Graduating Jacob: Reflections on our homeschool journey

My third child, Jacob, graduated from our homeschool Friday night.  It was my first homeschool group graduation, and it was really lovely.  As soon as we got home, I did a facebook live chat to share about it, because I just wanted to encourage other homeschool parents in their journey.  If you’d like to go watch (and cry along with me), click here to see that replay video.

What I want to talk about today, is something that happened last month. As Jacob and I were working on putting together some information for his graduation ceremony, we got talking about his feelings about homeschooling and what he feels home education has done for him.

Although we started out homeschooling in 1997 when our oldest child was a kindergartener, we diverged from our homeschooling path briefly in 2003 when babies 4, 5, and 6 had arrived in under 3 years, and there were simply too many needs and not enough of me or my sanity to go around.  Our 3 oldest kids, Micah, Haley, and Jacob, went to school that fall, and the 3 babies and I stayed home.

Jacob did fine in kindergarten, and benefitted from the speech therapy at school.  First grade got bumpier, as the strong emphasis to have all children reading was not a fit for him.  His well-meaning teacher encouraged us to practice reading with him more and more, but it was no use. He was not learning to read. We knew something was off, but didn’t know how to help.

In second grade my sweet son continued to struggle.  Reading just couldn’t unlock for him, and writing was really tough, too.  His kind teacher told me that she felt we would eventually learn that Jacob had dyslexia, but at his age he was too young for an official diagnosis.

After that year, things had stabilized enough for me that I was able to have Jacob return to homeschooling.  My feelings about his needs were that I could not leave him in an educational environment that was both subtly and overtly teaching him that he was not smart, and I knew that at home I could help him learn without making a big deal about his reading difficulties.  I wanted to preserve my son’s sweetness and optimism, and nurture his love of learning, whatever that looked like for him.

Over the years since then we have utilized a number of different tools and approaches to learning, despite Jacob’s dyslexia. He eventually spent most of a year in a special cognitive therapy program that helped his brain overcome much of this learning challenge.  (See my P.P.S. at the bottom for some info on this!)  We built upon each opportunity and breakthrough naturally.  His confidence grew and his interest in trying new things grew as well. He joined community theater, which capitalized on his ability to memorize, and overcame his awkward and nervous speech patterns, helping him become a much more confident public speaker, and helping him discover that he had a natural talent for acting.  He periodically would decide to try out writing historical novels, theater scripts, and screen plays, just for fun!  He has become an extremely proficient fitness expert, and his ability to set and achieve fitness goals inspires me continuously!  (Recently, after about 5 months of working toward this goal, he was able to do a muscle up.  Except he didn’t do just one.  He did 5.  In a row!)

We thought Jacob’s post-graduation plans were all set.  He was planning to get his Personal Training certification, start working, and save up for his next big adventure that he hoped to begin in about a year.  However, when he got a golden opportunity last week to jump into that adventure NOW, he had the confidence to say YES.  So, he graduated on Friday, and is currently on his way to New York City where he’ll still be working and becoming a Personal Trainer, but also seeing what he can get into for theater opportunities and other creative pursuits.  Whoosh—just like that I went from “I’ll still have this terrific guy around for another year or so” to the realization that everything is changing…..right. this. minute.*

When I look back at how I felt about Jacob’s needs as a second grader, I know we made the right choice, and it is incredibly satisfying to see that a home education allowed my son to grow into a confident, competent, caring young man that knows he has what it takes to go forward into his adult life and continue to learn and grow and rise to the challenges he faces.  He and I agree that if he had remained in a typical school setting, the outcome on his mindset  and feelings about his own abilities would probably have been much different, and less positive, for him.
 
It’s incredible, the amount of encouragement we can get from our kids!  When my son shared with me his appreciation for the sacrifices his dad and I have made to provide a home education for him, and how he felt this changed his life for the better, it was the sweetest and most precious PAYDAY I’ve had in a long time.  The areas in which I have felt inadequate and lacking in our homeschool journey are numerous, yet I see that even so, we have gotten exactly what we wanted out of this experience.  What an amazing blessing!

Moms and dads:  Get a vision for what your kids need from you, and find a way to provide it!  
Invest yourself deeply, fully, and with great love and reckless abandon into this incredible mission opportunity before you.  Each and every one of your children is an amazing individual that has their own unique life to live.  You are their guide, facilitator, cheerleader, teacher, and friend along the way!  Homeschooling can be a powerful catalyst for your family.  Keep finding ways to make the most of this opportunity.
To all of us as we do our best for the things that matter most,
Erica

 

P.S.  For those of you with kids that struggle with learning challenges like my son did, I want to invite you to come listen to my talk about the cognitive therapy approach that helped my kids, and can help yours, too!  You can watch the replay here.

 

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