Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Progress Report

I'm here to answer the question, "Sooooo, how's it going?"

The first day for everybody to go to CC. Jack was fine with CC. The frown involved cap erasers. That's all I'm at liberty to divulge. Sam was just grumpy. And had just peed all over my bathroom floor. I was grumpy, too.

It's nice to know that people remember the big changes we've made and know that they have been challenging, and that they care enough to ask how it's going. It's the answer that is hard. Being a teacher now (ha! as if I haven't been teaching my kids things since the day they were born), I have been forced to think a lot about assessment. How will I assess Maddie's knowledge and understanding of Latin, especially considering the fact that, uh...I don't know Latin? How will I assess whether (Insert Child's Name) has learned what they should have learned about (Insert subject here....such as math, spelling, how to clean all those stinkin' toys up that are in their bedroom floor, etc.)? So I have asked myself, how do I assess whether our first few weeks of homeschool have been successful or not?

1. My main criteria has been met: No one has cried and asked to go back to public school. Notice I did not say no one has cried. Because people have. I am not going to name names. They just have not inserted into the crying the statement: "Take me to school right now! Please!" nor the question: "Why are we not on the bus route for your former school so I could put you right on that long, yellow cheese wagon?"

2. I know they've learned some stuff, so I count that as a positive. Well, some things they've learned would be considered a good thing, like lots of spelling rules (which are so overdue in this house of unfortunately bad spellers save one - one whose name starts with A), the structure, purposes, and patterns of sentences, all of the provinces and capitals of Canada, along with many geographical features and the ability to draw it all with stunning accuracy, the meanings of the words "suggested" and "reluctantly", and a little about King James I of England, whom the KJV Bible is named for. Please note: I do not say all of this to brag. Just to reassure my very concerned self that they are learning something, and that it is possible I have not totally sabotaged their education. Other things they've learned might not be such a good thing, like how their mother deals with people who will not listen to the delightful book she is trying to read aloud to them.

3. We have laughed together. Look, I love a good laugh, but I'm not known to be a jolly soul who goes around soaking in life with a big smile on my face...especially when there is a checklist to be checked. I think the word I've used the most in the few weeks of school we've completed is "FOCUS!" However, despite my anal retentiveness, task-oriented nature, and general lack of smiliness, we've had some fun times. We even once read our history outside. How's that for being cool and thinking outside the box? Baby steps, people.

4. The Lord has been holding my hand like a toddler about to fall and bust my face all up on a pile of bricks. Because that's exactly what I am. I have fallen a few times, but it hasn't left too bad of a mark so far. I'm sure my day is coming when I and everyone standing in my way will be all bloodied up, but He's been helping me. Nudging me. Giving me wisdom. Reminding me of my complete insufficiency in a way that causes me to lean on Him. He is faithful.

5. I've made mistakes. I have second-guessed myself almost every second. I have worried that we're not doing things the right or the most efficient way. We usually don't - okay, maybe we never - get everything done that I think we should get done. And we don't usually get done very early (according to my definition of early). Many times, we don't have "fun." But isn't that how life generally works?

So, all in all, when I sit down to give our little homeschool experiment a progress report, I would give us pretty good marks. However, I think that's less a reflection of us being awesome and more of an indication that this was God's plan and God's timing. I can say that the person who is learning the most is me. Yes, I'm learning some interesting things about history, and some brain-cramping things about Latin, and some useful things about geography, but mostly I'm learning more about the character of the Lord I serve and the things He wants to do in me. I knew it would be that way, and I think that's why I've been able to accept the failures and insecurities as well as I have so far. He graciously pointed out to me, from the very start, that this whole process was going to be a lot less about science and math and whole lot more about shaping me and my family to be the people He wants us to be. Though I can't necessarily check that off on my beloved checklist, that's something we can carry into eternity, so I'm good with it.

Now it's time to grade some Latin. Good thing I have an answer key. :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

And So It Begins...

We've done it. We have started homeschooling at our house, and we're all still alive. Granted, we're not to the full blown stage where we've added everything in that we'll be doing this year, but I just keep repeating the mantra: "Baby steps, baby steps. "I have already learned one very important thing: This is going to take more patience than I have ever displayed before in my life. Oh, dear me. I have smart kids who catch on quickly. Not bragging. Just stating fact and claiming no responsibility for it. The Lord knows my utter weakness and saw that He had better give this poor basket case of a mom some kids with brains. Yet, they are still children, which means they have the inborn capacity to drive an adult nuts, or at least at adult like me, who came out of the womb a fuddy-duddy, unable to embrace and appreciate the little things in life. I think I must have been born with a to-do list in my hand. I'll have to ask my mom.
As my teacher husband heads off to his first day of school once again and I see that the relaxing, unstructured days of summer are drawing to a close, I am trying not to mourn and /or panic. How does this happen so quickly every single year? However, if we’re honest with ourselves, do we as women ever truly experience relaxing days? There might be days with less pressure because the schedule isn’t packed, homework isn’t due, and maybe you’re staying at a condo where someone else does the heavy cleaning, but as a wife and mother, there is not a day that goes by that we do not have to take care of my family’s needs and my responsibilities to some degree, at least.

We all know that being a woman who seeks to live up to the expectations of the world, ourselves, and even God can be an exhausting endeavor. In the world of mommy bloggers, we’ve certainly been told that comparing ourselves to Supermom down the road is a no-no and that our messy, chaotic house is something to be embraced rather than detonated with a bomb and blessedly obliterated forever. So why do we look into God’s Word and readily accept the fact that He is holding out the example of a nearly perfect woman who has it all together and saying, “Okay, ladies. Be her?” At least, I think that’s the way we often view the woman described at the end of Proverbs, the book dripping with wisdom.

If we persist in our belief that the Lord has penned our cosmic to-do list and written it down in His eternal word, we will likely be stifled by the weight of it. My to-do lists are endless and, while they sometimes provide a bit of relief from the swirling thoughts and lists in my head, they can also be a chain around my neck. A list of things I have yet to do that never ends. Sigh. The last thing I want or need is another list I cannot attain. If we are not careful, our belief that God is following us around with a giant checklist of impossibilities can breed bitterness and resentment toward our Heavenly Father and a desire to be free from His expectations and endless demands.

I challenge you with this thought: If we think Proverbs 31 is God holding out to us His ideal of a woman and demanding that we achieve it to please Him, we have misunderstood the character of God. And if we have misunderstood the character of God, we are walking in enemy territory. Satan lives to have us misunderstand God’s character and will capitalize on our lack of knowing God truly and intimately.

Rather than God’s description of the ideal woman, as if He were preparing to be a contestant on the Dating Game, perhaps this passage is a celebration of women and an encouragement to women. In other passages in Proverbs, women are portrayed in a less than stellar light. We can recall the warnings against the adulterous woman and the laments of a man stuck with a nagging wife. So maybe the Lord wants to set the record straight. Not all women are trouble. In fact, His beautiful creation, which He declared to be very good from the beginning, is something to be rejoiced in, valued, and deemed precious. He begins the passage, An excellent wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.” Then He recounts all of the amazing things an excellent woman accomplishes throughout her life. Rather than seeing all of the things you are not doing (I simply cannot remember the last time I put my hand to the spindle or wore purple. It’s just not my color.), look at the parts of the passage where your Creator, the Lover of your Soul, is describing you.

The Lord created woman to do amazing and important things. He deemed us so precious and important that He gave us one of the most vital, God-reflecting jobs on earth: mothering (both physically and spiritually). He gave us the job of replicating the role of His Bride, the church, in our marriages. He gave us the role of nurturing and feeding and loving, all things that so directly reflect the glory and goodness of God. And so He celebrates His creation and the beautiful, hard, tiring things that we do, because it is in the fruit of our faith that we glorify Him.

Then the key to the whole passage lies in the summary. He leaves the truest, most important words ringing in our ears. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” He does not say, “I love the woman who has it all together and doesn’t disappoint me or fail me.” No. He rejoices over the woman who has the key to life figured out, the woman who fears, respects, loves, trusts and relies on Him. The point of it all is not perfection. The point is that, when a woman sees God as He really is, her life is something to be celebrated. When we walk in complete adoration of our loving Lord, knowing that He gives us all we need and loves us when we fail, we can laugh at the days to come. Our eternity, value, and identity are secure. The pressures of this life and expectations of this world cannot crush us. The guilt from the enemy cannot destroy us. Our failures do not define us.

The knowledge that our Creator made us for a purpose, values that purpose, and then empowers us to accomplish that purpose, all the while loving us without end, should give us the joy, peace, and confidence we need to embrace all life throws at us and to enjoy allowing Him to work in us and through us to restore us to the women He created us to be. You have far more value in the Lord’s eyes than anything else in the entire world. Rest in that fact. Let that truth wash over you. Then begin your day knowing that, no matter what the day holds, your value in the eyes of your Maker will not change. He is for you and celebrates you as you seek to know Him, and all the rest will be given to you by Him.

So as I add this new, exciting, scary, overwhelming (that may be the most used word on my blog) hat of school teacher to the teetering stack of hats on my head, I desperately seek to hold on to the fact that my identity and value are secure. God is for me. He has called me and will equip me, because that is who He is. I will seek to rest, enjoy, trust, and rejoice in the fact that He who created me and called me is faithful. My life is not defined by a list, though I did stay up until 1am creating a beautiful, comforting spread sheet for school work, but by my Creator.

With Him, we can do this thing….