A Letter to My First Graduate

I linked to this post a couple of days ago. Then I realized that since this blog serves as a family record, I’d rather have the full text here. This post can be found at its original home here.

Dear Bookgirl,

In September of 2006, I sat down with you to officially begin homeschooling. Your dad and I had ordered curriculum that came with everything we needed—books to read aloud, worksheets to fill out, and a curriculum guide to keep us on track. You were 5 years old, ready to learn, and I was ready to get this show going.

Of course, I’d already been educating you long before this day. You were a late talker; at age 2 ½, your first “word” was repeating the alphabet after me. You learned to read “9:00” on an analog clock because that was when I’d let you watch The Magic School Bus. (I was a young mom with only two children, so I had standards back then.) You were always thinking and listening and trying to make sense of the world. (“A caterpillar becomes a raccoon, and then it becomes a butterfly.”)

In those first few weeks of homeschooling, I discovered that I detest curriculum guides. I also found out that I don’t like reading aloud. You, meanwhile, resented being given instruction when you thought you already knew how to do it. You were familiar with most basic science facts, you’d memorized a lot of familiar Bible verses, and it took you about twenty minutes to master addition and subtraction. By two weeks into my homeschooling career, I was already reshaping our school days to fit our needs.

I did teach you to read, something I enjoyed thoroughly. You learned rapidly, but not without some setbacks. English phonics infuriated you. You once had a meltdown in the grocery store parking lot because I told you that “double” was not pronounced “dow-ble.” I hustled you into your seat before you noticed that the next word was “coupons.” But we persevered, and when you were six years old, you read The Wizard of Oz on your own. That was the last time I was able to keep up with what you were reading.

As you grew older, you thrived on independent work. I would write out your assignments and let you complete them at your own pace. I learned that I had to be extremely specific about how I told you to do something, because you were always looking for loopholes. “You didn’t say I had to write every word in the sentence, just to rewrite it!” I can’t say this was an endearing trait, but it meant I couldn’t just go on autopilot.

Sometimes, when the demands of a younger kid, a toddler, and a baby sapped my energy and creativity, I’d get stacks of science books out of the library and leave them in view. You devoured them all.

When you were eleven, you parked yourself at the computer and began to type a story. I figured you were imitating what I’d been doing since you could remember. But you kept at it until your story concluded 51 pages later. I read it aloud to you and Sparkler as a bedtime story. It was unintentionally hilarious, especially that one scene you wrote when you were irritated at me, so two characters spoke disapprovingly of me. At the same time, it was a serious accomplishment for your age. We realized that you weren’t just copying me, but that you cherish your own passion to write.

About the time you completed sixth grade, I was overwhelmed and burned out from being the sole educator in the house, along with running the household and being the day-to-day parent. My own passion to write was dying from neglect. Until I could get back on my feet, your dad took over your schooling. His love of structured plans and voracious reading fit in well with your independent style. The two of you went through junior high and high school together. When someone asks you now what school you attend, you often reply, “My dad homeschools me.”

Despite your excellent work, you haven’t spent your educational career racking up academic accomplishments and making detailed plans for your future. Your approach to life is different. You want time for your ideas and stories. You have plans for your future, but they’re not urgent or grandiose. To put it in popular literary terms, you’re not a Hermione Granger, you’re a Luna Lovegood. And the world needs Lunas.

This May of 2019, you’re finishing your last year of high school. I look back at that day thirteen years ago, now kind of hazy around the edges, and am amazed that we made it all the way through together. Your dad and I—as well as tutors, online instructors, and many other homeschooling moms in our community—have taught you a lot. But to be honest, much of our “homeschooling” wasn’t sitting you down and imparting knowledge to you, but simply giving you what you needed, and watching you master a subject yourself. That bodes well for your life ahead of you.

Congratulations, graduate. We are proud of you.

Love, Mom.

* For those not familiar with the Harry Potter books (my condolences): Hermione Granger is academic, driven, and at the top of her class. Luna Lovegood is dreamy, artistic, and doesn’t seem to realize there is a top of the class. Both highly prize friendship, love, and loyalty. Luna’s classmates tend to dismiss her as odd and aimless, so her considerable accomplishments come as a surprise to everyone.

Notable Quote by Hermione Granger: “…I’m going to bed, before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed — or worse, expelled.”

Notable Quote by Luna Lovegood: “My mum always said things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end. If not always in the way we expect.”

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