and a few other points of Interest from the Alves Home

Gone are the days of my coveted slow farmhouse breakfast. I distractedly shovel some cheerios and blueberries toward the teething baby who throws most of them to the floor while banging her tray for more. My mind is on Spanish adjectives and math facts to review while listening to last nights dreams and exciting happenings and wondering whether my coffee will still be hot by the time I get back to the table and if indeed the first kids have arrived as someone has just announced? Does David need help setting up and cleaning the tables because it did rain last night? Do my own kids have their work together to take outside and did I already finish my coffee because I’m pretty sure there was at least one more sip in there.

White board, map, box of books, supply box, tripods. Haul them out. Helllooo to the crowd of kids at the gate. I feel like a monkey in the zoo, all those eyes watching our trips in and out, up and down.

David goes up to open the gate. Bless his patient soul. I somehow end up inside again, whispering a prayer for help, needing just one more moment of peace.

They fly down the driveway, a waving, bumbling mass of bicycles and backpacks and bravery.

All those dear little faces. Buenos días Maestra!! It melts my heart. Every time.

They know their spots by now. They know their ages don’t matter. Neither does their knowledge base. They seem to have gotten it that there is no shame in wanting to learn. There is no such thing as being behind in this school.

But someone always misses. Out selling chilis or tomatoes or doing the family washing. We know they’ll be back tomorrow. It’s just the way it is in the village. I don’t wonder so much anymore that 10 year olds can’t read or even write their own names. Living is a greater priority than formal education.

They’ll get it though. I’m sure of it. Already they sit quietly to listen to a reading. They’ve tested us to see if we’ll take it, to see if we really mean what we say. They’re learning (the hard way?) that stealing and tattling and lying and bullying are absolutely not tolerated. They’re learning to say thank-you. Literally. Learning to not be destructive or to make fun.

I am learning what education really means. How far love goes. How much patiences gains.

It’s been a challenge beyond what we even expected in many ways. I can’t express my gratefulness for David, for getting to work as a team, to be able to depend on his steadiness. There is something profoundly innate in us all to respect a male figure. His presence is the rudder that keeps our boat going the right direction.

Yesterday was the first day history truly clicked with them. For me it was an unbelievable success. I wondered if we would ever get to this point.

I think I’ve successfully passed on my love for Claude Monet to 30 some kids in the middle of the Campeche jungle.

They wrote their own stories this week and several read them out loud with pride. I suspect it was a first for them all.

Loud cheers when we announce science. Thanks Magic School Bus. You’ve done it again. Back to the bus class.

They’ve memorized John 1:1-5 and two hymns. It’s touching to hear kids whose mother has abandoned them, whose father has died, who daily suffer all sorts of wretched things belt out “Oí hablar de un Salvador quien por mí, quien por mí…”

Because yes, they come to learn math and history and art and poetry and all the rest. But most of all we want them to learn about Christ.

There are days I truly want to just give up. When it takes all our mental and spiritual strength to keep it going. It’s not easy to corral wandering 5 year olds, stubborn 9 year olds and chatty 11 year olds with a baby with sore gums screaming for milk and a nap. It’s exhausting to feel like you’re starting at zero in so many ways. Anybody know the capital of our country? No?? Nobody…how about the president´s name? Can you draw a star where the capital is located? Nobody? Ok….teacher reconnaissance mission at the white board. Let’s teach them to draw a star before we continue….

But despite the creative exhaustion, there is an intense satisfaction everyday as we watch them walk down the lane, heading home. I know that instead of spending three hours watching useless TV, at least they came. I don’t know if they learned much, I don’t know if they’re making much progress but at least they heard the name of Christ. At least they know we care.

Tuesday this week was one of those especially difficult days. We had a stealing situation we had to resolve on top of the normal activities. We were pretty exhausted already from the weekend, then a tough day on top of it. David was going to spend the evening helping a group of believers a couple hours away while I did homeschool and held down the fort.

I was getting books together for homeschool when a piercing scream reverberated around the room. I flew to the living room, my son was clutching his face with blood streaming everywhere. I stanched the flow, called David to come home and take us in for stitches. He turned around and headed back. I held the gash together with my fingers, grateful to be blessed with no queasiness in medical emergencies.

There was no thread for sutures in the village. Nor in the next town. Nor in the next town´s pharmacy where the health center sent me after rejecting us because my bleeding son wasn’t wearing a face mask.

We ended up driving an hour into the city, me keeping his head closed the whole way over dirt roads and over a 100 speed bumps, where thankfully we were taken care of quickly. Three stitches was all it took but our sir is quite pleased with his battle wound.

I share that story really for one reason.

The mission field is not glorious. It’s not magical.

I hear people all the time saying how much they love Mexico and want to live here.

I love it too and I do live here. So that’s why I’m honest. It’s not always easy.

It means needy kids and no thread for stitches.

But it also means that maybe, just maybe, someday the kids of Emiliano Zapata will be the most ethical, hardworking kids around who, most importantly, love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts.

Which, of course, will make even the scar on M´s forehead completely worth it.

I always feel awkward taking pictures of people so here’s our empty schoolroom. One of these days I’ll make myself get over it and share a real reality class in action.

One thought on “The One Room School House

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