- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 2, 2000

Everyone likes to receive a bonus, a little unexpected compensation. As home educators, we find our compensation in intangible things: harmonious relationships, academic progress, flexible conditions. It's always nice to receive an extra little indication that we are doing a good job.

My eldest daughter decided recently to help organize a weekend program for children ages 10 to 13. With her youth group, she found a location, developed the presentations, coordinated transportation and food and approached adults to ask them to help.

She gave one of the presentations, teaching the children how valuable they are, why their family relationships are important and how their current lives are preparing them to be successful adults. She spoke about purity before marriage and becoming responsible people. Imagine a 15-year-old speaking publicly to an audience of peers to guide them on important choices in life.

No adult, including me, had suggested this project. This was the youth group's idea, coming from a need they saw and decided to act upon. They wanted to help younger children make good choices, and they took responsibility to create an event that would convey important information to that group.

I was proud not only of my eldest daughter for her leadership role, but also of my younger daughter and son, who were among the 45 participants. They encouraged friends to come, they willingly prepared sleeping bags and outdoor equipment, and they participated with enthusiasm in each lecture or activity.

To see my children become people who notice and respond to the needs of others and act responsibly to bring better outcomes for the people around them was a real bonus for me as a home-schooling parent.

I am sure we all have dreams of what we would want our children to be. My dreams are for them to be good, strong, happy people who contribute to this world and can enjoy all the wonderful challenges life contains. It makes me want to pinch myself, to question whether what I'm seeing is a dream or reality.

You know, you don't get a Nobel Prize for raising good children. No TV host gives you a stack of money for making good parenting choices. Can you imagine the ratings on a show called "Who Wants to Be a Good Parent?" The paparazzi are never going to follow successful parents around, snapping photos of their family lifestyles.

But once in a while, you see your children act in a manner that is so sensitive, so caring, so mature, so creative and so courageous that you say to yourself, "I'm doing a good job."

The way I see it, I have two main jobs to accomplish in my life. One is to become the very best individual I can be. The second is to help my children become the best individuals they can be. I was fortunate enough to be entrusted with three precious lives to safeguard and to help develop to mature adulthood. It's an honor to be a parent and to have that responsibility.

As I help my children grow, I am growing, too. We aren't wise and sensible parents the moment our first child is born, but only after we have grown with them over the years. That's why the moment of graduation or of marriage is actually happier for the parent than for the child. We are seeing the results of the many efforts and changes we have made. As the child is saying, "Yes, I made it," the parents are saying, "Yes, we made it."

This is why I felt special pleasure in seeing my children becoming educators and good influences on others. For them to choose to spend their free time doing for others what I try to do for them is an indication, to me, that we're on the right track.

This Mother's Day or Father's Day, let's take a minute to thank God for the gift of being a parent. It's a miracle that we can have children, not to mention raise them. They are, truly, our lifework, our finest accomplishment. Every effort we make to love, care for and enrich them will bear fruit for many, many years to come.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a free-lance writer living in Maryland.

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