- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tucked away in a quiet suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, is the home of Allen and Sue Wells. A lovely yard stretches out back, and a swing set and wooden play gym beckons. Inside are musical instruments, books and lots of other learning resources. In fact, it looks like every other home-schooling home I know — with a significant difference. The Wellses already home-schooled their own three children to adulthood. The 12 children now growing up in the family were each orphaned by AIDS.

In a nation where 5.6 million people live with HIV, it is expected that by 2015 some 3 million children will have lost their mother to AIDS. Many orphans are battling the disease themselves, others bear the scars of loneliness and poverty, some are abandoned and abused.

The Wells family has chosen to respond to a national crisis with a family solution. They have expanded their home and their hearts to not only provide for the physical needs of the children, but the need for two parents, brothers and sisters, and a safe and godly home.

“We call it Bezaleel, which means ‘In the shadow and protection of God,’” Sue explains. A written description refers to Psalms 68:6 — “God places the solitary in families, and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell.”

Educating at home allows Sue to create a nurturing environment for all 12 children. Some must take medications to help control the weakening of their immune systems by the virus, others have developmental issues, and home-schooling allows the family to modify circumstances to give each child specialized support.

The children — who range in age from preschool level to midteens — are a delightful, attentive and well-behaved bunch. Music plays an important role, and they proudly play piano, recorder, flute and other instruments, together and separately. They sing together as a family, hymns and inspirational songs.

Allen obviously is a bit of a hero to them all. “Our dad fixes computers,” they tell visitors proudly. “This is his office.”

To see him standing, beaming, as they perform a song, however, it’s obvious the pride is two-sided, and that he thinks the world of them. “Sue really does it all,” he murmurs. “She’s amazing.”

Though Sue undoubtedly brings the warmth and embracing maternal heart, the Bezaleel model is truly a whole-family one. Their adult children pitch in, and are part of the decision-making team for the family. One daughter who just had her own baby lives nearby, dropping in frequently to help out. No one is a client or patient — each child is held firmly in a web of elder and younger siblings, bolstered with lots of “mom and dad” love as well.

It is inspiring to see home-schooling be an integral part of a solution to the devastation of HIV and AIDS. To see 12 young lives physically saved and emotionally nurtured by being in a loving and intelligent environment is a testament to the power of family.

Home-schooling can be more than an educational choice — it offers families a way to actually heal many of the problems facing our societies. The love we grow and the wisdom we develop are not lost or just put in storage when the education of our own children is accomplished, but exist to be shared in a larger context.

Anyone interested in helping the Wells family can contact them via e-mail ([email protected]).

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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