My husband and I took the baby and flew to Denver the other weekend. This is remarkable in part because it is very rare for us to leave the children to do anything. The occasion was the Rocky Mountain Home Educator's Conference, where I was asked to speak.
My husband is a frequent and intrepid traveler, though I daresay the next time he flies it will seem like nearly a vacation as he just spent several hours in the air occupying an eight-month-old baby. We arrived in Denver after a sleepless night, an early morning and several hours of various planes and airports. Since Mike knows Denver well, he insisted we progress on and visit some of the scenic glory of the area, lest our trip be nothing more than a hotel and adjoining conference hall.
We ate lunch in an old tavern nestled in a mining town — just the three of us. Karoline had our undivided attention, except when we were focused on each other. I snuggled her in a sling and we walked hand in hand. We breathed the mountain air and squinted to see the unique rugged beauty against the sky. We reconnected.
While I was scheduled to talk for two hours, once on Friday and once on Saturday, I actually talked more last weekend than I did in the entire two weeks prior. I listened a lot, too. I heard parents tell me that they were grateful to have finally discovered that they can relax and trust their instincts a bit more when it comes to educating their children. I heard them tell me that they are just beginning to understand that they don't need an accredited school to hold their hand — sometimes that it's not hand-holding at all, but bondage. I heard them tell me that they love nature study and they want it to be the centerpiece of education at least for a season (and who wouldn't with the Rockies out your back door?).
I heard the hard stories about trying to educate at home while being called back into the workforce. I heard from the lady who put all her children in school two years ago, following the birth of a baby, and sold all her curricular materials. The next year, she was buying all new materials, bringing them all home again, and hoping for another baby! I heard about a miscarriage that left deep and painful scars that would not heal. Those are the stories that have been committed to my rosary. And engraved on my heart.
And what did I tell them? I looked back on my home education journey and particularly at the child who had just graduated and would leave our home and go to school for the first time when he enters the university in the fall. And, in part, I told them this:
I learned so much during Michael's adolescence. I learned at least as much as he did. I grew at least as much as he did. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that educating my children at home, being completely and totally immersed in them, is my path to sanctity. It's how God is refining me. I've finished one entire cycle of home education. One child will leave my home and go spread his wings. God knows that I need to go through this process at least seven more times before He's finished with me. And every time, it will be a little different.
In His mercy and His abundant goodness, God granted me one more year when I would have every age and stage under my roof. In the fall of Michael's final year of home education, Karoline was born. She was born to a very different mother than any of our other children. She was born to a very different me. I am in awe of her. I am trembling at the prospect of a lifetime with her. And I cannot overstate how privileged I feel at the thought of educating her.
In the course of preparing to speak and while having some rare time with my husband to reflect upon this lifestyle, I came to a deeper appreciation of what my vocation has afforded me. Endeavoring to educate one's children at home is a sacrifice, a leap of faith, a cross. But, most of all, it is a gift. A gift for which I am very grateful.