Marvin & Connie Wolf
Marvin and Connie Wolf were like many early pioneers. They weren’t sure about the journey but they knew God was calling them to take it. They began homeschooling in 1988, before it was legal in North Dakota because they believed that they answered to a higher law even though they recognized their responsibility to earthly laws. Connie says, “We believed God had called us do this” because the things being taught in public school were not consistent with our worldview. Children were being advanced in classes without actually knowing what was necessary to lead a productive life.
“Those early years were frightening and we were always on edge”, Connie says. But it was so productive and we felt so satisfied with the curriculum we were using and how God was a part of what we were teaching. We have so little time with our children and we didn’t want that time to be spent mostly away from home in public school. In talking about those early years she says one mainstay of their journey was the friendship and help from Clinton and Judi Birst.
It wasn’t long before the wolf was at the Wolf’s door and they ended up in court. The Wolfs appeared in court in 1988/89 and Connie states, “It was both bad and good because I felt like I could give the other side or our story.” She goes on to say, “I remember one thing made clear was that parents are responsible for their children not the public school system. I remember feeling the presence of the Lord during the trial.” She relates what she considers a love pat from the Lord:
I remember during the trial I was asked about the children attending public school. I said if you put a tame horse in with a wild horse it will become wild again. Later in the judge’s chamber we noticed horse items all over the room. It was like a love pat from the Lord.
Eventually the Wolf’s case was dropped because the legislature was ready to deal with the problem of multiple court cases. After the law passed Connie took the National Teachers’ Exam and then homeschooled using that qualification.
When asked if she has any regrets she stated, “Well, sometimes I think I could have done better.” But when pressed about the results in her 6 children she said they were all graduated from their homeschool, all doing very well. They are intelligent and personable. “I did what the Lord wanted me to do and it made our family better,” she declares. She knew what was being taught and that really mattered. Their daughter is homeschooling her children, two already through. One son and his wife are also homeschooling and living near them. Connie gets a chance every now and then to help out with the homeschooling and offering a little counsel and advice.
Doug & Ruth Berntson
Doug and Ruth debated whether or not to homeschool their children for a number of years. They often said that they could not both agree that it was the right path at the same time.
Ruth began her career as a public school teacher, but eventually became a life-long advocate for home education. She held a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Valley City State University.
She and Doug began homeschooling their oldest daughter, Angela, in 1985 when she was in 3rd grade. One day Angela came home from the Christian school she attended and stated in tears that she was not even part of the family anymore. Doug and Ruth’s ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship required them to travel a great deal, and Angela was often left with friends while they were gone. Angela’s statement was the final nudge they needed, and they never looked back.
Doug and Ruth began researching homeschooling. Doug called the Superintendent of Schools for ND and was told that because Ruth was a ND certified teacher they could begin homeschooling if they incorporated as a private school. They quickly did that, and the Berntson Homeschool was born.
Doug and Ruth homeschooled both of their daughters through high school. Their homeschooling was often done in the car as they traveled to another ministry opportunity, and both girls often ministered right alongside their parents. Doug and Ruth have never wavered in their support of homeschooling. They were legally able to homeschool from the beginning, but they were right there to advocate for those who weren’t.
They encountered opposition and skepticism from family and friends when they began homeschooling. Both girls remember being teased and informed they were “weird” by various friends as children. The family often looked at it as part of their responsibility to change those minds. Their family was there at the Bismarck Tea Party, and they rejoiced when homeschooling was finally legalized in North Dakota.
Even after their girls were in college with jobs of their own, Doug and Ruth continued to attend home school conventions and mentor and encourage others who were beginning their journey. Ruth never stopped researching the best curriculums to use for various subject areas, and was always happy when someone else wanted to talk about it with her.
Ruth had the privilege of going to stay with her granddaughters a few years ago to continue their home education while Angela was in treatment for leukemia. She often referred to that time as so special when she got to relive those homeschool glory days with her two favorite people.
A side note from their youngest daughter, Charissa. When I was growing up the thing that most people brought up when they found out our family homeschooled was socialization. They would always ask my parents if they were worried about my sister and I being able to socialize. My mom would often direct them to direct that question to me. After I answered that we actually spent a quite a bit of time with kids from various cultural backgrounds because of our parents ministry, my mom would also point out that I had just done a pretty good job of having a conversation with an adult as well.
Charissa also shared a story from her adult years. I am now a public school teacher. I remember when I began working in my first public school I worked with this very sweet lady who was a little shy. One day she asked if I would go to the office with her to ask the secretary something because she did not want to walk down there herself. While we were waiting in the office the secretary noted that I was probably around the same age as her children and asked me which of the local high schools I had attended. I stated that I had not attended either school but had been homeschooled. I will never forget this sweet lady who I had been working with whipping around and excitedly saying, “What? Well you can talk to people just fine!” I could do nothing but giggle as I informed her that that was a common misconception about homeschoolers!
Doug and Ruth Berntson were some of the very first vendors at the NDHSA conventions. Even after concluding their homeschooling years they continued to vend for Child Evangelism Fellowship. Many are the conversations with parent educators that the Berntsons enjoyed and many are the parents who were encouraged and challenged to continue the imperative to teach their children. May God be praised for their faithful lives.