Everyday I’ve been wanting to write. When the morning comes, I’ll choose to go on a walk instead. “This afternoon”, I’ll say to myself. When the afternoon comes, I’ll begin a post, but not finish it. “This evening.” The evening comes, and I’ve told the kids before, that by 8:30, I’ve reached the limits of talking, thinking, or answering questions. I can still say prayers.

The decision was made to cancel camp for the summer. It wasn’t a shock to hear the news, but it still hurt to hear it made officially real. I was eavesdropping outside the door of my husband’s office, listening in on their zoom meeting where the discussion was taking place. Maybe that was wrong, I don’t know. If it was, then I’m sorry, and if it wasn’t, then it stands.

My kids were supposed to be in a wedding next month and my husband was supposed to preach the wedding sermon. Due to the current restrictions in our state, and out of consideration for travel arrangements and safety of guests, the wedding plans were changed to be immediate family only. This one hurt, too. I feel also for the bride and the groom and for their parents. This couple wasn’t supposed to face such things so soon.

In the midst of disappointment, as the picture above shows, there are still beautiful things on the earth. She will still be a beautiful bride and the bridegroom will still be a tender, loving husband. Every single one of those parents will cry, first in sorrow in what wasn’t meant to be, and then the tears of joy will flow, from the purest form of love and pride. Even in sorrow, joy is their story, for joy is what our Father has said will come next.

The kids are still taking all of this pretty well. I worry most about the older, teenage ones, who are suffering more from the lack of social contact. God-willing I plan to keep going with school, though I promised the kids we would also take breaks. I’ve been trying to get my hands on some sweet-potato slips, but am letting them sit in my online shopping cart for a day. It seems my heart is yearning now for a hundred hopes of morning glory.

on potato fields

The potatoes seem to have survived this past weekend’s freeze warning. We went out and covered them Friday and Sunday nights. My father-in-law said the potatoes and crops could be damaged by frost, but it could be a few days before the damage shows up. That reminded me again of these days we are living in, wondering how much damage has yet to show up.

He knows more about the frost’s effects than I do, and what he knows is that the most of the time May is warmer, but sometimes it isn’t. It always kind of annoyed me how caught up farmers can be with the weather, how everything depended upon whether or not it rained. Now that I’m becoming more interested in weather, I wish I had someone to talk about it with.

learning to read

One of the things we’ve missed in our normal routine are the bi-weekly trips to the Kumon Center. At the beginning of the year we signed one of the boys up for the Kumon reading program. Two days a week students go to the center for their work. Four days a week they have work to do at home.

Kumon works by first testing the child to assess the current reading level. They then begin the lessons a few steps behind the child’s current level. The idea is to start where the child is comfortable and confident, and then gradually move them on through the levels from there. I’d given it nearly three years to wait and see if anything would get better. It did, but slowly, and I didn’t want him falling anymore behind. It definitely helped get him unstuck from a place I had not been able to move him out of. From my perspective, it not only helped with his reading and writing, but also gave him an overall pride in his work, helping foster a sense of ownership and responsibility. I was happy with the program and would recommend it.

Another thing we started this year was serious reading instruction for the two younger boys. The littlest boys were (almost) 3 and 5 when we moved here. They had their preschooly workbooks with letters and numbers, but also played with trains a lot during school. Their assignment every day was to build a track and do puzzles. We had snack and Bible stories every day in the story corner. During one of our field trips, I read that Abraham Lincoln taught himself to read at age 12. It was then my philosophy on learning to read became, “Well, Abraham Lincoln didn’t learn until he was 12, soooo, we’re good.” The story corner is one of those things we’ve mostly grown out of over the past year, and it does make me sad. We couldn’t cuddle forever.

Looking back now, I’m glad we did it that way, waiting before getting official with the reading. It worked well considering the ages and stages of my kids, as well as the season of life we were in. There did come a point though where I not only started feeling the internal pressure that I should be doing more to encourage the reading, but I could also see that the ability was there, it just needed direction. This is just my personal assessment of myself, but to put it off longer would have been a disservice, and borderline neglectful. I was also starting to become impatient with continuously having to read people’s math directions to them. Continuous frustration is a definite sign that something in the present situation isn’t working.

So we adjusted and changed, as we are all meant to do. My goal was to stick together and combine lessons, teaching both little boys to read at the same time. We began the Learning to Read workbook sets from Christian Light Education, and for a while, the two of them stayed together. After a while, the older one, being two years further along in brain development than the younger one, was able to do the lessons on his own and without needing help. I let him go so he could work independently, while I continued to work with the littlest one. We got about half way through the ten book series when I felt like he wasn’t grasping and retaining the skills, so we paused on those books. I backed up to more basic phonics and sight word workbooks.

The one, who was reading at the Sam and Pam level this time last year, is now at the level that I call “functional reading”. He can read his own math directions and follow along with the words in the hymnal. He can also read unfamiliar stories. He has a penpal to practice writing, which he does on his own. The other one is now at the Sam and Pam level and can slowly sound out the words in his sentence books. I recently ordered and received the Christian Light Education Language Arts books for grade 1, which both of the boys are working through now. Not every mom I’ve talked to likes these books, but I’ve found them to be my favorite books for teaching basics. You have to find what works for you, as there is no only way to homeschool.

When it comes to the end of the school year like this, there’s always more I wish I would have done. But it’s good to reflect also on what went well, and to take a minute to acknowledge the changes that have happened. We couldn’t cuddle forever, but neither were we meant to, and it is well.

an afternoon harvest

I downloaded an app on my phone called PlantNet. There’s nothing special that made me choose that one, I was just looking for a free app for picture plant identification. This is all about distinguishing the difference between the fantasy version of yourself and the actual self. The fantasy version of myself can name and identify every plant, grass, and tree on the property. This knowledge would have come from hours and hours of walking. In the evenings, while curled up with my hot lavender tea and local nature encyclopedia, I am able to instantly recall and match every picture with a place, having no trouble remembering or figuring out what anything is.

The app has been fun, and after living here for just over four years, I’m finally getting to know my neighbors. There are the ones we’ve always had and known, like dandelion and clover, and there are news ones, like purple dead nettle and mayapple. Yesterday while walking along the western property line, I took a picture of a plant that looked familiar. It came back registering as a carrot. That made sense to me since the top looked like a carrot green, but it didn’t make sense because doesn’t someone have to plant carrots in order for them to grow? I’ve tried growing carrots before and those things are hard to grow and grow to end up looking right.

The picture also registered as queen anne’s lace, which, I had no idea, is also known as wild carrot. The next step seemed to be to see for ourselves. When we reached down to grab hold of the base of the greens, to pull and tug and see if there was indeed some kind of carrot looking root beneath the ground, imagine the surprise when we pulled it up and there was actually a carrot there. We walked back to the house to get hand shovels, and then returned to the roadside and spent the next half hour to forty-five minutes harvesting queen anne’s lace and little grass onions. That evening we enjoyed a simple supper of water, rice, chicken bones, and God-grown carrots.

wild juniper forest

Yesterday my daughter and I went out to buy plants. Last year I learned that mid-April was too early to buy flowers for the front of the yard, and that dark purple and yellow don’t look good against the color of our house. Thankfully those colors look great with browns, and when I moved them out to the wooden sign by the entryway, I was happy they’d found a home.

We brought home purple sage, lavender, lemon-thyme, oregano, and yarrow plants. The mint is growing up nicely from last year, and I’d already bought another rosemary plant. Rosemary and lavender are my favorites for teas. From what I could tell, plants and flowers were something my mom and grandma seemed semi-good at, and at the very least, found joy in.

Up until the past year or two, plants and flowers very much fell into the pages and pages of the”ain’t nobody got time for that” category, one of those things you’d love to get to, if only. I find it all to be rather expensive, by the time you buy the flowers, then the pots, and then the dirt. We helped my mother-in-law pot flowers for her porch this past weekend. I noticed she has a modest but beautiful collection of pots, the artifacts of age and time.

It’s still too cold and wet to plant much here. The ground barely has a chance to dry out before the next line of soggy days comes. We’ve restarted most of the flower seeds which came up in tiny strings, then died. The boys’ cucumbers and pumpkins have remained paper pots of dirt. I looked it up and their soil needs to be around 70 degrees, which it hasn’t been inside.

Also yesterday I washed 2 1/2 loads of towels. My strategy continues to be to keep busy, to do the normal things but also work on something else that stays done and contributes to long-term change. I’m working on delegating more housework to the kids, which involves me writing out all I can think of that needs to get done, or that I would like to have done to uphold not perfection, but the basic human standards of warmth, order, and decency.