By Dinah Whitton
Going through a divorce is never easy, but when your homeschool gets mixed up in the process everything changes.
Sandra* and her husband started their home education journey like many others. Naturally as parents of young children providing the best possible education for them was important. The topic of homeschooling came up during a prenatal visit with her doula. Sandra’s curiosity was piqued when she learned that she was homeschooling 7 children. As a former teaching assistant, Sandra was all too familiar with the challenges of the education system so she spoke with her husband about it. When their oldest child was 2 years old they attended a local homeschool conference; and, by the end of the day they were both on board with home education. They continued to attend conferences together and gradually implemented what they were learning.
A crisis can happen unexpectedly
Despite their success with homeschooling, there was a larger issue that had been brewing for years. Since Sandra grew up in an abusive home, it was difficult for her to admit the severity of the abuse in her own marriage. When she was pregnant with their third daughter, Sandra courageously asked her husband to seek counselling. Unfortunately he was not interested in counselling and the abuse became worse. By the time their baby was 6 months old, Sandra found a safe place to live through the help of supportive friends. But that was only the beginning.
Sandra was served with separation and divorce papers on Christmas Eve with an emergency motion for sole custody to be awarded to her husband. Although their previous parenting choices were mutual, everything they agreed upon was under attack…including homeschooling. After 5 weeks living away from home, Sandra received legal assistance and eventually they were able to move back home without her husband. There were a number of tumultuous weeks and months that included the police and consistent correspondence with their lawyers. Sandra said she took a leap of faith when mediation was suggested by legal professionals rather than the uncertainty of going to court. For over one year they met with a mediator and their lawyers for two hours for 2-3 days per week for 13 months. Needless to say this process was exhausting physically and emotionally.
Thankful to be an HSLDA member
Throughout this process HSLDA’s legal counsel and the Member services team continued to advise Sandra concerning the homeschooling challenges. Sandra believes her husband understood that homeschooling their children was more important than fighting over their joint property. As a current member of HSLDA Sandra also had an experienced team she could rely on to provide the advice and support she needed. Although the mediation lasted nearly two years, their parenting plan now includes an agreement to homeschool until postsecondary (or based on what the children decide). Some of the conditions include sending report cards, daily planners and quarterly parent conference calls as needed.
Today the family has settled into their new life despite the turmoil over the past years. The girls understand that their parents live in separate homes, but their love for them remains strong. Their daughters are fully enjoying their homeschool life; and, they even enjoyed having their dad cheer them on at a recent homeschool cross country meet.
Everyone needs to be prepared
In addition to having a strong community of friends and family, Sandra was fortunate to be a member of HSLDA before experiencing major challenges. Early intervention is always an essential part of homeschooling because you never know when or how fast you’ll need help. Life is filled with triumphs and challenges, but don’t wait until a crisis surfaces to seek help. Current HSLDA members have the benefit of accessing legal advice and the resources they need when they need it. If you’re already a member you can relax knowing there’s an expert team on your side. Share this story with non-members so they can also enjoy the peace of mind your family has.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity and privacy of all individuals involved.