Sunday, March 1, 2009

Homeschooling to the Finish Line with Hannah-Bo

Okay. After that post a few days ago introducing you to some of our homeschooling philosophies, I'll tell you how we put it into practice.

I won't dazzle you with schedules of getting up at 5:00a.m. with both kids having practiced the piano by 6:00, and conjugated their Latin verbs by 7:00. There are wonderful homeschooling parents who are just that disciplined but it would beg the question about balance in another way. You know by now what my opinion is on that issue: no one does it all.

Without a doubt, there are some who absolutely seem to do it all and have great kids and success to prove it. And there a few, especially those of the "unschooling" philosophy, who would think education just "happens" to children while living life; it doesn't take concerted effort. I have found very little compelling evidence to recommend that opinion.

Most of what is lovely in the world, and which would culminate in full blossom, requires exposure and struggle. But education is only partially available in a textbook. Much of what would add to the loveliness of life takes place in the spiritual, emotional, and social realms. Our lives have been full there because almost EVERYthing interests us. We have gone down more trails and rabbit holes than Alice in Wonderland. We read everything - alone and aloud, turn over all rocks, ask questions endlessly, dissect bugs and ideas, and never cease to be awed and amazed at anything God has created in all of nature. Our only lament is there isn't enough time to take it all in.

And with that said, I have been known to acknowledge I am my children's worst influence. I just get them on task and focused when I say, "Did I tell you guys about THIS?" or "Oh my gosh! Look what I found!" and off we go. I like to think it has taught them flexibility. (More than likely it has taught them to handle frustrating people!) But we certainly haven't lacked for variety and excitement. I used to think of these things as "teachable moments." Not anymore. For lots of years now I have been convinced that everything about life IS a teachable moment. If anything, I have to stop myself from over analyzing all that crosses my path.

I want them to know the beauty and learning in simplicity; of taking in the whole, and not just the sum of the parts; of appreciating, from the heart, the riot of colors in a field of flowers, or the stillness of a mountain sunset as the earth burrows deeply into her cloak of darkness. Two plus two will balance the checkbook, but the poetry built into nature by God, will balance the soul.

And God's Word, learned early and often, will call them and prepare them for an eternal relationship with him and cause them to discover his purposes for their lives. My prayer for them is that, being filled by him, they are overflowing with compassion and hope toward others; that they would be bold in their faith, but not sanctimonious, which is so very repelling and injuring. And that they would never forget to extend the beauty of grace, knowing it was only through grace that they, themselves, found true love and belonging.

And in trying to do all these things I think are important, I have fallen down.....a LOT. I can't tell you how many times I have wondered what in the world I was doing and if all these threads would eventually be sewn into something recognizable in the hands of an inept seamstress. Life interrupted us as it does everyone, in one way or another. Books would be sidelined by illness, or upset, or the needs of others. We certainly weren't free from heartache or drama through the years, or relationship and family trials. But I hung on to my thread and my plan, though it was tattered and frayed many times.

And that plan included where I wanted to see my kids end up. Not what they would be doing, but preparing them to be able to do whatever it is they are supposed to do. And that also meant talking about college early. It wasn't so cast in stone that nothing else would do. But it was discussed as a natural progression just like sixth grade, or ninth, or twelfth.

By sixth grade I was calling colleges to see what their expectations were. I don't do well with things piled on me at the last minute and I wanted time to think, prepare, make mistakes, change my mind.

I was extremely blessed to follow in the footsteps of a very organized homeschooling mom (thanks, Cynthia!) who knew how to blaze trails and open doors. She kept me apprised of websites and current information for different institutions and her daughter was Hannah-Bo's inspiration. (She will graduate from a prestigious college soon - I'm not naming it to protect her privacy - with many honors and an engineering degree, having received a full ride scholarship.)

I downloaded requirements so I had plenty of time to plan. Requirements had to be met in Foreign Language, Social Studies, Math, English, etc. We couldn't afford to find out at the last minute that an institution wouldn't be open to us because we hadn't prepared. Music was a big part of our schooling and both kids play at least one instrument and have been involved in large choirs for years, as well as competitions for both of these activities.

When I was out of my league in any particular area, and I knew I would be as soon as Hannah hit Algebra II, I utilized the community college. Through another friend I found out about our local university offering classes for a low fee to high performing students. So HB took art classes, humanities, and trigonometry in her junior and senior years, through those colleges. (It had the lovely benefit of also earning her college credits for these courses.) We availed ourselves of standardized testing, SAT 9 & 10, PSAT, CHSPE, AP, and SAT because I doubted most institutions would be impressed with a mother issuing her child A's. I knew competition required a level playing field. They would have to perform well on these tests, just like any other student, to be considered for acceptance or scholarships.

And I have to say, I pushed scholarships hard.

We are not people of means with only one income. The Wild Man isn't there yet being in the seventh grade but when Hannah-Bo was just starting high school, we had a series of serious talks. An honors college she wanted to attend had stringent requirements. I wanted to know if this was her goal or ours. If it was ours, we needed to reduce the pressure and look in different directions. But if it was hers, I would pour on the coal and refuse to let her fail, even if she wanted to quit. After careful thought and prayer for a month, she announced it was definitely her goal. She lived to occasionally lament that proclamation when the going got intensely tough and my lecturing and expounding would begin. (I might hold the Olympic Gold Medal in the Lecture and Expounding event. Just ask my kids.)

But a little over a week ago, those regrets long forgotten and the tape of the high school finish line in her sites, we got a knock on the door.

Our mail lady handed us an envelope with a "Certified Mail" label stuck to it. We had to sign. Signing wasn't as hard as breathing.

We had applied to the college she so wanted to go to and had been awaiting the results for over two months. The application procedure was involved and the requirements were exacting. The competition was stiff with over 550 students from all over applying for 50 total scholarships. Yes, she had high scores and met other requirements. But so did a great many students. God had to open the door.

We looked at the envelope and at each other. "It's here," I said. I'm so eloquent under stress.

"I can't open it!" she pronounced. "I don't want to know! What if it's a no?!"

"Okay." I responded. "I'll tell you what.....I'll just slit it open and we'll lay it on the table and wait until we decide what to do." Like, what ELSE would we do but have to look at it eventually?

"Okay," she agreed. "But don't look at it!" In the meantime, The Wild Man said, "For Pete's sake! What do ya mean you don't want to open it? Haven't you been waiting for this forever?!"

Yes, but of course, reason had nothing to do with THIS moment.

"And let's do this," I offered. "Let's pray. Let's pray that no matter what it says, we have the right attitude. Let's remember that everything will be the same after we look no matter what it says. God has a plan for you and nothing can change that." And so we prayed. And then we paced. And then we looked at each other again.

"Do you want me to look and tell you?" I asked, "or do you want to look and tell me?"

"Let's do it together," she decided.

Very slowly and carefully we slid a group of papers out of the envelope. We looked at each other as we lifted the top flap of the letter. The first word we saw in bold, black letters was, "Congratulations!" and then we screamed and we jumped and we screamed again. And then we shook and we cried and we screamed even more. And then we called Grizzly to tell him. He was laying out some high voltage wire and standing in a trench. We shouted and sobbed the news, and as he stood there, all dirty and manly and sweaty, and proud, he cried, too. The culmination of a very long dream....a blessing poured out on us.

And that's my big news. We are still smiling. She has received a full ride scholarship. College paid for all four years. Dorms, too. A laptop, and she gets to pick it out. And for a girl who is a complete computer geek, that's a really big deal. We are humbled. We are speechless. We are awed that out of 50 students, she will be the only one representing the homeschool community. We are GRATEFUL.

And there you have it. I'm sorry it took so long to tell you. I have struggled with how to tell it. I want it to be an encouragement to anyone who would want to travel this path with their own child, and not a moment of seeming to say, "Hey, look at us! Aren't we great?!"

We are SO blessed to have friends to call and who celebrated with us. One friend wanted to bring Starbucks but we declined because we had so many phones calls to make (thanks anyway, Teresa!). Another friend screamed as loud and as long as we did and then, didn't ask (smart woman!), but jumped into the car, apron and all, and with her three kids raced to our house to jump up and down with us. She also brought a gift she had been saving in anticipation of good news. It had cookies and these socks inside:

These are her three kiddos and my two - The Wild Man is on the far left, and feeling proud of his sister.

And Hannah-Bo teaches a writing class for elementary homeschool students and a dear mom friend made cupcakes and the girls made this sign:

Does it get better then having so much love and happiness sent your way?!

Blessings abound and we are thankful. Thanks to all of you for reading and caring. I can't wait to hear all of your stories. I love to visit your blogs and see the terrific ways you parent and how funny and precious and special your kids are. Or how your path looks completely altered from mine where kids, or marriage, or life is concerned but finding all types of richness in sharing our journeys together. Thank you for being my friends.....old, and new.

With Love and a prayer for blessings in your life,


Copyright 2009


  1. Your daughter looks like a younger version of you, Robynn. She is so very pretty. And smart. A full-ride scholarship! That is just the best ever news to share.

    I'm all for homeschooling. I think homeschooled students graduate heads and shoulders above the rest and your daughter is a prime example!

    Blessings to all of you.

  2. WOW WEE!!! AND WOO HOO!! i AM SOOO EXCITED FOR YOU, HANNAH! THIS IS GREAT NEWS! Congratulations and blessings in abundance to all of you! I am rejoicing with you and am so excited about what God has in store for you! What a wonderful day.
    with lots of love, Pam

  3. Oh My Goodness, Oh My Goodness!
    My daughter also graduates this year, but from public school. I just started homeschooling my son this year. It is a scary ride I have to say, knowing that his education is in my hands.

  4. Yeah!! Many congrats to you Hannah Bo!! Many congrats to mom for getting you the material she needed to get you there. I remember when our daughter got her letter of acceptance to the college she wanted to attend. Excitement and relief galore! Our son challenged himself to get a academic scholarship at a college that we could not afford to send him to,only if he got the scholarship. Well, he got won and boy, was I ever excited. So I know what your experiencing.
    How grand this is for you!

  5. robynn,

    the link was messed up to my new blog. sorry. it's fixed now.

    Congrats to you and your daughter. it goes by too quickly. i have one done this year, one next, and another two years after that. i'm so glad my angelina will be around a while.


  6. Homestay Mama: THANK YOU but she's LOTS prettier than her mama! And thanks for your sweet sentiments. :)

    Pam: Yay! I hear you hollering from the holler up there! :) THANK YOU!! And for those of you who don't know - this is a mom of two of the GREATest kids. But they would have to be....they have two of the greatest parents.

    Jillybean: How fun our girls are the same place and age! It'll be great to share their experiences these next years. :) And you're IS scary...but you'll do a fantastic job, I'm confident. I'm always here to chat about it if you want to. And THANK YOU!

    Karen: THANKS! and you know EXACTLY what we're going through. How wonderful for all of YOU!

    Tina: Appreciate the update on the blog site and you're right about the speed. SO GLAD The Wild Man still has years to go. I'm not READY to be done!

  7. Let me first say Hannah-Bo is beautiful. I completely understand your elation. My two stepdaughters, who are twins, both received full scholarships with dorm,computer and everything. We also have another in culinary school. We are so thankful and feel so blessed that our prayers were answered and they are all doing well in college.

  8. This is wonderful news! I'm happy for you both! I know how proud you must be. God bless you all and I'll be praying that she enjoys her college experience. You painted such a lovely verbal picture of your husband, dirty from work, standing in the trench crying with pride over his daughter's success. Brought tears to my eyes!

  9. CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That is so cool and so awesome!!!!!!
    It's nice to know that good things come to good people!!!It took a lot of hard work and you and your daughter deserve to relish in every moment!!!!
    Wish you all the best your on new journey!!

    Keep on Truckin

  10. Ohhhhh how this is something I struggle with. Our daughter is 2 1/2 .... and we know we won't be sending her to the public school here. We have a few good private ones, but... I WANT that flexibility... yet, if I get pregnant soon??? It may be that we send her to private to get her going on reading (scares me to teach that from the get-go, never have and if someone else has been doing it for 20 years, then...)... We may send her for a year, then me for a year to see ...who knows!?!??! It's ALL very overwhelming.
    I WILL say that I am inspired an awed by your/your daughter's accomplishment. WHAT a real great, real life story! How FABULOUS... and she (your daughter) is gorgeous. What lucky gentleman someday should be able to share her life. CONGRATS to you mom (and, I'm sure dad, too).
    Wow, wow, wowey! ... for y'all.

  11. Howdy! Dropping by fromm sits. Meet Sock Monkey. He is looking forward to meeting new people.

    Sock Monkey

  12. Congratulations, Hannah-Bo!!!
    Cute socks!

  13. Wow, wow, wow.. that's fantastic news! Congratulations to Hannah-Bo. I'm so excited and happy for all of you.

  14. Oh congratulations to both you and Hannah Bo! And what a sweet, poignant and lyrical read it was.

    Such a beautiful daughter! And such a beautiful heart. There are so many parts of this that speak to me that I will no doubt have to come back and read again! Truly you speak to all parents because parenting requires teaching at its core. How lucky for your kids that you understood and embraced this so well!

    Blessings to both of you and congratulations again!!!

  15. Waht wonderful news !!!
    Cheeses... You can sure drag things out though, can't you??? *wink*
    When I read "Congratulations" I WHOOOOPED loud enough to wake the neighbors and scare the cats!

    Congratulations to you and your beautiful Hannah-Bo !
    I have a very strong feeling that that little nut didn't fall far from her mama's tree.. looks-wise or smart-wise.

    I'm just so proud for BOTH of you - it's a wonderful, wonderful accomplishment!

  16. Treehouse: I'm SO glad for you and I definitely know you get it. How great, too, for all YOUR kiddos! THANK YOU!

    Kaleena: You are SO sweet, THANK you! And yeppers, big old guy standing there crying. Neither one of us graduated from college and this is, indeed, really meaningful for us so we're all weepy.

    Brenda: THANKS!! And we will...keep on truckin' that is. You TOO! (For those of you who don't know, Brenda drives a great big truck. Check out her blog.) :)

    BZ: THANK you for sharing our happiness! You can definitely teach her to read. There are so many fun ways. But it is challenging when you have a new one. She was four when Hunter was born and there was a lot of squeezing in school while he napped. But it's SOOO low key in the beginning. If you do decide to go ahead, I'm always here if you have questions. I'm not an authority but I've been down the road. :) And her dad is interviewing potential suitors while he cleans his guns.

    Twisted Fencepost: THANK you! HB is a sock girl and Diane knew it. Minky, too. She's bent and bound to chew the toes out of everyone of Hannah's socks!

    Lady Fi: THANKS for being excited with us!

    Vicky: I so appreciate your tender sentiment. Wow. I'm speechless. :)

    TM: YES! I CAN drag things out! lol THANKS for whoopin' and hollerin' with us and for makin' the cats jump. I think she did better than her mama though. I had to keep kickin' her out farther because the shade this body casts woulda kept her from growin'! Thank you, my friend.

  17. AAAAAHHHHHH!!!! SO COOL! That is absolutely awesome. :-) She's just gorgeous, BTW. What a great feeling! So excited for you all!

  18. So excited for you guys!! What wonderful news! :) Your line: "Most of what is lovely in the world, and which would culminate in full blossom, requires exposure and struggle." blew me away. I will be thinking about that for days. :)

  19. That is great news! Hannah-Bo and her Mom are very special folks.
    I am so impressed! I have wished so many times that I had home schooled my boys. So many times...

    I wish Hannah all the best she can be.
    Great writing, Robynn.

  20. Hannah Bo living up to her socks!! Full ride, that's awesome. Robynn, you've done good, too. Of course it helps when you have bright children that are excited about learning.

    Congratulations, I think, are deserved all around, but Hannah Bo... You Rock!!!

  21. Your daughter is a beauty. I celebrate with you! Praise God.

  22. Robynn, I saw your comment at PW's website, and out of curiosity clicked the link to your blog. As a mom of a 3 year old and 9 month old twins (all girls!), all of whom I plan to home school, I was so glad that I popped over here. Your post is wonderful! It was beautiful and encouraging, and by the end I had goose bumps as I read it aloud to my husband. We could hardly wait for you to open the envelope!!! And then I had tears. Congratulations to you and Hannah! And thank you for writing about it. I never would have thought that I needed to think about such things as college scholarships years in advance and am glad to have learned this (many, many years in advance!).

    God bless you,

  23. Robynn - I'd missed this post. How behind am I ? Posted like a week ago or something?!

    And I KNEW before I even saw the photo of the kids... I just KNEW it was Diane who showed up in her apron with gifts. :-) Isn't she just the best?!

    Well, joy joy joy all over again after reading this!!

  24. Hannahhannahhannahhannahhannah!!!!!! Ahhhhhhhhhh :-D :-D :-D :-D eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!

    *more girly squeals*


  25. Oh my gosh, what fantastic news! Congratulations to your daughter on her wonderful, wonderful achievement. And, kudos, to you and the rest of your family for providing such a nurturing environment in which she could achieve such a high honor! Well done!

  26. That is so wonderful! I'm joyful for your family. Congratulations to all of you. Will you share what your daughter is going to pursue?

    Plano, TX

  27. Ok....that made me cry.

    4 years-full ride. WOW, wow, wow!

    Congrats (to you both) Bravo

  28. wow - congrats to both of you. How very exciting, I know you must be so proud!

  29. Congratulations Robynn and Hannah! What a fantastic accomplishment. Robynn, your daughter is beautiful and obviously quite accomplished. She deserves all the wonderful things coming her way.

  30. Big time congrats are in order to Hannah!

  31. I feel so out of the loop! I have been down with a cold/allergy something or other since last Thursday and house and car hunting when not sneezing or coughing! BIG CONGRATULATIONS, HANNAH!!!! We are so proud of you! Now we can say..."Yes, we know her...the smart one..." Tee Hee Love you!

  32. Congratulations, Hannah! And way to go, Mama. How wonderful to see the fruits of your labor.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog party so I could meet you. :)

  33. it was fun to come across your blog at such an exciting time in your lives, i am so happy for you guys! congratulations!! God is good!

    as someone who plans on having kids in the next couple years and starting to think about education options, it was encouraging to get a glimpse of your homeschooling journey from beginning to end in this post, the hurdles you came across and how you handled them. very inspiring! thanks for sharing!

  34. WOW! What wonderful news! What a blessing to see Hannah-Bo's hard work paid off and that she reached (and surpassed) her goal!

    She is blessed to have parents that were flexible enough to let her follow her own dreams and dedicated enough to help her reach them! You are all FABULOUS!

    Thank you for the encouraging post. It helped me remember why I teach my daughter!