Monday, June 17

A Future Not Our Own

I was over at Heart Of the Matter last week with this piece.  If you haven't checked out Heart of the Matter we're a community of homeschooling parents and writers who offer ideas and encouragement.  Take a few minutes to see what we're all about and leave comments. 
In my first days, with backbone and grit, I looked far above the heads of my three-year-old train-fan and my drooling, nursing newborn, far beyond the aged cedars that fortressed our Sierra Nevada home, down the corridor of time to an occasion where we’d all, erudite and enlightened, together learn Steinbeck, economics, Cold War politics, and German. I couldn’t wait for the harder math, the college courses at 15, and the polite, self-assured young men I would raise. I was way ahead of them, imagining a future that was essentially a fiction because it was my picture and not theirs.

I’m truly sorry if that sentence was harsh because, of course, it’s good to have a long-term outlook, to envision the end of an endeavor, to speculate and invest and drive the ship out to sea. But in those days of finding my feet as a home educator I felt I had to defend everything, to be everything, to design and regulate everything in a way that honored and validated all that I would invest. And in the process I drew a picture that was all about me.

What I’ve learned in the ensuing years is that I am a guide toward a future that only they can drive. I help move the talents of these children toward the success that suits them (a la Howard Gardner). I light their fires of learning (thank you, Mr. Yeats). I give them opportunities to learn outside of a classroom (complements to Mr. Holt), to pull from them what they have to offer as their “midwife of abundance” (blessings, Mr. Palmer) and to encourage them to self-educate to the point of compassion (nodding to you, Ms. Mason). Who they become, in the end, is not up to me.

We bury ourselves in grand visions and then live with the pressure of living up to them.

We check-mark our way through the scopes and sequences and weigh ourselves down with comparisons between our child and the child in that school building.

We sometimes forget that we’re not teaching a curriculum, we’re teaching a child.

We lose sight of the day-to-day in deference for the some-day.

But what our children really need to know is just the next thing. What they need to know is that being a student is far more important than being a teacher. What they need to know is that someone believes in who they are becoming. And what we really need to know are all the same things.

So, that future which is more and more becoming my present, looks very different from the one I imagined. It’s no less grand and fulfilling, but it uses different colors and textures and even images with three sons now featured instead of two. It required different techniques, both pouring it on and scraping it off. It took a direction I couldn’t see until I pulled it out of the canvas like Michelangelo on a commission. The master builder determines the completed piece; I am just the worker.

Do the next thing, remain a student and live like God believes in who you are becoming. Paint that picture and see how it turns out.


In memory of Oscar Romero (1917–1980)
A Future Not Our Own
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.