The end of this month, I will participate in the graduation of my last two students, just as I have participated in their education for the last sixteen years. I look forward to that day with very mixed emotions. I have participated in two other such graduations of my older two children, but this one will be different because it will be my last in which to be so involved.
A commencement exercise is called that because it marks not the end of the student’s education but the beginning of a new time in his life–a time when he begins to be responsible for his own education. My twins have been homeschooled all their lives, but graduation marks the time when their formal education is no longer my responsibility. Whether they go on to college, participate in an apprenticeship program, enter the work force, or begin to manage a home, they will keep on learning. My husband and I have given them the tools, and God has given them the abilities they have. It is up to them to carry on.
This graduation, however, does mark the end of one thing. It marks the end of a lifestyle for me. I have come to understand that being a home schooler is part of my identity. I have often said that home schooling is the hardest thing for which I ever volunteered. (That first year of having twins was harder, but I did not volunteer for that job; I was drafted.) Because it is so hard, I look forward to the freedom allowed by no longer having to prepare, teach, grade, keep records, pray over what curriculum to use, etc. I can now turn my attention to being a full-time homemaker, as I did so many years ago before I had these blessings called children. I can do my own things now–things that have been put on hold all these years. It is time for me to spend some time on myself.
Is it, though? As I have sought the Lord for direction for my life after that important graduation day, I have been reminded of some lessons impressed upon me years ago. When my children were small, I cried out to the Lord for help–for an older woman to help and encourage me when I was so overwhelmed with diapers, runny noses, spit-up, and the like. I hoped for someone who could maybe come in once in a while and keep my children while I went shopping, even if it was just for groceries. It would have been such an encouragement to have an older woman drink a cup of coffee with me and assure me that this stage would pass and that my children would grow up and become more self-sufficient. I needed someone to tell me that I was on the right path with the approach we were taking in discipline or to encourage me to do better. It seems to be a common problem in our society that our grandmothers and older women have gone out into the workforce either to make extra income or to find a meaningful job where they can be appreciated. Even if these women stayed home with their children as they were growing up–perhaps even homeschooled them–it seems that they cannot wait to get on with their lives and make their mark on the world.
As I think back over those early days, I remember that I made a commitment to the Lord that, if I survived my children’s childhood days, I would follow His command in Titus 2:4-5. There He tells the older women to encourage the younger women to be keepers of the home and to love their husbands and their children. I have now entered into the “older woman” stage of my life. I do not know it all, but I have been there and done that, so to speak.
It has often been said that by the time you figure out how to be a parent, your job is over. Maybe that is why God gave this command to older women. God knew what a help it would be to have someone with years of experience to encourage a mother just starting out. This gives a woman the opportunity to use all that information she has collected over the years. So maybe your job is not over yet.
People have asked me if I am going to homeschool others, especially my grandchildren. My answer is always an unequivocal, “No!” I have done my job where that is concerned. However, I do believe that I have a responsibility to be involved in my grandchildren’s lives. I do want to teach them things-just not phonics and math. I want to read to them and help them develop an appreciation of good books. I believe that it will be my responsibility to pray for them and to encourage them in the Lord. I want to take them on trips and teach them about God’s creation firsthand. I want to help my own children by doing things with their children that they will not have time to do while they are so busy with diapers, runny noses, spit-up, and the like.
Who are the older women? Are they just people like me who have finished with home schooling? A mother who has homeschooled for five years is older than one who is just starting. The age may not be as important as the experience that can be shared.
It is my hope and prayer that, just as so many are catching the vision of taking full responsibility for their children’s education, many, too, will return to obeying God’s word in the area of encouraging the younger moms and the new home educators. As Isaac Newton once said, “If I have been able to see so far, it is only because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” I am no giant, but if my children and other home school parents can take what I have learned and build on it, just imagine what the next generation can accomplish!