On July 30, 2018, my sister and I celebrated the end of high school. Our graduating class included just the two of us – homeschooled since 5th grade with a one-year interlude for me in 9th grade. Below is a transcript of the speech I gave at our graduation, for those who are interested in learning a little more about the girl behind this site.
Good morning, friends and family. I appreciate you taking the time to join us for this celebration – the celebration of the end of high school. I’m especially thankful to my parents, who made it possible for me to stand before you on this backyard stage after three amazing years of homeschooled high school. I’m also thankful to my sister Emma, who made sure that I didn’t take school too seriously all the time and who tolerated my soliloquies on imaginary numbers and definite integrals.
It is an honor to speak for the Lamad Academy [the name of my family’s home school] graduating class of 2018, which includes all of two students. Given that our salutatorian did not wish to make any remarks, it seems appropriate that I fill the time that she would have. Thus, this speech might go for twenty or so minutes… I’m just kidding. My principal/teacher requested that I keep this relatively short so that we don’t roast in the heat.
Ten years ago, I attended the graduation ceremony for my older sister. I remember sitting in the stands and looking down at the sea of blue and white gowns and caps. Students filed onto the stage and graduation particularities were exchanged. Speeches were probably made, but I was eight and so don’t remember much of it. What I do remember is my mom saying that I would be among a crowd like that in a thousand years when I graduate from high school.
Clearly, that plan didn’t pan out. One of the curricula that Lamad Academy uses in many of its science classes repeats this common proclamation: “Science is tentative.” Since I started homeschooling in 5th grade, I’ve found that plans, too, are tentative. As Proverbs 16:9 observes, “A man’s heart plans his way, / But the Lord directs his steps.” For those who have graduated, what life and circumstances did you think you would find yourself in on that eminent day? For those who will soon graduate or those for whom graduation is years away, where do you think you will be? More importantly, who do you think you will be?
Much has changed since my fellow student and sister began our homeschool adventure in 5th grade, both in our family and in our world. Two sweet, sometimes annoying, but totally lovable little brothers joined our crazy tribe. Our older brother, who our older sister once wanted to marry, married a wonderful woman whose family I have had the opportunity to know better and better these past four years. Our parents finally had their first grandchild. We have seen terrorism, gun violence, and politics tear this country apart, and watch as policies, diplomacy, and compassion try to sew it back together.
Emma and I have grown from 10-year-old girls who played with paper Sonic the Hedgehog characters in basketball bleachers to 18-year-old women who shamelessly continue playing “make believe” with characters that exist only in our heads. We have gone from ignorance to awareness of the chaos and tragedy that wrecks this world, and from confusion to confidence that we can answer the call to restore peace and hope, at least in one place, at least for one moment in time.
You might also call this a celebration of what comes next, whether that be a gap year to discover what you want to do with your life or college to discover what else there is to discover. On either path you will learn. You will learn in the truest sense of the word: of gaining knowledge so that you understand and so that you can help others understand.
High school is the end of an era. What era, you might ask? I think that high school marks the end of childhood. In the legal sense of the word, Emma and I graduated from childhood to adulthood late last year. That the responsibility of completing paperwork at doctor’s offices passed to us is proof of that. In another sense, though – you might call it a psychological sense – we remained children. After all, we still attended secondary school, still lived in our parents’ house, and still depended on our parents for food, clothing, and all of the other necessities of civilized life.
Looking back at high school and looking forward to the What Comes After, I feel like I have one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood, and I have no idea what is coming. I can make my plans, and I undoubtedly will. My personality demands organization and planning. In fact, for the upcoming college freshman year I have already created an Excel spreadsheet that has my days segmented in 30-minute intervals from morning wake-up to evening slumber so that I know, to some extent, what time I’ll have for classes, studying, and recreation.
I even have a plan for after college: Part 1, successfully major in mathematics. Part 1 ½, maybe earn a master’s degree in mathematics. Part 2, find work as an operations research analyst. Somewhere along the way I would also like to publish a novel and perfect my healthified cinnamon roll recipe.
All of this planning brings me back to Proverbs. If my plan does not align with God’s, there is no way in Holland that my plan will supersede God’s.
I’m open to changes of plans, though. I didn’t used to be, but the past eight years – four years in China and four years in Massachusetts – has changed my perspective on What Should Be. I’ve learned more not only of academic subjects, but also of the world and life and how they are both often not fair but how you have to persevere in persevering in spite of these frustrations because at the end of every day you can reboot and at beginning of every day you can restart.
No matter where God directs me, whether according to the silly plans I, a girl straddled between two worlds, have formulated or according to a totally different set, I determine to take what I have gained academically, morally, spiritually, and ideologically from this time at Lamad Academy and project into the unforeseeable future.
If high school has taught me anything, it is that learning is a constant process, and true learning is more than memorization. To learn is not to achieve a certain grade, but to achieve a certain degree of articulation. It is the ability to think for yourself about the ideas that others ping-pong around and to express those thoughts to others. As Emma and I cross the finish line of this race to enter another – that of finding out what kind of adults we want to become – I know that we will continue to learn with each step we take.