The choice was easy. Although it would probably lead to mud-clad children with bugs in their pockets and a wildly different way of living, JerriAnn Webb and her husband, Matthew “Matt” G. Webb, were sure of their decision. It was August 2020—in the middle of the pandemic—and they had decided to homeschool their two children, saddle up and boots on.
JerriAnn, 38, founder of Christian nonprofit Light Breaks Through, and Matt, 44, president of Genesis Timber, are passionate about helping people live with “purpose and hope” and about advocating for the family unit. This was another opportunity to do just that.
“We believe decisions worth doing will always require sacrifice and investment,” said JerriAnn, who believes that healthy families are the true influencers who can rescue our society from spiraling further down the endless road to moral depravity. “The most attractive thing on the planet is a healthy family. Families are the glue that holds society together. When families are fractured, society crumbles.
“There is much confusion today about identity and family as society calls good evil and evil good. I believe learning happens best at home. Homeschooling allows the parent to establish a foundation of identity based on biblical truth. Parents then raise strong children who in turn raise even stronger children.”
‘Home As the Center of Great Learning’
Finding it hard to accept the narrowing freedom and escalating social-distancing norms, even in schools, the Webbs decided to homeschool their kids. They were ready to take some risks, so that their children could do so as well. They wanted their children to test limits, run with abandon, laugh, and play untethered—and without the weighty ballast of fear.
“I tried to reconcile watching them run with freedom and abandonment through our yard fully alive to sitting inside a plexiglass bubble with a cloth strapped across their face in a socially constructed illusion of safety,” JerriAnn said. “Children need the freedom to test limits and laugh and play. Matt and I strongly felt our decision to homeschool was a fight to protect their childhood.”
So, they refocused their priorities, rerouted their schedules, and retooled their library. Then, with the backing of close family, they dove headfirst into the fray. Coming up for air months after their dive, JerriAnn couldn’t be more determined and enthusiastic about their decision.
“Homeschooling has changed our family for the better in every way,” she said. “Academically, our children excelled in every subject. Emotionally, they are at rest as we strive to create a culture of peace and joy in our home.”
A day of school at the Webb household generally starts around 9 a.m. and ends around 3 p.m. It includes prayer and Bible study, mathematics, recess, language arts, reading, science, history, music, and the occasional chess game. Not only that, but the family is spending glorious time together: exploring nature, gardening, cooking meals, reading on the couch, trying extracurricular activities, and playing outside—a lot.
The schedule, however, is not the only thing that has been improved.
JerriAnn is watching as her daughter, Jael, 9, and son, Garrison, 7, flourish in every subject of their academics. She said her daughter, in only third grade, read 68 chapter books in one school year. JerriAnn is looking on as her children’s imaginations blossom and their ingenuity unfold.
The kids say that they love seeing their parents so much while homeschooling, and there is no doubt they like their teacher.
Teaching Values, Strengthening Family
Together, JerriAnn and her children have been able to immerse themselves in the literature that teaches compassion, empathy, high character, and hard work. They talk about the deeper issues of life. Then, when the children are shoulder to shoulder with others on the playground, they are able to express kindness and empathy.
JerriAnn’s children are growing up stable and secure with the people that they are. And, not least to the benefits of their decision, JerriAnn says her family has grown closer and has had time to become connected in a new and meaningful way.
“Simply put, we are not in a hurry. And when you are not in a hurry, connection happens,” she said.
A thriving, connected family is no meager mark for JerriAnn and it has been the happy consequence of a decision to homeschool. Yet, while she revels in the growth her family shares, she knows that the benefits of a strong family are not isolated to their own four walls.
A truly healthy family has the wonderful potential to influence a whole civilization.
‘Family Is God’s Idea’
The family is where a child begins to learn values, to discern right and wrong, and to interact with other people. It is the foundational training ground from which children blossom into the individuals that step out into the world. Families are the true “influencers” in society.
So, then, whether homeschooling or not, building a healthy family culture is not an empty ambition to cast over the shoulder, but one of weight and honor; a noble trust. Just how to do it?
“Family is God’s idea. God’s design,” JerriAnn said. “The first institution God created was family. What if the
influencers we really need are families?”
Believing there is an Author to life and how to live it, the Webbs have chosen to base the culture of their family on faith. They go straight to the Designer. Honoring their faith, they learn the high values of forgiveness, love, believing, and hope that form the very culture of their home. They endeavor to see the best in one another; they pray for each other, fight for each other, and work to communicate with each other.
Still, it’s not always pretty.
While homeschooling, JerriAnn is having her mettle tested as both teacher and role model. Living in close range, the good, the bad, and the ugly are all bound to spill out eventually. In the inevitable moments of frustration and failure, JerriAnn is both student and teacher. When even “mommy makes mistakes,” she finds it an opportunity to teach her children about character and the need for forgiveness. This is all part of the package, and JerriAnn is loving it.
“Being able to live this out in the routine of daily life with my children hasn’t always been easy, but it has been a gift,” she said.
JerriAnn believes the best learning happens around the hearth of the home, where parents are able to teach and train children in all aspects: academic, emotional, spiritual, and moral. And, while homeschooling may not be the answer for all families, investing in healthy family life and raising children with faith and character is vital.
“Homeschooling reinforces the idea of the home as the center of great learning, connection, and faith, and not merely a place of consumption,” she said. “Society has been programmed to think one cannot learn in the home and learning should be outsourced. This is simply false.
“It’s crucial to build up healthy family culture so future generations live with purpose and conviction. Kids need to know their lives are a big deal, and God has created them for a purpose,” she said.
JerriAnn, herself, is the living fruit of this. She had examples. She describes her parents as models of “faith, legacy, and outrageous generosity,” core values that are now woven into the very fabric of the family.
Today, JerriAnn is finding great purpose in planting heirloom seeds. The truth, virtues, and values that she lovingly teaches her children were harvested from those who went before her. Now, JerriAnn plants and waters with the hope that those seeds will bear fruit for many generations on the horizon.
Arshdeep Sarao contributed to this report.