the Legislature, Jaime served on the Health Care and Wellness Committee, the Human Services Committee, and the Transportation Committee. Representative Herrera’s first bill, a bipartisan proposal to give tax relief to business owners serving in the military, was signed into law on March 27, 2008.

Herrera’s congressional campaign was one of the high-profile races that national observers were watching in hopes of tipping the balance of the House. Jaime is a fiscal conservative who ran on a small-government platform. “I do believe in smaller government, less government at every possible turn,” she said. She is a supporter of the U.S. Constitution and works to uphold our freedoms and liberties. She aims to bring a fresh voice to Congress and restore commonsense leadership in order to get the economy back on track. “My parents taught me God first, family second, and service to community a close third,” Jaime said. “Those were the values of our region, too: personal responsibility, [and] a strong work ethic,” she added.

Jaime has class, character, and decent social and moral values. One of Jaime’s political heroes is Abigail Adams, who was one of our country’s most influential “founding mothers,” as well as the homeschooling mom of John Quincy. Jaime said that she decided she was a Republican after leaving home and reflecting on the values she’d learned from her own family. In 2006, through their church, they became involved in gang prevention. Jaime’s parents, Armando and Candice Herrera, adopted his brother’s three children to rescue them from the influence of drugs and gangs in Southern California.

Jaime says, “I am not opposed to safety nets. They are a part of our communities and our society. I’m the first to say when it comes to our most vulnerable citizens – children, seniors, folks fighting disability – we have a safety net for a reason. I think protecting our most vulnerable is actually a conservative principle.” However, Jaime believes that the government is becoming disconnected from the people it represents. “I think government has gotten a little too big for its britches… It is taking more and more ability from individuals and families to decide how they’re going to spend their money… I think we are at a point as a country when we are going to have to decide: Are we going to be in charge of our democratic republic, or is it the other way around?”

As a Congresswoman, Jaime says she will support an amendment that would require a balanced federal budget, emphasizing that the government needs to cut its spending to resolve the federal deficit. She thinks that Congress should “live within its means just like families, businesses and individuals do.” Jaime feels that the stimulus plan was misguided and that the stimulus money would have been more effective circulating in the economy. “We just need to get government out of the way and let small business do what they do best, which is create jobs,” she explains. The federal government should likewise eliminate regulations that stifle competition, she argues.

In a similar manner, Jaime said the federal health care bill should be repealed. She proposed small businesses be allowed to band together, even across state lines, in providing health care to their employees at lower cost. Jaime opposes abortion rights and opposes extending legal partnerships to same-sex couples. Jaime believes the federal government should take a smaller role in education and cede to local control of schools. On the issue of illegal immigration, the Hispanic young lady says, “We need to prove to the American people that the government can secure the border. I don’t support amnesty. People do need to learn English.”

Jaime revels in the excitement of belonging to the biggest group of House newbies in decades, and she is eager to get started because there is a lot of work to do. As she sees it, voters elected her to slim and streamline the government – and have given her two years to get the job done. “The fact that they chose me to be their voice here is an honor,” Herrera said. “You want to live up to that promise.” Jaime states her purpose very clearly: “I will be a member of Congress more concerned with saving your money than spending your money.”

Herrera admits to being ambitious but also conflicted. “I do believe that the American dream, which is to pass on a better life to our children, is in danger.” Eventually, she and her husband Dan (who she married in August 2008) want a family, but they will have to “put our lives on hold,” she admits a bit wistfully. Nevertheless, Jaime declared, “Every step I have taken since high school has been preparing me for this. There is not a job in the world I would rather have…. I have this amazing, tremendous responsibility and it is not something everyone gets a chance to do.”


Susan Wise Bauer

December 5, 2010

Although Susan Wise Bauer (born in 1968) is not a homeschooling teen, she used to be and now she homeschools four children of her own (including teens)! Many homeschoolers have read her history series The Story of the World as well as The Well-Trained Mind, which Bauer co-authored with her mother Jessie Wise. She has also written several other books including The Complete Writer series on teaching writing.

Susan grew up in Virginia and was homeschooled along with her brother and sister in the 1970s – the “dark ages” of home education. Bauer recalls, “My mother had taught in both private and public classrooms…so she was an experienced teacher. But she would be the first to tell you that her teacher training didn’t help her be a better homeschooler; she says that her education classes mostly taught her how to manage classrooms. So when she began homeschooling, she was starting from scratch – like many homeschool parents.”

Susan’s pioneering parents taught her at home for most of elementary and middle school, and all of high school. “I remember my parents giving us the option to go back to school at several points, but we never took it,” Bauer explains. “I counted up the number of hours that I would spend on buses, standing in line, doing homework, and so on, and decided I’d be better off at home.”

Bauer learned Latin at age ten. In high school, she worked as a professional musician and wrote three (unpublished) novels before she turned sixteen. She also toured with a travelling drama group, galloped racehorses at a Virginia racetrack, taught horseback riding, worked in ghostwriting and newspaper ad sales, learned enough Korean to teach a Korean four-year-old Sunday school, and served as librarian / reading tutor for the Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Center in Williamsburg.

At age seventeen, Susan entered college as a Presidential Scholar and National Merit finalist. Three years later, she received her B.A. from Liberty University with a major in English, a minor in Greek, and a summer spent studying 20th-century theology as a visiting student at Oxford. In 1991, Bauer earned a Master of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where she added Hebrew and Aramaic to her languages.

Bauer has been a member of the English faculty at The College of William & Mary in Virginia since 1994, where she teaches writing and American literature. In 1996, Bauer completed the M.A. in English Language and Literature at William & Mary; her concentrations were in translation theory, 17th-century devotional poetry, and Psalm paraphrase in the Tudor period. In 2007, she received her Ph.D. in American Studies from William & Mary, with a concentration in the history of American religion.

Dr. Bauer continues to serve as editor-in-chief of Peace Hill Press, her family’s publishing company that produces history and literature resources for parents and teachers who are educating students in the classical tradition. According to Bauer, history and literature go hand-in-hand. “I tend to teach literature historically – in chronological order, with attention to the world events taking place during the writer’s lifetime.…History is endlessly fascinating….In order to understand any field of endeavor – science, literature, government, mathematics – we also need to understand how we arrived at our present state of knowledge. And the only way to do that is to study history.”

Bauer’s husband, Peter, is minister of the nondenominational Peace Hill Christian Fellowship, which serves the rural community of Charles City as well as students from William & Mary. The Bauer family lives on a farm with dogs, cats, horses, and chickens. “Peace Hill is the farm my mother inherited….It’s one of the original names on colonial-era maps of Charles City County; our farm sits on the hill where a peace treaty was signed between the Native American residents and the colonial settlers.”

Susan and her husband share in the task of homeschooling three sons and a daughter, with additional help from Susan’s mom. “Now that I have children of my own, I homeschool because it seems the natural way to live. People ask me, ‘Isn’t it hard to have them home all day?’ Frankly, I can’t imagine laboring under the restrictions of a school schedule. Always meeting the bus, only taking holidays when the school allows it – that seems like a much harder schedule to me.” (Her oldest has since graduated from high school and started college this fall.)

“I’m convinced my children flourish with one-on-one attention to their individual strengths and weaknesses. I’m sure there are some subjects that a school would teach more thoroughly than I do. But I don’t think any school could duplicate the flexibility and creativity of home education. I love giving my children the opportunity to investigate areas that pique their interest, and I know that if they were in school their time would be far too limited to pursue their curiosities.” – Susan Wise Bauer’s curriculum vitae (Latin for “course of life”), a summary of academic and professional history and achievements. – Follow Susan Wise Bauer on Twitter.


Lea Ann Garfias

November 9, 2010

When I was in Bible college, I learned that the definition of success is “finding God’s will and doing it.”  I like that definition, mostly because of what it doesn’t say.  That definition does not include what vocation I follow, what educational choices I make, what financial goals I achieve, or what grades I score.  Success is measured, then, in light of eternity.  I hope that my life is measured positively that way, too.

I was home educated from 7th grade onward.  Being an over-achiever and a glutton for punishment, I decided to complete the 6 years of my secondary education in 5 years, without skipping any grades. I had to work through the summers, but I enjoyed it for the most part.  My favorite subjects were English and mathematics.  My mother made me write a lot of papers, and she was a very good editor and stylist.  I had no idea how much I would use her wisdom and training later in life.  My father taught me Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, and Statistics.  We played games like “what is the probability of having all 12 beans in the Twelve Bean Soup in your bowl?” during dinner conversation.  Learning was a regular part of our life.

My younger sister and I not only learned our academics during our homeschool years; we also took regular piano and violin lessons.  Disciplined practice time was part of our daily routine.  Homeschooling made musical success possible, and we both took frequent awards in state and national competitions.  This paved the way for us both to study music on the college level as private students when we were teens.

By the time I was nearing graduation, I knew where I wanted to attend college.  My parents registered me for an ACT prep course at a local community college, and I’m glad I took it.  The course not only prepared me well for the test I would receive, but also acclimated me to the environment in which I would be tested.  Even though I was ill the day of my test, I scored in the 99th percentile and was offered scholarships from Harvard and my state’s university.  Instead, I chose to attend Bible college and study Church Music.

After two and a half years of university work, I met and married the love of my life.  David is a Peruvian immigrant who came here during his high school years. Together, we are rearing four children in the Dallas area. At first, I didn’t want to homeschool; I knew how much work it is! But my husband insisted we try it for “just one year,” and now we are hooked.

Home education is much different now from when I was a student.  For one thing, I was a student in the late 80s and early 90s in Michigan, where homeschooling was nearly illegal.  We didn’t go out of our homes much during the day, and we made up a name for our “very exclusive private school” in case people asked us questions. Today, we can proudly say, “We homeschool!” and strangers are not only unsurprised, but they have neighbors who home educate, too.

Another big difference in home education is because of the computer. When I was a student, very few people had home computers, and they still weren’t connected by internet (I feel so old typing that!).  This made it so much harder to obtain materials, reach out for support, and even to find other homeschooling teens.  We really felt isolated.  But not now! So, as a result, I get very excited every time I meet another homeschool graduate; it is like meeting a classmate!

There are many things I wish I had done differently during my 5 years of home education.  I wish I had not given my parents a hard time about the hard assignments.  I wish I had studied harder.  I wish I had not argued with my father over the math answers; he was always right and my answers were always wrong.  I wish I had taken my mother’s English corrections graciously.  Most of all, I wish I had valued the learning more, and worried about the grades less.  Who cares what grade I got in Trig? But do I really know why the Fall of Rome changed the course of history? I am shocked and dismayed how much I need to go back and re-learn before I can teach my own children properly these and many other things.

I hope that as I continue the home education tradition with my children, I can pass on a true love of learning to them.  Whether it is God’s will for them to attend college or not, whether or not He would have them tackle the sciences or the arts, it is the desire of their parents that they each find God’s perfect will for them.  Then, we pray, they can study to do it.

Lea Ann Garfias is a homeschool graduate and home education consultant in the Dallas area. Together with her husband of 13 years, she is teaching their four children at home and encouraging young families to raise their godly heritage for His glory. She is a classically trained pianist and violinist and avid reader. The Garfias family enjoys learning from a variety of resources, including great books, experiments, and family trips. You can read more of Lea Ann’s writing on her blog at, in Home School Enrichment Magazine, and on the Dallas Morning News Home Education blog.


Rachel Starr Thomson

October 1, 2010

Rachel Starr Thomson of Ontario, Canada, is a writer of novels, short stories, essays, and the occasional poem. She was homeschooled for most of her life along with her eleven younger siblings. The family tended toward the unschooling method of learning from life experiences and traveling, although they also pursued some formal academic studies over the years.

Rachel’s very first novel, Theodore Pharris Saves the Universe, was written when she was thirteen. Ever since then, writing has been her chief discipline. Rachel is a regular contributor to Focus on the Family’s and Homeschooling Today Magazine. She serves as copy editor for Home School Enrichment Magazine. Her articles have been published in various magazines, ezines, and websites. She also oversees a multi-author serial fiction project titled “The Romany Epistles.”

As CEO of Little Dozen Press, Rachel has self published several of her books in the last few years including Heart to Heart: Meeting With God in the Lord’s Prayer, and the discipleship-focused Letters to a Samuel Generation. Her novels Worlds Unseen and Burning Light are fantasy adventures in the tradition of C.S. Lewis, enjoyed by readers from age ten to adult. Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled is a collection of humorous vignettes and essays that Rachel co-wrote with Carolyn Joy Currey, another homeschool grad. All of these books are available at – including a free eBook of Worlds Unseen, a free online edition of Letters to a Samuel Generation, and chapter excerpts from Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled.

A stay-at-home single adult, Rachel wrote an article titled “20-Something Reasons to Live at Home” about the advantages of living with one’s family. In addition to her own writing, Rachel offers editing, proofreading, and coaching services – both independently and through, a combination writing course/private tutoring service for high schoolers. “I wield a mad red pen,” she says, “but I’m nice about it.”

In all of her work, Rachel explores the intersections of faith, life, and creativity – not just through writing but by the artistic disciplines of storytelling, singing, and dance. She and her friend Carolyn co-founded the Soli Deo Gloria Ballet, a Christian performing arts company. Their mission is to glorify God and tell His story through the powerful and expressive medium of dance.

Rachel’s other interests include: reading, nature, Celtic music, Sense and Sensibility, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Lord of the Rings. Rachel likes playing Scrabble, drinking tea, collecting books, going for long walks, and waxing eloquent on many topics. She believes “life would be far, far better if we all chucked our television sets out the window.”

Ten Years Ago

By Rachel Starr Thomson

If I had one message to give homeschooling teens (well, all teens, really), it would be this:

Where you are right now is not where you’ll be tomorrow, but what you do right now shapes who you’ll be tomorrow.

This is one of the greatest gifts of homeschooling: our parents have given us opportunities our peers don’t have, and so they’ve given us the opportunity to become what our peers may never become.

They’ve given us time with our families that will shape us and our future relationships.

They’ve given us academic freedom to pursue what we care most about, freedom that will shape our passions and maybe our future careers (or our ability to homeschool our own kids).

They’ve given us time and space to build our relationships with God, affecting eternity.

They’ve given us time. Did I mention that?

You’ve probably noticed that most adults don’t have a lot of time because their jobs claim most of their waking hours. Before people grow up and get jobs, most of them go to school, and school claims most of those waking hours. But homeschoolers are different. We have time for relationships, serious Bible study, ministry, creativity, long walks. We have time for things that matter most to us.

I graduated from homeschooling nine years ago (gah—it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long). My homeschool story has a lot in common with yours, also some differences. I went to kindergarten at a local Christian school, but my dad was a visionary and wanted to homeschool because he felt education was a task given to parents by God. Our family grew over the years: we started with me and ended up with twelve, ten girls and two boys. We also moved a lot. Our schooling was very loose and unstructured. My parents taught us to read, pointed us at a library like a kid playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, and let us loose to see where the tail would end up. (Well, that’s more or less how it went.)

This unstructured education worked very well in some areas and not so well in others (I am not the only homeschool grad who used to fall asleep over her math book), but a combination of time to develop passions and pursue them, unique experiences, and relationships with family and non-peers led to me doing a lot of things that have shaped who I am—and what I do—now.

Ten years ago I spent several days a week volunteering with a missionary training center and attending meetings there in a multicultural, passionately spiritual setting; my relationship with God and sense of the world is still under-girded by those years.

Ten years ago I was not heavily under the influence of negative peer pressure and teen culture, so those things have never taken root as serious considerations in my life.

Ten years ago I was jotting down poetry or writing story manuscripts here and there, and also reading like a fiend; today I’m a full-time writer, editor, and writing coach.

Ten years ago I was helping my parents in their small business; today I run my own.

Ten years ago I found out that I loved music and dance and that the arts could be a powerful part of worship; today I co-direct a ballet and performing arts company that tours around my home country of Canada.

Ten years ago I developed friendships and relationships that still challenge, inspire, and comfort me. The people in my life, a vast variety of them not bound to my age group or neighborhood, have each left their mark on who I am now.

The loose, interest-led education I got as a homeschooled teenager still shapes my approach to learning and life as an adult. I value curiosity and new experiences; I love to learn; I know I can learn anything—it’s as simple as heading toward a paper donkey with a pin, knowing you’ll get off course and make some mistakes that don’t ultimately matter. You’ll win if you stick with it.

What you’re doing today matters; it will shape who you are tomorrow. Homeschooling gives us unique and powerful opportunities, starting with time and then many valuable ways to use that time. I’m grateful to my parents for the sacrifices they made and the chances they took so that I could also take chances, make sacrifices, and live an unusual life.

I hope you do the same.


Natalie Wickham

September 5, 2010

Homeschooling Teen Profile: Natalie Wickham

Natalie Wickham was homeschooled from 4th grade through college alongside her five siblings. After graduating from high school, Natalie continued her education through distance learning. In March 2006, she achieved her goal of becoming a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music. Natalie owns and operates a successful piano studio. In addition to her involvement in music, Natalie is a strong proponent of character education. She helped implement the Character First! Education program in local schools and churches, and she currently serves as the director of Adventures in Character. Natalie wrote the book, “Pajama School: Stories from the Life of a Homeschool Graduate,” in which she shares candidly about the experiences that led her to conclude that education is about much more than academics. In her article for Homeschooling Teen magazine, Natalie focuses on the importance of creativity.

Redeeming the Time with Creativity

A crowd of teachers eagerly took their places as the session got underway. I waited expectantly as one of the organizers of the event introduced me to the group. They had asked me to present a workshop on marketing and running a successful music studio. I was excited to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years. But I wasn’t prepared for the specific remarks of my colleague and how they would give me a whole new appreciation for the decision my parents made many years ago to home educate their children. His words still echo in my mind, “Natalie comes from a somewhat untraditional background…” (I’d heard that before!) “…and I think that’s what contributes largely to her fresh and creative approach.” (Wow, I’d never really thought of that!)

Pondering that statement over the last several months has led me to realize what a tremendous gift my parents gave me when they pulled me out of school to start our homeschool journey. Not that I always felt that way, mind you! Our first year of transition, in particular, was wrought with lots of frustration and tears. But as we learned to replace society’s educational model with a more biblical understanding of true education, a whole new world began to open up before us. Instead of being constrained to a classroom for hours at a time, life became our learning ground. I was free to explore areas of interest and pursue skills I wanted to develop.

In a recent interview with Kevin Swanson (another homeschool grad!) on Generations Radio, he shared a vivid analogy: those who are raised in our modern schooling system tend to approach education and life as a paint-by-number piece of art, whereas those who are raised outside the system are likened to a sculptor. In a paint-by-number, as you know, someone has already determined the final design and you – the artist – are just coloring in the spaces. There’s some room for artistic expression, but only insomuch as it falls within the parameters of the original designer’s intent. A sculptor, on the other hand, employs a host of tools and materials to create a unique work of art – limited only by his imagination and ability. Obviously these are generalizations, but I love the thought that a homeschool education can be the catalyst for ideas, discoveries, and approaches that might otherwise lie dormant in a tightly-structured, conformity-based classroom environment.

My favorite definition for creativity comes from CharacterFirst: “approaching a need, a task, or an idea from a new perspective.” In a homeschool environment, the opportunities to develop creativity are endless! Consider these needs: lunchtime meals, clean clothes, money for school curriculum. Or what about some daily tasks: practicing an instrument, doing a math lesson, cleaning the bathroom. And we could never exhaust a list of ideas: hosting a Bible study, organizing a field trip, creating a short film. One of the biggest advantages we have toward developing creativity in these areas is time. The average graduating high school senior will have spent almost 30,000 hours at school, plus even more on homework! When you consider that the recognized number of hours it takes to become an expert in a given field is approximately 10,000 you begin to realize the incredible potential that exists for homeschoolers…if we use our time wisely.

Ephesians 5:16 says that we should be, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The idea behind the word “redeeming” is that we spend our time on that which is profitable. In other words, we are trading in our time to get back something more valuable. You could contrast this with the opposite – squandering time, which is frivolously spending time on things that have no lasting value. With that in mind, I’d like to outline three ways that you can redeem the time by developing creativity in your life:

1. Spend time with the Creator. Proverbs 2:6 is one of my favorite verses, “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Whatever your questions, whatever your needs, whatever your problems, the answer is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. The more time you spend with the Lord, reading and studying His Word, the more you will be able to draw on His wisdom and creativity as situations arise in your life. We are promised “good success” if we meditate on the law of the Lord day and night and do all that is written in it (Joshua 1:8). Likewise, the man who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night is said to prosper in all he does (Psalm 1:2-3). Talk about a return on your investment! Filling your heart and mind with the wisdom and knowledge and understanding of the Lord is the source from which the fountain of creativity springs forth!

2. Take time to think. Victor Hugo once said, “A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.” Isn’t that great?! Whether due to busy schedules or hours wasted on mindless entertainment, there is precious little time given to just thinking. One of my favorite things to do is to make my way onto our deck late at night, gaze up at the stars, and just…think. Sometimes memorized Scriptures come to mind; sometimes I present questions to God; sometimes I ponder a difficult situation with a student and how I should address it; sometimes I reflect on attitudes or behaviors in my life of which I need to repent; sometimes I contemplate upcoming events or special occasions and what I can do to make them more meaningful and memorable; and so on. Another essential for me is my “idea book.” It’s just a plain spiral-bound notebook, but I use it to jot down thoughts and brainstorm about everything from goals for the year, to lesson plans for students, to book marketing strategies, to articles, and more. Society today undervalues just sitting and thinking because it is perceived as being unproductive. Quite the contrary! It is an essential underlying element that produces an even greater level of productivity.

3. Make creative plans and put them into action. There’s a certain amount of risk in being creative because you have to be willing to try something that you haven’t done before. I like to think of scenarios in terms of a “means justifies the end” philosophy. “Will the benefit derived from the planning, preparation, implementation, and evaluation of this project be worth it even if the endeavor itself is deemed unsuccessful?” Not only does this serve to bolster enthusiasm and diligence for the project, but it also offsets the discouragement that accompanies a failed venture. So put on your creative “thinking caps” and just give it a try: treat your family to a fancy lunchtime tea and scones, make your own set of flashcards and work with a sibling on math facts, invite a mature Christian to share their testimony and host a group of friends for fellowship and encouragement in their walk with the Lord. As you develop creativity, you will discover all sorts of ways to be a blessing to the people around you. Not to mention that you’ll always keep them guessing as to what you’ll come up with next!

Creativity is an amazing gift from the Lord, and homeschooling affords us the time and environment to develop it in our own lives. I’ve had to throw away my fair share of “paint-by-number” coloring sheets as the Lord has led me to re-think the customary way of doing things in society. It’s a little scary, but what an adventure! So, grab your block of marble (i.e. whatever needs, tasks, or ideas are facing you today) and start sculpting away. Let’s become everyday artists who fill people’s lives with creativity and cause them to marvel at the ingenuity of our Creator!


Natalie Wickham is a lover of all things creative. She enjoys trying new things and looking for better approaches – whether it be in teaching, writing, speaking, cooking, or whatever else seems interesting at the moment! She has tried many approaches that haven’t worked so well, but finds great security in the unchanging character and Word of God, which remains her anchor in the midst of it all. She is the author of the book, “Pajama School – stories from the life of a homeschool graduate” and producer of the CD “Journey to Self Publishing – 12 steps to successfully publish your book.” Natalie also founded and runs – an on-line compendium of creative, practical, and up-to-date resources for music teachers. Feel free to stop in and visit her at !


Amy Puetz

August 10, 2010

Amy Puetz

My homeschooling adventure began in the 8th grade. My life drastically changed once we began homeschooling. The world just had a different light to it, and I actually felt truly alive for the first time. There was such freedom in homeschooling. I was no longer confined by the opinions of my peers, and the shell that I had put up to protect myself from the harsh world started to crumble. It wasn’t long before I began thinking about my future and what God wanted me to do with my life. Over the years I had many ambitions-I wanted to be an archaeologist, a photographer, a counselor for troubled teens, or the owner of a movie studio that made Christian films. Most of all, I wanted to fulfill the God-given role of being a wife and mother. At 15, I began experiencing some serious health problems after a tonsillectomy. I went from being a healthy teen in 1996 to a very sick person in 1999. Simply walking across the room was terribly fatiguing. I knew college was out of the question and that even my dream of marriage and children was hazy. After all, I couldn’t take care of myself, let alone anyone else. I needed to look at my future realistically and ask the question, “What can I do?”

Around this time I began designing fliers and newsletters for a business my sisters and I had started. I realized that I truly enjoyed creating things on the computer. It didn’t drain me too much physically, and it was something I felt gifted in. That is when I found out about a correspondence course in Computer Graphic Arts from Harcourt Learning Direct. (Harcourt Learning Direct is now Penn Foster. You may visit their website at After I graduated from high school in 2000 I began taking the correspondence course. I completed the two-year course in nine months. That in itself was a huge accomplishment, because most of the time my brain felt like it was in a fog!

Completing the correspondence class was easy, compared to trying to find a job that I could do with my limited energy. I began creating cards and t-shirts and tried to sell the ideas to Christian companies, but it never panned out. While I was waiting to land my first job, I had the idea of creating a historical costume book. The idea sprung from my love of dressing up as a child. My sisters and I had this wonderful collection of dresses and we would use them to create different characters. In my book, I wanted to show people how to take one dress and add accessories to make it look like different eras. It took me about a year to complete the ebook, Costumes With Character, and this year I’m actually working on revising it to offer as a printed book!

I managed to get a few jobs creating designs for some businesses, and for a few people in my church. One of my t-shirt designs landed a contract with Victory Won, a pro-life company. The front of the shirt says, “Americans born to be free” and the back says, “If only they are free to be born.” God gave me that statement one day, and I just knew I had to create a t-shirt that shared it with the world.

Over the next few years I continued to grow my business by adding a website, , and writing ebook unit studies about inspiring, Christian ladies. I can’t help but smile at God’s sense of humor. If someone had told me when I was a child that I would eventually be a writer, I would have laughed out loud. I didn’t exactly hate writing, but I certainly wasn’t very good at it either. After I graduated I went through an Excellence in Writing class from Andrew Pudewa. Writing might not be easy for me, but I now have the tools to do it. God can redirect our paths when He wants us to do something new. I have 5 books in my Heroines of the Past ebook series and several others on the way.

In 2004 I started writing a historical column for Home School Enrichment Magazine, and I have compiled those articles into a printed book – Uncover Exciting History. I also have two other books published, Countdown to Christmas and Countdown to Easter. Homeschooling really helped prepare me for the different hats it takes to be self employed. While being educated at home, I learned perseverance, dedication, and the importance of working hard.

As a homeschool grad, I can look back over the last ten years and be thankful that God led me to start a business that would encourage and bless homeschool families. I’d like to say a few things to encourage you as you look ahead to your post-high school years. This is directed mostly to girls, but guys may get something out of this too!

Because of the wonderful Christian examples of our mothers, most homeschool girls have one goal in life, and that is to get married and raise a family. This is a wonderful and God-given aspiration, but before God brings the right man into our lives, many of us will experience a season of singleness. It is imperative that we have a plan of what to do with our lives during this season, and a direction to go in case we never marry. For one, if we stay active it is much easier to be content, and two, if we look at the time of singleness as a learning time, we will grow.

Homeschool families should teach their girls how to cook, clean, and take care of a house and children, but those should not be the only skills they learn. Most homeschool families have a bit of entrepreneurship blood in their veins and a stay-at-home daughter can certainly benefit from knowing how to do some basic home-business skills. Here are a few things I would recommend if you are thinking about starting a home business:

·     Learn how to create a website. HTML may not be very fun to learn but something that will come in handy.

·     Learn how to write articles. As I mentioned before, Andrew Pudewa has some very good curriculum available. Visit his website at

·     Learn basic book keeping skills.

·     Learn a little about marketing.

·     Continue dreaming. When starting a home business, we will run into many roadblocks. It’s important to never give up on our dreams.

·     And most important of all, seek God’s will through prayer.

Have goals of what to do after high school. It doesn’t have to include college! There are lots of different options for getting more education without going to a secular school. Correspondence classes worked really well for me. There are also online classes available and you might even consider taking a class in a specialized area at a local college. What I especially liked about my correspondence curriculum was that I learned about the particular subject I was interested in, instead of taking two years of boring classes that I didn’t need.

When I graduated it seemed like the general consciences among homeschoolers was that girls should be preparing for marriage instead of a job. I’m not disagreeing with this, but I think that we need to have a backup plan in case the looked-for prince charming is a long time in coming. So many girls spend years in discontented singleness because they didn’t plan for those years while still in high school. Choosing to have a career during singleness is a wise decision, but it is also important to keep in mind that if God changes our course and we marry and have children, the career may need to be laid aside. For people like me who are looking at a lifetime of singleness, I’m glad that I decided early on to be content in pursuing a job that I could love.

While I was in high school I took a career test from Crown Financial Ministries, called Career Direct. This was very helpful in determining the kind of job I would enjoy. Based on the answers I gave it determined the kind of work environment I should have and also the areas I had weakness and strengths. Although I wanted it to tell me that “Amy, you should be a __________” and the blank would have the name of a profession, it was more of a road map to what kind of job I would find rewarding. Several different jobs fit into the categories where I have strengths. For instance, it told me that I’m a very detail-oriented person, and that I would be better at working with details than with people.  I would highly recommend that every high school student take the Career Direct assessment. You may get more information at

Most homeschoolers have a deep love of learning. We should continue to expand this after completing school, and we will always be growing. We should also make goals for the future, both spiritual and physical. Where do we want to be in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years? What are some practical steps that we can take to accomplish those goals? A Bible study I went through several years ago that really encouraged me in this area was A Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George.

In closing, I would like to say that God is in control of our future, and He has plans for us. Bathe every decision in prayer and ask Him to show you what He wants you to do. God has created every one of us with a unique assortment of gifts that He wants us to use for His glory.

About the Author: Amy Puetz (pronounced Pitts) is a homeschool graduate, a self-taught historian, and a servant of Jesus Christ. She is the author of Uncover Exciting History and Countdown to Christmas. History has been a passion for her since childhood. Years of in-depth study (both in modern and old sources) have equipped her to write history related books. She especially loves to dig for little-know stories that show God’s providential hand. Because of a chronic illness (fibromyalgia) that limits what she can do, the Lord led her to start an online business which she can do from home. She is the author of several e-books. In her spare time she enjoys sewing and reading. She also publishes a bimonthly e-zine for ladies of all ages called, Heroines of the Past E-zine. Visit her website at to see many resources relating to history.