Reflections on the Graduation of my First Homeschooled Child

We made it! Sometimes I feel like shouting it from the rooftops, and sometimes the idea just gets lost in the shuffle of all of the other mom, wife, housekeeper, teacher things I’m in the midst of. But the fact is that my oldest child, homeschooled all the way through her school years, has graduated.

We knew that we wanted to homeschool from the beginning. Before we were even married, we talked about homeschooling when we talked about our possible future children. I had several friends who were homeschooled, and Jason’s younger brother was homeschooled throughout high school. So homeschooling was forefront in our future plans.
When children actually came along, I was so excited to begin homeschooling. When my two oldest children were two and three, I joined my first homeschool support group. I also registered with our legal homeschool organization as soon as my oldest was four, even though that definitely wasn’t required. I was so anxious to identify us as a homeschooling family.
So, here we are. Fourteen years later. My oldest child has graduated. And I’m left feeling very thoughtful and reflective in the wake.

Reflections on homeschool graduates

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Homeschooling days aren’t always easy.

Although there are some wonderful, wonderful memories of all of her homeschooling days, every day wasn’t sunshine and roses. There were times when she was stuck on a math concept, and I thought I would lose my mind before it finally clicked for her. There were times when she was frustrated, and I was frustrated, and it wasn’t a good combination.

Then there was the period of time when she and her brother were in the mode to constantly complain about school work. So we set up “real” school which involved them getting up at the time they would need to get on the bus and doing schoolwork (and lots of busywork) with only a thirty-minute lunch break and fifteen minute recess break until 3pm. Then, of course, they had homework to complete before the next day. It didn’t take more than a few days until both children were extremely thankful for homeschooling.

So, homeschooling days definitely aren’t all easy.

But some homeschooling days are totally awesome.

I remember when my oldest daughter began reading. She was a fairly early reader, able to read words and sentences by age four or five, and then diving into chapter books by age five or six. But there were some frustrating moments leading up to reading. She knew the letter sounds. But when it came to blending sounds together to make words, we were at a standstill.

I can remember the day it clicked. She read through a whole list of blends and then put ending sounds on them to make words! I can remember the thrill of being there. I was her teacher! I taught her how to do that.

Some homeschool days were most definitely awesome.

Homeschooling means I’m “on” as teacher all the time. Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week. All. Year. Long.

Homeschooling never stops ya’ll. Even if you don’t consider yourself a year-round homeschooler, there is homeschool related work going on all the time. Planning lessons. Purchasing curricula. Developing unit studies. Evaluating kids.

There have been times – and still will be I’m sure- when I wished I could put the kids on the magic yellow bus in the mornings and not have to worry about whether I taught math or reading that day. I wanted someone else to be responsible to teach my oldest how to tell time when she seemed stuck on the concept for so long. I wanted someone else to teach math. (I still hate math!) I wanted someone else to do the lesson planning and grade averaging.

Sometimes it’s hard to be constantly be the teacher.

But homeschooling has allowed me to be with the kids All. The. Time.

I’ve had the amazing privilege to always be there. I’ve done devotions with these kids in the mornings and had fun and sometimes deep discussions. I’ve read aloud to them and enjoyed some great book analyzing. I’ve had to stop what I was teaching because we were all laughing too hard to go on. I’ve had the opportunity to share their happy times and their hard times. Because I’m here.

When my oldest fell in love with biology in high school, I was able to see it. I was able to help her find classes and curricula that could feed her growing interests.

We’ve gone on field trips. We’ve attended plays and musical events. We’ve taken nature walks. We’ve gone on picnics. We’ve had more time than many families to enjoy these times together because of homeschooling. And time together, as I’m realizing now that my oldest is graduating, is a precious and limited commodity.

Let me do a little math for you. (Not in my head, of course, because I hate math. Remember?) There are 157,680 hours in the eighteen years that we have before our children are technically adults.  If you average 7 hours of sleep each night, 45,990 of those are spent asleep. That leaves 111,690. Typically, if children begin school in kindergarten, they’ll spend 16,380 hours of that time in school.

Thanks to the awesome privilege of homeschooling, I haven’t had to share those 16,380 hours with a school, with other teachers. I’ve had, and still have with my other children, time.

I’ve had time to have fun with my daughter. I’ve had time to talk to her. I’ve had time to watch her learn. I’ve had time to help her through difficult times. I’ve had time to get to know her. I’ve had time to help her get to know herself.

When she leaves our house, first for college in the fall, and later for the big, wide world, I’ll have had all this time. And I’m so very thankful.

Homeschooling has allowed my children to be fully and completely themselves.

All of my children are 100% unique. All children are. But when I see a group of children who attend traditional schools, I usually see kids who are trying to be like everyone else. They’re hiding their uniqueness out of embarrassment and the desire to fit in. Homeschooling has, in many ways, protected my children from that need to fit in.

My oldest is an introvert. Even our biweekly, four hour long co-op exhausts her. Attending regular school would have made her a constant exhausted and insecure child. And, chances are, she wouldn’t be able to just acknowledge and appreciate that that’s just the person she is and that it’s fine to be that way. Instead she would think something was wrong with her because she couldn’t enjoy the constant demands of school like the “normal” kids.

In her younger days this child would wear fairy wings to the library, and she played make believe and dress up long past the time that most kids her age would give that up because they didn’t want to stand out, to be different. However, this same child was responsible for completely organizing and lesson planning for our preschool choir when she was in middle school. Homeschooling has allowed her to be different and to acknowledge that she has unique likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and that that’s a good thing.

Reflections on homeschool graduates

So here I am. One down and three to go. In some ways, it’s the beginning of the end. But I still have time, plenty of time, for fun talks, and school lessons, and field trips, and learning with my remaining kids.

So I’m proud of my graduate and the awesome person she’s become. And I’m thankful, oh so thankful, that we’re a homeschooling family.

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