Here I am on the eve of my second sweet daughter’s graduation from high school.
In many ways that is not remarkable as millions of families will watch their children and grandchildren march across a stage, field or platform in the upcoming days and weeks to receive that coveted diploma. Yes, she is just one of millions in the global class of 2011.
And it is quite unlike the first born graduate who accomplished this same milestone four years ago. There will be no valedictorian speeches, no honor cords or scholarships awarded her at the ceremony tomorrow. She will be just another one of the graduates in the JECHS class of 2011.
- One of many?
Amy, while not an academic achiever according to the standard of this world, is an amazing young lady with unique gifts and talents, influential leadership, godly character and a heart for the Lord! She is remarkable! She is uncommon! She is stellar!
And yet she is in the season of life that I call the “academic” years. Those years where it seems like most of life is centered around your academic achievements. You are judged and evaluated by your ability to take tests, your grade point average, your SAT scores, your AP & honors courses, your college acceptance letters and your scholarship awards. You are continually being asked questions about your academic achievements by relatives, adult mentors, teachers & peers.
Personally, I sailed through this season of life with relative ease. (and it truly is just a season…no one has asked my GPA in the last three decades!) While I was the least “academically inclined” of my parents four children, I still had giftings in the area of academics and along with my brother & sisters acquired the appropriate amount of academic accolades, achievements & awards. I was also an “academic snob”. While I realized that people had various degrees of intellectual ability, I figured that most everyone (with the exception of the most severe disabilities) had the ability to achieve academically if they “put their mind to it”. This carried into my early years as a teacher as I was appalled by students who came into my classroom as junior highers not being able to spell simple words like paper (papper) or having acquired basic reading skills or understanding of math. Not that I expected everyone to be “straight A” students, I actually thought most had just not “worked hard enough” or were lazy.
My first born fell right into my line of academic thinking.In addition to being a classic first born overachiever, she spoke in full sentences by year one, began to read at age four and could spell “beautiful” in kindergarten. I am sure in my mind I was “patting myself on the back” for creating such an academic acheiver (which in reality I had precious little to do with it) Then along came Amy….
She was the sweetest baby ever. She was calm, good-natured, smiled & slept a lot. (in shocking comparison to her extremely colicky…crying for 9 months straight… elder sister). We nicknamed her “Sleeping Beauty”. It didn’t concern us that she was not speaking as early as her sister as we figured this was typical for a second child. But….when she still was not speaking more than 10-15 coherent words by age four we knew there was some “issues”. She was diagnosed with serious speech delay and began four years of therapy. Then she was only able to read very short kindergarten readers by age ten. After trying every program known to man to teach her to read we finally found the program (Powerline) and the teacher (the amazing Miss Pam) that worked for her dyslexia. We rejoiced that she was able to read and comprehend novels before going to high school (and went from “I HATE reading” to “Mom, can I read all day?”).
While I was raising Amy (or perhaps she was raising me) I began to change my mindset. I began to “re-think” the way society sees academics. I began to be very purposeful about teaching Amy that her value did not come from her ability to excel academically (or for that matter athletically, musically, artistically or in outward beauty or wealth…all things the world puts a high value on) but that her value was to be found as a child of God. I also ingrained in her heart & mind that the God who created her had also endowed her with unique gifts and talents to be used for His glory. (“Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well.” 1 Peter 4:10) For her those gifts did not happen to be in the area of academics and yet she would still be required to perform at a certain level to get through this academic season of life. It is just the way we have set up our society. (on a side note I find this interesting…what if we required someone to play sports for years and “pass” athletic milestones even if they had no athletic propensity? Or if we required musical accomplishments from people who were tone-deaf or can’t clap & sing at the same time?) Of course since she was homeschooled, the normal academic pressures of traditional school were not something she had to face. She had a happy, carefree childhood free from thoughts of – “I’m in the slow group” or “I am dumb” or “What is wrong with me?”. She learned at her own pace. She discovered her unique gifts and talents and excelled at them. She learned to love the Lord. She developed godly character. She actually blissfully unaware of any disabilities she had. As she began to prepare to go to a traditional high school, I spent time reinforcing these values and ideas so that she would be able to get through school without losing her sense of value and purpose. I warned her:
- She would have to work harder and likely not get as good results as many of those around her
- That she may stay up half the night studying and still fail the test.
- That some teachers would be “academic snobs” just as I had once been or think she was lazy or had not studied…just smile and pray for them.
- This is just a academic season of life and that it has no reflection on her future success and plans
- That her accolades would need to come from the Lord and the voice in her own head (she spent much of her childhood listening to motivational speakers and memorizing their quotes! It paid off!)
I encouraged her:
- That God has uniquely gifted her and that she needed to develop those gifts and use them for His glory
- That she needed to work hard (and thus develop godly character) no matter what the results
- That it was much smarter to take the areas you are good at and make them great than to take things you are poor at and make them average. (Why spend time trying to take a two to a five when you could take a seven to a ten?)
- God is in control of your life. You seek Him, commit your way to Him and live upright, He will accomplish what concerns you and He will lead you in the right path.
- Never forget your value lies in being a child of God!
And she did just that! It was hard at times. She had moments of disappointment and discouragement…but she pressed on! As she walks across the stage tomorrow and receives her diploma, this former “academic snob” momma will be
- rejoicing with her as she celebrates her success!
- beaming with pride (just as I did with my first grad in ’07) that she is pursuing her God-given gifts and talents, developing godly character and loving the Lord
- shedding a few bittersweet tears as she ends this season of life
PS – For those Moms of “youngins” who struggle with academic achievement and are concerned (translate worried) about their education and future let me encourage you. Amy will graduate from high school with a 3.18. She was accepted to five colleges (two on academic probation) even with below average SAT scores and received financial aid & academic scholarships from the colleges (we did giggle with delight when these offers arrived). She will be attending Bethany University in the fall and continue to seek the Lord’s plan & purpose for her life. Who would have ever guessed that 10 years ago? But God…..