20 May 2015

It’s graduation time, and I have the annual privilege of congratulating another group of young adults and their parents on successfully completing the marathon of providing and receiving a secondary education. It’s a great thing to be a graduate. I always enjoy the special graduate issue of GREENHOUSE, as it allows NCHE to recognize our graduates with photos and biographical descriptions. I enjoy getting a sense of each graduate’s personality and his or her aspirations for the future; these students are an inspiration to me. I’m excited for each and every one of our state’s homeschool graduates. I have a lot of confidence in them, and I increasingly hear academic and anecdotal reports of how they are flourishing in their post-secondary activities. Homeschool grads are increasingly sought after by employers. Homeschool grads are more likely to be entrepreneurial, active citizens and productive members of society. They are often growing as servant-leaders in their communities. I have every reason to believe that this year’s graduates will continue this trend. NCHE is privileged to have played a small part in contributing to the educational development of the next generation.

I’m also excited for the parents of these graduates. It’s a great joy as a parent to see your child achieve a goal and to know you had a significant part in it. A secondary education is an exercise of endurance for the student but maybe more so for the parent-educator. I enjoy the annual NCHE graduation ceremony, among other reasons, because it is an opportunity to practice the habits of rest and respect. Indeed, if there were two concepts that I could encourage graduates and parents of graduates to reflect on, they would be rest and respect, because they are concepts that humans struggle to understand and to put into practice. Our society especially seems to be uncharacteristically busy and devoid of civility. Rest and respect, I believe, help us to flourish and are evident when we are flourishing. In order to understand the significance of rest and respect, I sometimes reflect on a historically significant event: the Exodus and the moment in history when the Israelites received from God information about the kind of people he wanted them be. This information was revealed initially in what is known as the Ten Commandments. The commandments revealed that God would not have humans be slaves, but rather experience and participate in a flourishing community. While all the commandments are significant and worthy of reflection, lately I’ve been focused on the fourth commandment, the command to honor the Sabbath, and the fifth, the command to honor one’s parents. It is from these commandments that we get a better sense of the significance of rest and respect.

In the fourth commandment, God tells His people that they should follow His lead in actively practicing rest. God created this world in six days. After the sixth day, the universe was fully functional. The cycle of days and seasons was in place. In reality, day seven could have been the first day of the second week. But no, instead God established an additional day, a day of rest, a day upon which He ceased from labor and enjoyed what He had done. He incorporated rest into the cycle of work. Further exposition on this command revealed God’s plan for fields to be left uncultivated every seventh year so that the land could rest and that the poor could have an increased access to the fields. Moreover, God set every fiftieth year as a year of Jubilee for the Israelites to enjoy, when not only would the land be given a rest, but those captive to debt would be set free. All of these things show us that His design is for people to actively participate in rest. Now that may sound like an oxymoron—to “actively participate in rest.” I believe people who incorporate rest that honors God into their lives will truly experience and enjoy life. It is right and good to periodically cease from our labors and rest.

In my view, a graduation ceremony is an act of rest. While some may shy away from large events, I believe a ceremony such as graduation, in which one publicly acknowledges the end of a significant portion of one’s life, is important. It is important that we mark our days and the cycles of our existence as we transition from one phase of life to the next. It is NCHE’s mission to serve home educators. It is my hope that one of the ways we do that is by helping parent educators and students mark the end of their secondary education journey together with a public declaration of the work having just been completed and a hint of the work to come. I hope the ceremony helps you enter more fully into rest.

I do not think it is a coincidence that God follows the fourth command to rest with the fifth commandment to honor one’s parents. It is important for each of us to acknowledge that the success we experience is never completely our own doing. Someone went before us and in some way paved the way for our success. As I understand it, the command to honor one’s parents marks the beginning of the command to actively practice gratitude. It is important for homeschool grads to practice this attitude toward their parents. Parents aren’t perfect. However, one shouldn’t demand perfection before offering gratitude, but rather recognize the sacrifice that has taken place. Our parents are worthy of our gratitude. Homeschooled children should be especially aware of this fact. Good parents sacrifice much to give their children a quality education. They sacrifice time and energy. Yes, it is their responsibility to do so. But in today’s society it is far too easy to avoid responsibility and sacrifice. Because education is subsidized by public funds in modern society, parents who choose to homeschool demonstrate a unique kind of sacrificial life. This sacrifice is worthy of respect. It is NCHE’s practice that during the graduation ceremony, the graduate gives a parent a rose. The rose has been a symbol that NCHE has long embraced as part of the concept of the home and homeschooling being a greenhouse for the next generation. This gifting of the rose is also an act of appreciation, of gratitude. It is a respectful acknowledgment that the student would not be the graduate they are without the care and guidance, the preservation and the long-suffering of the parent educator. The commandments lead me to conclude that there is a link between rest and respect, and my experiences affirm this. There is a unique kind of sadness in a celebratory ceremony without a toast, and a unique kind of crassness in a funeral without a moment of silence. Both seem to ring hollow. So, too, would a graduation ceremony without giving the opportunity for grads to publicly express gratitude to their parents. NCHE is pleased to provide this public forum.

Graduates and home educators, I trust you know that the NCHE board members, staff and volunteers consider it a privilege to serve you and to share a small part in this season of your life. It is my hope and prayer for you, on behalf of North Carolinians for Home Education, that you can fully participate in this graduation season, that you will both give and receive a measure of rest and respect and that it will further equip you for true and lasting joy.

Kevin McClain and his wife, Brea, started homeschooling in 2002. Kevin has a master’s in education, instructional technology, from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in educational studies from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he works as an educational technologist. In 2010, he joined NCHE's board as education vice president. He served as NCHE president from 2012-2016.