Our Less Traveled Path
- Monday, October 16, 2006
My story began on a rainy afternoon. It was after two o'clock, and it was wet and cold outside. I was caring for my toddler and enjoying a cup of hot chamomile tea. To me, life couldn't get any better. My husband was at his office, and three of our children were in school "getting a good education." I was about to put another log on the fire when the telephone rang. It was the guidance counselor from my oldest son's school. Her voice was professional and cold. Almost as cold as it was outside. She informed me that my husband and I needed to come to the school the next day for a parent-teacher session. Unpleasant thoughts flooded my mind.
I was comforted by the fact that my husband and I had informed the school's officials that we were available whenever necessary. I was PTO President and Chairman of the Advisory Board. I was very involved in my children's school life. So, all was well--my being involved assured an excellent education for my children, right? I was deceived. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to hear.
When we met with the counselor, she informed us that our son, Eric, was failing. When Eric had entered the school, his grade point average was 3.0, the minimum to attend this facility. She told us that his grade point average had dropped to 2.8--a blight on the reputation of the school. The counselor said that we had two choices: place our son in a school across town or have him repeat this grade next year if he remained at this school. The counselor assured me there was no hope that my son could bring his grade point average up again--and this was November! I pleaded with the counselor. I would work harder with him. He would bring his grades up. My husband and I would see to it. I promised her. But it would not do. The counselor's position was firm. Her suggestions stood.
As the counselor rose to coldly escort us out of her warm and comfortable office, tears welled in my eyes. I could not look at my husband. I was embarrassed to think that maybe he was tearing up as well. You see, our hope and faith were in the educational system. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had given us all a dream. But what I have come to know now is that, as respectable and great as Dr. King's dream was and is, it was his dream for Black Americans. Having shared that dream for many years, I know now that God was giving us a dream that would encompass Dr. King's dream but raise our family to a far greater level. God gave us a dream that our children could own and realize, one that would reach into the generations of the Burges family for eternity.
When we got home that evening, my husband and I went into our bedroom to discuss the problem. At first there were no words to describe our pain. After I cried on my husband's shoulders for minutes, sobbing and sniffing, something began to stir in my spirit and heart: a vision of having my children at home with me. You see, I was exhausted with the ripping and running anyway. I was exhausted with raising money for equipment when overburdened teachers were making copies of books for children in overstuffed classrooms. I was exhausted with rising early in the morning to whisk my young ones off to be away from me for eight or more hours a day. I was tired of seeing my children come home late in the evening.
There was more to the crying on my husband's shoulders than our immediate problem. I was crying for the death of what society wanted me to believe. I was crying because I was in a web of confusion, one that I thought had no solution. What I did not know was that I was very deceived, like so many other black parents. I was crying, but this death would sprout life--the life of a vision that began to take over my being and usher me into the beginning of a new life. I asked my husband if I could teach our son at home. He looked at me like a cow looking at a new gate. I thought about Booker T. Washington. He started his own educational plan. I would do the same. My husband asked many questions: "What do you mean, home what? What is this 'homeschool'?! Who has ever done this before? Do you know anyone who does it?" Of course I could not answer any of his questions. I asked him to find someone who homeschooled. The next day he called our local church and found a family who was homeschooling.
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