JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

pictures and stories from the water’s edge

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June 19th, 2004 · 1 Comment

One Friday afternoon in June, I was washing my van in my driveway when a neighbor asked me to take pictures of her and her friends. I dried my hands and ran over to her porch to find four high school seniors wearing their decorated caps, Bainbridge blue with custom sequins. They wrapped arms around each other’s waists and tilted their heads so I could see the designs, while I snapped the shots with their cameras.

I don’t know if my girls will graduate from high school. By that I mean I’m not sure what high school means. Or when they will have graduated. To clarify: we do want our daughters to go to college and if we continue at home, I’m sure we will find a way to ensure that their education qualifies them for university. We haven’t closed any options. Perhaps they’ll end up going to high school, getting a G.E.D. or working through specific curriculum. But right now I’m not tracking them by grades. And it seems silly or superficial to celebrate a system we’re not supporting. After all, it seems a bit arbitrary – why 18 and 13 years of school, instead of age 16 or 20? And when is education ever completed?! What does high school mean anymore anyway?

Yet as I stood there on the concrete photographing these four girls, their creativity and comraderie evident, I saw myself at the end of high school. On my graduation day, my mom took a picture of me with three other friends, our arms wrapped around each other. I liked it so much I painted a watercolor version of it. It was a different scene in many ways from these four blondes posed on a porch – for example, at our high school, we didn’t wear mortarboards – but yet the same in many others.

Standing at my neighbor’s home, cameras in my hand, I was both seventeen and thirtysomething. And on that Friday afternoon, for a few moments, I transported in time to the fortysomething me I will be when my own daughters will each turn eighteen.

As they hugged and posed for a memento of the moment, I saw in those girls something I wanted my own daughters to have. I realized the sense of comraderie and accomplishment epitomized in commencement. The fellowship of sharing a journey together, having secrets, experiences and memories in common, bonds that bind for life. The perseverance and endurance for thirteen years together through various obstacles and school system to reach the final goal of graduation. I want my girls to have these. Maybe they’ll stay in homeschool. Maybe they’ll go to high school. But I hope they’ll have something to celebrate, accomplishments to savor, and friendships to cherish as they finish the journey from childhood to adulthood.

Epilogue: Since I drafted this piece, graduation day has come and gone. My feelings about commencement and high school were confirmed by the celebrations I saw – the pictures in the paper of the young men and women in their caps and gowns, the essays that they wrote in the senior page section….and the superintendent’s parting piece of wisdom to the graduates Don’t just rock. Rock on. (“Rock on” as commencement advice to live life by?!)

Tags: homeschool

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Bob V // Jun 20, 2004 at 7:07 am

    You’re right. There is a lot of arbitrariness to finishing high school. People are addicted to milestones though. Why is there such a negative reaction to basketball players who skip their college graduation milestone to start productive employment? I’m far more concerned with their choice of major than with the fact that they don’t complete their degrees.