Notice any family resemblance in these photos? The first was taken way back in the Stone Age, sometime around 1984. Remember 1984? Here’s a bit of a flashback:
- Where’s the Beef?
- Apple Macintosh sold its first computer for $2495.
- One gallon of gas cost, on average, $1.19
- Michael Jackson, hair on fire
- The Cosby Show
- #1 Song, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”
And…not the least, your very own Everfaith, smiling in her thirteen year old glory.
I kept a scrapbook for every year of school, from seventh grade all the way to graduation. I dug out my seventh grade scrapbook after an extreme moment of fellowship (otherwise known as a very loud discussion) with my daughter when she told me that I couldn’t possibly understand her or what she is going through.
I wanted to show her, in my own words, that yes I DO understand. Looking through the pages together helped her see that she and I have a lot more in common than she thought (including eyebrows, fluffy hair, and handwriting). She flipped through the pages of schoolwork I saved. Somehow seeing me in my archived state was enough to show her — at least a little — that I do know what I’m talking about. Sort of. But I didn’t think my mom knew what SHE was talking about back when I was thirteen, either!
Today’s angst revolves around a research paper whose rough draft is due this Wednesday. Although she’s a natural writer, my girl prefers to write fiction. Poetry. Short stories. Novels. Learning how to pull from multiple (12) sources, cite them correctly, and structure her paper, ideas and sentences so there is not a hint of plagiarism just about has her climbing the walls in frustration. This is because my child does not know the meaning of the adjective “Rough” as it is placed in front of “Draft.” Like her mom, she prefers to edit and revise as she writes, typing one phrase and then deleting it in favor of another. Finding synonyms for common words. One of her beloved past teachers called my girl a WordSmith. And that she is. Words to her are like paints are to an artist or like golf clubs are to a professional golfer.
This is why the research paper task is agonizing for her. I sit here and watch her emotions flit across her face as she composes, disposes, and recomposes her prose. Having her work of art — writing — subject to a GRADE is poisonous to her spirit. I miss the freedom we had in homeschooling to perfect her work without having to bother with assigning grades to her assignments. At some point the grade becomes the goal. In the case writing research papers, I personally think the process is more important than the grade assigned. But try telling that to my child. She got a 75 on her draft thesis statement and was crushed in her spirit. She felt bruised and battered, and no amount of soothing by me replaced the fact in her mind that her words — her works of art — were not deemed excellent.
This entire process is an excellent object lesson for us both and a reminder that our task as Christians is not to work for excellence to please man, whether it be parents or teachers, but instead we ought to work for excellence in order to bring glory to God.
“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23, NLT
Will God be pleased with my child’s sweat and tears, her painstaking work of art? I’m convinced He will be because He sees her heart. He sees her motives, and no matter what grade gets recorded twice in the grade book (this paper counts as a test grade in two separate classes), He will see her heart and work and will say to her, Well Done! There are many times in life that our best efforts will be laughed at, picked apart, stomped on, and ridiculed. That’s just what humans do to each other, sadly. There are also times that our best effort will not be an excellent one. So going through this process now, while she has mom and dad standing at the ready to help her focus not on the grade but on the learning experience herself, is priceless.
My first research paper was not required until I was a freshman in high school. I distinctly remember I had to write two that year: one was about gout, and the other was an analysis of Romeo and Juliet. My daughter is writing about Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. I wish I could have written about Sally Ride instead of about a health condition that affects feet and toes! She also has the advantage of a laptop computer; all I had was an erasable pen that left a permanent blue smear on my left hand and notebook paper!
1984….2012. Twenty eight years ago I walked in my daughter’s shoes. I saved my spelling tests (only the ones that showed 100 as the grade!), complete with the phrase “Thank Goodness It’s Friday!” scrawled across the bottom. I saved my written report in Texas History class on John Bonham and Davy Crockett. I saved my science drawings — and I saved my report card and honor roll notices in the local newspaper. Straight As. Yes, I cared about grades, too. The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree!