When she started out homeschooling, we felt like we had a lifetime ahead of us. Certainly any thoughts of high school, graduating from high school, or possibilities of heading off to college, just seemed like….another lifetime. It was something I would always be prepping for anyway, for someday. But, it was so far off. And there was a whole lot of living, loving, and learning to do, in each day, between now and then.
And we did a whole lot of all of those things. But like any of the most precious times of your life, in what seems like the blink of an eye……
Well, here we all are. On the other end a lifetime, I guess, with the oldest of our four children. With our first homeschooled child. The one we always called our ‘Trail Blazer’. She is graduating from high school, and definitely college bound.
We’re here at the end, and yet, a whole new, beautiful beginning.
The Big Picture
For our faith-based family, homeschooling our children has always been about all of the day-to-day joys and challenges, rewards and experiences of the journey together, and the fruits of growth that come from all of that. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this time frame on the horizon, when our very first homeschooled child would graduate from high school, hasn’t always been there, very firmly, somewhere in the forefront of my mind. How can it not, with such a vast responsibility, of preparing her for life? Just as with the wide array of responsibilities of parenting and raising solid children; establishing their family foundation, in faith, values and character formation, and guiding them in so many other important ways, with homeschooling your children, comes a whole new vast sense of duty, owed to each and every child.
She happens to be the first, but regardless, I knew I had to get it right the first time. Because she deserved my all, and so much more. (As any one of my children would.) But also because, I had her triplet siblings behind her, on their own homeschooling journey, under my direction. I have always thought of homeschooling my children, as my other vocation in life. So very important in the scope of my life’s work; right up there with being a wife to my husband, and a mother to these incredible children God lent to us. Some days, I have done much better with these vocations, than others. (For sure!) But I have never been mistaken that I can’t mess this up. And Alexis Grace was first in line, for me to get it right.
Don’t Get Me Wrong
To be clear, it was never a concern, as much as serious understanding that the high school years especially, were going to be important ones! Even more so if it appeared at all, that she may decide to go on to college, following high school. There was much to learn (for me as the teacher/counselor), to be sure she came out ready and able, on the other side. The fine details of the homeschooling through the high school years with the mindset of college-prepping, are so many, that that could be another post. (And it may be, at some point.) But even in the finer details in terms of raising and teaching a child, a student, if you will, who could perform well academically through the high school years. Or at least to the best of his or her ability.
And that’s where the credit is really not my own. While I did my own personal best to educate her (as I do with my younger children as well), and foster the fine-skills of learning, critical thinking, problem-solving, etc., as well as all it takes to best master those skills, it was she who picked up those tools I gave her, using her own determination, focus, self-discipline, and quite high standards for herself, that culminated in her success thus far. It was Alexis Grace, our oldest little girl, who got herself……here.
Our children graduating from high school, and especially being able to get into college, has always seemed to be more of a big question and concern, for so many others in our lives. But it was never one of mine. Not in the way that I ever doubted they would get in, if that’s what our children wanted to do following high school. Perhaps for others, it was their lack of faith in me, a lack of understanding of homeschooling in general, or something else altogether. What mattered for me, however, was that I knew, that while homeschooling was not nearly as popular when we began 10 years ago, I had done my homework. Even more importantly than that though, I knew what was put on my heart so very many years ago, for my children, in the big picture. I knew the solemn promise I had given God, in praying so hard for preserving the earthly lives of our children. I knew, in believing that God was personally calling me to homeschool, that He would in turn help lead the way, in providing me with the wisdom, patience, guidance and resources, that I would inevitably need. So I felt, and still feel, very comfortable with the decision my husband and I made for our family. (Now more than ever.)
And yet I’ve always taken the personal responsibility of it, incredibly seriously. It’s a fact that there are quite a large number of requirements that need to be accomplished by a student, to be considered a serious applicant of most any nationally ranked college. So there is that aspect that cannot be dismissed, for a college bound student. But at the same time, for me, it’s always been about so much more, than schooling them, the way most of the world thinks of a child being educated. And the reason is because getting a high school diploma, and being qualified to get into college (if they chose to do so), has only been a fraction of my goals for them. And not even the largest part. Academics are definitely important; yes. But certainly not everything, nor my personal greatest concern in their development, or even in the scope of their whole lives, for that matter. Some paths God calls His children to don’t always call for a great deal of expanded and continuous academic type education, anyway. And some of course, do. In all honestly, my number one priority with my children, is to give them all of the tools I can, to get them to Heaven. That’s sometimes a life’s work, and I knew I needed all of the hours I could get in their young lives, to try and plant those seeds, and foster growth. That said, through homeschooling from the very beginning, we have absolutely embraced and very much came to value a true love for learning, academically and otherwise, all along the way, and it has been (and will continue to be) an incredible experience and vast blessing for our children as unique individuals, as well as for our family as a whole.
The Purpose of This Post
So I write this post because, there is no doubt that our first child graduating, here in the process of preparing to head off to college, is a huge milestone for us in our homeschooling journey. And in a way, it is a small tribute to her. But, I also write this post because I want to offer our personal success thus far, to all of the parents out there who may be looking for some encouragement, or ease of their concerns, regarding this later phase of homeschooling through high school. Be it parents already homeschooling their little children, and concerned about how far they can handle it, or those considering it, and worried if it is possible to do it successfully, at all. I want you to know THIS:
If your why, your purposes behind your desire to homeschool your children, is big and strong enough, you can absolutely homeschool your children, all the way through high school, very successfully.
It does take a real purpose from within yourself, likely in the goals for your children or family, some real commitment, and possibly then some sacrifices, depending on what’s important to you. But in our experience, what you get back is so very much greater and bigger, than what you had to put into it. And hands down worth it.
Homeschooling laws do vary from state to state, as well as town to town, so you’d need to look into that yourself. (The HSLDA is a great place to start, and then check with your state’s and town’s requirements.) In brief, I can tell you, our town is rather strict. We did need to keep in contact with and answer to our town/school dept, to a certain extent. Annually, I needed to submit a letter of intention, my academic plan for the coming year (in detail, which needed to be approved), and a year end report of how they faired; which after the first few years, I opted to just have them tested and submitted their scoring. (Which I had no qualms with, because sadly, they always scored far above the averaged students in the school systems.). All of this was for each child. I could go into my record-keeping methods in another post, as well.
Hey, I ‘Don’t Know or Remember Everything’, Either
It is not true that you need to know everything, to teach your own children well. I don’t think you need a teaching certificate in most states, if any. I know you don’t in our state of MA, obviously. You should know there are incredible curriculum available, that fit various teaching/learning styles, and a whole lot of them. It’s just about researching, assessing your options, and sometimes, trial and error, to find out what works for you or your child(ren).
It may also encourage you to know that I was not a great student myself, throughout my own schooling! I lacked focus, and I believe had learning issues all through school. (Now known as ADHD, and I still have it, quite badly. But I know how to naturally manage it now.) I definitely seemed to have to work much harder and longer, than my average friends, to get good grades. Sadly also, it may not be stretching the truth to say I hated traditional school, most of my educational years. It was the struggle, the conformity, and more, that I hated. However, I did have a big love for schooling, and learning, in my heart. That seed was planted very young, and you can read that long story here, another time. But the fact of the matter is, most of what I have ever learned academically, I have learned best in teaching it to my children. Because it was with them that I learned to love learning, as I found so much joy in teaching them, and seeing their eagerness and love for learning, too. In that light, and more, homeschooling has been a gift as much to me, as my children.
Time to Really Get Down to Business
With the teaching of high school years, came the real college-preparations! Things including, but not limited to, laying out a good 4 year plan, AP courses, record-keeping, transcript-making, as well as prepping for and taking SATs, starting to look at colleges, etc. But the college process has not been as scary and overwhelming as I anticipated! (Although we’re not quite done yet. But I’m sure we’ve got this!) Of course, my fear it would be had me preparing ahead of time! But along with all of the paperwork and keeping on top of things, has been a lot of excitement, too. We very much enjoyed visiting all of the colleges Alexis Grace was interested in, as a family, and exploring all of the vast possibilities for her. While inside we knew that the final decision would have to be her father and I’s, we really let her lead the way, and see where her heart was leading her. It was her own discernment and choice we would consider first and foremost. She made her own list of colleges she wanted to visit, and we respected that. One thing she made clear and evident through it all, was that she was insistent on attending a traditional Catholic College, and one not too far away from home. She has done her deep research homework on which colleges even began to qualify, in her opinion. And boy was she picky about the details of what a traditional Catholic college looked like, no matter what they called themselves. She was investigative mode with every one, and no detail got past her!
Just to share just what I mean, I’m not sure any one of us will forget the day we visited one great Catholic college, in particular. We were impressed with much about the school, so it seemed to be going well, until the chapel was not part of the tour. Alexis Grace was appalled at that, and frankly, we were all perplexed about it. Being a Catholic college and all. But then, and this is the clencher; when taking it upon ourselves to visit the chapel on our own, with Alexis Grace leading the way, she went to bless herself as we entered. Her fingertips met the bottom of a bone-dry font. Confused, she assessed the situation, to then notice evaporation rings. And that was it; she crossed that college off her list.
You see what I mean.
What You Really Want to Know!
Anyway, in the end she applied to 6 colleges. All located in New England; none close enough to commute from home. But through it all, there was only one she truly fell in love with, from the very first visit. And by the grace of God, it was the same one we as her parents loved the most as well. We all 100% loved it, with no exceptions. With no settling, in any way.
After a few months of waiting, the college decisions came in the mail, one by one. We were all so pleased, that not only did she get into every single college she applied to, but with the acceptance letters came very generous offers, and honorable admissions! Not bad for a homeschooled girl!
That was a triumph of it’s own.
But the one that mattered the very most to us all, actually came first. So the rest was just kind of fun, although we did need to consider on some level, the financial aspect of each one. That said, none of us could see her going to any of the other 5 though, nearly as much as the one she was truly drawn to. Her number one choice really wholeheartedly felt, and definitely appeared to be, exactly where she belonged, to all of us. Thankfully, her college of choice not only invited her into their Honors Program, but granted her admission as a Presidential Scholar, which comes with a generous 4 year scholarship. (Provided she keeps her grades above a certain GPA).
I can never adequately describe the joy going on in our home, the day that special packet, in particular, arrived.
And so we would like to announce that Alexis Grace will be attending Saint Anselm College, of New Hampshire, this year, as part of the Class of 2019, where she intends to double-major in Communication and Theology.
Saint Anselm is a surprisingly genuine traditional Benedictine, Roman Catholic College, through and through. Alexis Grace is most excited about that, and the fact that the core of their campus is the incredible and beautiful Abbey/Church, where 30 Benedictine monks live. The monks actually established Saint Anselm in 1889, have resided there for the past 125 years, and the history of this college is both impressive and fascinating. The monks are not only an integral part of the school’s identity and community, but are also very integrated and connected to the daily lives of the students, in a personal and valuable way. For anyone who knows Alexis Grace on a personal level, this is all extremely appealing to her, and it will all most certainly contribute to her growth and development as a person, in multiple ways, in her years Saint Anselm.
May We Have Just a Moment to Gush?
There are so many reasons why we are so proud of our daughter, Alexis Grace. She is incredibly faith-filled, and just a light, a joy, and a blessing, to so many. She is determined, responsible, and compassionate. She has a deep love for her universal and personal church. She has spent much of her homeschooled years serving others, and volunteering in various ways in community service, as well as working with children and the elderly. She has worked for her father from a young age, and got her first payroll job at 14. She played high school sports with both the public high school as well as the local youth center on all boy teams. She has been on television multiple times, evangelizing her faith and co-hosting, and has had her own blog, Just Shine On, where she writes and encourages her peers to embrace and shine the light of their faith, through their own beautiful and unique qualities. She has a growing following on her Facebook Page as well, where incidentally, she has also acquired an adult following.
Very soon comes the time, for her to go and shine some more, all over the campus of Saint Anselm College. Her next four years may stretch her, push her, and challenge her more than she has ever been. It will be difficult for her to be away at first, because we are, always have been, and always will be, a very close family. But she is a warrior. And she’s been given all of the weapons and tools to fight any battle. She will hold steadfast to Philippians 4:13. We know she will learn and grow in so many capacities, have amazing opportunities, and make such special connections in her years at Saint Anselm.
Certainly any thoughts of college graduation just seem like….another lifetime. It’s just so far off. And there is a whole lot of living, loving, and learning to do, in each day, between now and then. And we have faith, that someday, she will come out on the other side, again, ready and armed more than ever, to do the work God is calling her to do in this world.
To our sweet Alexis Grace; May God continue to bless you and your journey, as He clearly always has. You are extraordinary, we are so proud of all of the work you have done to get yourself here, for all the light and love we know you will continue to help bring to the world every day, deep into the future, and we love you more than you could ever know.
Please enjoy a very small collection (of the thousands I have taken), of Alexis Grace through her homeschooled years. And please feel free to leave any comments, questions, or share your own homeschooling success stories!