I will be seeing my youngest, Tessa, off to college this week, which has made me very reminiscent and maybe a little weepy. It's no wonder. I have spent the last 38 years being a mom to one or more minor children. And things are about to change. Usually, I look forward to change.
I have always parented with my hands wide open, allowing each child to fly when it was time--even giving a little push when necessary. And although each flight has been a bit emotional--because what kind of parent would I be if I didn't feel a little sad when one of my children left the nest--I recovered and adjusted pretty quickly. It's probably because I always had another one or two or three bringing up the rear.
I have loved every minute of being a mom and consider it a privilege to have been able to buck the cultural norms and be a stay-at-home mom almost all of those 38 years, even homeschooling 16 of them.
I did a little math recently and came up with some calculations about my children's educational experiences. I had four children who each spent 13 years being formally educated. Here is how the 52 years have broken down:
Time in public school: 15 years
Time in private, Christian school: 7 years (I worked there those 7 years, also.)
Time being homeschooled: 31 years
You know what that gives me? Perspective.
And you may wonder what that really means. Of course, I am going to tell you because I am a firm believer in the fact that there is something to be learned in every life experience.
Homeschooling has the best benefits package. By far, my best years--not necessarily my easiest--with my children were my homeschooling years. Those were the years I felt the most fulfilled because not only was I spending time with my children, I was learning alongside them and not feeling guilty. I was oh, so happy!
You know what is on almost all how-to-be-happy lists? Learn something new. You know what is a huge happiness stealer? Feeling guilty.
Unfortunately, even 25 years ago, it was hard to justify being a stay-at-home mom if your children were in school. So homeschooling allowed me to stay home and learn . . . with my children. Sometimes I think it was a selfish decision. I crossed so many things off of my bucket list while homeschooling and justified them as part of my children's "education." You know, things like square-foot gardening, canning, visiting a potato chip factory, shooting a gun, dissecting a frog--well, maybe that was not on my list. Yes, my children learned some things, too. Really. One's even a licensed contractor and a police officer who loves potato chips and who will probably have a garden one of these days.
Private, Christian school can be so validating. If you have homeschooled for any length of time, I am certain that you have questioned your abilities and calling. Many times. I know.
I often say that I was bullied into helping with a classical, Christian school start-up in 2006. I was not looking for a job, and I did not want a job--admittedly, I am job-resistant because I am schedule-resistant. The idea of getting up at oh-dark-hundred and putting on make-up has never appealed to me.
But son number two, my K-12 homeschooler, had worn me down. Somewhere around age 12 or 13, he must have had an experience with aliens on one of his many wilderness hikes. All I know is that my once compliant, easy-to-teach son had left the planet, and what I was left with was not remotely recognizable. I am not proud of some of the things I resorted to doing in the name of education during those years. As creative as they were, I doubt I could have been nominated for teacher of the year. They were dark days.
I feel sure that God sent a job to me as a lifeline to restore my sanity and crumbled self esteem. And what started as a one-year hiatus from homeschooling actually turned into seven. I kind of wish that God would have given me a seven-year break from son number two instead of Tessa, because she was a dream student--never having been abducted by aliens.
I learned many things from our Christian school experience including 1) that having a passion for sharing a love of learning trumps a teaching degree any day, 2) that having a student who reads for pleasure is not the norm, 3) that standardized testing was not as scary as I imagined it to be (students who read for pleasure and love learning do just fine on them).
And the most important thing I learned is that I had not wasted 14 years of my life homeschooling my children. I was a competent, creative person who added value to that school--value that I had developed from being a homeschool mom. As part of the administrative staff, there was not a job I did not do over those seven years; and when I left, they hired several people to fill my positions.
Public schools are not all created equal. I know there are a lot of generalizations made about the public school system, and I definitely don't want to do that. When my two older children were younger, they both did well in public school. Had we not moved from one area of the country to another, I may never have considered homeschooling.
If the teachers are good--you know, qualified, dedicated, and enthusiastic about their subjects--then a good education may be had. If the teachers are not so good--you know, incompetent and/or boring, then a good education may not be possible. Depending on your child's needs, the options and opportunities that a student may have in a good high school system are things to consider. And just as standardized testing ended up not being as scary as I imagined them to be, now that my grandson is in public high school, it is not so scary either.
The bottom line is that it is important to provide the best education possible for our children so that they can reach their academic potentials. The tricky part is making sure that a love of learning is being fostered in the process and a world view that will help them make wise, God-honoring decisions is being instilled.
Easy in this day and age? Certainly not.
" . . . being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ . . . " Philippians 1:6