“The good stuff doesn't start to happen in a few months. It's happening right now. These are the days I'll look back on and miss,” said Jacqueline Ridge, who has learned to live in the moment and appreciate the here and now.
A Region native, Ridge grew up in Hammond but lives with her husband and three children in Valpo. Her days are full of homeschooling her two oldest children and caring for her youngest, but being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t always the life Ridge imagined.
“For the first year of my first born's life, I worked full time as a manufacturing engineer. I had worked hard to get to where I was in my career, and I wanted to be the mom that could do it all. I wanted to show my daughter that women are strong and that motherhood didn't mean that you had to lose who you were,” she said.
When she learned she was expecting her second child, Ridge’s idea of what being a mom would look like shifted and she found herself wanting to take on the new position of full-time stay-at-home mom.
“I have so much respect for all mothers, whether their place is in the work field or at home,” she said. “There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to parenting. For me, I wanted to be home. I wasn't in a position where I could step away from my job, but when I found out that I was expecting another child, I knew that had to change. My heart was not in my career. My heart was with these tiny humans that I created.”
So Ridge started on her journey of being a full-time stay-at-home mom and homeschooling her children. She soon found a whole community of support.
“When I first began homeschooling, it felt like an isolating and lonely journey. To my great surprise, the homeschooling community in Northwest Indiana is huge,” she said. “So often when people think of homeschooling, they think of children doing worksheets at a table at home, cut off from the mainstream community. Nothing can be further from the truth. Homeschooling in Northwest Indiana looks nothing like that. Our community is strong, and we collectively prioritize the community as an integral part of a child's education.”
Ridge’s journey through homeschooling has opened up new opportunities, and she is looking to bring a Free Forest School to Northwest Indiana.
“Free Forest School fosters outdoor exploration for children. As I've grown alongside my children, I've learned about the importance of outdoor time in their development. When children are given free rein to explore and learn outside, amazing things happen,” she said. “It is through unguided, abundant play that children learn risk assessment, master control of their bodies, and develop a deep trust for and confidence in themselves. It is through continual connections with nature that children learn about the world around them and their own significance in caring for and existing within nature. And it’s through the exploration of the outdoors that children learn, grow, and thrive.”
Homeschooling has also led Ridge to become an author. While looking for books for her children to read, she found a gap that’s she’s working to fill by writing a book series that will help encourage kids, especially young girls, to take a greater interest in STEM fields.
“I recognized a disconnect between the messages the books were teaching her children and the messages that I wanted to teach my children,” she said. “Specifically, the majority of the books we read focused on strong male roles with females often playing timid, plain, or otherwise inferior roles. Simply, this is unacceptable for our young female generation. I started my writing career by introducing a series of books entitled Colors of Character. Each book is titled in a different color and features all female roles. A different character strength is highlighted in each story, empowering young readers to become strong, confident, empathetic women. I continued my writing to the next age range with the series Suzie Socket. This series follows a 10-year-old girl with an interest in home and auto repair. Each chapter documents a basic repair that all women should be able to do.”
In her spare time, Ridge and her family enjoy being out in nature and participating in the 1,000 hours outdoors challenge. You can often find them hiking and exploring the area, enjoying the here and now and living in the moment.