My baby, the graduate.
So, we were eating dinner one night this week, and Emma casually said, "I guess I'm done with high school." She had finished all her classes at home before we went on our trip, but had a science class at Master's College that had continued on a bit longer and had wrapped up that day. I had to smile as it was in true Harasick fashion that she simply stated it - there hasn't been much fanfare at the school milestones. When our kids completed elementary school, we basically patted them on the back and said "good job." No ceremony, no party, flowery card, or gift - nothing. When you're homeschooled, you don't move on to a different campus or even get a new teacher, so 6th grade and 7th grade really aren't all that different.
When Drew graduated high school, we were not part of a home school group at the time. So, his graduation consisted of no pomp nor circumstance. He borrowed a friend's cap and gown for the traditional senior photo op, and had a little celebration at Disneyland with Emma and a few friends. And then, off to college he went, no longer a homeschooler, but a business major in the real world.
We joined Lighthouse in Santa Clarita shortly after that, so Emma will actually have the first graduation ceremony of any of our children. In June, she will don cap and gown, walk down an aisle to that familiar graduation tune, receive a diploma, give a speech, and be featured in a slideshow presentation documenting her life in pictures. I am really looking forward to it, and I'm sure I'll shed a few bittersweet tears. I'm going to miss the years of homeschooling my children. They were wonderful.
I guess it is monumental now because we have just graduated our youngest child out of our home school. Years ago, when Brady was 7, we made the decision to pull him out of the private Christian school he was in, and start homeschooling. Drew started school at the same time, thus "the Master's School" of Sunland (and later Shadow Hills) was born.
So why did we decide to home school our children?
When Brady attended school, it was a unique set up. He attended school Mon-Wed-Fri, and was given assignments by his teacher to do at home on Tues-Thurs. The school was small, and I initially liked the balance. I didn't have to rush out of the house every morning, with Drew and Emma in tow (ages 4 & 2), but I didn't have to home school 100% either, which terrified me at the time. All I did was oversee Brady's work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and get him to school the other days. On the days he did have school, I carpooled with friends on the 405 freeway out to Northridge, rushing to get Brady there on time. I remember one morning in particular, that I was rushing him to class. When I dropped him off (a little late), I saw the teacher already sitting in a chair with the children huddled all around her on an area rug. She was calmly reading the bible to them. There was something ironic about her being the one to teach the bible in the morning (to my child), while I was frazzled from rushing out the door with two toddlers and driving in rush hour traffic. I was a little jealous - I wanted to be the one to read the bible to my child, and I wanted to be relaxed, too. Hmm.
A little later, when Brady was in 1st grade, Rich and I were asked to help select the bible curriculum for the school. So, one July day, the two of us headed off to the homeschool convention at the Disneyland hotel. We were amazed at all the curriculum and books! As we browsed, I think we got excited about the possibility of homeschooling our children for the first time. We talked much about what we wanted our life to look like as our children went through their school years. Did we want the morning drop off and pick up? Did we want the monthly payments (for 3 kids x 13 years)? Did we want someone else (that we may not even be able to choose) teaching our children? We knew the answer to those was no... but did we really want to take on educating our own children? It was a bit scary.
But, the next year we took the plunge. I ordered all the same curriculum that Brady had used at his school, and we embarked on our homeschooling journey.
There is a lot I could say about why we homeschooled, but Rich likes to answer "because we could." That sounds rather abstract, but there really is a lot to what he is saying. We liked the freedom to control our children's education, especially in those formative early years. We knew we wanted a Christian worldview for what was taught. We wanted to spend a lot of time with our children. We wanted to train them all day, not just after school hours. We wanted the freedom to make our own schedule. So, we decided we (or mostly I) would take on their academic education, for the sake of accomplishing our goals with them.
Looking back know, I really would do it all over again. It is not that I was a good homeschooling mother; on the contrary, I lacked in many areas. I think I always felt inadequate, that I wasn't doing enough or teaching enough. I'm sure my children can vouch for the fact that I was too lax, not capable of understanding many of their subjects, or was just too lazy to keep up on the grading. But, what kept me motivated is that I felt that homeschooling allowed me to build a relationship with my children that I couldn't accomplish had I not spent those years with them. Do I think my children could have been better educated? Indeed. Did they miss out on certain things because we homeschooled? I'm sure they did (other people's positive influence, a "normal" life in school, sports, proms, etc.). But, do I think someone else could have done a better job raising them day in and day out- most definitely not. I say this not because of my skill but because they are my children, given to me by God, and my responsibility (well, Rich's, too of course) to raise in the love and admonition of the Lord. And I felt like homeschooling was the vehicle that allowed me to do that.
When the day is done, I don't really care how smart or successful my children are, but I want to have had a gospel influence on them. I used to say that the best thing about homeschooling is that you get to influence your children. But, at the same time, the worst thing about homeschooling is that you get to influence your children! I lived with the reality that each day, my children were being schooled by an imperfect, wretched sinner! However, I was divinely appointed to be their mother, and I pray that they saw in me as a real Christian living her life, having to ask forgiveness when I sin, having to depend on the Lord for my weakness, and having to face life's trials (Brady's illness) with God's sovereignty in view. Those were the real lessons that I wanted to teach.
Do I think homeschooling is the only way (biblically mandated) or that everyone should do it? You might be surprised to find out that I truly don't. I actually respect some families' reasons for putting their children in private or even public schools. However, homeschooling was so wonderful for us, that I am very grateful that we were able to do it. We did it because we could (by God's grace). It was a lot of work, but absolutely worth it all. I truly have no regrets about our decision. We had many great years together, times I will cherish for the rest of my life. Yes, it does feel good to be done, but it's bittersweet.