Take that SYSTEM!

Philippians 1:6  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Twenty  Years to Completion.

The difference between belief and trust is experience. An experience takes time, often lots of time. But the trust that comes at the end of that experience is worth every minute of it. It’s a trust that equates with rest. Resting, peacefully.

Let me explain.  Hang in there, it’s a 20 year ride!

 In the Beginning

WAY back when our daughter was ready for four year old kindergarten, she was busting with excitement that she was accepted to and would soon begin learning at the private school where her older sister was already attending.  CatrinaOh, it was a beautiful time.  They were both at a good school with a promising future ahead. I had just landed a dream job and all was smooth – for two years.

Rumblings of Thunder

During the second grade she began to act out and get in trouble at school. Minor infractions, but they seemed out of character. She was no longer bubbly with the expectation of learning, but instead dreaded certain subjects.  By the third grade she was failing subjects and the school worked with us to retake test and we stumbled along with many calls and conferences.

Strangely, that same year, 3rd grade, my husband found out a man he worked with homeschooled his children.  We didn’t even know what that was. As we learned more about his lifestyle, we found it completely absurd!  His poor children! And what makes them think they can teach their children ALL those subjects? And…well, you know all the questions and comments.

More and more people seemed to get blown like sand into our lives that homeschool. Many of them at our OWN church! How did we not know these people were doing this? We decided to check them out. WOW, their kids were so polite, interactive, intelligent, well spoken, and the list just goes on.  We went on checking out family after family and they were all this way. Educated and seriously making “regular” schooled children look like the ones that weren’t socialized. Our older daughter’s friends would barely even speak to us, much less look us in the eye and carry on a reasonable conversation. These kids could do that!

As a last ditch effort to shake off this homeschool idea, which was starting to feel like pressure from within, we decided to talk to the superintendent of the private school about it. He would definitely tell us why we should keep her in his school.

He didn’t.

Terrifying Winds of Change

The superintendent of the private school told us homeschooling was the best option for any child, and this private school was there for those that couldn’t homeschool for whatever reason. He was second choice. SERIOUSLY! NO, this is not what I wanted to hear.

Leaving there, I started to panic – big time! I know what this means, I’m going to have to resign from my job and stay home. I’m going to be the teacher. I don’t want to stay home and I’m NO teacher! Our income is going to be cut in half. Yes, half! We need to sell our two-income home and move to a one-income home. LOTS of changes for this one change!

We put the house on the market, hinging every thing on that. If it sells, I’ll quit and we’ll homeschool. The sale of the house is our fleece.

But it doesn’t sell, and doesn’t and doesn’t!

Meanwhile, our daughter continued to struggle. By 5th grade, she was calling me several times a week with stomachaches and headaches and anything to get out of schoolwork. The physical issues weren’t made up; they were real, brought on by the stress of the situation.  The school was strongly recommending we have her tested for learning disabilities, insisting she needed medication, and declaring she could not stay in the classroom if we didn’t. She was too disruptive.

We talked to our pastor. He called us out on the carpet or I should say, water. He said our house sell was not our fleece, but our excuse to not step out of the boat onto the water.  “Take a leap of faith,” he says! “Obviously, God is telling you to homeschool. Dive in.”

And so, we did.

I was terrified. The house had been on the market 2 years! I put in my resignation at my 10-year job. The house sold immediately and they wanted to move-in in 3 weeks. We frantically started looking for a house and found one that had been standing empty for almost 2 years; move in ready, like it was waiting for us.

We closed. I quit. We moved.

The girls had just finished the 5th and 9th grades. I’ve got the summer to get ready to go from engineer to teacher of 6th and 10th grade girls.  The older girl is a story all her own, I’ll save for another day.

 What do I do?

What do I do with this beautiful, 10 year old girl that used to love learning, but now hates learning with a passion. Not only is she convinced she hates learning, she is convinced she CAN’T learn. All will and interest in learning seemed dead.

I decided since the system had turned her world up on end, it needed turning back over.

What’s critical? That was my question. Well, she had to regain a love for learning or we’d never get anywhere.  We had to re-instill wonder in her life. She didn’t wonder anymore.  I decided it all came down to two things: desiring learning and reading. Those two things are critical to a lifetime of learning.

Since I’d never been home with our girls before, we had the best summer ever! We spent time having fun together and getting to know each other, laughing, jumping, spraying water, preparing for horses, and planting gardens.  I remember us lying together on the trampoline after jumping and laughing. Laying there resting, we watched the white, puffy, clouds drift across the sky.  We saw shapes and we began to wonder what shape they would drift into next. There on the trampoline, I saw a spark and realized the wonder was not dead, but only mostly dead.

Effort and Patience

By all normal standards, we took the 6th grade year off. We threw out all the workbooks, textbooks, test and anything else that looked like school.

Little did she know that the summer wasn’t all play for me.

I spent time researching with the homeschooling moms I’d met and the resources they’d directed me to, looking for the best philosophies, methods, curriculum, etc. Several resources were helpful to me, but the one I found most encouraging and understandable during this early stage was “The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling.” This book really spoke to my I-have-no-clue-what-I’m-doing mentality!

Narrowing it back down to my two critical things – loving learning and reading, I decided I needed a really good book to read with her so she could discover the enjoyment of a story.  I chose a G.A. Henty novel a little above her grade level. I was told it was a wonderful story, but probably too difficult for her. It was about Egypt, which is something she had once been interested in. Perfect, a good story and a little challenging. When I picked it, I thought she could read, she just didn’t like to.

I was wrong! We sat down together with the book and she agreed it looked interesting. I told her I’d read some and she could read some. When it came to her part, she said she didn’t know the first word, second word, third word, and so forth.

Astounded, I said, you don’t know “The?”

“No. See I told you I’m stupid.”

We did that with several words. Finally, I asked her why she was so convinced she was stupid and it was because the teachers had told her she was.

“Did they use that word? Stupid,”  I asked.

“No. They said I couldn’t read or do math or anything. That’s stupid,” she replied.

She was so convinced. It was like a big brick wall. My heart broke for her and I silently prayed for guidance on how to attack that wall. Finally, I tried to explain to her that there is more than one way to do things and maybe the methods at the school didn’t fit the way God made her. One size fits all rarely fits all.  I tried to take the huge weight of learning everything off her, explaining that knowing how to read is really all she needed. If she wanted to know about something, she only needed to get a book and read about it. From travel, to medicine, to animals, to art books could take you a long way. She agreed to give it some effort. I agreed to be very patient.

We both didn’t realize the commitment we’d just made!
We got a dictionary and the book. She held “The Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt,” and I held “Webster’s Dictionary” in our respective laps sitting on the den sofa. We looked up EVERY SINGLE WORD! The, a, there, with, – EVERYTHING! Oh my goodness! We looked up each word in the sentence and then we went back and read it again to try to put the whole sentence in context.  By the time you’ve looked up every word, you have no idea what the sentence was about. We got through one page a day. It’s all we could both take! That was a LONG week.

But just like Easter Sunday is a shining beacon on Good Friday, Monday was coming! We took the weekend off from reading together, this being our only school activity, and weekends off from school being the only lifestyle we knew. Monday reading time came, and I gathered the book and dictionary and sat down to the page we left off on. She tells me I’m in the wrong place and we are at the next chapter.

“I don’t think so,” I say.

“Oh, I read to the next chapter by myself over the weekend,” she says casually. “I had to know what happened. Is that bad? Should I have not done that?”

After that past week and looking up ALL those words, I’m having a hard time believing she actually read it. Thinking more along the lines she doesn’t want to sit there through another full page of looking up every word.

“No, no that’s fine. It’s your story to read. But I’ve been doing it with you and I didn’t read it over the weekend. So could you catch me up?”

She proceeded to tell me in great detail what happened in the remainder of the chapter. I’m stunned. Happily stunned.

I often tell people I taught her to read in one week, but its probably more accurate that I taught her that she could read in a week.   From then on, she preferred reading it to herself and then telling me all about it in big flamboyant style while I cooked dinner or whatever! Sometimes, she would have to go get the book and read it verbatim so she got quotes correct. You should hear her read. She makes books come alive right in front of you.

 A Whole New Beginning

Our only other book that 6th grade year was “The Handbook of Nature Study.“
I would tell her to go outside and see if any of the nature pictures in the book could be found in our yard.  Before long she could identify different types of trees on the interstate as we drove past them at 70mph! She could tell you their names and all the information from the book, obviously having read every single word.

That was a great year of regaining a love for learning. She went on to read Aristotle, Plato, Shakespeare, finish calculus and physics, as well as, teach herself Japanese, Greek and Hebrew.  One year, 7th grade, her science was volunteering for a local archeologist on a dig near our home where they found Native American artifacts while upgrading a bridge.  At the end, she wrote a paper for the professor in charge for credit.

Summa Cum Laude – What a Finish!

We never had her tested or medicated. By the grace of God she learned anyway.

This week she graduated Summa Cum Laude from University with a Bachelor of Arts in Archeology and a minor in Japanese.  CatrinaGraduation

A twenty-year journey in finishing the work started with a four year old excited about learning all she could! This truth is now self-evident – She can learn!

A twenty-year journey to finishing molding an engineer into a homeschool mom.   I can do all things through Christ….

Knowing that she will now spend her life learning, and I’ll always identify as a homeschool mom, neither of those journeys is actually finished, but this huge milestone of college graduation leaves me resting in the knowledge that God will finish what He starts in us.



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