By SARAH REIN
The beginning of a new school year fills my spirit with an acute sense of nostalgia. I remember vividly the nervous energy on that first day each year … seeing where my seat would be and if my best friend’s would be close by, what my teacher’s personality would be like, and hoping the paper covers I had cut and taped around my reissued textbooks stayed on.
I’m amazed at how the sensory details from my elementary years have stuck with me: the fabric from my favorite first-day-of-school outfit (dark green overalls with sunflowers); how I still can’t smell cinnamon without thinking of the Christmas ornaments we made in first grade; the sting on my hands when we would swing on the cold metal playground equipment during the winter months; and the fact that I can still remember the lyrics and dance moves for our holiday choir performance of “We Need a
My memories from school and childhood have an almost magical quality to them. It feels like I can look through a window at certain scenes and be that age again. I can watch in wonder when my seventh-grade English teacher cried while reading “The Yearling” to us. I can feel the pride of getting my “BOOK IT!” personal pan pizza coupon for earning enough reading points. I can gaze around my first-grade classroom as we spent a week making our own elaborate nativity scenes, and remember how thrilled we were to use the hot-glue gun.
Now I’m on the parent side of starting a new school year and, I have to admit, it doesn’t look nearly as magical from this end. I forgot to order multiple textbooks, we’ve been retrieving clean socks from the laundry basket for weeks, and I have raised my voice far more than I want
Underneath all that, I have this nagging sense of worry that my children won’t look back as fondly on their school years. That is probably heightened by the fact that I teach our children at home three days a week — and having a sixth grader, third grader, first grader, and 3-year-old doing all their learning and living in one space together can get … well, chaotic to say the least.
I want things to be pretty and clean. I want lunches to be healthy. I want them to remember me having it together.
And then God, in His loving way, reminds me of what’s really happening during this day-in, day-out process. Education, I was reminded recently, is not merely the training of the mind to take in information, but the formation of a human being. For the Christian parent, it is the long and gradual process of teaching and encouraging them to become a disciple of Jesus.
At St. Augustine School, which my children attend two days a week, there is much talk of “ordering our loves.” Augustine (the school’s namesake) wrote about this in his renowned book “The City of God,” saying, “The good make use of the world in order to enjoy God, but the evil, in contrast, want to make use of God in order to enjoy the world.” C.S. Lewis continues this train of thought in “The Four Loves” when he points out that a properly ordered life must always have love of God first.
Parents, if we spend the few years we get with our children helping them order their loves rightly, and if we continue learning to order our own loves rightly, we can free ourselves from the desire to make their childhood perfectly special. I have to lay down my selfish ambition to have it all together.
If I teach my kids to care about cute backpacks and eating vegetables and having good grades, but I don’t train them to love Jesus infinitely more than all those things … what a waste. Let’s begin this year with that eternal goal in mind and trust God to make the magic happen.