On Monday, Jake the Art Guy gave each student in our group a circle on which they could design either a coin or a charm to hang on a necklace. Zach announced that he would make a necklace, and then drew a necklace on his circle. Clearly, he didn’t quite get it.
It made me feel queasy. Sometimes he just doesn’t get it, and I panic. Maybe all the progress I think he has made is an illusion. Maybe we need another intervention. What do I need to do to make sure that he turns out just like everybody else? Surely I have the power to fix this.
Yesterday, Ezra spent twenty minutes crying and whining and being rude to his brother because he didn’t want to complete a writing assignment. My face was getting flush and my throat was getting tight from my attempts to not smack him. Why does he seem bent on destroying an image I have of myself as someone who is calm and in control?
There’s this crazy Christian idea that in dying to oneself you can become who you were truly meant to be. And more than anything I have ever done, homeschooling challenges me to die to myself. Which is why it’s so dang hard.
Since we’ve been homeschooling, both boys were diagnosed with learning disabilities, some of which scare the crud out of me. And when I’m scared, I start studying, and scheming, and figuring out how to make it all better. My identity gets wrapped up in being the one to save them.
But teaching them every day quickly disabuses me of the idea that I can save anyone, or that I’m even capable of discerning who needs saving from what. The boys are who they are, fearfully and wonderfully made. And either I live in that truth, or I make us all miserable trying to make them into people they are not. Either I lay down my worries and schemes, or I miss out on the gift I have before me each day.
As I wrote yesterday, I’m selfish and tired. While there are many things I’ve grown to love about homeschooling, much of it asks me to behave as a person who is not selfish and tired. I want to drink a cup of coffee and read the paper in the morning. I do not want to help an anxious nine-year-old write a paragraph. I want to watch anything on Showtime at night. I do not want to learn about the Boxer Rebellion so that I can teach it to the boys. I want peace and harmony. I do not want ungrateful children who act like I’m torturing them because I want them to memorize math facts. Homeschool reminds me again and again that I am no saint who is willing to put aside my own convenience, comfort and control in order doing the work I think I’m called to do.
But homeschool also puts me in touch with a grace I can too easily pretend I don’t need. I am selfish and tired, and God loves me and my kids anyway. He reminds me that my identity is not teacher, or even mother. It is child of God, friend of Jesus. I haven’t succeeded if my kids get into Harvard or failed if they grow up to be jerks. I don’t control their destinies, and living as though I do takes me away from myself. Sitting with them day after day, experiencing dread and suffering in the midst of great joy, I am learning to let go of myself. And I’m finding myself along the way.