I grew up wanting to be a teacher. I could feel it in my bones–I was born to teach. I taught my younger friend Robin everything I knew about playing Barbies. I taught the kids in the trailer park how to jump clay hills on their bikes and how not to try crossing a deep ditch on the aforementioned bikes by way of a thin bridge built with two rotting one-by-two boards. I preached from atop our doghouse to congregations of three dirty-faced neighborhood kids, beseeching them to be nice and to forgive and to share their candy. I performed concerts to audiences I had roused from the neighborhood by riding my bike around and around the park yelling that my music would change their lives. It must have seemed a pretty comical notion to most, considering I was all of ten.

I did not go to college after high school to become a teacher, partly because music took over my soul and changed my career path, but more specifically because I got pregnant at 16 and married my fiance earlier than we had planned. I did finish high school, and even walked at graduation with my class when I normally would have, with my mom and my husband looking proudly on and our three-month-old son on my hip in his tiny red tux and my royal blue mortarboard hanging lopsided from silky brown hair and big blue eyes peering from underneath. I had even graduated with a high enough GPA to earn a full scholarship to junior college, but there was to be no college for me with a new baby in my arms and a young husband working long hours and little enough time together even without me trying to take classes.

Motherhood came quickly, but fit like a glove. It seemed as natural as breathing to teach our bright little boy everything he was eager to learn, so it came as no surprise when he was operating his own stereo system at two, and reading children’s books at three and the sports page at four. He went to school for kindergarten and first grade, and then his teacher let us in on a concern she had: she didn’t know what they were going to do with him the following year, because he had finished all of his 1st-grade curriculum during the first semester and had spent the second half tutoring other students. Wow. It would’ve been nice had she let us in on that information a bit earlier on, especially since we were at the school every day dropping him off at his classroom door and picking him up in the same spot.

And so our homeschooling journey began. Twenty-three years and five kids later, I look back over our homeschooling adventure with a perplexing mix of thoughts.

Gratitude
I am grateful beyond words for the blessing it has been to teach our children in our home and in the car and at the museum and the grocery store and everywhere we ever were. I am grateful for the bonds homeschooling created among our family members, siblings who don’t fight but who look out for and fiercely protect one another, a mom and dad who adore each other and provide the foundational relationship for this big amazing family to rest upon. I am grateful for everything homeschooling has taught me–about God, about my children, about myself, about life.

Sadness
It’s been a long, tough, challenging road, but I’m going to deeply miss homeschooling when it’s all over. I can’t even imagine it, really. I’ve been doing this half my life.

Relief
As much as I cringe at the thought of being finished with homeschooling within the next couple of years, I will say there will be some measure of relief, of being able to relax and think about my husband and me, of having time to consider what makes me laugh and what passions I possess outside of my family. Just the notion that there is anything of me “outside” of family really doesn’t even make sense to me. I’m honestly not even sure how to approach the idea, but like it or not I will have time to try.

Uncertainty
Even with all the thankfulness, there is still uncertainty. Did I fail them in any way? Did I focus enough on each of their specific learning styles? Did I meet their individual needs? Did I prepare them well enough? Will they regret homeschooling? Will they resent me one day for things they didn’t get to do? Is there a chance they might have loved our homeschooling life enough to want to homeschool their own?

Resolve
There is a duality that exists within my psyche that I navigate with some effort. In some situations I do not like structure or outline or even closure, but prefer openness and freedom to explore. Such is the case with many of my creative writing endeavors. Looking back over the past 23 years, though, I see that I need some way to quantify, some way to measure what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished–where we were then and where we are now because of our choice to homeschool. I think I need some tangible proof that I–that we–did the right thing by our children and by our family as a whole.

Looking back, I feel a million things at once. But what I feel most is joy. I have loved our learning life together as a family more than any words could begin to capture. It has brought me a deep, permeating joy that I will carry with me always. My sincerest prayer is that our children will carry it, too.

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