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Many of the public schools in our area started back yesterday, and so did we.

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you might be a little confused since I posted about our “First Day” back in July.

That would be the first of my confessions.

I thought that in the middle of all of our remodeling craziness it would be a good idea to re-institute some order by starting back to school.  We made it a whopping four days before a trip and life in general took over again.

So yesterday was technically something like day five (or six if we’re counting the immersive day of water color painting last week–hey, I’m counting it!).

I’m just thankful that my husband encouraged me not to worry about it.  Now that the living room is, well, livable again, we can start to throw some school into the mix.

His support has been invaluable since we would, in theory, like to have our kids keep going with at least math and reading through the summer months.  I planned to just take June off, and keep a bit of review going even on break, but it stretched into an extra month-and-a-half and our review became non-existent.

And it’s ok.  Really, Lauren, it’s ok.

But those scheduled intentions are just surface-level.  I’ve got some deeper issues to confess, as well.

This is our fourth year of officially homeschooling and yet I have felt less prepared than ever.  I gave up on a traditional homeschool planner this year, opting to build my own system for planning and record keeping (a combination of Plan Your Year, a bullet journal, and clipboards for the kids).  I hope to share some reviews, articles, and videos about it sometime soon once the dust clears and the wires are all rigged up in our remodeled office/studio.  But the process has been like stepping out on an invisible floor, hoping there is something to stand on when you land.

Unlike Indiana Jones, however, on our first day of school yesterday, instead of finding a firm footing, I literally slipped on the slick, wet front steps, finding that gravity still works and that landing your rear on the corner of the step an entire foot lower than your feet began makes for a very purple derriere and quite a stiff and sore neck.

This didn’t exactly quell my fear of more figurative slips.  Again I’m reminded of the only truly firm footing I have in the first place–and that gives me strength to press on.

I know that the end result will be a good one–having a completely customized system that meets our needs better than any pre-fab planner ever could.  But with a new arrangement on paper comes a new arrangement of habits–both mental and physical–and building those habits takes time.  I need to have patience with the process, trust that it will be worth it, and simply recognize the little adjustments that have to be made along the way as a part of what makes it better.

All of that said, our first day went wonderfully well!  My well-laid plans did pay off!

At least, before lunch.

Our first day of school started well but ended woefully.

In my planning I took into consideration the longer-than-ever-time-off from which we would be recovering, and I tweaked our curriculum accordingly–especially math.  My big boy would do only half of the worksheet.  My youngest would copy numbers, do some basic math facts, and then we’d play a math game.  The almost-six-year old finished his work in no time, blazing through math, reading, and copy work so he could go to town with his beloved watercolors the rest of the morning.

I was thrilled.  This was easy.

The just-turned-eight-year-old, however, struggled to focus.  His work certainly should have taken longer than his little brother’s, but it drug on and on and on needlessly.  I told him time didn’t matter, that he didn’t need to set a timer, just work diligently.  But he set the timer anyway and then stressed himself out with it.  Long story short, he was anything but diligent, even when I gave him breaks to go outside or read and then come back to it with a fresh mind.  His score in the end was near perfect, but it was well into the afternoon before he finished and then there was language arts to do.

I was patient for the morning.  But eventually my patience ran out.

I had planned fun activities for our afternoon.  A game, read-alouds over Afternoon Tea.  Things my children LOVE.

But a dawdler was messing up my plans to do him good.

I escaped into my own projects and spent some time online to boot.

“I’ve tried to help you.  You won’t be helped.  I’m done.”

Signing off.  Checking out.  On day one.

Bravo, Lauren.

Over dinner my husband asked us each how our day had gone and how we felt about it.  There was good, there was bad, and there was ugly.  But it was good to get it out in front of us as a family.

He sweetly encouraged me not to base the success of my day on other people’s performance–especially little people.  Control what I can control–my own responses.

That’s hard, isn’t it?  But it’s exactly what I needed.

After further consideration and prayer last night, I realized that I had judged my children worthy of my time and patience during the morning hours–I had even decided this long in advance.  It’s my job, after all, as their mom and teacher.  But with one child dragging his half-sheet of math work beyond any reasonable time frame, and with the other testing my patience at lunch time, I came to judge my children as unworthy of my time and patience for the rest of the day.

Forget my God-given role as their mother and teacher, I measured them against my plans and expectations, found them wanting even after patient instruction and care, and since I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, I decided they didn’t deserve my effort–I decided I needed a break.

There is wisdom, at times, in walking away from a situation so that both parties can get fresh air, deal with what’s in their hearts, and come back in much better spirits.  But I can’t say that was what was going on this time.  I was resentful.  And it took ME “beyond a reasonable time frame” to get my heart right.

Math work or heart work, my son and I were both taking too long to learn our lessons.

I suppose I could steal a quote from my reflections on planning above since it seems to fit this character-growing, relationship-building process, as well:

“…building those habits takes time.  I need to have patience with the process, trust that it will be worth it, and simply recognize the little adjustments that have to be made along the way as a part of what makes it better.”

The goal of education isn’t ultimately results or getting things done anyway.

As I wrestled with my own bad response–with my sin–the Lord kindly reminded me of His love and patience toward me as His child.  I cowered at the thought of His great love and my great lack.

Father, You chose to love me while I was yet a sinner when You sent Jesus to die for me.  And You choose to love me still even when it takes me years to learn a lesson, even when my attitude and actions are quite like a distracted and unruly child.  

Because You have chosen to love me, because You have made me Your child, Your patience and Your love never wane…like mine so often do for my own children.  

Forgive me, Father.  I repent.

Thank You for being a GOOD Father.  My need for Your love and patient correction is ongoing.  And the work You’ve called me to do for my children is ongoing.  Oh, please produce in me the same patient, diligent love with which You parent me.  

I saw yesterday morning that I could choose to be patient with my children.  But O how I need Your Spirit, Lord, to choose to be patient even beyond my good intentions!  When my planned patience wears out, show me Your patient love, and please help me to then pass it on to them.  

Amen.  

For those of you who also started school recently, I hope your first day fared better than mine (and you should read that as “I hope that your patience lasted more than four hours”).

But it’s just the first day.  And it’s now behind us.  Sins repented of, mercies new this morning …and every morning hereafter.  We’re in this for the long haul, aren’t we?  Let’s do it with patient love, remembering the One who continues to lavish us with it.

Happy New School Year.