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Mission Accomplished – 13 Years Later | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Mission Accomplished – 13 Years Later

Last week, my daughter completed her high school course requirements. Yesterday, I sent in the final paperwork and documentation. And so ended an unexpected journey, with the mission accomplished. Those what to expect baby books never told me what to do when the unexpected happened.

Thirteen years ago, the summer my daughter turned 5, I hoped to prepare her for kindergarten. However, she prepared herself. Somehow that summer, she taught herself to read. I didn’t push it, and it was her own doing. As she started, I found a phonics-based reader set at the library and helped her make her own book. As she learned to read each page, she decorated it with flowers. As she began to read, I saw doors open in her world and her ready to leap through them to new adventures.

Her first day of kindergarten, she proudly took the book she had made and could read with her, into the perfect kindergarten classroom with the best of all possible kindergarten teachers. That afternoon, she came home discouraged. “No one in my class reads. Why should I?” she asked. When I asked if she showed her teacher the book she had made, she told me, “I will never read from that book again.”

Three days later, Richard and I pondered what to do. We saw her wilting and wondered - do you pay tuition for kindergarten for a child to quit reading when she was doing ok at home?

That third day, when she came home, she asked, “Can I stay home and do school here?”

We said yes.

We figured it would be an experiment for a year and if it failed, we would put her in school and pretend the year never happened. I was utterly unprepared, knew no one who homeschooled, and wondered if this were the right path for us. Over time, that changed.  Since I only do life in all-out force or not at all, I dove in with both feet.

Our journey had unexpected detours. First, I thought I could create the perfect classroom to be the best teacher.  I plan, and God laughs. Richard left his job of 20 years to start his own business, and a year after that, our home and business burned. That year, school days began at 6:30 a.m. so it could end earlier and I could focus on rebuilding our home and business.  What I didn’t anticipate was how that year would instill a strong work ethic in our kids.

Slowly, I learned that education is the lighting of a fire more than the stuffing of a bucket. Things went better when I focused on basics and encouraged interests and character development. If I stayed out of Elizabeth’s way, she worked harder – one summer reading every book on Greek mythology and another devouring every science-based agriculture book in our library system.

My goal with our choices was for our kids to enjoy a wide range of experiences, so they would feel as comfortable walking into an urban YMCA as they do a country club.  I don’t know if I always succeeded at that goal, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. I hope they also learned that we get by with a lot of grace from God and a lot of help from our friends. There is no way we could have lasted on this path without 4-H, friends who taught my kids science classes, coops that provided a full range of opportunities, online schools, DVD programs, and dual credit college courses.

And I learned over time to change my role from teacher to mentor, especially in high school. She chose to continue homeschooling in high school, though we told her she would need to be more self-directed and was being enrolled in a tough program with high standards. We also told her if she wanted extras, we would encourage her but didn’t have the budget to cover all of them. So she started a baking business, baking rolls and cakes to pay for music and art lessons, as well as choir tuition.

When she was old enough, she started working as a bookshelver at the library to pay her tuition for extra courses through colleges and more. It’s amazing how much more kids value their education when they invest in it.

My prayer is my kids remember good times more than they remember the many times I stumbled and fell myself on this journey, when I lost my temper or grew discouraged.

The longer I stayed on this path, the less judgmental I became. There is no one perfect way to parent or to educate kids. What matters most is that our kids know we’re here to push, encourage, and help them when we can. In other words, they need to know that we love them always – when they succeed and when they stumble and fall.

And when they venture on their own journeys – whether it’s through the preschool classroom door or out the door to college.

 


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