Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thankful 30: Homeschooling

During the 30 days leading up to my 30th birthday, I am posting a letter a day expressing thankfulness for someone or something that has played a major role in shaping the first 30 years of my life.

Dear Homeschooling,
  I have to admit that this letter is less exciting to write than one to a person or place. However, since you were the way I was educated from Kindergarten through 12th grade, it seems false to not include you as I consider what has influenced my life. I am also tempted, in this letter, to throw in lots of qualifying statements or explanations regarding how or why my family did things the way we did. But these letters are about how I've been impacted, so I will tuck away that little discomfort I still carry with me (the feeling that says, "what if they think we are some of the 'weird' ones?") and just move on with what this is intended to be.

  Homeschooling, the earliest memory I have of you is that of sitting on the living room floor with my mom, red record player between us, and singing songs about phonics. Another early memory is sitting at the kitchen table with mom, early in the morning before the sun had risen very high, and learning how to have a quiet time. I remember learning how to use a concordance and a Bible dictionary at a very young age, so that I could dig deeper into Scripture on my own. I remember learning to paraphrase verses in my own words and drawing little stick figure pictures to express their main points. A portion of the curriculum we used when I was in grade school taught me that I could learn something about God through just about everything: the way the eyeball is designed, historical events, the habits of different animals. Those seeds went deep into my little heart and I'm so glad that when I was at that young, impressionable age, my mind was filled with more than just knowledge. Knowledge is good, but Truth is better.

  I'm thankful for the way you gave me margin in life. I think there are more hours in a day when you are home-schooled: you gain back the time that would normally be spent in a car or bus going to and from school and sometimes the same amount of work can take considerably less time since you go at your own pace. Creativity and deep thought both require margin - they do not flourish in an environment of hurry and stress. I'm thankful the way our lives were structured gave my mind time to incubate ideas.

  I'm thankful for the way you made me okay with being different. I don't remember ever really disliking the way our family did things, but it was hard sometimes that we were doing something a lot of people either didn't understand or made fun of. It was frustrating knowing the stereotypes and feeling like people would pigeonhole me as soon as they knew how I was educated. It forced me to make decisions about how much I was going to let those things bother me. As someone who tends to care too much about what other people think, I am grateful for the lessons I learned in shrugging off comments or my own insecurities and moving on. I think that it also made me more resilient to peer pressure later on, as I was already accustomed to people thinking the way I did things was a little odd.

  I'm also grateful that my parents made different decisions for each of us kids regarding how we would be educated. None of us followed the same path in terms of which years we were homeschooled, in Christian school, or in public school. I love the freedom that makes me feel, as the parent now, to follow the Lord's leading in what is best for each of our children and to change that as necessary. I don't believe that one particular form of education is, across the board, better than all the others; and I really don't know what decisions Josh and I will make for our own children. However, I am thankful for the way you impacted my life, Homeschooling, and I hope we are able to choose a path that is just as positive for our kiddos.

 - Stefanie


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