Fall Break

It’s officially Fall Break around here.  For us, September held birthdays, visits from out-of-town grandparents, meetings, more meetings, and more m…

FullSizeRenderBirthday celebration for our 14-year-old son (beside me).

FullSizeRenderG-parents, looking at a dog book with the kids.

And now it’s October.  We aren’t actually “breaking” from our routine too much this week because to do that feels like bringing a full-stop to our already-wobbly momentum.  And, anyway, Christmas is coming soon (yes, it really is–stop denying it).

We take Christmas break very seriously in this house.

However, it doesn’t take much for us to feel that something kind-of special/different/holidayish is happening even now.  This week we’ve been lighting fires in the fireplace at night.  We’ve been watching Agatha Christie murder mysteries on Netflix in the late afternoon gloom.  The other day we ate chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.  Several.

And it really is good enough.

So from our house to yours:  Happy Fall, You People (because I can’t make myself type y’all)

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When Not to Worry

DSC_0919When we become mothers, women who were once carefree or serious or focused find ourselves turning angsty over all that could go wrong in the lives of our children.  We seem to stress in direct proportion to how big we feel our job is.

And I think we all agree:  it’s big.

In earlier generations, moms cared about their kids but didn’t assume they needed to be their little darlings’ entire universes.  Frankly, they didn’t think it was healthy for the kids or themselves.  But add busier-than-ever parents plus guilt plus more things to worry about (thank you, Internet.  No, really) and you’ve got a recipe for defensive, burned-out mothering from the word go.

Homeschooling does not make a mom immune to inner and outer kvetching.  It can help to turn down the temperature on our worries in some ways, only because we’re spending a lot of time with our kids, and we can sort-of take stock of how they’re doing throughout the day.  But it also presents a whole new list of things to question whether we (and they) are doing well.

In spite of all that, I’m happy with the way this school-and-mothering year is unfolding.  My oldest son turns 14 tomorrow.  I have another one who’ll be 13 in the blink of an eye, and an 11-year-old daughter who looks like a freshman.  We have had, and will have, our fair share of difficulties, new things about which to wonder, problems that will arise.

Believe me, I know.

But, looking back, lots of my parenting worries throughout the last fourteen years have not come true.  Most haven’t, in fact.  The kids are doing well, by the grace of God.  They’re turning out in spite of my failures both as a teacher and as a mom.

I want to offer encouragement in case some of you have younger kids and are tempted to worry, too.  Just keep showing up, loving them, praying for them, enjoying the time you have with them as much as is possible.

Refuse to give in to the temptation to fret.

In the end, most of what you worry about won’t come true.  And, honestly, even if some of it does, it will still be OK.

On Bearing Burdens

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I woke up this morning with a whirling mind and bruised heart so that it felt like I hadn’t slept at all last night.

My mood further plummeted when it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be able to mull over what’s burdening me in order to mentally work it out.  I’m a writer and a teacher and I have to be emotionally present and alert to do my job(s) well.  And these weighty thoughts are like mental sludge in my brain pipes.

So what will I do in the next eighteen hours?

I’ll pray every time the heavy thoughts come up today.  Like a ninja.  My problems are beyond me, but not God.

I’ll make a list of the things I have to accomplish in the next several hours.

I’ll follow that list, checking things off as I get them done without trying to decide in the moment what  comes next.

I’ll listen to music when I’m not teaching or writing.  Few things focus my mind more than hearing songs and lyrics I love.

I’ll exercise at some point, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

I’ll remind myself that today will last for exactly 24 hours like its ancestors before it.  It’ll pass.  It has to.

Finally, I’ll get on with life because that’s what mothers do.

How do you cope with burdens you can’t seem to permanently offload? 

The Hardest Part of Homeschooling

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Over at Simple Homeschool, parents are writing about the hardest thing about homeschooling their child(ren).  As I think about this topic I realize my answers to that question have changed over the years.

Once, the hardest thing was coordinating nap times so that I could grab uninterrupted reading time with an older child.

Later it was dealing with constant distractions and short attention spans.

Then it was homeschooling in a foreign country and having everything I relied on for routine and structure stand on its head for months at a time.

Now, with so many of those little kid (and traveling-while-homeschooling) scenarios becoming increasingly distant memories, I’m in a different place.

Now?

The hardest thing about homeschooling is dealing with my own self–my lack of motivation and my general sense of fatigue.  It’s not my kids’ squirming or attitudes or sleepless nights due to power outages that give me pause.

It’s me.  I’m tired, and sometimes–can I be honest?–a little bored.

This isn’t what I expected five years ago.  I thought that after ten years of teaching my kids, of having endless conversations about ideas and the world around us, after years of browsing through museums, of setting timers for wayward math-sheet-fillers, I’d get to a place where everything fell into place and we breezed through the years.

But it turns out that just when this path gets easier in one way, it gets harder in another.

I’m not sure how to the solve the problem of my own self.  I know that this educational choice is still the one that works best for us, so I want to get out of my own way so that we can go the distance.  So far, I’m trying to help this mother out by

  • spending extra time in the morning reading, praying, writing, and thinking.
  • working on a few personal projects that are mine alone, ones that have nothing to do with my kids and everything to do with the person I am outside of Mother.
  • spending time with women friends when those moments present themselves.  (I need to be encouraged and refreshed by other people, though of course there are times when they drain the life out of me, too).
  • doing the types of “educational” things with my kids that make all of us happy, like re-reading favorite books together.
  • exercising with the door shut while listening to my favorite music.

One thing I know is that this season will pass, too, and with it a host of good and some not-so-good memories.  But that would be the case no matter how we managed our educations.  I’m not as naive anymore when it comes to thinking through what I want my kids to have gleaned from this homeschooling lifestyle.  But I’m not a cynic, either.

This journey, like all journeys, is a patchwork quilt of moments, and some squares are more tattered than others.  Still, I’m trying to remember the big picture, the warmth of the whole, rather than picking at flaws in the fabric.

To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool (That’s One of the Questions)

Have you considered homeschooling your kids (if you have them)?  Homeschooling is the fastest growing educational trend in the United States for a lot of reasons.  I came across an article detailing several solid reasons to homeschool–and a few not-so-good reasons.  I thought I’d pass it along for those interested in going this path less travelled.

Homeschoolers come from all different backgrounds.  There are religious, secular, politically-left-leaning and right-leaning homeschoolers, and those in nearly every economic bracket.  This article is written from a Christian perspective, but many of the takeaways can be applied to those thinking of homeschooling who come from a different background.

Letting Kids Be Kids

My kids are getting older, and this means things are changing around our house.  This Fall marks the first in which all three of mine will be involved in sports practices, music lessons, co-op classes, various church activities, and more–every, single week.

I know that, for a lot of people, that’s nothing new.  But up to this point, we’ve led a slow-paced–and a tad unconventional–life, both here and abroad.  Since I’ll soon have two teenagers, though, I feel our pace of life naturally accelerating.  And it should, I remind myself, even if it makes me a little uncomfortable.

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But what I want to keep remembering in this new parenting season is, childhood is (still) fleeting, each day (still) has only 24 hours in it, and a few activities (still) go a long way in enriching a kid’s life–even a teenager’s.  There’s a tendency in our culture to do too much, and I don’t want to join the ranks of the worn out and stressed just because everyone else is doing it.

On that note, I found this article on letting kids have time to be kids to be both encouraging and informative.  Maybe you will, too.  In the end, our kids only get one childhood.  We should try to protect it for as long as we can.