Global pandemic aside, this year ended strangely. My homeschooling career officially ended last month when my youngest passed her final exams and completed her GED. We celebrated her finishing her final exams with pink champagne and a family meal, but the atmosphere was different and the whole experience was less joyful than I had envisioned.
My youngest endured an excruciatingly lonely final homeschool year with Covid lockdowns and a lack of company and visits with her friends. Being the last child in our home, she was already missing her siblings. With lockdown, her monthly trips to stay with her friends had all stopped. She desperately wanted her freedom and to be with the community of friends, and so the day after her final exam, she packed up her entire life, and the very next day she left to go and live in a small town in the Langkloof.
My shock was that it was all so sudden. I had experienced the sadness and loss of each child as they graduated and moved away from our isolated farm, and I knew of my youngest daughter’s plans, but I didn’t expect her to leave immediately. I had hoped for a few free days together with her to enjoy life without the stress of exams and homeschooling; an afternoon eating popcorn and watching our favorite movies, for swims and relaxing at the pool and general packing, sewing and preparing for her next phase. But, no. A day later she was gone, her room left completely bare. And just like that, it was over.
I am glad for her. I am so happy for her being with her loved ones, living in community, building into her next phase of her life. I am delighted that she is finished with school. I am so relieved that my homeschooling days are over and I can ease into the new season of my life.
I am not lonely, but I really miss my daughters. Their lives filled our hearts and our home. Their music was a beautiful, eclectic montage to our daily rhythms. I loved our conversations, their lively debates, their wacky sense of humors, their chatter and laughter. I loved their ideas and opinions on clothing, make-up, hairstyles, décor and style. I loved sitting looking at their Instagram feeds, laughing at funny Facebook memes, and watching YouTube videos with them. I loved times together with my daughter; drinking a mug of steaming tea on her bed as the afternoon sun faded into sunset, and then making meals and cooking up a storm together and enjoying delicious family meals at night. My life felt rich and full.
I knew this moment was coming and I had prepared for my “empty nest”, but what I didn’t prepare for was my daughter’s desperate need to get away. I didn’t reckon on her being angry with us, with having to endure a year of intense loneliness. I didn’t consider that she resented her homeschooling and my insistence that she finish. And we did insist. We gave her no options. And her resentment and withdrawal tainted our farewell.
I really understand her feelings, but I am not sorry that we insisted she finish and pass her course. I knew absolutely that her high school graduate certificate was essential in my job as her homeschool teacher and her mom. This was a non-negotiable decision we all agreed on because my stepsons did not complete their Matric years ago, and now, years later, they both regret it as they face roadblocks in their jobs and careers.
So, with all these strange feelings and thoughts whirling through my head, I scrubbed my daughter’s echoing bedroom walls and deep cleaned her empty cupboards. I smiled when I discovered little pencil messages scribbled on the walls, sighed sadly when I found a tiny ballerina charm lost in a dusty cupboard corner and I wept as I sat on her naked bed smelling her perfume from the very last spurt of an abandoned empty perfume bottle, and I miss her deeply.
And I wonder if Covid hadn’t totally derailed this year, if we could have ended this better …
Right now I am scraping and painting out her bedroom and converting it into an adult guestroom. I feel like Kevin Costner in the iconic movie Field of Dreams hearing, “Built it and he will come …” that as I transform my daughter’s bedroom into a glorious guestroom, she will come visit again … when Covid no longer turns our lives into this strange, disconnected world.
And you may be wondering, “What about Practical Pages?” As a now-newly-retired homeschool teacher, I feel very strongly to continue to write and post in my blog and be involved with you as you homeschool your families. My heart is full of encouragement and inspirations and motivation for you, along with practical tips and pages to download. In my role as granny supporting my daughter and daughter-in-law, I hope to add homeschool activities and ideas for toddlers and add new or translated Afrikaans homeschooling material, so there will hopefully be some new educational downloads coming in the new year.
Please feel free to comment on this strange year and your hopes for 2021.
Thank you for all your love and support over the years. I wish you and your family health and happiness, grace and peace for the festive season and fresh hope for 2021.