Rest Among the Sunflowers.

Yesterday was hard. This was our first full week of home school, and it was riddled with doctors appointments, surgery scheduling, new medications and an unexpected medical diagnosis – and that was just for me! Yesterday was Friday and I have scheduled our home learning to happen in bulk on Mondays through Thursdays with Fridays as a catch up and field trip day. This Friday was tough.

We started the day out smooth and things were well, until I used out reminder boards to write the “finish up” work left from the week. The minute I wrote the reminders (which were literally; math, science, history and backgammon) my eldest shut down. Immediately there were tears, clenched jaw and fists and frustration. Not understanding what had happened I was quick to stop everything and address his immediate need. He would not talk, he just cried. Pulled a blanket over his head stood at the dining room table and cried.

I was baffled. So I enlisted the help of my husband with the younger two so we could work through what ever this was that had infiltrated my son. I squeezed him close, got to eye level and asked what happened. He pointed to the reminder boards and said “Those are too much pressure. Last year at school Mrs “Teacher” would write our names, the list of work that we needed to get done and if it was not done we would lose things. We would lose recess, we would lose game time or even iPad time. I always lost out because I could never finished in time.” He sobbed. I could not help it, I cried too. While I completely and utterly respect traditional school, this felt like we needed to detox and shake off the old “school expectation” pressure and hand in hand, walk into home school expectations together.

I walked him over to the little reminder boards, held him close and said “Buddy, please know I am not your teacher – I am your mother. We are safe, learning at home and this school work will never, ever be a threat over you and losing out on anything. The amazing thing about learning at home is we do not have to be restrained by overwhelming deadlines, timetables and keeping beat to someone else’s drum. We are in this together, all of us at home. It is safe here.”

The rest of the afternoon called for a break – early day this Friday. He hopped in the truck and went to a work run with dad, then in the middle of the run they stopped to explore the sunflowers. The huge blue sky above, the reassuring foundation of earth beneath their feet at the cool breeze blew the sweet smell of sunflowers on his face. The deadlines, pressure and frustration all blew away on that same breeze and he found joy in the pure simple beauty of the sunflower field.

Home learning this week was not exactly as I had hoped, we had our ups and we had our downs but we also had the power to take any break needed and literally stop to smell the flowers. I went to bed excited to see what this year has in store for us, as we learn at home, together.

A Light Unto My Footsteps.

It is the end of August, home learning begins in one week and I have to admit, the last 4 or 5 nights have been disrupted by the whispers. The whispers that creep into my mind when I wake and cannot fall back to sleep at 3 am. The whispers that begin to remind me of my failures, my incompetence and my often repeated mistakes. I cannot stand those whispers. Some nights I can push them down, say a quick prayer and fall back to sleep. Recently, on the heels of this change in my child rearing, I cannot shake them.

You will fail, they say.

You made the wrong choice, they say.

Just send the kids to school, they say.

There is nothing like these middle of the night conversations I have with myself, they always leave me shaken, upset and full of doubts. Last night I had to physically get up, out of bed and kneel to pray. I needed a voice of truth in the midst of my battle. There with my knees on the cool hard wood planks alongside my bed, I found it. The reminder of who I am, I am a simple woman called to be a wife, a mother and now a teacher. In my mind I have this impossible measure that I must be SUPER at all of these, then love speaks to my worried heart: You do not have to be super because you serve a super God. There it was, in the twilight of the wee hours in the morning. Cold, clear truth; I do not need to be perfect, He already is.

Psalm 119:105 speaks to how God’s word is like a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our paths. That brings so much into perspective for me and this home learning journey we have begun. I am doing all I can, reading, writing, printing, planning, trying to be as prepared as possible yet – it is so new I am absolutely struggling to find confidence in my abilities.

A lamp unto my feet, a light on my path.

Have you ever been camping and had to go to the bathroom that one last time before you fall asleep? You grab the flashlight, slip on your shoes and into the brisk summer night from the safety of your tent. It is dark, it is quiet in the noise of nature and you shine the light just in front of you so you can see your path. The flashlight does not light the entire path from the tent to the toilets, but you can see enough to keep your steps safe and quick, occasionally looking up with the light to see you are headed in the right direction. That is the light that I have going into this unknown. I have the strength to keep stepping forward because the light in my path is not my own, it is His.

As the scripture speaks I must have faith. Not in my abilities, but faith in what God can do for my family and I. I cannot see the finish line, I cannot envision what the end of next week will look like, yet I can see the lighted footsteps below me and I know that I find all confidence in God’s abilities. I find so much peace. Just keep stepping forward, one lighted step at a time.

Tonight, if I wake, I will have that beautiful truth to remind me. He has this, He is in control, and He will guide my footsteps so long as I keep my focus on Him. What a blessed truth to know.

De-Schooling. Shaking Off All We Knew.

We have been learning from home for just more than a week now. The days go by so fast but one thing that I am loving is, I am not getting that wild post-school day struggle that would happen the moment they walked off of the bus. The fight to get homework done in the midst of getting snacks, supper ready and answering the phone calls for our home business. The fight is gone because the homework is gone.

It feels odd, good but so different to what I have ever known from my own childhood and also from what he have learning in our oldest’s first five years in the formal school system. We get up, take our time with breakfast, get some chores done and come together at the table for morning time. During “Morning Time” we set the tone of our day with the days of the week and date, weather and how we are feeling today. We move easily into read aloud time where I read and the kiddos get to do quiet handicrafts or relax with some tea and listen along. So far we have covered the first four chapters of Luke, and we are three quarters of the way through the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Our home learning is quite Charlotte Mason with some online math and science for Sam, RLA is steeped in McGuffey’s Eclectic readers and lesson books from Mom Delights. Our morning reading and copy-work includes scripture and we are able to spend time in open discussion and reflection. Eden’s curriculum is play/nature based for Kindy and she is loving it (we purchased Blossom + Root Kindergarten curriculum). Animal fables, nature journaling and modern art/music in the mix. With that we are getting American History, swimming for PE and field trips every other Friday. Our school days are ending well before 4 pm and no homework.

By no means do I intend to make this sound easy at all because they are my children, and I know them. I am mom, they are safe with me and they are definitely open about their emotions and feelings – hourly sometimes but I am so thankful that they feel safe enough to express themselves as they do. We are only a week or so in and we are in this strange in-between feeling like maybe we need to do more to be busy like they are in classrooms and then I have to remind my self, this is HOME learning. As it turns out, I was worried that this would all be way harder than it really is.

We do not have mini desks, daily calendar charts, “centers,” or assigned reading corners. We have one shelf dedicated in the dining room to our school books, one cupboard that houses the handicrafts and art supplies for specific projects, and picture frame “dry erase board” that we can write out daily tasks to keep us on track. Other than that we have book shelves lined with literature rich books, an outdoor classroom in the backyard (which is simply the backyard) and one at the gorge we visit every other week. Math lessons happen online and in the kitchen, STEM and science projects happen weekly with a learning center we “zoom” in to and reading aloud happens all over our home.

A few weeks back, I could not see how this would look, I was nervous going “all in” on this home school thing but then I remember…I was called to this. My children are learning new things already, and I love seeing the glimmer of excitement when they see the dots connecting in the deeper learning we are doing, together.

Together. I love that. There is no place like home.