Once, on a snowy day in February, I stopped at a little farm that had posted a sign announcing a litter of black Lab pups. As I came into the warmth of the kitchen one of them broke away from the pack and, bounding and sliding across the linoleum, commenced a wonderfully loose-jointed, happy, lab-pup greeting. After being licked from head to foot my heart was hopelessly captured, even though my stop was only to see the pups, not to buy. Further rational thought was no longer possible. You know the rest of the story.
Arriving at my own home I was an instant hero. The children were ecstatic. They hadn’t realized how wonderful their father was, how reckless and venturesome. Their mother was charmed as well, though still able to relate a list of responsibilities and likely difficulties. She fell in love with the little black dog on sight and there was plenty of corporate resolve to insure his tenure in the household.
Getting acquainted provided days of fun. Making plans for building a dog house, assigning feeding and cleanup duties and thinking of a name were memorable experiences. The bliss of owning a puppy had never been better.
Dunymus, Greek for power, was the name we chose, a reference to this Lab’s tendency to over do his greetings and his bounding enthusiasm.
For the first month or two life seemed to be virtually centered around Duny. The whole family pitched in to take care of him and meet his every need, and several snow storms helped to cover up the down-side of owning a growing dog.
As good as things were in the beginning, however, they began to deteriorate as spring approached. The story grows in distress, especially by what was revealed with the spring thaws. Our little yard had become a sea of amazingly large brown clumps. Neighbors and friends were not very sympathetic.
Another unexpected difficulty was that Duny tended to take his retrieving much too seriously. He was able to drink whole puddles and would bring home almost everything he found. He could heave everything from candy wrappers to small stones, in solution. Mud and gravel were his ideal. After many attempts at a graceful and sympathetic solution I was forced to walk the plank. Sadly, I had to make the trip to return our over-performing dog to his birth place on the little farm.
Adventure Gone Bad
Happily conceived and well begun, often enough our homeschooling adventure can run into similar difficulties when the strain of the work load, the time commitment, grading responsibilities and many other duties keep building up. In addition one of the most frequent problems grows out of our own human nature and the sinful natures of our children. We and they tend to bow to the temptation of feeling sorry for self and fall to a bit of murmuring and complaining. These protests are so predictable that we sometimes call them clockwork tears.
Too Much Time
Occasionally we hear a gripe about how much time is required for each day’s work. This objection gains credibility when the weary eyed student is found still working at ten o’clock at night. Even parents get uneasy when they can’t turn the lights off without stopping the homework. The tears may come hot and fast.
The reason, of course, may be a case of skillful exaggeration. Work slow-downs are an effective tactic to illustrate and convince. Our children are clever. They know that this ploy will usually enlist mom and dad as approving allies in crime. Parents are indignant that a particular curriculum might demand so much sweat, time and dedication from youngsters that they miss their bedtime. The explanation for this usually includes a proper schedule and a careful check on rates of progress. There is no need to burn midnight oil.
Another cause for auto tears is the claim of boredom. “My kids used to love to read, but now they hate their books. They cry when it is time to begin school.” Again, it is a cunning effort to distract mom and dad from the underlying problem of laziness or, perhaps, a witty effort to reduce the work load.
In this case, the complaint itself may signal an attitude crisis. Boredom in God’s world is really inexcusable. It often reveals forgetfulness of our calling before a holy God. Fake tears should not be allowed to add to this fault. Families should take the boredom claim as a warning sign of greater need. Sometimes we, as parents, can inadvertently convey our own sense of weariness and loss of focus.
A frank talk, with prayer and renewed diligence will go far to solve this standard complaint.
Mechanical tears should not be tolerated when relatively mild disappointments come to disrupt our homeschooling enterprise. Difficulties happen and our best course is to seek help from the Lord and expect His answer and blessing in that which He has shown to be His will.
Pup, Be Gone
Our giving up on that black puppy may have been unavoidable and even despicable, but the commitment to our children and their education is of much greater and lasting importance.