It has been a tumultuous summer for me, my family, and our church, filled with blessings of the difficult kind and of the joyful kind. Throughout it all I have been impressed with the faithfulness and steadiness of God when all else about me and within me seems to be in uproar. I will not share any of the troubles with you, as discretion does not permit it, but I will share some of the joys. Thanks to all of you who have written to check in (and to ask me to check my pulse;-), and I apologize for not answering all of you as I would have liked to do. I've now started working my way through the backed-up email.
The highlight of the summer for my family was the month-long stay of two young ladies from Japan. They were studying English at our local University and we hosted them as a part of the University's home-stay program for foreign students. As we got to know Yuki and Sayaka, working through language limitations and cultural differences, they quickly worked their way into our hearts, and on the day they left we stood outside the bus that was to take them to the airport and clung to one another and cried. Their bottle of Okonomi Sauce is still in the lazy susan that sits in the middle of our kitchen table--after all, we have developed a taste for it now, too--and stands as a symbol that when we develop relationships with others, even for a short time, we leave a piece of ourselves behind.
Just as the summer was coming to a close and things were beginning to settle down enough that I thought I could get back to blogging again, I accepted a teaching job. I am teaching the morning classes of the first grade at a Classical Christian School. I had taught there before for several years, and I am happy to be getting back to it again. I will be teaching the reading, writing and 'rithmetic parts of the first grade. As I took the job so late in the summer, I had to scramble to get ready, and blogging took a back seat again. Hopefully, things are settled enough into a routine now that I will be able to blog at least a couple days a week.
I taught for one week and then took a vacation that was already planned and paid for long before I accepted the teaching job. Our family goes to the Outer Banks of North Carolina almost every year and we went there the week of Labor Day. We had a lovely time, visiting the old favorite places and finding some new ones. We visited the North Carolina Aquarium and enjoyed the town of Manteo. We visited the used book store near Kitty Hawk and visited our favorite shops and restaurants.
We spent time on the beach, of course, Ben swimming and I reading Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Bill alternated between reading Solzhenitsyn and swimming with our son. I didn't finish Total Truth yet, as I am giving it the slow study it deserves rather than a quick read through. It is well-marked already with underlines and notes. I will post a review when I am finished. There is a new edition that is coming out shortly with study notes. Mrs. Pearcey was kind enough to send me a preview of the study notes, and I found them very helpful for making practical application of the material in the book. If you are thinking of using Total Truth in a class or study group, as a home school study, or even for your own study, I highly recommend the edition with the study guide. Most study guides provide the kind of questions you could think of yourself to ask, such as questions that ask you to recall the material; this one goes much deeper and provides the additional information you will need to practice applying the book's lessons to real situations. As an example, you are provided with views and quotes on various issues, such as the Terri Schiavo case, and asked to analyze the world views presented by each.
Our annual week at the beach is the only time I can get my husband to play Scrabble with me. They are not very serious games. We sit out on a shady deck, eat our lunch, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and play a casual game. Bill is a brilliant man and could be an excellent Scrabble player if he had a passion for it, but alas, for that I must depend upon my brilliant and Scrabbly friend Karen. The gap between us was so huge that for a couple games Bill would take his turn and before scoring I would look at his rack and suggest the best alternative I could find. He is frustratingly non-competitive. How could he be so relaxed and nonchalant when he's losing by two hundred and fifteen points??? Oh well, he blows me away at Trivial Pursuit, without hardly trying.
Ben will still be homeschooling this year, as well as taking a systematic theology course and an art class at the school at which I am teaching. We are testing out the theory that tenth graders don't need Mom's attention all day for their school work. We are using George Grant's Gileskirk humanities curriculum as the basis of our history and literature studies. We did Antiquities last year and we're doing Christendom this year. (Ben was pleased to find out that reading St. Augustine's Confessions was going to gain him credit for both his theology class and his Gileskirk course. I was pleased the two courses work together so well--and that he's reading Augustine's Confessions.) Many of the titles he will be reading are already on our bookshelves, and I thought that would ease the book budget a bit this year. However, I have discovered that few of them are of the required translations, so I have just run up my usual bills at various on-line new and used bookstores.
I love teaching. I love watching the lights go on as a new skill or a new idea works itself into the minds of my students. I love watching the illiterate child sound out his first words and become a literate child, ready to enter the world of books. I love seeing my students take an idea, turn it over in their minds, make it their own and return it to me as a gift, wrapped in their own ideas and interpretations.
During the first week of school I handed out to each student some of those linking cubes used in math class. They were stuck together into "towers" with jumbled colors. I asked the children to separate the cubes they were given. The teacher's aide was in my room and I stood in the back of the room with her and whispered, "Watch to see how differently they do this."
One boy, as he separated his cubes, placed them in groups by color, reds on the left side of the desk, blues on the right, and so on. One little girl began lining hers up in a row at the top edge of her desk. She whispered something about a flower garden to the girl next to her, who began arranging her cubes in the same way. One little boy almost suppressed explosion sounds as he roughly tore is cubes apart and tossed them on the desk like falling bombs. He had to pause once in a while to retrieve a cube that had tumbled to the floor, and once fell off his chair as he did so. Another boy lined his cubes up in rows by color and began building what looked like a bar graph. Another boy lined his cubes up in a repeating pattern of colors. When he found he did not have the right color cubes to go on with the pattern, he began rearranging them, searching for a pattern that would work with his combination of cubes. His anxiety grew as he failed to find a pattern that worked.
It is my job to see that each one of these children, made in the image of God, learns the things he or she needs to learn this year. Each mind has a unique road that leads into it, a unique heart associated with it, and each operates in a different way. Yet each must learn the same things. So as my students study reading and mathematics, I study them. This one learns well with a verbal explanation. That one learns best when he can see it. This one will only learn it well after he has done something for himself. This one must categorize and organize. This one can function well amidst chaos. That one relishes creative freedom. That one is uncomfortable unless she is told exactly what to do. This one needs to move around. That one cannot concentrate if his shoes pinch or his sweater itches. That one needs to see what everyone else in the room is doing.
So as I stand in the back of the room, watching my students separating their linking cubes, I try to figure out what each is telling me about himself or herself. "I love this job," I whisper to the teacher's aide.
Then I walk toward the front of the room, stopping along the way at the desk of the boy who is still struggling to find a pattern that works with his cubes. I hold out the bin of cubes, "Do you need to trade some colors?" He sighs and gratefully exchanges a few cubes and then completes his pattern with a satisfied smile. I continue on to the front of the room, knowing that now he will be able to think about the lesson.