MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 27, 2008

Family sings homeschool praises

By Cathy Spaulding

John and Patti Ashwood’s children had no problem getting to know all their classmates at Sovereign Grace Academy between Fort Gibson and Norwood.

The six children — Caleb, Joshua, Hannah, Sam, Mercy and Sarah — were homeschooled by their parents, John and Patti Ashwood. A cousin, Carol Green, also was homeschooled.

They since have gone on to take college classes online. Carol and five of the Ashfords have been accepted into Phi Theta Kappa, the International Honor Society for two-year colleges. To join, a student must complete a minimum of twelve hours of associate degree course work and generally earn a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

John Ashwood, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church, said the family began homeschooling in 1983.

“We felt it would be a much stronger education, with a stronger moral base, he said. “My wife volunteered to teach Carol and the older kids.”

Patti Ashwood had taught junior high school and high school at Sallisaw before she got married.

John Ashwood said learning at home gave some of his kids an early start.

“Joshua was just a little shaver, started reading at 3 or 4 and learned to read by listening to the teaching,” he said.

In the 1980s, before the Internet and online learning, finding good homeschool curriculum was not easy, John Ashwood said.

“A lot of places would not sell material to us because we were not a school,” John Ashwood said. “So we set up a school and called our home school Sovereign Grace Academy. I was principal and my wife did all the secretarial work. We put in a lot of hours every day.”

The two parents shared teaching duties.“It was a 24 hours a day, seven days a week job, but we loved it” Patti Ashwood said. “Some times, there are days you want to quit. But your children grow up so quickly the years you are with them.”

John Ashwood wanted those years to be productive in other ways. “We bought a place out in the country and gave them chores to do.”Still, they didn’t lack a social life, Samuel Ashwood said. “We had a lot of fun we played sports with people and spent nights pretty frequently with friends from church.”

The Internet gave home schooling a big boost, Patti Ashwood said, adding that home schooled students adapt to online learning “because they’re self-motivated.”

“That’s why they do so well online,” said Mercy Ashwood, 21 who is majoring in English through an online program at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She said she hopes to teach at the college level or do online tutorials.

Green, 25, is taking human biology English 2 and history through an online program at John Wood Community College in Quincy, Ill.

She said learning online is convenient “because I have two kids and I can’t get to classes every day.”

Hannah Ashwood, 19, is taking biology, world history and sociology at John Wood Community College.

Sarah Ashwood said she is taking online classes in modern epic fantasies, research writing and writing analysis through American Public University. She said she would like to write Christian fantasy in the vein of “Lord of the Rings.”

Samuel Ashwood, 24, is working on a master’s degree in military history at American Public University. He’s the one Ashwood not in Phi Theta Kappa. Instead, he is being considered for Gold Key International Honour Society.

He said he studies for five or six hours a day.

“With a master’s degree there is a lot more reading to do, reading and writing papers,” he said. “I’d like to teach military history. I’ve been reading since I was old enough.”

Samuel Ashwood said he would like to teach military history.

Caleb Ashwood, 25, and Joah Ashwood, 27, both took art, philosophy, history and psychology at John Wood Community College.

Caleb is a maintenance mechanic at Mrs. Smith Pies in Stilwell.

Josh, a letter carrier in Muskogee, said he and his siblings and cousin “did just as well, if not better than public school kids.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com