An Interview with Natalie and Petra
When Petra and Natalie take a break from their extraordinary feats of academics and service, they can be found laughing over their pie-baking, entertaining the dishwashers with their violins or color-coordinating their outfits for the next concert or speech. The last time they got together, they and their friends treated our assembled guests to a hilarious double-concerto, in which two musicians each played the same instrument at the same time, one fingering, one bowing; one fingering, one blowing…
They agreed to share some of their secrets of becoming real grown-ups:
Mother-Lode: What are your family’s goals in homeschooling you through high school?
Natalie: To understand my faith so that I can stand firm in it. To reason well. To develop the skills needed to change my world. To pursue excellence in academics. These four things, though they seem easy enough, demand every waking hour. Around my house we work, think, read, and discuss all day long in order to accomplish them.
Petra: In our family, the key ideas are: scholarship, stewardship and service. We work with an eye toward being good stewards of the gifts God has given us. That means pursuing the highest education I am capable of absorbing. We also work to connect our studies to real life as we go along. For instance, I applied my study of the Constitution by becoming a Teen Court Attorney and working in real court sentencing hearings to restore troubled teens to the community.
Mother-Lode: What projects in your high school career have seized your imagination?
Natalie: I know it sounds far-fetched, but really, everything I do seizes my imagination. My parents instilled in me a love of learning. Whether I’m at an orchestra rehearsal, giving a speech, or studying Advanced Placement Biology, I am fascinated.
Petra: Like Natalie, I like to take every opportunity and give it my full attention; I work hard at enjoying all the studies and projects God has put before me. I don’t know what work God has prepared for me and I don’t have time to waste, in the future I will need everything God is preparing me with now.
But specifically, the most important project so far has been my involvement in speech and debate. It has prepared me for communication with my peers and elders on a daily basis. If you want to be successful it is necessary to communicate well. A rephrasing of a quote from the movie The Emperors Men puts it in perspective “If you can not say what you mean then you can not mean what you say and everyone should always mean what they say.”
Mother-Lode: What ambitions do you have beyond high school and what has most shaped those ambitions?
Petra: I intend on pursuing an advanced degree so that if/when there are things I need to do/say in the public arena I will be credible in the eyes of the secular world. While I do not need the affirmation of the secular world, I can not minister unto them unless they can hear me. In addition, a degree will give me the background to help my husband in his endeavors and to educate my children well, while allowing me the freedom to work at home, in businesses of my own design. In line with the principles of my family’s homeschool, my two main aspirations are to exercise dominion as I serve in motherhood and politics. (Emphasis on motherhood)
Natalie: My short-term aspirations are to continue honing my public speaking skills through both live presentations and radio broadcasts. The goals of these presentations being to excite a love of learning, challenge opinions, and defy apathy.
My long-term aspirations are to pursue higher education and have a short career before settling down to raise a family. I plan to continue a lifelong pursuit of reading, learning, playing the violin, being involved in politics, and impacting my community.
Mother-Lode: What difficulties have been important for you to overcome in your school career?
Petra: Like many families we are not rich. My parents have become experts at stretching the budget. My mother has devoted her talents and income to making sure we have the educational opportunities we need. But an environment of scarcity has taught us to be creative, industrious and resourceful.
When my aunt and uncle offered to take me with them for a three month tour of Europe, there was no money in the family budget for such a thing. So my sister and I marketed the pre-school music curriculum developed by my mother, to a local Montessori school. God prospered the four-week music camp we taught there, and I had money for Europe! Now, in our third year teaching there, we have financed all sorts of extras from traveling to speech tournaments to taking music lessons.
Natalie: My family lives out in the middle of nowhere. This limits the number of outside activities in which we can participate. This made my parents very nervous! They knew that homeschooling was the right thing to do, but didn’t want us to have gaping holes in our education. But this weakness was turned into strength.
When I was five Mom started as speech club for all of the local homeschoolers. We moved to Colorado for a year when I was in the eighth grade and found a thriving speech and debate community. When we moved back home finances limited us from participating in debate. So Petra Anderson and I started the International Debate Society Network for myself and other rural homeschoolers.
Mom found resources for my brother and I to study advanced math on our own and college-level science with one or two online classes.
Living in the country has forced us to work hard, be original, creative, and independent. What we thought was a weakness has shaped us into who we are.
Mother-Lode: Do you plan to pursue higher education? Why or why not?
Natalie: I do plan to pursue higher education as an extension, if you will, of the skills being developed in our homeschool. College is a time of learning unlike any other. My mom sharpened her talents with a double-major, a minor, and a master’s degree. Without those skills, my brother and I wouldn’t be who we are today.
Currently I am planning on pursuing a bachelor’s degree and going on to get professional training as a physical therapist. This would allow me to work part time if need be, work on the missions field, and help people in my family in a practical way.
Petra: Like I said earlier, in order to communicate in the secular world often it is necessary to have a degree. As Christians we are called to restore the old waste places this means interacting with the secular world. Also, as a mother I will be better equipped to train my own children if I have a higher education, Mrs. Webb (Natalie’s mom) is a very good example of this.
Mother-Lode: Do you feel a tension between the careerism that pursuing a college degree usually implies, and your desire to be a wife and mother?
Natalie: No, I do not. I plan to get a degree that would allow for a very flexible, part-time job that would allow me to be a full-time wife and mother. I have reviewed many, many degree options and professional school programs to find training that allows for that kind of flexibility.
Petra: At the moment, no. I do see it could be a temptation in the future. But I am not so concerned about it affecting me, because of the closeness and support I get from the older women in my family, who have not pursued a career for the sake of a career. Also I have surrounded myself with friends who will keep me accountable to the goals we commonly share.
Mother-Lode: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to decide whether to homeschool in high school?
Petra: In high school, the choices you make, the friends you choose, and your relationship with your parents are all ground-shaking. Whatever precedents you set up in high school will follow you to college and to the rest of your life. Over-all the homeschool environment is a better place to find wholesome friends. It is much easier to have a close relationship with parents, who can guide you in crucial choices.
Natalie: High school is the time that you form the way you view the world. It is a time to learn and develop so that during the rest of life you are firmly grounded. Don’t get me wrong, homeschooling through high school isn’t easy. It takes lots of work both from parent and child. However, the rewards are worth it. They present themselves, not necessarily in the form of trophies and medals, but in an active mind and a heart eager to serve God and change the world.
Do you know any Real Grown-ups, who have not yet reached age 20? Tell us their story!