Magazine Article

A Different Perspective

Experiencing Adventist education as a homeschooler

Nicole Dominguez
A Different Perspective
Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

When you hear the term “Adventist education,” do you picture a school building? chapel assemblies built into the school day? Maybe you reflect on your memories as a student at an Adventist academy or university. Those memories could be filled with lifelong friends and teachers you will forever admire, or be filled with moments you’d rather forget. The predominant association with Adventist education is that of an official brick-and-mortar institute of learning. This, however, is where my educational experience falls into an often-overlooked gray area.

From first grade through college graduation I received an Adventist education, but I wasn’t enrolled in a traditional Adventist school until I was 21 years old. From elementary to high school I was homeschooled. Homeschooling was never the absolute plan for my parents. Like many other new parents, they believed they would find a good Adventist school for their children. However, God had other plans. By the time I entered first grade, it became abundantly clear that God was calling my mom to homeschool my sister and me. So, with no experience but complete faith, we started on the at-times-bumpy road of homeschooling.

Blazing the Untraditional Trail

When my parents were newlyweds, my father was choosing a law school to attend. To this day, he happily points to the gazebo in downtown Wheaton, Illinois, as the place where they decided to settle. Without realizing it, they perfectly aligned themselves toward a path that would allow homeschooling, as Illinois is one of the few states that allows you to homeschool without a permit. This means that parents or guardians can teach their children without government interference in the form of having to abide by set curriculums. Additionally, the town they settled in had an active and healthy Christian homeschool community, offering resources and like-minded individuals to support each other.

My mom diligently sought and found a curriculum that followed a Christian classical model. Phases of learning were broken up by age and focused on grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Grammar was emphasized in elementary school. Logic, with its application of reasoning, was the focus around middle school. And rhetoric, which combined information and logic with comprehension and sharing of knowledge, was tackled in high school. As we focused mainly on the humanities, we saw how history plays out in culture and philosophy, analyzed texts according to a biblical worldview, and practiced the Socratic method every Thursday on discussion day, preparing us for the Friday test covering everything we learned that week. Best of all, the curriculum allowed flexibility. 

My mom discovered how my sister and I learned best, and applied the parts of the curriculum that would help us retain the information to our advantage. This also allowed us to supplement our resources. During our worldview studies we dug into Adventism, the Sabbath, and the book of Revelation. We even studied Scripture and applied it to parallels in history. It changed the way we thought, the way we played, and the way we saw our faith. Lest you mistake us for savants—I never was and never will be a Mensa candidate. There were days I wanted nothing more than to skip school, and was agitated when we didn’t have “real” snow days. I hated math and still have yet to apply a parabola in my everyday life. But this unconventional education also introduced critical thinking—an often poorly emphasized skill set that taught my sister and me to think independently. Critical thinking served us well, especially when it came to studying our Bibles. We learned to analyze scriptures as historical, philosophical texts while leaving room for the facts to awe us. 

Is That “Real” Adventist Education?

When I share my homeschool experience with others, they hesitate to classify my experience as an official Adventist education. However, the fruits of my schooling challenge this assumption. I was not only able to explain what my beliefs were but why I believed them. I knew the importance of the Sabbath, understood our fundamental beliefs, and recognized the consistent narrative found in Scripture. In many ways I received an Adventist education in its purest form—abiding in heart, hand, and head. The reluctance to acknowledge my education as “Adventist” thus exposes a potential flaw. Do we care more about validating an institution than an education centered on our core beliefs? Adventism has often been associated with a collection of institutions that are the result of an active application of the Adventist movement, but we must also remember that our faith can thrive outside of traditional institutions. My education upheld core Adventist beliefs and could still be charted within the broader culture.

My first experience with a traditional Adventist institution of learning didn’t come until my junior year of college, when I transferred to Southern Adventist University. I attended College of DuPage (COD), a top-rated community college, for my first two years of undergrad. This allowed me to stay at home and take my general courses for a fraction of the cost. When I transferred as planned, it was the first time I’d been surrounded by students and faculty with the same belief system. During my homeschool days I was surrounded by families who were Christian but not Adventist, and in my two years at COD I met students with many different worldviews. My time at Southern was the first period of my education during which I didn’t have to explain the Sabbath to anyone. I could participate in all areas of an academic campus with like-minded individuals, and I met exceptional people and found professors I admire to this day.  

Twenty-six years later I recognize and praise God for the benefit of a well-rounded Adventist education. The unconventional nature of my early schooling laid the groundwork for the unique perspectives I carry to this day. Institutions, no matter how beneficial, do not define our education or our faith. It is by upholding Christ-centered principles that formal learning must be “redemptive in nature,” which makes Adventist education so special. Attending Southern Adventist University brought me many blessings. From an environment of belonging with academic peers who understood the nuances of my faith, to professors who were at the top of their academic spheres, and to association with devout believers who encouraged their students to study their Christian worldview with the same academic rigor as their assignments, I was blessed with a wonderful balance. While this balance can certainly be found on our traditional campuses, it could also exist in the nontraditional Adventist education experiences that still hold incredible value for the children of this church.

Nicole Dominguez

Nicole Dominguez is a podcaster, writer, and freelancer based in Chicago. As a third-generation Adventist, she has created content for the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the past five years, and is dedicated to showing the nuance and joy of being a Christ follower.