Thursday, September 29, 2011

Crown of Beauty

A second book club called and asked if I would come speak to their group. My book was on their reading list! With one book club gig now under my belt, I am as close as I will likely ever be to a celebrity. I readily accepted the second invitation. These little sparks of encouragement on my path to becoming a successful author are like sunflowers on the edge of the tumbledown empty lot I pass on my bicycle. Unexpected , breath catching bursts of beauty, of hope, of life.

A cousin wrote and told me her daughter was having trouble with a teacher. The teacher didn't believe in letting strong students read above their grade level. She felt the content of such books would be too mature, incomprehensible to a 5th grader. It didn't matter to her that the child might be capable of advanced reading and thus bored of the typical 5th grade book. To further turn the screws on this torture to a gifted young mind, the teacher required that the students read a half hour every day outside school time, but they were not allowed above the prescribed reading level.
"I'm sending her to school with your book," said my cousin,"And she will see if the teacher will let her read it." (Stories like this are one of the reasons I homeschool. I understand most teachers are not like this, but oh my! How stories like this hurt my heart!)
Later, my cousin reported back.
"The teacher looked at your book and couldn't find its level in the scholastic system. She said it appeared to be a book for adults, however. Then she looked at my child and told her she seemed to be reading at an advanced level...so yes, she could read your book."
We will conquer the world, one 5th grader at a time.

I sat at the computer, reading the many notes from relatives who grew up watching "School house rock." They sent links to songs which would teach Asherel the Preamble of the Constitution, as well as most educational requirements through graduate school. I didn't grow up with School House Rock. I was a little too old when it came around. However, I was feeling a little down about how unenthusiastic and busy our homeschool seems to be this year. It feels overwhelming right now. Too much to do, too little time, and too little joy. Could School House Rock infuse delight over 9th grade writing assignments, too? I started our school day with a communal prayer with Asherel, who looked at me quizzically. We both start our day with Bible reading, but separately. We usually don't start with prayer together.
"Why?" she asked.
Oh, I thought, I have not been steering this ship properly.

So while musing about all I had been doing poorly, I got a little chat message on the side of my computer screen. It was from my daughter in the next room. I don't know what we did before computers when family members had to actually move from room to room to talk to each other.

I had modified the writing/history assignment that day. My assignment was sparked by a new passion of Asherel. She has a new computer game she loves called Minecraft. She tells me that it is critical she play this game for normal social development since everyone her age plays it. In this game, she builds a city out of lego like pieces, and she has to plan and wisely apportion her "wealth" to build the city with all the essentials it needs to thrive and grow. The city has enemies, like wolves that can attack, but apparently can be tamed and become useful. I am sure this description is somewhat inaccurate, but you get the idea. Anyway, my assignment was to rewrite the Preamble and the first 5 amendments of the constitution as though it were written for the Minecraft community. She had to keep the same concepts and meaning, but use terms the Minecraftians would understand.

So, the little chat window from Asherel on the edge of my computer screen said:
"I am working on the Minecraft Constitution. Can I send you the Preamble so you can be sure I am on the right track? This is FUN!"

Fun? Out of the midst of my funk over how hard our school days had become, learning the Constitution was being described as fun.

That night as I settled down to draw my iPod picture, which I draw each day, sunflowers popped out of my hand and onto the screen. I looked at the  happy faces of the sunny flowers and wondered what had sparked sunflowers from the creative swamp.

Isaiah 61:2-4

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
   and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
   instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
   instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
   instead of a spirit of despair.

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