“So…”, my 75-year-old retired engineer father-in-law begins, “what’s RJ’s report card look like???”. This was a question that took me by surprise in the middle of a homeschool day last week. How do I answer this so that I don’t have to take an hour away from our already constrained homeschool schedule yet do it succinctly enough that he understands? I reply without much pause: “RJ doesn’t get a report card like the public school kids, Pop.”
“Well…how’s he doing in math? Is it better than his reading???” Ouch. Was that an intentional zinger or a well-intentioned yet misspoken voice of concern? Within a split second I realize it is my turn to be officially squeezed under the homeschool microscope…a place I knew that I already lived although not strikingly reminded of it on a daily basis. Today was the full frontal assault by a well-meaning and understandably concerned grandpa. His 7-year-old grandson is, after all, having trouble reading. This fact has caused me some level of concern during this past year but I’ve been pretty good about shoving my concerns aside (thanks in large part to the MANY articles I’ve read from other homeschooling moms who have shared how their children have each taken a different length of time to read based on their individual developmental stages) and I try desperately not to be tempted to compare my child’s progress with those of others his age. Perhaps it was the Christmas card that Pop received from his nephew and his family on the west coast that mentioned how their 7-year-old private-schooled daughter was now reading her third Harry Potter book. I have to admit that I gulped when I read that statement in the same card we received…then hurriedly buried the thought in the “Don’t You Dare Compare” mental file.
“Well, Pop,” I responded, “if you’re asking if RJ can convert celsius to farenheit and vice versa like your sister did at the age of five…then no.” I cringed after the words came out of my mouth but I knew that his genius sister (who I adore) was one of his measuring sticks. She is the same sister who was allegedly potty trained at nine months of age and is, undoubtedly, the reference against which my 3.5 year old, who refuses to make any progress in this area (see my post on The Art of Poop Management), is being measured.
“Then how do you know how well he’s doing?” Pop asks.
“I know he’s doing well when he masters his lessons. Sometimes it can take 2 days to master a lesson, other times 2 weeks. We go at his pace, Pop. That’s the beauty of homeschooling.”
It wasn’t a spectacularly articulate explanation and I’m not sure how well he received it but I got the feeling he wasn’t walking away with the warm and fuzzies. Can’t say I blame him. Most times I don’t walk away with the warm and fuzzies. Most times I wonder what in tarnation am I doing trying to educate my beloved boy…I am for sure going to ruin him. The good news is that most times I’m also quick to knock those moments of insecurity out into the poop pile. But when I’m officially under that microscope…jeez louise…I am just not in love with that feeling AT ALL.
The last thing I want is to cause our friends and family concern. Scratch that. The next to the last thing I want is to cause our friends and family concern. The last thing that I want is to do wrong by my child and throw him into the lion’s den every day…all day. I’ll take that uncomfortable feeling of being under the microscope, scrutinized up close as well as from afar, any day of the week in exchange for the knowledge that my child is exactly where he belongs: home with us. I’m going to give him the best education I know how. And if I can’t…then I’ll find a resource to help make it happen. But that resource will no way, no how, not ever be the public school system…or even a private school system. The goals set for our children are (first) spiritual, (second) character-based, and (third) academic…in that order. I certainly trip throughout the days, weeks and years keeping those priorities straight but they ARE what we strive for.
The magnification of the homeschool microscope I’m under pales in comparison to the magnification of the microscope that God has me under. That’s a slide under which I’m perfectly content being under even as uncomfortable as it, too, may be. I will happily expose my transparent flaws with the knowledge that He will fix what needs fixing when He deems it’s time to be fixed.
In the meantime, however, I guess I’ll have to develop callouses on my homeschool tissue so that intentioned or unintentioned zingers don’t cause me to doubt myself or the path we’ve chosen. That shouldn’t be too tough to do. If there’s one thing I’ve gotten good at over the years…it’s the building up of callouses where they need to be (and sometimes where they don’t need to be…but that’s a post for another time). 🙂