Your Role in the Unfolding Story: a Pleasant Place and a Witness

22 May 2013

Graduation is a time of significance and celebration: a season of labor has yielded fruit—something we have longed for, hoped for, has been achieved. We rejoice! We embrace it and mark the occasion with a ceremony replete with gowns, music, symbolism and speeches. There are two major groups in graduation ceremonies. There is the more active group: those who stand, make speeches, shake hands and even turn tassels, and there are those who are the more passive group: who sit in a chair, read the program, listen and clap. Both of these groups, active and passive, are important. It really wouldn't be a ceremony without them.

In the front of this issue, President Mike Marshall’s article addresses graduates—those young adults with an active role, crossing a significant threshold in their life, academically and socially. Many of them are moving out of the home, pursuing their vocation (in hopes with full-time employment!) or going on to further studies at an institution of higher education. Whatever their future plans, when they receive their diploma from their school, they have crossed a boundary. That boundary marks the end of a significant period in their lives and the beginning of another. The fact that we acknowledge this crossing with a ceremony is important. We take delight in their crossing of this boundary.

But this essay is not about the graduate; it is about the other the participants. It is about the parents and all the others who make up the homeschooling community. It is about the audience in the seats and even more remotely, those who did not make it to the graduation ceremony and who are experiencing graduation through the pages of this special graduate issue. It is about the extended family and neighbors who helped the parent and the student reach this moment. It is also about the homeschooling family just beginning their homeschooling journey, for whom the thought of graduation is so remote, so distant that it seems laughable. It is also about the homeschooling empty-nesters who have submitted (with mixed emotion) the paperwork necessary to close their homeschools. All of these people, at different places in the homeschooling journey, form a group that plays a significant part in graduation. These people may be thought of as "the context" or "the place." They also form "the audience" or, more appropriately, "witnesses."

When I was young, I used to think ceremonies were pretty boring. But as I grew older (and wiser?), I began to recognize their importance. I finally realized that they are about the unfolding of a person's life story right before my very eyes. My watching it happen meant that I was a part in the unfolding. At graduation, homeschoolers get to share implicitly and explicitly with others about exactly what has enfolded in their homeschool journey. They get to do that in a couple of ways. In the ceremony NCHE hosts, one implicit moment is marked with the gift of the rose from the young adult to the parents. There is a lot of significance associated with that rose. It symbolizes the spirit of nurturing which yields growth and blossoming, which is at the very heart of education. That giving of the rose from the student to the parent, that single transaction, summarizes and reveals the whole vision of parent-directed education.

During the graduation ceremony our students get to stand next to each other, and we, the parents, get to sit next to others with whom we fundamentally agree regarding the benefits of homeschooling and participate in a ceremony marking a significant academic accomplishment. In the ceremony, we briefly get to see a glimpse of that story. We get to see a young man or woman stand with his or her parents and mark the day: the moment when all parties involved graduate. This is the moment when the young adult completes his or her secondary education, and the parents complete and are thanked for their years of sacrificial homeschooling. We get to see a rose change hands and a boundary crossed.

Through the years, the issue of the Greenhouse Report in which NCHE has published the graduate profiles has become a favorite. Let's face it: while the gowns worn during the graduation ceremony are meant to downplay our differences, the reality is that we love to learn about each young person's unique story. Seeing the photos and hearing about the unique skills and plans of our young people is encouraging. It is evidence that parent-directed education works. Over and over again I hear that homeschoolers are encouraged by the graduate profiles because it helps them to see the success others are having. It reminds them of the potential that exists and gives them visions of the future. In the stories and plans of graduates, they learn about diverse opportunities and often start to research new avenues for their child. We learn to better unfold our story when we share in the unfolding of others. But what happens after graduation? Do you ever wonder what happened to that young person who planned to go oversees, start their own business or go off to college? I know I do. This issue of GREENHOUSE marks the first year that we've included alumni updates. We see bringing you news of further unfoldings as an extension of our story-sharing role in the NC homeschooling community.

The rose passing from the student to the parent during the graduation ceremony is just one rose in a field of flowers. Each graduate holds a rose. Each mother who has gone across that stage in an NCHE graduation ceremony has held one, and those who are just starting their homeschooling journey hold a future rose. There is, in fact, a field of flowers in the form of an audience full of North Carolinians for Home Education. There is a line in the Bible’s ancient wisdom literature that truly resonates with me for it speaks of change and the context of change. In Psalm 16:6, David declares, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." Yes, being part of the audience is the more passive part of graduation, but it is not an inactive part. Yes, being a reader of a student's graduate profile is more passive, but it is not less significant. Yes, your being involved in a homeschool journey is not the same as being the parent-teacher or the child-student, but it is significant. Your very presence in the homeschool community gives the graduation boundary line a greater context and makes it an all the more a pleasant place.

Even when we are passively witnessing the graduation of our homeschoolers, either from our seat as a member of the audience during the graduation ceremony or through the pages of a special graduate issue, we serve the graduates by acknowledging the significance of this event. But not only with our witness but with our very participation, we enhance the beauty of the occasion. Our very presence helps declare to the world: This is good! This is true! This is as it should be! The theologian and philosopher Jonathan Edwards wrote: "The beauty of the world consists wholly of sweet mutual consents." When we witness, when we consent to what has happened in our homeschools, what is happening and the plans our students have made; we play a part in their story.

It is a great privilege and responsibility to participate in the making of a pleasant place and acting as witnesses. We are blessed to share these occasions, these markers, with each other.


GREENHOUSE is NCHE's flagship publication. 

GREENHOUSE magazine is published fall and spring plus an annual graduate issue in May. GREENHOUSE is mailed to NCHE members.