Like a shepherd He will tend His flock;
In His arms He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom. Isaiah 40:11 (NASB)

A graduation is a wonderful celebration. It is perhaps an even more significant event when it is a home-school graduation. Despite the joy we experience when we graduate one of our children from home schooling, we may also feel other conflicting emotions, such as regret, sorrow, and loss.  Although when the children were small I often longed for the day that I would be finished, as each child’s graduation day finally arrived, I was always surprised that the time had flown so quickly.  Rick and I have graduated all three children now, the last one in 2000. But the emotions of those moments when we delivered the congratulatory hug have not diminished.

We just had our state organization’s home-school graduation ceremony. Since the first graduation I attended, these touching events cause me to cry more than weddings do. Watching the loving parents pass on a blessing to their child and speaking publicly of their love and prayers for their child’s future moves me every time. One mother in last week’s ceremony spoke truly from her heart. With tears in her eyes she smiled at her child and said simply, "We made it," and gave her child a big hug. I was so glad to have a tissue at that moment!

When our second child, Carrie, graduated in 1999, those conflicting emotions of regret, sorrow and loss really began to surface. After having interned at Peacemaker Ministries the summer before, Carrie was invited back to Billings to work full time. Her uncle and aunt offered her a room in their home, and plans were made for her to move a week after her graduation ceremony at the annual convention. My heart was truly in turmoil. On the one hand, I was so thrilled at this opportunity for her. On the other hand, however, I was watching my time with her and my season of home schooling her come to an abrupt end. The loss would be great. I regretted not being a better mother and making the most of the days I had. I was so sad at the thought of her leaving.  The day that she moved away I wrote a letter as a way of expressing all the inner turmoil I felt.

Dear Friends,

It is now past 2:00 AM, and although I would like to go to bed, I will find it hard to sleep.  Rick and Carrie just pulled out from house, the pickup loaded with most of Carrie's earthly belongings and towing her car.  It was dark when they left, and they had plenty of coffee. With too little sleep they plan to drive straight through to Billings, Montana.

No matter how good a situation is that your children go to, there are no words to describe the tearing your heart feels when they leave.  I didn't make a show, nor did we gush the last few days.  Carrie and I did manage to fit in a quick trip to Lubbock to get what every young woman longs for...an engine for her car. And we bought a year's supply of ibuprofen at Sam's and scented lotion at Bath and Body Works - all the important things in life.  We laughed and visited over supper at Olive Garden and groaned over chocolate cappuccino cake.

Just now, though, as I stood on the front porch and watched them drive away, I kept thinking, "What does one say after 18 years?"  You hope you have done all you can, said all you could, been all you needed to be. Yet you stand there watching the red tail lights get dimmer, knowing that you weren't adequate and that only God's grace can cover!  I guess when we began home schooling, I didn't think about days like this, when they might actually leave!

Although we know our children might return for a time or a season, we also know it won't be the same.  As I watched Jay R.  ride away on the train last fall, I now watch Carrie ride away in the pickup. I realize my life is changing as radically as theirs. I don't feel any more ready for this stage in life than I did when they were born.
 
I have one year left with Jared.  Just as we home-school parents experiment on the first child, we deposit every possible finishing touch on the youngest one. Perhaps friends ought to be praying for him and not me!

I am grateful for the years I have had, and unbelievably grateful that I chose to home school. It has allowed me moments that most parents might miss, friendships most don't have, and a closeness that I treasure, and that--even as Carrie leaves--is the thing that breaks my heart!  Eighteen precious years of diapers, dolls, and a great dog on her bed, of books late at night and laughter in the morning, of determination and drive, of beauty and poise, of tears and joy.

Thank you Lord, for my little baby girl, and take care of her for me!

 As I look back now on what I felt, I realize so clearly that we all experience doubts over our home-schooling process. But the most profound feeling I had and have is that God’s grace is for now, in our present moments of regret and loss. We are not adequate, but He is more than adequate. The words of one of my favorite hymns, based on 1 Timothy 1:12, says it so well:

 I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me He hath made known,
 Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for His own.
 But I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able
 To keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day!

 
Many of you have graduated your children this year. You may be experiencing your own inner struggle. The ministry of God’s Word resolves this kind of very personal conflict. As bittersweet as this time is, know that you have committed your child to God’s care - to the One who is the Great Shepherd and is caring for His lambs. May He give you His perfect peace!

Annette Friesen is the Home School Specialist for Peacemaker® Ministries, an international ministry committed to equipping and assisting Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically. Annette and Rick home schooled their three children all through their school years. Currently they are serving on the board of the Utah Christian Home School Association.

© 2002  Peacemaker Ministries

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