There are times when I consider myself so disorganized and discombobulated that I think that I must be the wrong person to write articles about the father’s role in home schooling. Sometimes I ask myself: “If people were aware of the sheer volume of Fruit Loops I have on my kitchen floor right now, would people still read my articles?” When my 11-year-old turns in his Christ the King, Lord of History review answers on Silly Putty, and I don’t find that strange, would other fathers still take me seriously?
It doesn’t help matters much that I’m not all that academic myself. The other night, I was trying to explain to my daughter how to do long division, only I ran into a slight problem: I couldn’t actually remember how to do long division. I can calculate a bond yield, figure out the payment on a car loan, or determine how early I can pay off a mortgage by paying an extra $50 per month, but (and please don’t tell anyone) I cheat. I have this thing called a “calculator.” You may even have one yourself. And, if I remember correctly, the initial reason I bought a calculator is because I didn’t ever want to do long division problems again.
But there I was, attempting to solve this problem. Perhaps sensing my agony, my wife asked if she could see the problem I was working on, and proceeded to solve it herself in under sixty seconds. When you’re 38 years old, there are few things more emasculating than watching your wife doing your long division homework. Furthermore, when your mother is Mary Kay Clark, you’re expected to know basic arithmetic. I felt like I should call Seton the next day and confess that I have a small problem: I am twenty-seven years behind in math.
My wife and I are expecting our ninth child, and from an organizational perspective, life is getting a little dicey. Due to the fact that my wife has morning sickness, I have taken over a number of domestic responsibilities. Incidentally, I’m not sure who coined the phrase “morning sickness” but apparently he had never met my wife. There’s really nothing unique about the morning, except for the fact that it signifies yet another day to be sick for 18 hours. My wife Lisa is almost constantly nauseous, and not the kind of nauseous you get when you think you’ll have to do long division problems—I mean really nauseous.
Lisa cannot be around food when pregnant. For those of you who are blessed with better math skills than myself, you’ve already figured out that, over the years, I have done quite a bit of cooking. (For those of you “not so blessed,” let me start you off with the equation: 9 months x 8 children + 3 more months = ? Don’t forget to carry the seven.) That means that I must do all the cooking, which is not good news for my children who actually like food, which is most of them. Actually, I’m not that bad at cooking; it’s not like Cap’n Crunch is considered a delicacy in our home (although Cap’n Crunch with sliced banana is quite another story).
I have also taken over the laundry detail, which has produced its own set of rules. When my wife was in charge of the laundry, we had a rule: any two socks is a match. Since I took over, this rule has been slightly amended: any one sock is a match. If God graces us with a tenth child, we will adopt the Miami Vice fashion rule: no socks should ever be worn. (Question to sock-makers of the world: how is it possible to accumulate nineteen black socks without having one match?)
(By the way, please forgive the fact that I’ve been writing parenthetically a lot lately. The truth is, I’ve been doing everything parenthetically lately.)
Now, fathers, you’ve been waiting patiently for a thesis statement. All right, I’m not going to disappoint you. Here it is: in home schooling, as in life, the principal virtue isn’t organization—it’s perseverance.
Dictionary.com lists two definitions of perseverance. The first definition reads: “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” But it is the second definition that interests me. It reads: “continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.”
A life of home schooling has taught me a valuable lesson: perseverance is the undercurrent of love, and love is the undercurrent of perseverance.
Perseverance is making dinner or doing laundry so your wife can get a little extra rest. Perseverance is helping your daughter with her division. Perseverance means continually accepting the grace you are given to love those entrusted to your care.
Catholics encourage others not just to “have faith,” but to “keep the faith.” “Keeping the faith” is perseverance in action. I’m sure I’m not the first home schooling father to feel disorganized at times. No doubt we all feel this way occasionally. But that’s not time to give up—it’s time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and step back in the box.
Perseverance is the grace of realizing that today is a new day to know, love, and serve God by knowing, loving, and serving others.