Thoughts on having my first homeschool graduate

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Yesterday, Bo graduated from our homeschool program.

Wow!  What a combination of amazing emotions.  I know many are in the trenches of homeschooling.  Maybe graduation day looks like it will never come–at least not with you on the handing side of the diploma.    Maybe you think the only people who actually manage to graduate their students are the ones who have perfectly calm personalities, perfectly compliant children, perfectly supportive communities and have never doubted a day in their lives.  Ha!  I thought I’d share our story here with you as an encouragement to keep on keeping on.  You can do it!

After so many years of loving every day (most of every day!) with my firstborn, I just didn’t see any reason to send him away for someone else to enjoy all day long!  Many moms in my church were homeschoolers, and their kids were smart and well-behaved and happy, unlike the ones I’d known in the past, who unfortunately fit more of the "we’re hiding out from the world" category of homeschoolers.  I’d *loved* school as a child, had been a nanny and then taught preschool as a young woman, and loved to learn, myself.  I believed God wanted children to be raised "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," and knew that wasn’t the public school system’s goal.  My next door neighbor, who was a dear friend, had also taught 3rd grade at a local Christian school.  I remember her saying she just didn’t think kids were really ready to be away from home all day ’til they were at least 7 or 8.  I wanted to teach my kids at home, and my husband liked the idea, too.

So when the other kids Bo’s age headed off to school, he stayed home and didn’t really know there was any other option.    No "oh, just leave–they’ll stop crying and get used to it" for us.  I remember ordering our first homeschool curriculum for kindergarten.  We used Alpha Omega’s Horizons program, and loved it.  I was so excited to teach him and to watch him learn.  We would sit at the kitchen table for about an hour a day doing math and basic reading.  He caught onto everything easily, and I was thrilled that it was simple to teach!  We had 2 little siblings running around (actually, all one did at the time was to *lie* around since he was only just born that August, but that’s beside the point!) and homeschooling seemed like the easiest thing in the world.

We had another baby at the beginning of his 3rd grade year, bringing the total number of kiddos to 4 and the "students" to 2, since his little brother had joined in the year before.  This little one had some health issues which had us in and out of the hospital throughout that August, September and October, and the situation left me feeling behind and disorganized.  About 1/3 of the way through the year, I started to fear that I wasn’t doing enough at home; we hadn’t worked consistently on the Latin program I’d bought for him, and never did enough science experiments.  I’d become convinced that a classical pattern for education was the way to go, and just felt like I was falling too far short of my own goals.  I found a local Christian classical school and Bo headed off to school for the first time.  It was a very good school, but of course schools are filled with–what else?–foolish children (there are no other types!) and we had our little battles.  Finding uniforms every morning and driving back and forth during naptimes (or should-have-been-naptimes) was sometimes a hassle.  At the end of the year, he’d done well.  But as I looked over the year’s work I realized I absolutely could have done the same amount he’d done at school, had I kept him at home!  They really only did a few science experiments after all, and only got about halfway through the Latin program themselves.  I’m glad I had that experience because it gave me more confidence that what I was doing was truly *enough.*

We returned to our hours of couch-reading time and plowing through math books, doing science experiments almost as often as they were scheduled and trying to do as much writing as possible.  I started another in kindergarten, had another baby, and pretty much followed that pattern every other year for the next 8 years.  I never really again doubted my ability to homeschool as being better than a regular school until we hit high school and things got so busy.  He started doing high school level work when he was in 8th grade so we figured he’d just finish earlier than usual, and we planned to dual enroll at the local community college for his last 2 years so he could be ahead in college.  Algebra was easy and while he didn’t love writing by any stretch, he did well at it.  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with so many at home and hadn’t ever had any house/schooling help, so that year for awhile the 3 older boys headed to their grandparents once a week for a few hours to do all their math for the week, which was a great blessing. 

Then came the summer before 10th grade.  Bo has felt called to the mission field since he was 4 years old,  and we spent many years drooling over catalogs from Teen Missions International, an organization that has sent teams of kids all over the world for 20-some years.  He was thrilled with the idea of going to Brasil and we thought it was going to be such a wonderful experience–spending the whole summer with an entire group of kids his age who really loved God and wanted to serve people, with adults who were mature and would train him in the Word . . . don’t set your sights too high!    So much for anyone who said we were trying to keep him away from the world or whatever, LOL!  Seriously, it was as if he got 2 years of public high school experience in that two months because the 18 kids on the team were together *constantly* with somewhat minimal supervision, and to top it off, their leaders were a YOUNG brother/sister team with a lot of personal issues . . . including one *BAD* attitude on the part of the male leader.    We had an extremely difficult school year following it; the kids on his team had really made him feel that we were over-protective and keeping him from this grand thing called "school" and he was missing out on something (no one could say what, but it was something.)  To say it was trying would be sugar coating it.  To say it was heart wrenching, miserable, and incredibly confusion-inducing would be slightly closer.  Everyone was affected by his attitude because it was absolutely determining MY attitude, unfortunately.  By March I’d thrown in the towel and decided to "unschool" and let everyone detox from the blechy situation.  In April that got old  so I returned the younger kids to their regular studies and we gave the older kids The Big Choice:  they could go to public high school if they wanted to.  I couldn’t believe I was saying it.  But somehow we knew that they needed to be allowed to make the choice; that if they weren’t, they’d have that sneaking suspicion of us keeping them from the candy store for the rest of their lives.  Bo was encouraged to go because I really felt our relationship was being damaged by his (unfounded) beliefs about us keeping him home.  Zach was told he could go or stay home; he’s pretty steady and I knew he’d be fine either way.  They both decided to go and we spent many hours visiting the school, choosing and signing them up for classes, and preparing schedules.  I was kindof excited for them–it was going to be quite a change, but we had peace about it.

That summer (last summer) in mid-June, we watched a DVR-ed segment of a TV show that had been made about Teen Missions.  When we got home at 9:30 that night, Bo said to me, "Wow, I kindof wish I were going back there this summer."  Boot camp started in 3 DAYS.  We’d not raised a penny of support, of course, and the cost of the trip was $3500.  I swallowed and said, "Okay, well; pray about it tonight, and I’ll call them in the morning and see if it’s even possible."  I really wanted him to hear from God *first* and get confirmation from men later, and when he woke up in the morning he told me he’d read some verses in Isaiah that really seemed to back up his thoughts about going.  So I told him to start packing in faith, posted a note on this blog that we were emergency fundraising, and waited anxiously for TMI’s offices to open so I could call!  We were happy to find that all his required immunizations were still "good," and so was his visa.  Of course when I finally got through, they were quite surprised but said they’d check and call back if there were flights available.  We waited anxiously all day while washing clothes and making phone calls for donations, and when the word finally came in it was a yes.  Not only that, but the leaders for that summer were the couple all the campers said were the BEST anywhere, seasoned missionaries to Brazil who had been TMI team members themselves as teens.  Amazed yet knowing it was inevitable, we watched the donations come flooding in, and 48 hours later we were packed and driving to Merritt Island with money in hand. 

What a different summer he had!  Compared to the 3 letters we received over the entire summer the previous year, I found my mailbox held one every few days, instead.  And about a week after the team left for the field, about 3 weeks into the summer, there came a letter that I had to sit down to read.  He’d realized, he said, that his reasons for wanting to go to public school were "dumb," that he’d just been wanting to "be like everyone else" and that God wanted his time to be more free to study Portuguese (not offered at the public hs) and travel back to Brasil if he wanted to.  He wanted me to pull his application and homeschool again that year, instead.  I was shocked.  And very pleased, I must say, because it seemed a mature decision to me–one he’d made under conviction.  So we switched gears and I once again bought curriculum for another year of high school–one we thought would be his 11th.

He returned a different person; more mature, more settled, more appreciative of family and home.  He’d been respected and encouraged over the summer and you could see the difference on his face.  School was started happily at home and things really went pretty well.  We sailed through the fall, then Christmas holidays, then January and February . . . and then we hit a wall.  We could sense his feelings of boredom, of being tired of school, of feeling like it was never going to be over.  I hated feeling like he was miserable, and wanted to find an answer for all of us.  One night after a particularly trying day, when we were out for dinner and I was feeling low, my husband said to me, "Why can’t he just be done *now?*"  Hmmmm . . . why couldn’t he?  Well, there were credits to be earned.  We’re in a private school/homeschool umbrella, and the students have to have 24 credits.  He had lots of English credits, plenty of math, and was working on his last year of science.  I honestly didn’t know the answer to my husband’s question, but something told me he was absolutely right.  I sat down that night with a list of all the courses Bo had taken, and could only find 2 half-credits we hadn’t done yet.  When I met with our school administrator, we added it all up . . . 28 credits.  All we needed was Health/Life Management and Economics.  We sat down with Bo and explained the situation–how on earth would I have made him do another *year* of school next year when all he really needed was 2 classes???  He was all for it.  Of course, there was the question of "now what?"  College in the fall didn’t "feel" right to any of us, but we didn’t want him to just waste a year, either.  It seemed like an internship-type situation, one which would help him clarify what it was he really WANTED to study in the future, was the best scenario we could hope for.  I emailed Pastor Augusto, who last year had asked Bo to return to Brasil and work with him "whenever," to find our whether he really meant that or not.  A quick return email let me know that he was welcome back and needed as soon as and for as long as possible.  More shock and awe here.  The past couple of months he’s been working hard to squeeze in those other two classes (simple ones anyway, thankfully) as well as finishing Chemistry, Portuguese, Law and Government, and an ACT/SAT prep course.  He took the ACT and did well enough to qualify as a Florida Merit Scholar (woohoo!) and so that was it . . . we had a graduate.

 Sorry the pic’s so small–I’ll get better ones up later; that was from dh’s phone. 

Anyway, that’s our story.  He’s got a few more weeks of work to plow through, and will take the SAT early next month before heading to Brasil.  The pastor they’ve worked with for the past couple of years has invited he and another friend from the team to come back to work with him beginning next month in his five churches–and they’ll stay til October/November.  It’s hard to imagine him being gone for so long!  But the season of homeschooling for him has passed. 

Yesterday was very bittersweet.  I was honestly so busy cleaning/decorating/hanging pictures/dressing everyone that I didn’t have too much time to think about it all until we were actually sitting there in the church with his name being announced, pictures flashed on the screen, diplomas being handed out, roses passed from graduates to moms.  I truly lost it during only one little part–our administrator played the song I’d first heard the first time we drove Bo to Teen Missions; a song that speaks the truth in my heart for him better than any I know; the one I wrote into his graduation card.  I’ll share it here with you . . .  

Mark Harris – Find Your Wings
From the album The Line Between The Two

It’s only for a moment you are mine to hold
The plans that heaven has for you
Will all too soon unfold
So many different prayers I’ll pray
For all that you might do
But most of all I’ll want to know
You’re walking in the truth
And If I never told you
I want you to know
As I watch you grow

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

May passion be the wind
That leads you through your days
And may conviction keep you strong
Guide you on your way
May there be many moments
That make your life so sweet
Oh, but more than memories

It’s not living if you don’t reach for the sky
I’ll have tears as you take off
But I’ll cheer as you fly

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

 

And that’s that.

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6 Responses to Thoughts on having my first homeschool graduate

  1. 4sweetums says:

    What a wonderful story! Congrats! I have my first graduate this year too. It is a story of difficulties and moments of extreme joy too. Aren't they all! Great job!

    Blessings,

    Dawn

  2. Melissa says:

    "And that's that." And that's amazing! And so encouraging. Thank you for taking the time to write such a wonderful story. Such a blessing. Well done, mama/teacher!

  3. HSmomto3girls says:

    I followed your link from a Sonlight thread and I just read your story. Very inspirational and encouraging. Congratulations to you and your son. May God continue to bless your family!

    Smiles,

    Margie

  4. www.prayerports.com says:

    Oh Misty, I am filled with emotion reading your story.I wish we could of been there .We were in Africa with our homeschool graduate not believing how real God has become to her.I guess that was always the goal of my endless homeschool days…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Misty! What a great story! Thanks for sharing it! And congratulations!

  6. littlebit2000 says:

    This is Sarah Wensell from C.C. ……….. When can we have a play date!

    P.S.

    Love the blog!

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