The End of an Era

I've been struggling to find words to capture this day. Jonathan is graduating from high school tomorrow. And as you may or may not know, he's been homeschooled all these years. 

Jon Darby 5 yrs

Starting from first grade, he's been home with me and Eric and truthfully, we did a whole lot of un-schooling. That is, we let the kids find the things they were interested in and encouraged them to pursue those. 

Jon Darby 1st grade

Jon was always more interested in dressing up (every day!) and playing games that relied heavily on his imagination.

Would it surprise you to know that he's going to be pursuing an acting career? Specifically in comedy. I'm proud of him for having the courage to go after what he wants, but I'm scared for him, too.

Because Jon is the youngest of my four kids, this is obviously not my first rodeo graduation. 

When Amy walked in her bright red robes in 2001 twirling her gold Honor Thespian tassel, I clapped and cheered. I think I openly wept. There was no more proud mom at that moment.

Then Adam was asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at his graduation in 2004. I know I clapped and cheered. Louder than anyone. There might have been tears of relief mingled with joy.

Lucy did her thing in 2011. Of course, I clapped and cheered and shed my tears. I was blogging by then. Here's what I wrote about her graduation speech: Exact Change.

Now it's Jonathan's turn. He walks tomorrow and will be giving a speech, and I'll be honest, I'm much more tender about this moment than all the others. The other ones joke that it's because Jon is my favorite, but every other mom who has more than one child will understand that when "the baby" reaches a milestone it signals the end of an era for the parents. 


The only word to describe it is that I feel extremely "tender." As the mom who has homeschooled him for his entire school career, I'm the one who worried as he struggled to read. Who hoped he'd learn how to learn. Who made sure he ate and slept and did his chores and finished his work and said please and thank you. 

I woke up one day and in place of my sweet little guy was a man. Of course I went through this with each of my other kids, but this is the last one. The quiet and painfully shy one. The one who could barely speak up at our dinner table. I wrote about that here: The Biggest Insult.

Every time he takes the stage I'm blown away that my introverted Jon can command such a presence. That he is such a natural leader and gatherer of people. And that he's so darn funny.

Jon is the beneficiary of my blogging years and so I've managed to capture all of his best moments of growth on stage. 

This year he was Lazar Wolf in his high school production of Fiddler on the Roof.


Here's my favorite scene that he's in with his best friend, Nathan.  "To Life." 

And then, there came that bittersweet moment when he took his final bows.


And thanked our friend and the only director he's ever known. (I can't even look at this photo without weeping.)


So here he goes. Off to find his way in the world. And Eric and I are left shaking our heads in amazement and wonder. 


To steal a line from Fiddler (Sunrise, Sunset), "When did he grow to be so tall? Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?" 

We are thrilled. We are delighted. We are left scratching our heads and wondering, "How did that happen so quickly?"

Tomorrow I'll cry and pray and hug my graduate. And I'll thank God that I was privileged to have a daily front row seat to The Jonathan Show. 


I'm taking a week off to plan and prepare (amidst my tears and joy) the biggest blow-out of a graduation celebration we've ever had around here. 

Congratulations, Jonathan and all the Class of 2014. Mazel tov, my friend. Better yet, here's TO LIFE.


"What About Prom?"

I have homeschooled my kids for over ten years now. I am still constantly surprised that one of the greatest concerns (right after the ignorant "socialization" question) is "What about prom?"

I sigh a little bit and carefully explain how we do high school: He actually attends a high school that offers Independent Study. His classes are mostly on-line, except for Spanish and Drama. On the days he has those classes, he is physically at a campus and interacts with his many friends. He also leads their Improv team. (See this post.)

Back to the original question: "What about prom?"

The high school independent study program sponsors a prom every spring. It's a lovely and intimate affair with maybe 100 students attending. Some of the kids take dates. Many just go with a group. It's usually held at the always fabulous and iconic Disneyland Hotel and unlike "real" high school, there is very little peer pressure to look or act a certain way - unless you count the good kind of peer pressure, but that's not important right now.

This was Jonathan's first prom. (Yes, he's wearing tails. He looks very "Downton Abbey," doesn't he?)

Jon and disneyland

He did not take a date, but instead chose to go with friends. Aren't they just lovely?

Jon and friends

He enjoyed dancing with almost all the beauties represented here. (Because, seriously, if you were a sixteen year old girl, could you resist this?)

Jon with Miranda & Savannah

I love that the girls were all wearing modest and flattering gowns.

Prom friends

I especially love that they were smart enough to know that a night of dancing would require they wear comfortable footwear. (I may or may not have been on the ground when I took this, but that's not important right now.)

Girls with shoes

Most of these kids have also been homeschooled for years. We've known them and have watched them grow up into the amazing people you see represented here. (These three were members of the cast of Willy Wonka Jr. which they performed a few years ago. What a looker Violet Beauregard grew up to be!)

Jon veronica nathan

I think the implication inherent in the "What about prom?" question is that surely because these kids are homeschooled they can't possible know how to act in public. They couldn't be expected to know how to dress or behave or even which fork to use for their salad.

I don't think the question is meant maliciously in any way. I just think that people sometimes make assumptions over what happens with homeschool education. Or should I say, "independent study." In this case, the emphasis should be on the independent. Most of these kids are not driven by worry of what their peers will think. They've grown up to be...well, independent.

As Jonathan was dressing for the dance, I asked, "Do you need some help?"

"No, mom. I've got this."

Tuxedo closeup

Yes, son. You most certainly do.