Thursday, August 15, 2013

The First Day of School

Do you remember the unique feelings associated with preparing for the first day of school? New notebooks, new pencils, and maybe a new outfit all laid out; trying to get to sleep and the alarm sounding before you knew it; the familiar sight and smell of the old school mixed with the slightly nervous sensation of a new desk in a new classroom with an unfamiliar teacher; old friends and new faces; old books that were new to you holding unexplored new lessons are some of the memories I can easily conjure up in recollecting that first-day feeling.

It didn't usually take long for the school routine to settle into a humdrum monotony of days defined by the ringing of bells. Years stretched interminably then, but in retrospect, seemed to have marched along at a rapid, relentless pace.

Now my viewpoint is from that of the teacher and my free time in summer has a dominant theme of pondering and planning the year ahead for my children. In addition, Emily and I spend a considerable number of hours each week assisting other parents in that planning process as well. We understand the responsibility of preparation, the innumerable choices to be sifted.

Monday was our official "first day of school." Sunday evening my boys seemed to be restless, having some difficulty settling down to sleep. Puzzled, I asked what the trouble was and one of them said, "You know, Mom, it's so exciting to have school tomorrow we can't stop thinking about it." I was honestly taken aback. Since we study at home, it never occurred to me that my children would have that same anticipation so familiar to me from my own childhood public school experience.

There are undeniably unique aspects to schooling at home. We don't have traditional school desks, and for that matter, certainly don't have traditional textbooks either. The school board has not determined our direction, but the curriculum has been prayed and wrestled through by two parents who desire their children to gain both knowledge and wisdom in godliness as well as geometry. Still, our pencils were sharpened and we had that "first day feeling" upon us as the hour arrived. We sang a hymn and opened our Bibles for our first lesson.

One of our school traditions is beginning each year in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament, and one of the gospels in the New Testament. My nine-year-old read the first day's passage aloud: 

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God..." (John 1:1)

When he finished the passage I had specified, my other son narrated. Narration is almost a reflexive response when a reading for school takes place in our homeschool and I listen attentively not just to determine the content gleaned by my child from a passage, but with my inner ear open to hear what other learning is being reflected. Without a question from me, my son volunteered that he thought this was a perfect passage to read on the first morning since we were "beginning," again, and also, to my delight, added, "Because school is all about words."

Indeed it is. Life is all about words. As followers of Christ, The Word, we realize our life is indwelt with words, The Word. We are literally people of the Word. God has spoken. The world came into being. He speaks, we listen, then express His nature, His creativity, his will as we live out the words in everything we do and say, read and write.

I choose schoolbooks for beautifully written words, for powerful ideas described by those words, knowing that words will speak to my children's hearts and minds, awaken and arouse imagination, and feed their hearts as well as their minds as the meals they partake of strengthen their bodies. Words woven into stories, poems, and songs teach us naturally because understanding through language is most essentially who we were made to be as God's image-bearers. We read words, speak words, write words, and soak up words-words that shape thoughts, thoughts that shape us long after the books are closed and pencils are put away. At dinner, one son answered his Dad's question about how it went with, "I loved it," then, "Did you hear that, Dad? - Not liked it, LOVED it."

Lest you should be under any delusion that our first school day was charming and picture perfect, let me swiftly dispel that inclination. Suddenly, one after another interruption and crisis arose, starting with the discovery of an unusual bug infestation, continuing with a wild dog's appearance threatening my older daughter's piano students arrivals, and ending with a flash flood and hours spent wringing out the basement. It certainly was unlike any of my childhood first days of school.

But the first day this year was memorable. Plans and preparations for history and geography are now entwined with memories of unforgettable personal nature study. God everlastingly knows which lessons to teach and how to breathe life into them. We will go on this year to open old books for the first time, which hold countless new ideas, and His mercies will be new every morning for yet another year. Each year is unfolding for us like the turn of many pages, promising yet unknown twists and revelations in the plot of our life as God discloses His living story. Each year will be shelved in the library of our hearts to build the education He is bringing as he patiently teaches us day after day.

Education is, after all, a life.

For the joy of reading,



  1. Liz,
    I so enjoy your posts - thank you for taking the time to share. I hope every year I can take a step closer to offering my children an authentic education and I appreciate the ideas I glean from you.

    Take care,

    1. Kelly,

      We are all learning year after year right beside our children. Teaching our children is probably our greatest learning challenge, and holds our greatest rewards.