I can feel the magnitude of all of this just fine without the constant chorus of people around me. After all, I'm the one who wakes up every morning to the truth that my little girl is just an inch shy of my own 5'9", borrows my shoes, and prays for her future husband every night. Yes, I'm well aware she's growing up. I didn't need you to tell me that. Thanks anyway, though.
But no, people won't stop pointing out the obvious. Far from being overwhelmed at the fact that the years of wearing the knees out in her tights by playing horses for hours on end have come to a close, though, most people are bubbling over with questions and concerns (and concerns masquerading as questions) about how on earth we plan to homeschool through high school.
Clearly, we're not the first to go this way. I know of plenty of people who have lived to tell the tale and frankly, many of their children were high on the list of reasons why we started this whole homeschooling business to start with. They are smart, funny, godly, gracious, responsible, kind people, the lot of them. Fine young adults that I'd be proud to hire, to be served by, to have pleading my case in court, to be encouraged by at church.
No, we're not pioneers. But we are among the few hearty souls who plan on finishing the race with a homeschool diploma as the reward.
"What are you going to do about chemistry?"
"How about upper level math?"
"Won't she miss out on prom?"
"Are you going to hire someone to write her transcript?'
"What if she wants to go to public school?"
"Are you sure you know what colleges are looking for?"
"Doesn't that take a lot of time?"
You know the questions. You've heard them before, no matter where you are on your homeschooling journey. Someone has asked you these things with a wrinkle touching their brow, leaning in just slightly. And you've answered the questions to the best of your ability and then moved on, because really ... high school was so far away. Seriously, people, I'm talking about phonics here. And you want me to tell you my plans for physics?!?
Suddenly, though, I am staring down physics--and phonics, with this child at least, hasn't been in the picture in a nearly a decade. We're starting high school, for goodness sake. Where has the time gone?
If I listen too closely to the voices around me, I realize that I'd be mired in more doubt, worry, and anxiety than one homeschooler can stand. There are frighteningly few outsiders lining up to encourage me in my efforts--even fewer than there were when we started this undertaking. Because while it's now fairly common and acceptable to tackle the skills of early elementary and even slightly beyond at home, it's still not terribly mainstream to finish your entire education under the instruction of your parents.
And I know this. I expected the naysayers question our choices anew. I was prepared for being called to defend our choices. These people weren't really in support of homeschooling to start with, after all. They just couldn't find a reason to say it was bad, so they kept their mouths shut. I get this.
What I wasn't prepared for, though, was the lack of support I'd feel from fellow homeschoolers.
As we round the corner into high school, I've been shocked at the pressure I've felt--some subtle, some overt--to completely throw over our way of thinking about homeschooling and do it the right way.
You know ... the way that gets your kid into college.
There are checklists to follow. Courses that must be taught. Textbooks that look good on transcripts. Reading lists that Admissions Officers drool over. Course titles that dazzle. Hours to be counted. Stellar grades to be maintained. A sequence to follow. Extensive test prep. Volunteer opportunities to round everything out. And a job, of course, that screams, "responsible and ambitious!"
I'm not talking about covering state requirements here, guys. Those minimum standards are what I agree to each year when I send in my Intent to Homeschool Form, and I bow to that authority. Besides being a rather paltry sampling of what you really ought to teach anyhow (in my opinion), I do think that a minimum threshold has to be maintained on some level. If you don't have the time to hit on some math for three out of four years, well ... you probably need to reevaluate.
No ... I'm talking about the bar set by colleges.
The pace of a homeschool high school program, I'm told, is to be set by the Institution that my daughter wants to attend. The next four years should be governed by what the Institution says it's looking for in a student. The Instituion knows what she needs to succeed. The Institution knows what she needs to learn. The Institution knows how she needs to learn it, and when.
Folks, does any of this sound familiar? It strikes me as being pretty close to the initial line we were all fed about government schooling in the first place. The one we rejected when we put our feet to the path of homeschooling.
I've been walking around in a daze for the last month, simply overwhelmed by what appears to be a near-unanimous agreement that homeschooling high school has to be different. That what has been working for our family--for my child--since we began has to change. Read-alouds must be replaced by textbook courses. Interest-led activities must be ditched for those that build her transcript. There's no room for learning chemistry in 9th grade, when my child has suddenly begun to ask for it, because chemistry must be taught in 10th grade, everyone knows, so that you can complete the science cycle as prescribed by ... well, the Institution.
An Institution that doesn't know my child, by the way, and has no interest in helping her spend these years listening to God's call on her life.
I am not against requiring more of a high school student. We've been gradually working toward this since Jo was in late elementary school. Every year, the water in the pot has gotten a little warmer, edging her towards a touch more independence here, a little bit of a challenge there. High school should be harder. The stakes should be a little higher. I agree with this! And I'm not against record keeping. I've been in favor of scrupulous homeschool records ever since I had the misfortune of finding myself being audited by our local school district a few years back. So count me among those who will be carefully taking notes on what is covered when.
|Jo in kindergarten|
I stopped dancing to that tune a long time ago when I realized that I had no interest in copying the government school structure at home. Institutional schooling is designed to create a specific product. As a Christian, homeschooling parent, I don't want that product. I didn't want that product back when I considered my sweet 4 year-old sitting in a chair most of the day and learning to read through a forced, manufactured process that didn't take her learning style and needs into account. I don't want it now as I imagine my articulate 9th grader snapping from topic to topic in 50 minute increments as commanded by a bell and a set of external requirements.
|Jo in 9th grade|
I see no joy in the model that demands that high school at home be dictated by an impersonal to-do list set by a school that may or may not be interested in being tasked with the privilege of educating my child. Most of all, I see no Jesus in it. That, I think is the biggest failing of all. Consider this: if you have spent the past 9(ish) years gently guiding your child through a series of learning experiences designed to help him or her to recognize and eventually respond to their specific role in God's Kingdom (Ephesians 2:10), how can you suddenly cast it aside and allow an outside Institution to captain the boat?
God set me on this course. I plan on remaining as faithful to His calling as He has been to me throughout the joys and trials of educating my children. Maybe He will lead me to adopt a plan nearly indistinguishable from the one some college of choice recommends. Maybe He will lead me somewhere crazy, like signing Jo up for a horticulture class that eats up all her time and becomes her new path in life--even though what she was really supposed to be learning was algebra. I'm o.k. with either, because one thing that homeschooling has taught me is that I can trust Him wherever He leads. It may not look "normal" ... but it always brings me closer to Him and His will.
If you're a homeschooling parent entering this new phase along with me, I encourage you to do as I exhorted my dear cousin just this morning: Finish well. Keep the faith. Persevere. We are not running with men (Jeremiah 12:5). We run with horses. We aren't competing for high grades, scholarships, or college acceptance letters. Our prize is far, far more precious than anything the principalities have to offer us. Remember this ... and be encouraged!