So began the journey of home school. After the first few weeks, we stopped peeking through the curtains when a car drove into the cul-de-sac unexpectedly, thinking it might be more officials. We established morning chore routines, shared devotions daily (among many sidetracks and interruptions), assessed grade levels among the children, and began the adventure of home education. On Tuesdays and Fridays, we joined the Hastings family in cooperative ventures. In our research, we discovered that the more experiences a young child has, the easier it is for them to “hang” new information on the “coat hook” of knowledge.
We began Friday Field Trips. We toured the post office, grocery store, local airport, and cheese, potato chip, and bread factories (oh, the homey fragrance of fresh bread!). We visited pioneer and art museums, regional historical sites, and the space museum where we watched an IMAX of space travel. We traveled to Cheyenne Bottoms and viewed a private Indian “intalio” carved into a hill on a farm. And the list goes on.
The culmination was a trip to the state capitol in Topeka and the Kansas History museum while staying at the Holiday Inn with a pool and games. The children had done odd jobs for months to help support the cost of the trip. The only glitch in the plan was Carol’s unexpected severe ankle sprain as she turned her foot coming out of the capitol building. Spending four hours in the ER with five wiggly young’uns wasn’t on the agenda, but we finished our itinerary with Carol on crutches and armed with painkillers.
Since we had heard nothing from the authorities, we were lulled into a sense of safety. I had something else to think about – I was pregnant (unexpectedly, of course) with child #6! In addition to more housework (because we were always home), unending loads of laundry, daily math, English, science, social studies with sprinkles of art, music, and PE, I now added fatigue and nausea. While wrestling through this life-changing situation, I went from shock to amazement to sorrow to being completely overwhelmed. The tears weren’t self-pity but incapacity! How was I going to manage? I have always valued the sanctity of life — I just couldn’t cope with the timing! Therefore, my eyes leaked a lot, and I must have looked a bit demented as I continuously mumbled prayers under my breath..
On December 5 during my second month of pregnancy, my house was a mess, there were no plans written in the lesson plan book, school was late getting started, the kids looked unkempt, and the doorbell rang. There stood the sharply suited assistant district attorney with the feminist principal of the girls’ former elementary school for a surprise home visit! They informed me that the court would proceed with truancy charges against us because the Kansas State Supreme Court had ruled against the Sawyer family’s home school. If those parents did not put their children in another school, the state would put them in foster care.
Part of the court’s investigation of us involved home visits (some announced, some not) from two school principals, a school psychologist, a speech therapist (for Amy), and the head of the education department of Bethel College in Newton, Kansas. This dragged on from December through Spring. Our court case was scheduled for April 6, 1984. Our attorney met with us a number of times, assuring us that God was in control. He said that any time someone raises his head above the crowd, rocks will be thrown, or at least pebbles. One example was close to home. Our children found that their former neighborhood friends were less friendly, telling our kids that they were breaking the law.
On the Friday before our court date, Mr. Peckham met with Judge Sam Sturm and the prosecuting attorney to lay out their strategy. Back home, our two families were gathered for a group day. Mr. Peckham visited us before the meeting and promised to return afterward to tell us the outcome. During that session, the judge looked over the arguments and declared that if we proceeded to go to court on Monday, he would rule in favor of the school!
What a celebration was held at 11 Anderson Court when he returned – shouting, thanksgiving, and singing! We had a Victory March around the house. We are ever grateful to Dick Peckham for his godly leadership and integrity, going so far as to charge us only half his usual fee because he believed that God was in our decision. Shortly after, the judge retired, and we declared Judge Sturm Day at Light of Life Christian Academy. The children chose a menu of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut in geometric shapes, with cookies, fruit, and iced Koolaid. They made a banner with the declaration of the day and gave this fine man a tour of our basement classroom with bright rust carpet and primary yellow and green cabinets and cupboards, designed by Dad with education in mind. They showed their best projects. The judge declared that this was the highlight of his career.
Carol continued to home school another six years, and I continued until early January of 1998 when the Lord moved me into a Christian high school and the youngest two came with me. just as Joshua and Caleb had brought a good report and urged the Israelites to face those giants with God’s help and move into Canaan, we two ordinary families, called by God to pioneer homeschooling in a hostile environment, watched God defeat the giants in the land and give us possession.
Read Numbers 13 – 14 for the whole story.
Part III to follow