Recently I went up to the Cape Fear Community College North Campus to purchase a gift for my daughter who was graduating. As I started to leave, it dawned on me that I would probably not return to that building. And then I cried. I cried tears of thankfulness because the two years that she spent at community college as a dual-enrolled homeschooler were such a blessing in her life. And perhaps mixed in were a few tears of joy that my twelve years as a homeschool teacher are over.
Our homeschool journey started in 2004. I pulled Hannah out of 4 year old pre-K because she was terrified of getting a “tally” for misbehaving and being sent to the principal’s office for a spanking. My little tender-hearted pleaser never went back to a public or private school. And when her brother who has autism started flunking 1st grade math because he was bored, I pulled him out, too.
And that is when the fun started.
I didn’t homeschool because I wanted to, I did it because I had to. I referred to myself as a “captive homeschooler.” Of course I loved the homeschool lifestyle…going to the beach and calling it a “field trip” and taking vacations whenever we wanted during the year. But I didn’t always love the work: sitting at a table for tedious hours with a daughter who didn’t understand fractions or with an autistic son whose handwriting was so horrible it was self-encrypted. The hardest part was always nagging my children to do their work.
For 12 years.
I struggled with comparing myself with other homeschool moms and I felt like I did not measure up AT ALL. Those moms were happily reading to their children on the couch, and I was crammed in between two slouchy kids yelling, “Get your head off my shoulder!” Most moms sat at the tables teaching their children math, and I bought the best computer-based math courses available. While some moms were busy teaching their daughters how to knit, I was on the floor of my walk-in closet crying. I always felt like I was doing it the wrong way. I finally learned that if I kept to myself and didn’t see what others were doing, I was able to stay focused and keep moving forward.
We are now at the other end of the journey and I am thankful that we all survived and we still like each other. My autistic son just completed his first year at UNCW studying computer science with a 4.0 average. Yes, that child that was flunking 1st grade math flourished with an individualized education. That daughter who was a “Pre-K Drop Out” just received not only her high school diploma but also her Associate in Arts degree. And she’s going off to college in the fall with a full scholarship to boot. They are amazing kids and I’m so proud that they are mine. I did it! I didn’t ruin them!
And this captive homeschool mama who should celebrate that she is finished schooling is in fact a little sad. She will miss those “field trips” to the strawberry patch to pick berries and eat ice cream and then make jam.
She will miss watching Tim Hawkins YouTube music videos together and calling it “pop culture education.” She will miss those squirming children that were laying all over her when she tried to read to them on the couch. She will miss all of the sweet days with her children nestled safe in her home, learning and growing and flourishing. They are now ready to embrace the world.
If this captive homeschooler had to do it all over again, she wouldn’t change a thing.
Wherever you are in your children’s education journey, whether they are in Pre-K or public school or safe at home with you, take heart that you will survive. You are doing enough. You are not ruining them. And there will come a day that you will look back on these work-filled trenches with fond memories, and perhaps you might even shed a tear or two.
It’s going to be worth it all.