Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stock School, goodness and truth

Yesterday, the day I began this post, was the kind of grey, misty day that makes you long to light candles and curl up with books under old quilts with cups of tea.  So, we did.

Then we went to the library, sloshing through puddles with bright pink umbrellas.  The library is peaceful and cozy at this time of day, we take our time, checking out great piles of books.  Then, more tea, more quilts, more books.  Lentil curry on the stove.  Later pumpkin cookies in the oven.

This is one of the things I love about homeschool; choosing what the day needs, following our own paths, wrapping ourselves in the moment.  We can stomp in puddles at ten in the morning.  We are home to see the way the shadows fall at two in the afternoon. This is a gift, one I don't take lightly.

I won't write that our days are easy or smooth, there are plenty of challenges, but first, why I am finding the challenges to be worth it:

First and most importantly, we see Sami thriving.  She is happy, settled, confidant, enthusiastic.  Jim commented the other day on the one statement we heard over and over from her teachers last year; "She is starting to come out of her shell."  She must have not said a word all year.  We know that she is bent toward introversion, and by the time she came home in the afternoons the day had taken all the energy right out of her.  Now, somedays she never stops talking.

She is a kind-hearted, responsible and hard working little person.  I have quit worrying about her "socialization".  For one, like my pastor/friend Nan pointed out, at this age her family is her socialization.  We are the environment where she can safely learn how to love her neighbor as herself, under our guidance and protection.  This also helps make the friends and cousins in her small circles that much more precious.  As our children grow and mature they will of course branch out into broader social circles; I do not need to rush that.

She is learning.  Rapidly, eagerly.  And I get to be a part of it, which honestly, is so much fun.

I can do this.  I don't know now why I was so fearful.  Just like any other aspect of mothering, I find that it is completely natural to teach our own.  (NOT that there is anything wrong with choosing not to, of course).

Homeschool in the city is especially great as there are so many endless options for homeschoolers.  Sometimes too many.

I could go on about things we love about homeschool (not hectic mornings, not packing lunches, not cleaning out backpacks . ..) but I don't want to paint the picture entirely rosy, either.  This is, also, hard.

Here are some negatives:

I feel some days like that mother cat whose kittens are piled on top of her.  My three girls follow me from room to room, chattering all at once, all. day. long.  I am sure there will be a day when they are independent and I wish they would spend more time with me.  This is what I keep telling myself.

There isn't me Me-Time.  There just isn't.  Jim works hard, and a lot.  My writing goals have slid into oblivion in the past few weeks, and I feel both constant nagging guilt and annoyance with myself that I cannot seem to do both; lately this is making me slightly depressed.

I am still have a hard time keeping Josie happy and Annie interested while we are doing school.  They both want to be at the table with us, and I want them to be there, but there is a lot of activity happening at once. 

Here are a few highlights from the past two weeks of Stock School:

First up, a much-anticipated trip to the Cleveland Zoo with Nana, Papa, and their cousin Brody.  A week later, they are still talking about the zoo.  Apparently we forgot to see the zebras.

 Over the weekend we visited the Holden Arboretum.  We had never been there and were quite impressed.  There is a fabulous children's play area- Buckeye Bud's Adventure Woods.  It was a beautiful day and the kids loved it.  We will be back here for sure.

No, every day of homeschool is not smooth, but even our not-good days do not make me wish for anything different.  When things are clicking and everyone is cooperating and learning, this is, truly, so much fun.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

I did not love this as much as Gilead, but then the stories are entirely different.  Housekeeping is similarly aching and fluid, though not an easy book to read.  I agree with one reviewer who wrote, "the plot is hardly the point, however.  The words are."  I learned today that she wrote this without ever expecting it would be published, in fact it was a friend who sent the manuscript to an agent.  Several brilliant passages, here's one:
 "To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing -- the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again."

Monday, September 17, 2012

how to look forward

found via pinterest, blog address unknown

I forget.  

This weekend I read through some past journals. How I soon I forget how huge my fears were at times, the valley of the shadow, and I see now how God delivered me, step by step, melody in the fog.  It wasn't easy, but it wasn't what I feared.  God was with me, I know that now, and we made it, and it is well.  I need to look back, to march around my piles of stones and remember.

And there was a year, longer, I could never have been more misunderstood- everywhere, from all sides- the one thing I cannot bear.  But there was work to do, and one hour, one meal, one endless night to the next and it was the work that saved me, exhaustion that numbed me and only now looking back do I shake my head and think, Lord that was hard.  But it was my path out of pleasing, of wearing approval like girl scout badges, and God was gentle and did not sleep and God was with me.

I tell my Sunday school students to be strong and courageous for God is with them.  Just like Joshua and Gideon and Moses.  It seems like the thing He most wanted them to know, over and over.  And God is with us- do I dare believe it?  Can our story be God's story too?  My life is small and I am weak and can I believe that this story- this one wild and precious life- is meant to be impossible and victorious?  Can I believe that the God who reduced Gideon's army to a hill of beans is not in the business of reducing but of finishing the work He said He would do?  Fear, fire, fog- they go before Him, they surround Him, they demonstrate that God is near, He is working, answering, delivering.  

I can look ahead by looking back.  I needed to remember this today.

Joining Ann today- giving thanks for His faithfulness, for He answered and delivered in His way and in His time, and will . . .

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dear Me

Dear Me at Fifteen,

I have debated all week whether to write you this letter, because the truth is that some days I am still mad at you.  And oh how you hate for anyone to be angry or unhappy, right? You will do anything to fix it.

Oh the things I would like to tell you, the lectures I would like to give.

But I won't.  Because the very first thing you need to know is that you are not responsible for it.  It is not your job to make everyone happy.  How I wish you would learn this now rather than later.  But you won't, and this is all part of your story.

You haven't met her yet, but this is your gift-friend Sally.  You will never stop being grateful.

The very dearest, most treasured thing you ever will learn is what you are learning right now in your soaked pillow, on all of those tearful weekends spent with Mom and Dad and that is What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  I can forgive you for all of the mistakes you are going to make because they have every one sent you deeper into the arms of Jesus.  Whatever it took for you to get there this is the only place you need to be.  For this God is your God for ever and ever.  He will be your guide even until death.  

You don't have many super powers.  You don't turn heads or win awards.  You are a bit of a dork really, just accept that now because you know what, the most beautiful and amazing people you will ever know are all a little bit dorky.  In fact it is one of the hopes I have for my daughters now, that they will always be slightly odd and wonderful.

Oh yeah, there's that.  You have daughters.  Three of them!  You thought you would be the only female surrounded by boys forever, but now you live in a pink palace with female emotions all over the place and this fact will blow your mind daily, you will never get used to the delight of it.  How you intend to protect and nurture three small versions of yourself you have no idea.  Lord have mercy.

I said that you don't have many super powers but really you have two.  These two powers have been nearly lost many times, you have yourself heaped ashes on the flame.  Your daughters are fanning them back to life.

The first is the way you see people.  To you they are amazing, every one.  You cannot help it, you love people, you see everything about them as hopeful and true and beautiful.  Sometimes you are speechless for the greatness you see in them.  This will, of course, crush you over and over.  You will never stop hurting from it.  But just at the moment when you begin to turn out the lights in your heart a new light will be born out of you, and you will press her to your chest and weep and know that every great and beautiful thing you ever saw in anyone was absolutely true.

The second is your habit to daydream, it really is an issue you know.  You began early and never stopped, it was how you coped through eight long hours of school and it was what saved you when school became too painful.  In some ways it is your only act of aggression, this refusal to accept anything that does not slay you.  You will read Gone With the Wind and The Thorn Birds and Flowers in the Attic at the desks where you are supposed to be learning periodic tables and geometry, and as your grades sink your soul will peek open, human and alive.  You will learn to paint. You will fall in love, and tell the truth.  You will home educate.  You will crave trees, and bookshelves.

I wish I could help you to lighten up.  I wish I could make you take one more step up the stairs rather than hesitate.  I wish you would pay more attention in Spanish class.  There are a lot of things I wish you would do, and I know that even now you are begging me to wrap this up peacefully, to tell you that it's all okay, I'm not mad.  You will do anything I tell you to keep the peace, but I'm not going to do that.  Life isn't perfect and neither are you; it was never about perfection.  You will fall down in grief, thanks, hope, failure, wonder, joy, until it becomes your posture.  There is beauty everywhere.  Love never ends.  Mercy.

Linking up with Emily in honor of her new book, Graceful, out this week!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stock School Week Four

Thursday 1:30
Iced latte recipe here.

The house is quiet for the moment, the tiny one is napping, the others are playing quietly.  This afternoon we will do some art and a little more reading, tomorrow we meet with our co-op and then our fourth week of homeschool will be complete.

It feels in many ways as though we have been doing this forever, which, really, we have.  Our days have always flowed according to this kind of rhythm- early mornings for play, active forenoon and quiet afternoons, punctuated by little meals and lots of picking up.

My challenges are the same; the kids still wake up too early and my well-intentioned plans are still sacrificed for the unpredictable events of life with children.  I still don't know how to fit it all in, or how to work from home when work and home are all jumbled together.  I look up and ask, which one- this or this? and I feel God say, Yes, and so I am finally (finally!) after nearly seven years realizing that this isn't going to change; this lack of time, it is as it is supposed to be, and there will never be enough.  That's okay.

And at the same time life is wonderfully small and simple, too.

This week we took full advantage of this glorious weather and our homeschool liberties, and spent a day learning at the Nature Center.  I love the freedom to do this, to be outdoors when we want to be, to experience God in everything we learn.

Found or Learned this week:

-I am requiring too much writing from Sam and she is getting frustrated.  She is normally a very eager learner but was beginning to melt down every time I asked her to write, which was often.  Cutting back on handwriting and doing more narration and memorization for a while.

-Dear Me, by Amber at The Run A Muck

-Sarah Bessey, In defense of the Cafeteria.  This is beautiful, and true. (thanks, Ruth)

-The many uses of castile soap

-Yoga.  I love it.

-Room by Emma Donoghue
I actually finished this a few weeks ago.  I had picked it up at a thrift store, and then it sat on my shelf because I didn't think I could bear to read it.  The subject is horrific- a mother and child held prisoner in an 11 x 11 room, the only world the boy has ever known.  I finally was motivated to read it because we were going to hear her speak at the Cleveland Writer's Center Stage series.  I ended up losing a lot of sleep because I couldn't put the book down, I finished it in two days.  And although the subject is terrifying she handled it in such a hopeful way.  This book made me a better mother.

-I am still feeling bad that I can't seem to interest Annie in what we are doing, and all of my effort seems to be focused on Sam.  I know that this is largely due to age and personality, although she wants to be present she doesn't want to participate.  This weekend I am going to work on preparing some Montessori-based materials for her, hopefully that will help.

Friday, September 7, 2012

fire, or light

I have been trying all week to describe the light this time of year,
terra cotta

burnt umber

I love the slant of light in September
I tell my children
anything can happen in this light.

“It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance - for a moment or a year or the span of a life. 
And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light .... 
Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. 
You don't have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? .... Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave - that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.” 
-Marilynne Robinson, Gildead

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stock School Week 2, nuts and bolts

Well of course it was to be expected that sooner or later reality would set in.  Our first week of school couldn't have gone better and this week was, well, . . . the first two days we spent at my parents' so we could attend my grandparents' estate sale (this following a crazy-busy-fun weekend).  We were able to do school while we were there, and spend time with cousins and grandparents and run around on the farm and buy my grandma's Lifetime cookware.  Fabulous.

Then we came home.

We didn't get home until ten Tuesday night, I woke up Wednesday to mountains of laundry and not an egg or slice of bread in the house.  We went to the grocery store first thing and piled out of the van only to realize that one child wasn't wearing shoes, and of the five random flip-flops in the van, all of them were lefts.  This is the way the second half of the week began, and it didn't get much better.  

After this week I learned some good things.

1.  Before week one began the laundry was done, house cleaned, menu planned and groceries stocked.  I approached the first week as though I were starting a new job, and was able to focus all week only on school and writing.  I know that this won't always be possible, but as much as I can I'd like to begin the week with all housekeeping details complete.

2.  Some trouble spots I need to solve:
      -activity bags to keep Annie interested
      -a good plan for the afternoons
      -a predictable, steady schedule to fall back on when unusual weeks happen like this one

3.  I love audiobooks!  We listened to audiobooks in the car and during quiet time.  Some of our school books came with cd's and we listened to these for transitions, or just to give the kids a new voice.  We brought home poetry, science, Beethovan, and story cd's from the library and the kids listened to all of them.

Even though this week was a bit rough for me, we did have fun learning.

While at my parents' my brother's girlfriend Liz came over to make cheese with Sam.

It was super easy to make and turned out a soft, mild cheese.  I would love to do this again and try new kinds of cheeses.

After two weeks and knowing a little better how to plan, I have come up with our learning rhythm for the year.  I really appreciated Heidi's Unrealistic Routine post, where she mapped out the "routine she will never stick to."  It gives me hope to know that other people have idealistic intentions that they don't quite fulfill always, too.  I love to dream and plan and can be frustrated that I always fall short of my own expectations.  I am learning to find peace in that gap.

So here is our Unrealistic Routine which we will never stick to, but keep trying anyway:

5:00 I get up, read my Bible, make coffee, writing time

7:00  Kids up, start laundry, put classical cd on, everyone dressed and teeth brushed, beds made, kids empty dishwasher, read aloud during breakfast

8:00 kids playtime, I check email, switch laundry, prep for the day

9:00 School begins, everyone together (Josie plays with toys from her play basket, Annie participates)
Circle time on the floor: date, weather, devotions, scripture memory, poetry, a bit of geography or current events

10:00 snack, little girls (hopefully) go play, work with Sami alone the next hour:
Language Arts

11:30 Break, lunch, clean-up, outside time

1:00 Josie napping
History two days, Science other two
Read aloud

2:00 Send An and Sami to quiet time, audio books or quiet play on the bed
I prep supper or clean-up, check email, etc.

3:00 Josie awake, snack time
Monday: Baking
Tuesday: Art
Wednesday:  Nature Study
Thursday:  *hopefully music lessons
Friday:  FREE

4:00 Outside time
5:30 Family supper, clean-up
6:30 Exercise while watching the evening news (*this seems to be the best time to exercise. My friend Nikole does 25 min. of crossfit daily that she finds on pinterest, and she looks amazing!  I am copying her).

On Fridays everybody helps clean the house early so we can then head out for field trips or gatherings with our co-op.

Friday afternoon we rest, I make pizza Friday night, Jim puts the kids to bed, I take a hot bath and try to feel human again.

Here is the curriculum we are using this year, all based on recommendations from The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.

Saxon Math
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind
Spelling Work-out
Handwriting Without Tears
The Story of the World
The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading
Literature: read books daily
Life Science: First Animal Encyclopedia, The Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia, Green Thumbs
Poetry: Poetry Speaks to Children, A Family of Poems, Here's a Little Poem
Art: Drawing with Children

I am still hunting for a good character-building book or curriculum, maybe a foreign language, and hopefully music lessons.