Math

“What’s with the rocks?”

“Do you have a few minutes? Pick a rock and I’ll tell you a story…”

Rock #4 red–humor

“I disagree. The teacher’s wrong.”

I sighed. Karis and I were having our nth discussion about math. She was in fourth grade English math at PACA, our children’s school in São Paulo, Brazil. My parenting skills were challenged at times by this stubborn child. “I suppose the textbook is wrong too?”

“Yes. I want to do math my own way, but my teacher won’t let me. Can I home school, just for math?”

I made an appointment to talk with the elementary school principal and Karis’s math teacher. At one level we were all amused by Karis’s tenacious conviction that she knew better. The problem was that she was failing math. “Her way” did not yield the same answers as the teacher’s.

“What if we move her into the Brazilian math class?” The principal’s suggestion was one that had occurred to me as well, but I didn’t want to undercut Karis’s English math teacher. We decided to try it, on the condition that Karis would agree to cooperate with the Brazilian teacher.

That decision resulted in the dear Brazilian teacher spending long after-school sessions with Karis trying to explain to her logically why “her way” didn’t work. Having conducted those sessions myself, my sympathy was all with the teacher. After a week or two, I decided enough was enough and put my foot down. For the rest of the school year, Karis would have to submit, even if she still staunchly believed her way was correct and the rest of the world was wrong.

And Karis had to stop “contaminating” her little sister with her beliefs about math. Valerie, soon to enter kindergarten, adored Karis and tried to copy everything she did. I had no doubt that if it was my word against Karis’s, whatever Karis told Val would win.

From the time she was young, Karis loved coming up with her own way to do all kinds of things. She broke all kinds of rules, with no apparent remorse unless she discovered that what she had done actually hurt someone. Not all the time, of course, but when something mattered to her, she regarded rules and other boundaries as but suggestions to be considered. No one’s word on anything was to be automatically accepted without careful evaluation. Even then her creative mind often found a way around it.

Yes. She sometimes drove us crazy. But I have no doubt that her very stubbornness, and refusal to accept words like “there’s nothing more to be done medically to keep you alive,” were qualities God used to keep her with us as long as he did.

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