Greetings from snowy Muskoka!

My name is Jackie and I have the privilege of being the Area 11 rep for OCHEC. We have five children ages 14 – 4 (4 boys and 1 girl) and have homeschooled them from the time they were born. Our initial plan was to homeschool the JK/ SK years and then start our kids in the local Christian school. However, as I researched the different educational options for our then school-aged son (nearest public school, Waldorf, nearest Christian school, and interviewing homeschooling moms), I became more intrigued and drawn to homeschooling as a more permanent educational choice. After I interviewed several friends that were homeschooling and then read The Well Trained Mind, I was convinced that homeschooling was the best option for our family.

Our initial decision to homeschool was based on: wanting to protect our children from being bullied at school, as both my husband and I had been, having the freedom to keep to the schedule that worked for our family and not need to interrupt nap times or family life to pick up a sibling from school, loving to watch my son (and other children as they came and grew) learn and discover a love for learning, and finally cherishing the opportunity to lay a solid biblical foundation and love for Jesus in our children’s hearts.

We have started homeschooling our first high schooler this year and are doing JK again for the fifth time. I must admit that I love these early years. Watching my youngest son start to grasp phonics and numbers and beginning to print, I have as much joy as when my oldest son started his educational journey. Now that we have begun to navigate the high school years, I’m learning that I’m becoming more of a manager and less of a teacher to my oldest. It’s a new season of growing and learning for both of us, but rich with leaning on the Lord and seeking His wisdom.

While I was initially a bit concerned about homeschooling high school, I now see that this is a season of intentionally equipping our oldest (and eventually our other children) for adulthood. The academics are a means to learning time-management, how to study effectively, taking initiative to look ahead and plan well, and a host of other life skills. I’ve always told new homeschoolers that we use the academic part of our day as one tool in the discipleship of our children. I’m seeing again how that plays out in our first high school year. Yes, the academics are getting done, but our son is learning so much more. As his mom, I’m also seeing areas that I’ve forgotten to teach and nurture as well as recognizing new opportunities to help him develop new skills.

When we moved to Muskoka from Burlington 5 ½ years ago, I had hoped to find a Christian homeschool group similar to the one I had left behind. Shortly after getting settled, I discovered there wasn’t a Christian group at all! I decided a year after moving up to start a group of my own. Our family was craving connections and I had so enjoyed many sweet connections with our Burlington group.

Muskoka and Parry Sound are fascinating parts of our province. Due to the geography of our area, you need to be prepared to drive at least 15 – 30 minutes to get anywhere since there is the Canadian Shield and lakes and rivers in the way of a direct route. Unless you live directly in town, connecting with others requires a commitment to drive more than you’re used to in the city. I knew there were Christian homeschoolers up here (almost each person I met in our church when we first moved was a homeschooler), but I didn’t know where they were all located.

The first year, I ran a support group and we averaged about 3 – 4 women each month. The second year the number doubled. Last year, I asked 3 other moms to join me in running the group. We added in bi-monthly activities along with a monthly support group and our numbers exploded. We had around 80 people at our Christmas event last year! This year we are running a monthly mom’s support group and a monthly activity for the kids. This month (November) an artist mom in our group is teaching the kids how to create wooden Scripture art. Next month (December) we will enjoy a sleigh ride at a local horse farm run by a couple in our church. Our winter and spring schedule includes: tubing at MBC, singing at a local senior’s home and then skating and sledding, a board game afternoon, hiking, going to a local camp for an afternoon of activities, and a year-end celebration at a local park. Our group is open to new families and welcomes all who would like to join us.

For the first time this year, we put together a statement of faith and a policies and procedures document due to our group’s growth. Even with four leaders, we now don’t necessarily know everyone in our group. We want to ensure that while all are welcome to participate in our events and meetings, that people are aware of our Biblical worldview and expectations. It was challenging to put the documents together as well as challenging on how to present them lovingly. We had some bumps to start, but our group was very gracious and accepted the new documents well and with understanding.

The majority of our group has children in the early to middle elementary years. There are a handful of high schooling families, however many seem to opt to send their children to high school after grade 8. We have had an influx of young families just beginning their homeschooling journey this year and it’s so exciting to see another generation be excited about home education and the opportunities for discipleship.

I am so thankful and thoroughly love the time I get to spend with the women and their families. They are a sweet, sweet group. Connections are happening, which has been my greatest hope and prayer for this group. Seasoned moms have opportunities to come alongside new moms, friends connect and encourage one another, children form friendships and learn to navigate good times and conflict, moms know they have other moms to go to for prayer, suggestions, and a listening ear. If you ever move up to the Muskoka – Parry Sound area, Muskoka Christian Homeschoolers will welcome you and we trust you will find yourself at home with us.

Written by Jackie Weidelich

You can contact Jackie by emailing her at area_11@ochec.org