Meet Dustin and Dawn Pittman and family! We hope their story will encourage you as you homeschool your children in your own special way.
Tell us about the Pittman kids.
David (26) is a pilot in St. Croix and was adopted by us at the age of 16.
Madison (22) has lived all around the world and is a photographer in New York City.
Colton (19) owns his own music studio, teaches guitar, and is a college student living in KCK.
Carson (17) is a high school senior looking forward to a possible gap year serving in Uganda.
Isaac (14) is a freshman who loves running and was adopted by us at age 7.
Lilly (14) is a freshman and competitive cheerleader.
And last but not least, John (10) is a 3rd-grader and our newest family member (adopted 2 years ago).
Have you homeschooled the entire time?
Our oldest daughter attended public school for one year before we decided to homeschool. For 14 years thereafter, all of our children were homeschooled from the time of their birth or adoption into our family.
However, in the spring of 2017, one of our sons joined the public school as a 7th-grader.
This decision was made after much prayer as we sought to meet his academic needs in the midst of addressing personal needs arising from his early childhood trauma.
God began to prepare my heart for the possibility that our daughter of the same age would likely follow.
This was difficult for me as a homeschooling mother, because my desire and plan had been to homeschool through high school.
However, a year later our biological daughter joined her brother at the public school when they were both 8th-graders. God gave us peace that it was the right thing to do.
One year before our son joined the public school, we adopted our youngest son, John. John has physical disabilities and significant medical needs. God knew all of these things were coming, and He prepared our hearts as we adapted to these new challenges.
After two years, John’s physical needs stabilized, and we decided we needed to partner with the public school so that John could receive the specialized academic help he needed while also receiving some of the therapy he needs without additional cost to us.
While I never expected to stop homeschooling, God has guided us through these decisions as we have sought His will and His plans for each child and for our family as a whole. He is faithful, regardless of where our children attend school.
We are excited to have our daughter, Carson, still at home and graduating with MPE this May.
Why did you decide to homeschool?
We decided to homeschool in 2003, after our oldest daughter attended public school for one year.
While she had a great experience, that year gave me the confidence to know that I could easily teach her the same things she would learn at the public school, and spend a lot less time doing it.
We also wanted the flexibility to teach what our children were interested in, at their own pace, while emphasizing our Christian worldview.
We also desired for our family to have time together, and for our children to know one another well. We hoped to have a large family, and the idea of children being spread out in three different school buildings throughout the city did not appeal to us.
In what ways has adoption impacted your homeschool?
Adoption has brought richness to our family and homeschool that we would have missed had we not followed God’s call to adopt. However, it has also brought significant challenges and many changes to how (and if) we homeschool.
My older sons did not receive a quality education in Uganda, and our youngest had none. So, we had to find, and then fill in, significant gaps in their knowledge.
One of my sons was very challenged by the idea of mom being teacher, because just having a Mom was challenging enough.
Because of his early childhood trauma, I quickly learned our tried and true daily routine and methods for homeschooling would not work. It was difficult, at times, to give up what had always worked before and frustrating when I couldn’t find the right resources to meet his needs.
On the other hand, throughout our homeschooling years we have travelled to Uganda many times (everyone in our family has gone at least once) and we would not have done that without our adoptions.
Homeschooling allowed us to adjust our studies when needed, and for our entire family to go to Uganda for our final adoption.
My daughters, Carson and Lilly, even got to stay in Uganda with me for 3 months and experience the entire process for John’s homecoming. They would not have been allowed that many absences, had they been attending the public school at the time.
How did you launch the Pittman kids well?
It is important to me to teach my children independence, beginning at a young age.
By high school, we want them to be making the choices (as they are able) for their academic plans and to be responsible for meeting their goals.
We do begin high school with a four-year plan to prepare academically to attend college.
However, as our teens grow, they may choose a non-college path (such as internships or gap years), non-traditional college (such as online classes), or continuing their education through means such as a YWAM Discipleship Training School as our daughter has done.
One of our goals of homeschooling is to encourage our children to discover the passions God has placed in their hearts, and to follow those.
We often ask, “Can you make a living following that passion?”
So far, the answer for each of them has been “Yes!”
This has been fun to experience and watch, but also a bit challenging at times!
After all, when you do something that isn’t the “norm” or “comfortable” it requires faith. (Which, it turns out, is exactly what we wanted to teach.)
Biggest unexpected blessing from homeschooling?
We have been blessed in so many ways as a homeschooling family. The biggest unexpected blessing is probably how much I have enjoyed learning all of the great history and literature I was never taught, but thought I had been!
Three pieces of advice that you wish to pass on:
- Know why you are homeschooling. Write down your reasons and keep them close. These reasons will be your guide as you make many decisions such as what curriculum to use, which outside activities and classes, if any, you should participate in, and, many other decisions to come. Most importantly, they will be exactly what you need to read on those hard days when you think “Why am I doing this???”
- If your children are 3rd grade and under, take a deep breath. You do NOT need to buy curriculum. I really mean this! Take your time and get to know your children’s interests and learning styles, your style of teaching, develop a daily routine, and be sure you have finished suggestion #1. Then read a bunch to your kids. Take walks. Discuss what you see and find. I encourage you to read books by homeschooling pioneers like Mary Hood and Diana Waring. They will help you take that deep breath! You have plenty of time for formal academics. You don’t have to have every subject figured out for your little ones the first year you homeschool.
- Attend the MPE conference and go to the workshops! I have learned such valuable information, as a homeschooler, wife, and mother, from the wonderful speakers. Also, be sure you find other homeschoolers and get together with them. You don’t need to join a large co-op if that doesn’t fit your family. Your style might be better suited to a “support group” of one other mom with children near the ages of yours. Regardless, don’t try to do this alone.
Thanks so much, Dustin and Dawn Pittman!
About this series, Faces of Homeschooling…
You have heard them before – the stereotypes that some people believe about homeschoolers.
You know, like when people think that all homeschooling mothers wear homemade denim jumpers or that all homeschooled kids are shy, socially awkward geniuses who are not ready for the world. Maybe you have even heard people say that all homeschoolers are conservative Christians and that we all think alike.
As fellow homeschoolers, we know that these stereotypes do not represent reality. We also know that there is plenty of diversity within the homeschooling community, not only in demographics but also in why and how we homeschool.
In short, homeschoolers do not all look the same, think the same, and act the same.
At MPE, we want to highlight these differences by introducing you to some local families enjoying their unique journey of home education.
We hope these interviews will encourage you as you homeschool your children in your own special way!
Related article: Jason and Emily Cowden: Faces of Homeschooling (Part 1)