Tests Do Not Tell All…

The boys are testing this week. Testing to see not only what they know, but how well they have been taught. Those in the schools…well, the teachers are being tested as well. I know in some areas these tests bring stress and anxiety and frustration; there is pressure to do well.

I told the boys not to worry and to have fun. I told them I’m not worried a bit…I know they are bright and I know they are learning, and I know this year will be a bit different since we began homeschool. We are using a different curriculum, and I know that will show, especially in math.

They are relaxed and they are not worried about the results, although they know I expect them to do their best.

Yesterday I saw a video and it has been on my mind since. See, I know there are loads of opinions on education, and I know that not one way is necessarily the correct way for everyone. We’ve chosen homeschool for this season, and we have done so for a number of reasons. I am excited about this venture, and I am hopeful. I truly think this is the best option for us, and I think there are some opportunities in the homeschool arena that simply can’t happen in the classroom.  Opportunities to pause the syllabus and explore.

That is a touchy issue because some people feel judged just by my saying that…my choice for our family can frustrate others who have not made the same choice. Some think that I am making a statement about public education or private education…and I am,  to some degree. Still, because I have found our niche and am celebrating that does not mean that another’s choice is worse. I have friends who have children flourishing in public school and friends with children flourishing in private school.

Here is the real thrust of my thinking, though, and here is where this video comes into the discussion.

My kids, all boys at this point for the discussion of education, get bored easily. They are not avid readers or avid ‘learners’ and there are many days in the classroom or at home where they just want to get through the material so they can get on to something fun.

That bothers me.

I love to learn, and I love education. I know I didn’t always…but I have found that I love learning about people and about places…I love reading and I love learning new things.

I want them to catch that. I want them to see learning as something vital and alive and filled with wonder and imagination and truth…and not drudgery.  It can be drudgery in the classroom, in the home, wherever. The same education can be exciting and grab our attention…in the home or in the classroom.

I am not completely sure how this will play out, but I know that something is stirring in me about how I approach teaching the children. There are still facts they have to learn, and sometimes those facts are drudgery. There will, however, be things that will grab their attention and spark something…and those things need to be given the room to grow and the space to breathe.

When something makes them sit up and makes their eyes sparkle and makes them talk excitedly, I need to pay attention. I need to be listening for that moment, and I need to breathe life into that spark. 

That doesn’t happen in testing. That doesn’t happen in drudgery. That requires attention and the flexibility to give room to that interest. The hope is that as that interest sparks learning, the enjoyment of learning will spread to the other subjects.

There has to be room for imagination and for experiments.

And for failure.

And for play.

Space to find out that actually, I don’t care at all about this subject.

Testing doesn’t make that room.  I am not saying that testing is meaningless; we do need to know that our kids are learning the necessities. I am saying that our kids are so much more than the testing reveals.  I love this video because the young man is obviously bright and intelligent and creative and passionate. He is not saying education is meaningless…he is saying to pay attention to that spark and not just learn because you have to learn a set of facts.

Give room for that love of learning without suffocating it with facts that become drudgery.  

I am not good at this yet…I still make it drudgery sometimes. I can remember my teachers who were able to grab my attention and I can remember when the realization began to take hold that learning is really amazing. This is an amazing world filled with some pretty incredibly stories and people and facts and wonders…that is what I want to convey.


Check out this video, and thanks to my friend Tina Hunter for posting it, and then watch the one after as well. I want my boys to think like this…I want them to think and to challenge and to explore, not just to prepare for tests.


Update: I have to add something, as I’ve been thinking about this through the day. I have to add that I have so much respect for my friends who are teachers…who are able to create an atmosphere of creativity and individuality in the classroom. Those teachers who make our children feel special, who truly care about the children they teach…those are some special teachers! I know that there are many who have made an impact on my kids…and on our family as a result. There are many teachers who are simply tired, and many who are restricted and find themselves in a difficult position to try and create a unique environment. So, I wanted to add that I know there are not simple answers to how we inspire our children…and whether we homeschool or have kids in school, we have to continue the learning throughout our family life.


Messy Monday…meet, um, relaxed Monday?!

Something is strange today.


There is a noticeable lack of noise around the house. There are papers missing, and pencils not being sharpened. Books are not being opened and discussions are not taking place.
The boys are all gone for testing this week.  All three. All day.


This is strange.


We are almost done with our first year of homeschool Only three more weeks after this week. The home stretch. I even have completed all the lesson plans through to the end of the year.


We’ve made it!
Actually, more than that. We’ve caught a bit of a groove now, and I know some things that work and some that don’t. I have more of a vision for what our days should look like, and more of an inkling to what I want this homeschool venture to be all about.


For us. Because I am well aware this is not for everyone…and it may not be for us all the way through their education.


The reality sinks in, though, on days like today when they are absent. I have become accustomed to the noise and the activity and the life that happens with homeschool. I am the first to admit that I need my space and my time to think and to read and to be alone…if I don’t have that I become pretty grouchy. Those times are much more difficult to find with the kids all home. I am the first to admit how pleased I am that we are doing this…I am surprised how much I enjoy teaching them and being with them. I am eager to see how the next year takes shape as we put some of the things we learned into practice, and as we tweak our schedules a little more.


I’m thankful. Thankful for the chance to homeschool and for all the resources. Thankful for friends who don’t homeschool and keep us balanced. Thankful for flexibility and kids who are willing to roll with something new. Thankful for the sunshine…and the chance today to relax a little and catch up on household things that tend to get pushed aside. Thankful for a relaxed Monday.

There is Evil

I should be finishing up my housework at the moment. Or finishing up the next chapter in Peterson’s book so we can continue our discussion about REsurrection Life.


I keep finding myself distracted, though. I’ll come by the computer in the kitchen and stop to check email or to look something up…and I’ll find thoughts about Boston. Friends are posting their thoughts and their prayers. The picture of 8 year old Martin has caught me a few times.


I have prayerd…prayed for peace to settle around that city. You know how ash settles after a fire, or after you blow on a fire…it settles slowly and it is a little fragile. I picture the peace of God settling around the city in that way…slowly, and with a sense of the fragile. Fragile emotions and frayed nerves. Fears and hatred and sorrow…and even hope maybe mixed in.


We are so broken.


Whoever did this…so very broken.


And yet. More than that.


There is evil.  I try to ignore it sometimes…and sometimes it is easy to do as I hear my children giggle and I hear the birds and see the sunsets…it is easy to ignore that there is evil that not only seeks our destruction but delights in it. Seeks, as the Bible says, like a lion looking for prey to devour.


That evil…that deep and dark evil that hates us with passion…that stirred those events yesterday, and delighted in the terror.


And we cannot fix that.
We cannot ban enough things or create enough safe zones, arrest enough criminals or arm enough armies.  We cannot end it completely. We can only keep its physical violence at bay…and we only do that with limited success.


That evil…and its hold on our brokenness…that has to be eradicated by something, Someone, stronger than ourselves.


I think of the story of another man who hated with passion and who sought destruction. He was held up in his pursuit by others who joined with him. He oversaw executions and ordered others to be doled out by his subordinates. He did all of this with a righteous vengeance….until.


Until he was knocked blind by a God who is able to intervene and call us out of the hold of evil and darkness…and change even our name and our identity.


Saul becomes Paul.


The story repeats thousands of times.


Whoever set those bombs yesterday…whatever thinking lay behind that attack…the best we can hope for is to find the person and lock them up so they can’t act again. We cannot end the evil.


God have mercy….there will be a day when He will end the evil. That is both exhilarating and terrifying. There will be a day when God will say enough. There will be an end to His patience and there will be a culmination to the story.


For those of us who believe…there will be peace that will settle in a way we have never known before…with the absence of evil.
For those who resist Him and who deny Him….there will not be peace.


These are big thoughts. Beyond my imagination, and yet the startling, frightening face of evil that lashed out yesterday reminds me that we are in the midst of the story. We are in the midst of the struggle, and we are hated.


We are also loved.




Protected for eternity.


That does not ease the pain, I would guess, in this moment for Martin’s father as he waits to see if his wife will survive and how his 6 year old with an amputation will cope. However…as that peace settles more solidly, I pray that the reality of this God who faced evil and obliterated it….this God who will not let evil finally win…this God is real. This is the God we believe upon…and it is in the shelter of His wing we find refuge from the evil.

God’s calling us…by name…on purpose.

We can understand neither God nor ourselves in any living, adequate, and mature way that is an impersonal, non-relational way. When God’s calling and our walking fit, we are growing up in Christ. God calls; we walk.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 392-393). Kindle Edition.

Peterson begins the second chapter by making it clear Ephesians is all about calling. I’ll get more detailed on Tuesday, but thought I would use Fridays to just highlight a thought from the chapter.

Again, it is easy to pick up just this one thought and sit with it for a few days. It is not earth-shakingly new. It is not a self-help formula.
It is a truth.

God calls us. He does not save us in some vapid, generic way…we are not numbers lined up or just a crowd of people. He has called me by name. And You. We are named.

Named people who come together to walk into maturity in following God.

We find out about that calling in the Bible….and the Bible, as Peterson says, is not just for information:

God speaks the decisive word that puts us on the way, the road, the path of life. The Hebrew word for Bible is Miqra, a noun formed from the verb “to call,” qara. The Bible is not a book to carry around and read for information on God, but a voice to listen to. I like that. This word of God that we name Bible, book, is not at root a word to be read and looked at and discussed. It is a word to be listened to and obeyed, a word that gets us going. Fundamentally, it is a call: God calls us.

Eugene H. Peterson. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Kindle Locations 407-410). Kindle Edition.


That means there is purpose…there is something to put our hand to. Calling means moving somewhere…it means following. Obedience. Discipline…thinking of my post from earlier today.

The rest of the chapter will develop this thought and Peterson will expand on our understanding of calling…and of walking…and of maturing.  I’ll post thoughts on the rest of the chapter on Tuesday, and I hope you’ll jump in to the discussion.

For now…you are called. On purpose…with meaning…by name. Sit with that for awhile and know that God knows you by name and has purpose for you.