Graduate 2021/Sandra Peoples

My teenager who has dyslexia started out as a homeschooler, went to public school for a few years, and has returned to homeschooling for high school. In the early years, it was easy to ignore the benchmarks and milestones and work at a pace that fit him and his needs. My goal was to help him love reading, and that meant I didn’t stress him out with too much pressure or too high expectations. We did things at his pace and followed the fun, creating entire units around books he was interested in.

But now it feels different. We are keeping actual grades for his transcript and making sure he’s ready for whatever his steps will be after high school. We can’t follow the fun in the same way or spend way more time on the stuff we both enjoy most. We need to do it all. And we need to do it right. In this new season, I find myself so focused on his grades and mistakes, I forget to pay attention to what’s really important—his character.

His character is the why behind our decision to homeschool in the first place. Will he get perfect grades? No. But that’s not the best question to ask. Instead, I need to ask how we are developing his work ethic, his independence, his research skills, his resilience, his confidence to try new and hard things, and his grit. Those life skills—those character traits—will help him more throughout his life than perfect ninth grade algebra assignments.

If like me, you still struggle with how to measure your child’s success as a homeschool student, especially if you have a child with a special need or learning disability, let me encourage you with this: It’s not about what our children are achieving; it’s about who they are becoming.

When he moves beyond high school and follows the path meant for him, I want the memories of our time together to remind him of our love and care for him and not our emphasis on what he did or didn’t do. I want him to remember that we sat at the table for fifteen more minutes not so he would get it perfect, but so he would realize how important it is to keep trying when faced with a problem. I want him to think of my proofreading marks not as a standard of perfection but as an encouragement to remember the power of words and clear communication. I don’t want these high school years to make us forget the fun we had in our early years of homeschooling.

I’m so thankful for our homeschooling time together again at this important stage in his development. And I pray as his teacher and his mom, I keep my priorities straight during these important high school years. Each day is a new opportunity to see the qualities of the man he will be in the opportunities he has now. Who he is becoming is truly more important than what he is achieving, and that will serve him better as an adult than even the grades on his transcript.

Sandra Peoples is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom. She’s the author of Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special-Needs Family and the host of the podcast Self-Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver.