Monday, September 21, 2009

What Makes it Easier??

"I Have Faith In The Future I Can Not See"

What an interesting affirmation I received at the women's retreat I attended this weekend. Very fitting for where I am at in so many ways.

I had a wonderful time going with 2 other friends to La Foret, where the boys go to church camp every summer. This place is so special, it feels sacred from the moment you turn up the drive and it was cool to see how many other women felt the same way. The boys teased me about going off to camp, and warned me about the fable of the Purple Bishop, which is some sort of haunting story they hear time and time again there. I didn't realize how much I needed the break, and it was terribly nice to leave guilt free thanks to a terrific hubby who understands that my "job" is not an easy one and I need to have this sort of brain break once in awhile.

I have tried to blog a couple of times over the past 2 weeks and have found my brain is just not engaged. I sit here staring at a blank screen, waiting for the words to come which never do. My mind seems far too full of every day practical things to go to that place I visit when I blog. The work involved in jumping into homeschooling over night has been pretty intense and time consuming, and I think I have crammed 12 months of research into 2 weeks. But the work involved with defending our reasons for homeschooling is even harder. When you are not pulling your child out because of their failing grades, when you are not pulling them out to separate them from the worldly influences, when you are not pulling them out because of behavioral issues it seems to make it more difficult for people to understand.

Teachers will complain about how they are not really allowed to teach anymore, that they are only teaching to tests or reading scripts from carefully selected textbooks. They explain how frustrated they are with the lack of creativity and experiential learning that kids get today. They admit that kids are missing out on necessary play time with getting only one recess at lunch time and no other breaks throughout the day. They too have to deal with the myriad issues that children bring with them into the classroom...issues that require a psychologist more than a teacher.

And yet many teachers get defensive and fearful your child will not be getting the education they deserve the minute they learn you are homeschooling...even when that decision was made for those very reasons they have just cited themselves. I don't really understand that.

Luckily I happen to have a couple of open minded teacher friends who can offer encouragement and support, and who after hearing our thoughtful reasons understood our decision to pull Matt out.

And the urgency where Kenny is concerned grows stronger with each passing day. In Sunday School he was given an assignment and I learned after returning home what he wrote, calling himself a "punk" who never did anything right. When asked where he got this from, he said he heard it on the playground, and while some of it might have been a bit of a play for sympathy as he had gotten in trouble a bit the past few days for slipping back into "Daddy Kenny" role again, part of it also speaks to how he is not feeling successful and viewing himself negatively. He brought home his baseline spelling test from the first week of school, and he missed 98 out of 112 words. His teacher seems to understand our serious concerns and has a plan to begin working on phonics and revisiting all the rules he never was given, but I am afraid it is beyond reason to expect he will come close to hitting grade level this year, and his speech issues are making it that much harder for him to spell and write well.

You know, all of this is a real lesson in humility and keeping it real. There are a few people in my life for whom this is all a subtle competition to prove whose kid is smarter than whose, who have that hint of condescension in their voice when they discuss any of this and say with a pitying tone "Well...maybe they will eventually do OK." as if Kenny isn't as bright as the next kid but simply hadn't had exposure to material, or as if Matthew was suddenly a troubled kid because we were proactive and made a choice to try and head off the trouble before it really started. I want to yell so badly sometimes "People, it is NOT a race!!! This is life and hearts and minds!!! WHO CARES WHOSE KID IS BETTER! I want them ALL to do well!".

In our family we have straight A's and...well...those who aren't. One is NOT more intelligent than the other, and at least in the haven of our home no one insinuates it or tries to "one up" one another. Instead we try to lift one another up. I can hear Kenny coming in from school the day after Matt's first art class last week and raving over Matt's art work. I can see Matthew reading with Kenny and Josh, helping them with words they don't know. It's about support and nurturing, and helping everyone to the finish line and not leaving anyone behind or making them feel "less than".

There are also our friends who totally understand it, who will be there pulling for us every step rather than waiting to cackle behind our backs should we fail. Thank you God for those who are real and who are secure enough to have no need to tear others down.

I realized at the retreat this weekend that our life really is taking a divergent path in even more ways now, and that more and more we will seem outside the mainstream. I also realized I am OK with that and actually prefer it. Maybe we never belonged in the mainstream in the first place, and frankly I am tired of trying to pretend to fit where we don't really fit. Kenny is not a 4th grader other than in name only, my kids aren't white and never will be, I can't help it if Matt wants to learn at a different pace and explore many things out of plain old curiosity, Joshie can't stop himself from feeling very insecure at times and needing us.

And I love being the Mommy in this divergent family. I love it so much. It is interesting, it is fun-filled, it is dynamic and loving and amazing. I am sure if I had the typical 2.5 kids and lived in the suburbs with kids who were cookie cutter perfect like my cookie cutter tract house might be...I'd be bored out of my mind and feel unfulfilled and unchallenged. I will NEVER be able to get away with saying that around here!!! Hahaha!

The difference between the LaJoy's and the not-LaJoys is that even though we may appear to be mixed up, even though our cookie cutter is a little bent and our family is divergent, even though our path is crooked and winding, even though it might be easier to "quit while we are ahead"...

We have faith in the future we can not see.

We have faith that our daughters will join us and at some point we will all truly become one loving family. We have faith that our children will flourish as we make what may seem to be odd choices for them in terms of education and activities. We have faith that God is not taking us places and only to leave us dangling. We have faith that eventually our children will look at us and thank us for not feeling bound to the norm and for being willing to sometimes look outside the box despite the criticism of others. We have faith that we can work it all out somehow. We have faith in the love of our family and friends.

We have faith in the future we can not see. We really do.

It isn't blind faith, not at all. It is well thought out, hard earned faith. It is strong because it has been validated over and over again. It is a day-by-day-try-your-best-and-count-on-God-for-the-rest-kind of faith. It is a sustaining, life giving, heart nurturing faith when there is nowhere else to turn, when the world seems against you.

We have faith in the future we can not see.

And that makes it all so much easier.


Kara said...

Cindy--I absolutely love this post. Just had to say that. --Kara

Maureen said...

I love this sentiment:

"People, it is NOT a race!!! This is life and hearts and minds!!! WHO CARES WHOSE KID IS BETTER! I want them ALL to do well!"

Some people are definitely too competitive and it doesn't do their children any good.

I also have to thank you for the phrase from your retreat: "We have faith in the future we can not see." I'm not sure where God is leading us right now and I need to remember to have faith, trust in Him, and listen for the whispers (because He usually doesn't post on billboards :-)).

Hilary Marquis said...

Hebrews favorite verse :) For the record, I think that you are making a very wise decision for your children. I sympathize with the difficulties that Kenny is facing as I see them with Tyler all too often. Just because a child learns differently, or at a different pace, OR IN A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE FOR 8 YEARS doesn't make them less intelligent!!! I wish that education didn't require you to fit into a nice neat little box. Keep your faith in what you cannot see, because He is. He has proven it time and time again. You are right, there is nothing blind about it.