Ruthie Delk never planned on teaching at home. In fact, as a college student majoring in special education, she wrote a research paper about the perils of homeschooling. Today, she even calls herself an “accidental homeschooler.”
You could also call Ruthie an experimental homeschooler. Through trial and error, she grew to realize that homeschooling is a process, one where mistakes will be made. The learning curve, she found, requires many adjustments. Children, meanwhile, continually change and grow. As a result, parents do not need to be afraid of missteps because they will happen anyway. “You don’t have to get it right the first time,” Ruthie affirms.
Pure happenstance led her to homeschooling. After becoming a mother, she began reviewing education options and eventually landed on homeschooling. With the thinking that “a year is not going to do irreparable damage to [me or my] child,” she gave it a try. By year three, Ruthie acknowledged that homeschooling was working for her family.
Without instant gratification, a process began to unfold. Encompassing three children, that process included grading herself as a parent-teacher, learning from poor curriculum choices and not becoming discouraged, continuing to evolve, creating a vision for homeschooling, overcoming the fear of not doing enough, and seeking assistance.
She especially learned to not try to do too much. “You can’t believe that you’re not doing enough or that you’re not as good as others,” Ruthie comments. “There are holes in any method. You need to simply teach kids the skills to learn. Then they can learn at any point in the life. You can’t be fearful that your child will miss something and somehow be left behind. When ‘car-schooling’ replaces homeschooling, I think we’ve lost the vision.
“It was always overwhelming at the beginning of a year. Without a community of homeschooling friends and their guidance and support, I don’t think I ever would have stayed the course.”
Now, 16 years after her start, Ruthie offers aid and encouragement to others. As a teacher outside the home, she directs two Orlando-area Classical Conversations, a network of homeschool communities providing classical Christian academic programs, events and services, where parents learn right along with children. Though she doesn’t consider herself an expert, she’ll offer advice to anyone who asks.
Having homeschooled her eldest son (now a college sophomore) until ninth grade, a daughter currently a high school senior and dual-enrolled in community college, and a ninth-grade son, Ruthie has made her way. She wouldn’t want you to call her a hero, but she has set an example of what can be achieved if you only set your mind to it.
“Everyone can learn how to do anything,” she says, as if looking in the mirror.