Rachel Starr Thomson of Ontario, Canada, is a writer of novels, short stories, essays, and the occasional poem. She was homeschooled for most of her life along with her eleven younger siblings. The family tended toward the unschooling method of learning from life experiences and traveling, although they also pursued some formal academic studies over the years.
Rachel’s very first novel, Theodore Pharris Saves the Universe, was written when she was thirteen. Ever since then, writing has been her chief discipline. Rachel is a regular contributor to Focus on the Family’s Boundless.org and Homeschooling Today Magazine. She serves as copy editor for Home School Enrichment Magazine. Her articles have been published in various magazines, ezines, and websites. She also oversees a multi-author serial fiction project titled “The Romany Epistles.”
As CEO of Little Dozen Press, Rachel has self published several of her books in the last few years including Heart to Heart: Meeting With God in the Lord’s Prayer, and the discipleship-focused Letters to a Samuel Generation. Her novels Worlds Unseen and Burning Light are fantasy adventures in the tradition of C.S. Lewis, enjoyed by readers from age ten to adult. Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled is a collection of humorous vignettes and essays that Rachel co-wrote with Carolyn Joy Currey, another homeschool grad. All of these books are available at www.RachelStarrThomson.com – including a free eBook of Worlds Unseen, a free online edition of Letters to a Samuel Generation, and chapter excerpts from Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled.
A stay-at-home single adult, Rachel wrote an article titled “20-Something Reasons to Live at Home” about the advantages of living with one’s family. In addition to her own writing, Rachel offers editing, proofreading, and coaching services – both independently and through WriteAtHome.com, a combination writing course/private tutoring service for high schoolers. “I wield a mad red pen,” she says, “but I’m nice about it.”
In all of her work, Rachel explores the intersections of faith, life, and creativity – not just through writing but by the artistic disciplines of storytelling, singing, and dance. She and her friend Carolyn co-founded the Soli Deo Gloria Ballet, a Christian performing arts company. Their mission is to glorify God and tell His story through the powerful and expressive medium of dance.
Rachel’s other interests include: reading, nature, Celtic music, Sense and Sensibility, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Lord of the Rings. Rachel likes playing Scrabble, drinking tea, collecting books, going for long walks, and waxing eloquent on many topics. She believes “life would be far, far better if we all chucked our television sets out the window.”
Ten Years Ago
By Rachel Starr Thomson
If I had one message to give homeschooling teens (well, all teens, really), it would be this:
Where you are right now is not where you’ll be tomorrow, but what you do right now shapes who you’ll be tomorrow.
This is one of the greatest gifts of homeschooling: our parents have given us opportunities our peers don’t have, and so they’ve given us the opportunity to become what our peers may never become.
They’ve given us time with our families that will shape us and our future relationships.
They’ve given us academic freedom to pursue what we care most about, freedom that will shape our passions and maybe our future careers (or our ability to homeschool our own kids).
They’ve given us time and space to build our relationships with God, affecting eternity.
They’ve given us time. Did I mention that?
You’ve probably noticed that most adults don’t have a lot of time because their jobs claim most of their waking hours. Before people grow up and get jobs, most of them go to school, and school claims most of those waking hours. But homeschoolers are different. We have time for relationships, serious Bible study, ministry, creativity, long walks. We have time for things that matter most to us.
I graduated from homeschooling nine years ago (gah—it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long). My homeschool story has a lot in common with yours, also some differences. I went to kindergarten at a local Christian school, but my dad was a visionary and wanted to homeschool because he felt education was a task given to parents by God. Our family grew over the years: we started with me and ended up with twelve, ten girls and two boys. We also moved a lot. Our schooling was very loose and unstructured. My parents taught us to read, pointed us at a library like a kid playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, and let us loose to see where the tail would end up. (Well, that’s more or less how it went.)
This unstructured education worked very well in some areas and not so well in others (I am not the only homeschool grad who used to fall asleep over her math book), but a combination of time to develop passions and pursue them, unique experiences, and relationships with family and non-peers led to me doing a lot of things that have shaped who I am—and what I do—now.
Ten years ago I spent several days a week volunteering with a missionary training center and attending meetings there in a multicultural, passionately spiritual setting; my relationship with God and sense of the world is still under-girded by those years.
Ten years ago I was not heavily under the influence of negative peer pressure and teen culture, so those things have never taken root as serious considerations in my life.
Ten years ago I was jotting down poetry or writing story manuscripts here and there, and also reading like a fiend; today I’m a full-time writer, editor, and writing coach.
Ten years ago I was helping my parents in their small business; today I run my own.
Ten years ago I found out that I loved music and dance and that the arts could be a powerful part of worship; today I co-direct a ballet and performing arts company that tours around my home country of Canada.
Ten years ago I developed friendships and relationships that still challenge, inspire, and comfort me. The people in my life, a vast variety of them not bound to my age group or neighborhood, have each left their mark on who I am now.
The loose, interest-led education I got as a homeschooled teenager still shapes my approach to learning and life as an adult. I value curiosity and new experiences; I love to learn; I know I can learn anything—it’s as simple as heading toward a paper donkey with a pin, knowing you’ll get off course and make some mistakes that don’t ultimately matter. You’ll win if you stick with it.
What you’re doing today matters; it will shape who you are tomorrow. Homeschooling gives us unique and powerful opportunities, starting with time and then many valuable ways to use that time. I’m grateful to my parents for the sacrifices they made and the chances they took so that I could also take chances, make sacrifices, and live an unusual life.
I hope you do the same.