As I ponder what’s happening in our school, now into its third week, I found myself thinking about how we started last year’s academic calendar. My oldest sister was struggling with health challenges and we spent a week on the road cleaning her home. When we returned home, I was exhausted, but I was determined to begin school. I’ve concluded just this year that one of our inherent problems is the inability to co-exist on different biological clocks. Simply put, I would start school in July, if I had my way, and end in April, when every breeze of spring seems to whisper my name. There are only so many weeks of great weather in Texas, and I like to enjoy each one from the garden with the wind in my hair. The kids feel cheated if they hear a peep from another kid enjoying the last days of summer while they crack open a school book. (Of course, they consider it a delight to roll over when those same kids are loading up the morning bus when they‘re done for the year). I should also mention that I’ve set very aggressive goals this year for myself and for them. I consider this year the first “real” school year for the youngest. Her plate is significantly heavier and she’s having to adjust to “big girl” rules. The oldest is learning the intangibles that will make all the difference in the world in the years to come: time management, planning ahead, and study skills. Our son is coasting happily under the radar screen, with no stretch goals in place for him this year (operating a year ahead of where he should be chronologically is enough of a stretch already!) I am, however, going back and attempting to solidify his command of facts, in spite of his insistence that he understands them perfectly. I guess he thinks I should believe him over my lying eyes. So, here in our third week, I’ve had to push past their arrogance, their reluctance, and all their funky little attitudes into a new season of school. I’d love to see passion or some sign of the joy that comes with learning, but right now persistence is more real.
Last Friday, when I started this entry in my head, but (by divine Providence, perhaps) didn’t get to write it, was definitely a low point. When the kids don’t behave as I expect, my tendency is to spank, following the example of my own discipline-heavy parents. Indeed, it took me a number of years as a parent to truly understand grace and mercy, and to discern what deserves the scriptural rod vs. what is the result of my overreacting, confusion, etc. (I’m still not sure I really have that one down). Yet, over the week, I continued to reflect–no, obsess–over the same questions: what is the limit on grace? What is the line between being merciful and being foolish? What corrects the will vs. what crushes the spirit? I’d wake up and go to bed with “Should I have…?” , “What if…?”, and “Maybe I could try…” I’ve never been one for tears; I guess I’ve never had the luxury of being able to cry while someone else solved the problem for me. But, man, was I close…
My husband and I sorted through all kinds of possibilities, and we both reminisced laughingly about our own experiences with punishment, concluding that our kids have it so much better than we did. But even before that, we prayed. I do my best not to make God too deep, but to keep things simple and practical, so after prayer, I did what I always do–the next right thing. The next right thing that particular day was to get on the computer. With a break in the home school day, I needed to check on my older bunch. On one of the numerous e-mail loops I subscribe to was an email from a frustrated parent. She entitled her post ‘Ever feel like you don’t know what you’re doing?’ One response was what really caught my eye. I read it again today and it didn’t hold the same magic, but last week the words leaped off the page: “Just keep going and trust your own inner voice [the Holy Spirit] and your own knowledge of your child.” What a word in season. And, as if that wasn’t enough, one of our budding pastors spoke on yesterday, sharing this gem: your kids will do what they see you do. If you’re in self-help books more than the Word (as one example), your children will attempt to find help elsewhere outside of the Word. So I made a choice. Pray about it and look for God to move.
So, here we are on Monday. I had plans to get up early and pray and anoint each chair (the kids habitually sit in the same place each day), but going to bed at 1 a.m. and having the day start with an unexpected call of bad news meant that I was starting my day with the kids. After the week we had last week, Dad placed several restrictions on the oldest, which doesn’t leave her room to do much except stay ahead on her schoolwork. Thus, the real test of progress will be once her privileges are restored. And discernment tells me that if I still don’t see what I expect, it will be time for the proverbial rod, and I’ve let her know it. I felt the blood rushing to my head over his obstinacy, but our son is actually spending extra time on multiplication. I’ve cherished the laughs we have had, and I really want to believe that things are coming around. Yet I’m reminded of our words during Bible study today from 1 Timothy: fight the good fight of faith. The victory of what I do here each day won’t be handed over to me on a silver platter, and as my dad always said, nothing worth having comes easy. It’s been no cake walk in the last few weeks, but I will press forward.