Homeschool Life

The Prince and the Pupil

Were I a sailboat I’d presently be foundering on the homeschool doldrums.   By chance I also happen to be reading The Prince by Machiavelli, a sort of rule book for tyrants.  Machiavelli writes, “Men ought either to be well-treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot.”    So is it a coincidence that I’m reading about how to be a successful despot whilst I have a tenuous grip on homeschoolland, and the subjects are revolting?  (Take both those words both ways.)  I think not.

It is tempting to shift from my status quo well treatment to a more crushing academic existence because I want to effect quick, decisive change in my students. The afflictions have been light so far, in the hope of deferring war.  As it happens, Machiavelli also has an opinion on that.   “A blunder ought never to be perpetrated to avoid war, because it is not to be avoided, but is only deferred to your disadvantage.”   My blunder has been to allow laziness or shoddy work in order to keep the peace.  Which leaves me wondering what disadvantage I’ve created for myself by staving off this confrontation?   Something like, the price for a month’s peace and quiet will cost you two days of emotional paralysis and academic poverty when you finally stop pretending everything’s ok.   That is where I find myself:  unable to decide whether to continue to treat my prodigal pupil well or crush said pupil.   According to The Prince those are my only two options.

God would have me look elsewhere.  The heart.   Laws or corrective measures change the outer man while leaving the heart completely unscathed.    And I’ve often heard from the pulpit, the figuratively crushed heart is the only appropriate response to habitual sin.  I cannot crush anyone’s heart; and (except perhaps on the worst days) I don’t wish to try.  But God can.  And does.  And it’s always a miraculous spectacle to witness.   So I trust He’ll decide how to handle me and my homeschool, whether to crush us or treat us well.  Whichever way it goes we can still fulfill God’s will.  And I can rest in that, even on the days when I’m stuck in the doldrums waiting for a fresh breeze to take me somewhere new.


6 thoughts on “The Prince and the Pupil”

  1. You do have a way with words. I’m intimidated to even leave a comment because I mostly use one syllable words! Anyway, you give me much to think about. Love you and praying for you!

  2. You are my new hero. Machiavelli? In your free time? Your post is so carefully crafted it’s artwork 🙂 I was convicted by it, as I’ve been lax and allowing laziness to avoid confrontation. Thank you!!

  3. Kelly, I have had this same struggle with my youngest, go easy on him or make him play by the rules. I have erred on the side of being too easy on said child and now I am reaping the consequences! I do not homeschool but I still see it manifested in schoolwork, grades and overall attitude. I have a well worn linear connection with the Father above, praying for Divine intervention in this young ones life.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Nicky. I love that– “well-worn linear connection with the Father.” And you’re right. Any time we have to be the authority we experience this, not just homeschooling. I’m still working my way through Machiavelli. I have to take breaks from him and read something fun!

  4. Pingback: kellygriffiths

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