Dear Younger Me: About All Those Things You Fear

Dear Younger Me,

This letter is from the future. Emma is almost 18 years old when I’m writing to you (Jimmie 1.0 I call you). Emma is now a senior and already admitted to a huge university several states away. I know you would freak out if I told you some of the changes that have happened in the intervening 13 years from Kindergarten to now, so I’m not going to scare you. Just know that it all works out. In fact, the things you fear the most are really the most awesome things that can happen. I promise. Just trust me. You are going to be amazed at how good life gets. Jimmie 2.0 is great. And Emma is just fantastic.

But for now, I’ve got some advice.

Stop saying, thinking, and fearing that Emma is irresponsible and lazy even if she seems to be. She’s a kid, for goodness sake! You really are expecting too much. Really. So lay off and stop being afraid she’s going to be deficient in some way. She ends up very responsible and no more lazy than any other 17-year-old kid. She’s got a great job with a lot of responsibility, and she absolutely rocks at it. Yes, her room is still a disaster (sorry), and she still makes messes everywhere. The difference is that now it’s planner stickers and washi tape or watercolor projects and brushes instead of Littlest Pet Shops and Polly Pockets. But she meets deadlines, follows up on emails, and cares about doing her best.

All the character flaws you see in her are just normal things. It’s not because of any mistakes you made, not because of the tough choices you made, and certainly not because you homeschooled her. In fact, those things you worry the most about—raising her abroad, for example—turn out to be the most positive things about her childhood. So stop fretting. She’s totally well-adjusted at 17. In fact, she has far more self-awareness and emotional insight than most adults I know.

Emma already has a good scholarship at her school of choice. (You’ve never even heard of this school or the city it’s in, so I won’t bother mentioning it. Heck, you’ve never ever heard of the mascot—a saluki. But trust me. It’s a perfect fit.) And she’s interviewing for another scholarship next month that may mean anywhere from full tuition to a full ride. Yes, a full ride based on her grades, test scores, talent, and leadership. See? You think it’s going to work out quite differently, but you have no idea. Oh, and there’s the art scholarship that we’re waiting to hear about. I think the odds are good for that one too. So stop worrying. It turns out fine.

Yes, art! Emma still loves art. You are absolutely on track to put her in those art lessons and surround her with quality art supplies. Keep it up! Do all those art appreciation lessons and art history studies. One day she will thank you when she’s the only kid in her homeschool AP art co-op who knows who Frieda Kahlo, Kandinsky, and Vermeer are. Oh, but go ahead and put her in those dance, martial arts, and piano lessons. They provide funny stories at this stage of life.

Yes, you push her enough. In fact, probably too much. I’m not saying you are a drill sergeant. No way. You maintain fun in the homeschool day and inject lots of variety and laughter. (Emma remembers all of that very fondly, and she uses those same tricks with the kids she tutors!) But you could back off even more.

Here’s an assignment for you, Jimmie 1.0: Read about unschooling. Research it deeply. Buy some books and then let those ideas transform how you interact with Emma. She’s so intensely creative that unschooling is perfect for her. You think you’re doing great to use a gentle Charlotte Mason approach versus the traditional classroom approach you used as a public school teacher. And you are right. That’s better. But come even farther to the relaxed side.

I promise that she will be just fine with math eventually. When the time comes that math is critical (like for the ACT), she will do what it takes to get the score. Again, I know you are shaking your head in disbelief. But I’m standing here in 2017, seeing this child who went from a 17 to a 26 in math on the ACT all based on her own independent studying and working one-on-one with a tutor. This kid can do math. So stop panicking.

  • Never make her cry about math. Stop the lesson way before it gets to that point.
  • Let her use the manipulatives as long as she wants.
  • Make math fun. Forget the workbooks and just play with math.

You know how you approach art with her? Do that with math. It will work. I promise. Trust me.

Things you do right. Keep doing them:

    1. audiobooks and audio dramas – She still remembers quotes from various missionary stories, biography CDs, and Adventures in Odyssey. Buy more of these. Let her have as many as she wants. I hate to tell you that Emma still doesn’t enjoy reading. But she loves books! So keep reading aloud and keep playing audio books.
    2. crafts and visual learning – Emma is a visual learner, and she really benefits from all the visual ways you teach her like minibooks, lapbooks, silly cartoons, etc. Now at 17, she knows these are the ways she learns best, and she incorporates these tricks into her own independent study. (You are going to spend a fortune on colored pens and post-it notes. Just go with it. It’s what she needs.)
    3. science – You make science fun! This is going to be key to her future career. You thought it was art, right? Wrong! She wants to be a physician. Yes! A doctor. Read more biographies of scientists. Do that history of medicine curriculum, and provide her with even more books and hands-on models about the human body.
    4. photographs – You take loads of photos of the homeschool experience and upload them safely online. Take even more. (And upload larger resolution images!) You are going to be so glad you have these photos one day.

Things you are off base on. Make some changes:

  1. Take off the teacher hat. Every outing doesn’t have to be a homeschool lesson. It’s okay to let life happen without a lesson plan, a notebooking page, or oral narration. You get a break and so does Emma. She’s still learning even when you don’t do all those extras.
  2. Relax. Just relax. She turns out fine, so enjoy each moment. I know that you do enjoy her and homeschooling, but do it with more trust and relaxation. Lean into the experience without holding your breath, waiting for something to go wrong. It’s all going to turn out great. Not just okay but great.
  3. Be more affectionate. Emma is super sensitive, and she needs more hugs. So up the cuddling. Even when you feel like you are wasting time and getting nothing done, just keep hugging.

Hey, I know how you are going to read this letter. You are going to get afraid that you are messing up because I’m telling you things to change. No!! That’s the wrong reaction. I’m saying the opposite. I’m saying that you are doing things right and that you are wasting energy on worrying. You are going to do a fantastic job with this kid, so high five, Jimmie 1.0. I’m waiting for you here at the finish line with Emma headed to college. You will never regret homeschooling her. It’s the right thing to do.

(To see all the articles in this series, click here)

Jimmie Lanley is a homeschool mom to one creative teen. She began writing online over five years ago when the Internet was her only connection to other homeschoolers. Homeschool blogging was the culmination of many passions: a love of writing, an interest in photography, a background in education, and a fascination with the Internet. Her first blog is Jimmie’s Collage, where readers get a peek into her homeschool experience. After she became enamoured with notebooking, she created a second blog The Notebooking Fairy, filled with how-tos and printables plus a touch of pixie dust. Jimmie took blogging a step farther in two more online ventures. iHomeschool Network is a company that connects bloggers with each other in a supportive environment and connects bloggers to companies in mutually beneficial projects. You can read more about her professional side on jimmielanley.com and homeschool.marketing. You can read more from Jimmie at Jimmie’s Collage.

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  1. Wow! How time flies! I can’t believe you are writing about your Emma going off to college!
    I absolutely love your letter to yourself. It is so similar to my own hard-won realizations. I, too, would tell myself to lose that confounded “teacher’s hat” and move further into unschooling. With my youngest who is in junior high, I can at least try, right?
    Wishing you both a wonderful, gracious transition. Blessings.

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