Thursday, August 23, 2012

what I love about homeschooling (after one week)

There will be days when I don't love this.  Some day I may throw my hands up and wonder why I ever started this mess; maybe tomorrow.  Before we began I was full of doubts and anxiety and maybe sometime I will again.

But for right now, this week, I am loving this gig, confidant in our decision and discovering blessings that I had never thought of finding.

(I just noticed the giant goose that landed on my well-organized shelf).

After so many months of planning and fretting I was anxious to just get started and find out what we are in for, and this week was as good as any.  We got together with our co-op on Saturday, and even though I didn't feel fully prepared, we dove in on Monday without any big hoopla; we simply opened the books and got started.

My plan is to do school four days a week and field trips and meeting with our co-op on Fridays.  So after our first full week of school, these are a few of the things I've found that I love about homeschooling:

-I had worried about feeling overwhelmed and not having enough time for the writing and things that I need to do, but in fact this week as we have been home more and not doing a lot of running around, I have had more time than I ever have.

-I think this fits my personality; my strengths (according to the tests) are high flexibility and adaptability . . . which related to homeschooling means that although I may not be super-planned or structured, I am good at flying by the seat of my pants (or is it the skin of my teeth?).   We did school together this week, and I enjoy adapting the lessons so that the two and four year old learn too.

-One of my weaknesses in mothering littles has always been in the area of play.  Frankly, I don't like it.  It bores me to tears, and I was never good at just sitting on the floor and playing for long periods of time.  Doing school is different.  Here, I have a purpose in our play, I love the subjects that I am teaching, and I feel like I am giving my kids tons of quality time which is what they want and I always felt guilty that I wasn't doing enough.

-And because I've given them this good chunk of quality time, they have been more content this week in the hours that we aren't doing school; therefore giving me more time, too.

-The girls play well together.  One of the drawbacks to public education is having children grouped according to age.  There are tons of benefits to children (and adults) spending time in mixed age groups; they learn to respect older children and to have compassion for younger ones, for example.  Although Josie creates constant interruptions to our day, I see how gentle Sami and Annie are with her, the ways that they help her and help each other, how adaptable they have learned to be, and I feel this is an education in itself.  (Although I have wondered many, many time this week how families with a lot of children manage homeschool?)

-I love our rhythm.  Mornings are smooth, there are smooth transitions between school and play, it feels like a really natural, manageable pace.

-I really love teaching, and I love learning.  I love the ability to teach in the ways that I learn best (without textbooks). And I love knowing what Sam is learning so we can reference it as we go through our day.  When she would come home from school it always was impossible to get much information from her about what she was learning.

-For right now our focused learning time only lasts about two hours, and we are completing all the material and more.  I understand that this is to be expected in the younger grades, as they get older the time will increase; the rest of the day that she spends reading books, making art, and in free play are just as important as her bookwork.

-Homeschooling has been bringing up all of my negative memories of school . . . the cold, harsh teachers, or the dull ones who were only in it to coach sports; the competition, the way that all joy was stripped from learning, the meanness of kids . . . I literally spent my entire school experience staring out the window ("doesn't pay attention in class" was written on every report card).  It wasn't until I was in college that I learned to love learning, or believed that I could be smart.  Adversity is necessary and I don't want to overprotect my kids, but I hope that I can spare my children some of those things.

These are just a few of my first-impressions, for what it's worth . . . the benefits of homeschooling from a one-week-old rookie.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

for when I forget

It won't always be this way.
They won't always sit criss-cross applesauce and sparkle and giggle because their mom is trying to be their teacher.
The littlest won't sit every day quietly snipping foam for thirty minutes,
we won't bake bread every Monday like I plan
or always complete everything . . .
I will fail and snap.
We will all grow weary.
But every day, at least once, I will tell them that what they are learning is God.
That all truth is God's truth,
and there is no place their mind can wander or book they can open where God is not already present,
Alpha and Omega
I Am.
Together we will listen carefully to rocks crying out,
and singing mountains and we will applaud with the trees,
and somehow, in this beautiful work of wonder- under the awkward label of homeschool- we will know that there is no comma or molecule or letter in any language that does not sing Hallelujah.

This is why we homeschool.
   (for when I forget).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Naptime Sunday

Naptime Sunday 3
Remembering Summer

Today during naptime I started this painting and I am calling it done.  I like it.

As I painted I kept telling myself to remember when to stop.  I have plenty of good paintings buried beneath touch-ups, fixes, and leftover paint that seemed immoral to let dry on the pallet.

The hardest part of making art isn't making art.  First is getting started, and second is knowing when to stop.

The most exquisite art stops right at the edge of beautiful or sentimental or complete.  So, too, the art of living.

It is nearly impossible to know when to stop.  I struggle with this constantly because I want to do everything but I can't.  When is life perfectly unfinished, perfectly left undone?  At what point is life both beautifully exhausting and wonderfully restful and precisely filled up and poured out?

I do not usually know when to stop but I am trying to learn to leave things a little unfinished, a little more vibrant.  I am trying to learn when to let the extra paint dry.

As we begin our year of homeschool tomorrow I need to remember this more than ever.

Two fabulous posts on this subject this week:

Sarah Bessey with Start Small, Start with Sabbath at SheLoves Magazine.  Love every word of this post.
You can mutli-task like a mama octopus, and you can rise early after going to bed (too) late. You can pull down deep to your prairie-kid work ethic, top it off with some good old Protestant fear of idle hands, a side of the evangelical hero complex. You can fill your life with “should” and “ought to” and “must” and make colour-coded lists, download a few iPhone apps for productivity. You can put your tinies to bed, saying “no” to their requests for another story, another song, another snuggle, because, darling, can’t you see? Mama has so much work to do.
And "Martha Martha" by D.L.Mayfield at Rachel Held Evans
I do find comfort in this: Jesus doesn’t shame you. He calls you by name, twice (“Martha, Martha”, the first time cutting through your heart, the second time healing it). He gets to the root of all your existential angst, and he shows that there is no need for the amount of space you carve out for anxiety, worry, righteous indignation. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

summer 2012

Summer 2012 
It was a summer of 
living and dying.
Gathering, tenderness, reunion.
Art, music, great food,
quiet, heat, sun, shade.
 New friends and old friends.
Of burying grandparents and a generation passed;
weeping with friends
And rejoicing with others;
marriage, babies, new endeavors, new commitments, new relationships.
There was kissing, wishing, writing, hoping.

 Momocho's is ah-maz-ing,
little ones refused to go to VBS,
my mom turned sixty,
our sweet friend Anny lived with us for a month,
 a fun week with grandparents visiting,
reunions with friends and uncle from faraway places,
little girl tea parties,
neighborhood pals,
exploring the city in the summer
and lots of trips to the country.

It was a summer of rest and a summer of endless motion.  
It was a summer to reflect,  
a summer of fireflies and dirty feet, 
of refusing to exercise,
learning to swim and learning to fly.
Waking too early and staying up too late,
laughing too hard and too much coffee,
of growing up and growing softer,
a summer of remembering and a summer for planning,
for bad moods and funks and girlfriends-are-better-than-therapy.
It was a summer of living deep and wide,
of peach juice dripping down our arms,
wild rain storms.
It was a summer of wild and precious and love like mad.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

one courageous thing

I just finished Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.  You may be familiar with her blog.  

Katie moved to Uganda when she was 19 and now at 22 is the mother to fourteen girls.  This seems like it can't be possible, but reading both her blog and the book reveal to me a woman with childlike faith who simply trusts God and obeys what He asks her to do.  The book is a simple and quick read.

I have followed her blog for a while, and her book is a little like the condensed version, some passages taken from her blog but also filling in a few of the gaps, such as how she began adopting these children and a few of the struggles she experienced like choosing to follow God back to Uganda rather than obey her parents and finish college.  

It was hard for me to read this book.

It is hard to read a book like this and not feel things like guilt, regret, or maybe just a little incredulous.

One, I feel like I have spent the past several years learning(?) or convincing (?) myself that God does not need our mighty acts or our daring adventures, but simply our heart, our humility, our gentleness . . . make it your ambition to live a quiet life.  Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.

Both Jim and I, in different places and in different ways, felt, at one time, called by God to go somewhere and do something . . . .  There is a much longer story here, but it is one thing that brought us together, and then we spent the next several years first realizing and then trying to accept that that wasn't going to happen.

I still grieve this sometimes, while certainly delighting in this life I have been given.  But it is hard to know what to do with this American life.  As much as I do not want to conform to American values, yet here we are with two vehicles and house full of toys, clothes, stuff . . .

We cannot compare ourselves to anyone.  God does not compare me to Katie Davis.  But . . . the book raises a lot of questions that I cannot answer.

Two, her story is so . . . perfect.  Even though she does in the book say over and over that she is not perfect, that she often messes up and it is only Christ working through her . . . still she has not experienced the failure that I have . . . I did not have her maturity, at nineteen, to believe God would lead me adopt children.  I would not have had her stubborness to go against my parents, or her confidence to even imagine I was capable of raising children alone.  But again, I cannot compare myself to Katie Davis . ..

I guess what I need to take away from her story is simply her childlike faith to trust God totally, to not be afraid, to be open for Christ to do in me whatever He chooses . . .

"I believe there is only one truly courageous thing we can do with our lives: to love unconditionally.  Absolutely, with all of ourselves, so much that it hurts and more."
Katie Davis,

The other book I finished recently is The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.  It was very much a "beach read," and contrasts highly with Kisses from Katie :-).  It was fun to talk about the book with my friend Sally and to talk about journaling and how to pass on a life.

Today is my day for Homeschool prep.  Our classroom is nearly ready, today I am working on lesson plans and trying to map out our year.  I have experienced so many moments of panic lately, looking at the calendar and realizing that summer is going to soon be over . . . and then pure relief when I remember that Sami does not have to go to school this year!  I am so thankful for school at home!

Friday, August 3, 2012

cycle of grace

I began to add the following portion to my previous post, What Is Annoying Me Right Now, but I decided to turn it into it's own post because I have a lot to say about it.  It is quite likely that a post about what is annoying me would be written during one week in particular of the month . . . you probably know which one.

I've wanted to write about this topic for a long time because it is very much a part of life, but I avoided it for obvious reasons.  Nobody really wants to read about PMS, or have to deal with it.  (Men, you have been warned).


I happen to experience the dreaded week before my period, PMS, very acutely.  So much that I have learned to plan around it.

Hormones do not affect all women the same.  There are women completely unaffected by their monthy cycle, and plenty of (male) preachers teaching that it is all in our head.  I know for a fact that hormones do very real things to our bodies which we cannot control; it was hormones which caused my body to react so violently to each of my pregnancies, resulting in uncontrollable vomiting known as hyperemesis.  It was also hormones which triggered my body to grow these three amazing children.  Obviously, hormones are capable of some unpleasant but mostly miraculous things.

The way that hormones affect me on a smaller level, monthly, is just as real.  On these weeks everything is different; I smell things I don't normally smell, my body aches, I experience insomnia.  I retain water and gain a couple pounds.

I am even more aware of what is happening to me mentally.  This is the week when I forget things,  my mind is foggy, I can't plan or concentrate, I make simple, annoying mistakes.

And bigger than all of that is the emotional change during this week.   On this week everything hurts.  I can be weepy or anxious over small things, easily bruised, sad for unexplainable reasons.

I have found redemption in even this.  In fact I now think of this as my most spiritual week.

It is a time to weep.

We are created for joy but in this world that is not yet made new, there is plenty to grieve.

Physically, pms occurs after ovulation.  An egg has been released but was unfertilized resulting in death. I have come to think of pms as our body grieving over death.  And maybe too this week we grieve for all loss, for all disorder and conflict, everything that is fallen or broken, out of harmony with the Giver of Life.

I have learned to lean into my grief this week, to allow myself to feel the hurt that is in the world, to weep with those who weep.

It is a time of weakness.

I am so very aware, this week, of my helplessness.  I feel out of control- my mind, my emotions, my body- so very weak and wounded, acting and reacting in ways that I hate.

Prayer, Tim Keller says, is helplessness.  And maybe, helplessness is prayer.

This week I find myself falling before God more regularly, more desperately.  I know- I know, know, know- that I am incapable of any good apart from Him.  Which is, of course, true of every week, but easy to forget or not fully believe in my stronger weeks.

When I am weak, then I am strong.  This becomes my mantra during PMS week, my constant prayer.

It is a time of repentance.

This week, I am exposed.  Even if no one knows but me, even when I am able by God's grace to possess self-control, I know what is in my heart.  The week unearths ugliness and sin that other weeks I can gloss over or sweep under the rug.  I am wretched, helpless, undone.  Who shall deliver me from this body of death?

And then, when I am at the end of myself, in my great weakness, there is cleansing, renewal . . . salvation.

Every month, twelve times a year, I relive the gospel.  My ache and need, my grief for all that is not as it should be, my utter helplessness and sin, my great need of salvation.

I fought shame and guilt for many years, but now I think of PMS as an offering, a spiritual journey, a form of prayer.

Romans 8:19-21

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.