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Our Graduation Story Part 2

At the Denver Art Museum
At the Denver Art Museum
Tonya Vander

We officially started with our oldest when she was five. But throughout her entire preschool years Chuck and I created an atmosphere that fostered learning. We didn’t have a television for the first five years. Books, puzzles, crayons, dolls, and Lego’s were all my kids played with. They used their imaginations and played dress-up, they cooked in the kitchen with me, and played outside. As they progressed in their learning I saw that they would act out what they had learned. One time they found an empty box and took it outside to sail away to foreign lands just like Christopher Columbus did. We took many, many field trips to museums, parks, and libraries. I call these years the exploring years.

During the middle years the kids transitioned from chapter books to The Red Badge of Courage and Huckleberry Finn. History transitioned to Civics. We continued to do many science experiments whether we were studying physical science, astronomy, or biology. They took art classes, wood shop and were heavily involved in music, sports, and scout programs. We spent many hours in the car going from one place to another, reading, memorizing, and calculations were done in the car as we drove. Once again, as we tested the kids each year, they continued to grow and exceed the norm. I call these years the tired years.

The high school years were different in many ways. For one thing, my own insecurity got the best of me. I seriously doubted if I could continue to teach my kids at this level. We sought some advice and found a wonderful private school that works with home school families. Once a week the kids went to school. They took Speech and Debate and loved it. I loved the fact that I had a day to myself! By the second year we joined the school and the kids took different classes including Chemistry. At home we worked through American, World and British Literature, plus American and World History. The biggest complaint from my children was that they were the “only home-schoolers” who had to read War & Peace. But the biggest change came as they started to sprout their wings and become independent. I struggled with this for at least two years. Many, many tears flowed as I tried to fix something I didn’t understand. Not only was I embracing the high school years, but so many things that I couldn’t relate to that bothered my kids. I didn’t go through this in the past, thus I had nothing to draw off of. It was a very painful time. But through prayer, wise counsel, and slowly realizing that I have done all I could do, I relaxed. This caused my kids to breathe a sigh of relief, and peace was restored in our home. I call these the stressful years.

This fall my daughter starts school at Regis University. Additionally, my son will be a senior in high school. This summer I will start the journey of getting my history degree at a community college. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my daughter would earn nearly a full ride to college. Nor that I would start college myself. Finally the words that were spoken over me don’t have the power they once held. We are all moving forward in our education.

We finished what we started- well just about. All the same, we have created life long learners who still enjoy acquiring knowledge of new things. Our family bonds are stronger than ever. Our young adults will transition into adulthood with contentment and confidence. Not withholding that they won’t still need to learn some lessons along the way or that we have equipped them with everything they need. But hopefully we have given them the tools to know where to find what they need. On their knees, from wise counselors, and from our hearts.

Part one of this story


  • Jan Parrish, Denver Charismatic Christian Examiner 5 years ago

    Very encouraging.
    I just don't get the picture. They look like some sort of torture device.

  • Tonya 5 years ago

    Jan, they were dressing up at the Art Museum as Egyptians. :)

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