Ontario Homeschooling graduates - Kiezebrink Family

By Sharon Beattie

Warmth and kindness exude from both Henry and Corrinna Kiezebrink. Their eyes dance as they regale me with stories of their children’s growing up years, reminiscing with deep fondness for those days. 

Many of us begin homeschooling tentatively — unsure of how it will go or how long we’ll continue with it. But no one ever begins this journey expecting to homeschool for 35 years! In 1989, the Kiezebrinks made the decision after having looked into other options, such as Timothy Christian School. They don’t know how they could have been involved with their 12 children’s school activities had they enrolled them in Timothy. Corrinna says, 

“We wanted a godly education – we knew Timothy [because] we had both gone there. [Then] we met a family that had been homeschooling their kids for years and we noticed their kids were polite, well-behaved, well-spoken, and godly, so we chose it. We didn’t know a lot about it when we started.”

Of course, to think of homeschooling 12 children, as they did, seems overwhelming, but, as Corrinna says, they began with one child and it grew from there as they had more children. They eased their way in, creating important routines and establishing priorities for their family.

Homeschooling was still relatively new when they started and they soon became homeschool pioneers — not only the first of their family to start homeschooling, but one of the first couples to connect other homeschooling families in the Barrie, Ontario area.

The Parents Guide conference was already established in Stayner at the time, and Corrinna was asked to join the committee which she soon co-led with another mom. 

The SCHIL (Simcoe County Homeschool Information Link) Newsletter was established by Henry and Corrinna in order to connect homeschooling families and communicate with one another. It had begun as a phone tree which was kept rather secretive because many people were suspicious of homeschooling at that time. Once the phone tree grew to 70 people, they felt it would work much better to develop a newsletter, originally called the Huronia Home Newsletter. 

With characteristic humility, the couple relays to me how honoured they were to have been the caretakers of SCHIL through the years. They value the relationships, contacts, and friends they have gained in every province through this work.

Corrinna’s heart, now that she’s finished homeschooling her own children, is to mentor others in the homeschooling community. As you might imagine, Corrinna and Henry are brimming with much wisdom and advice for the homeschool community:

  • Be organized — ensure each child has their own daily schedule;
  • Have a consistent schedule — eg. morning academics, afternoon family time;
  • Teach in the style that suits you and adapt as necessary;
  • Know your weakness as a parent — seek help, like tutoring; 
  • Go to homeschool conferences — talk to vendors, seminar leaders, ask questions;
  • Ease into homeschooling before buying all the books — don’t just jump into it; do a subject or two or a “family subject”;
  • If you’re pulling your kids out of school, take six months to establish new routines and get to know your kids;
  • Know that homeschooling is a lifestyle change not a school-at-home job.  

Of course, wisdom grows slowly and is often hard-earned over a long period of time. The couple, laughing, tell me a phrase often quoted in their home, “School’s not always fun, but it needs to get done.” Their laughter is a testament to their light-hearted humour and their gentle insistence that has enabled them to successfully continue even in challenges. Corrinna tells of her younger sister’s encouragement who, through Corrinna’s example, had decided to homeschool her own children. “She lit a fire under me by introducing me to new ideas. It helped me keep going and not feel so tired.”

At the height of busyness in their homeschool, Corrinna was teaching eight kids at once. With copious planning to complete each evening, she was having to stay up very late every night, so after work each day, Henry took over the housework. He offers sage encouragement to other dads: “You must be willing to help around the house.” Eventually, when the kids were old enough, they took over much of the housework, helping to alleviate Corrinna’s heavy load.

When the youngest Kiezebrink completed his studies earlier this year, the children planned a celebration in honour of Corrinna where they presented her with a Certificate of Retirement they had created, as well as certificates congratulating her from the Ontario Premier, their local MP, and the Mayor.

Although now retired from homeschooling, the Kiezebrinks are still busy with their 12 kids, 10 of whom are married, the two youngest still at home, and 20 grandkids — so far! Both Corrinna and Henry are deeply thankful to God for the strength and grace to nurture and instruct their family over the years. And the kids are obviously all very thankful, too. 

Kiezebrink family