The kids have been sick this week – the fall cold/flu thing. Rees and I have avoided getting sick with them so far which right now feels like a gift but will feel like torture if we get sick once the kids are 100% again. That’s one of the particularly tough things about motherhood – there are no sick days. Although, last summer when we arrived in Germany, I was quite sick and Rees’ cousin, Luci, sent me straight to bed and brought me a pot of tea and some soup. Can you believe that? I hardly knew what to do, I was thinking, “is this allowed?” but I took the opportunity and amazingly, I was feeling way better the next day. Thanks Luci!!
Usually when the kids are sick, I still try to get some homeschooling done. The over-achieving oldest child in me is super conflicted with homeschool. Especially since my older two (the ones who are being homeschooled) are so different from me. On one hand, I have a really difficult time letting things go, leaving things on our list uncrossed at the end of the day. Even when none of us are having a good time with it, I’m some kind of monster teacher who makes it happen anyway, all the while thinking, “Isn’t homeschool supposed to be more fun than regular school?” On the other hand, I can understand the benefits of homeschooling and I myself love to learn so I get to learn along with my kids. It’s amazing how much I missed in school when I was focused so much on getting good grades (which probably says something about both me and school). I am a contextual homeschooler (thanks for the lingo, Danny!). That means, more or less, that I didn’t choose homeschool, homeschool chose me, based on my geographical location. This is different from philosophical homeschoolers who choose to homeschool due to any variety of philosophical reasons. This has meant that I hadn’t bought into any of the philosophical reasons to homeschool, I just knew I’d do it because there wasn’t another option. I have slowly had to catch up on the reasons to homeschool and am trying to become more of a philosophical homeschooler. I guess I just thought if I was patient and consistent and just followed the curriculum I picked out (that had everything marked out day-by-day: what pages of which books to read, what language arts exercises to do, what math lesson to do, etc) everything would work out. That sounds so simplistic now. It turns out that my kids learn way different from I do and have some struggles that I didn’t have and the curriculum I was using wasn’t a good fit for them. But Amazon doesn’t deliver here so it’s not like you can just change your mind, send the thing back and order something different. All I knew how to do was nose-to-the-grindstone. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it, you do it anyway. There’s lots of stuff in life like that. You wish you were my student, don’t you? I also started reading books and blogs by homeschoolers and asking for advice from whoever I could. That awakened me to the fact that most homeschoolers, though certainly overwhelmed at times and just as insecure about it as I am at times, were, on the whole, happy to be homeschooling. I was missing out on the happy part! For the last year and a half, I’ve been trying to figure out how to address my kids’ learning needs/struggles while making homeschool more fun for us. I’m batting .500, which is a big improvement. Only half the days of the week do I look at my husband and say, “I can’t do this.” The other half I happily tell him, “We had a great day!” Even writing that highlights God’s grace to me. While I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the why’s and the joys of homeschooling, I’ve also seen a connection to where I am positioned in Christ. Am I living like a slave – “Gotta keep slugging away at this mess, all on my own, no matter what, because I’m obligated to” or like a daughter, “I am loved and my father is happy to help me and see me learn and grow, no matter what I do or don’t do, because he’s crazy about me.”
So this week, when the kids got all floppy and sad-looking, a freedom welled up inside me to just take things one day at a time and not try to eek in “at least something.” I’ve been asking God every day to help me be aware of when I’m motivated by a need for control or fear of “getting behind”, to accept them for who they are and where they’re at, and trust Him to help me be the teacher and mom that these particular children need. I felt the grace to let them watch some of a math DVD (Mathtacular – ever heard of it?) and then just read lots of good books to them. We’ve been drinking lemon tea, reading books, coloring, and in their more energetic moments they’ve just been playing. Usually they are climbing the walls (literally) so I’ve actually enjoyed some down time with them. For all of their struggles, they excel at so many “life things” too and I actually slowed down and gave them some space to do their creative things. That push-push-push voice inside me tried to get me to bring out some math worksheets and copy-work at a couple of junctures – in those moments where they were feeling pretty good for a bit, but grace empowered me to take a leap of faith (that’s what it is for me) and give them space to use that moment of feeling good to do the things that they were passionate to do. That ended up being making potions outside for the most part. At one point they found a bunch of different bugs hiding in their tortoise’s home outside and grabbed their science journals and some pens and I found them lying outside, drawing their observations. Totally not instigated by me but the kind of stuff I imaged homeschooling would be all about. You know what? We were all happier and got along better.
Once again, I find myself wanting to figure out what I did that helped things go well this week, so that I can replicate it again and make things go well again next week. But I think the thing that helped us this week is what God already did – making us His children, giving us the security of knowing we are His. So the only thing I plan to do next week is: keep reading His word, talk to Him about my concerns and hopes, ask Him to open my eyes more to the glories of His grace and take a chance here and there when there’s a niggling feeling that says, “More work!” to instead say, “Let’s play!”