National Homeschool Vacation offers encouragement, networking and resources

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)--Wendy Echols hates the sound of chickens.

For this rural north Georgia mother of seven, chickens are a painful reminder of an experience three years ago when she almost died. Stretched out in bed in the dark and trying not to wake her husband, the sound of chickens clucking outside at 3 a.m. would send a daily, ugly reminder to Echols -- another night and no sleep. The clay pot that her body represented was breaking under a terrible strain.

Echols always thought of herself as a woman capable of doing anything and everything. She birthed seven babies; homeschooled all of them by herself, assisted her husband Tim in his national ministry, stayed active in their church and gave a hand to friends and family in need.

But shortly after the birth of her seventh child in 2000, Echols had a nagging feeling, "a whisper," she calls it, that something wasn't right. Nothing had changed -- she was keeping the same schedule she always had, plus taking care of a friend's two children whose husband was dying of cancer. But she began experiencing heart palpitations, dizziness and fainting spells. Her weight began to drop and she couldn't sleep. Irritability and edginess followed.

"After a few months, I realized that this homeschool thing was getting harder," said Echols, speaking to a small group of women during a workshop she led at this year's National Homeschool Vacation held Aug. 11-14 at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico and sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. "My joy was beginning to drain. But my solution was to get up earlier and work harder. I didn't recognize that I was experiencing classic signs of burnout."

When the week before Christmas of 2000 arrived, Echols found herself crawling on her hands and knees to the bathroom. Sitting down to take her shower, unable to raise her hands to wash her hair, it still didn't occur to her that something physical might be wrong.

It's an experience that three years later the Echolses don't mind sharing with other homeschool families like the ones who attend the annual National Home School Vacation. The weeklong conference, offered at both LifeWay's conference center locations in Glorieta, N.M., and Ridgecrest, N.C., provides homeschooling families the chance to meet each other, share tips and resources, and learn from top homeschool educators and speakers. Perhaps most important, families come away with renewed encouragement and motivation to tackle another year.

Zan Tyler, who served as emcee for the week, is a homeschooling mother for 20 years, editor of the homeschool channel for LifeWay.com and a consultant with the Southern Baptist entity's Broadman & Holman trade books division.

"As Christians, we've allowed ourselves to become almost blind to the point of seeing the way secular culture sees instead of with 20/20 biblical vision," said Tyler, adding that academia and life are at a crossroad. "The Word of God is rarely brought to bear [within our culture]. With homeschool, you have that teaching aid that is more powerful than a Ph.D."

Incorporating biblical truth and a Christian worldview into every subject is key if children are to learn a Christian worldview, Tyler said. Homeschooling offers an open venue to accomplish just that.

Her son, John, 22, said being homeschooled supplied a strong foundation for his worldview.

"In my desire to disciple younger guys, they may ask me what I think about an issue," John said. "I say, let's go to the Scripture. I think that's a key identifying factor, a litmus test, of whether you have a biblical worldview or not."

Echols, now almost four years later, has 80 percent of her energy back and is back homeschooling her children using a variety of different methods. She's learned to ask for help when she needs it.

The most important lesson she's learned?

"Don't be afraid to be a clay pot," she said. "We are physically limited -- and it's OK to say that."

But she still doesn't like the sound of chickens.


(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net Photo titles: FAMILY ON COURSE and TO THE RESCUE.

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