Testing a Life

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When I was on the Great American Field Trip, roadschooling this past fall, one of the most common questions I heard was, “Do you give the kids tests?”

No, I would tell curious people along the way, I don’t. But being on the road, our skills and knowledge are continually being assessed.

There is a time and place for testing, but much of what we know will never fit into a neat bubble on a Scantron sheet.

This week, all four kids started back at traditional school. While I was a little sad to be entering the world of bells and schedules, homework and bedtimes, the kids were as eager as I’ve ever seen them to go to school. Oh, to be part of a class again, find out which teacher they had, and own new school supplies.

Wyatt literally spent two hours on lunchboxes.com before narrowing down his choices to two: the space lunch box and the John Deere one. (Ahhh, the Iowa memories …)

As they excitedly went up and down the aisle of Staples, buying new highlighters, binders, and pencils, I was happy for them. But…Hello? Are any of you aware that this marks the true end of our magical journey? Am I the only one a little nostalgic for a Hampton Inn and Suites free hot breakfast?

When I checked the school calendar, I realized that there was no school Monday, Jan. 16. That made me happy, but not for the reason one would think.

The kids would hardly need a break after only a week of school since June. It made me happy because ironically I viewed it as a test. Would the kids remember what they learned, saw, and experienced about Martin Luther King? Would the day carry more significance for them?

As I was tucking Janey into bed the night before her first day of 5th grade, I said, “Can you believe your first weekend of school is a three day weekend?”

We laughed at the irony of being out of school so long, only to have a break.

Then came the test: “Does it feel different,” I asked her, “now that you know more about Martin Luther King Jr. Do you feel like the holiday means more?”

“Yeah,” she said, with her eyes narrowed in thought and her head nodding, so it was more of a drawn-out “Yeeeahhhhhh.”

I can’t be sure what was going through her mind. I sat on her bed and indulged my own memories for a moment. Our tour of Martin Luther King Jr.’s boyhood home in Atlanta, the bedroom where he was born at just before noon on Jan. 15, 1929. The narrow staircase, the kitchen table where the King family ate. Martin’s room that he shared with his brother, and his sister’s room just across the hall.

Then I thought of our time in Montgomery where 24-year-old Martin and his new bride moved when was hired as a pastor. Mere blocks from his church is the bus stop where Rosa Parks was arrested, prompting the bus boycott that King became the official spokesman for. These events would propel him into the forefront of the Civil Rights movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 83 years old this Sunday, Jan. 15. Hard to imagine what he could have accomplished these past four decades had his life not been cut short at 39 years old.

His death was a tragedy that we, as a nation, and many individuals are still healing from. Martin Luther King Jr.’s spoken and written words and his dream have passed the true test – the one of time.

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