To fully appreciate your wife’s home school efforts, take over for a few days.
“Happy birthday, Honey, I’m going to the ER!” With those memorable words of affection, my wife greeted me on my forty-fifth birthday and flung me into my most interesting home school adventure yet.
It was 1:15 a.m. on a Tuesday. Belinda had another kidney stone attack and felt horrible. For some mysterious reason, her kidney stones are incapable of appearing at 11 a.m. on a Monday and must make themselves known on Sunday mornings or late nights. She compared her pain to childbirth. Being a guy, that analogy left me pretty much clueless, but I have stood next to her for five births and therefore, am not about to contend with her assessment of pain.
Belinda insisted on driving herself to the ER so I could stay home until the kids awoke. By 6:30, the ER still had not decided what to do with her, so I decided it was time to go help them. I awakened my oldest daughter, the amazing Halley, and asked her to take over the house. After more hours of X-rays, tests, and questions, the ER doctor determined Belinda’s kidney was infected and she would check into the hospital for painkillers and antibiotics. Belinda rejoiced over the painkillers, explaining that the stone passing felt like back labor (which, again, I cannot comprehend, but I am thinking that at least fifty percent of this article’s readers just cringed).
We settled into hospital life for several days, except it was not the quiet maternity ward to which we were accustomed. Belinda’s roommate was an alcoholic drug addict who complained that the nurses would not let her smoke in the room. Next door, a neighbor continually screamed, “Help me!” Groggily, Belinda awoke from her morphine-assisted sleep and asked if she was in the psych ward. I smiled and shook my head with an unconvincing, “No,” and then I ate her hospital food. She was not hungry, and I figured the hospital charged about $100 for this scrumptious meal of grits, vanilla ice cream, and Jell-O, so somebody might as well enjoy it.
The infection caused Belinda’s fever to peak at 105° before subsiding. She now proudly holds the family record for sustained body temperature, and we are discouraging the kids from challenging her.
Belinda was delighted that her hospital window looked out over the playground of an elementary school. As we watched the kids joyfully run and play, I was struck with the question, “Hey, we homeschool, don’t we? I wonder who will take care of that while Belinda’s in the hospital.”
Now, I do not ever actually hear God’s audible voice, but I do receive His words in my mind. This time it was more of a chuckle as He answered, “You will!” So, for one week, I got the joy and responsibility of teaching our kids.
Along with that joy and responsibility came an even greater gift from the Lord: appreciation. Like George Bailey and Ebenezer Scrooge, I received an opportunity to appreciate what was around me—those things that really mattered but that I did not acknowledge.
I appreciated Belinda’s gift as a patient teacher of our kids. I thought I was doing pretty well as the new “master teacher” in the house. Then my seven-year-old son, Story, burst into tears during a grammar lesson. “Why are you crying? Do you cry when Mommy teaches grammar?” I asked in my frustrated dad voice.
“But Daddy,” he sniffled, “we never do this much school work in one day!” So I calmed down and learned the “right” way to teach Story, as my wife had done years earlier.
I appreciated how needy I am in raising my kids. Our church family, my co-workers, and our network of home school friends supported us enthusiastically. In one week, more than fourteen families blessed us by transporting, feeding, and housing our kids.
I appreciated my kids. They washed clothes, cleaned house, kept the baby’s schedule, and warmed the meals brought to us. They also patiently endured my week as teacher and driver.
I appreciated Belinda’s preparation for home schooling. Early on, I found her home school logbook and was easily able to follow her planning from previous weeks’ entries.
I appreciated Belinda’s brilliant scheduling and transportation management. My wise wife put the co-op classes on Wednesday, leaving other days to school at home. I drove 150 miles that Wednesday, over a ten-hour period of time, and was astounded at how perfectly the travels, classes, and baby’s naps fit together.
I appreciated how much time I had with my kids for the week that I taught them. I got to see how they learn. I got to adapt to how they learn. I got to explain one math problem three different ways until my kid finally understood. I got to see how distracting the baby can be when you are trying to teach. Most of all, I got to depend on God for the results.
After Belinda was released from the hospital, I learned why this all happened. Around 8:30 p.m. the Monday before our adventure began, at her ladies’ Bible study Belinda had asked her friends to pray that God would teach her to appreciate her husband. Within five hours, God gave His enthusiastic, “Yes!” Then God in His infinite creativity took those prayers and expanded them well beyond Belinda’s original intent. Our entire family learned to appreciate each other and our friends.
Dads, if you are looking for adventure and really want to visit the road less traveled, try teaching your kids for a few days. They will survive, and you will thrive as you learn how your home school really works.
If you would like to share your thoughts on all of this or want some more tips on how to get a five-hour response to your prayers, please contact me at ImperfectFather@Gmail.com.