We did it! We graduated our first born son from high school this weekend. The process was an intense emotional roller coaster, but the event went smoothly, and family, as well as the graduate, enjoyed their time together in celebration.
We participated in the WHO (Washington Homeschool Organization) Commencement Ceremony. The ceremony was intimate and well organized. Each parent wrote an 80 word statement about his graduating student, which was read by two preselected, honored readers. While this statement was being read, the parent handed his or her graduate the high school diploma and the graduate handed his or her parent a rose in return. Some of the graduates greeted their parents with the traditional smile and hug, while others, my son included, decided to be a bit more comedic in their approach. My son, donning his bow tie, scanned me with his sonic screwdriver before determining that it was safe to take his diploma. The Dr Who fans in the audience got a kick out of that, but I was left not quite knowing how to react, since I can’t get through even one episode of the series. It’s just not my sort of thing.
This is the 80 word statement we wrote for our graduate:
Our son is the first home-schooled high school graduate from our family. He has persevered through everything from research reporting to classical piano training. He is dedicated to his church worship band and helping people in need. In his leisure time, he can be found composing music in his studio. He is a visionary in every aspect of his life from music to science. Son, we are proud of all you have accomplished. Seek the Lord in your journey to come.
After the ceremony, the family gathered together at our church to celebrate the graduation of four high school students, including our son. It was a fabulous party, for everyone. Church members provided a delicious spread of food. We made a slide show with pictures of the graduates looping through to my son’s composition pieces. Each student had a display board representing their achievements and they even announced their goals for the future to the crowd gathered before them.
Putting together the display board and the slide show, was a very emotional experience. I found myself crying and laughing, both with tears, at the various pictures of different life events throughout the last 18 years. I was delightfully surprised however to find that the portfolios my son had put together at the end of each year made the job of displaying his achievements much easier. Family and friends were able to peruse these well organized and content rich portfolios going back to 7th grade. I even put out some elementary work we had saved, including a letter he wrote to President Bush about the “invisible children” in Uganda.
The process of preparing for my son’s graduation also boosted my confidence and made me proud to be his parent and teacher. If you have been following my blog, you know that my oldest struggles with dyslexia and auditory processing disorder. Sometimes when talking with my son, I feel like he hasn’t learned a thing, and that all of the work we had done was a waste of time. Sometimes I even wonder what we did. Did we even do anything? But we did! And we did a whole lot. He has read over 100 books, since 7th grade, and written countless essays and research papers. He won the presentation award and advanced to state level with his team in the First Lego League competition. He participated for 2 years in Search and Rescue, and not to mention the 7 years of Piano Guild evaluations, winning International to National awards and receiving superior scores. The kid has a dream transcript, with well rounded activities and a 3.6 GPA, but he can’t take a test to save his life. That is when all the flipping happens. He understands the concept, but getting the correct answer is a challenge. I pray that in his maturity, he will remember to use all of the test taking strategies he has learned. He can’t get by without them.
So what’s next?
The first step for my composer will be to spend time in LA this summer networking with people in the movie industry to see if any doors will open for him to compose music for movies or video games. And yes, we have connections to Hollywood movie and tv producers, so he will be able to make these connections easier than the average person.
If this doesn’t pan out, he will come home and attend a community college while working and learning how to program with his father. He will continue to compose music and network with potential employers until his dream career opens up. Thankfully, he is picking up programming languages quickly, so if need be, this will be the medium he uses to make money until he lands his dream job.
So what did I learn in the 10 years homeschooling my first born son?
Probably the biggest lesson that I learned in these last ten years is not to project myself onto my kids. My son and I butt heads most of the way through elementary and middle school, because I expected him to be like me, to learn like me, and to think like me. I taught him according to how I learn best. But he is not me! In fact, he isn’t anything like me at all. It wasn’t until he reached high school and I started to see the same struggles magnified in my second born, that I started to let go of my expectations and really look at him for who he is. He is a visionary. He wants to create and solve problems, musically and scientifically. If I could go back, I would have done more science and interest led schooling. Because of his auditory issues he didn’t learn much when I was reading to him. Instead, he learned best when he was able to build, experiment, create and design.
Now, I intentionally consider each child separately. What are their interests? How do they learn? Even my identical twins are different learners. If I need to teach one concept using 4 different methods, I will do so. One may need explicit instruction, while the other just picks it up logically, with little instruction. One may be more art orientated and the others may learn best through classic literature or text books. Regardless, all of their needs will be met, because of the flexibility homeschooling allows. What a gift! I have been blessed to be able to homeschool my first born son from second grade to graduation. We both learned a lot through the process, but I am also convinced that his education would not have been as rich, nor would he have been as successful had he attended public school. I constantly thank God for putting it in my heart to homeschool, and I thank all of the pioneer homeschooling moms who have made it so much easier for us now to do what is best for our children.