As I look out my sweaty single-paned windows, the sky is gray, tinged with coral. The school bus is due to pass by my front door in twenty minutes. I’m up, showered and dressed, and with the baby. The rest of the house is quiet. Seven other children are either sleeping or still lounging in their beds, stretching under fluffy comforters or doing their own reading. What’s *not* happening is a full-blown rush to get everyone dressed, everyone fed, everyone’s books in order, and everyone out the door. That only happens on Sundays 😉
My eldest is turning 18. She recently asked how much more schooling she would need to do before she graduated. My mind flew to all of the subjects and curriculums that were incomplete or unattempted. I thought about all of the things I still wanted her to learn. Like Latin. Like French. I thought about creating her perfect transcript, even though she has no intention at the moment to attend college (shock and awe, I know…I’ll give you a moment…). But when I consider the point of education, I had to admit, she was ready to be on her own Life Pursuits.
What IS the point of education? To me, it is to be equipped and ready for LIFE. It means having had enough experiences and learning that my child is able to not only read on a wide level of topics, but to write well in order to communicate, and to have enough math skills to do the basics of everyday living. It means that my child knows how–no, WANTS TO–keep learning as a lifelong pursuit. It means my child has shown the character needed, the maturity, to respectfully interact with people of all kinds. It means my child knows the gospel, and continues to witness how a relationship with God plays out in real life.
I’m afraid none of that would have happened if I treated my homeschool as the destination of that yellow school bus. I know, because I, too, was an elementary school teacher, a project leader, a Language Arts consultant. I was well embedded in that system and know it well. And I knew it wasn’t the best for my children.
I’m not even talking about the subjects taught, although the slide away from focusing on reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic has become more like tobogganing down an avalanche into an unknown abyss. I’m talking about running a child’s life like a machine, where every 45 minutes a bell goes off and *beep* turn off your Spanish Two mind and *beep* turn on your Algebra mind and *beep* whoops there’s a fire drill and *beep* Turn your books to page 42…. All the while dealing with peer pressure, a lack of discipline, and trays of factory produced pizza and chocolate milk.
There goes the bus…
So, when my daughter asked about graduation, I had to consider this. I decided to have her go through a test preparation book, so that we could see where, if any, of the holes were. Not surprisingly, she needed a little help in her math. Four months later of working with her dad on problems, she finished it with a flourish. So the cap and gown has been purchased, the cake ordered, the diploma printed.
What did she learn? I don’t know all of it…that’s the thing with slow schooling; children end up teaching themselves far more subjects than planned, expected or tested. But here is a little list of things I can remember:
English: grammar, spelling, composition, and a wide range of literature
maths of all kinds
sciences, everything from general science to botany to astronomy to vet medicine
Bible, memory work
homemaking: gardening, baking, laundry, food preserving, diapers, cleaning
history: American, world, church
music: violin, flute, viola, piano
art of all kinds
milking dairy goats, driving a stick shift
archery, rabbitry, hospitality and ministry
basket weaving, rug making, knitting, sewing (tailoring, actually)
Ultimately, what matters most are not the things that can be put on a transcript. What matters most is the character that comes from loving God. What we have now is a beautiful, young lady not only well-rounded in her education, but someone who is mature, eager to keep learning, and ready to embrace life with her own goals and dreams. She is a sweet daughter, a good friend to others, kind, compassionate, funny, and polite.
Are you operating out of the fear that doing something out of the cultural norm will hinder your children? Well, maybe doing something outside of the norm will save your children. I suppose only time will tell for us–this is our first graduate–but as sleepy footsteps now tenderly move through the house, I can honestly say I have no regrets. And I am proud of the adult my daughter has become.