Friday, November 04, 2005

Real Grown-Ups: Part 3

Returning to our series on young people who have rejcted modern notions of adolescence, Mother-Lode is pleased to introduce Melissa, Bev's eldest daughter.

Melissa is a high-school graduate, currently taking a gap year to save up for college so she won't go into debt. She was the third place value debater and first place debate speaker in the nation at the 2003 NCFCA national tournament. In the fall of 2003, Melissa was a Communicators For Christ intern, speaking and teaching at 12 conferences in 12 states. During her tenure with CFC, she co-wrote the first Value Debate track offered to beginning debaters. For three years, she has been a contributor to a nationally-recognized value debate textbook, Lincoln-Douglas Debate: Guidebook for Debating the (current Year) Value Topic, and has been a debate club organizer and tournament administrator. Melissa was the youngest member of the Executive Committee for Chaves County Republican Women, serving, at various times, as Newsletter and Legislative Alert committee chairs. Last year, Melissa interned at her state capitol, where she used her debate skills to aid statesmen who support homeschooling ( a rare breed in her liberal state). In August 2004, Melissa travelled to New York City as a page for the Republican National Convention. Ultimately, she aims much higher than politics; she plans on changing the world as a teacher, one child at a time.

Mother-Lode: How did your family decide to homeschool you through high school?

Melissa: I actually had to ask my mom about this one! From my perspective, there was never really any choice--I simply followed where my parents led, and eventually that meant homeschooling in high school.
Even my parents, though, never said to each other, "We're coming up on high school now...should we keep doing this or not?” The just continued their commitment to obey God’s call for our family, which meant homeschooling (unless otherwise forcefully notified from above).

Mother-Lode: Many outside the homeschool community assume that homeschoolers either have a very affluent background or an extremely limited background - possibly abusively so. What part has adversity played in shaping your character and education?

Melissa: My mother has for many years alternately battled, suffered under, and succumbed to a disease called Fibromyalgia. Simply, her body doesn’t repair itself at night from the stress of the day as efficiently or as well as yours and mine do. Instead, she wakes up every morning with the previous day's wear and tear already pulling on her joints and muscles, which means that most days she is either in serious pain or desperately tired.
This has forced my sister and I to learn a lot of character traits by necessity. Compassion, especially, is a character trait that I’m sure I would never have learned half as well if Mama hadn’t struggled so much. Independence, or Self-Reliance, is another character trait that I was taught very early because Mama simply couldn’t make breakfast every morning as soon as I woke up, or teach math when she had a migraine; ergo, I had to sink or swim very fast. Of course, I wasn’t abandoned without guidance, but I learned how to study on my own sooner than many of my friends.
Besides requiring a lot of independent study, Mama's Fibromyalgia meant that a great deal of my high school education was much more hands-on and practical education than most. My transcript includes several long “practica” on home management (basic repair, home economics, lawn maintenance, interior design, time management, etc.) that started as “just helping my mom” and developed over time into true courses.
There’s another important area where our family adversity has shaped my character—it’s brought me a lot closer to my dad that I would have been otherwise. In facing our family’s difficulty, and in working to keep the house running when mama wasn’t able to, we’ve learned (the hard way!) how to really communicate with each other. Through the really tough times a few years ago, Daddy was the one encouraging me, teaching me and guiding me through the process of keeping our house in order. I've learned to rely on him and trust him more than I would have if Mama had been able to run things all the time.

Mother-Lode: What projects in your high school career have seized your imagination?

Melissa: Teaching public speaking and debate to students and parents has been one of my biggest projects and my biggest loves in high school. I love simplifying the difficult concepts of academic debate and putting them in understandable terms, and I love encouraging students with feedback and critiques. I loved my five years of competition in the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association, but this past year I was able to finally be on the side where my heart truly lies—coaching and helping run tournaments.
Now that I’ve graduated, and will probably be going off to college, I’d like to help other tournament administrators, especially new ones in states that are just beginning to have NCFCA competition, by sharing what I’ve learned behind the scenes at a large variety of tournaments. I’m not sure yet if it will be by writing a book or over the internet somehow (since I’ll be away at school), but I definitely want to stay involved with the NCFCA. I also want to do something along the same lines for value debate teachers and coaches—give them the support I never had as a “loner” in the debate world. The other project that I thoroughly enjoy is desktop publishing, especially layout and design work. Several years ago, I helped my parents edit/compile the handbook for our state convention, and discovered that I have fun making words look good on a page. Actually, I’m continually fascinated by all the capabilities of technology (not just professional-quality layout from a home PC), and one of my hobbies is to keep abreast of technological innovations.

To be continued...

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