The Ninety-Fifth Letter: School Is All the Time

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Dear Daughters,

And just like that, we’re sixty days into the school year.

The “official” school year.

That is, the part of the school year where I keep track of what we’re doing and when we’re doing it. It’s when we have our official math curriculum and spelling and reading and writing and grammar. It’s when the community for our classical community meets weekly.

But it’s not exactly accurate to say that the school year “starts” at a given time, because school really is all the time. Even Saturdays are full of reading and learning and playing the piano and constructing your snap circuits and making art and singing and reciting and making connections.

A few weeks ago, I was explaining to you why it’s important to your dad and to me that we always try to answer your questions thoroughly, always try to connect new information to information you already know: that’s how you learn to love learning itself and how to cultivate a life of curiosity. But I ended with, “School is pretty much all the time in our house because your dad and I give good answers.”

You replied, “Well, yes, but also because I ask good questions.”

And that’s true. You ask good questions. You love to learn.

Girls, if asking good questions is important later on, surely it’s important today: this afternoon while you’re working on a puzzle, and tonight after dinner, and then later while brushing your teeth, and then even later as we’re tucking you in and saying prayers. So many questions.

It’s all learning. It’s all questions. It’s all answers. It’s all school.

But since the day I had you hold up the chalkboards that announced your first days of PreK and 1stgrade, we’re staring down 60 days of school already.

All summer long, we fielded the annoying questions I’m sure all homeschooling families get: Are you homeschooling again next year? Do you homeschool year-round? When are you starting back?

Most of these are asked with a glazed-over look because most of our friends do not homeschool and they think we’re probably just little bit weird because we do.

But girls, I am confident that homeschooling is what is right for us and our family in this season. And I articulate those reasons all the time.

To myself. In my head. Like every day.

Because at some point every day, I need to talk myself off the ledge. That’s a good metaphor.

So is this: every day, I have a come-to-Jesus moment about homeschooling.

What I mean is, it’s hard.

And yet somehow, miraculously, it is so totally normal and makes sense and fits us and fits you and fits me so much that I forget that others don’t feel this way about schooling. I forget, that is, until I see that glazed-over look in their eyes. Which is often followed by, “I could NEVER homeschool my kids,” the “never” emphasized with groans and hand gestures and eyes bulging.

The things is, I don’t feel like homeschooling is hard work. It is fun. It is flexible. And it really doesn’t feel like it is swallowing up my whole life. It is one part of my life, sure, and it is kind of like a thread that follows us through everything we do during the day, but it isn’t a burden or an obligation.

And when I am working on a painting project in the afternoon and listening to a song of the first and second Latin declensions, it feels normal.

When I am driving in the car and quizzing you about the parts of a plant cell or the seven wonders of the Ancient World, it feels normal.

When the tooth fairy brings you a book about Madame Curie and it talks about her Nobel prizes for discovering two new elements, I can remind you about the Periodic Table of Elements song we learned last year, and you make another connection, and it feels normal.

When you are working on your snap circuits with your dad and design a spinwheel that you can write on and see lines when there aren’t lines, I can remind you about ‘persistence of vision’ and we can talk about how amazing God’s creation is, and it feels normal.

When we collect fall leaves to trace in your Hello, Nature! book and we talk about the variety of leaf shapes that we learned last week in our memory work, it feels normal.

When we’re talking about Beatrix Potter and her love of nature journaling and we print out photos of birds that visit our own bird feeder right outside our window so we can sketch them, it feels normal.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. It’s also hard in normal and frustrating parenting ways. I lose my temper. You cry while practicing your piano. You get a sassy tone in your voice and I nip it in the bud. My to-do list is too long and I don’t want an interruption for the seventeenth time during a quiet hour in the afternoon. Welcome to the life of every parent ever.

And I admit that in my low moments, I certainly contemplate all of the good things I could be doing with my time if you went to normal school. I think of all the nonprofits I could serve, all the ways my hands and feet could be Jesus’s in the world, all the books I could write, all the meals I could deliver.

But then I think of how rich our days are, and I think of how much I love that in our current life, you actually get to see me being the hands and feet of Jesus.

And, what’s even more amazing, your own little hands and feet get to be Jesus’s too.

So, I guess what I mean is, it’s been a good, full year so far.

But I still can’t believe we’re nearly 60  days in.

Love,

Your Momma

 

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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