Thursday, February 21, 2013

Middle-school Musings

I spent the better part of a year worrying, crying, pleading, and begging my 7th grade daughter to WRITE.
She would read the book in a half day, take one look at the questions I had prepared for her to answer, and scribble off a silly poem about the emperor's billy goat or talking rabbits in refrigerators. My most memorable had the title, "When Caesar Gets the Sniffles". These were FUNNY.
I did not appreciate them.

My dear friend with a daughter that age would tell me NOT to worry, that somehow the quick mind in my daughter's pretty head WOULD begin to work the way I wanted it to....
I appreciated her, but I think it is safe to admit I had my doubts.

She was right.
 I was wrong.

I wanted (deep, deep voice)SERIOUS work out of her. I knew she was capable of DEEP THOUGHTS and I wanted to push her in that direction. So we plowed on through Sonlight World History in-a-year and she read all the depressing(oh, gracious, what depressing stories!)books....the Egyptians with their superstitions and obsession with death, ancient Rome with its mixed-up leadership strand, the Greeks and their grossly immoral gods, the history of Britain with the evils of kings and queens that will make your blood run cold, the French Revolution(she read three GORY books on that topic!)....on through World War II and all the horrible atrocities of the Holocaust and Hiroshima, we read and tried to discuss and I was UPSET that she wasn't WRITING.

This morning I realized I wouldn't have been writing, either!
I mean, that stuff is GLOOMY! Who wants to write about maddening, gloomy, sinful ancient people and their problems? Certainly not a bright 7th grader, which is at least partially why  I received poems about rabbits and runny noses. *smile*

We put her in Composition with Veritas Press Scholars Academy that next year, and she produced some nice work. I was encouraged. I knew she COULD do it, but they weren't really writing anything analytical at that point. I wondered, then, if maybe I had pushed too hard for her to make connections and see parallels, to problem solve for the Ancients of Rome in ways that they themselves had been unable. Should I have pushed her at 13 to struggle with the problems of the heart of man from the last 3,500 years?

The next summer she took another VPSA course, Omnibus I. Now, this course is supposedly for children as young as 11--my daughter was entering ninth grade when she took it, and it made ME uncomfortable with the content, but we knew she could DO the work, and we felt that the best place for her to learn and process all that information MIGHT be home with us rather than in a freshman college classroom, so we took the dive.

She read C.S. Lewis, Herodotus, Thucydides, The Aeneid, The Odyssey, "Julius Caesar", Plutarch, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Code of Hammurabi, and many more books that I would NEVER have picked up for myself to read, let alone have handed my child.
She loved it.
You know what else? She wrote. She wrote and wrote and wrote and TALKED and wrote some more and TALKED about what she had written--to us, to grandparents, to her classmates.

And she's still talking and writing. She's making comparisons and seeing parallels and talking about how those men's viewpoints compare to the Bible and the wretched condition of the human heart without the redemptive work of Christ.

Guess who's learning now?
Her dad.
Her grandparents.
Her friends.
Her sisters and brother.
(I had to discourage her from reading Herodotus to them as bedtime stories...*shivers!*)

She's also still being funny. She has a way with humor that keeps us on our toes.

I am so thankful.  For her, for God's goodness in providing courses and teachers to us online to help her develop her gifts. I'm so VERY thankful for the ongoing work of God in our lives, and for being allowed to see the pictures of Him at work through the ages.

So yes, it can be depressing to look at the ways of the world, even from ancient times, but that's because from the very beginning there was a problem--man thought he could be God, and he cannot. Man cannot solve every problem, but he can certainly mess everything up in his trying. ONLY God, through His plan which He put into motion from before the beginning of time, can fix things, starting with the hearts of men and women. And He will fix things. That gives hope.

So if you're a (homeschooling or not) mom(or dad) out there, struggling with a middle-schooler who just won't DO what you ask in his school subjects, I am asking you to take a step back and enjoy the journey with your child. Don't give up the sweetness of that relationship over ANY academic subject. Sit down at the table and do math together(we're still struggling with that a bit!). Listen, listen, listen, and laugh, laugh, laugh together. Enjoy the days, because you will before long be staring down the junior year of high school and what lies beyond...always remind yourself that your child is a treasure. The only failure you should fear is trading academic success for the heart of your child.

Depend on God to do the work that He has begun.
Be full of faith. Love your student, and be willing to learn something yourself in this wonderful process!



Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

What a brilliant post my friend! While Sweet Boy does go to public school I do additional teaching at home and sometimes want to pull my hair out with the reading! :)

Lynn said...

April, your daughter is beautiful! What an amazing job you've done with her, and I am sure with all of your sweet children! I have to admit, it pulls on my heartstrings to think of the dreams I had to walk away from when I had to leave "the old house." But my heart is happy when I read of the endeavors of others! Especially very sweet people like you!


PS -- I see Ms. Bun Bun! LOL. How sweet!