These four characters could not be more different. Without selling any of them out, I will say one is laid back, one is very fiesty, one is honest as Abe and the other not so much. One loves school- every minute of it and the other three- not at all. One loves guitar, the other baseball and writing, another the Army and the last one working and tennis. What do you do with all these differences when it comes to their schooling? So many choices.
Public school. Charter school. Magnet school. Christian classical school. Private Christian school. Between our four children, we have been exposed to all of them. Four kids who have been through different stages with different needs and all these options fit at the time. For a season. When it was time to move on, we knew and we prayerfully made changes.
But what makes a school amazing? Teachers. Educators. Paras. Coaches. The ones who come in day after day, week after week and have the task to make learning come alive to a room of mismatched students who may or may not want to be there. The ones who teach and then coach a sport on the side. The ones who email me at 11:30 at night as they are just getting around to grading papers. The ones who welcome me into their classrooms to teach about the life cycle of the butterfly or life in the third world. Easy? No way. Is it a calling? Absolutely.
If my math is correct, (which I will not assume to be true but has nothing to do with teachers like Mr. Kendrick in 7th grade who tried his darndest to teach me), my children have had 85 different teachers between them. That is a LOT of teachers……their success academically clearly shows what they have learned from these teachers but I have recently asked the question- what have I learned from them?
Everybody has opinions about schools, but I have seen many people haphazardly stereotype schools without real knowledge about them. We generalize, make assumptions, and put them in categories which are often based on unrealistic conclusions. Why are we so quick to bash the type of schooling where our children are not? I believe it is because we desperately want to convince ourselves that the schools where are children are exceed all others to ease our minds that we are doing the right thing. So private schoolers bash public schoolers, homeschoolers bash private schoolers and we all walk around being prideful and unapproachable when it comes to education. I have been shamed so many times by people who disagree with our choice of schools that I don’t even want to talk about it with people. I have had people assume my children are homeschooled because they are so grounded. Huh?? There are many avenues that lead to good kids. Seriously.
We, as parents, need to stay teachable. Being arrogant will get us nowhere. What happens when we need to change our child’s schooling and we are too prideful to do so because we have spent so much of our time slamming the very school our child now needs? Not good. At all.
Quality teachers can be found in small schools, large ones, private and public. I would say that 90% of my children’s teachers shared our Christian faith without crossing any ethical boundaries in the classroom. The ones who have not been Christians have indirectly taught my children how to respect someone with a different faith and we have had teachable moments at home about what that looks like.
The classroom is like a microcosm of the real world. Learning to get along, sharing, waiting for a chance to speak, following directions and trying to hold to a schedule- everyday our children are challenged with mastering these life skills. Priceless lessons that we need for the rest of our lives. We need teachers willing to work patiently with our children as they learn these life skills at their own pace.
Do they all do it successfully? No. So what about the teachers who have not been what my children have needed? I am thankful for them too. My children need to learn to adapt to different personalities and environments. We have had the school years when the pieces do not seem to be falling into place and in those moments, my children have learned to respect, even when personalities may not mix very well. Not always easy lessons, but one day it will be a boss, a co-worker, or a college roommate and they will need to know what it takes to find common ground with someone and work together.
I am not discounting that there are teachers who do a disservice to education. Some make horrible, ethically disastrous decisions and I am certainly not supporting that kind of behavior. We have not personally faced that but I am sure some have- that is a whole other category and I am sorry for anyone affected by those teachers.
As I have thought a lot about education lately, I asked each of my kids to name their favorite teachers. They could have named many but I had to narrow it down to two each just so this does not go on all day.
Here is what they said:
Mr. Morgan- McKeel Academy….wrestling coach and health teacher
“Mr. Morgan was a best friend looking out for me and holding me accountable. He was caring, spirited, and passionate about his faith.”
Mrs. Grant- Dixieland Elementary, 5th grade
“Mrs. Grant was strict with love and always there to help.”
Mrs. Maurer- Lakeland High School, 10th grade English
“Mrs. Maurer is very smart and hardcore but I learned the most in her class.”
Mr. Cleveland- Lakeland High School, 11th grade English
“Mr. Cleveland relates well to his students and is very insightful.”
Mr. Strawbridge- Geneva Classical Academy, many grades and subjecs- first of all, Coleman can barely put Mr. Strawbridge into words…the only ones he could get out at first were “the bomb” and “JUST SO AWESOME!!”
Then he said, “He is very down to earth and he is young, relates well to students, and is a very capturing teacher.”
Dr. Phillips- Harrison School of the Arts, 9th grade guitar
“He is awesome because he is very determined and is an excellent guitarist so it is not hard to trust him. He is fun but strict.”
Mr. Groff- Cleveland Court Elementary, 5th grade
“Mr. Groff is an incredible teacher and he takes the time to explain things to his students.”
Mrs. Myers- Cleveland Court Elementary, 2nd grade
“Mrs. Myers is the best teacher because she is extremely nice and loves kids!”
The teachers who have personally taught me the most are:
Pam Norris, who taught Connor and Coleman in 2nd grade at Rochelle School of the Arts, is one of the most precious people I have ever know. Kindness exudes from her and my boys knew she was one of their biggest fans.
Doug Smith, retired Navy and teaching math at Genenva Classical Academy, was able to somehow weave so many life lessons into math that I learned from them second hand!
Naomi Wilson….the most precious teacher I ever had. It was 2nd grade at Cleveland Court Elementary in 1977. She was there for me when I really needed her. Losing her this year was heartbreaking.
So…..we keep on keeping on. Knowing we don’t have all the answers and continually seeking the best options for each of our children, we must humbly choose the path best suited for them and appreciate the educators who give their lives away to them every day.
Washing clothes and dishes conserving every drop of water.
This is my adoption story. I am not a spokesperson for or against adoption and nothing I share should be taken as a generalization about adopting. Every story is unique and has its own qualities that make it what it is. It is time for me to share mine. It is difficult, emotional, and some parts are hard to admit. I know it is a piece of my own healing process no matter what else comes of it.
We adopted our son when he was almost 13 years old. We had never talked about adopting and had not prepared ourselves for it but we felt strongly that God spoke to us to adopt this particular child. And we did. He became our oldest child by 2 1/2 years, which we never heard anyone recommend. The “experts” say that you should take a child younger than your birth children, but we felt God was bigger than expert opinions no matter how hard it might be. We did not have anyone really who thought it was a fantastic idea because it would clearly come with a cost to me, my husband, and our 3 children. We also did not know a single person who had taken this on before. No one. But we went forward because it was what we were called to do.
The next 5 1/2 years were very demanding- the adjustment, the sacrifices made by the 5 of us, and the mere exhaustion of 4 boys in our family. We only had those 5 years to train our son up for the world- we had missed his first 13 and there was so much for him to learn. Lessons came at a cost, discipline was constant, and the push back from him was ever present. But we stuck it out. No matter what. That is what we signed up for when we became his parents.
I have probably had a hundred people say to me, “I bet he is so thankful he got you!” I would smile politely, without a response. There is no response to that statement because he did not know how to be thankful. He came to us with so much hurt, disappointment, and anger that there was no way he would let down his guard and think about what he had. It would leave him vulnerable and he had been through too much to open himself up to that.
His therapist said to him, “When are you going to stop pushing your parents away?” The answer- up until this point…..never. The pain of those first few years made him into a survivor- a child who can make himself exist in any situation and not be bonded. Bonding is too much. Too personal. Too deep.
So we were left with knowing that we would not get from him what he had hoped for. A parent/child relationship. One that involves the give and take of love and acceptance. We were a means to an end for him and after he turned 18 he just left. Took off for somewhere he thought was better. No real explanation or reasoning. Leaving just because he could. Not really leaving much behind because he is a survivor and he can make life work wherever he is. It was the most crushing experience of my life. Watching my son walk out and not look back.
My son graduated from basic training in the U.S. Army and we were able to celebrate the graduation with him. We were so proud and so excited for his future. We were overwhelmed with his courage and strength to work so hard for something so honorable. We got back from his graduation two days ago and I was beaming with pride. He had become a respectable, honest, young man with credibility and integrity. But I still did not have a son who wants me to be his mom. That crushes me deep to the core. It burns from the inside out.
But here is where my journey has led me. The picture of this angel is called the “angel of freedom.” I found it today and it spoke volumes to me. In order to be free, I have to let him go and stop trying to find something in him that he does not have to give away. It is not fair to him and it only hurts me. I pry and almost beg for answers I want to hear from him. I wait for the gratitude, love, and acceptance. And then I am devastated when it is not there.
I pray God will give me freedom from my expectations. Freedom from the constant disappointment that I don’t have with him what I have with my birth children. We cannot give away what we do not have.
I have prayed for 6 years now that it would be “well with my soul.” It is not yet but I am hoping that as I grow I will find the peace that passes understanding. That will be a time of amazing freedom.
I can look at pictures and know about how old I was by my hairstyle. Here I am in the 80’s sporting the BIG hair. All I can say is WOW.
Then college days….
We all watched as it came plummeting to the ground……as it hit the concrete the egg did not crack at first- it actually LAUNCHED out and into the air and splatted yolk and white everywhere. Disappointment. Project fail. With his head hung low, he went back to his seat and we went on with the rest of the class. As he sat there I could see the dejection in his face. As a mom, I wanted to go rescue him….tell him it was a great try and he was AWESOME even though his project did not work, etc. but I had this nudge inside of me that said…..no, let him be for now. So I was preparing myself the whole time as to how I would approach him afterwards. Give him the motivational speech about how he is good at SO many other things or the “you are the best glue gunner in the universe” pep talk- which would it be? He came up to me and started talking about the tape that came off and ruined the project, etc. and I simply interrupted him and said, “Maybe you just need to improve the design next time. That one did not work out but I bet you can make another one that will.” He stopped, thought, shrugged, and that was it.
This is Jolie. She stays at home most of the time because of her cleft palate and only comes to see us when our nurse is seeing patients and her mom insists that she comes. Because of the shame of her condition she and her sisters have never attended school. She is embarrassed to be seen or even speak because of the way her speech is compromised by her cleft palate. Four days ago I got a call from Operation Smile after they received a letter from me asking for help for Jolie. They do not have doctors that go into Haiti but Lizet took the time to pass my name on to a group in Canada called Broken Earth who might be able to help her. Jolie’s life to date has been very difficult but with the generosity of others, everything can change. Join me in praying for surgery for her. I hope she and all her siblings will be in our school very soon.
Yslene has just completed the first grade at our school in Haiti. She did not attend school the previous year because her mother was sick and one of the children had to stay home and take care of her and the household. That fell on Yslene. Last summer she and her father were waiting patiently for me up the hill from the school on a sunny afternoon. I have no idea how long they had been there waiting to see if I would approach them. I ran to Yslene and embraced her because I had missed her in school that year. Her father begged us to take Yslene back into our school, which was obviously a big OF COURSE! She returned and finished the year at #3 in her class. She understands the value of education and makes me so proud.
Guideline is somewhere around 12-14 years old. No one knows her real age because she was found wandering the streets as a toddler and has been raised by Madame (in the second picture) ever since. No birthdate. No family history….but Madame took her in, in spite of her thyroid issues that cause her protuding goiter and how her daily life is difficult because of it. For years they have sold candy and fried dough outside the school and Guideline has watched all the children go to school, knowing that without a birth certificate she cannot attend. In March, we started the process to get her a birth certificate so she can start school in September. She will enter as a kindergartener and her life will be changed forever by an education.
Angeline has a heart condition and was forced to leave halfway through the school year 2 years ago. Her parents were faithfully carrying her down the mountain to get her to school until it became too much. She returned to school and rose to the top of the class. Her health is improving and she was #2 in her first grade class. She is such an overcomer. I am proud she attends our school.
Jean Marc has a condition called epiphyseal dysplasia. Until June 2013 he had never seen a doctor and did not know why he was short in stature and in chronic pain. Because of an amazing friend of ours, Frank, who works periodically at Cure hospital in Dominican Republic, he was diagnosed and is given medication to help manage pain. He will eventually need new knees and hips but in the meantime he is a full time student and supports his education by making baskets and bracelets that we sell for him in the US. He is an amazing example of someone who overcomes the odds. He is extremely bright and in his last year of high school. He teaches me what it means to persevere.
Because of Jean Marc’s diagnosis, we were able to treat his brother, Reginald, at CURE as well. He got a life changing surgery on his knee to straighten it out and will need continual surgeries as he grows. Their condition is not curable but hip and knee replacements will lessen their chronic pain. Reginald is a happy go lucky, playful child in spite of the pain he deals with on a daily basis. We are praying that one day he will get the extensive surgeries he will need.
The days I start to wallow in self-pity, these and many more stories like them scroll through my mind. Perseverance. Overcoming obstacles. I think we could all learn from their stories. I know I have.