SPOTLIGHT: Donna Burtnett

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Age: 50

Kids: Two sons (one in college, one senior), one adopted daughter from China (5 yrs old)

Job(s): pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom

Contact: hopeingrace@gmail.com

 

Why did you choose to homeschool your boys through high school?

Seeing how much my sons could get done in a short amount of time and seeing how much I enjoyed having them home made us continue with homeschooling. Each year we prayed, asking God what was the best choice for our children. We never went back…homeschooling stuck. My sons excelled in their lessons, they were a joy to have around, and we enjoyed our homeschool community.  

What resources aided in that?

First and foremost the resource that benefitted us the most was being in a community of homeschoolers. I found this community to some degree in my church, but ultimately it was through a local Christian homeschool support group. I found like-minded friends, people to co-op with, activities for my children, and mentor/prayer partners for me. 

Second, in our high school years my sons were enrolled in Biola Youth Academics online classes for their English and Social Science. These classes helped them learn how to “think” with a Christian lens. Their writing and ability to discuss difficult topics with their peers was challenges.

We utilized co-ops for science classes, elementary physics education, and in late elementary we had a writing co-op. Co-ops not only provided my sons with being able to learn various subjects, they also provided accountability for myself as their teacher. Furthermore, my sons made wonderful friendships.

What are some new challenges to starting over with your daughter Eliana?

One, I have been seeking God to help me with the desire and joy to continue on for another 13 years! There is a part of me that feels overwhelmed with the prospect of starting at the beginning again. Just when you think you finish a task, it can feel discouraging to find out you have to start again. 

Second, there is just Eliana…one student. With the boys I could pair them up for lessons, etc. So I have to rethink how I will teach some things. 

Third, Eliana is very different than the boys. So I am seeking to understand her needs and learning style and adapt accordingly. I have already changed some of the curriculum to meet her needs. I am still seeking to keep her education God-centered (like with the boys). School is not just about gaining knowledge, but becoming the person God intends you to be through the knowledge you gain.

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In what ways do you use your creativity in your schooling/parenting?

We are creative beings and I believe we respond best through creativity. The best way to reach our children is to understand they are creative. Did I fail at this sometimes? Yes! Sometimes I was more concerned about checking off the next box. But when I stepped back and sought to make things memorable for my children, inevitably creativity would flow. I think it’s more memorable and creative to, say, create a Lego battlefield, for others it would be painting a picture, for others it would be acting it out, or writing a story. 

Any encouragement for other homeschooling mamas out there?

If you feel God has called you to homeschool, then He has already enabled you to do so. God has given you the children that you have and has uniquely gifted you to give them what they need. I am not always patient, understanding, super organized, a great planner, nor super smart in all areas of schooling. But I am a willing servant who loves her children and trusts God will provide exactly what I need to homeschool. And I have seen just that.

Also we don’t need to try to duplicate public school. Our children can have the joy of being children and discovering the amazing world around them at the same time as being challenged.

Allow time for your children to be children. Don’t overlook their time (and yours) thinking you must provide every possible experience you can for them. Your children need time to be bored. Time to invest in their own interests. If you ask my sons what was memorable about their homeschooling, they don’t say the piano recitals, the exciting field trips, the cool classes…They’ll tell you about the books we read and the things we studied at home that were of interest to them.

Lastly, trust God to provide. We live in a world where we feel like we must have it all figured out. We need to pray, seek, and wait for God to answer.

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