I’ve been sitting here marveling at the fact that I am still celebrating firsts in my life. I just recently celebrated my forty-seventh birthday, and for some reason I thought maybe those events would happen a lot less as I got older. I realize now what a silly way of thinking that was. While new things may not happen on a daily basis, life is ever changing. New opportunities arise all the time, and paths appear before me that I never imagined I’d discover. I find this truly amazing.
It feels as though we are constantly breaking new ground in our everyday lives. Last summer, my daughter graduated from high school. I homeschooled her from the time she was four until the month she turned eighteen. I won’t say everything about those fourteen years was easy, but I can honestly tell you that I loved being a homeschooling mom. That was a huge accomplishment for both of us, the day we gathered with our friends and family and celebrated the hard work we’d put in. Algebra. Need I say more?
I always thought I’d get to homeschool my son, who is three and a half years younger than his sister, all the way through his senior year of high school. That was the plan, and he and I were an outstanding team through the elementary and middle school years. High school? Not so much. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying on both of our parts, I assure you. After a rough year, we decided maybe he and I had run our homeschool course. Maybe it was time to try something different. Homeschooling had been a good thing for us. We’d visited other options in the past, but we’d decided to stick with what was working. When it stopped working for him, we chose another path.
Those were both firsts for me; being the mom of a high school graduate, and suddenly not being a homeschooling mom anymore to either of my kids. They both happened nearly simultaneously, and it felt like an enormous shift in my life. I was prepared for one, not at all prepared for the other … but both of them turned out to be very good things.
The kids are on spring break this week. Scotty’s nearly through his first year in public school, and Maya will be completing her second semester of college here in about six weeks. They’ve both grown and changed so much through the years. I travel down memory lane quite frequently, and my most recent trip prompted this whole thinking about firsts I’ve been doing so much of lately. There was one in particular that came to mind. This happened back in 2011, and it was not only a first for Maya, but a first for homeschooled students across the U.S.
We were a part of a group called Cary Homeschoolers at the time. We were living in North Carolina, just a few minutes west of Raleigh. Wake County had seen its share of challenges when it came to the educational system, and many families had decided to pull their kids from public schools and homeschool them instead. There were more than 7,000 kids learning at home in just our county alone, so we had a lot of support and resources from which to draw. The group itself was comprised of more than 200 families, and we took part in a large number of educational events. One of them was a spelling bee.
This wasn’t just any spelling bee, though. It was the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which began back in 1925. It was held each and every year except 1943 – 1945 due to World War II. It wasn’t until eighty-six years after it’s conception that homeschooled students were allowed to compete. 2011 marked the first year homeschoolers were eligible, and Maya―who has always been an avid reader, and one who enjoys the way words work― decided she wanted to give it a go.
A fellow homeschooling mom―and an incredibly brave woman―took it upon herself to organize the regional bee. There were many rules to follow, much practicing, some tearful outbursts and a half dozen group practice rounds before Maya competed for the first time in January 2011. Maya’s hard work paid off, and she walked out of the Eva Perry Library the regional champion. Then she spent the next month preparing for the state bee that was held on the North Carolina State University campus in late February.
There was a lot more practice that took place, and a few more tearful outbursts―mostly Maya’s, although I might have shed a few tears as well―before the big day came. She competed with eighty-four other students that day. Four hours in, she was asked to spell a word that wasn’t pronounced the way she’d practiced it … and she misspelled it. It was not the easiest word on the twenty some page list Maya had been studying from. It wasn’t the hardest one, either. Still, she finished in twelfth place at the state level and will forever be one of the first homeschooled students to ever compete and win a regional round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
While not every first we’ll encounter in our lives will be as monumental as this one was for Maya, I’ve decided that every one of them is important and special in their own way. Even the firsts that aren’t necessarily positive serve to teach us and help us grow. Certainly, the ones that are, well, those are the ones that really need to be celebrated.
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