An Interview with Diana Waring Diana and her husband Bill have been joyously married since 1979 and are the grateful parents of three: Isaac (17), Michael (15), and Melody (13), who have been homeschooled since birth. The Warings reside in South Dakota during the summer and winter, and travel on the homeschool convention trail during the spring and fall. Diana studied music, drama and French in college, with a BA in French. Her many roles include: musician, composer, playwright, seminar speaker and author. Known for her energetic, lively, often humorous presentations, Diana Waring desires to encourage, inspire and energize parents in the mission to which God has called each of them as parents. Read our interview with her on September 21, 2000 and catch her contagious enthusiasm!

CBD Could you please tell us about your family and how you became involved with homeschooling?

Diana Waring I decided to homeschool when I was pregnant with my oldest son who is nineteen now. My friend had given me a book to read on homeschooling and when I finished the book, I said, "That's it. I'm convinced we are going to homeschool." Which was pretty radical nineteen years ago. My husband was a public school teacher at the time, so it was pretty exciting in our home for awhile. We tried to figure out how this would work—a career teacher having a family that homeschooled. There's a little conflict there. We started out just so excited. I read everything I could get my hands on and went to a couple of seminars that were available in our area on homeschooling. We jumped in with both feet, but I had such a difficult time, because I was trying to homeschool traditionally, the way that I had been taught in school, with the desk and the teacher and recess. And so over these last fifteen years of homeschooling my three children, it has been an incredible time of growing and understanding what education is and how to excite my children with the idea of learning.

One of the big things that became more and more important as we went along was understanding that homeschooling was my husband and I spending time with our children twenty-four hours a day, 24-7 as my kids would say. Spending time with my children is where issues of character, how to get along with others, speaking kindly, being diligent, cleaning up after ourselves are dealt in addition to the academics. And now that we have three teenagers, I can say that was the most significant aspect of homeschooling: building relationships, discipling our children in the things of God and in how to love one another, and reaching out to people in our community. That was the critical stuff.

The academics have been marvelous. They have been fun, but not always. Sometimes it's just grunt work, and "This is hard," and "I don't understand it," on their part or on my part. The academics have come and gone, but the really significant part has been that opportunity to train up our children in the way they should go. On the other hand, we have had some really fun successes. I will brag about my daughter for just a second. In 1999 my daughter Melody, who was thirteen, entered the VFW national youth essay contest for the entire country and the various places where the government has people stationed beyond the borders of the US. She went up against 75,000 other entries in the junior high range and my daughter won. She won the national youth essay contest for the VFW. She had a chance last August 1999 to read her winning essay before 8,000 VFW members at their 100th Anniversary, and she received a $10,000 savings bond. It was just so marvelous all these people saying, "She's homeschooled." Those kinds of successes really help to validate homeschooling. Nevertheless, it was all Melody's ideas and all her writing. She had two words too many, and her dad helped her eliminate two words. That was all we did. It was her own skill and love of writing, but we got to kind of cash in on some of it and say, "Yep, she was homeschooled." Those kinds of things happen with homeschoolers on a fairly regular basis. That's a little bit about our kids. I've been married for twenty-one years and my husband and I are just really thankful that we are married to each other. We have our children and we have a great time as a family.

CBD So you have a son and daughter?

Diana Waring I have two sons and a daughter. My oldest son Isaac is in college right now studying music and living at home, which we all think is marvelous. My second son, Michael is seventeen, and he is going to graduate this year. Since he was seven years old he has heard a call from God to be a missionary to Kazakhstan in Central Asia. He is in the midst of preparing to go to Kazakhstan as a fulltime, long-term missionary. And then of course, there's Melody who is fifteen and is very musical and also loves writing and photography. So she is going to write the scripts, take the pictures, and play the music. But I'm not sure how all that will work out!

CBD As we discussed before the interview, you have two major areas in which you have made significant and copious contributions for homeschoolers. One of them is your practical ideas and tremendous enthusiasm and encouragement found in your homeschooling handbooks. The other area is helping people to teach history. It would be great to have an overview of those two areas in which you have contributed books and materials.

Diana Waring In the homeschooling arena, we have a couple of books Beyond Survival and Things We Wished We've Known, and a Beyond Survival video series and some workshop tapes [Beyond Survival Audio, Heroes of the Faith Audio , Hilarious Homeschool Workshop]. When I started homeschooling, I didn't have a clue that it could be anything beyond: "Sit down here with these text books and answer the questions in the back of the book when you finish the chapter," and "Give me an apple, and we will say the Pledge of Allegiance and have recess." That was my understanding of what homeschooling was. It was schooling at home. Well, we didn't have bells ringing (I thought of it), and we didn't have hot lunch the way they did (I had a better hot lunch). But I really tried to follow that pattern, because I thought that's what education was. I thought that's what school had to be. I failed miserably at doing that. After such a short time my son was leaning over the edge of the table saying, "Mom, do we have to keep doing this?" And I'm leaning on the other side of the table saying, "I hope not," because it was so boring. As that went on for three years, I just felt like an incredible failure. I was ready to quit big-time. My husband had become a vocal proponent to homeschooling. He felt it was the best thing that had ever happened, and he wanted it for his children. And I said, "That's fine for you; you are not here every day in the trenches." I was looking for an out. And then we met some people and ran across some books that really began to open up my understanding. We prayed, and I said, "Lord I'm a failure, but we have to keep doing this. So how do I do it?" Various people and books we came across began to show us that homeschooling was a much more creative, open-ended way of drawing our children out into loving and learning. We began to see it was a lifestyle of learning and living together and exploring God's creation. We were so blessed. It totally revolutionized the way we homeschooled our children and the experiences we began to have. After several years, one day the Lord really spoke to my heart and encouraged me to write a book about our experiences and what we'd been taught by other people. I had been talking to people at homeschool conventions, but the Lord showed me that if I wrote it in a book, it could speak to a lot more people. And so that's how we began doing the homeschooling materials in order to really encourage people that there are a lot of different ways to actually get the academics inside their children. The big point is to adopt it as a lifestyle, loving it and loving each other. That way it's all happening in relationship, instead of mother standing at the end of the desk saying, "You will not get up from that seat until you finish 300 pages of math. I don't care that you are starving and have to go to the bathroom." We're trying to encourage homeschoolers to listen to the Lord, and pray and seek ways that will work for their children and their families, so that it's something wonderful, instead of something horrible and painful that they are going to quit doing. We really believe in homeschooling. We really believe homeschooling revolutionizes families and children and prepares leaders in incredible ways. But you have to do it in a way that the family can love doing and continue doing. If people try for a couple of years and it's so horrible and so hard and so painful and everybody hates it, they are going to quit. And they are going to think homeschooling is a horrible thing. So we are trying to help people to understand that it doesn't have to be that way. That's the homeschooling side.

The history side really came about beginning with our "History Alive Through Music" series: America 1750-1890, Westward Ho! , and Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. One day a friend invited me to a convention and she said, "You really should come up to the Washington State Convention and hear the speakers and see the exhibit hall.

I said, "I can't afford to do that. My husband's a teacher and I'm a homeschooler. We have no money."

She said, "Well, if you teach a class, you get in free, and they pay for your travel expenses, and I think they pay you fifty dollars for the workshop."

I said, "That sounds cool, but what will I teach?"

She said, "I have no idea."

When I looked at the offerings from the year before, it was just one of those serendipitous things. I saw there was really nothing on American history and music. And all of a sudden inside of me popped the idea of teaching American history through American folk music. I had been teaching guitar lessons for several years to kids. I was astonished by all the children who did not know basic American folk music like "The Erie Canal. I discovered that they're rewriting the public school curriculums, and are no longer including many songs that are part of our traditional heritage. Into my brain popped the idea of combining American history, which I absolutely love, with folk music, which I also absolutely love. To my surprise, the convention planners said that it sounded like a fun workshop. So I launched the concept of teaching history using various subject areas to make it come alive. I started with music. I taught that first workshop using music to make history come alive, and told some stories and sang some songs.

I had people coming up to me and saying, "Did you know that you can get heirloom vegetables from Thomas Jefferson's garden, and you can teach history through gardening?"

And other people came up saying, "You can use biographies, classic literature and art."

And so began a marvelous adventure of learning about American history through a lot of different subject areas like art, music, literature and science. Then one day I thought my children needed to know world history. I plopped my children on my bed, and began to read aloud from a book that had been highly recommended. As I read it, I realized it was a totally secular book. There was nothing in there about what God was doing in history. We were reading about Egypt and the Egyptians, and I looked at my kids and said, "I want to know what was happening in the Bible at this point in time." So we pulled out our wall chart of world history, and our study Bibles and our reference books. As we poured over them, we kept finding out all these cool things. We made all these discoveries about events, and people, and civilization that were all happening at the same time. I'd get my husband in on it, and say, "Honey look at this. Did you know this?" Well, at the next homeschool convention that I went to, I was standing there just talking with folks. I started getting excited, telling them about Jonah going to Nineveh and all about the Assyrians, and how they fit into what the Bible has to say, and also how they fit into world history.

And people were saying, "Wow, this is cool. Can you come home and teach our children?"

I said, "Well, no. I have my own, but thank you."

People were so enthusiastic about the stories that I had discovered in my research. Finally, a friend suggested that I put these stories on tape. So that's how the "What in the World Is Going on Here?" series came into being. I'd been telling these stories at homeschool conventions after researching them with my children in our own homeschool. The more research we did and the more stories we had, and the more I began to see the flow of chronology. Although I graduated from college and took world history courses, I really had no clue about who came first, the Greeks or the Romans. I didn't even know if it mattered who came first. We were asking, "Lord what were you doing in history, and how does this all fit together?" The whole flow of history began to develop, and that was an exciting thing to pass along to other families. Once those "What in the World Is Going on Here?" tapes were out, I began to have people coming up and saying, "But Diana, we want more. We want books that tell us all the books to read, and we want to do what you do in your homeschool." I told my husband that he had to write it, since he's the teacher. As we prayed and pondered for months, it dawned on me that I needed to do a whole lot more research. We have always taught our children most of their subjects together, even though we have three children with four years difference between the oldest and youngest. I had two children that weren't even reading when I started teaching World History. I would read books out loud, and we would talk about them. Isaac would do projects, and the younger two would do projects. We wanted to create multi-age appropriate materials, so one family with several ages of children could all use the same basic concept and they could do projects together. They could have a lot of fun as a family learning about the hanging gardens of Babylon for instance. That was really important to us. So after loads of research, we began to formulate Ancient Civilizations and the Bible, and then the next year Romans, Reformers, Revolutionaries came out, and then finally last year World Empires, World Missions, World Wars (48485) came out. They are all designed to be used in the family and allow for different learning styles, different interests and different age groups. We are really excited about the series and use it ourselves. In fact, it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted something that my teenagers could use, because I didn't want to do all this work for other families and not have it benefit my own. So it's designed for fourth grade through twelfth grade. And there's a lot that would even challenge at the college level. But we began to have people say that they had younger children too, so we began creating activity books. We have the first one out right now, the Ancient Civilizations and The Bible Activity Book that's designed for younger children. That was lots of fun to do, we all came up with such fun ideas for things to do. We would actually write plays, and I would have my children speak the words and act them out, and they were just lots of fun. I believe fun is a really vital ingredient in learning. The more one can laugh, and the more one can be excited about one's learning, the more learning takes place. When children have the facts beaten into their heads, and they are groaning and moaning and lying on the floor saying, "No more!" there's not a lot of learning going taking place. So we tried presenting the material in such a way that children would delight in learning.

The "True Tales" tapes came about because I had done so much research for the "What in the World Is Going on Here?" series. When I began to do the research for Ancient Civilizations of the BibleRomans, Reformers, Revolutionaries, and World Empires, World Missions, World Wars, there were so many more stories, that I thought, "Oh my goodness! I better do something about this." If I did redid my books, I figured I would have a bunch of homeschoolers angry with me, so instead we put the additional material on 90-minute cassettes. Actually I have a lot more stories to tell, so there are more stories coming, because there's just so much more history. We never run out of history. So that's how all the history came about, and whom it's targeted to. We're just so thrilled that the Lord opened this door so we were able to encourage people. We have people come up and say, "I used to hate history. It was my most difficult subject, but doing it with my children this way, I absolutely love it. Things are making sense now." That's very exciting.

And we have little kids come up and say, "I love listening to your tapes!" That's just unbelievable. It's probably the biggest thrill of my life, having little ones standing there telling me how much they love my tapes.

CBD I was absolutely engrossed listening to you talk about the Franco-Prussian War.

Diana Waring And to think we graduated from High School and maybe college and maybe never understood what it was about. And it's so significant. It's all connected together. We look around at today's world, and we try to understand some of the hot spots and tensions and conflicts. And we say, "Gosh, this just doesn't make any sense!" But if we go back in history and find out what happened 400 or 1000 years ago, and if we learn about the geography, because that's pretty critical too, then all of a sudden these things begin to make sense and we say, "Oh, now I get it! Now I see why there's conflict there today. There's been conflict there for centuries, and the reason for the conflict has never been resolved."

And then of course we get to learn about art, architecture, music, literature and science in their historical context. All of those things set in their moment of history help us understand the impact that that painting had or the reason that music was composed. One of my favorite stories about a piece of music is the story of the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. That's the one with all those canons booming at the end. I love that piece of music. A few years ago I was reading about Napoleon and the Napoleonic Wars and all of a sudden I realized that the 1812 Overture was about the war of 1812, not the one that took place in the US and Canada, but the war of 1812 in which Napoleon took 500,000 soldiers to Moscow to teach the Czar a lesson. In fact Napoleon himself learned a lesson the hard way, that the Russian winter was bigger than he was. Almost all of his soldiers died, and he barely escaped with his life. Years later, a Russian composer named Tchaikovsky wrote this piece of music to celebrate Napoleon's defeat. The 1812 Overture doesn't make any sense to us as Americans unless we put it in its proper setting of France and Russia.

CBD History makes a great framework in which to set the different academic disciplines. I really appreciate the way you've done that for all different ages. It strikes me that what you are doing with history is a lot like what really good Bible teachers do. Instead of taking a story here and a story there, they show how God is at work from Genesis to Revelation. It all weaves together, and it's all the same story.

Diana Waring There is something really powerful of what you just said. Have you ever heard the phrase, "Give me fish and I will eat today; teach me to fish and I will eat for a lifetime"? It's like what you said about a good Bible teacher teaching from Genesis through Revelation and showing the whole flow of what God has intended from before the foundations of the earth, and how he has revealed it in his Scriptures. In that same way, if we can teach people the big picture, the framework, the overarching principles, and how various things fit in, then we have taught them how to fish. And for the rest of their lives, when they run into a piece of artwork, a bit of literature or a political situation or hear about a battle somewhere, it will fit within the framework that has been established for them. And it will not just be a little factoid floating around in their brains that makes no sense. Instead, they have a framework, and they can be discerning about what's taking place today. I try to convey to people that my goal in these history products is not that their children will have all of these facts under control, that they can spit out facts, dates and battles. That's not the point. The point is that they will be able to understand what God has done in history and can apply that understanding to their own lives, so that they may learn how to trust God with all of their hearts and souls and with all of their lives. They can trust him because they've seen him be faithful in history. They can apply the stuff in their lives so they're in a relationship with Jesus Christ and have understanding and wisdom, depending on him, faithful and believing and trusting in his goodness and his faithfulness. So that's the real point. The real heart's cry that we have is that families will learn who God is if they study history, and that they'll study the Bible and understand that he is good, and they can trust him today. That's the real impact, studying world history with my children has had on our lives. I went from being very afraid in the 1990's of raising my children amid all of the things threatening us in the world everywhere I looked. We began really studying world history and seeing time and after time God's faithfulness, his provision for his people, and his perfect plan. Why be afraid when God has not changed at all? The purpose of all that I did was to show God's goodness and enable people to trust him completely.

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