Whenever a homeschooler wins the Scripps Spelling Bee, the National Geography Bee or the Olympic Gold Medal, the internet buzzes as we all share what homeschooling is capable of. For a brief moment, these young champions become the poster children for the homeschool movement.
But seriously, how many spelling bee champions do you know? I was happy when my oldest stopped putting random silent e’s at the ends of words. I could just picture her up there speaking nervously into the microphone:
Gesellschaft. G-E-S-E-L-L-S-C-H-A-F-T-E. Gesellschaft.
Except she never would have gotten that far.
Far. F-A-R-E. Far.
That girl has many talents, but spelling is not one of them.
And that’s OK. Because those headlines we share only tell part of the story — the part where homeschooling doesn’t hold a child back.
But sometimes, they can be a little intimidating, too. They set a high standard. One we can’t always live up to. One we shouldn’t even try to live up to. Because true education is not about reaching the pinnacle of success in any given area. It’s about growing in every area.
The success of homeschooling is based on its ability to meet each child where he or she is at and move forward from there.
There was a time I considered having my oldest tested for learning disabilities. At the time, I wasn’t sure what it would do for her. Being homeschooled, it didn’t necessarily give her any particular advantages to carry that label. It would have opened her up to services through the school, but I knew we probably wouldn’t go that route anyway. She already had an “individualized education plan” of sorts, though it carried no legal weight. It’s just that all my plans revolved around her strengths and weaknesses.
And she grew. She learned to read by the end of second grade. She was reading ahead of grade level by fourth grade. She has never mastered spelling (S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G-E), but she has developed a love of writing and she can tell a pretty good story if someone helps her through the editing. She struggles with basic math facts. In fact, it was sitting with her and the multiplication tables for two years that encouraged me to drop my 100% mastery idea. Back then, I didn’t believe in going forward until a concept was mastered. But that day, sitting at that table, I realized that she and I would be practicing multiplication until she graduated and she’d still probably have to use a calculator.
So I gave her a calculator and we moved on. And she still struggles with math, largely because she doesn’t like it. But she got through algebra and geometry and chemistry and she confessed that geometry is kind of fun as long as she isn’t doing proofs. She works the problems. She understands the formulas. She still has to use her calculator.
And I still can’t quite believe she is graduating this year.
It is easy for me to look back on her weaknesses and feel I’ve failed her. I feel like she should be doing better in these areas, not just “average.” But what if “average” was the best she was going to accomplish in spelling and basic number operations? What if it was our choice to homeschool that allowed her to move beyond that and not be held back by weaknesses that can be overcome by a calculator and spell-check?
She leaves for farrier school in two weeks. She will be gone for two months and has been so diligent in preparing that she has surprised even me, her mother who bore and raised her. Every morning, she gets up early to work through her exercise routine to prepare her for the physical demands of the course. She got the textbook early and filled a sketchbook with diagrams of muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves running through the leg of a horse. She made herself a set of flash cards and is determined to know the anatomy section of the textbook before she even arrives. She went through all her math and science books and marked how much she has to complete each day so that she can graduate on time, even with the two month interruption in her normal studies.
I told her the other day that the diligence she has shown over the last year will get her further in life than anything else she ever learned in school. That work ethic is why she already has an offer from CEF as soon as she is qualified for the position. Because in the end, skills and knowledge can be taught. Character, however, is not such an easy thing to “catch up” on.
As each of our children get older, we are trying to water those same seeds — a strong work ethic, a good character and a love for learning — so they can continue to grow into the young men and women God designed them to be.
This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!