Operation: Graduation

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Craig is graduating tonight! Yippee! We’re celebrating by taking him out to dinner, but first we must complete Operation: Graduation. This is our little graduation gift to Craig. Well, hopefully it will be. Nothing has actually been checked off yet, but we have a whole day. Here we go!

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Education: Home & Otherwise

When I started the education category for this blog so many years ago, I had no idea where our educational journey would take us. At that point in time, it was meant to encompass homeschooling and seminary; since then, it has taken on Craig as a high school teacher and various daughters in public school preschool programs and speech services. And now this fall we will embark upon a new chapter in our educational journey: our two oldest daughters will be going to a Christian school.

It is not a decision we flippantly made. It has been an option on the table for us for several years, though it never seemed like the right time then. While the final decision came upon us rather quickly, it has the Lord’s hand on it and we are grateful for His leading and provision to make it happen.

The obvious question we’re being asked is “Why?” Why now? It’s a valid question, and I’m not entirely sure a blog post can do the answer justice, though I will take a stab at it here.

Reason #1: We believe it is time. While we have no regrets about our homeschooling decisions thus far with all of the girls, we believe our oldest two are at a place where their education will be enhanced by the school they will be attending in the fall. I’ve come to realize more and more that the older the girls get, the less I can do with each one of them. The two oldest are having to do a lot of things on their own and I’m not sorry that they’ve learned this valuable skill of independent learning. However, I do see how they thrive from cooperative learning experiences and the exchange of ideas they get from other kids. I think their training in independent learning will only be an asset to them as they go into more of a group-driven learning environment.

Reason #2: I believe I am a really good homeschooling teacher…to about two kids. This is not at all to say that my younger two haven’t learned anything in the past couple of years, but when I had to choose whether to read aloud the older level books or the younger ones, I always defaulted to the older ones. My younger two have been champs at sitting in on all the upper level Sonlight read-alouds we do (and ironically, my 8yo auditory learner seems to have better comprehension skills of some of these readers than my older girls do!), but I’ve been sad that they’ve missed out on many great books from the earlier Sonlight levels. I’m going to make up for that next year. The two oldest girls were assessed in several areas last week by the school and I was relieved to hear very positive results there in terms of high school reading levels and on-target math. They have a great foundation for going into this situation. It is now time I turn more focused attention to the two younger learners in our home.

Reason #3: Believe it or not, part of our rationale here is relationship-driven. My oldest daughter and I can tend to butt heads. I’ll be honest by saying that when I’ve heard parents use that as an excuse to not homeschool, I’ve rolled my eyes internally before and thought, “All the more reason TO homeschool.” I know that sin issues between us will not disappear simply because she’s at school each day, but I am hoping this new situation will help diffuse some hostility that can be a factor in our relating to one another.

Simply put, I am not willing to sacrifice my relationship with my daughter on the altar of home education. I would much rather focus on her as a person and her character and who she is in Christ than argue with her over how much time it’s taking her to do her math. And, as much as I don’t want to admit this, I will: I know that my persona as the homeschool mom who has her act together can be an idol for me. Making the decision to put two kids in school was a wrenching one in that regard. I had to wrestle with all of the “what am I going to say to _________” or “how is this going to look to ____________,” and that was hard.

I was talking to a new-to-us friend the other day who was homeschooled all her years. In her own words, she had a fairly rebellious ending to her time at home. By grace alone, she has not forsaken God and is a very sweet and amazing young gal now. To talk with her you would never guess she had such a shaky entry into adulthood. I mentioned to her this relationship angle of our decision and she got quiet and looked at me for a second. She then said that she thinks if her own mom had made a similar decision things would have turned out differently for both of them during those years.

Now, who really knows what would have happened there (just like who knows how God is going to continue to grow and shape and change the six of us in our own family over the coming years), but I took that conversation as yet another confirmation in a long line of other little confirmations to us over the past couple of weeks that this was the next step we needed to take regarding the girls’ education.

Reason #4: We’ve been thinking for a long time that our girls would go to the school where Craig teaches once they reach that age (7th grade). Putting the girls in this particular elementary school at this particular time will hopefully do two things: 1) help them foster relationships with other kids who will be entering into the same school as 7th graders; and 2) possibly catch any gaps in their education they may have before heading into middle- and upper- school levels.

The second obvious question we’re being asked is, “Why Christian school?” The answer to that has several factors as well. We are not an anti-public school family. I know a lot of people who really believe they are called to put their kids into public schools and a lot of them do it for the purpose of meeting unbelievers. I will not downplay their decision to do that. We simply have different goals there, and while I’m not opposed to the idea of public school someday, it won’t be for the purpose of meeting unbelievers. If we choose that option some day it will be because we believe it to be in the best educational interests and spiritual development of our kids.

I believe in infusing our girls’ education with a Christian worldview. When conflict arises at school (and it will – where there are people there will be conflict, that’s the way it goes), I want someone walking the girls through that who can point the kids to Christ. I’m not as interested in them learning to be good citizens with each other as I am in them learning how to deal with each other in a God-honoring way (if they learn the latter, they will be the former).

Let’s face it: the tween years are hard enough. They are formative in a lot of ways and if I’m going to entrust my girls to someone else’s guidance for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, I want that guidance to be with people who not only believe in Jesus themselves, but are free to have those conversations with kids without sneaking it into the conversation somehow.

So, that’s a very long way of letting everyone know that we really have turned into an “Education: Home & Otherwise” kind of family. Starting on August 19, we will enter the world of packed lunches and carpool lines. And I’m feeling really good about that decision.