06 October 2011

Not Whilst Frolicking in the Field

To become well-educated, a person must, at some point, take ownership of his or her education.  We can have compulsory attendance, but there is no such thing as compulsory education.  Lead a horse to water, but yadda yadda yadda.

I am privileged to teach a wonderful bunch of kids at Jackson Classical, the halfschool/half homeschool program that is kind enough to employ me and receive my older two urchins.

I get to have the third through eighth graders for
English Grammar, and
Critical Thinking, which is an amalgamation of brain teasers, LSAT-esque logic problems, real-life inspired situationals (Yes, I made up that word), and other things I dream up to help them give their brains a daily workout.  And yes, now after writing that sentence, I am tempted to brand myself a Brain Personal Trainer.

I work alongside some great teachers who have the kids for Ballet, Gymnastics, Art, History, Creative Writing, Robotics (using LEGOs, yes, be jealous), Piano, Violin, and on and on.

It's a full load for the kids.  And we're only there two days a week. 

The fact that the process of learning must be self-owned is never more apparent than in whole or partial home-education.  In normal ol' school, you at least have possession of the kids for 35 ish hours  a week.  Not me, I get each of these kids for four hours a week.  A whopping four hours.  Two hours on Monday, Two on Wednesday.  It boils down to roughly 40 minutes each day for Latin, 30 minutes each for Literature and Critical Thinking and then 20 for English Grammar.

Is this enough for mastery?

Of course not.

We're homeschoolers after all.  So, much of the work is done at home.  

We're two months into school, almost, and the new has worn off.  My students are no longer enthused by their binders, books and colored pencils.  The shiny is gone.  The drive has fizzled.  Only the truly type-A, or the ones who came into this world with an undeterred intellectual curiosity, are still engaged. 

Last week, I sent them a note with a verse from Colossians in which we are exhorted to work heartily - to do all things with all our might for the Lord.

It didn't work.  Or maybe it just hasn't yet worked.  Or maybe they haven't read the note.  Either way, I had more grumbling and undone homework this week.  And I'll not place the blame on the parents.  I mean, I might, in certain circumstances, but if one starts doing that, it enables children to, again, not take ownership of their own education.

Your Mama cannot decline your Latin nouns for you, and if she does, she is doing you harm, and you are doing yourself harm by letting her.  Also, she doesn't have to get your book out and hand it do you.  You have arms.   And opposable thumbs.  You are nine or eleven or twelve years old and you can do this.  Trust me.  Get to work.  You can do hard things.  This is not an IQ thing - it's just a work ethic thing. 

I'd wonder if I was expecting too much, but my daughter is the youngest of the students of which I'm expecting this.  She can do it.  She doesn't, often, but she is certainly capable.  To achieve greatness or just, you know, goodness, you have to work hard.  It's life.  Oh, and it's mandated by almost all belief systems.  I guess pure hedonism would allow for laziness, but every other belief system I know of requires work.

So, this week, they'll receive this letter with their weekly assignments. 

Dear Students:

Wednesday, while we were at school, or perhaps on our ride home, a man died.  His name was Steve Jobs.  Your parents will know who he is, and you may or may not recognize his name.  I bet, however, that you do recognize the names iTunes, iPhone, iPad, iPod, Pixar and Apple.  Without Mr. Jobs, these would not exist.

Steve Jobs is our generation's Thomas Edison, Galileo Galilei, Alexander Graham Bell, or Marie Curie.  Steve Jobs changed our lives.  He changed all of life forever.  Your great-grandchildren will read biographies about him.  Do you know that when I was your age, a fifth grader, my family bought our first computer?  Did you know that when your parents and I were born, computers were in no one's home?  We also didn't have cell phones, and we remember using actual cassette players.  You, my dear friends, were born into an era of a changing world. And Steve Jobs was a large part of that. 

We often times look at people - great people - and think to ourselves that those people received an accident of circumstance.  That it just happened that those folks are smarter or luckier, or if we're being theologically fancy and careful, more providentially blessed than we are.  And sometimes that is true.

But, do you know what Steve Jobs had that actually differs him from many folks?  It wasn't his brain, though of course that was amazing.  It wasn't his circumstances, though God clearly always has a plan for all of the world - believers and unbelievers alike.  What makes Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie different?  What does it?


Plain and simple.  Hard work.  Thomas Edison didn't stumble, one day, while frolicking in the field, upon any of the over 1000 inventions credited to him.  Nope.  In fact, he once remarked that "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." 

Steve Jobs, 35 years ago, founded Apple Computers.  Yes, that apple with a bite out of it, and that perfect leaf at the top?  Yes, that ubiquitous Apple.   (Look up ubiquitous; it's a great word.) 

And then do you know what happened?  The Board - at the company that he founded in his parents garage - fired him.
And he pouted.
He quit.  
No, he didn't pout or quit.  He moved on to help Pixar make movies.  You know, like Toy Story and The Incredibles.  Yes, that's right; we wouldn't have those gems without Mr. Jobs either.

And then, while he was yet very young, he became ill with pancreatic cancer.
And he pouted.
He quit. 
No, he didn't pout or quit.  He kept right on going, inspiring technology that has now revolutionized our world.

Pancreatic cancer and being fired from your own company are worse than too much homework or losing at Around the World.  

You and I would disagree with Mr. Jobs about much of what he believed.  As far as we know, he was not a Christian.  He should not be emulated in all things.  Like many of our national heroes, he is far from perfect.  But, make no mistake.  There is hardly a person you'll ever know of who worked harder.

Work is good.  Doing hard things is good.  And it is the only way anyone has ever changed the world.  

Work is what all world-changers have in common.  Helen Keller, Paul the Apostle, our Lord Christ, Queen Elizabeth I, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin - I could go on and on and on.  Some are beautiful, some moral, some faithful, some brilliant, some blessed financially or circumstantially.  But you know what they all are?  Diligent.  Moses went back to Pharoah how many times?  

Work hard, dear ones.  You've been given a great opportunity to become a hard worker early in life.  Work is good.  All work.  Even parsing Latin nouns and verbs.  Even studying ancient history.  Even reading too many pages in one day.  Even math.  Especially math. 

Be a world changer.  No one can work for you - not parents, not teachers, not siblings or friends.  Get on it.  Do not be discouraged.  Think what you can do to bring Glory to your Creator and His Creation.  Whatever it is, it will always involve work.  And the work doesn't start when you're 20 or 30 or 40.  It starts today.  There is Latin waiting.  How will do you on that quiz on Monday?

Be thankful for the work you have been given.  It is the path to affecting your world, God's world, my world.  Faith - without work - is dead, remember.  Do it - all of it - heartily.  

With much encouragement in the work in which you are engaged,

Mrs. Forster

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