Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Homeschool Honesty

Prior to home educating my children, I was shocked that others would do this. I even said a few negative comments about home schoolers as a young teacher within the school system myself. When I felt gentle nudges to consider this journey, I researched it extensively for quite a few years. Then when I experienced a particular strong leading that I could not ignore, it had me up awake for an entire night wrestling with God over the situation. For one, I felt skittish about doing something, perhaps yet another thing that was a bit "different" than others and I desired to please people at that time. Possibly I was living more in order to not make waves, but at the very least I needed to learn the lesson of following the Light more than other’s expectations. It wasn’t an easy choice, but soon became a real joy and passion of mine. It was truly just a one year experiment.

So here I am eight years later, still home educating 2 of our 3 children and I realize that some of my happiest years have been when I was teaching all 3 children together. This year is different though and I’m feeling beyond tired and a little bit down. I’m trying to determine why some of my spark and joy is snuffed out and have taken a longer than normal winter break to do so and rest. I’m also doing a study written by a friend Marsha, entitled Sufficient Grace for Home-School Moms. It’s a 40 Day devotional/journal study and it is helping me think on things and recharge my battery a bit so I’ve included her book and link from this site as it may encourage others along the way.

I’ve never focussed so much on being a teacher to the children, but more of a guide for them in their studies and this has never felt like a chore. I was never one to wish our learning time was over for the day, but rather notoriously like a big kid that could not wait for a new day to begin again when it was. Some days now I am looking at the clock and that bothers me, as learning to us has been a life style rather than a clanging bell that rings when the day is done.

I think my answer is plain old chronic pain. The kind of pain that is uncontrolled and zapping my excitement of life as it limits my ability to talk and read and I’ve recently developed all sorts of facial and neck pain. Also, I am missing our Five in a Row days, Ambleside and the countless D’Aulaire and Holling C Holling books read under blankets regardless of how we’ve flexibly made this year work for us. I’m sad about loosing some of the spontaneity that comes along with being more physically able and trotting off for the day or diving into extremely messy art or science projects. I long to hear the laughter like when we made relief maps out of clay and built puppet stages. Now it is winter and I yearn for the days of roasting marshmallows and making s’mores while we do our studies. I miss pretending we are from other countries and eating ethnic foods and taking time out to bake cookies. Frankly I am mad I am too tired to clean all that mess up and that I can’t eat all those foods. So, basically in a nut shell, I am having a pitty party. I am being a selfish child who wants to teach a certain way and am not getting my way due to illness. As much as I try to do this chronic illness gracefully, it still really has the potential to cramp my style and challenge me to move toward acceptance. I clearly need a heart attitude adjustment.

The more I think about it, the more I realize I need to take a lesson from my former special needs students. I need to dwell on what I can do and not what I cannot do. I also need to set realistic goals according to my abilities and not think so grandiose all the time because I habitually do that and set myself up for failure. I think I need to be content with missing my son with us and just cherish the memories of his messing up our math time by throwing m&m candy at us and just accept our new direction. I also need to take a lesson from my own daughters who seem to be content and just wish to learn together still. So I will brace myself for continued change, watch the girls gain further independence and make the memories we can now. We will listen to more audio books and have the girls take turns reading a loud under quilts. February will bring The Great Backyard Bird Count, which is an annual production here that we all look forward to. Just maybe we will have a few surprise snow days with sledding where I can put my feet up and relax. I guess that’s the point of all this talking in circles. I just need to relax and go with the flow of time and reality a bit. Who knows, perhaps my immune-suppressants will kick in good enough that when spring comes and the peepers call I will be able to do the pond stomping once again.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Carry You

I’ve been looking at a lot of cute blogs out there all decorated with Christmas cheer and here I am posting a song instead and not a holiday one at that. For one, I’ve been listening to it lately, pondering a lot in my heart on God’s grace and mercy that has carried me this past year and another is that the lyrics speak of burdens. I’m burdened for what the season has become and for those around me that are less fortunate or simply hurting more at this time of year for so many reasons. I feel heavy that I can’t reach out overseas to the extent I’d like or even within my own family, our elderly that need help, a touch or even that voice on the other end of the phone that I can so rarely give due to my vocal pain. Though perhaps every little prayer or act can help for the greater good.

I’m also feel I’m carrying a heavy load for my extended family members, which at this point are quite graceful in recognizing my inability to go and do so much or entertain as I used to. At least some of them seem to understand. It effects them and I’m sorry for that. Maybe I’m so burdened as this is the third Christmas since becoming really ill and I now see the celebration through different eyes as well as my Quaker beliefs firming up more through the past 4 years or so, which makes me not want to celebrate in the manner we used to in the past, regardless. It grieves me to see the commercialism and greed when so many have lost their jobs or are going without and realize that I too have been a part of that in my past. I hope not as much now. Even so, this house has too many trees for me to admit in the public domain. Then when deaths occur due to shopping on Black Friday in America, my heart cries a river over what we are teaching this generation to come.

Most of all, I think I just want to break through all the heaviness and remember the real meaning of Christmas and I feel a bit frustrated as that has become so difficult to do in these surroundings with all the chaotic displays, distractions and “have to’s”. But I know what I take my joy in at this time is my belief that one day is not more sacred than another and that Christ’s birth and redemption can be remembered in my heart every day of the year. That takes the pressure off, fills me with hope and reminds me that God really does carry me and catch every tear I cry, as the lyrics convey. Then some how joy breaks through.

So if you are Quaker and viewing this, you may be thinking this song does not seem a bit Quaker nor do I. Likewise if you are Christian and reading some of my words, you may be scratching your head or possibly even shaking it. I’ll get around to addressing my thoughts on that one in the new year as I’m feeling a bit over due there in having my say. But for now as always, I’m receiving the gift of the baby Jesus and the awesome blessing of being his child which tends to beat the pants off anything here on this earth, uplifts me and reminds me there is hope. And one more thing–that is Vince Gill there next to Amy and she remains as good of an example to me today as the first time I saw her in the Lincoln Arena in Nebraska with her first husband so long ago. See there’s enough of God’s love and mercy to go around......more hope people, so won’t you join me in laying down any burdens you may have right now? We are called to do that in every season.

Carry You, Amy Grant

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lighting a Fire

Since I have always believed in what William Butler Yeats said that “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire” I have strived to find creative ways to go on lighting that fire in my children. Unless we find, develop and nurture our passions, we can easily get stuck filling our quota of chapters in a text, lessons per week and well, that leads to monotony here. Yes, school work is not always fun and there are requirements and some knowledge that simply must be memorized in rote-like fashion, but when it all becomes that way even this mama gets feeling a little too listless.

Some times I cure this easily by tossing our book lists aside and allowing the girls to pick their own books according to interest. Other times, they choose a creative art project or substitute a science experiment or topic that they prefer to learn about rather than my scheduled one. Once a year, I even agree to swapping roles for the day and they take turns being a guide and I become the student. That makes for some interesting memories! At the end of the year, it all seems to get completed regardless.

I had no idea the extent to which we lit a fire in our daughters by visiting one of Robert Frost’s homes in Vermont. I’m not sure I could name my favorite poet, but he is certainly amongst them and so we traveled way out of our way to walk his memorial trail, see this house as well as drive into town and visit his grave.

Upon returning home and starting our school for the year, my daughters continued to choose Frost’s poetry for their studies and memorization time. I was thrilled, but since then have been creatively sneaking in other poetry and it has been difficult, that is how enamored they have become since our visit. So, I rejoiced last month my youngest daughter gladly memorized Stevenson’s “Singing” and the older one loved learning Tennyson’s “The Eagle”. I thought I was on to some thing....

When December hit faster than I’d prepared for, they were already working independently on “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” before I even sat down for tea time. I just listened a while and realized they were a good way into memorizing it in full and it seemed to be due to the chatter going on previously about our visit and how one entire room of Frost’s Vermont home was devoted to this famous poem, which was in fact written there. I have to admit it was wonderful to be there and to take the memories home with me, so I let them have their say and it is a fitting choice for this time of year.