Straight A’s

As a home school dad, you wonder if you did the job right with your kids.

“Daddy, I made straight As!” Halley’s excited voice glowed over the phone.

“Wow, Girl. That’s great!” I replied with an exhale of joy and relief. Our oldest child just completed her first year of college. She was ready for us to meet her and drive her many belongings back home. Funny how you drive to campus with one carload of stuff and return with two.

All year long, while Halley was off at her university, a question rattled around in my head:  “After seventeen-plus years of homeschooling this girl, how did I do as a father?” Her mom was astounding, but how did I do? We both wanted her to do well in her home school life and beyond. We told her she was our experiment, as we’d never homeschooled before. In the 1980s I’d heard Raymond Moore on the James Dobson show describe the benefits of home schooling. In the 1990s I married Belinda and started the adventure with Halley. And, in the 2000s, I learned you don’t take this home school journey for yourself. You take it for your kids’ well-being and future.

And now we were nineteen years into that future. Did I teach her about Christ and to love Him with all her heart? Did I teach her to trust God for provision? For faith? For relationships? For a mission? For protection against evil and weird boys? Having been an evil and weird boy in my BC [before Christ] life, I was especially interested in teaching this lesson.

Belinda and I wondered if Halley should even go to college. She is smart, yet the expense is large and the potential exposure to prodigal-creating negative influences is even larger. Yet God made it clear that Halley should go and where she should go (topic for another article).

We enjoyed the unprecedented access to her college life that my parents didn’t have. We would “see” her via Skype. We read her Facebook to discern her heart. We texted her cell phone for instant encouragement and updates. I suppose if I slipped into paranoia, I could have secretly installed GPS tracking software on her phone (I didn’t!) and stalked her many trips to Wal-Mart. Today, I’m not really sure how my parents raised me without having cell phones.

In real life I serve as a project manager. I influence people and projects by setting direction, removing obstacles, and telling people things they don’t want to hear but need to hear (ex. “We’re over budget!”). I have great responsibility with limited authority. Gee, that sounds like a dad’s job doesn’t it?

You see, I can still influence my girl, but she has choices I can’t control and that I don’t even want to control. The Apostle Paul tells me not to worry about anything but to pray for everything and then I’d feel at peace. No worries, just a “relaxed concern” like Jesus exhibited on earth. So while I struggled to exhibit relaxed concern, God taught Halley many truths about Himself.

He taught Halley faith. The Lord worked a miracle to get her into college. And, by the time you read this, we trust He will work another miracle for the next semester.

He taught Halley relationships. When Halley arrived at her college, she didn’t know anyone. Now she has dozens of friends there. God even gave her a terrific roommate?though I suspect we worried the roommate’s parents that we were one of those kooky, right-wing, conservative home school families.

He taught Halley protection?though maybe she already understood this, having survived a serious car wreck two years ago. The other driver didn’t see Halley’s car and clobbered her into oncoming traffic, with airbags deploying. The car was totaled, yet Halley walked away unharmed.

At orientation I asked the campus chief of police if Halley could carry a Taser on campus. He said, “No” and probably put me on his “watch list” of kooky, right-wing, conservative home school families.

He gave Halley a mission. She applied for several campus mission activities but wasn’t selected?until the Young Life folks recruited her. Now she is a Young Life minister with a pioneering gospel mission to a local high school.

He taught Halley provision. She had her meal plan and even worked at the campus cafeteria for a semester, so she wasn’t going to starve, no matter how mysterious the meat. Yet my girl enjoyed 2 a.m. emergency trips to Taco Bell with her friends, and the Lord provided for that need using several surprise checks in the mail.

Life for Halley wasn’t perfect, and neither was she. Yet the Lord took care of everything we could think of—and more.

After Halley’s academic victory we drove down to help move her stuff home. It was amazing to see how two semesters of trips to Wal-Mart over the year had increased the load on her room. Even more amazing to see was how two people had squeezed so much into 200 square feet. I wisely stayed downstairs to “organize” the packing of stuff into the cars and happily allowed my young sons and daughters to carry the loot down four narrow flights of ancient dormitory stairs. During the packing a cute girl struck up a conversation with my son, Story (13), who looks much taller, more mature, and wealthier than his age. I reminded myself to talk to that boy again about girls.

We had to stop by the campus financial aid office, as I’d received an ominous email stating I’d forgotten to check a box on the website and Halley wasn’t getting any more money. A computer glitch, it turned out. As we spoke with Mr. Financial Aid, I learned Halley knew him already. A mass media classmate, it seems. He smiled a little too widely at my daughter for my comfort. I reminded myself to talk to that girl again about boys.

If there is one thing I wish I’d known when my grown-up little girl went off to college, it is the truth in Romans 11:36, “For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen!”

That word all means God is sovereign. He is in control over all things. He doesn’t miss anything. He loves my children more than my wife and I do. He wants my kids to love Him, to follow Him, and to enjoy Him more than we do.

After nineteen years under my covering, Halley had lived on her own for a year. So many unknowns faced her first year away from home. God took care of them all. He used her mistakes as life lessons. He led her to solid, Jesus-loving friends and mentors. He made her more confident in Him and in herself. He filled in the gaps and took care of her. He even provided for the adventure.

I still have four more kids to graduate, and my first got all As at college. So, I’m giving myself an A in home school fathering.

If you have a moment, please send an email to ImperfectFather@Gmail.com. I’d love to read your stories of the children you’ve released.

Pat Harrell – has written 31 posts on this site.
Pat and Belinda Harrell have home schooled since 1995. They have five jolly children, and the loudest house on the block.

You may email Pat at ImperfectFather@Gmail.com

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