Tonight I sat down to write my first post in a while and it occured to me that I’d like to simplify by only writing new posts on my other blog, instead of choosing between my “homeschool blog” and ”the rest of my life” blog.
As life moves along, I find things I care to take the time to write about have less to do with those separate categories and actually fall under the same umbrella of creativity and the journey we have as mothers, creators, and children of an amazing God.
Thanks for reading this blog and I’ll keep it up for perusal. And who knows, maybe I’ll occasionally post here.
In the immediate surrounding neighborhood, we’re the only family I know of that homeschools. Added to the fact that our driveway abuts the house immediately to our right and the wife and grown-up daughter both have long-standing public school jobs and you might understand why I wonder sometimes what people think of our family.
The family sharing our driveway have a wide open view for every day that
we didn’t homeschool during the sick, pregnant days,
the hours spent outside instead of sweating over workbooks,
the days we just played monopoly when my dad was in the hospital,
and they keenly see that we stop way before public school days ends.
They don’t ask me any questions(I wish they would) but they ask my kids, “What did you do in school today?” and it’s always on the day that the answer sounds like “We just played monopoly today” or “My mom’s too busy taking care of my grandad to do school today.” and never on the days that they’re overflowing with excitement about explorers, math games, art, or new reading skills.
I go back and forth over being concerned with the perception of our family. I think our learning life is great, moving with the seasons of real life, but I can let what others might think buzz in sometimes.
This was one of those days. The kids had created beautiful paint with chalks and quickly switched from decorating the sidewalk to decorating each other. And of course, being kids, they wanted to show off the fashion statement on anyone who walked by the house. I didn’t discourage them in anyway but inside I thought, “This seals it. Now we’re the family who’s kids are always home, outside during school hours, and look at how their mother lets them run wild.”
Oh, well. Maybe next time I’ll join them and really give the neighbors something to talk about. Ooh, and I can paint baby Sparkles, too.
Do you ever struggle with the opinion of others toward your unique lifestyle?
It’s the week before.
The week before we enter another year of school. We’ve been homeschooling since our oldest was a little Five in A Row pre-schooler and she’s now entering her 4th year of grade school. Her little sister enters 3rd, younger brother kindergarten, and littlest sister begins a year of playing with blocks along side our lessons. Five years on this homeschool journey, which sometimes feels like Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.
For some of you this conjures sweet pictures, the really good days of learning at home-everyone gathered on the couch casting everything else off for another chapter, sharing in a great prayer time or singing verses of the Bible, or the big wow moments when letters come into focus and character falls into place.
For some of the you the idea of the whole family at home each day conjures the harder moments of homeschooling-the loneliness, the guilt when you feel like you’re not doing enough, the routine which can feel like a trap after endless winter months.
This summer, for the first time, an ever teasing truth(usually spoken to me by non-homeschooling moms) landed on me with a vengeance: what I’m doing is hard. When my olders went off to art camp and the bickering lightened and the youngers and I swept about each day fancy free without the guilt that I should be doing something more, a thought found it’s way through that I’d always kept at bay, “This is what’s it’s like to have kids go to school.”
But let me add in some context. I had already girded myself for last year, knowing that our young babe would add an extra challenge to the days. What I failed to armor up for was a 4 month hospital stay for my father and all the other details that go into that story. I came out of this year reeling. Weighted down by relentless responsibility and my vision cloudier as each day of guilt and effort continued.
Heading into the next year, none of the extra weight has lifted. I walk through my house and climb into my car with a whirlwind of thoughts that must be a visible blur of movement.
How will I keep 18 month old baby sparkles satisfied while we truly dive into the Word, great books, and stories from history?
How will I also set the olders off and running to independent learning so that I can sit and enjoy every shaky step and misspoken word of Sparkles?
How can I keep up the myriad of chores, lessons, character teaching required each day without making myself sick from my own voice and it’s constant call to work, move, produce?
Will we find time to be in the here and now, to laugh loudly, to celebrate moments that have nothing to do with what’s on a list?
How will I recharge in the evenings when I’m off checking on my Dad, how will detailed school planning happen, when will I stop, breathe, and be responsible for nothing and no one but myself for just a few short minutes.
The thought “Why are you choosing this path if it’s so hard for you right now?” is a growing whisper in your head. Stick with me, I’m getting there.
Tonight my schoolroom sits in shambles, shelves half rearranged, old curriculum thrown to the side, clay projects from two years ago with no place to call home. For the last few weeks I’ve fed that hungry whirlwind with lesson plans, strategies for Baby Sparkles, new chore charts to smooth out the care of our home. I see the countdown to monday is bearing down and I keep thinking that a good year for us all hinges on my ability to get everything just right. If the schoolroom is perfectly organized, if the lessons are perfectly written down, if I have a chart that breaks down the day’s duties, if I can just calm the whirlwind into perfect control, we’ll be alright.
Does anything seem faulty, this idea luring me toward skewed priorities and a dependence on the wrong thing(my control) to keep us afloat this year? So I left the schoolroom dangling and sat down to give myself a kick in the pants.
A few weeks ago, in a moment of calm weather(outward and inward), the Lord held back my good intentions of planning and helped me write a mission statement for our school instead. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, hoping it will be a compass this year, when inevitably(the first day most likely) things will slip right out of my hands. By looking at it right now, and sharing it with you, I hope that it will remind me that the reason our family has chosen this path has little to do with a schoolroom organized by the dewey decimal system or whether we finish our first year of american history in exactly 36 weeks, or whether my 18 month old acts like a perfectly normal 18 month old!
I haven’t spent too much time editing this or adding in verses to guide each letter of the acronym, this feels like enough to steady us this year.
GUEST FAMILY HOMESCHOOL MISSION STATEMENT
“-that you may shine like the stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life-”
Learn for a life time: about God’s world through history, science, and art in order to see His beauty and creativity, power, and love, that we might praise Him and trust Him more.
Identify: journeying with each child as he/she discovers the talents, gifts, passions the Lord has uniquely given them, making a path for those passions to grow. Also helping them to embrace their unique personalities, celebrate their character strengths, and encourage their weaknesses.
Give generously to each other as we honor others above ourselves, building a family who loves, encourages and enjoys one another. As a family we will give generously to others, instilling a purpose that is outward and sacrificial in God’s love.
Honor the Lord with our bodies and minds, learning lifetime habits of prayer, study, healthy eating, and exercise.
Teach God’s word, instructing our hearts through the Word of life, learn His ways above the ways of the world, knowing that His Word gives light to our path, gives joy to our soul, gives wisdom to our heart. This will be unique with each person in our household-each will have a unique relationship with Lord, focusing not on perfect outward behavior, but hearts that yield to the Lord.
I hope the above answers the “why” I’m doing this even though it’s hard. We’ve been called to run this particular race, and run it with perseverance and endurance, hopefully shining a little more as we go. A homeschooling mom of five shared with me just the other day that she’s been praying for God to give her a strategy for this next year. I loved the prayer immediately and thought surely He would give me great specific ideas to quell all of my worries. Though I’m sure He does care about those details, I think the Mission statement He’s given me is my strategy. It’s a strategy of a greater purpose and of an even greater God.
On this night I’m trying hard to think only of the the hours of rest ahead of me. And in the morning I’ll try with equal effort to breathe in the unformed day, turning off the part of my brain entitiled, “planner”. But a thought will push and tug, asking for attention,”Remember, you’ll be starting back to school in a week, better start getting ready.”
It’s yet to be seen how tomorrow’s battle between staying in the moment and planning ahead will win out. At just the right time I’ve begun reading The Gift of An Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison. Each page is a glimpse as the author examines the expectations of the world upon her and her family, and her journey to discover for herself what they need to treasure and how to knock down a new path broken fresh just for their feet.
One area Kenison has put considerable thought is the education of her children. Though her contemplation never led her to homeschooling, her words are worth considering no matter where your children spend the bulk of their learning hours.
“I’m continually reminded that a real education is not just a simple transformation of information, not a competition, bit a gradual and at times unfathomable process of awakening compassion, deepening understanding, and fostering the development of imagination, curiosity, and will. Learning doesn’t always mean scoring high. It also means acquiring the tools necessary to take on the most challenging work of all-becoming the person you are meant to be.”
Katrina Kenison, The Gift of An Ordinary Day
Five years into our homeschooling adventure and we still feel the Lord leading us down this road of simultaneous miracles and pitfalls. I’ve experienced homeschooling just one child, then two, then added in a fidgeting toddler, several months of mommy sick on the couch, and now we have three schooling and one smiling baby in the boat. Some days are filled with math epiphanies and writing breakthroughs. Other days we make it to a nature trail. Then there are the days we don’t talk about when I just try to make it to a starbucks and leave all the kids in the principal’s office. Still, I can’t imagine it any other way. We would be a different family, I would be a different person, if we changed the past half decade. We’ve chosen learning as a part of a bigger world, academics along with a greater book(the Bible), lessons not limited by the boundaries of a school building.
Welcome to our adventure.
The Principal-Mr. Darcy, lover of movies, ice cream, making fresh pasta, and baking up a sweet surprise, oh, and he’s a graphic designer.
The Head Explorer-Aimee, lover of books, chocolate, writing, Mr. Darcy, and 4 addictive kids.
Mookie-almost 9 year old 3rd grader, lover of books, drama, swimming, girls scouts, and friends.
Jellybean-7 year old 2nd grader, lover of frogs, handwriting, swimming, and playmobiles.
The Boy-4 1/2 year old preschooler, lover of cooking, helping, doing school, and finding adventure in every moment.
Sparkles-almost 8 month old baby girl who makes the whole family walk around with goofy faces just to get one sweet smile.