Often I wonder if my writing isn’t just redirected self-therapy. Journaling sent out into the digital cosmos. A way of expressing my emotions, reading them, and moving on.
Sometimes I wonder, but today I am sure.
Last week I completed the enrollment of all four of my children in our local public schools. I made the rounds, gathering the paperwork, making folders for each child. I went to each school office and filled out dozens upon dozens of multi-colored school documents for my little beloveds. And, as I sat in the intermediate school conference room, alone, listening to the school secretary on the phone outside the door – it was bright and clean and tidy. A tree shifted in the hot breeze outside a wide window. The secretary offered me a cup of water and brought me a pen. She smiled. It was pleasant. And all I could do, as I filled out each form, was stifle my tears. I was an emotional wreck. “This is absolutely insane,” I told myself. So, with each pen stroke, as my hand grew sore from the writing, I made each letter a mini-prayer for that child. Knowing that those prayers would sit in the school office all year, hidden away in a file cabinet, echoing my heart.
You see, we’ve tried this schooling business every which way. Catholic school, homeschooling, private school and public school. Neurotic, I know! I’m a veritable expert on the many ways to stuff knowledge into the brain of a child. And yet here I am, almost as unsure today as I was the day my oldest walked into a kindergarten classroom. What’s with me? Why do I become so extraordinarily emotional when it comes to school? Why are my expectations sky high and my worries enough to keep me up late into the night.
How exactly do we figure this schooling thing out? How do we know if it is working, if our kids are doing well, if they are in the right place, at the right time, with the right people?
As I have been wondering, I’ve come to realize that maybe here is a case where we need to begin at the end.
In a way, the ends DO justify the means.
When I bog my mind down with curriculum and teaching strategy and instructional levels and standardized tests, I certainly become bewildered. Any parent would. But, when I consider it all with the END in mind, things smooth out, and I see a light at then end of the tunnel.
What is the end, you ask?
“What kind of person will you become, my child?” I wonder.
That’s the ‘end’. It might sound too lofty – an unattainable concept. But really, it simplifies – cuts out the riff-raff, the superfluous nonsense, the distraction illusions.
Will they become the person God intends them to be, or not? Because that is what really matters. In the end.
So I’ve made a little list to help myself. And maybe it will help you, too.
My child, I hope you will always:
- love to learn.
- be interested in others, even if they’re not just like you.
- make your own decisions, don’t just go with the flow.
- know how to decipher between what is urgent and what is important.
- develop a passion and use it to make the world better.
- love the beautiful.
- seek the good of others and protect those who are weak and vulnerable.
- never place success or wealth over your salvation and the salvation of others.
- love God and His Church above all things.
There it is, my heart’s desire. In a bulleted list.
But, you know what gets me, as I look at that list? I realize that it is just as likely to be fulfilled in one place as in another. I have met delightfully balanced, intelligent and sensitive children who have graduated from every schooling method on the planet. I don’t know exactly what it will look like – this ‘becoming themselves’ business. I’m no palm reader or fortune teller. Only God knows what lies ahead. But I can see hints along the way, and those will be our clues as to whether we’re on the right path or not. If changes need to be made, or if we just hold the course.
So, I adjust my gauge. I reset my focus.
I will keep an eye out on school, but I’m going to focus my efforts where I can have most affect. Our home. Our family.
Our family is the center, even if our children DO spend many hours away at school and other activities. It’s not the sports, the music lessons, advanced math classes or exclusive camps that predict the eternal value of a person. It is the purity of their heart. And a child’s heart is naturally oriented toward home, toward their family, the ones that love them no matter what. That is the place where they will find the path to become the person God wants them to be. School helps plow through the path, but the path is laid at home.
And that is where I am. Our family is the one place that I KNOW we are all supposed to be.
All the rest is cake.
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
– Mother Teresa