I am really excited to share a guest post with you today. This post was written by Angela Dicken who I have had the pleasure of following on Instagram for quite some time now. This is a post that speaks to my heart and I know it will hit home to a lot of my fellow homeschooling mamas. Enjoy!
I was in junior high before I realized college was optional. The way college was talked about in my family was as if it was the 13th grade and as mandatory as high school. Higher education is a higher priority.
Now, I’m homeschooling my kids and taking the responsibility of their education on my shoulders. Unable to shake my inherited view of academic success, I find myself looking for a measure of assurance that if I pick the right curriculum I will have college bounds kids, or if I have weekly poetry tea-time and read-aloud time I will certainly have long-lasting, deep relationships with my adult children…. who have bachelors’ degrees.
I want a guarantee. But we live in the interrogative, rarely in the declarative. I feel it each year as planning begins for the next school year, what I hope my kids will learn and how they will learn it. Most often, I have a goal in mind and am trying to plan backward from there, creating a plan that’s sure to lead where I hope my children will go. At its worst, this planning starts with freshman year of college and works backward to first grade. Yes. I’ve actually done that. Not on paper, but in my heart.
Every lesson of a reading program can be complete and our children still not read. Living literature, beautiful art and endless nature walks can still leave us with a child who prefers Captain Underpants books and video games. The truth is we can research, review, sample, and discuss as many pedagogies and curriculum as our hearts desire, but in the end, we live with uncertainty if any of it will produce the end result we’re hoping for in our children. The realization of how little control I have is hard to swallow. We are unknowing beings despite all our ingenuity and resourcefulness.
This fact is true of each school year, each day, and even in each cell of our body. The fact of uncertainty is true even on a subatomic level. Recently I read about a 20-something theoretical physicist, named Werner Heisenberg, who came up with the Uncertainty Principle in the mid-1920s. My basic understanding of his principle (and I’m a literature major so love me through this) is that there is no certainty in the accuracy of the observation of a subatomic particle because the tools used to observe a particle acted upon it, in even the most miniscule way, and altered it. Physicists couldn’t be certain of what they were trying to measure because of this. Some uncertainty had to be factored into the science no matter what method was used to observe and record subatomic activity. The truth is, just like in scientific endeavors, we can never truly remove all uncertainty from our days either.
In her memoir, The Tincture of Time, Elizabeth Silver writes, “A small article by Dr. Amnon Sonnenberg in the American Journal of Gastroenterology titles, ‘A Medical Uncertainty Principle’ approaches healthcare within Heisenberg’s paradigm. ‘By analogy,’ he writes:
Obviously, a balance needs to be found between pursuing a diagnosis through extensive workup and compromising the patient’s health through the process…[Forcing us] to ask ourselves whether we really need perfect knowledge or whether we could make sound medical decisions given a ‘calculated’ amount of uncertainty. The answer is perhaps in the final thoughts. We can calculate the amount of uncertainty as best we can, while waiting for the outcome.”
In medicine, there are often situations where only time can tell if the diagnosis was correct or if a certain treatment works. In fact, sometimes delaying treatment in an attempt to get a certain diagnosis hurts the patient. We can’t have all the answers when a loved one is sick. Even with conditions with known and established treatments, it is time that reveals if all went according to plan.
We can’t have all the answers in our finiteness either, mamas. This is where I started to see maybe time was the solution to my uncertainty and there is One with an infinite amount of that. It will take years of winters by the fire, reading living literature together, bedtime devotionals, honest conversations and prayer before we will see what God already sees… how the matter will turn out.
So I offer you, by analogy, the Homeschool Uncertainty Principle: Obviously, a balance needs to be found between pursuing the optimal educational pedagogy and curriculum purchases and compromising our relationship with the child and our faith in God to work out His good plan…. Forcing us to ask ourselves whether we really need perfect knowledge of the outcome of thirteen committed years of home education, or whether we can make sound decision and release the rest to faith given the truth of uncertainty. I propose then, we can release the uncertainty of home education to a certain God.
We can live in the paradox of being certain of our choices, while not certain of the outcome. It is the tincture of time that reveals how all the planning and chalk dust and teary nights will end up. Time will show us progress for a struggling child. Time will reveal healing in damaged relationships. Time will assuage our uncertainty as we begin to see that the kids are aright.
Time is the answer…. But only because it belongs to the One who is outside of it. We can live in the tension of uncertainty because we trust a good God who is certain. He is outside of time, infinite and not waiting to see how things will play out. He is fully knowing. God does not need the tincture of time and I’m sure He laughs a little at all of our uncertainty principles.
“Faith, mama,” He might say. “Faith is the uncertainty principle.”
Angela Dicken is an essay writer and fanatical memoir reader who lives in southern Ohio with her husband and two kids whom she homeschools. These days if she isn’t diving into her daughter’s imaginary world, or her son’s next science experiments, she can be found hiding out in the laundry room with coffee, a podcast, and a blank page.
You can follow Angela on Instagram at: @angelavirginiawrites