The phrase “keeping it in the family” has a literal meaning for Newton Pastor Aaron Gunsaulus and his wife Cami.
They have been home schooling all of their kids since their oldest son, Joshua, was school age. Joshua is now a 16-year-old sophomore and has since been joined by five younger siblings.
Aaron explained why they chose to homeschool their children.
“We believe that parents have the responsibility to oversee, one way or the other, their children’s education,” Aaron said. “The primary responsibility falls to the parents, not some other organization or entity. So we took that very seriously and weighed the options and we knew we wanted a very distinctively Christian education for our kids. We also like the fact that we get to spend the day with them, training them with character issues, working with them in other ways and just being able to hang out together.”
In addition to instilling Christian values in their children, they also wanted to individualize the learning process for each child, something they believe couldn’t have been accomplished in public schools.
“You don’t have to operate in a one-size-fits-all way of educating your kids,” Aaron said. “You can take the time with each one of them on the individual basis. All of them learn differently, some of them will struggle with one subject and others will struggle in another. We found this enables us to treat each child as an individual, rather than as a group, and everyone has to fit the same mold.”
“They’re not wired the same and their gifts are not going to be the same,” Cami added. “Because of that, you are able to tailor and work with them at where they are gifted and help build those gifts up and encourage that particular thing. If they are good at writing, let’s build upon that and let’s see where that goes. Not that we don’t cover everything – we cover and do everything – but this individualizes it.”
A program that the Gunsaulus family utilizes is the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators. NICHE has been around since 1992 and their website explains who they are and what they do:
“We promote home education and believe that every family has the God-given mandate and responsibility to oversee the education of their own children. NICHE is not a church, nor are we an organization meant to replace the ministry of the local church to the home educating family.”
NICHE also hosts a homeschool graduation, has an honor society, and has an annual Capitol Day where students go to the Statehouse to hang out with lawmakers and attend a conference where NICHE members and vendors gather in Des Moines.
The Gunsaulus family attends both events: they use the capitol trip as a field trip and the conference to see what is the latest in teaching supplies.
“I buy a lot of stuff used for curriculum,” Cami said. “The NICHE conference has a curriculum exhibit when they have the homeschool conference. They have a lot of curriculum there too.”
“Part of that conference is a huge curriculum hall,” Aaron added. “There are all kinds of vendors there.”
They also believe that they are preparing their kids for the real world in a better way with homeschooling.
“The end game isn’t to get some sort of diploma for us,” Aaron said. “The end game is to prepare them for life and whatever career they are going to choose. We’re constantly evaluating them to see how they’re wired and what their interests are and letting them know what they excel in. We listen to them as they get older about what they think they might want to do, and see if we kind of match those up and give them some direction.”
There also some misconceptions about homeschooling they want to help clear up. Their kids get physical activity: the older boys run a mile a day and play golf in warm weather. They all swim and sometimes will play pickup games of football. The biggest one they get is that people don’t think the kids get enough socialization.
“I think you would be able to ask multitudes of people (about the misconceptions about homeschooled kids’ social behavior), we get compliments all the time about, ‘How well this,’ or ‘How well that’.
Aaron is also a firm believer in this and is proud of his children’s abilities to communicate universally.
“One of the things that homeschooling enables you to do is you really work with all age groups,” Aaron said. “You are constantly encountering other adults and you network together. And when you get out in life, very rarely are you ever surrounded by people your own age. It’s just not how life is. I think in many ways, this model prepares them better for life because, from day one, they are constantly interacting with people of all ages rather than just people their own age.”
Staff Writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)792-3121 Ext. 426 or firstname.lastname@example.org