A couple of days ago I labeled a new file folder with “Standardized Test Scores” and filed Valor’s first state-mandated test results into it. As I did, John and I remembered how, ten years ago, in the first week of our son James’s life, the doctors explained that he was probably never going to learn to read, much less take those types of tests. And we remembered how we reluctantly, painfully—but ultimately, gratefully—accepted that achievement test scores aren’t the measure of a kid’s life, or worth, or strength, or soul. They are a measure, and they are helpful. But oh, so much in a child cannot be captured by those scores and percentiles. God shattered our pretentious yardsticks of grades and rankings and deepened our appreciation of courage, patience, love, joy, and humble neediness.
It’s both sweet and sad to look back and remember our Jamesey boy. It still staggers us how God used his brokenness and his joyfulness to upend our parenting priorities. I don’t want to know the woman I would be without those months of struggle and sadness. I don’t want my kids to have the teacher I would have been, either! So I file away Valor’s scores, in awe of a God who designs brains, and breaks and mends hearts.
Valor (7) is finished with what we have decided to call second grade (grades seem very nebulous when you homeschool). He is an excellent student, and he makes me look like an amazing teacher. He achieved the Memory Master distinction for the third time, which means he has now memorized every piece of Classical Conversations Foundations memory work for all three cycles.
Even though CC is out for “summer,” we are continuing to do school. It gives structure to our days and lots of opportunities to talk and learn together. In case you are curious just what homeschoolers do, here is a snapshot: Valor is studying math using Singapore level 3, spelling using the lists from Spelling Workout C, Python using CodeCombat.com, Lego Power Functions (working through this), and Spanish using the Duolingo app. He enjoys lots of graphic novels and early chapter books, too.
I am learning Spanish along with him…it’s been good for my old brain, and actually quite fun to do together. Valor learned to ride a bike a week or two ago (so exciting and curiously heart-wrenching for me to see him wobble away down the road!), and he will work on learning to swim this summer, too.
God gave me Percy to remind me to stay humble! Percy (4) finished his first year (K-4) of CC, and although he definitely marches to his own drummer, he had a creative, patient, loving CC tutor, Ms. Mandy. She put up with his periodic snits and urges to crawl under the table. At the end of the year, he pointed to Ms. Mandy and said, “Mom, I love you, and I also love that girl.”
Percy is tougher than Valor in a lot of ways (less likely to have his feelings hurt or be bothered by physical pain), but he is a drama king. One of his favorite devices is the flop, the faked debilitating injury from someone touching him. Maybe he will play Hamlet someday. Or professional soccer.
Potty training has not come easily to this kid. He is getting there in his own way and time. Today he told us he thought that God was not real for a while because he had prayed to God for help with potty training, and it didn’t “work.” However, later he prayed for something else that God did answer, so he began to believe that God is real, so he knows God will help him potty train now. I hope it happens, too, and not just because God’s glory is on the line 🙂
When he’s happy, Percy is a delight. We went strawberry picking and this year he was determined not to eat any strawberries in the field so we could make more jelly. In a field filled with strawberries, every few minutes he would shout to me, “Mom! I got one!” with wonder and delight. His imagination employs mash-up Lego minifigs locked in combat, bristling with fantastic layers of weaponry (e.g. an ice cream cone mounted on a machine gun). In the comic books he draws, his alter ego, Clawman, reduces bad guys to “piles of blood.”
Percy has surged forward in reading; a couple weeks ago he read “Pete the Cat Goes to the Beach” aloud almost by himself! I have started trying to do more formal reading and lettering lessons (adapted from this book), but he is never enthusiastic about doing “school.” He would rather play. It’s a struggle for me to figure out when to let him go, and when to cajole him into sitting down with me for a few minutes. I try to keep it short and fun, but there is no way to hide that school requires some hard thinking. I would like to start math with him once he gets more habituated to reading time. I know he will enjoy it.
Percy is taking his first swimming lessons this week, and he is already looking forward to the part where they let go of the edge of the pool. So brave and passionate and independent, this one.
And Mystery! She is scooting, crawling, and cruising everywhere, sporting five teeth and a little curly light brown head of hair. She is amused by her brothers and “talks” without any definite words yet–although I think her first word is going to be very soon (I heard a few candidates today).
She is up at 7, sleeps about 10-12 and 3-4:30 and down for the night at 9. Her eyes remind me of Valor, but her square face shape reminds me of Percy at that age. I hope her hair stays curly like James’s.
I find I have some complicated emotions about Mystery that I didn’t feel with the boys. I think I put expectations on her to be a lot like me, or conversely I fear that she won’t turn out to be like me. I worry about not having enough time to teach her everything I want to about being a woman, about life and love and God. I know she isn’t going to listen, even if I did have time, and that hearing isn’t as valuable as learning it all firsthand…but I feel this urge to make sure I tell her and somehow arm her against the world and herself. I am going to drive her up the wall, I can tell.
Happy tenth birthday, James. God has filled our empty arms, but we miss you. The truth is, it’s still a temptation to find our status and worth in what we or our kids can do, instead of in what Jesus did for us. It’s a struggle to celebrate their accomplishments without slipping into worshiping achievement or intelligence. God, help us remember that if we have not love, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2); that we only stand because of the gospel, by which we are even now being saved (1 Cor. 15:1-2); and that our salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9), from beginning to end. That is the score, and that is our hope and our joy.
video of Mystery’s booty-scooting and early crawling: