The day has finally arrived:
Zachary's first day of school!
He was forewarned that this would be a photo-op moment,
so gave in reluctantly to pose for the shoot.
Charlie says goodbye.
Ok, so maybe following him out to his car with my camera is a bit... over the top?
But seriously, how many kids do you know who drive themselves to their first day of school?
Zachary (16) is beginning his Running Start experience at Whatcom Community College today. After 11 years of homeschooling, he's off on a new academic adventure. Zachary has had many "teachers" over these 11 years, including our priests, violin/fiddle instructors, catechists, Scout leaders, athletics coaches, chess coaches, grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends, and the list goes on. But his primary teachers for these 11 years have been his father and me. We opted not to enroll him in any supplementary schooling, and we opted out of accepting state funds for homeschooling under public school programs. Just home plus school, it's that simple.
We have offered an environment at home where Zachary could develop and grow spiritually, academically, physically, emotionally and, of course, socially, under our guidance and supervision. We didn't set out to homeschool, rather we ended up, or were led to homeschooling by default and praise God for this amazing gift for our family.
One of the first things anyone ever said to me when I shared our plans to homeschool Zachary (for kindergarten) was something to the effect of: "How are you going to manage that? With two other small children and a house to keep up with, you're going to be stretched pretty thin." How true. It hasn't always been easy, and we've been stretched thin in many ways, including financially as a result of me staying home to school the kids. But the rewards far outweigh the inconveniences and the struggles.
We keep our homeschool pretty simple, and grounded in daily prayer and worship. The absolute best benefit by far to having our kids home has been the ability (and the desire!) to receive Jesus' body, blood, soul and divinity daily in Holy Eucharist at Mass, and to celebrate reconciliation (confession) regularly. To grow in faith together, to be actively involved in various ministries at our church and in our community, to know that our children are being evangelized by us with the teachings and truths of our Catholic faith; these gifts of homeschooling are priceless.
We don't buy new curriculum every year, and don't set up a strict academic schedule. We re-use and recycle books, and we tailor each child's educational goals and daily objectives to their interests and abilities. When it was time for Zachary to begin high school level work, we did use a book list from Mother of Divine Grace School, and purchased a few key texts including Latin and history books. We borrowed science and math books from a head of department at a local university and an AP teacher. Those books turned out to be college level (Zac spotted his biology on the shelves when he was buying his school books last week at WCC), and required a few years to complete. We didn't let the fear of him not "completing" a subject interfere with our goals of having him educated. Rather, we trusted that even if he didn't have a check next to a certain subject(s) by the end of the school year, he would benefit from continuing along in the course(s) at his pace. This required a leap of faith, and the willingness to be outside the box outside the box. We let our consciences guide us, and called upon God's assistance in discernment rather than panicking or worrying over appearances or externally imposed checklists.
We have used Scouting texts, especially the merit badge booklets to teach a wide variety of subjects. Each merit badge has an adult counselor (a volunteer), who becomes a substitute teacher for that subject. In Scouts, too, our boys have been able to grow and develop leadership and team-building skills, as well as gain a wealth of experience in outdoors adventures. In Scouts they have found their best friends, boys who, like them, enjoy the great outdoors and the preparation and advancement opportunities. Boys whose parents take an active role in their development and just plain enjoy spending time with their kids and ours.
Families who really live the Scout Oath and Law. Their Scout friends have been priceless companions on their continuing journey toward independence.
Our oldest son is making his way in the world, following God's call for him in his life. Zachary is committed to his faith life and to his academics. He's devoted to his family and a good mate to his friends. He's fit, and enjoys participating in high school athletics. He's goofy, brilliant, insightful and orthodox. He loves Star Wars Battlefront and Nerf Warz, and nearly memorized the Lord of the Rings and many other books. He has created many games and fantasy worlds, he wrote and self-published a book which is available at our local public library. He's a leader in our parish, in his youth group and his Scout troop, and we are very proud of the young man he has and continues to become. Zac's future looks bright indeed!
Zac did attend pre-kindergarten and co-op preschools before we decided to homeschool.