When I finished grading my student's math test, the page had more red ink on it than black. Despite the fact that he did well on his homework assignments, he totally bombed the end-of-chapter exam.
He looked at the bleeding paper. "Does this mean I failed?"
"Failed?" I answered. "No, this doesn't mean you failed. This means we need to go over the lesson again, until you understand the new concepts better."
We took a couple of days and worked through the chapter again. I created a second test. This time, my young student aced his exam. "That's better!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, that's much better!" I agreed.
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that when a student has difficulty with a particular subject - such as fractions or subject-verb agreement or science vocabulary - we are free to take the time needed to go back and figure out the problem. We can review and practice until the student understands his mistakes and is able to correct them.
Our goal is to learn. The goal is not: take a test on Friday and then begin the next chapter on Monday, whether you understand the previous material or not.
"Pass" and "Fail" are not legal sentences, where pass means the student is exonerated and fail means he is condemned. No, a test score is more like a litmus. It helps us assess our situation. A failing grade means we still have much to learn in a particular area. A passing grade means we are ready move on to the next lesson.
At Grace on Sunday mornings, Brother Billy is preaching through the book of Matthew. Currently, we are studying the Beatitudes. Near the conclusion of Sunday's message, Brother Billy shared that some theologians and commentators refer to the Beatitudes as a type of test: as Christians, we should be merciful, we should hunger and thirst for righteousness, we should be meek, etc.; when we examine our lives, do we find these things to be true of us?
Concerned that the congregation might misunderstand the intent of this "test," Bro. Billy gave an example. As a homeschool dad, he explained, when he gives his daughter a test, his desire is not to fail her. His desire is for her to learn and for her to pass. He wants her to grow and to improve and to excel.
I loved his example: as a homeschool mom, it is one to which I can easily relate!
Let's develop this example a little further...
Do I think God is watching me, waiting for me to fail, eager to whip out His red ink and stamp "FAIL!" across my life? When I do fail - which happens too often - do I think, "Well, I totally blew that," and then throw in the towel?
- OR -
Do I imagine that God is watching me, waiting, eager to see me learn and grow and succeed so that He can say "Well done!"? When I do fail - which happens too often - do I think, "Wow, God, I totally blew that. Please, let's go over this lesson again. I need for you to teach me more. Thank you for being so patient!"?
Dear fellow Christian, we do not have to be afraid of failing. We have an excellent Teacher. His desire is to see us "pass" - He will make sure that we do. He used up all his red ink at the Cross.
3 days ago