Saturday, May 31, 2014

School's Out 2014

There it is. Our homeschool year is done.  We have, at least, fulfilled the legal requirements of what makes up a school year (175 days, instruction in various subjects, four progress notes).  Though it is a welcome thing to check off the list, to wipe my brow and sigh in relief, really, this thing called home education never ends. Most of the books will be put away, the paperwork completed, but now a different kind of learning gets to take precedence.  Summer is a whole semester of education, don’t you think? Swimming, sunscreen, fishing, camping, social BBQs and, my favorite, summer reading. 

As for our 2013-2014 school year, I am not sad to see it end. It was one of the more challenging. The worst year was probably the year we moved, but this year takes a close second.  It was The Year I Wanted to Quit.  I knew the day would come. I just thought I had a few more good years left before then.  Now that it’s coming to an end, and things have improved somewhat, I thankfully do not remember all the reasons I threatened to put these children into a brick and mortar school.  And yes, I did say it aloud, numerous times, to my children, my husband, all the while knowing I could not really do this.  It is not time, not yet, maybe not ever.  But I began to dream of how wonderful it might be not have to do this anymore.  To take sole responsibility for their minds, bodies, spirits.  To pass the baton off to someone else.

But even thinking this way made me uneasy, as this responsibility belongs to no one else.  But also, paradoxically,  not entirely to me.  Perhaps this has been my Grand Lesson of the year.
Homeschooling has been a very lonely experience for me the past three years.  I am no longer surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses” who can testify that this venture is going to pay off- or at least commiserate with the unique difficulties of not just motherhood, but home-educating motherhood.  I have so few to sit and have coffee with, who truly get both the passion I have for home education, but also understand the fragility of a mom who undertakes this.  My children, likewise, have a much smaller circle of friends here.  We’re all lonely and it makes the days difficult.

Chief among my worries is not my ability to educate my children.  They are getting the kind of education I most desire for them (literature based, delight-directed, thought-provoking). It is, rather, my inability to be enough for them, or to do enough for them.  But, then, I have learned the truth and I am trying to embrace it: I am not enough for them; I cannot do enough for them.  Children need not only a mother who loves them, but a father, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, coaches, teachers, Church, nature, books, and mostly, Christ.  My children need to embrace this too- mom cannot do everything for them.  They must learn to do for themselves.  The world is more than mom, more than her fears, more than her passions and her beliefs.  Mom is not enough, but there is one Who Is.

Through this very difficult year, He has been enough for me.  In the loneliness, He has been here for me. In the worrying, He has spoken Peace.  In the tears, He has whispered “I will use this.”  I am beyond grateful.  I often think that the purpose in all of this is to break me and in that process, make me whole.  Well-educated kids are the bonus.

I do want to share something I am incredibly proud of, this 2013-14 school year.  And it’s not me boasting that I am better.  I think I’ve made it clear that I am no better at this than anyone else.  But one of my passions is reading to my children, and with it the hope that they become voracious readers.  One of my core educational beliefs is that reading is enough. And this was a banner year for reading.  Allow me to share the list of books we listened to (via read-aloud or audio) this year:

Gooney Bird Green and the Room Mother- Lois Lowry
The Golden Goblet- Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Lost on a Mountain in Maine- Don Fendler
Charlotte’s Web- EB White
Ramona and Beezus; Ramona and Her Father- Beverly Cleary
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle; Hello Mrs. Piggle Wiggle- Betty McDonald
The Tanglewood’s Secret; Star of Light; Treasures of the Snow- Patricia St. John
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever- Barbara Robinson
Eric Liddell- Janet and Geoff Benge
The Moffats- Eleanor Estes
Misty of Chincoteague- Margeurite Henry
Understood Betsy- Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Gooney Bird is So Absurd- Lois Lowry
The Little Princess- Frances Hodgeson Burnett
Mountain Born- Elizabeth Yates
In Grandma’s Attic- Arleta Richardson
The Children’s Homer- Padraic Column
The Secret of Pheasant Cottage- Patricia St. John
The Hobbit- JRR  Tolkien (currently reading)
Archimedes and the Door of Science- Jeanne Bendick

That’s 24 books, I believe, and these are just the chapter books we dug our noses into.

This was also the year that Mister really began to read chapter books for pleasure.  He has begun devouring, not all, but many of the books he’s read.

This is the year that Brown-Eyed-Girl’s reading has taken off, finally able to read more independently, and higher level readers.

My greatest joys in homeschool involve us being wrapped up in books.  I am not a science experiment mom; this year was short on that.  I am not all that dedicated to teaching my children practical things like tying their shoes (my philosophy: It will come). But I do love reading aloud from the Bible and from other good books and discussing them. I love when my children ask the thought-provoking questions.  Two-plus-two is so easy (in theory, of course), but I just love a good “Why do we believe this?” question.

I feel like I’m giving a bit of an award speech, and honestly, every homeschooling mom deserves an award at the end of the year, but I do need to thank my greatest encourager in the whole wide world, my husband.  I honestly could not do this without his 100% (and more) support and wisdom and words of encouragement every day.  He is proud of what I do here at home and he doesn’t want it any other way.  I also must thank the grandparents for being so supportive of our endeavors and for all the practical help, too, like watching kiddos for date nights, getaways, and doctor’s appointments.  And much thanks to the moms who started this before me and who show me that this can be done and turn out all right. You may not even know you are my heros, but you are, so I’m just going to go ahead and drop names: Holly, Aleyne, Wendy, Jesse, Sarah, and Sandra.  And to all the moms in the trenches with me: I’m so so glad you’re here with me and please, let’s have coffee soon!  And to my young mommy friends who think this is something they want or feel called to do: You will never regret it.  Not in the end, anyway.

I’ve promised myself not to think about next school year- at least for a week.  And though there is a lot I want to accomplish this summer- teaching cursive, math facts memory work, Spanish, typing- I’ve decided to just take a breather for a bit.  Trust. Rest.  Taking time off from school work and taking that time to build stronger relationships with the my children.  Breathe.  Chill.

There it is.  The end.