Another late evening….the kids and wife are asleep and I’m wondering to myself if blogging now is a kind of epitaph to the day past. The assumption that I’m writing to myself is some comfort, until I remember that I am allowing the world in on this inner sanctum of random thoughts. Two things right now do warrant comment…one, my oldest sons’ current difficulties with school (public, that is) and the things I noticed about the days that are not filled with activity, like today.
Christopher has never been the workhorse at school. He has exhibited the same consistent inconsistency since 2nd grade…call it the ADD or the lack of interest in anything but comic novels and British hip-hop, but it led to a frantic call from his teacher the other day. The fact that every day I ask him about school, and the classic teen response – “ok” – was no comfort when the teacher explained that ‘OK’ really meant – “I haven’t turned in any work for two weeks and the teacher is about to pull her (and my) hair out.”
Now as a homeschooler and rebel against the system of grading, I’m in a tight spot. To go on the rampage about lackadaisical attitudes is one thing. To be upset over D’s and F’s when I know I’ve exempted my other two kids from the struggle about letter grades is another. And I admit that the call from a fellow teacher was embarassing to say the least. What parent doesn’t feel a shot of guilt and dismay at their own situation – my kid’s the one in the back of the class, goofing off? Now it’s PERSONAL – all about my reputation, my desire not to be singled out as the parent with the bad kid. Funny, that’s the same feeling I don’t want my kid to be motivated by. I don’t want him working to avoid being singled out or for the classic carrot /reward for being a ‘good student’. I really want him to care. To desire excellence for excellence’s sake. To realize that 99% of the work he does is a chance to exhibit responsibility over a long term task, and not to become an expert on Shakespeare or the history of Elizabethan Art. But for a moment, I have to say the “you better shape up” speech. Now Chris is a classic “whatever” type – so I can’t look for the breakdown moment where he would suddenly see things my way. In fact, I resigned myself to more monitoring (which I hate) and the fact that the only way he pulls these grades up is by more pressure from other sources, and not just being grounded. Despite all these things, I hope I haven’t sent the message that it’s all about grades – because it’s not. Anybody checked Bill Gates’ report card lately? Didn’t think so.
As we rummaged through today, we did have the chance to play outside, take a nap, throw the football around, grill hot-dogs and generally be unrushed, which was a blessing. I keep thinking about the parents of the Virginia Tech tragedy, and other parents who have lost kids and I thank God again that I can watch my kids play and fool around one more day. The other day my daughter and I walked to the store and talked about silly stuff like flying cars, but she loved it and constantly reminded the boys later that Daddy and her ‘bonded’. Now when ‘bonding’ became a vocabulary word for a 8 year old, I don’t know, but the fact that we did spend time together was just confirmation that I’m enjoying something very precious, something that I don’t know I would have if our lives were run the traditional 9 to 5 rat race style way. No, our days aren’t all quiet and peaceful, but that makes the ones that are much more special.
Looking unto the hills,