Homeschooled Through High School:
Explore Interests with Rebecca Ishum
Those of us who homeschool or who have been homeschooled through high school know that IT IS VERY Possible. But how? Many parents and students look towards high school with fear and trepidation instead of being joyous as to how far into the journey they have come. I realize that families homeschool for a multitude of reasons and that each family is unique, but questions still arise when the words high school are mentioned!
This week I would like to welcome Rebecca Ishum from A Beautiful Ruckus.
My mom was what many would consider, a pioneer homeschooler in our home state of New Mexico. Coming from a long line of excellent public school teachers, and with both of my parents having taught in the public school system as well, it was quite the move for her to decide to stay home and teach us.
I was homeschooled from kindergarten all the way through high school and graduated in our own private ceremony with a couple of friends. It was a huge commitment for my parents to make, especially since homeschooling was not a mainstream idea at the time that I started kindergarten. There were few resources or support groups, and not a lot of people with more homeschool experience to look up to.
By the time I reached high school, many more options had opened up to the homeschool c community, and it was beginning to be recognized as a legitimate educational option. As I progressed through my high school years, my mom continued to assign core classes, but also let me pursue my own interests outside of the basics.
One of my areas of interest was in Biblical leadership and government.
I was very blessed to have spent a lot of my free time during high school participating in an organization called TeenPact Leadership Schools. It is a leadership and government school that goes into state capitals and conducts one week intensive classes during the legislative session. With its incredible hands-on approach, it made learning, what is often very dry information, easy and fun! It also focuses on training young teenagers to be leaders at home, in the work place, and in government.
I started attending TeenPact classes when I was 13 years old. My mom saw the long-term educational value in it so she continued to sign me up once a year for the week-long intensive course. By the time I was 16 years old, I was actually one of the staff members who taught the class to teenagers who were often older than I was.
Talk about early lessons in leadership!
TeenPact does an amazing job of finding and pulling in alumni students who exhibit interest in leading. They put them in staff positions with adults who guide them and ask them to teach the topics of government and leadership themselves. It’s an excellent way to promote leadership by the students and exhibit student leadership to other students.
Once I started staffing, I most definitely caught the leadership bug and wanted to do more. I applied for additional staffing opportunities and found myself teaching government and leadership in New Mexico, Iowa, and Texas along with participating in some of TeenPact’s alumni events to further my knowledge of Biblically based leadership. I was still in high school, but was learning valuable lessons about stepping out of my comfort zone, speaking in front of others, and understanding how and why our government functions the way it does.
Just after I turned 17, my family moved away from our home in New Mexico and relocated to Kansas City, Missouri. I was not a fan of my new state. I didn’t know anyone, I was always cold, and there was no TeenPact in Missouri, yet. I felt completely alone.
I wanted TeenPact accessible to myself and other teenagers in my new state…but no one knew about it. So I called up the TeenPact office and said, “What do I have to do to get a TeenPact Missouri scheduled in my state?”
The list of requirements was staggering to a 17 year old: 100 interested families and $15,000 in donations, in addition to a few other things. I remember thinking that I didn’t know anyone and didn’t even know where to start, but I did know I had to have a TeenPact in Missouri, so finding what the office needed was non-negotiable to me. Besides, I had some skills I had already learned through TeenPact that I could put to good use!
I told my parents what I was going to do, and they supported me 100%. I started getting up early and beginning my schoolwork by 6am. My goal was to finish all of my classes by mid-afternoon and then spend the rest of the day working on bringing the organization here. My parents kindly let me tie up their house phone for hours on end as I networked and made countless calls to parents across the state in an effort to find my interested families. They let me have the car to drive to local homeschooling get-togethers and organizations for presentations. My parents even went so far as to pay me for extra chores to fund the alumni classes I wanted to go to on the East coast.
I look back now and realize that I wasn’t even aware of the sacrifice my parents made to allow me to pursue what was most important to me at the time. Mom, Dad…thank you.
The biggest gift my parents gave me in high school, was allowing me to explore my interests and encourage me to keep going when the journey got a bit hard. They told me that if I wanted TeenPact in Missouri, then I could find the things I needed to make it happen.
Through several God-appointed connections with local leaders and moms in Missouri, less than a year later, TeenPact opened in the state to the highest, first-time class numbers on record up to that point. It’s only grown from there. Now, ten years later, it’s still thriving and has expanded to more states.
As for me, I was on the staff team in Missouri for two years before I stepped away at the age of 19. I was headed to college, and understood the organization enough to realize that the most effective staff at the events would be those who were high school leaders. Instead, I went to college, interned with a state senate campaign, and ultimately found my way to a degree in English.
Now that I’m a “grown-up,” I don’t participate in government anymore beyond making sure that I still vote. My direction in life took an abrupt turn when my husband and I found out that we were expecting quadruplets. I’m a stay-at-home mom to four almost-two-year-old toddlers and find that although my free time is much more limited, I can still put some of those excellent leadership lessons I learned into practice today. I’m a freelance writer and blogger that now takes an active role in the multiples scene, hoping to guide, encourage, and listen to moms as they struggle to find their footing in a crazy family situation like mine.
I didn’t know that God was preparing me for a role like the one I am in now, but He did so in an amazing way! I honestly believe that the flexibility of being homeschooled allowed me to experience things that have had a profound impact on who I am. I’m so grateful that my parents encouraged and allowed me to pursue my dreams in high school so that as a mother, I would have the foundation, courage, and experience to keep going, even when it gets a little bit rough.
If there is any advice that I could give to parents of high school homeschoolers, it’s to allow your children to blossom in the areas of their interest. Let your teenagers explore interests that excite them and encourage them to stretch their wings. Homeschooling in high school is perfect for customizing an educational experience tailored to your child’s gifts.
If you would like more information about TeenPact Leadership Schools and how participating can count towards government high school credit, please visit www.teenpact.com. Click through to your state for information on when the next class is held in your area, or call 1-800-343-1776 to talk to someone who can answer your questions.
Rebecca Ishum is a 2002 homeschool graduate. She went on to graduate from college with a degree in English Writing and a minor in Dance. Rebecca, and her husband Sean, live in Kansas City and are the proud parents of two year old boy/girl/boy/girl quadruplets. Now a stay-at-home mom, she enjoys freelance writing and blogging about raising their quadruplets at www.abeautifulruckus.com.
Haven’t read other posts in the Homeschooled through High School Series? Catch some more below: