How Hope Yields Joy
Four years ago this month, I wrote a three part blog series on the cost of homeschooling. It makes sense that I wrote that series in January. January is when I start to think about the next school year.
For almost two decades now, we've deposited that spring (IRS) check in a special savings account earmarked for school costs. Some years we haven't needed all of it, some years we have. Many years, the doldrums of winter were chased away by browsing curriculum catalogs, comparing programs, making wish lists, and dreaming of next year's fun. The Cost of Homeschooling, Part 1
Browsing curriculum catalogs, comparing programs, making wish lists, dreaming of next year's fun is how I spent nap time all last week. Josiah and I sat down and looked at his high school transcript. We determined the academic areas where he needed credits, and we discussed classes that would interest him for each area. Customizing an educational plan for each child is one of the things I have enjoyed most about being a homeschool parent.
I found the following quote in 1999 and have read it at more than one child's graduation party. It perfectly describes my feelings about my twenty-three year endeavor in homeschool education.
I wanted to write. I wanted to make a hand-braided early American-style rug. When my three children were toddlers, I had a whole stash of wool, all stripped in preparation for braiding. Since toddlerhood wasn't the right time to start such a large project, I stored it in boxes "until the children are in school." Instead of sending them off each morning while I quietly braided the rug, I was even more busy with homeschooling than I had been with three preschoolers.
I have time to write now. My rug-in-waiting is still in boxes, although I can almost see the time approaching to start it - thirty years later! But my children are the most creative project I have been involved in. I can't compare the relationship I have with them to a relationship with a rug, no matter how beautifully hand-crafted. And my crafting of their education has been life-enriching to all of us. Jessie Wise, The Well Trained Mind
Josiah was not born when I started down this road twenty-three years ago. I am now planning for his senior year. The year I always thought would be my last. "The year I will start pulling my homeschool mom's pension," I have teased Rich. We discussed my homeschool career at length with the social worker responsible for processing our license for state foster care. At the time, I was firmly convinced that I would not homeschool foster or adopted children. I was convinced that when I reached this year and planning for my last, I would be more than ready to hang up the teacher's hat. For the last three years, even as I have taken a very active role in Nathaniel's therapies and plotting his path through augmented communication, even as I have supplemented his therapies with a home program focused on building language and a featuring a new book every week, I have assumed he would go to school as soon as possible, and I would retire from being both teacher and mom.
But then Cincinnati trips started happening. And they came rapidly one after the other at the same time that Nathaniel turned three and aged out of First Steps, the early intervention program offered by our state's Department of Education, and into Early Childhood Special Education. The transition process seemed daunting to me. Though I have raised a bus load of children, I have never dealt with the public school system. There were meetings to attend and evaluations to be arranged and an Individualized Education Program to develop. I couldn't do it. I could not do Cincinnati - attend medical appointments and arrange diagnostic testing and participate with a new, out-of-state medical team in developing a plan for his airway - AND do all the same for his education simultaneously last fall. I had good explanations for opting out of continued services. He receives all his therapies privately; I was not dependent on a referral to Early Childhood to continue those services. He has two full school years after this one before he is eligible for kindergarten. "We have time on our side," I told his service coordinator at our last meeting.
Last week, as I thumbed through the homeschool curriculum catalogs on Josiah's behalf, I peeked at the preschool section. It was not a planned peek, but a I-wonder-what-such-and-such-company-has-done-with-their-preschool-program-in-the-last-ten-years peek. Looking at that company's offerings caused me to look at another. And then another. And before I realized it, I was comparing programs, making notes, texting Rich about what was new, and dreaming of next year's fun.
Dreaming of next year's fun.
By Friday night, I was so smitten with the idea of working purposefully with Nathaniel at home next year, I could not hide the enthusiasm when I told my writing group. Twenty-three years ago I purchased my first preschool school curriculum, and this week I felt just as eager about doing it again.
Dreaming of next year's fun.
It is a new feeling in relation to Nathaniel. One that brings much joy. The joy is not only about teaching him at home. That is a very small piece of it. I have lived the homeschool mom life long enough to know the solitude and monotony it brings. Rather, the joy is that I am simply anticipating next year for Nathaniel. And with him. I have rarely allowed myself to plan that far in advance for his life. Even when considering his communication needs, my focus is on the now. What words does him need today to prevent frustration? The complexity of his medical conditions, the intensity of his care, and the severity of his airway accidents has made the todays more of a concern than the tomorrows. I am a planner and organizer. Learning to live fulling in the moment has been good and life changing in its own way. I also tend toward "the glass half empty" philosophy of life which seasons my general outlook strongly. It has been a struggle to read "Prognoses -poor" on various medical documents and dream of next year's fun at the same time.
The fact that next month's surgery will result in a more stable airway allows a new way of thinking. Or perhaps the freedom to return to an old way of thinking about life and family and my children, Nathaniel included now. A way of thinking that feels freshly full of hope. A hope that leads to joy and that has far reaching implications. A safer airway means we might move pass the "He is okay. He is breathing. We made it another week without going to the hospital." mode of life. It means getting to dream of next year's FUN for him. And with him.
I guess my metaphoric stash of stripped wool will remain in boxes a bit longer. I will continue to feel that familiar two decade tug between wanting to write and needing to create learning opportunities for a little one. But the actual crafting of another child's education? I know even one year of doing so will be life enriching for all of us.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13