Our first born graduated from high school this week! What a celebration this has been for our family, and particularly for me! I began homeschooling Sharaya when she started kindergarten. I had wanted to homeschool her from the moment she was born. I had known a few families who were homeschooling their children, and the seed had been planted in my heart before Curtis and I were even dating. My husband had very different ideas, though. He was an Education student and was very pro-public school. We had completely opposite views and just couldn't seem to come to agreement on the issue at all. We literally went back and forth on the issue for years. Then, just a few months before Sharaya was ready to begin kindergarten, I asked Curtis to just come with me to the Homeschool Convention in Winnipeg, where we lived at the time. He agreed to go with me, but cautioned me that he wasn't promising anything. That day is etched in my memory. I know neither one of us was expecting to be as moved by the speakers as we were. We were both close to tears more than once. The keynote speaker was the founder of Lamplighter Publishing. (http://lamplighter.net/c/about/history/). He inspired us with his passion for great Christian literature. Another speaker was a local homeschool mother who had recently lost her seven year old boy in a tragic accident. She shared with us the gratitude she felt for the opportunity to spend all of her son's days with him at home. By the time Curtis and I went out for lunch between sessions, we both knew God was confirming to our hearts that we were supposed to homeschool our children. We agreed to take it one year at a time and re-evaluate our decision every year.
And so our journey began. We bought our curriculum from a local homeschooling family who had six children and lived in a small house in St. Boniface. We visited them in their home and selected books from their stock in the basement. It was a crazy thing we were doing. Aside from my best friend, who embarked on the same journey with me, we didn't know any other families in our city who were homeschooling their children. Our families were a little apprehensive (that might be a gross understatement), as the idea of homeschooling was really a foreign one still in Winnipeg at that time. We did find a homeschool group to join, but even there we were surprised to feel a little out of place. Most families were really big (7+ children), and they were mostly from out of town - small conservative towns. Many girls wore long dresses and some wore head coverings. We got to know a few families and, as they shared their hearts and experiences with us, I was even more sure we were on the right track.
My parents had moved to Surrey a couple of years earlier, and we were in the habit of making yearly trips out to visit them. This particular year, my dad called and asked if we would like to time our trip to coincide with the BC Homeschool Convention which was going to be held in Surrey. He even offered to pay for us to attend. (I guess he figured that if we were determined to homeschool our kids, they would do whatever they could to help us do it well.) So, with great excitement on my part, and great reluctance on Curtis', we signed up. The keynote speaker was Gordon Neufeld. He spoke from his book, Hold On To Your Kids. Even though he was not "promoting" homeschooling, his research and message confirmed in our hearts that homeschooling was what we were called to do. We've never looked back. That's not at all to say that I've never been tempted to throw in the towel! I'm sure I have had a meltdown about once a year since then, when I hit a wall and realize that there is no way I can teach all my kids everything they need to know in life all on my own. It's in those moments, though, that God whispers to my heart that I'm right - there is no way that I can teach them everything they need to know. He then reminds me that where I am weak, He is strong. While I can't give them everything they need, He can. He calms my fear that I am going to "ruin" them, and assures me that He will make up the difference. And, you know, He really has!
The fall Sharaya was beginning Grade Two, and our oldest son was beginning kindergarten, God moved us to Surrey. I like to think of BC as the Mecca for homeschoolers. In Winnipeg we very much felt like we were swimming against the stream, but in BC, we found "our people"! People who lived in the city and wore blue jeans most days. We couldn't believe how much government support there was for homeschooling families. We enrolled with Traditional Learning Academy (TLA), and it has truly been wonderful for our family. We learned about Distance Learning, Blended Learning, Online learning and Flip-Learning. We were able to enrol our kids in classes that taught everything from Ancient China, to penguins, to sewing, to Lego Mindstorms. Our kids were able to go to weekly classes and experience recess and packing a lunch! (This was a BIG deal, folks!). Our learning experiences have looked different every single year. It has been amazing! When I think about it, I am so blessed by the rich learning experiences my kids have had, and the flexibility there has been to cater their education and experiences to their needs and interests. The teachers who have supported me, and taught my kids, have been exceptional. It was a rewarding experience to be at Sharaya's graduation ceremony with most of those fine people, many of whom have become friends.
For the last few years, Sharaya has taken most of her high school courses online through TLA, with the exception of one Direct Class - Humanities - also through TLA. They had one class per week on Thursday afternoons, and completed work at home which prepared them for the following week's discussion. The 18 or so students have grown together over the past few years, and have loved their class. Many of them thanked their teacher, Suzanne Uher (who taught them every year), in their grad speech, and their enjoyment of the class shone through their words. It has been the best classroom experience, I've ever heard of. Rich learning experiences and deep discussions with all of the bonding, and none of the drama. So, Sharaya and her fellow students, decided that they wanted to do something special to honour their beloved teacher, and so they came up with the words and Curtis designed a Subway Art style wood sign for them to present her with. On it they included all the places visited and memories they could conjure up.