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.