Schooling the Herd
The motto for the Bar Double L Lutheran Ladies Academy of Glenrock, Wyoming, is: We never let school get in the way of education.
You may not have heard of this particular local school as it is kind of small and private and closed to new admissions. In fact, all of its students come from one family and is headed up by their mother, Wendi Lankister, who runs the classroom from her home.
The students are daughters Clara, 17, Faye, 15 and Josey, 13, and when Wendi isn’t managing the classroom or the range surrounding the Duncan Ranch, she along with husband Keith operate the organic grass fed beef farm, Bar Double L Beef.
The couple chose to homeschool their daughters from the very beginning. Being a ranching family, homeschooling wasn’t just something the Lankisters wanted to do; it was also the most practical thing for them to do.
The long public school day was definitely one incentive for the Lankisters to go the homeschool route.
“When we first started, we lived a little farther from the nearest town, and that town had all-day kindergarten. With a 7 a.m. bus pick-up and a 4-4:30 p.m. drop off, I really knew I would be giving the best hours of my child’s day to someone else,” Lankister said. “With ranching, we tend to live on a schedule dictated by the seasons, both work and weather. Choosing to homeschool has allowed us to schedule travel and family visits with relatives that live farther away at times that work for the life of the ranch and not based on a school schedule.”
These days how children learn and what they learn seems to teeter on the edge of controversy, only adding to a parent’s considerations when determining the best educational route for their child. In Wendi’s case, homeschooling enables her to determine her children’s curriculum as well as the particular teaching methodology, something that she takes seriously.
“It also allows me to make sure the children are exposed to the lessons I want them to learn,” Wendi explained. “We take a somewhat classical approach to education, so they are exposed to old classic literature, history from original sources and math and science at a pace appropriate for each of them as individuals.”
Since Wendi does not give her pupils any “exams” until they are in high school, they’ve have been able to focus on learning the material for the sake of the knowledge, rather than the test score or an arbitrary time line, she said. Technically a junior in high school, oldest daughter Clara began taking a couple of dual credit classes at Casper College this semester. Clara feels the homeschool approach has servedher well.
“I would say I’m adequately prepared for college as homeschooling has taught me how to learn and be resourceful, and to grow with a strongfamily influence that is absolutely irreplaceable,” Clara said.
Not only does she feel it has given her a strong foundation on which to build, but she also feels its given her a unique outlook on life.
“My parents have taught me to be competent and assertive and to follow through. They have encouraged me and taught me that you can do anything if you work for it,” she said. “My mom has taught me to be independent. If I wasn’t homeschooled, half my life would have been spent away from the influence of my family, andI would have missed it.”
Across the nation, approximately 3.5 percent of American families choose to homeschool their children. In rural areas, where the closest public school is quite a distance or a family has a 24-hour-a-day farming schedule, a home education is often the only choice.
For the Lankisters, education is a very personal matter; it’s about family as teacher and home as school. “We ranch together as a family. Since the children are here all the time, they see and hear all about the business, from the successes to the failures,” Wendy explained. “We don’t hide information from them, so if they learn something from living it and hearing about it, that is great. They certainly learn that a job needs to be done and done well, and the cycle of life and death in animals and plants, and that we calve when we calve, graze how we graze, and choose to do it organically all for very specific reasons.”
The girls also helped run a soup and dip mix business with their mother for five years and had their own egg business for a while.
Because of the isolation rural living often brings, much of the Lankisters’ fellow homeschoolers are met in the virtual world. During the years, Wendi has grown close to a number of fellow Missouri Synod Lutheran homeschooling families and participated in student exchanges.
In connection with the girls’ extracurricular activities, the Duncan Ranch has also played host to the state 4H horse camp. As Converse County 4H Horse Project Leader, Wendi has taught her daughters horsemanship to award-winning levels. An assistant firearms instructor for her parents’ self defense business means that Wendi’s daughters know how to shoot and shoot well, entering in air rifle, air pistol and shotgun events at state fair.
Although always busy, between the ranch, the farmers market, the state fair and the classroom, Wendi never regrets her decision to homeschool but understands deciding what sort of education a family chooses is always up to them.
I don’t fault anyone for choosing public school over homeschool. It’s not for everyone. It’s tough, and any parent knows that their kids can be a mirror of their own faults,” Wendi noted. “There are so many different ways to homeschool today. We have changed curriculums at different times because we had different needs. There are downsides . . . but there are downsides to public school. Ultimately choose what is best for your family.”