By Kerry Jones
You will be extremely happy to know that you have nothing in common with me. You glide along through life like a leaf down a crystal stream. You tend to steer in the direction everyone else is steering, and the road ahead of you is well lit and mapped out. Your children have been welcomed with open arms by everyone they’ve met, and your home is a bastion of peace, harmony, and goodwill. Best of all, your homeschooling experience has been the most rewarding and inspiring era of your life, and you’ve never doubted your calling for even a moment. See? I told you that you have nothing in common with me.
Me . . . well, my life has been slightly different. My leaf tends to get stuck against every wet rock of the stream, my steering has been out of alignment for as long as I can remember, and the road I am on has been steep, winding, and many times even closed for construction. My children, both with special needs, have been stared at, frowned upon, and pitied in their turn, and my home can feel much more like an open battlefield than a fortress at times. And frankly, I’ve been tempted to quit homeschooling more times than I’ve been tempted to cheat on my diet, and that is saying a lot. However, while my life in no way resembles yours, you needn’t feel sorry for me one bit. I like my life . . . actually, I love it – – every little bit of it – – because God made me especially for it.
So many things in life seem designed with the “average” person in mind, don’t they? Airplane passenger seats are designed for an average size person, standardized tests are designed for the average student, and medicine doses are prescribed with the average person in mind. I’ll never forget the feeling of empathy I felt when I saw someone being asked to move along because they wouldn’t fit into a ride at a theme park. Or the first time I saw children on a park playground laughing at my son because he couldn’t control the jerking tics caused by his Tourette Syndrome. Our society caters to the average person . . . the average family . . . the average way of life. Unfortunately, I just can’t squeeze myself into that mold.
Homeschoolers used to be marginalized too, but over the years, they have become more accepted and respected. Within the homeschooling community, there are now groupings that help people fit in. There are Christian homeschoolers, unschoolers, Classical schoolers, Waldorf schoolers, Montessori schoolers, and traditional schoolers. Would you believe that I don’t fit into any of those either? We are Christians but aren’t really homeschooling for religious reasons, we read the classics, but our exposure to Latin consists of what is written on the backs of our coins, and my worn-out lesson plan book would attest that I am a far cry from adopting unschooling in the near future. I suppose I simply don’t assimilate well.
Strangely enough, though, my life is far from impossible. Someone had the good sense to design a few things with the irregular person in mind. TiVo invented a way to automatically record any show that happens to concern Jane Austen – – my current obsession. Tombstone miraculously created a frozen pizza that is half cheese and half supreme – – the only way my family will eat it. I recently saw a magazine in the library for people who garden on their deck. I truly thought I was the only one guiding squash vines around the railing posts. And thank heavens for Time4Learning.com, a multimedia homeschool curriculum that is so well suited for the out-of-the-box learner.
I have learned over time that the kingdom of God is certainly an upside-down kingdom, and that swimming against the current is actually inevitable. Praying for my enemies, returning kindness for evil, and forgiving those who are beyond forgiveness are part of the inverted life I’ve been asked to lead. So, I shouldn’t be all that surprised that my leaf takes a few hits as it heads downstream. The image I see in my mirror each day looks different from any other image I see in the world around me because God has asked me to model a life that is far from average. In fact, I think God delights in the fact that I am abnormal . . . unusual . . . exceptional.
Because of this, I know that when I hit the roadblocks of life, I can find a way around them. When my children face the challenges of being different, I can remind them that means they are on the right track! When the normal battles of life take over my home, I understand that I will win the war in the end. And when I have laid my head down on my pillow at the end of a difficult day and wondered why God has called me to this thing called “homeschooling” – – I will remember that it is because I have been called according to His purpose. Called to be different.
Kerry Jones is a freelance writer and web maintenance engineer in North Carolina. She has two sons and has been homeschooling since 1999.