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Deladis graduated from kindergarten with our homeschool association on May 26th. It was a beautiful ceremony. She said about 15 Bible verses to a crowd of about 80 people without missing a beat. I got to give her her diploma, and her daddy played “Little Birdie” for her on the banjo. We couldn’t have asked for a lovelier time. What follows is the speech I gave during the ceremony.
I want to begin this evening by thanking everyone who has come to support our graduates and celebrate this important day with our families. It means a great deal to all of us.
At some point many of you have probably wondered why we chose to homeschool our children, and I’m sure many of homeschooling parents have wondered the same thing at times just like many public school teachers out there who sit after a trying day wondering why they chose the path of an educator. Believe me, we do it. I’ve been in both places. For many homeschooling families the answer is not a simple one. While we all probably have multiple answers to the question of why we chose homeschooling, I believe I am safe to say that all of us felt compelled to do so by the obligation we have to our children as their parents.
The Bible has so much sound wisdom and encouragement to offer parents on raising children, and if you start reading there, you’ll soon find what a huge responsibility you’ve undertaken by becoming a parent. I know that throughout this year as I have set out to read the Bible from beginning to end, I have at times become overwhelmed by the realization of what it truly means to be a wife and mother.
Psalm 127:3 says – “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Verse 5 goes on to say – “How blessed is the man whose quiver if full of them; They shall not be ashamed, When they speak with their enemies in the gate.” Psalm 128 goes on in much the same way. And if any of you have ever prayed for God to gift you with a child, or you were gifted without thinking you were ready – you likely can recall the moment when your baby was placed in your arms and you realized perfectly how much this gift depended upon you as their mother or father for their quality of life. It is often times those moments when we fall in love with that little being so completely that it takes our breath away.
All of us who have fully accepted the responsibility of parenthood want the same thing for our children. We hope with all our hearts that their lives will be healthy, happy, and whole. For each of us how we go about giving them the best possible opportunity for that sort of fulfillment will be as diverse as our family names. I cannot assume what is right for your family, and I feel so blessed, as I am sure you do, to have the freedom to make important decisions for mine.
It is also very likely that if we have envisioned an adult life for our children that the reality of that life once they reach it, will look very different than what we daydreamed about. How many of us are pretty sure we aren’t doing exactly what our parents hoped we’d be doing at this stage in our lives? The very best we can hope for is that they are doing something they love, and that they feel called to do. Oh, and that they call and come home to visit on a regular basis. Yet, we can also look to the values our children hold, and their self-esteem to see the mark their upbringing is making on their attitudes and the way they view the world. If we see signs of a positive self expression and healthy attitudes toward their work, their role in society, and respect for others in our older and adult children, then we should be able to rest. The rest of their life is completely up to them and their Creator to sort out and that is as it should be.
There are so many things that we can’t control about how our children will experience the world. For every good there is a bad. For every right there is a wrong. They come hand in hand. While there might be times in our lives when we become hurt or disappointed by the experiences our children have or bring upon themselves, regret isn’t something we should dwell in for long. The ultimate question is – Does our child know that we love them? That we will always love them? We can be comforted by the words of Romans 8:28 – “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
I was a public school teacher when John and I were gifted with our firstborn – Deladis Rose Haywood. God told me one day during my prayer time through scripture that I would have a baby by summer. Deladis was born on August 4th, 2005. Before her birth, John and I decided that the time my job forced me spend away from home was too much, and that the time I would gain in resigning my position would be worth the cut to our finances. It was important to us that I be the one primarily responsible for the care of our children and we were willing to live a lifestyle that would allow for that. It was the first huge decision we made as parents. It is a decision we have never regretted though it has dramatically changed the way we live our lives.
Many more decisions would come like – how would I give birth, what was the optimal way to feed our baby, who would provide her healthcare and what would that look like, where should we live, where would we attend church, and ultimately where would our daughter attend school.
For many reasons all of which I won’t go into tonight, we decided that home was the best place for Deladis and any future children to receive their education at this time in our lives. We all have probably heard Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Like our earlier decision of being the ones primarily responsible for the care of our children with our own hands, so was our decision to be the ones immediately responsible for the education our children would receive. In choosing homeschool, I as their only teacher am responsible for the content of their daily lessons for every subject. It is my responsibility to make sure that they have the education that they need to be whatever it is that they choose to be in life whether either of my daughters decide to be stay-at-home mothers gifting me with ten grandbabies, a homesteader living in a small cabin with no electricity or running water, an artist who shows her work from coast to coast, an activist working for impoverished women and children, a social worker finding stable homes for children in need, or the astronaut that leads the first human expedition to Mars, because if that is what my daughter truly wants and feels led to do, then that is what I want for her. Is that a huge responsibility? It sure is. But, what I can know for certain is that as her mother and father, John and I will be her source of information about her world and her place in it. We can have the most direct impact on how comfortably she navigates whatever path that life places her on. We can be the shoes on her feet, the food in her backpack, and the soft blanket that covers her every night of her journey. Her Creator will be her compass.
It is not that homeschooling families are trying to shelter their child from the world, or sequester them away from society and mainstream ways of living. It is most likely, that our choices were made because we wanted to ensure that our children in the situations that life brought upon our families have the best possible chance at a well-rounded and full life experience. You’ll see us in the community, our children interacting in real life situations with people of all ages and backgrounds.
By choosing to homeschool, we aren’t judging or accusing others who do not, or our own parents if they chose to send us through public school. Because we were educated, we have the opportunity to be educators for our children. Every parent is free to do what they feel is best for their family at the time the decision is made. It is a deep privilege to have that freedom and to respect the decisions of other parents.
By choosing to homeschool, we aren’t calling any public or private educator inadequate. Your job is so very important and to respect our teachers is to listen, empathize with, and support their efforts. Without you and the opportunity you give to parents, we would not have the freedom to choose where our children would be educated. We are on a very similar mission.
By choosing to homeschool, we are simply making a conscience choice. Often homeschooling families view it as a choice of conviction, of necessity, as the result of sincere thought and long consideration. It is a choice we take in earnestness. When we choose to keep our children home for school, we understand that it is exclusively up to us to provide the education our children will need in the ever changing and competitive world.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 says – “Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.” None of us know the path that God has forged out in the world for our children, but we do know that He entrusted us with their care. As you are here tonight witnessing this graduation ceremony you are participating with us in celebrating what for some of us is our first complete year of homeschooling our children, for others of us a milestone in the middle of what has recently become a steeper winding road, and for one of us the end of a long and very successful journey that suddenly seems like it was just a bit too short. Thank you for playing an integral part in supporting our efforts, and please accept our thanks as your presence has helped us to create a very special evening for our blessed and hard working students. Thank you.