after the fact

We had a wonderful first day of school yesterday. The kids completely surprised me by all showing up in navy blue polo shirts and khaki shorts. They’d gotten the idea during one of the times they’d been out shopping with grandma.

I absolutely loved it, and was happy, then, that I’d dressed up for them too. I wore a brand new bright yellow short sleeved sweater shirt, along with a crisp new pair of dark blue jeans. I even put my slightly dressier though still comfortable shoes on.

Later that night, after an afternoon of swimming, the kids were back with Grandma for one more overnight and day together before the high school starts on Wednesday. While my husband and I ate supper, we watched a video my sister had sent me.

It was John Crist’s recent Homeschoolers During the Pandemic, and it was the perfect video, after a close to as perfect as possible day, to come along like a cocklebur and stick itself to my mind, to scratch against any amount of present day doubt and fear.

It’s funny, because at the beginning of the day, before any of the kids were even up, I’d asked God to help me start the school year from a place of confidence and peace, not just in my spiritual life with the Lord, but in my every day life as I’m doing the things.

I am committed to this life, to this homeschooling lifestyle, for however short or long God grants me strength and opportunity. I can adapt and be open to change when need be. I know when I start that I have already failed, that anything I do will never ever be enough.

And yet you absolutely cannot stop me, from that one thing I am determined to do, to give it everything I’ve got and the very best that I can. My strengths as a mom are perseverance, flexibility, and love. Those are universal strengths of any mom that I know.

on foreign invasions

“In the end, the grounding, homey work of cooking, caring, and befriending someone else is what finally brings me back into balance with myself. I am done reading toilet reviews and wandering around New Hampshire in search of the ideal door handles. What a relief to turn instead to real work–feeding a friend and serving, at last, some greater purpose than my own.”
~Katrina Kenison, The Gift of an Ordinary Day~

all joy reminds

“All joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still ‘about to be'”.
~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy~

The first year we homeschooled, I was more interested in the curriculum. Not the content inside, as I figured all of that was more or less the same, but rather the covers. The boy language arts books with the baseball player in mid-swing. The girl language arts book with the bright teal butterfly. The idea or ideal was to know each one of them, consider their interests, and provide an education they would never be able to find anywhere else.

It’s getting to be crunch time in terms of getting ready for school. I set a date to start, God-willing, next Monday. The kids spent the whole day with grandma yesterday, and before they left, I told them any special lego guys or old creations they didn’t want me messing with they’d better move them into the story corner. The rest of it was open for me to deal with as I pleased. I spent pieces of yesterday picking legos out of the carpet creases along the edges of the fireplace and making sense of the schoolroom table.

I dusted the mantle, vacuumed along the carpet creases, and wiped down the bricks where the ash and wood chips collect around the fireplace. Work with a purpose is the work I love most, and getting in there to transform the room before school starts is definitely the kind of work I love. One year we made a tree that still covers the wall. Another year, at the last minute, I decided something needed to be done to give the fireplace a makeover.

This year I’m merely getting it back into order, to let it be more of a familiar place to come back to. I love my students, even though I don’t do as much of the direct kind of teaching I would have liked to with my big kids. Once they can read they are able to work fairly independently on the basics. They have their own books for their own subjects and their own grade levels, and rather than being the one teaching each and every lesson, I mostly float from person to person depending on who needs help or explanation.

Even though I’m pretty much set now in my mostly CLE curriculum ways, I still enjoy looking through curriculum books, because in my heart, I love to learn. It doesn’t matter as much to me now if it has baseballs or butterflies, just that it is simple, straightforward, and easy to follow, both for me, and for the kids. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Like my husband said when we first agreed to do this, “Okay, but just as long as you know that you are actually going to have to do school with them”. He meant we couldn’t just play and have fun the whole time. “Yes”, I said, “I understand.”

love stories

Reason sets up a market
and begins doing business
Love has more hidden work
~Rumi, Secret Places

For most of my life I have been the one on the receiving end of large acts of generosity. One Christmas in junior high, my family came home from the Christmas Eve service and two new bikes had showed up by our front door. It turns out a family member of the pastor had acquired two extra bikes, and asked him if there were any families he knew of who could use them.

The prior fall of that same year, an elderly man from our church had passed away. I don’t remember if my sister and I both wanted to go to the visitation, or if I wanted to go and if I, wanting company, asked and worked to get my sister to come with me. Dad was at work so he wasn’t going, and Mom was home with the kids, so she didn’t seem like she would be going. But we could still go, old enough now to ride across the town by ourselves.

We dressed up in the clothes we’d usually wear to school for basketball game days. They were not the most attractive clothes, and they were the only pair of pinstripe black “dress pants” I owned in those years. My sister often wore Mom’s sweaters and turtlenecks, as she was always bigger and closer to Mom’s size. I’d wear them to church and on game days too.

We didn’t have bikes, so we borrowed the little kid bikes of our siblings and rode across town to the evening visitation on bikes that were, to anyone with eyes to see, noticeably too small for us. I don’t remember the bike ride, if we grumbled half the time about the ridiculousness of these god darn bikes, or if we laughed and thought the entire thing was hilarious. I just remember wanting to get there. We hadn’t really known Oscar that well, but we’d known him, as we’d also more known Martha, his wife.

There was a male and a female bike on the porch. It was not a “perfect match” to me and my sister’s eventually forgotten about bike need situation. But when we pulled into the drive way and saw two new bikes kickstanded under the porch light, eventually moving them for the night into the darkness of the garage, I remembered our fall evening bike ride and wondered, “Could it be???” Could it be that God had seen me and my sister?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, another one of those “God stories”. How many of those have I heard told throughout the years. Quite a few, in fact. And as much as I can’t seem to find a way to frame a story so it’s not completely all about me or myself, I’m telling it anyway. I don’t remember whether or not me and my sister at some point argued over who would get the ladies bike and who would be the one, once again, stuck with some still not perfect and goofball situation riding around through the town on a mens bike. Perhaps in junior high we were mature enough by then to work out an agreement where we alternated bikes and gladly took turns. What I remember most now is having a bike, how we rode those bikes and enjoyed them immensely.

(Point of the story: God is real and He loves and provides.)