Thursday, May 14, 2009

Childhood trends discovered midst my day

Life has been pretty busy lately. One wouldn't think it so, but I find home life much more demanding than college life. At college, one only has to take care of one's self, and maybe go out of the way for a few fellow students and friends. At home, the continually renewed mess, the cooking, the weeding, the chores all belong to everybody - if you're looking at them, that means you! At college, I was able to actually list out the things I wanted to accomplish and actually, on very, very rare occasions, get them done. At home, one perpetually puts off ones duties for other duties (and, yes, diversions like blogging. But doesn't Pascal say diversions are good?).

Today I got up, ate breakfast, was cold, snuggled in a blanket and my Augustine hoodie for about 10 minutes (hiding from the world), spent the rest of the morning weeding carrot bed (yes, singular: it's a looong carrot bed), and ate last night's leftovers for lunch. While I was munching dixie pie, the phone rang. Apparently, Dad had bought wood trim at an auction and wanted me to drive over the truck to pick it up. So I did. Apparently, he had also bought a truck with a broken brake-line for $250. :) That'a Dad.

Upon my return, I set myself against waste. I snuck through the house, pouncing on garbage with used grocery bags, trapping the squirming (well, maybe not squirming, but it's such a lovely descriptive word!) trash within tied up plastic and hurling it into the green plastic roadside abyss on wheels. Then I turned to the third chore Mom had particularly requested today and which inspired this trivial post.

It seems that I was to discover all workbooks, assignments, notebooks, etc, that I had ever completed (or, well, started, if not completed) in my homeschool career from all corners of the house and organize them into an organized chronological sequence in cardboard boxes so that they might eventually be put on the shelves Dad is soon to build.

The task was long, but immensely diverting. I found it a bit painful but very amusing to reread stuff I had written only a few years ago as well as stuff as old as 4th grade. But the best find of all turned out to be a red binder I had never laid eyes on before, curiously labeled "Sarah's Report Cards"

It turned out to be all my report cards, teacher-parent correspondence, and standardized test results from my years at Christian school. Very, very fascinating. I read them all.

And reading my ancient history, I discovered that, over all, I am not so different a person now as I was then. The trademarks of Sarah are still the same: not the things I notice about me, but what other people notice.

Every teacher commented on my big smile. Yeah, and I know exactly which one they mean. It's that great, big, involuntary, ear-splitting grin that makes my face feel like stretched rubber band - the one that Pasto' told me reminded him of the Cheshire Cat. It's the "post-FOR YOU post-Holy Communion" grin, or the one that happens when the little people do or say something sweet, or one of my Pasto's say something brilliant or comical, or when Daddy and Mommy hold hands or kiss, or when my mind wraps itself round an ingenious metaphor, or when I feel forgiven and free. I guess they're all wrapped up together in some mysterious un-named reality.
Back then (in elementary school) it was the "I love my teachers and competition" grin.

Every report card noted that "controls talking" was only "Satisfactory." :P No difference there.

Every report card commented on some limitation in the area of time management. Yes, I remember. I could barely get all my work done. I tried hard. But my homework and class time was cut short by Speech-Therapy sessions. (In retrospect, I wonder if that's what pulled me down in math - I was taken out of Math time and morning recess for Speech Therapy.) In third grade, I began voluntarily opting to forego afternoon recess in order to work on homework.

Oh, man! It's all coming back. Yes, I had attention problems. Probably about half of that voluntarily relinquished recess was spent staring at the wall trying desperately to get rid of that absent, wandering state of mind that couldn't remember what four plus six equaled. "Attentiveness" was another area marked "Satisfactory" on my report cards.

I read through all my speech therapy notes. Amazingly, I even recall having one of the conversations the therapist mentioned. I was terribly embarrassed to lead the Pledge of Allegiance with my slurred voice. I loved leading anything - I loved talking, I loved reading aloud - but though I couldn't keep silent, I couldn't speak correctly either.
I remember the day of triumph when I could finally pronounce all of the sounds satisfactorily. Just in time for the celebrated district "Speech Meet." I had practiced and practiced a poem (I think it was "Mommy Sleeps Late and Daddy Makes Breakfast"). To my surprise, I had won first place in my class and qualified for the speech meet. I worked painstakingly with my therapist to pronounce each word with clear phonetic sound and diction. Astoundingly, when the speech meet drew to a close and awards were announced, two students had achieved a perfect score: I and an adopted-Russian friend of mine who had also struggled with English.

With little surprise, I discovered that I had always been a tad behind in math. I wasn't horrible, just barely, or a little less than, satisfactory. Looking at the percentile bar graphs on my standardized test reports, I saw my math scores slide farther and farther to the left, until they reached "below average" just before Mom pulled me from school. My "problem-solving" scores followed a similiar retrogression as did something else that slips my mind right now. Interestingly, Mathematics has always pulled down my score on standardized tests.

My teachers also mentioned that I was zealous to give to missions (and mentioned what a selfless thing that was :P). I don't quite remember that distinctly, but I remember the spiritual state such giving grew out of. I was zealous because I was uncertain. I gave, not from total selflessness, but from a sort of struggle to be "good enough." The missions offerings went hand in hand with the fevered nightly prayers that God would have mercy and forgive my sins, as well as the bi-monthly "rededication" or "giving my heart to Jesus." I was thoroughly works-righteousness-ized to the point where I had turned singing "Rock of Ages" into a blend between desperate plea and brownie-point labour. Boy, am I glad that's over! (Yes, that was as early as 2nd and 3rd grade for certain, if not Kindergarten and 1st: Children d0 recognise sinfulness.)

The report cards commented that I seemed to through myself into my work with a sort of relish - at least after a certain age. This struck me almost as much as something that I said to Pasto' Stuckwisch about a year ago without realising how true was my statement. He and Anan and I had been discussing friends from early childhood and school. Somehow or other, he (or Anan) mentioned grades and how undriven or unconcerned children could be with them. I couldn't remember ever not being concerned about grades. (Goodness! I was concerned about my grades before I even started school! My nanny and I would practice math by counting stuffed animals so that when I entered Kindergarten I would "do well".) "My grades were my friends," I told Pastor, then the impact of the words struck me. It was, in a strange, almost twisted way, true. I loved my classmates in a conditional sort of way. I gave myself to my work and to my teachers, even if it wasn't apparent on the surface.

Perhaps that's why I can't get away from working, or if I do, I'm plain miserable. From Kindergarten, I loved achieving with all the competitiveness of the firstborn misfit. Sure, a good deal of the sense of being a misfit was probably false, but it was real to my mind; I experienced estrangement even if no estrangement actually took place.

But I learned something else from my report cards. I was reminded that my teachers loved me. It was their love that fueled my desire to learn from them, fueled my own love for them. They were beings like my parents and pastors - beings the very beholding of whom inspired me with an unsurpressable impulse to hug, which I frequently made no attempt to surpress anyway. But I had never realized before that I had given them joy. They gave me so much, but I did not know until this afternoon that perhaps, perhaps my joy in them fueled their love of teaching. If my early education had had no purpose but to give joy to teachers, it would have been worth it.

Anyway, I'm going to end here. I've got no great ending to ramblings, except to say that the lumber man delivered - guess what - in the middle of my organising. :D All that hard dried cellulose - wonder what Dad has up his sleeve for this batch? Tonight the family will enjoy some time together, and, if I know my brothers, we'll end up reading at least three more chapters of "The Man Who Was Thursday" as well.

Good night everyone!


Nana said...

I remember those times past when....

Didn't the boys make you read about 2 chapters? Or was it 3?

I'm afraid that if the boys hadn't made you read them, Mom and/or I would have!

Uncle Ick said...

I have never gotten report cards... good thing to

Nat said...

Hm! Very interesting post, Sarah. So many of your experiences are opposite mine: I never got report cards until college, but I often enough got grades nonetheless—and I've never cared about them; I'm usually pretty good at math, and usually without trying; though I also have trouble with time management and needed speech therapy (she was a nice teacher).

elizabeth said...

enjoyed this! i have read my report cards too...

You certainly speak well now!!

I remember various teachers of mine telling me to 'keep reading' ... I was an avid reader esp. by grade 5... sigh... :)

Glad to hear a post about your day! :)

TruthQuestioner said...

Nana: I think it was two and 3/4ths.

Uncle Ick: I never saw mine until this week. I just heard about them.

Nat: Glad to provide fodder of interest. Does sound opposite - at least in math. Mom and I were discussing my math this morning, and both of us were of the opinion that my math skills were inhibited by removal from math class during my early elementary education - but I'm sure my natural disposition helped as well. :P

Elizabeth: Thanks! I'm glad that missed math paid off somewhere. ;)I also read voraciously. (Our school librarian surreptitiously allowed me into the Highschool Section because I'd cleaned out the elementary portion.)

I just also remembered the other subject I always got low marks in: penmanship. It gradually improved, but my teachers were constantly harping on me (in a good way) about it.