This little guy doesn't look so much like this anymore. I am sure I've mentioned this a time or two before, because I'm the teeniest bit obsessed about it lately, but, God willing, this May he will graduate high school. For me, this is a big honking deal because I have homeschooled him since kindergarten--since birth, actually, if you want to count learning to talk, eat with utensils, and use a toilet. (Fun Fact: Every mom is a homeschool mom.)
I homeschooled all three of my kids, but the girls got a few years in the local public school. The daunting tasks of teaching a child to read and cementing the basics of arithmetic were performed by the wonderful professional staff at Geneva Elementary School, God bless them. With my girls, I just had to build on the excellent foundation they received during their first few years of formal education.
Not so my boy. If you know me and know him, it's a little insane that I even attempted schooling him, but here we are! For better or worse, we are in the homestretch. I should tell you, if my son were to give his version of our homeschool journey, he would say that I taught him until the fifth grade and then he pretty much taught himself. MY version is that until the fifth grade I gave him the tools he needed to self-educate, and then from fifth grade on gave him ever-increasing opportunities to apply those skills. Those opportunities included on-line courses, group classes through a wonderful umbrella school, and dual enrollment classes at the local community college. (Just for the record.)
This spring will be my third and final graduation, and then this very significant task will be complete. I know some women grieve this event, but I will be doing a hallelujah dance. Don't get me wrong. I loved homeschooling and the family bonds that have resulted for us. Especially with my son. Let's just say that this has been a beautiful but very hard thing for me.
Circle Christian School, the private umbrella school that we have used since he was a third-grader, puts on a beautiful graduation ceremony. In recognition of the vital role of parents, at the graduation ceremony it is the PARENTS who hand the scholar his or her diploma, not school officials. Dad gives the diploma and mom moves the tassel on the graduation cap. As each student walks up on stage to meet his parents, the audience has an opportunity to listen to a pre-recorded message from the parents to the graduate. It's a great tradition.
As we recorded our message for our first graduate four years ago, I said to my husband, "When Reed graduates, I get the WHOLE forty seconds. I've earned them." Truth be told, though, I don't think even the whole forty seconds would suffice. We may need an entire book.
Schooling this human mountain of exuberance, curiosity, and sensitivity has stretched me beyond imagining and revealed character flaws that I might have remained blissfully unaware of. The two of us are a study in contrasts. When we did the Cloud/Townsend assessment of personality, my score on the Introvert/Extrovert scale was on the very extreme of the Introvert end. His score blew right on past the end of the Extrovert portion. Seriously, they will have to invent a new test to measure his extroversion because this one just didn't go high enough. I have a high need for quiet, he makes noise even when he is sleeping. You get the picture. Not exactly a match made in homeschooling heaven.
We definitely had our days. One that stands out vividly was a battle we had over math and the fact that I INSISTED on making him re-do problems that he had miscalculated. Emotions ran high enough that I had to give MYSELF a time-out. My friend Carla dropped by and found me sobbing on my bed promising, "I am so sending him to public school---and I don't care if they make fun of him and tell him he's stupid!" (That little confession is for all of you out there who think I'm this sweet, saintly woman who reads aloud to children and is a constant ray of sunshine.)
To add to the excitement, when he was in fourth grade, I began teaching homeschool writing classes to help supplement the family income--leaving him with a list of tasks to accomplish in the dining room while I was in class in the living room. This poor social being dreaded those hours and HATED those tasks. Even though I am certain he felt that he worked diligently during those times, I was routinely left with evidence of what else had occupied his time. Once after a long afternoon of solo work, I came to check his progress and found a disturbing amount still unfinished. He groaned, "Can't I stop? I've been doing school aaaalllll daaaaayyyy." It was so pathetic I might have had pity on him, except that there was a pile of a thousand paper cranes on the table and an upside- down bike (wheels still spinning) in the front room. On days like that I prayed his diversions were evidence that I was raising the next Thomas Edison.
Another day I finished class and went to check on him. Nowhere to be found. So I went outside and called for him.
"I'm up here," he answered from high in a tree by our front porch. "I needed fresh air and movement, so I'm doing my school outside."
Ever the skeptic when it came to him and school, I asked, "Oh, really? What are you working on?"
Please take a moment to fully appreciate his response: "I'm doing my handwriting lesson." (Because everyone knows that cursive is much easier to do if you are also trying to balance on the limb of a tree!)
And don't forget that proud mama moment when, on a field trip to the local radio station, my impulsive son ANSWERED THE TELEPHONE HOTLINE when it rang. They were not amused.
So, you can see, it's been a roller coaster educating this boy/man, but did we did it. My boy learned how to learn. I daresay he learned as much from what he explored while he was avoiding schoolwork as he did from the schoolwork.
And I learned a few things, too.
I learned that it's not good to shush an auditory thinker--because he has to HEAR himself say things in order to understand.
I learned that it's much easier to make up a math deficiency than a relationship deficiency.
I learned that some days it's okay to throw the academics out the window and just have a good belly laugh. (Our go-to on days like that was a wonderful book titled, "Walter, the Farting Dog.")
I learned that even though silence is golden to me, the endless words of my son are far more valuable and will only be ringing through my home for a very short while.
Most of all, I learned to love the roller coaster.