Throughout the seventeen years we have been homeschooling, I have had to learn to change my thinking regarding pretty much all aspects of my “plan” for educating my children at home. I had this mindset of what school should be, and that mindset was based on my own personal experience going through public school. This experience was further reinforced while in college and then again in graduate school. Traditional school was how I defined school. But we were, and are, homeschooling, and thus we needed to get out of the traditional school mindset.

What is school? Typically, school is thought to be traditional classes that comprise a grade, completed one year at a time, with what can seem like no end in sight for the student or teacher. For us, homeschooling has involved traditional classes, tackled at a rate and in a manner appropriate for each child. And while it can be hard for some older parents to get past the traditional class mindset, we have departed from it somewhat in that we realize that, in elementary school and middle school, subject matter repeats grade after grade with just a tweaking or amplification of the materials presented, from course to subsequent course. Some of this stuff is just plain boring, and it gets more boring the more repetition there is.

We have five children. Three have graduated from high school, and two are finishing elementary school. Of the three who have graduated, both sons were 19 when they graduated, and my daughter was 15. How in the world did our 15 year old graduate at such a young age? Four of our children have followed the typical school year, even spilling into and through the summer months. Our 15-year-old, though, preferred to work to her own schedule, seemingly wanting to catch up to her older brothers. Did we stand in her way? No. We let her proceed and watched her progress.

We used the American School for our college preparatory curriculum and really liked it. The courses were challenging, and our children could work at their own speed. Our sons started their four year American School curriculum after working through their elementary and middle school curricula (Calvert School) one year at a time, following a traditional school year schedule. Our daughter, though, was determined to move as quickly as possible through her courses, accepting no less than “A” grades throughout. To combat boredom, she often took on additional courses that she felt were interesting and challenging. Still, she was bored. In fact, in spite of taking additional courses, she completed all of the traditional coursework for sixth and seventh grade in one year. One day she asked to speak to her father and me to propose allowing her to skip eighth grade and to begin ninth grade in the fall.

She presented a compelling argument as to why she should be allowed to skip eighth grade, and we had no legitimate reason, aside from the “traditional school mindset,” to deny her request. Thus, we enrolled her in the American School college preparatory curriculum, paid the required fees, and the courses started arriving in the mail.

She dove in, loved the courses (well, except for British Literature), and excelled. She was no longer bored. She was having fun. And she felt as if she was moving forward on a schedule of her choosing, not society’s and not ours. She was happy. And her grades were excellent.

As she began her senior year at 14 years old, we knew she was nearing completion. During the year we applied for both she and her brother to attend our state homeschool convention (CAPE-NM) graduation. April rolled around, and she graduated.

Wow! How did that happen? It happened because we stepped back and followed our daughter’s lead. We allowed her to take control of her education. We watched her grow and stretch and think and question. We wanted her to learn the material, not do time until she was of traditional graduation age.