When Michelle Dean watched her oldest child, Jacob, walk the aisle at the FPEA Statewide Graduation Ceremony in May 2011, it brought tears to her eyes. This makes perfect sense — after all, what mother wouldn’t cry watching her firstborn graduate from high school? But Michelle’s tears came not so much from the typical “My baby is growing up” thoughts as from another deep-seated realization.
“I knew that this season in Jacob’s life was done and there were no do-overs,” says the Tallahassee resident. Since Michelle also has a 15-year-old, 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, her desire to seize the moment in her children’s lives is well timed. That sense of urgency helps drive her passion for home education.
Legally speaking, Michelle has been homeschooling for 13 years — that is, ever since Jacob started “official” schooling. But she offers her own clarification: “Since I believe that homeschooling is a lifestyle, I would say it has been 18 years.” Michelle further identifies her motivation for homeschooling as coming from her Creator. “God trusted parents, and so all responsibility for their children falls to them, not to the government nor the church,” she states. ‘To whom much is given much is required,’ says Scripture. Or to put it this way: Parents are trusted by God with children, therefore they can and must take responsibility for them in all areas of life.”
Lest you think Michelle has it all figured out, though, consider how she started homeschooling. “I dove in,” she explains. “No, I did not know exactly what I was doing, but I did it anyway. Isn’t that just like parenting? If we waited until we were secure or knew the answers, humanity would be extinct.” Michelle makes that last observation with a smile, but the challenge of balancing homeschooling and home management are no laughing matter. “Learning how to incorporate laundry, groceries, changing diapers, keeping our checking account in the black, serving our community and the academics into a lifestyle is a struggle,” she acknowledges.
Along with local homeschool groups like Tallahassee Christian Homeschoolers Forum and Tallahassee Homeschool Group, Michelle has turned to the FPEA for help on the journey. “I have loved that the FPEA keeps me abreast of the legislative and legal challenges we need to know,” she declares. “There is no way we can know all things at all times that are going on. The FPEA channels that knowledge and keeps us abreast of things like that.” With her proximity to the state capital, she also identifies the partnership between the FPEA and the Home Education Foundation as a plus. “Working with [lobbyist] Brenda Dickinson and HEF is a perfect unity,” Michelle says. “We all win!”