A Home School Graduate: What Freedom and Time Can Do

When I started this journey of home schooling more than fifteen years ago, I really did not have the end in mind. The saying back then, amongst the handful of home schoolers I knew, was, “We are taking one year at a time.” Sounded good to me! Other than knowing why I was keeping my son at home, I really did not have a plan past kindergarten!

However, as the learning took place and we fell in love with having our son home all the time, I knew that I would not stay in the category of “one year at a time” but rather, “This is our lifestyle.” That decision right there has made a monumental difference in how we conduct school business in our home.

Most of those families that took their decision on a year-to-year basis are no longer teaching their kids at home. Eventually their open-ended decision marched them right back to public school.

Much to their astonishment, we stayed the course and have the graduate to prove it! I would not trade these last fifteen years for any amount of income or freedom. It has been worth every second!

Speaking of the graduate, let me share my story of this young man, who started out his first official day of school by finding a baby squirrel in the front flower bed. I should have known on that day that this home schooling journey would not be “normal.” Such was the theme for every year since then, and I have grown to expect the unexpected!

Ted was a great student. He was eager to learn, smart, and compliant—all good ingredients for a successful school day. He loved to read, so many of our memories are of the two of us sharing a book on the couch while his little brother napped. I think you could say those were our most treasured moments of schooling.

As he got older, Ted would do any kind of work I put before him. We did a combination of workbooks, unit studies, and computer curriculum, with plenty of hands-on learning and notebooking thrown in for creativity. We had a lot of fun.

Middle school came along, and I started feeling the pressure to cut back on creativity and focus more on preparing for high school. Up to that point I was not a drill sergeant, as far as academics were concerned. We had taken a casual approach to learning and enjoyed many different styles. We also had lived by the philosophy that learning took place everywhere and all the time, and that philosophy gave us the freedom we desired in having our kids at home with us. However, when the end of seventh grade came along, I began to get serious about having a plan that extended to graduation.

The summer between Ted’s seventh and eighth grade years, I began reading Barb Sheldon’s book Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+La.This book was a priceless tool as I planned the remaining years of Ted’s education.

I began counting high school credits in eighth grade, and because I had read Barb’s book, I counted everything Ted did as hours or content. Any learning activity that took place, be it reading, music, Tae-Kwon-Do, or banking, was recorded in a notebook and tallied at the end of each year as hours toward credits. I am not going to lie: This was a tedious record keeping system, but it was so worth it in the end!

By the time Ted was officially a “freshman,” he had several high school credits under his belt. However, that compliancy that I mentioned earlier was beginning to fade when it came to academics. My creative son was quickly becoming weary of academics and all he could think about was music!

He would begrudgingly make his way through math, English, and history each day and spend the rest of his day recording, composing, and playing his guitar. At first I did not think much of it—what boy does not want to play guitar? However, after about a year of non-stop music, I realized we were dealing with more than a phase—and more of a gift!

Ted would spend every afternoon composing and recording music on his keyboard/recording system. This became such a time-consuming part of his day that I started giving him credit for the hours that he worked on his music. By the time he graduated, he had more than six credits in fine arts and additional credits in recording science.

Ted had always loved music. He sang his first song in church at the age of four, joined the preteen praise band at twelve, and played in the youth band at thirteen. At age fourteen he joined the official Sunday morning praise band, with which he played for three years. When he was not playing at our church, he was playing at a local Christian private school or at a youth group across town on Wednesday nights. The boy never stopped playing his guitar!

He eventually started asking for recording equipment, so he could record more professional-sounding pieces, and began to develop a vision for having his own recording studio one day. Thus, his future was starting to unfold, right before our eyes!

At this point in our schooling I was faced with the choice of pushing for academic excellence or allowing him the time to work within the area of gifting that was so evident. As a home schooling mom, accustomed to having our “school” under a microscope, it was not an easy decision; there are always those who want to question what your kids are learning and doing in the privacy of your own home. However, how could I deny this young man the freedom to pursue music, when he obviously had a gift for it? I am so glad I listened to my heart instead of to the critical voices inside my head. I truly feel it has made him the musician he is today.

As we neared graduation, we knew it was time to discuss college. I dreaded this topic because, when discussed previously, it had become a sore subject in our home. Ted had no desire for four more years of school. His father, on the other hand, put much effort into getting his own college degree and felt that it was a necessary tool in order to make it in the business world. Those were not pleasant discussions!

Finally, the young man who only wanted to eat, breathe, and play music reluctantly agreed to try CollegePlus. Thus began the journey through college basics and CLEP tests. Yet, even though Ted was studying and passing those tests, his mind was on being the entrepreneur and musician that he was made to be.

In the midst of college courses, Ted was figuring out a way to open his own business—a music recording studio—as he had dreamed of doing for years. He had been recording a few clients out of his bedroom or on location, but he wanted to have a professional venue, where the clients could come to him.

He scouted locations, made the contact with the landlord, negotiated the rent amount, signed himself up as a DBA (Doing Business As), and opened the doors to his own business. I was so proud of him! At the young age of eighteen, he was a proud business owner!

This studio was a great lesson in the world of business and finances. He eventually decided to bring the studio back home due to finances, and he still runs his business effectively by using a church studio that was graciously given to him.

Although I attribute all of Ted’s talents and gifts to the Lord, I firmly believe that home schooling him has made a huge difference in his life. Home schooling allowed him to dream, create, and explore on his own terms. It gave him the privilege of time—time to create, time to dream, time to explore his desires for his life. Because he had the freedom, Ted was able to devote time to things that mattered to him, instead of spending time on useless busy work.

Home schooling also gave Ted the chance to be out in the world, making relationships with people of all ages. It gave him the confidence to connect with people on many levels and in many areas of life. It provided the backdrop for Ted to become the person God created him to be, not a follower of the crowd. He is certainly not following the crowd but instead is carving his way through the maze of life, on his way to fulfilling his dreams.

I will be forever grateful for this privilege we call home schooling. I cannot imagine not spending those years with Ted and encouraging him to use his time to perfect his talent. It was time well spent.

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