Staying the Course
- 2011 16 Dec
This year marks our 19th year of homeschooling, and I continue to be amazed at how quickly the time passes. Four of our children have graduated from our homeschool now, and we miss having them with us. It helps that we still have our five younger ones here at home, and I'm actually busier than ever these days. Like all homeschool moms, I have moments where I wonder if I'm crazy, and my house is often anything but clean. The usual juggling of the homeschool schedule (ninth grade down to a 3-year-old), combined with keeping in touch with my kids away from home, is an ongoing challenge.
Over the next few years, I want to focus on building stronger relationships with my younger children, encouraging them in their walk with God, giving them a solid academic foundation, helping them continue to love learning new things—and enjoying them a lot.
To accomplish these goals, I need to cut back on some of our outside involvements, and one thing I am "letting go" is this magazine column. For the last two and a half years, I've written about a number of topics. Perhaps various articles interested you, and others did not, but my goal was to cover issues that many homeschooled teens and their parents face at some point during the high school education process.
One of the most important things I've learned on this homeschool journey is that each school year is done almost before I've realized it's started, and I can never go back and do a year over again. (Not that it's the end of the world if any particular year is less than stellar. For that matter, who's defining "stellar" for us?) In any case, grace and a newfound dedication can make up for a lot, and we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we're all human. We all make mistakes, but we all can try again next week, next month, and next year.
Still, the sudden realization that my 11-year-old daughter will be 11 only once does make me pause to consider exactly what I am doing right now. She wants to study horses (ok—unit study time—dig out the Marguerite Henry books), and paint horses (sounds fun—let's head to the craft store or maybe take an art class), and ride horses (could probably swing it—note to self: call stables), and own horses (uh . . . no, dear, not happening).
A flash of understanding hits me as I read with my 9-year-old son. We're snuggling on the couch as we travel along with a favorite series, and it occurs to me that this might be the last year he will beg in such a heart-tugging, desperate way for just "one more chapter, please, Mom."
So I tell myself again: Stop. Savor the sheer joy of knowing these children—these miracles. Delight in them. Consciously soak in every smile, every laugh, every childish confession, every nonsensical joke, every show of compassion, every hilarious remark, every tear, every right choice, every profound statement, every sign of spiritual growth.
Despite all of the photos and scrapbooks and journals and videos we keep to help us remember our children's growing-up years, the feel of the memories has to be burned into our minds and memorized into our souls. That type of remembering only happens as a result of time. We have to be with our kids—a lot—to remember them as they were throughout the years. More importantly, we have to be with them to help them, to influence them, to guide them, to encourage them, to teach them, to comfort them, to motivate them, to praise them, and to love them. Fortunately, homeschooling gives us this precious gift of time to spend with our children in a way nothing else can in this hectic world.
To be honest, when I married my husband 24 years ago, I did not understand the necessity and value of spending time with children. I grew up in a "normal" household, attended traditional schools, and had parents who meant well and did the best they knew how to do at the time. Like many people, my parents didn't really think of their children as people, worthy of concentrated time and attention, deserving of conversation, fellowship, and respect. So investing my full energy (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) into my kids was not something I expected or planned to do (not past toddlerhood, anyway).
But then, thankfully, our family stumbled into homeschooling. Of course, my husband and I did not realize that, when our oldest was 4 and we made the decision to keep her home, we were making a decision that would change our lives forever. But it has, and we could not be happier.
As I read over the titles of my previous columns, I recognize that the theme running through most of them is the importance of vision. Developing a meaningful, dynamic vision for our children and our homeschool. Inspiring in our children a vision for the world. Encouraging their special gifts and honoring their unique callings as they consider how they can best serve God and others in the future. Obviously, vision will mean different things to different people, but generally speaking, it's an overall way of looking at the world. It's analyzing what makes us feel energized and fulfilled. It's dreaming and planning to make a significant contribution in this life.
As parents who have chosen to homeschool our children through the high school years, we need to commit to a specific vision for our families and our homeschools, and we need to support our teens as they seek to develop their own personal visions. Homeschool graduates have the opportunity to change the world around them in many ways. How can we, as parents, bring up young people who have the ability and confidence to embrace and hold true to their visions?
I believe there are three key ways we can encourage this kind of thinking in our teens. We need to build strong relationships with them, we need to re-prioritize regularly with them, and we need to relax frequently with them.
Remember that what will make homeschooling through high school truly worthwhile and rewarding is the relationship you have the chance to forge with your teen. It really has nothing to do with what algebra course you choose. It's not about calculating the hours spent studying or the number of credits earned. Testing, college apps and essays, internships and jobs—none of them matter much in the end if you and your teens don't have a solid bond.
Nothing can beat homeschooling for giving you the time and flexibility needed to know your kids well. Spending time doing things together is the best investment you can ever make. Painting the house, learning to drive, camping, making music, baking cheesecake, working on the car, serving in the community, early morning coffee or late-night ice cream dates, and yes, even struggling through geometry and chemistry—when you do things like this together, you are showing your love and commitment to your teens, and in the years to come, they will not forget.
Remember that homeschooling is a process that should be open to change. What a family chooses to emphasize one year might be very different from what they decide to concentrate on the next year. Take advantage of this opportunity to adjust your course setting. Don't get stuck in the rut of doing things the way you've always done them just because it's easier or more convenient.
Reevaluating your priorities each year (often each semester) is a vital element of successfully homeschooling through high school. Though your son has proclaimed since the age of 5 that aeronautics is his life destiny, at 15 he might suddenly be struck by the irresistible appeal of archaeology or business or medicine. Are you open to hearing his thoughts, taking him seriously, and helping him chart a new course?
Keeping track of details and deadlines is an important life skill that all young people would greatly benefit from learning, yet equally important to their future is taking the time to research what might at first seem like impossible dreams and then mapping out short and long-term goals that could enable them to reach those dreams. Perhaps these different goals will mean taking a new approach to studying, finding an unusual curriculum, or seeking out a specific apprenticeship.
As the parents of high school homeschoolers who are setting new priorities, it is urgent that we continue to support our teens in every way we can. We have the chance to model the value of balancing realism with optimism, practicality with ideals. Though at times intimidating, we are called to be an example of both maturity and boldness to our children.
A simple wooden sign sits on the top of my desk. It says, "Relax." My children read it to me frequently, and I smile. That sign is there to remind me of what I already know but sometimes forget in the hurry of everyday life. Young children need us to relax. Teens need us to relax. Spouses need us to relax. None of us need the tension of no options, the pressure of no time, and the stress of no fun. Thankfully, through homeschooling, none of us have to live this way. We can slow down and enjoy each other. We have the time, we have the freedom, and we have the choice.
As Christian homeschoolers, we also have the knowledge that God is in control and not us, much as we sometimes tend to think otherwise. Knowing that God has it all planned can provide the ultimate measure of peace to us and our teens. It is reassuring and inspiring to remember that God knows what He has in store for our young people. He will never forsake them, and He stands ready to empower them to do great things in this world.
So take heart. Join me in continuing to homeschool your teens until you set them loose for God. And relax—it's an amazing adventure you will not regret.
*This article published January 15, 2010
Kim Lundberg and her family have been homeschooling in an interest-led, relaxed way for over 18 years. Mom to 10 children, Kim enjoys studying and discussing history, reading mysteries, baking, learning new things, and traveling.
Originally published in Home School Enrichment Magazine. Now, get a FREE subscription to HSE Digital by visiting www.HSEmagazine.com/digital Every issue is packed with homeschool encouragement, help, and information. Get immediate access to the current issue when you start your FREE subscription today!