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Reba's Story

Reba and her children and grandchildren

Reba Hill began homeschooling 29 years ago. She and her husband, Dean, could no longer afford private school, but they wanted their children to have a Christian education. At the time, Reba knew little about homeschooling and thought it was illegal. But after some research, she ordered some curriculum and started teaching her two eldest daughters who were in first and second grade at the time.

Since then, Reba has graduated those daughters, has homeschooled another daughter who graduated in 2016, and is currently homeschooling her son who is a junior in high school.

“It’s sad to be nearing the end of my homeschool journey,” Reba shared. But she is excited to have grandchildren who are being educated at home. “Hopefully, I will get to help with their schooling.”

Created in the Image of God

It didn’t occur to the Hill family when they started homeschooling, but there was a very good reason for them to teach their children at home. Reba and her daughters have a rare form of dwarfism that causes deteriorating bones and joints and chronic pain. (Her son, the youngest, does not.)

At first, Reba and Dean didn’t know if their daughters had inherited the dwarfism.

“When the girls were about 9 or 10 months old and starting to hold on to furniture, I would stand them by the bed . . . and they would sit down and cry,” Reba explained. “I knew then that they had inherited the dwarfism because our legs hurt in the morning. The older the girls became, the more their legs bowed and the more pain they had.”

The Hills found a specialist several states over who treated little people (the preferred term for people with dwarfism). They got on a waiting list for an appointment, not knowing that it would be six years for that appointment to happen. Life became an endless cycle of leg surgeries—not just for the daughters, but also for Reba—as they had to travel nearly 1,000 miles for each visit and operation.

Unfortunately, the most recent surgery for Reba left her with nerve damage that prevents her from climbing onto a step stool or into a car. She uses a walker at home now and a mobility scooter while out.

Between all the members of the family, they’ve had a total of 60 surgeries over the years. But not all their pain has been physical.

Reba and her family on their front porch

When my girls were little, I was asked why I had children knowing that they could inherit the same type of painful dwarfism that I had,” Reba recalled. “That question really upset me, but God’s word told me that I did not create them—they were created in the image of God. They were perfect [because] He created them. He knew them in the womb.”

As little people, Reba and her daughters have endured mockery, stares, and random strangers videotaping them. Even while sitting on their front porch at home, the family has seen drivers slow and point at them, laughing as if they are an exhibit at a zoo.

The Unexpected Benefit of Homeschooling

With all the hospitalizations, trips out of state for medical care, physical disability, and pain, homeschooling turned out to be ideal for Reba’s family.

“We schooled in the summer or weekends or nights,” she said. “When we were hurting, we did what we could. When the pain was bad, we did school the next day. We took our schoolbooks to the hospital. We watched DVDs while traveling. We schooled in bed and wheelchairs.

“I don’t know how our children could have ever been able to go to a conventional school with all of this going on throughout their entire lives. This is not the reason we started homeschooling, but it certainly has been a benefit.”

For Reba’s family, homeschooling offered a pillar of stability amidst the uncertainty of their medical challenges. No amount of hardship, however, could prepare her for what happened one spring day in 2016.

“My Whole World Changed That Day”

Reba and Dean

On April 29, Dean went to one of his older daughters’ house to fix her dishwasher. Minutes after arriving, he fell to his knees and died.

“My whole world changed that day,” Reba said. “Dean and I were married for 34 years. I miss his strong arms and his rough sandpaper hands, his eyes that squinted when he laughed. He did everything for us: yard work, vehicle maintenance, appliance repair, the majority of the laundry, shopping, cooking, and cleaning”—tasks which Reba and her daughters are, for the most part, physically unable to perform. “He was my everything!”

The utter devastation of losing her husband and the father of her children has been compounded by the frustration of dealing with bureaucracy. With two teens still living at home, Reba cannot draw Dean’s social security as his widow since she receives her own civil service disability from when she previously worked for the federal government. Her son is able to receive some benefits until he turns 18 in two years, but that together with her own disability leaves Reba with a very small income.

Despite this, Reba held fast to her faith. “God has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. His Word is true. Whether or not I like it or understand it, I know that it is true.”

Pursuing Opportunity

Two weeks after Dean died, their youngest daughter, Charity, graduated from high school. Reba was determined to fulfill Dean’s dream that their children have the chance to finish high school and go to college—something he never got the opportunity to pursue, as he’d had to drop out of high school a few weeks into 9th grade.

“He was adamant that his children would have a college education so that they would have choices that he never had.”

Reba didn’t even have enough money to finish her son’s high school education at home, let alone pay for college. But her prayers were answered when she saw an email about the Home School Foundation. She contacted us and applied for a grant, which she received soon afterward.

“HSF has given me the opportunity to purchase curriculum and pay for classes for my son, so that he can get that education that his father wanted so desperately for him to have.”

Living in the Face of Loss

Reba is honest about the sometimes unspeakable challenges of being a widow.

“Since I [gained] this dreaded status as a widow, I have talked to many other widows and widowers. I know how horrible our situation is and I [used to think] no one could have a story as bad as ours,” she said. “But I have heard stories that make you cry. Families who are devastated when a spouse dies. Other stupid rules that take away their only source of income or prevent them from receiving their spouse’s social security. Families left destitute and losing their homes, losing every dime paying for medical expenses and a funeral. Their stories are heartbreaking. You never know when the one in need might be you . . . or your relative . . . or your best friend.

“I wake up and still can’t believe this is real,” she continued. “I keep thinking he’s going to come home, but he doesn’t.

“I don’t think most people realize how much their donations mean to families like ours. It is hard to put into words because it would mean explaining our whole story before they could grasp how truly thankful I am for their contributions that made this possible. I am extremely thankful for the help from HSF and for everyone who has ever donated.”

To help relieve the stress that dominates the lives of homeschooling widows like Reba, click here to make a donation to HSF.

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