Dear Gamerboy,

In the beginning, I had trouble teaching you the sounds of the alphabet. You couldn’t remember anything after “H says Hah,” and to be honest, it didn’t seem like you cared very much. As an over-earnest mom, I tried to sit you down and teach you. After all, you were almost four years old!

Obviously, I had to learn an important lesson about homeschooling you: I could guide you forward, but not drag you ahead. It was something your dad and I had to re-learn throughout your school years.

When you were ready to start reading, you did so quickly, but in a completely different way than your older sister did. She worked through phonics, but you recognized whole words. This ability to grasp concepts wholesale also translated to other subjects. In math, your calculations so outstripped your fine motor skills that we’d do your workbook together—you provided the answers, and I wrote them down. You learned best when the information had an immediate practical application. You accumulated an impressive knowledge of Greek and Norse mythology because it helped you understand the mechanics of your favorite computer game, Age of Mythology.

In fact, we figured out that one of the best ways to motivate you was to frame anything in terms of playing or creating a game. From the time you were very young, you didn’t meet a game you didn’t want to learn, play, master, and then modify. There’s a reason why I chose Gamerboy to be your blog name.

Yet our homeschooling road with you was bumpier than with your sister. As a kid who didn’t like to sit still, didn’t like to be bored, and had no concept of going along with the crowd, you tended to attract raised eyebrows and suggestions for improvement. I felt pressure to make you learn the same way that “most kids” did. Most kids did fine in morning co-op classes, so even though you were tired and grouchy, I made you conform to that schedule. Most kids worked on their handwriting, so even though you found it deeply frustrating, I made you conform to that practice. Most kids could sit quietly through a church service or a boring teacher, so even though you fidgeted and were bored and uncooperative, I made you conform to what everyone around me expected to see you do.

After many clashes, meltdowns, and tears, I finally realized my mistake. Like teaching you your alphabet sounds too early, I wasn’t guiding you forward, but trying to drag you ahead.

I stopped requiring of you what “most kids” did. You did your schoolwork at night, we let you wear earbuds in church, and I just plain gave up on handwriting. Gradually, my perspective changed. You didn’t need someone to make you do things, but to help you figure out the best way to approach them.

When you were in middle school, your dad took over the homeschooling for a couple of years to help me recover from burn-out. It was his turn to discover the important concept of guiding vs dragging. He learned to think beyond how “most kids” did things, and to approach assignments in ways that engaged you. We thought we’d learned the lesson.

When you reached high school, you enrolled in an Algebra 2 class with HSLDA Online Academy. Your dad assumed you were ready for the independent work, while I was busy handling most of the younger kids’ school. It was a while before we realized that you weren’t thriving. You understood the math, but the weekly lectures that you couldn’t focus on and the requirements of the class were drowning you. So that year, I sat beside you as you listened to your lectures, and I talked through the problems and solutions with you. I was out of my depth as far as knowledge went, which meant that I couldn’t drag you. I could merely guide.

And guidance was all you needed. You finished the course with a good grade despite the difficult beginning. The following year when your Pre-Calculus class began, you and I jumped on it together. With my guidance, you managed your time and balanced your workload. By the end of the year, you no longer needed me to sit with you through those lectures or remind you about homework and quizzes. You’d found your way.

You’re still the same restless soul who loves games, needs practical information, and hates being bored. But you’ve also grown in knowledge—of academics, of the world, and of yourself. Next month, you’ll graduate from high school. We’re proud of your academic prowess, to be sure. But even more, I’m grateful for how hard you, your dad, and I have worked to understand each other.

I look forward to seeing what God has planned for your future. (I wonder if it might involve, I don’t know, game development?) We plan to be right here—offering whatever guidance we can. Congratulations, son. We’re proud of you!

—Sara