There are bench marks in every mother's life. The day she sees a + sign on the pregnancy test stick, the first ultrasound pictures, the first scraped knee, the first cub scout award, the first drive in a car when you are in the passenger seat hanging on for dear life, and the last day of homeschooling. I have done all of these with one child and expect to do them all with the rest. My oldest boy "graduates" in just months. Granted he has been in college for the past two years but this is his last year in "high school." I am busy doing all the "senior" things that all the other moms in the ward are doing.
As we look back on the journey we see lots of things that we enjoyed and many things we could have improved. I asked him the other day to make a list for me. On the positive side he listed: "I got to learn at my own pace and learn the things I wanted to, I got to sleep more and I had a very loose schedule." Things he didn't like were lack of social interaction and having family around all the time. Since I need a bit more to write an article about I asked, "What should we have done differently for you." He thought for a moment and said, "I was prepared for college. The areas where I wasn't prepared were my fault, not yours." He felt his math skills weren't good enough and he takes full blame for that since he stopped when it got "hard." He wished he would have written more and taken it more seriously. But the one thing he wished I would have done more is set "hard deadlines" and be serious about them. In my defense he did say that it would have been hard because even though I was the teacher, I was also his mother and that would have made it hard. "Missing a deadline would get your displeasure, but I knew you would get over it and still love me. My professors don't care."
I've thought about his comments for the past few days. How do you prepare your children for college? How do you make them learn something when they refuse? How do you separate mother from teacher?
I have been homeschooling for the past 13 academic years: 18 years of my life. I have taught six kids to read, write and do math. I have taught physical science, biology, botany, chemistry, ancient history, modern history, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, geology, cooking, cleaning, spelling, grammar and a lot more things I can't remember. I've taught them more than once. I have taught the things our state requires and more. I even hired a writing tutor to help them. I have had two sons now pass the test to get into our local community college. I did my job, or so I hope.
As a parent I joke that the one thing I fought so hard for in Heaven was agency and yet I want to take it away from my children. After all, I know what is best for them and they just ruin it by making their own choices. One thing we cannot do is force a child to learn. If they don't want to learn they won't. I struggled for many years trying to help my oldest understand math. At least he admits that it was his fault that he didn't do more to learn the lessons that were placed in front of him. The only thing that I can do for my children is present the material again and again and hope that some of it will sink in. When I first started my journey down this homeschooling path a friend told me her job was to "facilitate her children's learning." When my son told me that the times he didn't learn were his fault, I knew he was right but that didn't take the sting out of it.
Separating the role of mom and teacher has been the hardest thing for me to do. My mantra has always been "Life is school, school is life." Everything we do is about learning, therefore I'm always both a teacher and a mom. For that reason it is sometimes very hard for me to turn off the sympathetic mom and turn on the hard nosed teacher, especially when it comes to deadlines. My son's college professors don't care that his mother has cancer and that he had to be her chauffer and drive her to surgery. His professors don't care that he had three other papers due or an extra busy weekend at work.
The adjustment to college has been a difficult adjustment for my son to make, but he has made it and, thankfully, he has been passing tips along to his younger siblings and also to me. I've been able to use his feedback to adjust how I teach our other children. Life really is all about learning and together we are learning as we go.