Welcome to State Of The Union, appearing each month in bluegrass now magazine! This column provides the spouses of professional bluegrass musicians with a forum in which they can share their insights, observations, and experience with fans and other bluegrass spouses.

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April 2003: Teresa Brewster on HOMESCHOOLING

When I interviewed Sharon White Skaggs last year, she told me homeschooling had changed the lives of her family. "I wish I'd started earlier," she said. "You have more control over your family routine. Routine isn't a word that even went with us! Musicians don't live by routine." Sharon revealed that she'd inspired by another homeschooling mom: Teresa Brewster, wife of Paul Brewster, who plays rhythm guitar with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder. Teresa is a ten-year veteran homeschooling mother with four children: Calah, 16; Aaron, 12; Zachary, 4; and Seth, 3.

Teresa Brester courtesy photo“I was homeschooling when it wasn't cool!” says Teresa Brewster proudly. “Calah started in Christian school, and she'd come home and say, 'Mommy, it seems like I'm there an awful long time.' She'd have 1½ hours of homework. I thought, 'When does this child have a chance to be a child?'”

The Brewsters talked to friends, thought about what was best for their daughter, and prayed. “It was motivated by a conviction to be able to put in their minds what I wanted,” adds Teresa. “There's a lot of cultural and spiritual reasons. Set all those aside, and it's the best education you can offer your child, because it's one-on-one. Who can beat that?”

She began teaching Calah when the child was in first grade. By the time she was in 7th grade, Calah was completely independent. Several years later, when Aaron started school, Teresa taught him to read in just three weeks. “I can remember that vividly, because it was such an accomplishment. It felt wonderful!”

The children study Christian history textbooks, and secular books for English and math. Teresa says her curriculum includes a variety of viewpoints. “They all know what evolution is; I teach it as a theory, and I teach creationism as fact. I don't want them to be ignorant of the world's ways. I don't leave anything out.”

The results have been impressive. “My daughter was tested in the 9th grade. She took the Stanford test, a little harder than the TCATS test in the public schools. She scored at college level, across the board! She knows [Paul's] bluegrass income is not gonna afford Vanderbilt, so she's working hard, hoping to get scholarship money.”

Like Ricky and Sharon Skaggs, the Brewsters say homeschooling is a natural complement to the career of a musician. “When you belong to a bluegrass group, you can't just ask off for vacation. So the kids are in school all winter, and your husband works all summer!” Homeschooling affords flexibility, she explains. “We take vacations when everybody else is in school. We go to Disneyworld when nobody else is there!”

Her husband's role in the children's education is clearly defined. “Paul is my principal. He does our devotions and bible studies, and he works with them on their homework.” Teresa has a bachelor's degree in logistics, but says lack of a degree shouldn't discourage parents from teaching their kids at home. “Think about what you teach children before they ever set foot in school. They've got a vocabulary of 15-20,000 words! You have taught them so much. Homeschooling is just a continuation.”

Visit Paul Brewster online at www.paulbrewster.com.

Calah with brothers Aaron, Zachary, and Seth

Please contact Caroline Wright
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