So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm. –Joel 2:13
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise. – Psalm 51:17
One of the difficulties of desiring to give my children a Christian classical education is that it tends to cause pride. Pride in me because it’s hard and people think that I must be doing something extraordinarily difficult in teaching my kids Latin and grammar or reading old books; pride in my children because they think that they must be studying much harder than everyone else since they are learning subjects that most students no longer learn such as Latin and grammar.
None of that is true though. All teaching is extraordinarily difficult and all learning requires work and concentration from the student. Reading The Odyssey isn’t truly that onerous. It’s a great story and it’s readability is why it has lasted for centuries as one of the greatest books ever written. Learning Latin is no more difficult than learning mathematics–it requires concentration, memorization, and attention to detail. In the long run, learning English grammar helps so much with reading and writing that it isn’t that much harder than attempting to read and write in high school without knowing what a noun, verb, or compound sentence is.
We do work on Latin and grammar; we also learn math and history and spelling and all of the other regular things children are taught in schools. And we fail…ALL OF THE TIME. I fail to correct math in a timely fashion which means the children have to relearn things they should have mastered ages ago if I had caught their confusion. I fail to make them learn their Latin forms because I am too busy with other things to help them drill. I fail to make them show their work in math and science because it’s easier to let them do what they want which is to be lazy and not write down all of the steps. I make them read works that I don’t have time to read or no desire to read myself because it’s easier and I have an answer book. They fail to work hard because they’d rather play a computer game. They decide to not try hard at something because they don’t see it’s use.
These are all things that we have failed to do and are failing to do. I am not a better teacher or a more dedicated teacher or a well-educated teacher. I’m just an ordinary person, attempting to do my best and failing miserably every time I rely on myself for the strength and wisdom and courage to teach what the Lord would have me teach. My children are just ordinary students who do well sometimes and fail to do well other times when they do their own thing rather than obey. In other words, we are all sinners at our house, too, but we are too proud and too ashamed to admit it so we lie. We lie by only telling about our successes. We lie by not telling about our failures. We lie by selectively sharing what works for us rather than the whole story.
That is why reading Cindy Rollin’s post at the Crce Institute blog this morning was so refreshing and so convicting. She points out that we need help and we need to have the humility to shout loudly for that help and not pretend that we know it all because we probably know even less than we think we know.
I have only one student left at home now and I am praying and asking that the Lord would show me all of the places where I cut corners and where I act like I know things I don’t and lie about it and that He would give me the strength to be honest and cry out to Him (and to the helpers He provides in my life) for the ability to do what is right and to have a humble heart.
I need to start each day before the Lord with these words from the Book of Common Prayer:
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.