Robert graduated from high school yesterday. I was unemotional about it all until we were at the ceremony, and the music started. Then it hit me: what a journey this was!
You see, Robert had some trouble at school starting in 5th grade. We didn't know it at the time, but he had a mild learning disability which was causing lots of problems for him at school. Plus he was being bullied. This all came out one night when Robert, not quite 11 years old, broke down in tears begging to be homeschooled because he couldn't stand it anymore. Homeschooling was something I had been thinking about and looking into anyway as a maybe for subsequent years, but it was not something I was considering for right then.
But after a frustrating experience dealing with the public school, particularly about the bullying issue, we went ahead. Kristin ended up joining us after the first year, an arm fractured in two places confined her to home with a tutor from the public school coming over weekly; she ended up liking what she saw with homeschooling, and finished junior high and high school at home. We had to spend many months building up Robert's self-esteem, as he felt "stupid" because there were certain things he could not do well. So our initial months were very free.
We became members of the Field Museum in Chicago and went there almost every other week (they have an excellent learning library for teachers, both regular, and homeschool, where boxes of learning aids and collections can be checked out for three weeks at a time). We joined two homeschool groups, one Christian, one secular, and attended group classes with other families. Most notable were homeschool fitness classes at Lifetime Fitness, a marvelous Shakespeare class, that both Kristin and Robert attended for several years, and a innovative video history class one of the other moms designed that Kristin and I went to. Robert did get some LD assistance through the public school in 8th grade, for English class; he attended one class at the junior high and had a specialist help him out. Homeschooling was a wonderful experience for us. It was a blessing for both Kristin and Robert, and for us as a family.
As Robert got older and felt more confident, he eventually felt that he wanted to try going back to school outside the home. He started high school at Loyola Academy, went there for two years, and then spent his last two years at New Trier. I am so happy to report that Robert learned to work around his disability. His writing and penmanship will probably always not be his strong suit, but he got really good grades in high school, was named a member of the Honor Society, and got a partial scholarship to De Paul University.
So, you can perhaps understand why I was fighting to hold back tears at the ceremony yesterday. And when it was all done, and a smiling Robert, handsome in his white tux, met us outside the auditorium among the crush of all of the other happy graduates and their families, why I did cry a little bit!