Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Daughter's Report Card



I’m no Mother Teresa.  That much is obvious.  But the soon to be saint of Calcutta and I share something in common because I totally understand what she meant when she termed her vocation ‘a call within a call’.  Homeschooling, I daresay, is a vocation within a vocation.
Anyone who has ever homeschooled will tell you that, like a marriage, homeschooling requires a commitment, involves Jesus-proportion sacrifices and has the capacity to reward you with heaven on earth.   Unless you die from a stress-induced heart attack or suffer from comatose-burn-out syndrome, then you’ll have the promise of heaven on heaven.
 Like a religious vocation, the sanctification of the homeschooler and homeschooled lies in the domestic Church, the home.  Wisdom is learned in homework and virtues honed in housework.  (I’m talking about the ideal here, not my family.)  As with the good nuns, homeschoolers get a sabbatical, too.  It’s called ‘summer’, when homeschooling mothers kick off their flip flops, cannonball into the pool and gurgle into the water: “No more pencils, no more books. No more students’ dirty looks!”
Today is that day for me.   (Preach it, mothers: Halleluiah!) Alas, before I can “Geronimo” into the water, there is that trivial matter of report cards.  So track I will, my kindergarterner’s progress and grade her successes and failures as I see it.
First, I study her handwriting workbooks and am very relieved that my daughter will not suffer the same terrible fate of her mama whose penmanship resembles Korean characters more than Arabic print.  Seriously, I can hardly believe the same child who wrote squiggly b’s and almost got them mixed up with d’s nine months ago is now writing like my Arial font.  Not to mention conceive that she came out of my womb.  So I believe she’s getting an A there.  (For overcoming genetics, not for coming out of my womb. That was my achievement pushing her out, with a little help called epidural. )
For English, my five-year-old daughter went went from reading P.D. Eastman’s “Are you my mother?” to devouring the Magic Tree house series and reading the Catholic Children’s Treasury Box books to her three-year-old sister.   She is also an aspiring writer of short stories about a pig named Polly who picks his nose and loses his friends until he prays for Jesus’ help.  No, its not an autobiographical account but a fable of what happens when children don’t practice good hygiene. Another hard earned A.  (Is she my daughter or what?)
My first born’s pencil artwork has gradually evolved from stick figures to full color two-dimensional figures.   I suspect it has something to do with her acquired appreciation for traditional art and absolute distaste for modern ones. You know what I’m talking about? Those funky contemporary paintings that even her three-year-old sister could draw with her eyes closed, using her left hand.  Or so Mother thinks.  Anyway, maybe a B+ on this subject is appropriate because it isn’t the child’s fault that her mama failed to instill in her a tolerance for other forms of so-called “art”.  Like I said, I’m no Mother Teresa.   
 Check this out: my formerly math-repulsed child now negotiates for chores in terms of dollars instead of the pennies she used to savor depositing into her piggy bank.  (Alright alright, Mother is a cheapskate, in the spirit of poverty and all that.)  Being able to tell the time and count the hours till daddy gets home from work is also quite an accomplishment right along with being able to figure out that a seven hour road trip is a full day’s journey during which “Are we there yet?” is not allowed to be asked.   And November is party time.  So I’d say B+ in math is about sufficient, wouldn’t you?
For religion? My word! I learned more about the Old Testament as we studied it together than I ever did in all my twenty years of Catholic school. Course, neither one of us still knows how to pronounce Mizpeh, Abinadab or Elkanah but we very well understand that what the Golden Children’s Bible refers to as “asses” are just your plain old donkeys.   And we do realize that it’s not a good idea to sell our sisters as Egyptian slaves even though we sometimes are tempted to and even though it worked out well for Joseph.   I believe we are both getting a B, too.    Incidentally, the sub teacher ( a.k.a Daddy) who reads saints stories at night shares our grade because he too marvels learning about the lives of the followers of Christ.
Science was fascinating as I watched my daughter study first hand the geography and climate of the Philippines, touch the starfish of the Pacific Ocean, comprehend that sunrises and sunsets occur differently over the world and that the riding horses in Cebu don’t smell like the farm horses in Alabama. I haven’t answered all of her whys (Why does God make tornadoes? Why don’t humans come in eggs?) but she has answered my final exam question masterfully.   I asked: “What is God’s greatest creation?”   She answered:  “My mama and the baby that came out of mama!” Now how can I not give her an “A” –right after I finish up the tissue box.

The only “C” we deserve is for music.  Stabat Mater and playing “Twinkle Twinkle” on the keyboard was all we got in because Mother had to hold, nurse or change a crying baby who got antsy as the end of the school day coincided with potty time, naptime or snack time.  Plus, Mother is tone deaf, note blind and taste deficient when it comes to classical operatic singing. Yeah, we’re going to have to find another music curriculum or another teacher altogether.  Any suggestions? 
All in all, I’d say my first student did very well considering my handicaps.  I surely am proud of her.  (Tomorrow, I’ll go get one of those bumper stickers that announce ‘I am the proud parent of an honor student’ or something like that. Or I’ll make one out of post-it. )

Now, since my main goal of homeschooling is character and faith formation, I must seriously ponder how my student fared in this department.  The real test is: have raised a future Mother Theresa?
Let’s see:  she has developed a natural instinct to soothe and care for a crying baby, a compassion for her bone-weary mother, a respect for her father’s authority (we are still struggling on complete obedience minus grumbling) a desire to teach her siblings (right and wrong!), some degree of responsibility in household chores, a limited attention span which is usually enough to last a thirty minute daily mass, a profound remorse when she’s in trouble, a desire to receive the Holy Eucharist and become the next “St. Elizabeth of the Hungry.”  This while she maintains a sweet innocence that has not been tampered by the world’s cynicism, materialism, atheism, hedonism and Mother’s egotism and sarcasm.  And yes, oh, yes naysayers,  she does have the ability to socialize with the living saints and struggling sinners out there.

No, she’s not perfect (because she takes after her mother) but I know what her diploma will say:

 Graduated at the top of her class.

(Hey, no one can argue that.  She’s the only student and her Daddy is principal. )

Shucks.  If I’d known my vocation within a vocation would be this fulfilling, I would have ditched the legal profession to become a teacher who writes long winded articles for report cards and be the happiest homeschooler this side of the border.   Oh wait, I did just that.

Look out swimming pool, here comes Mother.


Photos 1 & 4 courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

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