Bittersweet Christmas

I've spent much of advent preparing--but not preparing in the usual way. Instead, I've been preparing paperwork, mountains and mountains of papers that are supposed to somehow stand for my eldest son's childhood.  You see, when you homeschool all the way through and when you believe that all of life is education, that transcript morphs into something much bigger than usual.  College application requirements vary, but the big stickler is actually surprising.  The NCAA Clearninghouse, that institution which allows barely literate public school graduates to play in college (I'm thinking of those oft-interviewed basketball players who are tall and strong and athletically gifted, but cannot answer a simple interviewer's question coherently), requires the following:

  • Standardized test score (must be on official transcript OR sent directly from the testing agency); 
  • Transcript (home school transcript and any other transcript from other high schools, community colleges, etc.); 
  • Proof of high-school graduation; 
  • Evidence that home schooling was conducted in accordance with state law; AND 
  • Lists of all texts used throughout home schooling (text titles, publisher, in which courses texts were used).
  • When we looked for clarification, explaining that we used few texts and many real books, they said to list them all. All.  Every single one.

    So, we are knee deep in portfolio construction and Michael has really gotten his act together in this regard.  I'm "just" tweaking and fine tuning and trying to remember everything we've ever read!

    Then, there are the essays.  The last few days, he's been reflecting on his education and writing essays that answer all the questions admissions deans might have about what he's been doing all his life. (Don't miss this one.) Yesterday, we settled into a familiar rhythm: Talk about it, write about it, edit together, go off and do something artistic, repeat the process, send it to Dad.  After the first round, he went down to the craft table to clear his head and to do something he's been promising me for three years.

    While I nursed the baby in my room, he crafted a nativity from Sculpey clay. I spent my time thinking and thinking about his latest essay, turning phrases in my mind and remembering the decisions that have brought us here. And I reflected on something I think might be unusual:  this process, however stressful it might be for all of us, has not been the slightest bit ugly.  Michael and I have spent day after emotional day together this fall, riding the rapids of the college soccer recruiting process and navigating the nightmare of the paperwork and we have not once argued.   We've worked together in a familiar, mutually respectful rhythm. Whatever storms are raging around us, we are peaceful together.

    Ironically, that makes it all so much harder.  I know that very soon, scenes like this, now so very familiar and ordinary, will become memories. And, oh, how I will miss them! 


    I have a hunch I will never, ever be able to unpack this particular nativity set without feeling hot tears and a lump in my throat.