I'm going to a homeschooling conference tomorrow and man, am I looking forward to it. It's not just the fact that I'll be able to shop in the vendor hall, although don't get me wrong, I love curriculum browsing. And it's not just the fact that I'm going to have two days of soaking in some very good teaching on a multitude of family and parenting topics that my heart so badly needs to hear right now. And it's not even just the fact that I'm going to be experiencing some of that "absence makes the heart grow fonder" me time mythos that will no doubt hit the reset button on my mommying cruise control.
All of these things are good, but they're not what I'm really looking forward to. What's really got me excited is the fact that I will not be alone.
For starters, Benny is joining me in attending this particular conference. We have the ride down, all day sessions, the vendor hall, the ride home and a whole other day to do it again. Together. Which sounds like a lot of time, but trust me, it isn't. Because frankly, we could talk the entire time and not run out of things to say.
But even that much quality time with Benny isn't enough to have be as thrilled as I am. (Sorry, Benny!) My joy goes even deeper than time with my best friend.
See, there are some things that are just meant to be shared. And you know what I've discovered? Homeschooling is one of them.
By its very nature, homeschooling is a semi-solitary thing for most of us. That's why it's called homeschooling, after all. You do it at home. Out of the public realm. In your most private space. Just your family, finding your own way.
You may participate in a co-op. You may belong to a support group. You may have the benefit of some fabulous forum friends. But at the end of the journey, you are the one responsible for the education of your brood. And that can be a very daunting thing.
Having people that walk the path with you makes that burden so much lighter. I can't imagine my own homeschooling career without the guidance of my cousin or my best friend. When I doubt myself, when I'm lonely, when I feel like a failure, when I can't quite put my finger on a situation ... they are the people whose voices I want at the other end of the line. The women who are right alongside me in the trenches. The ones who have taught phonics and lived. Who understand what it is like to simultaneously make grilled cheese sandwiches and read aloud from a historical novel. Women who feel my pain when I say that a book has fallen flat, or that a rabbit trail has taken on a life of its own. People like me.
Going to a homeschool conference is an even bigger extension of that sense of comfort. Finally--finally!--walking in to a building and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are not the only one who truly understands how it is that you can feel a call that sets you so far outside of the mainstream. Seeing another mother who can't quite figure out what to do with her hands because she is so accustomed to having them full of giggling babies and a sweet 8 year-old boy who hasn't given up loving his momma's hugs. Hearing families talk about how their lives revolve around their home, not their offices or their kids' sports teams. Seeing the sense of purpose on the faces of other parents--parents who put thought, prayer and love into the educational choices they make for their children.
This is what I'm looking forward to: for two days, Benny and I will not be alone in praying when we sit down for lunch. We will not be the only people whose sons are more interested in knights than in video games. We won't be the only ones who have said no to things that most people don't question. We won't be alone when we stand in front of a table of books on purity, homemaking or womanhood. No one will look at us with raised eyebrows when we simply are who we are.
Instead, we'll be surrounded by like-minded women and families. No one will be able to spot us as fish swimming upstream. We will blend.
"It's your own little version of Mary Grace Heaven, isn't it?" my husband asked last night as I waxed poetic over the notion of not looking horribly overdressed just because I'm wearing a skirt.
"Gosh, no!" I told him. Heaven, I'm hoping, will be far more diverse. I really want to see some Bikers for Jesus in heaven. And Marc Driscoll. And my dad.
I don't want heaven to be populated entirely with people just like me. The world is much bigger, much more beautiful because of its variances and nuances. I think God made differences to keep things spicy--kind of like a bright red throw pillow on an all-white couch. God is surprising. He didn't stop with vanilla ice cream Mary Grace clones; instead, he kept churning out flavors all the way down the line. Pistachio. Butter pecan. Death by Chocolate. Rainbow sherbert.
And that's good.
But tomorrow, I want to float in a sea of vanilla. I want to feel like I am just one of the crowd. Like I could actually--for once in my life--go with the flow. Because for me, that's the beauty of a homeschooling conference, especially one sweetened by the attendance of a dear friend: for once, there's no explanation needed. For two days, I can just enjoy being there.