And He's Off!

University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg Virginia 2016

University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg Virginia 2016

Just a few weeks ago, we dropped Jason off for his first year at the University of Mary Washington. He transferred in as a sophomore to pursue a History degree.

As a parent, I do my best to not take credit for my kids' achievements. I really don't feel like it is my responsibility to "make" them into who they are but rather to create an environment where who they are is valued and which allows them to make these discoveries for themselves.

But as a homeschool parent I can also appreciate that I did play a very influential role in his educational journey. That I made many conscious decisions that influenced his academic path and helped give him the freedom to grow into the person he is. Decisions which were mostly rooted in a desire to trust in the individualized learning process, even when that took us down non-traditional paths. Decisions about which I am definitely breathing a bit easier about now.

What I am finding, as I look back over how Jason got to where he is now, is not that I found "the right approach" which made it all possible, but that between the two of us, we managed to figure out something that worked, on the whole, quite well for him. One that honored his learning style and developmental timetable and gave him plenty of space to identify and explore his interests.

It is funny, when I talk with people about what Jason is up to and how he got there, it sounds like everything was smooth sailing and pre-destined to work out. Mostly because we know now that it actually has worked out.

But I did not know the outcome when he was not reading until just before he turned 8. Or a very reluctant writer even at 13. Or in high school, when we made decisions based more on what made sense for him rather than on what might be "good for his transcript." I definitely had to make many leaps of faith and to trust the process along the way.

My main goal for Jason in high school was to not get too caught up in the college admissions rat race and associated anxiety surrounding it. I did my best to believe that we always had a path forward even if we did not know exactly what that path looked like. 

We made decisions mostly based on what made the most sense for Jason at that moment, rather than worrying too much about some nebulous "he might need this later" worry (or at the least, tried to do my best to balance the two, often opposing, pressures.) At times we did make choices which "shut doors" for him (such as not having him take the SAT) but these choices usually wound up leading him to paths that worked better for him (such as spending a year at community college and then transferring.)

Looking back, his path to college actually seemed to unfold quite naturally. We honestly did not have things overly planned out ahead of time (he did not even decide for sure that he wanted to go to college until his junior year). He just kept taking the "next right step" and it got him where he wanted to go. And even better, to a place that feels very "right" for him in so many ways.

Of course that makes it sound as if it was all smooth sailing with no stress along the way. But looking back, it feels like a healthy level of stress, one where it was not about "if" he would get into college, but more about how and when that would happen (and where he would end up.) One thing that helped was to remember that if one path closed, there was always another one available. There were no educational emergencies, even in the high school years.

So Jason is settling in at UMW and seems to be enjoying himself. I'm enjoying hearing about how much college life has changed since I went to college (like texting and Amazon Prime!) He gets along really well with his roommate, enjoys his classes, and is getting a crash course in how to deal with the Virginia heat and humidity while living in a dorm without air conditioning. He's even managed to get up in time to make it to his 8am Tuesday/Thursday class. In true Jason fashion, he made sure to bring his coffee press, bean grinder and electric kettle and has already scoped out the dorm kitchen.

Kyle and I are settling in and getting used to it being just the two of us. I have to admit that my feelings tend more towards being excited for Jason and what he gets to experience and less about being sad that he is not here (though I do miss him!) I keep coming back to how "right" this feels, both for him and for me and that helps, I think.

So yeah, feeling pretty good about how this homeschooling thing turned out even with all the ups and downs and uncertainties along the way (and there were many!) What I am most thankful for is the extra time we got to spend together and the relationship we developed over the years. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

And now I get the fun of seeing where Jason goes from here! Definitely looking forward to that.