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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Knowles

This Is My Story #5: Full Quiver, Full Throttle

In the meantime, we had told our pastor about this zealous group of churches. Duly impressed, he moved his family to Maryland where their headquarters were at the time. The two single women joined them. Since my parents had returned to Maryland, my new husband and I decided to move there a year later. In our new church, ultra-large families (known as “full quiver” from Psalm 27:4-6) and homeschooling were the expectation, and I was soon expecting our first baby.

I was mesmerized, reading and absorbing all I could about our newly chosen godly lifestyle. I quit my job as a computer programmer to be a stay-at-home mommy. Our four oldest daughters were born in Maryland, two at a birth center since that’s apparently where godly women had their babies if they didn’t have enough faith for a home birth. (I am being tongue-in-cheek here, but that was a common mindset there.) We also started homeschooling our brilliant oldest child, who easily learned to read as a preschooler. Everyone was so genuinely sweet and kind. We were on the godly path, doing godly things with godly people. Weren’t we?

Then in 1993, my father-in-law asked us to move back to Florida so my husband could work with him in the family business. Because of my own devotion to the lifestyle we had adopted in Maryland, I felt like a heretic moving away from our church. However, we settled back into our old non-denominational congregation which had become a megachurch in our absence.

Over the next dozen years, I would birth another six children for a total of seven daughters and three sons. I was almost 42 when our youngest daughter was born, so I’m old enough to be her grandmother. There were only 12 scattered months in a 20 year period when I was not pregnant and/or nursing a baby.

We moved around to a few other churches, but our family size and convictions made us oddballs wherever we went. For a time, I wore mostly calf-length denim jumpers and very long hair. We banned the TV and boycotted anything Disney. (Later, one of my children became a long-time Magic Kingdom photographer who provided us with free Disney World tickets for many years. And yes, we now have a closet full of old Disney videos.) Those were my ultra-conservative years. As a hippy-turned-preppy- turned-fundy, I was all in. Nobody forced me. I freely chose it. With very few exceptions, everyone I knew was loving, generous, and completely sincere. Or at least from what I could see at the time.

As a homeschool mega-mommy, I taught unit studies with all the school subjects swirled in around a theme like Desert Habitats or Colonial Days. We would read piles of library books, all of us smooshed together on the couch. Picture a wiggly kid or two on each side, a toddler on my lap, and a wee one in my pregnant belly. Our eclectic educational style was more hippy than fundy, I confess, but I did at least read the Bible and sing old hymns and worship choruses with them every morning.

This is not a complete picture. Frazzled and frustrated within this intense lifestyle, I often lashed out harshly at my children. Good Christian mommies must have well-behaved children to win the world for Jesus, so I desperately tried to keep them under control. Honestly, I really needed to keep myself under better control. I longed to be a more nurturing mother instead of a perpetually angry one. I don’t know quite how we all survived those crazy years, but I was determined to do better for my children. It had to start with me. So I found creative ways to make my life and mothering work better, or at least to cope with the chaos more calmly. Because I had a burning desire to mentor other homeschool moms with the insight I was gaining along the way, I started speaking at workshops and support groups, as well as writing for several national homeschool magazines.

Then I began writing my first book on homeschooling, often nursing a baby as I typed in new ideas, or editing a manuscript as I lay next to a napping preschooler. I didn’t know what to do with my book since it was such a niche market at the time, so I laid it aside. When the Internet arrived at our house around 1998, I started writing a homeschool e-magazine, eventually sent to about 1,600 homes around the world. Now I had enough of a platform to self-publish my three homeschool books and sell hundreds of copies of each, all from my dining room table. This was my substitute for owning a Christian bookstore, right? I was living the dream!

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