When we decided to homeschool during the summer Emily was entering seventh grade, it wasn't because we thought all schools were bad. Sometimes people assume we feel this way, that's not true. Our decision to homeschool was born from making a list of pros and cons as we looked at our options - public, private, homeschool - and choosing the one that appeared to be the best (not perfect) of all three. And so, we homeschooled.
For us, the public school options seemed to be lacking more than they were providing. When we looked at private schools, with their hefty tuition, we began to think "what could we accomplish if we used even half that amount as our homeschool budget for the year?" (Turns out quite a lot.)
As far as homeschooling goes, we did have one concern, and it might come as a surprise. We weren't worried about being "smart enough" to "teach" Emily (that's not really how homeschooling works), we weren't worried about socialization (oh, when are we ever going to be done asking homeschoolers about that). We were, however, a bit concerned about Emily finding opportunities to be a leader. That is who she is.
It's a little complicated, because Emily is a highly sensitive young lady who really doesn't like a whole lot of attention placed on her (she has not wanted a birthday party since she was five years old). But given the opportunity to demonstrate real leadership - speaking in front of a crowd, coordinating a project with her classmates, speaking to a person of authority on behalf of her peers - she's a natural.
Even with homeschool co-op and regularly hanging out with plenty of people - as homeschoolers, when would she have the chance to regularly cultivate this part of herself, in a peer based setting? This was the one thing we felt could happen more easily in a typical school setting. But "one thing" wasn't enough reason to attend.
We weren't overly worried about how to fulfill this, but opportunities for leadership have been on our radar from day one of this homeschool journey. Because I truly believe in the limitless abundance of homeschooling (one of the top reasons we chose this path), I had faith the right opportunity would present itself. Our job was to stay active with plenty of feelers out there. In other words, I knew we had to do out part. Opportunity wasn't going to come knocking unless we were actively looking to receive it.
In October a friend contacted me about an opening on her daughter's debate team and she thought Emily would be a good fit. She wanted to recommend her to the coach if we were interested. She told us about the level of competitions they participate in, and the success (and fun!) they have in doing so.
I should add, this is considered more than just a "debate team." It is a Debate and Public Speaking Academy, how perfect for Emily!
This could be the very thing we were looking for.
After meeting the coach (who happens to be the perfect match, energetically, for Emily), and having a trial run, Emily joined the team.
You go through life trying not to be too prideful. Humility is good. We love that, yes?
But sometimes as a parent you find yourself bursting with so much love, admiration, and pride - you can barely contain yourself!
When these moments are born from incredibly hard work, preparation, dedication, and leadership... well, it feels only right to be present with it all and take in the glow of such a powerful moment.
Emily had her very first debate competition yesterday.
Her debate team is made up of mostly homeschoolers, but also has a few kids from two private schools in the area. They compete against teams from the best schools in the region, and also some of the best in the nation.
When Adam and I pulled onto the beautiful campus of Loomis Chaffee yesterday morning, and saw the buses for the schools she would be competing against, it kind of took our breath away. Written on the sides of these buses - Choate, Roxbury Latin School, Andover, Kingswood Oxford, and our host for the competition, Loomis Chaffee.
A quick check on any of those links and you will see these are some of the best schools in our region, some of them among the best in the country.
Wow. And here we come with my twelve year old car pushing 200,000 miles and rusting out on the bottom.
But you know what? My girl is smart and driven and just as prepared as anyone else here... so let the games begin.
Even though we feel there are many ways to achieve an education, we do stand in awe of academic excellence and the schools that have a history of graduating truly educated and capable young adults. Being among these schools for her first competitive experience was an honor.
And she did incredibly well!!
I'm still learning the debate vernacular, but I have deciphered that she:
- won 2 out of 3 debates
- scored a perfect score on one of her rebuttals
- was "best in room" at least once during the day
What an exciting first experience filled with great minds and new friendships formed. I loved hearing stories of how the competitive barriers released during social times (brunch and dinner), as they talked about fashion, life as a boarding student, homeschooling, and other teen goodness.
Photo by Emily
"They have wooden lockers, Mom! With brass locks and hardware! And a brass statue of Athena!"
For Adam and I, Emily's successful outcome was the icing on the cake. We were proud the moment we pulled onto campus in the morning and felt the significance of the day. We were proud as we watched her research topics and prepare her arguments. We were proud when she dug deep and worked through the nervousness of new and unknown experiences. We were proud and humbled that she had the opportunity to do something she loved, all the while standing in her place of grace.
Yesterday was quite a milestone for our family in many ways, I just wanted to share a little bit of that experience here today. Thank you.