The Hundred-and-Twelfth Letter: A New (Home)School Year

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Dear Daughters,

We started school this week, so I guess this is the requisite back-to-school post.

I knew this year would have a different feel to it since both of you are home every day and officially “in school.” The past two years, the Goose has always been at preschool two or three days each week, but now she’s in Kindergarten, and the Bean is in second grade.

I realize it’s only been two years since I led a child through Kindergarten curriculum, but apparently I’d managed to forget just how hands-on it can be. Still, we’re making progress each day with figuring out how our schedule will (or won’t!) work. All I can say is, I assume parents who homeschool a half-dozen kids at home are significantly more organized than I am.

I spent a lot more time planning this year, knowing that homeschooling two would be considerably different than homeschooling one child, especially when the first child was an independent and focused child like the Bean. This summer, I worked on a daily, subject-by-subject schedule, printed off our state’s academic standards by subject for each grade, and wrote a report about what we accomplished during our last school year, organized by subject and addressing the surpassed academic standards.

I’ve even read a few books about classical education to get my mind kickstarted, and let me tell you, I would never have imagined spending my free time reading philosophy of education texts would be something I would choose to do.

I also spent time this summer considering what I want our homeschool goals to be—not according to academic achievements or tasks I want you to be able to accomplish, but rather related to the larger, grander life pursuits I want you to reach for, and of course the habits we need to cultivate to get there. So I thought I’d include that here, in this letter, so that years from now, that doesn’t get lost in the abyss of school files.

But first, this week:

It’s been tiring, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised I’ve ended up with a summer cold.

Our days felt long, and each afternoon, I needed to hear the nudge I felt: whatever you do is enough.

Just because we don’t check off every box, every day, doesn’t mean we aren’t rocking this thing called homeschool. What it more likely means is that I have too many boxes on our to-do list. (I should probably apply this principle to my “real,” non-homeschooling life, too.)

This week, in addition to homeschooling, I was also working on an exciting project for a local nonprofit and also spending time brainstorming plans for what an afterschool reading program for public school students might look like this fall. I was also thinking about our church involvements, mowing the grass, sucking on cough drops, and buying school supplies. I was also getting up early to run with our neighbor… or getting up early to not run with my neighbor, like this morning… or not getting up early at all because this cold is kicking my butt. This week I was also checking in with friends and family in far-flung places, and checking in with friends right here in our little town, and making plans to spend time at the library with your new homeschool co-op teacher in order to assuage some of your fears.

I was also evaluating what it is I should be spending my limited time on, but also offering myself a lot of grace.

Because, let’s face it, this week I also lost my temper too many times, wanted to run and hide too many times, and drank too many cups of tea. (Just kidding on that last one.)

I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: at some point every day, I want to quit this homeschooling thing. (Of course, at some point every day, I want to quit this motherhood thing, too, but that’s an issue for another day!)

I want to quit, but I don’t. And part of the reason I don’t is because I have not just all the feels but all the conviction: conviction about educational philosophy, conviction about how I want you to spend your days, conviction about cultivating your habits of attention. I love hanging more knowledge on your pegs of learning, making connections between the various subjects we’re studying, and giving a big-picture education.

I want you to work hard and rest well and you yourself see the connections between what you’re reading in books and what you’re seeing in the world.

And yes, I want you to see me juggling a thoughtful life with the tug of Kingdom work always refocusing me. I want you to see how much grace we need to get by, offered to one another and to ourselves. There are so many things I love about homeschooling that are unexpected surprises to me.

I started out with practical reasons to homeschool: because you were an early reader, because I wanted art and music to be central to your curriculum, because the public school schedule doesn’t line up with the college schedule, because we travel to see family and I want a portable education.

But now, it’s all these other things, too.

Girls, do you want to know what it is I hope and dream for you on this homeschooling journey?

These are the goals I typed up this summer and tucked into our daily schedule binder that (I hope) are shaping how we do school this year:

to cultivate

            compassion & empathy

            courage & wisdom

            wonder & curiosity

to love

            God

            one another

            other people

            beauty

            books

            learning

to foster a joy (and proficiency) of reading all things: all subjects, all genres

to nurture an interdisciplinary worldview by making connections between disciplinary knowledge, especially as connected to the “pegs” of our classical curriculum

to incorporate creative expression through music and/or art every day

to develop the ability to converse with others, especially those different from us

to exemplify how Kingdom-work is incorporated into daily life and rhythms

It’s a list of ideals, I guess. But you know what? I’m okay with that.

At the very least, it’s where we’re headed on this homeschooling journey.

Here’s to another year, girlfriends!

Love, 

Your Momma

 

The Twentieth Letter: New Seasons

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Dear Daughters,

I love changing seasons.

I love the fall’s cool breezes and crunchy leaves. I’ll take sweatshirts and jeans over shorts and tank tops any day. I don’t like to sweat.

I also really love school supplies. I mean, seriously. Notebooks. Folders. Binders with tabbies. Post-It notes. Pens. Sharpie marker pens especially. Boxes of crayons before the wrappers are all peeled off.

When I think of back-to-school season, I picture those days of crunchy leaves and waiting for the bus. Brand-new decorations in classrooms–not stained, the edges not curling. Wondering which of your friends will be in what class. Seeing the book for the first time. Meeting new people. Figuring out when I could go to my locker.

I still periodically have that can’t-remember-the-locker-combination nightmare, and it’s been over a decade since I’ve opened a locker.

I love the juxtaposition of new school years–fresh starts, new beginnings–with the season of autumn–leaves turning colors, falling off trees, the earth going to sleep for winter.

Death and new life.

There’s probably a poem in that somewhere.

In Kentucky, there is no such juxtaposition and beauty of seasons. Ya’ll go to school in the middle of summer, girls. There’s no getting around it.

Thursday, August 6, was the Bean’s first day of preschool.

I’m told this is a big deal. And I feel like I should feel like this is a big deal. PRESCHOOL! FIRST DAY! WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE? MY BABY IS GOING TO SCHOOL!

Okay, granted, it’s only 2 mornings a week, and it’s a class for 3 year olds.

But I feel pretty much nothing but gratitude that you will be away from me in an organized learning environment.

One of my friends sent her son to kindergarten this week. (And this is the first year of full-day kindergarten for our district.) It’s a tough thing for her.

It’s a tough thing for most moms.

I have this hunch I’ll be the mom secretly rejoicing on the inside.

Or not so secretly.

Part of it is my overall love of new years and new beginnings.

Part of it is that I’m just not very sentimental about these baby and toddler years when you are home with me, chattering constantly, climbing up my legs when I’m standing in the kitchen, sitting on my lap while I am looking for peace and quiet in the bathroom, for goodness’ sake.

I’ve sung this song before. It will be no surprise to you, I’m sure.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve loved watching you learn and absorb information. As one of our best friends says, kids are sponges. I am astounded every day at your capacity to learn and question and figure things out. I’ve loved painting with you and reading to you and teaching you songs and building impressive towers out of blocks.

But.

My dad once told me when I was older–at least a teenager, maybe out of the house already, I can’t remember–that he loved every stage of our growing up, and he loved “this stage” the best. Whatever stage we were in, the whole time we were growing up, that’s the one that seemed the best. I’m pretty sure he likes being Grandpa best of all, of course. But his point was that he wasn’t sentimental about the stages that had passed. He didn’t long for us to be babies again. He didn’t long for us to be dependent creatures. He raised us to be thinkers and doers.

There is hope in this thing called parenting.

Hope.

I’m a nerd, but there is something so hopeful about the beginning of the school year. It’s a new season.

Maybe I get a little bit of that hope every time I open a new notebook, buy a new rainbow pack of Sharpies, a sleeve of Post-Its.

And maybe I get a little bit of that hope every time I look at you.

Love,

Your Momma