I’ve been half-heartedly following the story of the wealthy parents who cheated to get their entitled children into exclusive colleges. Having never known such privilege, my husband and I did whatever we could when both of our boys were attending college to help them. But there was never a point where either of us resorted to such brazen action. Besides the lawbreaking that occurred, the most obvious transgression by these parents was to underestimate their children, teaching them that they didn’t have to meet any standards or work diligently to qualify for acceptance.
Toward the end of the 1992–1993 school year, I decided to look into homeschooling. Both of our boys were intelligent with the youngest tapped for the Talented and Gifted program at the beginning of fourth grade. He wasn’t happy to be singled out but I convinced him to participate anyway. The program had changed from one that pulled out kids for separate class time to one that taught all the kids in the class, giving the TAG kids separate assignments from the rest of the group. It was then that I also learned that my older son had a “watch” put on him and should have been in the program as well.
Our oldest son was in seventh grade during that time, and after a year at a junior high school where parents volunteered as “watchers” to deter violence between students, we made the decision to pull both boys out to continue their education at home. We were actually concerned with the environment in both schools our boys attended along with the education they were both receiving so after consulting with other parents who chose to homeschool their own gifted kids, I felt comfortable with the decision. Besides, the boys wanted to do it so I saw no reason not to proceed.
I found a variety of curriculum available, both secular and religious, and I ultimately settled on a modified unschooling approach. I liked the idea of incorporating school into our daily lives and we used that approach for part of their curriculum. The remainder involved subjects such as advanced math and writing and for those subjects, we took a college-bound approach. But whatever they could pursue in an unschooling fashion, they did.
They also discovered an aptitude for computer programming.
After two years at home, my oldest turned fifteen and I enrolled him part-time at the local community college in some programming classes. High school students, irrespective of where they did that, could enroll concurrently in two classes at the college and we jumped at the chance for our oldest son to attend. He did well and left after two years there with a 4.0 average to attend school at a technical college, moving on from there to graduate from one of our universities here in Oregon with a dual Math and Computer Science degree.
Our youngest son also pursued a degree in computer technology taking a similar route college-wise as his brother only spending most of his time and graduating from the rival university in our state with a degree in Computer Engineering and a full minor in Computer Science. Needless to say, their father and I were thrilled with the outcome.
But I can tell you in all honesty that for me, it was both an exciting and terrifying experience to homeschool my boys. Although I attended college and was graduated with a degree in psychology, I viewed myself as a facilitator instead of a teacher and felt that if this experiment was going to be successful, they needed to understand early in the process that their education was on them. No one could do it for them. They had to take the initiative to create space for learning. No classroom to go to, no teacher guiding their path. I was there for support but we structured their experience so that self-study was possible. And when each boy got to the point where they didn’t want to homeschool anymore, I enrolled each one in college. In fact, it became a joke around the house where they’d tell people, yeah, in our house if you lie to Mom about doing your math, she’ll throw your butt in college. Just like that!
They were correct. I did exactly that.
Both boys were enrolled in college prior to their eighteenth birthdays. I allowed each one to sit for the GED at sixteen with the provision that they would continue to homeschool until they began attending college. Earning a GED would give them the ability to take more than two classes per term at the community college, giving them more flexibility if they wanted it. Universities typically do not require a high school diploma if transferring from another college and I wanted the boys to have options starting out.
It was about that same time when I developed rheumatoid arthritis, becoming severely ill, in fact. I wrote about my experience in Confessions of a Back Porch Herbalist and my remission using cannabis concentrates. But while they were both in college, I was so ill that I feared I might not survive. I know. Arthritis shouldn’t mean a death sentence, but when it’s rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune condition, damage to the body from all the inflammation as well as the immune system attacking everything in sight can be life-threatening.
All I could think at that point was that I had set my boys on an alternative course and I may not live to see its fulfillment and that was unacceptable. I would go on to achieve remission but during their years in college, I continually worried that I wouldn’t be there to support them. After all, I was the one who upended everything when I asked them if they wanted to homeschool. I was the responsible party here. Not them. If this didn’t work out, it was on me. Period.
Traveling to see our boys was difficult given the severe pain I was in, but we did it as often as possible during those years in order that they knew we were there for them. We would head in one direction to pick up one of the boys and then the three of us would drive to see the other boy because it was important to me that the family spend time together. We would go shopping and take them to lunch and I cherished every moment we spent with them. Again, I had no idea what was going to happen with my health and I didn’t want to miss any more time with them than I already had. But mostly, I didn’t want to let them down.
Maybe it was the illness or maybe it was just my overactive sense of responsibility, but I wasn’t going to abandon my boys during the most important time of their lives. It wasn’t a reflection of the empty-nest syndrome that some homeschool moms experience. No, I had no problem dropping them off at college and going on my merry way. I even smiled the first time and was still smiling miles down the road. No, it was the fact that I might not be there to see this through to its conclusion that kept me going until cannabis saved my life.
When they both were done, our oldest son had his diploma sent home so that we could see it. I immediately took a picture and then forwarded it to him. They did it. Both of them. And I had survived to witness it.
In my heart, unlike the wealthy parents in all sorts of trouble now, I knew that our boys could do this. We could support them as much as possible, but I knew they could shepherd their own education. And although it was satisfying that I could provide at least some direction, complete credit goes to our boys. I’m just grateful I was alive to watch them shine.
Originally published at www.imsteppingaside.com on April 10, 2019.