340 | How to Make Your Child's Last Year of Homeschooling Truly Memorable (Sean Allen)
Every year of your child's homeschool experience is unique and precious; of course their last year is no different. So much work has gone into getting them to this point, but you're not quite done! This year presents a unique opportunity to to create something truly memorable and to place a joyous explanation mark at the end of their homeschool journey that they'll be able to look back on with fondness.
Sean Allen is the founder of The Well Ordered Homeschool, husband to his beautiful bride Caroline and a proud father of eight. He has a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design and is passionate about creating materials to assist parents in the incredibly challenging, yet surpassingly beautiful, work of schooling and training their children at home.
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Sean Allen [00:00:05] Hello, and welcome to another installment of the Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Sean Allen and I am one of the many hosts that we have on the podcast. Each week you'll hear from one of us as we talk about this busy and blessed season of educating our children at home. While the title of the podcast is Homeschool Solutions, it should come as no surprise to you that we do not have the answer to every question related to homeschooling. However, it is our hope that each episode will encourage you to look upward and seek the counsel and direction of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, as we endeavor to train our children in the way they should go. We're so glad that you decided to join us today. Let's dive into today's episode. Hello everyone, and welcome again to another episode of the Homeschool Solutions Podcast. My name is Sean Allen, and I'm your host for today. Thank you for joining us and thank you for spending this time with me. I don't know if it's early in the morning or in the afternoon or late at night when you're listening to this, but regardless. I just so happen to be recording this very late at night. I don't even want to tell you what time it is. It seems to be the only time that I could find to actually record these things because the daytime just seems like it's bonkers; so busy, so many things going on and, quite frankly, it's noisy as well. It's hard to find a quiet place to record these. So, everybody's asleep and everybody is very quiet, and so I can sit here and talk to you. It also just so happens that we are on the eve of taking our firstborn son off to college tomorrow. So, we crossed one--we got one over the finish line. And wow, it's quite an experience. You don't ever see yourself here. It was a long road, and yet we drove down that road very, very quickly. So, it's time for me to reflect and think back, and there's a lot of emotions and there's been some tears already with my wife in particular. She's really struggling. We've got a great situation, though. It could be so much worse. I can't imagine what's how it is with some of you parents who send your children off to four, five, six, seven, eight, ten states away, and they're going to be gone for the entire semester, you won't see them till Christmas. You might not even see them then. Wow, that would be really rough. I don't know how we would--I hope we don't ever have to experience that. It's possible that we will, but with our son, he's going to a technical school just a little ways south of us, about two or two and a half hours away, and he'll be home on the weekends. So it was really actually kind of humorous because tonight we had our "last" family meeting with him there. And those are always a bundle of fun, everybody just gets to talking at the same time and it gets a little chaotic. But we were sitting there and everybody's kind of wistful, you know, about seeing him go off and then we're like, "Wait a minute, five days from now, you're going to be right back here." So, it's not like he's going away forever. And also added to that, the program that he's in, he's down there for two months and then he's back home for two months because it's kind of a work study program. The program that he's going through, if he completes the program, they guarantee him a job. So he has an internship with the same company that's putting him through the program at the technical school. So again, here on the weekends, every two months back home. But with all that said, there's a milestone here. We've walked through a door and, honestly, we'll not ever be able to get back into the room that we just left, if you know what I mean. So that's a little difficult. It really is. Particularly with--I mean, with any parent, really, but homeschool parents have invested so much in their children and they spent so much time with them, and a lot of that time was hard and difficult and there was a different kind of crying some of those days. But when you when you look back over it all, there's just so much beauty and so much value there, so much joy. And to realize that you'll never get that back in the same way again--now, there's a lot of exciting things on the horizon, you know, to see one of your children step into a new life and to grow and to mature and to take their place in this world, and hopefully serve this world that we live in and bless this world. That's very exciting. And we look forward to that. But again, it's hard not to get a little, I don't know, touch of sadness there to think about what never will be again. So, that's one of the things I want to talk to you about today is what should that last year look like? Because I'm reviewing our last year and, of course, there's always regrets; there's things that you wish you could have done better. You wish that you would have tried a little harder or would have had your act together a little bit better to be able to squeeze in some more value and some more joy into their last year, because, obviously, the ultimate goal is no regrets. That's what you're shooting for: no regrets. Just like any other operation, we have a manager; we have someone who's over us, we have a boss, we have someone that we're accountable to. And when it comes to your children's education, the Lord is way more interested in that than you and I are. Way more interested, and places a lot of value on that. I'm not just talking about reading and writing and arithmetic, I'm talking about what kind of character are you imbuing your child with? What kind of a person are they becoming? So, all of the education and the character building that you invested in your child, all that goes into that, our Heavenly Father is very interested in that. We work for him and we work under his direction. That being said, he's just as interested in the first year as he is in the last, and what would he want the last year to look like? It's a good question to ask yourself, and I would highly recommend that you take that question to him in your prayer time. Now, you're probably already up and running in your school, and it doesn't really matter if this is year one for you or year six or this is the last year for you, for one of your children. If it's anything short of the last year, I'm speaking to the future you, okay? But if you're in your last year, I'm speaking directly to you: now's the time. Really, you're past time, a little bit, but it's not too late. I don't want to scare you, I don't want to make you feel bad about that; it's not too late. Far, far, far from it. But now is the time, really, to start to plan that out. And I'm sure that you have if it's the last year, you've put some thought into that. But I want to give you some added food for thought so that hopefully you can make this year the best that it could possibly be. And not everybody's last year is going to look the same way. And a lot of these things that we're going to discuss here in this session or in this podcast apply to every year, because every year has its own unique beauty and is special in its own way. It is also perishable. And so it doesn't last forever, I guess, is what I'm saying. It's like a flower that kind of blooms and then passes away. And you can't hang on to that beauty forever, but you can hang on to that sense that you gave it everything that you had; you did the best that you could possibly do. And you'll get to keep that forever. I guess what I'm saying is we have to live with ourselves, right? And that can either be an enjoyable experience or it could be very unenjoyable. You know, when we think back on the things that we wish--and there's always going to be those things, by the way, it's nigh on impossible to homeschool with no regrets. But that's the goal. If you shoot for that goal, you're going to have as few regrets as possible. And that certainly applies to the last year. What do you want that last year to look like? And I'd say the first bit of advice that I would throw out to you is to slow down. Slow it down. So I'm sure that you have lots of goals and there's some objectives that you're trying to meet. That's great. You've got some educational objectives. And so the last year you're prepping for college, or prepping for technical school, or you're prepping for a job or whatever it may be. And please do not misunderstand me, I'm not sitting here saying, "You got to get into college." No, absolutely not saying that. Actually, I would say in many instances, if not the majority of instances, it's probably not the best idea. There's lots of different options. And certainly looking at the college landscape out there today, that gets kind of bleak. For some of you it's the perfect option and they need to go, but it's not a foregone conclusion that your child has to go to college. There's lots of other opportunities out there. But whatever it is that you're preparing them for, obviously you need to get them ready for that. But more important than that, at the very least, as equally as important is you want the last year to be worth something in the long run. And there are ways in which you can get off track, or you can get distracted or you can get so bogged down with the minutia of, you know, scholarship prep or little things like that, which are actually very big things. But I hope you hear what I'm saying here. You get so bogged down with that and that goes by so fast that before you know it you've lost the year and you haven't made any memories, or any memories worth keeping I guess you would say. And so that would be a sad outcome, wouldn't it? If you had to stand at the end of that year and say, "Well, we did stuff and we did needful stuff, but it was just such a blur. I don't really remember what happened." And just think about what we're talking about here, it's the end of your child's homeschool experience. And the multitude of memories that have come as a result of home educating your child, you know, volumes could be written about that. There are so many beautiful moments and so many things worth treasuring, and this is the end of that. And so I would say that your main objective is to pack in as much joy as possible. What would a joyful last year of homeschooling look like? And I don't want you to answer this from your child's perspective, because they would probably give you a different answer than what you would give. But I want you to maybe--and it is a little difficult, there's just no good way for us to do this in a perfect manner, but I want you to try to answer this question as if it were the future you giving the answer. So as you five, ten, twenty years down the road, you're looking back at your last year, what would a joyful home school the year look like to that individual, to you in ten years? What would that look like? What would you like to be able to point back to when your son or your daughter, now who is married and has children, is coming home for special occasions and you're reminiscing about their homeschool experience? And what would cause you or them to stop and to recognize that last year and to say, "You know what, I remember when we did this. I remember this about that last year and what a wonderful thing that was"? And for you to be able to hear it in their voice that they truly enjoyed it and that they'll never forget it. And again, I'm not talking about things like, "We went to Disneyland" or something like--I'm not talking about that. Everybody's answer is going to look a little different. And I think, you know, in your heart, what is it that would bring the most joy in this last year of homeschooling? Now, obviously, if you miss out on that minutia of prepping for what is to come, what comes next, you're not going to have a lot of joy because you're going to be playing catch up and then you're going to realize, "Hey, we messed up and we're not prepared," and that would be bad. But you can tend to those things and you should tend to those things, but get those things out of the way. And then with the margin that you have left over, what are you going to fill that with? You've got their subjects and you've got their whatever it is that you're doing, whatever curriculum. I've known people that have had a light last year as far as their curriculum goes or their studies. But nevertheless, what are you going to do to make it joyful? And what would the ten year you in the future look back and be able to say, "That was great"? And the ten year in the future child--if I can put it that way, that's probably a very poor way of putting it--what might they be able to look back on this last year and say, "You know what? Thank you. Thank you for that. Thank you so much. And I'll never, ever forget that"? Maybe it's one thing, maybe it's two things, maybe it's a combination of things and all together they amount to a wonderful last year of homeschooling. Because you want to finish strong, don't you? We want to finish strong. We don't want to just drag ourselves across the finish line. And say, "Thank God we just made it." Now, if you have to do that, by all means, do it. Finishing is, you know, just any form of finishing is better than not finishing at all. But try to pack it as much joy as you possibly can. And again, slow it down. Just slow it down. Because it goes by so fast and it is inexorable. It's unstoppable. Like the momentum, and this is true of every parent, there's nothing we can do. And I joke with my children all the time, you know, another birthday's coming up and I say, "You know what? I told you, 'No more birthdays,' okay? Like, we're not doing that anymore. And if you have one more birthday, you know, I'm getting really upset about this." And, you know, of course, they think that's real funny. And every single one of them--so disappointing--every one of them want to continue growing older. I don't know what it is about children. It is so frustrating. But anyway, I mean, we want to see them grow up, but it's also hard. You think back, you knew them when they were so little and so cute and so adorable, and the things that they said and they did. And to think that you'll never get that back again, it's a little painful. But, obviously, that is offset by the joy that we see and the growth and the wonderful things that are coming their way as they mature. But it goes by so fast and you can't stop it. And that's true of your last year as well. That's true of every year. But you just want to slow it down as much as you possibly can. There's things that you can do; just take it easy, just breathe a little bit. And if you feel like you're just clenching your teeth and you're clenching your fists and the stress is mounting, just take a moment, and to go back to the One who is managing this whole thing and who is very concerned about the upbringing of your children, ask him, "What do we need to do about this? What can we do about this? Because I don't want this to characterize our last year. I don't want this to be the thing that we remember, like how hectic and how stressful and how overwhelming the whole whole thing was. What can I do to cause this last year to lodge in their memories in a very in a favorable way, in a beneficial way? Please put me in the right direction." Another question that I would pose to you, that I think that you supposed to yourself, is what do your children need to hear from you before they walk out from under your roof? Now, a lot of times when we ask ourselves this question there's a little nagging criticism or objection in the back of our minds that goes, "They don't listen to you anyway. It's just in one ear and out the other. They don't listen to what I have to say." But you cannot look at it like that. Do not allow that bird to lodge in the barn of your mind. Because, as I heard it put to me one time, you allow birds up in your barn and what happens is they create more birds, and before you know it, you've got a whole barn full of unwanted birds and it's just a mess and it's a pestilence. Thoughts are that way, too. Don't let that lodge up in your mind about your children not listening to you because you do not know what they're hearing and what they're not hearing. You think you know, but you don't really know. And you just keep right on pumping good thoughts and good notions into their lives. They may not get it right now, but you're planting a lot of good seeds. This is your last opportunity to plant seeds in this particular setting. Now, you'll always be able to pick up the phone and call or give them counsel. But you know what? That's going to change, too. It's going to be more of an arrangement where, you know, in the future where they need to come to you and they're going to ask you for counsel. You don't just get to offer it whenever you want to. I don't want to be that kind of a parent, anyway. I want to mind my own business. And when my son or my daughter come to me and they need my help or they need some counsel that, hopefully, I have something that can help them in some way. But right now, they don't really have much of a choice, do they? So they have to just sit here and listen to dad lecture again. And, you know, sometimes you're getting some vibes like, "Yeah, I've heard this before," and, "How many times do we have to go over this?" And it's a little uncomfortable. Nobody likes that. You would love for your children to be just sitting there at your feet and just willingly lapping up all of the, you know, the wave after wave of wise counsel that's coming out of your mouth. But normally it's not that way, but it's all right. It's okay. Because, again, you're planting seeds. You're just strewing those seeds out into the field. And some of them will take and some of them will not, but the more seeds you throw, the more likelihood that there is that there's going to be some good fruit borne out of that. So what do you what does your child need to hear from you this year? What do you want them to know before they leave? Because we're looking at our son and we're thinking,"Wow!" When they're around you most of the time and--or, you know, here lately we've been transitioning because he worked all summer and so he's gone all day and he comes home in the evenings. Well, that was a new experience for us because he's normally with us all the time, and so we could observe him and we can we have a pretty good finger on the pulse of his life, and then we can correct as we see fit and as is necessary. But now that he's gone during the day, we've got less access to him. And now that we're sending him off to college, we have even less. It's very different. So what things does he or she need to hear from you before that kind of arrangement arrives in which you have less access than what you had previously. Give that some thought. And I'd also encourage you to lay that before the Lord. The answer may surprise you. You may think that you've got nothing to offer or you may think that your children think that you're so out of touch and everything--I've had my children tell me, "Dad, it's not that way anymore. We've moved on past that. And people don't do it like that anymore." And, you know, it could be any number of topics, but of course, you and I, we're looking at it like, "No, you know, some things don't change." Now the fashions might change and the slang might change and the music might change, but there's some things that don't change. You're just kind of like--it's like a shell game: you're moving the pieces around, but the principles are there. It's all there. The nut is still beneath the shell, okay? So don't try to tell me otherwise. But, you know, one day they're going to get past that, just like we did, right? Just like we negated our parent's council and then we got into our parents shoes. We got a job, and we moved into life, and we got married, and we had a family and all of a sudden, you know, your parents aren't so ignorant anymore. That's going to happen to them, too. So plant those seeds now. Push through the rolling eyes and the incessant sighs and those sorts of things. Plant those seeds now. Plant all the seeds that the Lord wants you to plant, that they need to hear. Pour into them those words of wisdom that they will recall at a future time, at just the right moment. You don't know when that is. You can't anticipate that. You don't know all of the things that they're going to be called upon to go through or that they will face in their life, but if you never planted that seed, how can they ever refer to it? How can they ever call it to mind? So do that now. As I look back over my son's education--again, there are so many things that I would liked to have done differently. We were learning on the fly. Made lots of mistakes. Tried to correct as many as possible. Tried to have as few regrets as possible. And we hopefully could apply a lot of those lessons to the rest of the children that we have. But it's such a unique and a precious time. And every child is different, your relationship with every child is different, obviously. You know, when I look at my son, I think we have a very unique relationship and I don't have that with any of my other children in quite the same way. We have unique relationships with them. It's like, you know, that's my first born son and that's very special. And so from child to child, your last years might look very different. They may look drastically different. And that answer that you get from the Lord when you ask him, "What does this year need to look like? What do I need to do? What words of counsel do--what kind of seeds do I need to plant this year?" Those answers might be very different from child to child and from year to year. But I just encourage you to take it to him, and you just might be amazed at the answers you get and the opportunities that the Lord opens up for you over the course of this year, and the direction that He takes your homeschool might just be amazing. You might stand at the end of that year to say, "Wow, what an incredible journey we just went on." And you can rest assured that he made it is memorable as possible. And not for the sake of it be memorable, but it's memorable because it's blessed and that things took place there that will shape the life of your child for years and years to come. And so I'm just so excited. I don't even know who I'm talking to right now. I don't know what stage of your homeschooling experience you're in, but I'm excited for you to have this opportunity. And, you know, our secondborn son is, you know, he's in his junior year. So next year will be his last year and I'm already thinking about this. And I already see ways in which I could improve and do better by him than I did with my first firstborn. And if he ever listens to this, I hope that he accepts my apologies, but we did the best that we could with what we had. It could have been better, there's no doubt about it, but we did the best that we could. And I hope he appreciates that. And I trust that the Lord will make up where we lacked and the areas in which we failed. And he's such a fine young man. We're so happy for him and we expect great things from him. We look forward to see the things that he will do. He's very gifted with mechanics and is very mechanically inclined, and so he's going to become a diesel mechanic. Where that came from, I'm not sure. We do have diesel mechanics in our family--it's not me, I'm not a mechanic. I have a little bit of mechanical inclinations. It's very interesting to me, but he has taken it and gone so much further with it, and he is so excellent at it and it comes very easy to him. And so I'm so happy that he's found something that he enjoys and that he's good at, and that can certainly make him a good living. But beyond that, the character that we see in him and, you know, being so much further down the road than he is, you see things. You see opportunities that he's not even aware of yet, that he hasn't even conceived of yet, that will open up before him, most probably. And that's so exciting. So wonderful. And so think about that last year. Think about this last year. Whether it's in the future, whether it's now, answer that question as if it were you ten years from now. What do you want this year to look like? And I wanted to read something for you that I really debated--I went back and forth as to whether or not I was going to do this, but I read this on the day that out son graduated and I wrote this for him. I'm reading this to you now, I guess, to stress the importance of seizing the opportunity that's before you and not allowing it to slip through your fingers to such an extent that you missed the opportunity to invest and to not only bless your child, but that you yourself may be blessed by this experience or by the things that you will do this year. This is a little lengthy, but I hope that you'll stick with me. And again, I'm stressing the fragility of the time, the preciousness of the time, and how it is so fleeting. And so I wrote to him, I said, "You are my son, my firstborn, and your mother and I count it among the greatest privileges of our lives to be able to call you that. And though this day will not change the fact that we remain your mother and father, it will forever alter the nature of our relationship, and it should be said for the better. For 18 years, you have been an inseparable part of our lives, a defining member of our home and our life's work, but now you must step out into your own life. Define your own life's work. This is a wonderful and exciting time, but I trust you will forgive your mother and I if we're not a tad bit wistful. Of course, it's not like this day snuck up on us. It's been a gradual progression, to be sure. But we're human, aren't we? As for me, like most people, there's this irrational voice in my head that over the years has whispered silly things, like 'He'll always be a little.' I'm a sucker for such thoughts. It's why over the past four years or so, I've experienced more than a touch of sadness each time we've had heart to heart discussions about your fast approaching future. 'How did this happen? And so soon?' I would ask myself. As they say, 'The days are long, but the years are short.' Far, far too short. But just as I always knew you would someday lose the desire to peruse the toy aisles or play Sherrif with your brother, I also knew you would gradually gain the desire to launch out into a life you may call your own. A life with a career, a family, and a high calling of service to your Heavenly Father. But you never really know until you know. When you were very young, I wondered what this time would be like. What questions would you have for me and what answers would I give? Now I know that such an exercise is almost purely academic. There was no way for me then to anticipate the emotions that would move in my heart as I have talked with you about what lies before you. And what of these emotions, the unexpected mingling of unequal parts pride, concern, humor, nostalgia, and a touch of regret. In a word, love. Of course, I haven't loved you any more or less leading up to this day, but each season of a child's life is different, and as such, it shapes the love we have for them in different, often unforeseen ways. Each season possesses its own perishable beauty, and as it passes with it goes the distinct characteristics that make it impossible to replicate. The airy, golden curls of hair and the adorably purposeful waddle of your toddler years; the effervescent play and the innocent joy of discovery that marked your preteen years; and yes, the present time that finds you realizing with uncertain excitement that there's a life waiting for you outside the walls of our home. But you never really know until you know. I didn't ask for the emotions that I mentioned. I didn't choose how and when they would materialize, but here they are. Unavoidable, really. They're the product of years of investment on the part of your mother and I. The pride came from the good we discern in you, the regret from the mistakes we've made, and the humor, well, over the last few years, listening to you speak about yourself and the world around you with a calm assurance that's more befitting of a 60 year old man can't help but put a smirk on your face. Now I know how my father must have felt. We've had a lot of talks, haven't we? I have no way of knowing how much what we've said has actually reached you. Hopefully only that which God intends. But I'd happily spend the time 100 times over. You're just too important. And as we did after so many of these discussions, we would give you a long hug, and no doubt there's one waiting for you today, but today won't be a three year old hug or a ten year old hug. Today, we will embrace you as an 18-year-old young man. And I finally fully understand that those are vastly different things. Son, we have cherished every season of your young life. And we cherish this one as well, even as it slips like sand through our hands. Within these seasons are the moments that form our fondest memories. And as we look back over your young life, no doubt there will be some things hard to bear, but on this day, we are hard pressed to see anything but blessing. More that our little boy, you're a fine young man and we are more proud of you than our words have power to express. And that's when you'll know. That's when you'll really know." So even as I read that to you now, I feel many of the same emotions that I felt on that day. I wrote that to him because I meant every word. As a father, and certainly I was expressing those words on behalf of my wife as well, you realize, again, just how precious and how fleeting those years are and just the beauty that is caught up in each and every one of them. And when you put the sum total of them together, there's just unspeakable joy. And so with all that being said, the opportunity is before you and it's before me to make the most of this last year. Make the most of the years that you--make the most of year three, year four, year five. It doesn't really matter. I know I spoke about the last year, but I had another session which I said, "Homeschool like you've never homeschooled before." That opportunity is before you. You can you can pick up and do that today. And homeschool your children in such a way that they will never, ever forget and they will rise up and call you blessed one day. That's my hope and my prayer for you. I want to thank you again for your time. I hope I've said something that is a blessing to you, as always, and I wish you all the best in your homeschooling endeavors. And may this be the very best year that you've ever had. Thank you, again, and bye for now. Thank you for joining us this week on the Homeschool Solutions Podcast. 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Goodbye for now.