We take it year-by-year, but these last few years we’ve schooled our kids at home. It’s not some big principled, reject-the-system, religious-exemption sort of thing, we just decide with each child, each Fall, in each place, where we think we should put them based on their needs and our abilities.
Partially due to two years of moving, even when abilities and bandwidth were low my third kid is one who has never had report cards or textbooks or bus stops. But she’s played and experienced and learned naturally. It’s what I kinda had wanted for all of my kids. Because I truly believe that it’s hard to make a child love to learn once you’ve killed their awe and wonder, and it’s difficult to nurture that when you remove playing and exploring and discovering too soon. And boy, does this girl love to learn. In a way that I’m not entirely sure she would have discovered if she’d been sitting in a desk instead of out in the world.
But there have been moments of fear. I recently went to bed a few weeks ago in tears and panic and exasperation because this spirited, recently-turned-7-year-old is not independently reading. I mean, I was reading The Chronicles of Narnia and Nancy Drew when I was seven, and this girl could care less about barely being able to read a cereal box. She has big brothers to read her words, parents to read her stories, and she simply has never felt the need. While I thought I was maybe okay with this, the system we still have to peripherally navigate, isn’t really. A (self-imposed) 30-minute evaluation resulted in words like “delayed,” and “potential learning disabilities,” and “totally not ready for second grade,” kinda shook me and made me second guess all sorts of things.
Just know, I LOVE teachers. I so appreciate schools. They’ve provided structure at times for my children who needed it. They’ve provided support at times for my children who struggled with things I didn’t feel equipped to navigate. Systems are needed when you have to educate millions of children in a nationally standardized way. I could never do what they do, day in and day out.
Systems can be hard though. I think they catch some big and important things and I think they overlook some big and important things. I’ve had a child who struggled with the system because he learned, and processed, and read much slower than others. I’ve had a child who struggled with the system because he learned, and processed, and read much faster than others. But for the most part I’ve agreed, and understood, and felt as if they were hurdles that were beneficial to learn how to navigate as a part of life. Hard work, patience, respecting authority, self-control, waiting for others…
The Things That Fear Hides
It hit me differently with this girl, this time around though. It was unexpected in that they were words and descriptors that were so utterly different from the ones I’ve gathered while observing her vivacious, bright, quick-witted mind for the last 7 years.
This child I birthed and know so deeply in ways others don’t have the privilege to. I hear her stories, I watch her play, I experience her thoughts and ideas. She’s quite possibly the most confident (yet realistic) child I’ve ever met, and for the first time ever I caught a little glimpse of her confidence faltering. And it killed me.
I’m not one for false confidence. It’s shaky ground that will not age well, but it’s so important to me that they understand the gifts that God truly formed them with. That they see them, develop them, use them, and understand that much will be required of them in those areas in exchange.
I want her and others to see those precious gifts in ways that a thirty-minute evaluation or a standardized test will not show.
I went to bed so conflicted and worried, and woke up like God was gently shaking me and reminding me of who she really was. Who he made her to be. Who I’ve always known her to be, yet was forgetting in my worries.
Who IS My Child?
She’s like my very own Anne of Green Gables. Some of my kids are smart, some are funny, but she’s that brilliantly witty combination of both. She quotes Shakespeare (“All’s fair in love and war,” she’ll say to her big brother complaining of unfairness). Her vocabulary and ability to communicate deep things takes my breath away. Not just remembering words, but hearing them, understanding them, and using them ages later in perfect context.
She loves every place we’ve ever lived or visited. She adores the beauty of the mountains, the excitement of the city, the peacefulness of the country, the newness and sociableness of hotels, the coziness of a 350 square foot travel trailer….
She loves interacting with people, yet she can play by herself for hours upon hours. She’s never been bored. She taught herself how to ride a bike in about 17 seconds.
She’s fascinated by how things work, how things are made, how things came to be. Her theological questions and connections blow me away. She loves documentaries, she loves creating things and describing things, she loves stories.
Her imagination is intense, her excitement is intense, her anger is intense, her frustration is intense, her love is intense. I’m not sure she’s ever felt anything partially or halfway in her life. She says what she means and she means what she says.
She will talk to anyone. Not like a child meaninglessly chattering away to any person who will pretend to listen… but wherever I take her, she almost always manages to locate and plant herself next to some other soul, whether 3-years-old or 93-years-old, to effortlessly connect with them and draw them out. Eventually I’ll find her, passionately, yet matter-of-factedly discussing family relationships, hopes and dreams, personality characteristics of grandchildren, favorite places traveled, shared frustrations of life, or how they like their job, or being married, or getting old, or starting kindergarten…
Give her 5 minutes on a playground, and she’ll have a “pack of boys” (in her words) following her around, fighting her battles, and playing her games. Not because she needs to dominate or control, but because she’s insanely confident and her excitement is contagious.
She sees people and gets people and figures out how to love them practically. When I have a migraine she holds my hand and brings me ice packs. She lectured my husband before leaving on a recent trip with the grandparents, that he better take good care of me and make my coffee just like she does, until her return.
She is a gift and she has a gift.
Learning My Child
I say all this, not because it’s important to me that people understand home-schooling, or question public-schooling, or tell me comforting things like I’ve done the best I could with her (I haven’t). And honestly, her summer reading tutor is absolutely wonderful and knowledgeable and much-appreciated, and knowing my daughter, she’ll probably be reading The Iliad and War and Peace by next week. But my point is, that even if she isn’t, that’s really okay too.
Ever since she was born, my verse for her has always been Luke 1:45. “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord had said to her will be accomplished.” Because it will. Not because she will accomplish it herself, or I will, or anyone else will, but because HE will.
If their God-given strengths aren’t diminished by their God-given weaknesses, then they certainly aren’t going to be by their world-given “weaknesses.” Even if we’re going about this all wrong it’s not going to change who they are and who they were created to be. No parent, or school, or system, or curriculum could ever take away what was given to them by the hand of God. We need to look at our children and learn them. See their struggles and help them, watch for their gifts and value them, not because they are our child, but because they are a person made in the image of God.