family mealThis has been a transitional season for our family. Having Devin graduate early and start college has been a huge adjustment for me. It is strange how the dynamics in a home change so drastically when one member is not present. Even though he still lives at home, between school, work, church, and friends, he pretty much just sleeps here anymore. I was in heaven the other night when the four of us actually sat down to eat a meal together. I went all out and cooked all day from scratch and had dessert, because it felt like a special occasion. Truth is, I miss him. I miss all the deep conversations we had as we read books together, spent time in Scripture together, and just had more time to enjoy each other’s company.

So many people warn you when you are young that life is fleeting and to cherish the moments you have. It is so true. As I look back on our decision to home school him, I can’t even imagine not having all these precious memories tucked away for those days my heart aches. Spending large amounts of time with them in childhood has not hindered them from spreading their wings and entering adulthood with grace. He knows we are here for him always, but he clearly doesn’t need us as much anymore. It is a blessing to know he is capable and independent. Yet, it takes time to slowly release the life you once had. I am thankful that we have had this year of him living at home to start transitioning to the day he will leave. I am glad that he has still asked us for advice, poured his heart out about hurts and problems, and plopped on my bed at 11:30 pm to tell me about his day. It is a different season but still good.

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It was an odd year as Devin was no longer in the daily flow, but I witnessed some amazing growth in both their lives. The biggest blessing has been to see that we can arrive at the same place in regards to finding employment, gaining scholarships, entering college, and learning academically by choosing a unique path that fits our family. We don’t have to stress about finals, testing, or being slaves to an activity or sport in order to succeed. A simple, daily walk of learning and growing together has been enough. It’s been filled with joy. Our homeschool opportunities never led us to win a state tournament or accolades, but they were great experiences none the less. Some kids may be headed in a certain direction that requires that kind of intensity, but for us, that was not the case. I saw that Devin was advanced in math and science and therefore at age 15, he started taking classes at a local university in the evenings. I outsourced that because I saw he could go farther there than with me. I used to stress about them being able to cram and study for tests, because that is a huge part of public education. But, I was able to assess if they had read and understood by a simple conversation or a piece of writing. Devin has been able to adjust to the traditional model well enough that he has made the Dean’s list both semesters. He has not had to struggle too much over testing, because he attends every class, asks the professors questions when needed, and keeps on top of all his homework. At test time, he hasn’t had to pull too many late nights. If I had listened to other people, I would have worried too much over what I couldn’t offer him. I knew my children, and it has been such a blessing from God to see Him open doors for my kids without having to jump through the public-school style hoops.

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Devin learned to work hard to accomplish his goals and still enjoy his life. It has been challenging as we have tried to encourage him to make monthly payments on what was left after his scholarship so that he can graduate without much debt. It is a hard road to go to school full time and work 25 hours at the age of 18. Most people say that they need the ‘experience’ of not working and living on campus so they can be a part of the college life socially. But, I don’t see very many Biblical truths to racking up obscene amounts of debt to fit it or have fun. This is just our truth that we feel we must live out. I think that he will thank us when he graduates at age 21 with very little debt. He has still managed to make new friends and be involved in a couple of extracurricular activities but realizes that the education that is costing all that money is the main goal. Devin has had to work hard for the money and live very frugally to pay his monthly bill, and it has given him a great appreciation of what it takes to make that kind of money. That lesson is a blessing for an 18-year-old. I always worried about being a stay at home mom and not bringing in a paycheck since it limited our ability to save for their college. (Shoot, we are still paying some of our college bills! We don’t want that for our kids, if it can be avoided.) But, I kept trusting the Lord to provide, and He has. Would it be nice to have to pay nothing? Sure. But, I don’t think he would have had the necessary character development if it had been handed to him completely. It is good to work and contribute!

Modeling her new work uniform.

Modeling her new work uniform.

Lindsey has been fortunate to obtain her first job. She has learned so many things at the age of 14 that I never did until much later. She has learned how to fill out an application, interview, go through training, fill out tax forms, set up a money bank card, balance a checkbook, tithe, and deal with a variety of differing personalities and supervisors. She has experienced forgetting her work gear and having to clock in late, dealing with rude customers, accidentally messing up orders, and work drama. Yet, she has shown a quiet strength and the ability to overcome her frustrations without melting down. She wants to be a good employee and do her job well. I wasn’t sure how this would go, but she has proved that she can handle it. And, she is building up a nice nest egg for a future car or college.

I also had to make a tough decision to let Lindsey take a semester off from her weekly co-op program. She has always enjoyed the structure it provided and the social aspects of being with her friends each Wednesday, but she was losing interest in learning. It was a little too classical and rigid for her. It was very hard to leave her friends, but she decided that more freedom in choosing the books she reads and the pace at which she learns is what she needs. The flexibility has given us so much more time to spend together learning about church history, art, more in-depth Bible study, and spur of the moment kind of rabbit trails. She has shown a vested interest in her education and motivation to reach her personal goals. I can’t be anything but happy at that.

Devin's first choir performance at Drury University.

Devin’s first choir performance at Drury University.

Besides the blessing of less stress, I have seen my children grow in so many ways. I have seen both develop a strong sense of who they are and show contentment in who God made them to be. I believe that not having to feel constantly compared to those in your class or critiqued on performance has produced some strong character traits that will serve them well. They can discern between right and wrong in situations that they haven’t ever been in before. Their foundation is not shaken when the people around them are less than kind or accepting. They really aren’t that concerned about what everyone else is doing, wearing, watching, etc. They have developed their own identity as unique children of God. Everyone gets their feelings hurt at times, and they are no exception, but they talk it out and move on. They are much better than I at that, I am afraid. They haven’t cowered in the corner when faced with sinners acting like sinners. They have befriended people and shown kindness to co-workers that are very different from themselves. I have prayed that I taught them this well…to love all people and to be a light in a dark world. I think that they have been blessed to be grounded in the things of God and His Word in a way that I dreamed about as a child. I struggled with many antagonistic teachers that belittled my faith, and I never felt ready to give an answer. I needed to know how to defend my faith, and I wanted to be the one to give that to my children.

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These are my main thoughts on my 11th year of home education and 18th year of raising my kids. As we closed our academic year, my daughter and I were trying to brainstorm ways to celebrate meeting our state’s 1000-hour requirement.  Those ideas formed into quite a list of blessings for me to look back upon. All of them point me back to the grace of God on our lives for He is the One that has turned that mandate into 1,000 hours of blessings of which I can give thanks. Even if you do not personally homeschool, I hope that you can look back and see how God has blessed your children and family life this year and find a way to document it for future reference. Be blessed today!