Like most homeschooled students, my senior year of high school was not the experience of typical American teens. I knew that going into it, of course, and while I was fine with no prom, no yearbook, and no cap and gown at the end, I had no idea just how different my senior year would be…
I’m the oldest child in a large family. At the beginning of my last year of school, I had two sisters and four brothers, and sadly, my mom had lost several babies to miscarriage. A few months into the school year, we were all thrilled to learn that another sibling was on the way. Mom was quite sick, so we had hope that her hormone levels were sufficient to sustain this little life. I helped out a bit more than usual with household tasks, but that was fine with me. I was excited about another sibling and although it made it a little harder to study as much as I needed to, it was well worth it. And it would only last a couple of months, right?
Then it happened. Mom started bleeding. We were devastated that she was losing yet another baby, but something seemed different this time around. A doctor’s visit confirmed a healthy pregnancy, but she had partial placenta preevia, which meant she would need to be on bedrest for the forseeable future.
Suddenly my educational path changed. While I still worked on schoolwork as much as I could, I also became the “manager” of the house, stepping into my mom’s shoes as much as possible. Along with regular school subjects, I was learning how to plan menus, grocery shop, and do the cooking for nine people (and it wasn’t just practice…I was really in charge). I learned how to manage a large household, keeping the house clean, the laundry done, the toys picked up. Of course my siblings helped tremendously, but I learned that keeping everyone organized and doing their part was harder than it looked!
In addition to the homemaking duties, I needed to help with the education of my younger siblings. Mom was able to help with a lot of the classes from her spot on the couch, but there were several subjects that were better taught in our “classroom” setting. So I learned along with my siblings. Surprisingly, teaching a subject actually made it “click” better for me than studying it, so while I had less time for my own math classes, I finally understood some of the more fundamental steps. This had the side benefit of making my own studies a little easier, when I did have time to spare for them.
I think the best part of my unusual senior year was the development of my character. My parents had taught me from a young age to put others first, to work hard, to be cheerful in adversity: now I had to put it into practice. In a society that often fails to prepare young adults for life’s challenges, letting them think that the artificial atmosphere of school is the “real world,” I was able to get a glimpse of what would be in store for me down the road, and the less-exciting parts of the life I dreamed of.
I didn’t get to finish all the studying I hoped to in my last year of school. But guess what? The opportunity to learn never goes away. I continued my studies independently in subsequent years, and I plan to keep learning until I die. I am so thankful for the life lessons learned in my senior year…and for my youngest brother, Andrew, whose birth I was privileged to witness a few months after graduation. What a good plan God had for my last year of formal education!