meadowrueflowerEleven years ago I began homeschooling my oldest child, Judah, for kindergarten while his younger brother Gabriel played on the floor, building with blocks. The following year, they were joined by their baby sister, Lydia.

I’d never planned to be a homeschooling mom. My dreams and ambitions spread far beyond the four-walls of our house and the care of our own children. I want to write books, to serve African orphans, to develop my own skills and gifts as a Christian woman called to ministry. Yet, at the time homeschooling best fit the needs of our children and family.

So there I was, hour after hour curled up with the kids on the couch, reading books, teaching numbers, and letters . What a shocking thrill as the children learned not only to read (I taught them that!) but to love books. We took homeschooling year by year, each September re-examining our family’s needs and those of our children.

When we adopted our daughter Ruth from Uganda and found out she was deaf, our little schedule was thrown into flux. Often, I ended up driving her to three or more appointments each week–sometimes as far as Boston. When she began taking classes at the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the boys brought along their little red backpacks stuffed with workbooks and sat outside Ruth’s classroom while Lydia and I participated inside. But keeping up with Judah’s growing educational needs was too much, and in fourth grade he enrolled in a nearby Christian school.

When that school closed , Judah returned home for two years of middle school before transferring to another nearby Christian school. Gabriel joined him in seventh grade, climbing the steps of the yellow bus and disappearing from my grasp. My little classroom was growing smaller–despite the addition of baby Asher, who joined our family in 2010.

Lydia and I re-read the wonderful books I’d previously introduced to her brothers and added new ones especially for her–Little House on the Prairie! She spent her days drawing and playing in the backwoods with Asher. When I began homeschooling, it was to fill a need, but I never imagined how much joy it would bring me, watching my children learn and grow and sharing these days with them.

Each year I asked Lydia whether she wanted to keep learning at home, and each year she said, “Yes! I love homeschooling!” But over this past summer, she met more kids from the boys’ school and spent a week there at camp. By the middle of August, her answer had changed to, “I want to go to school!” As in go away from our big, cushy blue couch and the stacks of books on the shelf nearby. I could see the change in her, the eagerness in her eyes as she looked forward to a life beyond the walls of our home, the stone walls at the edge of the woods that set the boundaries.

Yesterday, I bought Lydia a new pair of shoes–golden–and watched as she carefully laid our her first-day-of-school clothes and filled her backpack with paper and pencils and binders. And even as I’m sorry to see her go, I trust that she is ready. Today, my little trio (now, not so little!) head off on the bus together. What a gift to have spent so many years with them! And what a proud Mama I am, knowing I gave them the best start I could.

Today, after they are gone, I’ll sort through our books as I’ve always done each August. Only this time, instead of pulling down material for the next grades up, I’ll be going back to preschool, picking books to read to Asher, while his two-month-old brother, Ezra plays on the rug nearby. I’ve often referred to our littlest boys as “round two.” But this morning, as I thought of all the years ahead, I realized this is not a match to be fought or a round to be won.

This is an encore!

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6.