For those of you who don’t know this, besides being administrators/parents/team coordinators/money managers/ staff oversees/ and minute by minute problem solvers, Tabitha and I are also teachers. We have 6 students that we homeschool five days a week, 5 hours a day. All of our students will soon be adopted and living in America and it was a joint decision of ours and their parents to give their American education a head start.
For our two preschoolers, English is our primary goal. But for our four middle school age boys the task is quite challenging. Coming from a Haitien education, they are all significantly behind in just about every subject. Their age to grade ratios are way off and simply put, without the draining task of memorization, they don’t really know how to learn.
So what is our goal for these boys? Really, it is just about everything. But beyond the English, reading, math, science, and social studies, our main goal is to simply teach them how to learn, how to think, how to process knowledge, and how to have confidence in themselves and their ability to do well in an American school. And although some days these goals seem far in sight, I believe our boys have grown leaps and bounds.
In math today I taught them the basics of “orders of operations”. You know what I am talking about? “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” otherwise known as PENDAS. Today they really enjoyed math and I think it is because once they understood what to do, they thought that were doing pretty high level math. With white boards in hand they raced each other on how to follow the steps of some pretty ridiculously large math problems I created for them.
At first, they didn’t believe they could do it. I would write a long math problem on the board filled with exponents (which they didn’t even know existed until last week), parenthesis, and multiple division, multiplication, addition, and subtractions steps. “Pa ka” (I can’t) was said by each of them at least ten times. But I remained patient and continued to remind them to simply follow the steps- follow the order of operations and they would be able to solve the problem.
For a while they struggled. They kept wanting to ignore the steps. They want to start at the beginning and work their way through it in sequential order. They didn’t want to re-copy the problem each step of the way. They didn’t want to refer back to PEMDAS in their notes. They didn’t want to think. They just wanted to do.
Eventually, however, with continuous patience on my end and a little bit of pushing they finally understood the importance of following the rules and ultimately they enjoyed the results of sticking to the order of operations. They liked getting the problem right and bragging just a little bit about. They liked it when I acted overly excited about their accomplishments. And I think overall, following the rules and getting the right answer to some previously daunting math problem made them feel pretty proud of themselves.
By the end of math class, all four boys had mastered PEMDAS. Now, I can’t guarantee they will remember a thing when we review it again tomorrow. But for today they got it!
Not that I am usually a deep thinker who tends to find analogies throughout my day between situations and my faith, but today was different. Today, my hour long lesson on order to operations this morning has been lingering in my head almost all day. Now I don’t mean to sounds that I am all obsessed with PEMDAS or anything, but as I was teaching it this morning I found myself realizing that beyond the numbers I was teaching myself.
Things in my life have been really hard lately. God is challenging me in ways I personally did not agree to J. Times are hard, money is tight, people are demanding, and our days are never long enough to accomplish what we need to do. People who I have confided in keep telling me to be patient and that God will only use this time to make me stronger. And although I am sure I will agree with them one day, right now, in the moment, I could care less about learning to be patient or becoming a stronger person. I want my problems fixed NOW!
Last week I printed off a half a dozen copies of Romans 5: 3-5 which says this:
We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that
Affliction produces Endurance,
Endurance produces Character,
and Character produces Hope.
This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
I have taped this verse in various places throughout the house. From the microwave door to my calendar to the walls of our bedroom and bathroom and the even to the board where we record all our money spending this verse is coving our house. And although I have read it countless times this past week and have sought wisdom and reassurance from it, until today, until PEMDAS, I don’t think I quite understood it.
You see, I long more than anything for the hope mentioned in this verse- a hope poured out by God into my heart through the Spirit. But for months, I think I have been trying to skip the steps. I have tried handling things my way and I haven’t been following the orders of operations laid out so clearly for me in the Bible. I haven’t been following AECH (Affliction, Endurance, Character, Hope).
I have been seeking endurance before I have had time to fully face the affliction. I have attempted to gain character without having to endure anything. And I am searching for hope without being in true character and without learning how to endure the trials God has placed in my life right now.
Watching my four boys today reminded me so much of myself. I can’t even count the number of times I have told God, my parents, my friends, and my husband “I can’t” before I have really even tried. And thing is, I know God is standing there just saying, “Jillian, all you need to do is follow AECH. I have already told you. Just follow the steps and you will get the answers you need. Through these afflictions I will give you the endurance you need to get through. If you can endure them, once you get through to the other end, you will be filled with character molded by the Spirit. And then, once you have that new character made in the image of me, you will be filled with the most incredible HOPE!”
Order of operations, AECH, is not always easy. Actually, there is nothing easy about it. Rather, it is really quite difficult. And I think God knew that when He told Paul to write it. Because thing in, God isn’t an easy either. He is also rather quite difficult. He never promised me that this life, especially this one in Haiti, would be easy. He has only ever guaranteed to with me along the way. But I have to follow the steps.
Right now, I think I am entering the Endurance phase of it all. Well, at least today I am. Tomorrow is another story. Where are you?