- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2008

A true story: A group of men were discussing whether people can change. Some argued anyone could be anything; it was a matter of choice. One person strongly disagreed and grabbed a salt shaker to illustrate his point. “You see this salt shaker? Some people are like this salt shaker: They can only hold a certain amount of salt, no matter what you do. They can’t change, that’s all they can handle.”

The group turned to an elderly man who was sitting there, listening to them argue. “Don’t you agree?” the last speaker asked, pointing to the salt shaker.

Gently, the older man picked up the salt shaker, unscrewed the top, and poured out the salt, to the surprise of the others. “Even if someone only can contain a certain amount, we can always take out the salt and put in something else more precious — like gold,” he said.

This story reminds me of the constant struggle between the finite and the infinite. Our life is full of both. We have a finite number of minutes, hours, days and years upon this earth. We have a finite body with a finite height and number of organs. That’s our salt shaker.

We can, however, choose what to put into those finite structures — and those things can be infinite. Education is an infinite substance — it opens the mind and frees our ability. I remember learning to read and suddenly being transported to other worlds, other times, other places, other experiences — through books. I can read the same book that someone can read in Kenya or Australia, in a palace or a prison. Each of us can escape the finite circumstances by delving into that story. It’s like a passport into a million universes.

Another infinite element is love. Filling our minds with love lets us bridge time and space. We can love someone on the other side of the world the same as we love someone standing next to us. We can love someone who has died, or someone who has yet to be born. We can love as largely and as unstoppably as the universe itself. Nothing can stop the force of love — not hate, not death, not governmental systems and laws.

Yet a third infinite element is creativity. We humans are infinitely creative, and we are able to solve problems, envision new entities and respond to each other in unexpected ways at any moment. To live as a creative being is to live in a world without limits. We peek over the walls that seem to confine us because we have the magic tool of imagination.

As parents, we are always choosing between the limited and the unlimited. We have a few short years, a finite time, with our children before they will be independent adults. However, if we invest in helping them access the infinite elements — education, love, creativity — it’s like we’re pouring gold into their salt shakers.

I ask myself, “If I died today, how would I want this day to be spent?” Would I want to merely have a sparkling kitchen, clean laundry, full checkbook? Or would I want to say “I love you” to the precious people gracing my life? Or create something that will speak to my great-grandchildren? Or free another human mind to be able to explore the vast worlds of knowledge?

I don’t see home-schooling as merely an educational choice giving children a good academic foundation. To me, it’s an artwork, a unique investment in the future of humanity as a whole. I may not be president, I may not be a Fortune 500 executive, I may not be a Nobel Prize winner — but I am the parent and the person who determines what goes into my children’s lives. Will I settle for salt? Or will I give them gold?

Investing in our children’s minds and hearts prepares them for a life of passing on those qualities to others. We need to educate our children not only for who they will be as 40-year-olds, but for what they will teach their children and their children’s children. This is vital work, parents. Thank you for taking it on.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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