And then there was one…

My gift. My beautiful, beautiful gift.

Today, I begin my 13th year of homeschooling. And, today, for the first time in 13 years, there will be only one at my school table. My second born. My feisty one.  The one that prompted my mother to announce, with a heaping dose of snark, “Honey, she’s everything I’ve ever wished for you.” She is a reflection of me, but only around the edges. She is herself, and she is amazingly comfortable in her own skin at the tender age of 15. I’ve always said, “she came into this world knowing when her no is no, her yes is yes, and makes no apologies for either.” I’ve also said that if she had been my first, there is no way I would have homeschooled beyond kindergarten.

But, I suppose it’s those parts in me that reflect her that gave me the determination and courage to keep going on the rough days while remembering to celebrate the fun days. That, and a good amount of help and support along the way. So, today, having graduated her sister last May, we will have a very different first day of school. There will be only one at my school table. There will be only one on the swings during break. There will be only one sandwich to make at lunch. Only one.

However, as in years past, there is anticipation coursing through my veins today, on this first day of school. On the whiteboard is a note already scrawled, “Welcome to the 10th grade, A!” I’ve welcomed the girls to the start of their ____ year the same way since C’s first grade year. This year, I pondered the simple statement that welcomes only one. I looked at the shelves that contain her textbooks. Lined up neatly are the books that reflect a sophomore year: chemistry, geometry, Women’s History, composition and literature with her French books on the shelf below. On the shelf above, my fingers grazed the spines of some of the novels she’ll be reading this year: The Catcher in the Rye, The Alchemist, Farenheit 451, Hard Times, The Color Purple, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Profiles in Courage. I replayed last night’s conversation between an older sister and my single pupil. C told A how much she LOVED all of the books she’ll be reading, especially The Catcher in the Rye, Hard Times, and The Color Purple and though she couldn’t say she LOVED Profiles in Courage, she could say she thought it was amazing. “Pay attention to it,” she advised. She may not share a school table anymore, but she’s still the big sister.

My older one certainly feels the shift in the house. She started college 2 weeks ago, opting to start out at the community college. She had made the decision while in Mongolia the summer before her senior year began. I suppose a month in a country that offered limited internet access and no phone communication leaves one with plenty of time for self-examination. She’s thinking next year will be the year she is ready to leave the nest. I’m thinking she made a wise decision–for her–based on who she knows herself to be. In the meantime, she’s trying to figure out where she fits into this nest; the nest that she has known all along, but suddenly feels different because it is not her name up on that whiteboard. In the last several days, she has asked me if I’m looking forward to starting school with A. I’ve occasionally wondered if there isn’t a slight current of jealousy and longing to be back at my table. After all, it wasn’t just my world that changed when she graduated, and there is a certain comfort found in the old and the known. But, staying in the old and the known rarely leads to growth.

Today, we all venture into a bit of the unknown when A begins her sophomore year as the sole homeschooled student in this house. With her sister at school all day, there will be just the two of us here, on the sunny days and the snowy days.  Might there be tensions in the months ahead? I can guarantee it. She is, after all, the daughter who, at the age of 18 months, asked me, “You want a piece of me?” while being scolded. She is my adamas.

However, in the months and years ahead, there is a gift waiting to be unwrapped; I will get to spend full days alone with her, just the two of us, getting to know her, just her. As the second youngest of nine, I craved time alone with my mom. See me, I begged. But, in the craziness that comes with 9 children born in 11 years, there were but rare opportunities to have my mother to myself. C had me to herself for the first 3 years of her life. We rocked, we played, I watched and mentored. We bonded. Ours had been an easy connection. When A came along, C was her playmate and mentor, often preferring her “big sissy” to her mama. I’ve always loved that about my two girls, their bond is solid.  Selfishly, though, I am looking forward to having days alone with A. Days where I can see her, just her, unobstructed by her sister. As I had with her sister when I became a parent, I will have 3 years of days alone with A, unwrapping the gift that is her. And, today, the unwrapping begins.

Please share your thoughts at the start of this new school year.

(With gratitude to Maren Miller at for the above photo!)

19 thoughts on “And then there was one…”

  1. Mary, the two of us who write Grown and Flown have five kids between our two families and the oldest three have left for college leaving our 11th graders at home. We did not home school so I am sure you feel this transition much more than we did around your house, all day long! But it is such a change for us to have gone from multiple seats at the dinner table and topsy-turvy schedules to a more “streamlined” family life. We adjusted with each child who left but we do not want to rush the time when our youngest take off.
    Good luck with both daughters and the new school year for all of you.


  2. What a beautifully written and heart-felt post as always, TM. I’ve so missed your blog, and I was happy to get this in my in-box, although it’s taken me a week to read it. I think this will make for an interesting year with your one child left at the table while the older sis’ looks ahead, probably with one eye peaking behind. 🙂 My daughter is in her second year of public school and is now in a 3rd/4th grade combo class that is working out to be a 15-1 teacher/student ration. So awesome for a public school setting, and rare indeed. She loves her new teacher, as she is very science-oriented, while last year’s teacher was more artistic. Maycee loves it all. The biggest change for me is adapting to the homework finally becoming a bit more challenging for Maycee, and thus having to knock out any “extra” nighttime activities to make sure she gets to bed earlier. I love watching her embrace school. I am a very lucky mama, as you are, too! Much love and hugs. XOXO-SWM


  3. That will be a different dynamic, won’t it?! I was homeschooled, but as the oldest of five I didn’t often have my mom to myself for teaching . . . though I kind of preferred to work independently as a teen, anyways 🙂

    I don’t homeschool my daughter. It’s not for me or for her. But we really make an effort to educate her outside of school and to work side by side with her school to help her learn the best way for her. This school year has brought a lot of changes. We moved to a new state, which means a new school–a much bigger school. Instead of being one of the oldest kids, she’s now one of the youngest in her room (her school is Montessori, so her classroom has ages 6-9). I’m excited to see where she’ll go this year. She likes to take the lead, but she really looks to older kids for guidance. Should be interesting!

    She’s also really starting to pursue her extracurriculars. Somehow she got into a youth ballet company and this means company classes and rehearsals in addition to regular dance classes. None of that was planned–it just kind of fell into place unexpectedly.

    Six is such an awesome age–well, really, I say that every year! I’ll bet 15 is pretty good, too! 🙂


    1. Sounds like exciting changes for both of you! 6 is a wonderful age. It’s an age of curiosity, and joy. An age of great certainty and uncertainty. it is an age when our children still need us and want us. It is a fun age as they start to discover “who they are” out in the world and we see glimpses of their core values when they help a stranger or share a sandwich with the child that forgot their lunch.
      I think when things just “fall into place” there was a plan in place, even if it wasn’t ours. 😉 May her year in dance be filled with joy and laughter. Yes, 6 is a very good age, and yes, 15 is pretty good, too.


  4. Transitions indeed! Enjoy your school year. My cousin/BFF has home schooled her daughter since Kindergarten…this year starts High School for them. What a blessing to be able to educate your own children!


    1. Transitions are all around! Congratulations on the launch of the new site!

      I do consider it a blessing to have been able to homeschool, along with my husband, all the way through. However, I’m also very aware I’ll be out of job in 3 years. 😮


  5. Great post Mary! I was tearing up this morning after going through schedules with both my high school students this morning. They started school today too and the season looks so different compared to last year. They are both very independent but STILL need me – and that makes me feel good. The two younger students need me more and that makes me feel really good! ♥ I’m here, I’m available and very thankful. ♥


  6. I can hardly imagine homeschooling the way you have all these years. I loved teaching the ones that weren’t made from my own flesh and blood, but my own child knows my buttons and likes to push them. And often.

    This summer was practically my undoing. With my son’s bar mitzvah and then the computer crashing… so much drama. Meanwhile, my son became 13. He is so much more private. He doesn’t want me around as much. He still wants me. Just not as much. I just realized this is the first year I didn’t get a first day of school photo. He ran out the door with his friends. What was I going to do? Chase after him with a camera.

    So things are changing around here, too.

    I can’t imagine when he heads off to college. It will be awfully quiet.


    1. Renée, Renée, Renée! I have been following the efforts and success of your son’s bar mitzvah and the trials and tribulations of your computer crash (which led me to back up both of my computers. Your heartache was not in vain.)

      You truly did have a roller coaster of a summer! And, now you have to get ready to teach your own students as you watch your son begin to pull away and move in a new direction, one that says “I still need you Mom, just not so close.” Those days seem to appear faster than we can process the emotions. I must admit, I didn’t take one “first day of school” photo–ever. I realized as Cait headed off to start college I wanted to take one of her, but I missed that opportunity, too. I’m sure, if you remove the date stamp, Tech would never remember if you took that “first day of school” photo 3 weeks in to the year.

      Yep, no doubt it’ll be quiet when he heads off. All the more reason to start planning for that transition now. I see warm sands, crystal blue waters, umbrella drinks, and romantic walks along the shore in your future. 🙂


  7. I adore this post. Miss A is beautiful beyond words…what a stunning photo. Such a blessing you both have each other to journey through life with. Thank you for sharing your tender heartfelt thoughts.


  8. I’m sure you’ll both cherish this time you have alone together. I am spending the day alone with my son today, (he has a doc’s appointment) and I’ve realized I don’t do that often enough. Like you said, you see your child differently when there’s always a sibling around. I’m just trying to cherish everything with my kids this year. So strange to have them both gone all day.


    1. I’m hoping that doc appt. was nothing serious, Maineiac!
      I was always aware that each girl wanted some alone time with me (or, just as often, their dad), but it wasn’t until I began to notice how much I could see the nuances of who they are when I was alone with them that I made a more conscious effort to be truly present in our “alone time.”
      It all passes by so fast. So, so very fast. Enjoy each and every day together be it as a group or sharing special “alone time.”


  9. When my eldest left for college three years ago, I really didn’t have a tough time with it. After all, I still had 2/3 of my kids at home! But with C beginning his senior year, and the countdown on to having only one left at home, I’m starting to feel a little nostalgic.

    Only one child at home with me. It’s going to be quiet, and I’ll have a lot less laundry. Yeah, I’m going to stick with that.


    1. A lot less laundry and a whole lot of fun, Lisha!! As you know, the girls were gone on a mission trip together this past summer and it was amazing how quickly I was able to “adapt.” 😉 However, I’ve had to remind myself a week does not equal a semester, or a year, or a final move out. We’ll walk this path together, you and I.


  10. I’ve always considered home schooling. But I know my Blondie would constantly try to “cheat” by pretending she doesn’t understand so I will explain and explain until I’ve done the work for her! LOL I do much better teaching kids that aren’t mine, the ones who can’t find my soft spots!


    1. Amazing how our kids can find our soft spots, isn’t it, Tiffany? There are plenty of days I think to myself, “I know I can do this, I’m just not sure I want to do this!” I suppose that comes with any job though, and I consider teaching, whether your own or someone else’s, to be among the toughest jobs out there. But when my doesn’t do her work, I can at least threaten with groundings and other “tortures.” LOL!


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