First Day of School

August 11th marked the Maxwell family’s nineteenth first day of school. We celebrated that night, because it was our very best first day of school ever! Generally the first day of school is one that I look forward to with great excitement. However, the reality of living through it most often has generated discouragement and frustration. It is not unheard of in the Maxwell home for Mom to be crying by dinnertime on those momentous first days of school. I have been known to say to Steve, “It was a zoo here today, dear. I have no idea how we will ever get any real schoolwork done.”

Since I have experienced nineteen first days of school, and since I really, really like happy first days of school, and since I truly, truly, truly want to learn from all of our failures, perhaps I can share some of my first day of school experiences with you. It could be that your first days of school have been much like mine, and that you, too, would love to have one you could celebrate.

First-Day-of-School Traditions

When Nathan started school, he attended a private, Christian school for three years. On the first day of school, I always took a photo of him before he left home in the morning. There he stood with his lunch box in one hand and his pack on his back, sporting his tidy blue-and-white uniform. Each year’s photo shows him a bit bigger but just as cute. Therefore, when we began homeschooling, we decided to continue first-day-of-school photos. Without lunch boxes, the children hold their favorite school books in their hands for the picture-taking session.

Another tradition we have for our first day of school is special school supply surprises. While school supplies are on sale at the stores, I will shop for any school supplies the children need. I purchase notebooks, notebook paper, notebook tabs, pencils, pens, colored pencils, pencil pouches, small whiteboards, whiteboard markers, scissors, rulers, glue sticks, crayons, tape—although not each of these every year. Since our materials often last us more than one year, it can be challenging coming up with needed supplies, so sometimes I resort to buying not-so-needed-but-fun supplies. Each child finds a stack of school surprises by his spot on the dining room table on the first day of school.

Because pencils being left out in the house are a problem here, I purchase the children pencils with different outside colors. I discovered that there are pencils with not only yellow on the outside but also green, black, and wood color. There are different colored bands around the yellow pencils in various packs. I give each child a couple of sets of pencils, different from his siblings, and then when a pencil is left out, I know to whom it belongs. Plus, if the child loses all of his pencils before the school year is over, he can buy his own replacements.

Finally, the first day of school will often bring with it a special breakfast. Because of having children living at home who drive, I have the advantage of being able to suggest to Sarah that we could enjoy donuts for the first-day-of-school breakfast if she has time to go to the grocery store that morning. She is very accommodating, and donuts are a great treat in our family.

The Change

While these first-day-of-school traditions have been in place for quite a while, this is the first year that I realized the biggest failure of my first day of school. We typically do these traditions on the first day of school and also attempt a normal day of academic schoolwork. This year, the week before our first real day of school we had another first day of school. You might call it a pre-first day of school. I scheduled no academic work for that day, only our first-day-of-school traditions. It was a little like registration day used to be when I went to school.

Because each of these practical and memory-making activities we do on the first day of school takes up time, we would be frustrated trying to get normal school completed. We spent several hours doing our pre-first day of school. No wonder I have been frustrated with what I was trying to fit into our previous first days of school.

After the special breakfast and school surprises on our pre-first day of school, I had a one-on-one meeting with each child. We went through his schedule and looked at all his books. For my fourth and fifth graders, I read out loud with them their first spelling lesson because they do that on their own. Often they will struggle with things that are very simple, because they try to fill in blanks without reading the material. This was an opportunity to teach them how to do their spelling lessons effectively.

Each child from fourth grade on up has a school notebook. This year we finally got them organized. We have used notebooks for organizing schoolwork for several years, but I am generally frustrated with them. We hadn’t taken the time to plan how many tabs each child needed and what the tabs should be labeled. Then the history tests and quizzes were mixed in with the daily history work and difficult to find come “study-for-nine-week-exam” time. The writing was somewhere in the spelling section because we didn’t have enough tabs. You get the picture, I am sure.

This year I made a list of what each child would need as far as number of tabs and what they should be labeled. I bought enough tabs for their notebooks and for my notebook. I included the children’s tabs in their school supply surprises. During our one-on-one meeting we labeled the tabs and alphabetized them, too. That was another problem. With three children (four this year) with schoolwork in notebooks, I was always struggling through the tabs to locate the right one. Every child had the tabs set up in a different order. I don’t care much for checking schoolwork to begin with, so anything I can do to make it easier is a benefit to me. Even having readable tabs that are in order helps.

After lunch, Sarah, one of our family photographers, did the first-day-of-school photos. Getting five children to choose their photo props, get the camera setting correct, pose each one individually for photos, and then put them together as a group is not a five-minute project. Again, this was time that was pulled from what normally was a full academic school day. None of us likes to finish school at dinnertime.

While what we did on our pre-first day of school are small, little tasks, each one adds up to extra time away from schoolwork. Having these activities planned for a day when we weren’t going to do any normal schoolwork was wonderful. I know it was a major factor in our super-duper, best-ever first day of school. May I encourage you to look at your previous first days of school, and if they aren’t what you would like them to be, try to determine why they weren’t. Then make the necessary changes. You will be glad you did, and perhaps it won’t take you nineteen years of trying.

Pride – Part 1

It would be quite revealing if we took a survey and asked how many dads have a struggle with pride. I expect most dads who have either read the Bible much or heard many sermons would say they wish they were less proud. Although I know one dad who seems to be somewhat proud of his pride, most everyone else I know (if it has come up in conversation) would prefer not to be proud.

So why would most Christians want to be less proud? Maybe we could go so far as to ask why would some desire to be humble and not proud at all? Let me list a few verses about pride and let them speak for themselves.

Proverbs 6:16-17, “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood.”

Proverbs 16:5, “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.”

Proverbs 21:4, “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.”

Proverbs 21:24, “Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.”

These verses seem to come on pretty strongly against pride. After reading them, I find myself wondering how I could ever have thought, “I really don’t like my pride, but thankfully it isn’t a big problem for me.” I wonder if that attitude isn’t similar to being willing to drink a glass of milk with only two drops of sewage in it. Just two small drops—that isn’t much, is it? Okay, what if we cut it down by 50 percent and make it only one drop of raw sewage in a nice big glass of cold milk. Who would drink it?

Why am I willing to live with just a little pride when God’s Word calls it an abomination? An abomination is something that is an abhorrence, or is disgusting, to God. Proverbs 16:5 says that a proud heart makes God sick, and He loathes it.

I think there are two reasons why I have allowed a “little” pride to be justifiable in my life. First, I have always seen Scripture as if it was talking about having too much pride. This was an incorrect assumption. Surely I didn’t have too much. The second reason is even a bigger issue; I’ve not seen Scripture telling how to remove pride from a person’s life. If there is no way to remove it, then we can’t be held accountable for it, can we? That’s another incorrect assumption.

Maybe there is some threshold of pride we can’t exceed. What is it going to hurt the average dad with the average amount of pride? Unfortunately, if pride being an abomination to God isn’t enough, there is the practical issue that we really aren’t able to love our family and others as 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 instructs us. We can see that pride is the root cause that keeps us from loving others. (“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”)

If we open up our minds, it isn’t too difficult to see that pride is the main reason why we struggle with being good fathers. It keeps us from being loving because:

  • Pride says our time is more important than anyone else’s.
  • Pride says why be kind? Everyone is here for our benefit as we are the most important.
  • Pride says everyone delights in hearing all about the wonderful things we have done, and so why listen to anyone else.
  • Pride is rude because our feelings are the only ones that matter.
  • Pride is selfish because our pleasure is most important.
  • Pride is easily angered because our rights come first, and everyone must put us first.
  • Pride thinks the worst of everyone because no one is as good as we are, and frankly, thinking the worst of others makes us feel better.

As I began thinking about pride and how serious it is, I found myself asking the Lord a question in my heart. “Lord, if pride is so terrible, then why isn’t it very clearly dealt with in Your Word?” It would have been so easy for the Lord to have devoted a whole book to removing pride from our lives. If not a whole book, why not a whole chapter?

God is so merciful in answering prayers. I think in some ways I would have preferred to remain ignorant about pride in my life and how to deal with it, yet I believe God showed me the answer in His Word. It may not be as revolutionary to you as it was to me, but it sure was amazing as I have studied it. I challenge you to read further.

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23). Look at the company pride keeps—evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, and foolishness. We look at most of these, and we can see that no “good” Christian would allow these in his life. Why not? He wouldn’t tolerate them, because they are just too bad. He couldn’t allow it. How much murder, adultery, and fornication have you allowed in your life lately? Hmmmm.

Now read, “Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken” (Jeremiah 13:15) and, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” (Romans 12:16). Here we read two clear, direct commands regarding pride. In essence, we are told not to be proud. God never tells us not to do something if we aren’t able not to do it. If He tells us to stop doing something, then we can and should stop it.

Frankly put, pride is an abomination to God, it is sin, and He has told us to put it away. How much is acceptable? The answer is clear—none! The reason we don’t commit the other sins I mentioned above is because we choose not to do them. Plain and simple. That means that pride is also a choice.

There is something that makes ridding our lives of pride especially difficult. Not only is it a choice, but unfortunately, it is a habit in varying degrees. The greater the habit, the more difficult it is to cast off. God shows no sympathy toward our pride. It is an abomination. There is nothing to feel sorry for ourselves over. Truly, what we need to do is repent over our pride.

Would you like to see real revival break loose in your home? I know I would. Would you join me in focusing on pride in our prayers and daily Bible reading? May we cry out to the Lord and ask Him to examine our hearts. May we memorize several verses on pride. As we go to sleep, let the truth of those verses cut deep into our hearts, bringing true repentance.

May our hearts be prepared for next month when we look at what I believe God has set as the cure for pride. Will you join me and see what the Lord Jesus will do with hearts that are surrendered to Him?