Overflowing Encouragement

By Rachel Salterelli

“I don’t have to learn Spanish anyway!” My eleven-year-old yelled into the headset at the Rosetta Stone computer program. “I’m an American!” The program kept telling her she was wrong, and she had run out of patience.

At times like these, I doubt if I am getting anywhere in home schooling. You have heard this adage: With a positive perspective, the glass is half full; with a negative perspective, that same glass looks half empty. Well, I confess, home schooling can really bring out the half-empty kind of gal in me.

I have recently had my share of discouraging moments. One daughter cannot seem to remember to put an introductory and a closing sentence in each paragraph. Will she ever learn to write well if she cannot remember the basics? My other, practically grown daughter cannot seem to remember to clean the mirror when she cleans her bathroom. I do not feel like I have done a very good job of teaching attention to detail. Then there is my fifteen-year-old, who routinely falls asleep when we read Shakespeare. I wonder how that is going to affect his reading comprehension scores on the SAT. My other, nine-year-old son seems to have an allergic reaction to vocabulary—no big words for this little guy.

I can feel the contents of the glass draining away.

I do not know how my husband bears to listen to me each night, let alone encourage me the way he does. You really could record me and just hit “play”; it sounds so similar as I bemoan all my discouragements: I did not get half the things on my list done, the kids did not want to do any work today, I do not think I am organizing my time well enough . . .

But I have begun to catch a glimpse of my glass from a slightly different angle: precious moments that uplift my heart, buoy me on, and fuel my passion to keep going. That daughter who was having trouble writing penned me a long letter for my birthday—would you believe it was perfectly coherent, filled with strong verbs, and even sprinkled with a few alliterations? She also happens to be the same daughter who yelled at Rosetta Stone. So you will understand why it brought tears to my eyes when she turned right around at a baseball game and carried on a five-minute conversation in Spanish with a little girl sitting in front of her.

As for my other daughter, she may not have a clean mirror, but she spent the day yesterday teaching me things about politics that were so complicated she had to start over five times just so I could grasp them. My teenage son who likes to nap at Shakespeare held my hand in the car the other day, all on his own. Sometimes I forget that homeschooling is not just about academics. That holding-the-hand thing was right up there, in my book, with National Merit Scholar scores.

And my littlest one with the aversion to vocabulary? Well, he brought me a surprise today. On his own initiative, he created a book on the Founding Fathers, complete with sketches, quotes, and interesting facts about each one. Then he really wowed me by using his new vocabulary word from last week, the one I was sure he was not paying attention to. “Mom,” he proclaimed, “You are a woman of pulchritude.”

My glass is not half empty. Heck, it is not even half full. Like in Psalm 23, my cup is running over.