All those things that we called "education" ended up being OK. He knows how to learn -- both on his own and by reaching out to others who know more than him on a particular topic; he's self-directed; he knows how to make decisions and be responsible, talk with the outside world, have fun with friends, dress appropriately for the occasion, cook for himself, clean up after himself and others, work alone and in teams, speak in front of crowds of people if needed, handle money responsibly, mentor younger children and older adults with patience and understanding of how to help them learn.
He's an amazing 18 yo (no parental pride there... :) ). And the steps along the way were just that -- steps along the way. He really did learn to read. He did learn math and has been accepted at multiple engineering programs, despite the fact that we never quite got through Algebra 2. (He did do Pre-Calc -- we just didn't make it through that Alegebra 2 curriculum -- any of them!) He can write an essay -- in fact, his college essay was amazing (thanks to the 4 week online class he book on Bravewriter). He still doesn't have the same sense of time as everyone else unless he needs to. He still doesn't have many words unless he's got words to say. He still knows all my mom-buttons to push -- and does occasionally.
What I learned through his 18 years of homeschooling (counting from the time he was born), was:
- In a homeschool lifestyle, homeschooling and parenting merge together and the ultimate goal is to keep the parent-child relationship healthy, regardless of what it takes. It means give and take on all sorts of topics -- chores, school, boundaries -- theirs and ours, when to be firm, when to give, when to celebrate. And, frankly, the parents are learning just as rapidly as their son or daughter -- I've never parented or homeschooled a teen before. Just like my teen has never been a teen before.
- Developmental stages really are just that -- lots of stages just have to be gone through. But the stronger the underlying relationship (see above), the quicker one can adjust to each stage and realize that it really is a stage. Brain development, hormones, physical changes, social changes, and demands... all require continual adjustment -- kind of like working with google products -- things undergo changes continually. Some are good, some are hard, some are easy to adjust to, some changes feel like you'll never get used to them -- but you do and then they change again.
- Ebb and flow happens -- for the parent and the child. Interests, motivation, energy. I always find September hard (the adjustment to day-to-day reality after the theoretical optimistic plans of the summer) -- and April/May -- OMG -- the year continues at a rapid pace, we didn't get anything done, maybe I should look at school for next year or a more structured curriculum or a full-time tutor/sitter or...
- Life isn't a race. 5 years of high school, a gap year... all just decisions along the journey of life. It's very cool to be graduating from high school at 16 -- but in the bigger picture, how will that change things in 10 years or 20 years?
- Learning happens. Despite what we worry about, humans are meant to learn. Those years of immersion into the online gaming world of Runescape in middle school... I so worried about that but I can see the progression from that to teamwork and strategy, to online communication, to learning the world of RPG which led to running Minecraft servers for a large homeschool community, mentoring younger students on Minecraft, playing with Russian students on collaborative online games, to programming Arduinos while building his 7th 3D printer, creating websites, participating in world-level Reddit forums on troubleshooting for 3D printers and Minecraft and robotics...
So we made it. However, it's certainly not over yet! I'm currently mentoring/facilitating three 18 yo's in their "Gap Year Entrepreneurship and Leadership Program." Once a parent, always a parent. Once a collaborative learning partner, always a collaborative learning partner?
And, I have a 9 1/2 yo coming up through the ranks. Not sure I'm any less nervous about "doing it right" -- but I am very sure that homeschooling is the right choice for our family, meets the needs of my children, and fits my educational philosophy.