Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." - Isaiah 30:21

Saturday, September 1, 2012

First Grade

Dear Delaney,

I have promised the school district that next week I will begin to teach you formally.
Lately, the idea of me teaching you makes me smirk. When I think about your curriculum, and when I think on a deeper level about the reasons why we choose to educate you in your own home, what I notice is not the number of things I am supposed to teach you, but the things you have taught me in six years. What I am supposed to teach you can't even compare to what I've learned.

You have taught me that weird is good. Not just okay, but GOOD. I observe others interacting with you, and I realize that every decent human being actually likes your unique way of looking at the world. The few who don't are people who would make miserable company anyway. (The woman at the park walking the mean chihuahua? Seriously, what was her problem?)

But me, I was always afraid to be weird. (A tad ironic, I know.) Your mother is the girl who would wake up every morning of fourth grade and pray that she would not have to sit at the end of the lunch table. That she would not be just loosely affiliated with the cool girls, slightly in but also slightly outcast. You? You're the girl who would sit at the end of the lunch table and invest herself in a conversation with whomever sits beside her. You don't look at potential friends and decide how they might impact your coolness factor. You don't care whether your alternative-ness is trendy or just plain out there and freaky. You just ARE. And you let the people around you in, no matter who they are, and allow them to just BE with you. If they don't know how, you show them. I suspect you don't know just how great that is, but maybe that's best.  

Right now I exercise a bit of control over your peer group. I do that because I want to keep you, while you're young, with other kids (and adults) who see the world like you do. There will be plenty of time to stand up for yourself to girls who try to break you down. There will be girls who talk behind your back and who act like they're prettier – and maybe they are, though I don't think there are many – and there are girls who will be straight up bitches. (By the way, you aren't allowed to read this letter until you're, like, 12 or so.) THEY ARE WRONG.

Some day, there will be boys who think you should act like they're awesome even if they aren't. They might even think you owe them something personal or intimate, for no good reason except that they spent money on you, or opened your car door. It's a deeply flawed logic, I know, but somehow, they don't. 

Right now, your best friend is a boy who thinks your ninja skills are fantastic. You call him your boyfriend, which bothered me at first. But I've gotten over myself. If you want your boyfriend, at six years old, to be a boy who likes you for who you are, with your chronically messy hair, clashing clothes, and slightly clumsy karate moves, go for it. That's the kind of boy I want for you, for all your life. (Although if you want to start brushing your hair a little more often, I seriously have no problem with that.)

You've taught me the natural antidote for poison ivy. You've taught me that wolves are marathoners. You've taught me a whole new way of thinking about the concept of odd and even numbers, that Big Foot legends pervade most cultures, that a mongoose trumps a cobra nearly every time.

You've taught me that my grand plans sometimes don't amount to much, because they hinge on other people and extenuating circumstances. I look at our plans laid out, day by day, for the next month, and already I know that half of them will probably be out the window by September 15th. You have taught me not only to adapt, but also that I must adapt – and that when I do, everything else takes care of itself. You have made me just a little more fluid, just a little less stubborn. (Note to your father: I said a little.)

I love your mind, Laney. It terrifies me at times, because it's complicated and intimidating and sometimes I have no idea how I, of all people, am primarily responsible for honing something so complex. But the idea of leaving it up to someone else scares me even more. I will not, maybe even cannot, entrust you to even the most excellent professionals if they do not have the opportunity to know you as a person.

I promise to do my best to mold your spirit, but I will not break it. I want everyone who works with you to see your amazing potential, and help you become the best YOU that you can be. And yes, it does take work, and it does take discipline. I am going to expect you to perform school tasks you don't want to do. You're going to get mad at me, and you won't be allowed to fly under the radar like you might in a classroom of 20 or more kids. (Or 42 kids, like a local school district is dealing with this year.) Make no mistake - the fact that you are homeschooled means, in some ways, that you will need to work harder. I am going to push you to be better every day.

And I think that's fair. Because you have pushed me to be better, to be kinder, to be braver and more patient, every day since you were born. Some days I think it will drive me crazy. Many days you exhaust me. But I am so, so much better because of you; because of your insistence on you being you. 

All this stuff that happens on the weekdays between September and June - that's just filling in the gaps. We're going to do it, and we're going to do it well. But when you graduate, when you are an adult making your own amazing life, I don't think school time is what either of us will remember. I like to think what we'll remember is the conversations yelled back and forth from opposite ends of the car. Of the games you invent with your brother and of the way you entertain your little sister. Of the way you like to mediate when your dad and I have different viewpoints on an issue. I hope you'll remember a lot of snuggles and most of all a feeling of being loved and nurtured by all the people around you - not just by your family, but by your friends and your friends' parents. There are years ahead to learn how to deal with bullies and jerks. There will be plenty of time - more than enough - to stand up for yourself, your beliefs, your ideas. But it's my job to give you a solid foundation before you need to do that.

Every day I pray that I help you become the person God made you to be. If it were left up to me, I would be sorely tempted to turn you into the kind of kid who could just make my life easier. Your questions and your outlook challenge me to the point of exhaustion, and much of the time I have no idea what I'm doing. Very often I think the fact that God put you here, with me as your mother, means that God has far more confidence in me than I have in myself. So as I try to see you the way that God made you, I try to see myself the way God sees me. Because you have taught me that deep down, we both must be pretty amazing. 

School starts Tuesday, kiddo. I'm game if you are. Here goes nothing.

Love you forever,



  1. You really are such an amazing Mommy. Laney is a great kid because you and Jake are the ones that have been raising her. She cracks me up and I can't wait to get to know her more!

  2. I've been sitting here trying to put into words what I feel right now. I am just so incredibly amazed at your wisdom, and by the keen sense you have of the fragility of the time you are granted with your children when they are young--and how well you know your precious Delaney! Looking back from the "other side" now, I thank God that I was able to have you as much as I did, and I wish I could erase from your psyche those times when you felt somehow "less than" during your days in public school. I so wish you had never had to experience that. And although homeschooling six kids was a grueling task at times, now that I'm finally finished, I AM glad that I did it. So many times I wanted to give up, and I know I didn't always make the best choices. And I didn't have the internet or great homeschool groups like you do. But I did have your father and he was my greatest cheerleader. He knew you were better off at home with your frazzled, overwhelmed, disorganized, neurotic mother...who somehow with God's grace was able to teach you to love learning...and when I look at the beautiful, creative, gifted person that you are I feel humbled. I love you. XXX