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Natalie Wickham

Natalie Wickham, author of Pajama School

At a time when homeschooling was still a new concept, Natalie Wickham’s parents made the decision to homeschool her along with her five younger siblings. Defying the arguments that homeschooling would produce socially inept, academically stunted people, Natalie graduated homeschool high school and went on to manage her own music studio, work closely with both local and national music teachers associations, and co-found a Christian children’s ministry. In late 2009, she self-published her book Pajama School in which she relates her many and varied experiences as a homeschool student and graduate.

Q: Did you ever plan to be an author as you grew up, or was it a calling you received later in life?

Actually, no, I had never planned to write a book. I’ve always loved writing ever since I was little and have mostly done journaling. I never wrote for public consumption although I did write a few stories…

Q: When and how were you inspired to write Pajama School?

It was at the end of 2006 when I was brainstorming for different goals for 2007…and Daniel 12:3 had been on my heart: “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” So my goals for the following year came from that verse.

The first [goal] was to grow in wisdom, and the second one was to turn many to righteousness. So I started writing down some ideas of how I could do those two things.… Immediately the idea came to mind to write a book on homeschooling.

A lot of it was spurred on by conversations I’ve had with Moms who had younger kids and just felt so stressed out…. I would encourage them and say, “Just stick with it. We had rough days, and we spent our whole first year crying.”

I think so often you see an image of families and feel as if they’ve got it all together. I don’t know how many times people have said to us, “Wow, you have it all together.” And we thought, “If only you knew.” So part of what I wanted to do was to show the reality of homeschooling, that it’s not always perfect, it’s not always pretty, but it’s worth it in the end…

Q: You chose to self-publish Pajama School. What are some of the benefits of self-publishing?

I spent quite a bit of time researching and found that some of the benefits of self-publishing are, you retain all the rights to your work… and you have the final say over the editing and the design work…. Also, the profit margin is a lot more in self-publishing.

Q: What are some of the major challenges you faced in self-publishing your book?

One challenge definitely is making sure that your work is quality…. Another really hard thing about self-publishing is that you are both the author and the publisher…. But the biggest challenge of self-publishing is selling; it’s just really hard to get into the mainstream market to sell the book.

Q: What are some practical tips you might give other aspiring authors regarding self-publishing?

The first thing, I would say, is a little phrase I found in a book during my research: “Vigorous self-education.” A lot of people launch into publishing their books without all the information.

The second step is to not be afraid to involve other people in your project even just by sending out updates to your network of friends, letting them know what you’re doing, getting people on board who will pray for you and pray for the project.

Give [your work] the time it needs…. It’s far, far better to take a little extra time…than to push it forward and then find out that you made mistakes.

Q: You obviously want Pajama School to be an encouragement to other homeschooling families, but how do you hope it might affect readers outside homeschool circles?

I guess if I had a hope, it would just be that people would see [homeschooling] as a form of education that is highly successful…and just see how rich it is and how in touch with reality it is. In my opinion, it’s much more in touch with reality than a public school setting, which is based on age segregation and an artificial environment.

Q: In Pajama School you not only share your experiences as a homeschool student and graduate, but you also plumb the depths of your spiritual life. Was it difficult to open yourself up like that?

Yes, it was difficult. In fact, when my family first read the book, they said, “Wow, we didn’t know some of this about you.” Before writing the book, I wasn’t very open about things I was struggling with or issues I was dealing with. Those were things I kept to myself so that I could keep my “perfect image”. So one thing that [writing the book] taught me was to be more open about my faults or things that I was having trouble with, just to be willing to connect with people on that level and share.

Q: How would you define true education, and how did homeschooling enable you to really learn?

I’d say something along the lines of having a perspective of the full integration of every aspect of life and how it relates to God’s design…. God created the world, and God created each of us. The best thing we can do is to grow to know Him. So I think education, then, is centered on seeing life from God’s perspective and understanding how it works in different areas and then integrating that so that it’s not segmented into this subject and that subject…

A lot of the model that my family followed for homeschooling was not very academically oriented in terms of these different subjects that we had to do. It was more through living life and having experiences and being involved in groups that were doing different things…. it was definitely a more free form of education where you were seeing it as a whole instead of little parts.

Q: In your book you admit that some aspects of your homeschool experience were often less than perfect. For you, what was the most difficult aspect of being a homeschool student in a world that is hostile to nonconformists?

There were times when I felt like I didn’t have friends or like people didn’t understand me. I could say that I wish that were different, but in reality I feel like those were the times when God taught me the most. I see that even those hard times were orchestrated by Him for certain purposes.

Q: Since you chose to refrain from the average “college experience,” how did you pursue education after high school?

I did a lot of self-study in different areas I was interested in. I would find books or other resources and study them because I love to do that. I wanted to study piano more, so I found a more advanced teacher… I took a class at one of our local universities. I took a couple of classes at an executive training corporation as someone who wanted to start a small business. I did some correspondence courses. I did some short-term, intensive courses in music.

One of the things I laugh at the most is when people say, “I don’t really know what I want to do, so I’m going to go to college.” I don’t have a problem if you’re going to go to college, but go because you know what you want to do, and that’s the best way to get what you need.

Q: What is your challenge to other homeschool students and graduates?

Number one, seek the Lord. Daily be in the Word, studying the Word, and seeking the Lord. The time before we’re married when we’re still single and don’t have the responsibilities of a family, those are the best years of our life to be able to wholeheartedly seek the Lord…. We’re laying a foundation for the future and for future generations if we are studying, seeking, and growing in the Lord.

Beyond that I would say to just do great things. Dream big and don’t be afraid to try something difficult or something that you want to do. It’s easy to talk about ideas…. People will talk for six months about something that they want to do, and then they never take any steps. So map it out, write out what action steps you need, get people on board…and just do it.


Visit Natalie’s blogs:
www.pajamaschool.com/blog
www.musicmattersblog.com
www.journeytoselfpublishing.com

2 Comments

  • Heidi says:
    May 1, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Hi ladies!
    It’s so wonderful to see GI up and running!
    I loved the cover story-I got a sneak peak at it yesteryday. :) Hayley told me it was up.
    Wonderful job writing Grace. Did you record it, and then type up the answers?
    I love the picture of Natalie.

  • Jana Kornfeld Busenitz | Generation Impact says:
    October 31, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    [...] Jana Kornfeld Busenitz [...]

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