Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pencils Down

Remember those words?

Every year as I took the Iowa Basics or some other version of the achievement tests, I would always wait restless for those words. It didn't matter how long ago I had finished. It didn't matter if I'd double or triple checked my work. "pencils down" meant there was no more time to correct mistakes or change what I'd written.

Pencils down.


As this homeschooling year comes to a close, my heart is restless. Although it's not me putting the pencil down, it still feels like it. Tyler is the student who's attendance is required. Yet it feels that I have more to learn than he. I doubt, and question, and wonder...

Did I forget to teach something of great importance?

What mistakes have I made that I need to correct?

Have I dampened his desire to learn?

Insert very, very deep cleansing breath here. (Hey, all that Lamaze did pay off!)

I have yet to meet a homeschooling mother who doesn't question whether or not she's doing enough. Isn't having the secular media, most public education groups, and many times family members watching us, pointing out our failures enough? Why do I do this to myself?

I believe one of the greatest challenges to homeschooling is this: we have a vested interest in seeing our kids succeed in more than just academics. BUT, academics is the standard we are measured by.

Do I want my children to succeed academically? Of course. There is no question in my mind that my children have the God-given ability to learn. And I want them to do that to the best of their ability. But that is not the only area I am concerned with. I would rather my children learn to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength than learn to be the next Rembrandt. I care far more that my children learn to think and reason than I do about them mastering calculus. I want my children to learn to love others as well as gather knowledge of the human anatomy. I don't just care that my children do well in the sciences and arts. I want them to learn to care about the things that matter to God's heart.

How many classroom teachers are able to identify AND work with each individual child to help them achieve their very best, physically, socially, emotionally, spiritually and academically. The teachers I know WANT to. They want the very best for the students. But they CAN'T. They are simply unable to look at 20 + children in their classroom and give each of those precious children all the time they would like. My oldest sister, my friends from church, my homeschooling mom friends (all formerly or currently excellent public educators) tell me this is true. The problem lies not with the trained teacher's ability or desire, but the time constraints, the sheer number of students, and the need to pass the test to get the funds.

As I look back and think over my first year of teaching that "counts" I have two thoughts.

Homeschooling is incredibly humbling. I have never had so many questions about my sanity, my abilities and my parenting. And that just comes from my children! Seriously though, explaining over and over why this is the path I have chosen is at times overwhelming. It makes me question my decision...and I think that's a great thing. If I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and plodding through my children's school years, I would miss many opportunities. Having to articulate my answer for the "why" questions helps me focus on what is truly important.

The second is this. I personally do not have everything it takes to teach my child about everything. I don't believe God intends it that way. But just as I can (and do) look to my own mother for much help and many answers she cannot be my sole guide on this journey. I have many other homeschooling moms and public educators that give me wisdom and encouragement. But, I will work hard to make sure each of my children are nurtured and encouraged in areas of both strength and weakness.

As I finish out my record keeping, put away the dog eared books the verse "My strength is made perfect in your weakness" plays on constant repeat in the background of my mind. What a refreshing thought. I have my responsibilities, but I don't have to take on God's. My children are capable of learning in many environments. I've watched them. Whether it's a classroom setting with other children, the backyard watching bugs or snuggled on the couch with good literature, they are learning, growing and changing into the young man and woman God created them to be. It really has far less to do with me and a heck of a lot more to do with God. I fail every single day in some way. He doesn't. He mends the mistakes. He brings to mind my shortcomings so I can do it better, differently the next time around. It's exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. I know home education isn't the answer for every family. But I am glad that I have this chance. This opportunity to be with my children. I have a front row seat to the amazing things happening in their minds and hearts. I wouldn't trade it for the world.


Amanda said...

This is a fantastic post Bethany. So raw and real and heartwarming and encouraging and terrifying!!! (If you have doubts, how am I going to handle this?!?!??)

I think you are the mostest exceleentest writer ever. I seriously think your blog should be as popular as Mckmama's...what you have to say is so important, and you say it so well!!!

Your hubbys right. You ARE Awesome!!

God bless-

Marley's Mama said...

Beth- your words so eloquently express the thoughts that I have as both a mom AND a public educator. Wow. Thank you for your honesty and for taking the time to put this out there! I love you!

P.S. You're going a great job as a momma AND a teacher!! Trust your instincts- God gave you good ones!

Anonymous said...

Bethany, I just read your post, then read the above comments. Their comments on your writing is exactly what I thought - even before I finished paragraph 4. I'd love to take some credit for your excellent composition skills - both in content and in machanics and grammar; but, I also know where your gifts come from. I praise God and thank Him for gifting you in this way and for giving you an outlet to express yourself in a way that encourages others. I am very proud of you - as a wife, a mommy, a teacher, and a child of God. Oh, and you make a pretty good adult daughter, too. Love you so much.