Snow Day

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It’s Monday and my teacher husband is home because of the snow.  It’s tempting to take a break from everything and just veg, but the problem is, this isn’t the first, second, or even third snow day he’s had this winter.  If we were to continue to take days off whenever he was out of school, the kids and I would be doing work well into the summer, and nobody–but nobody–wants that around here.

So we’ll carry on, albeit a little languidly, and perhaps in our pajama pants.  I admit I secretly love when nature ruins our carefully laid plans, not on a grand scale where there’s devastation and permanent damage, but on a small one.

I look out in the yard and the dogs are bouncing high through cold powder, and everything is so white it hurts my eyes.  And here we are inside, slow, our stomachs full of Cheerios.  The snow will not allow us to hurry, and I’m grateful.

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)

Thoughts from the Tightrope

How many days does it take to raise a child?  Depends on who’s counting and how you define the outcome, of course.  Let’s say 6,570 days (365 days X 18 years).  That’s a lot of days, on the one hand, and shockingly few on the other.  And we spend so many of them simply trying to keep our kids alive, right?  My sisters and I used to complain that our infants didn’t seem to have the will to live.  Probably they did, but it seemed to us like we were keeping them alive by sheer will–ours, not theirs.

And toddlerhood?  Same song, different verse.  Our kids did not want to eat their food, they did not want to sleep (or go potty, or get dressed).  They did not want to look both ways before crossing the street or hold our hands in the parking lot.

They did, however, very much want to stick their fingers, along with metal forks, into the electrical outlets in our living room.  They wanted to climb onto the back of the couch and balance on one tan, chubby leg.  They wanted to cover their heads with their blankies and spin in circles.  They wanted to follow that up with running into the refrigerator.  They most certainly wanted to lean forward in the Wal-Mart shopping cart in which they were seated and curl their lips and tongue around the handle while we searched for the Great Value oatmeal.

We had to take care of them because they couldn’t take care of themselves.  And then they grew.  Their needs changed, but we still felt the mother’s siren call to protect them.  We got a little wiser, of course.  We realized that falling out of a stroller, face first, in the driveway, is painful and unpleasant–but not deadly (though we may have cancelled our dinner plans when we realized our toddler was going to have a shiner).  We figured out that a kid doesn’t need antibiotics or even a trip to the doctor every, single time he gets a runny nose.  We quickly discovered that matching socks on little feet are majorly overrated.

But there are new dangers now that our kids are older, ones that make us long for the days of busted lips and Wal-Mart germs.  We confront the news of school shootings, the proliferation of internet porn, the self-centered odor of a declining culture that calls evil, good and good, evil, the sedative of the almighty screen.  We’re tempted to throw up our hands and say, It’s impossible to keep our kids safe, to preserve their childhoods, their innocence.  It’s either look-the-other-way or buy a farm somewhere and work the land in isolation.  (Believe me, I’ve been tempted to do this.  That is, until I think about all the animals and work and cooking.  See?)  We aren’t sure how to stem the tide of all that wants to drown our kids, our hearts.

Giving up is not an option.  What if we’d said it was too hard to keep our babies fed and warm, that they seemed to want to sleep forever and never eat, so we had to let them do their thing?  Or what if I’d figured that my toddler should just walk in the parking lot his own darn self?  Live and learn, right?  No.

It wasn’t OK to throw in the towel then and it’s not OK now.

On the other hand, as our children get older they have to develop what a dear friend of mine referred to as “choice muscles.”  They have to be exposed, thoughtfully, intentionally, to things that might hurt them in order to help them discern what is good and what is bad.  At the proper times (and I admit I don’t know exactly when these are), they have to be given the chance to make meaningful choices–ones that might hurt them, might hurt us.  Most of us have seen what happens to kids who are so sheltered, for so long, that they are bewildered by the world when they finally live in it.  We’ve watched them come untethered to the things they’d been taught to hold dear.

That’s also not OK.

Two of my kids are in middle school now, and one is well on her way.  It’s an awkward time.  My kids still need my husband and me but it’s different than before.  In some ways I look back with longing on the time when it was obvious how I should take care of them.  Wipe this nose, change that diaper.  But this is an exciting time, too, as I see them maturing and growing.  This is how it’s supposed to be and I am learning to walk the tightrope, my arms floating out from my sides.  I wobble up here and am tempted to look down at the abyss below me.  On one side, I could careen down into the cavern of overprotection, of stunted growth, of butterflies pulled out of cocoons.  On the other, I could fall headlong into the valley of Anything Goes, neglecting my job as defender and preserver of childhood while it lasts.

Parenting feels like a circus act nowadays but there is One who is there, guiding, promising.  He loves my children more than I do, though that is hard for me to imagine.  And he’s given me a great husband who tells me that, sometimes, I just need to laugh at the crazy.  He’s a good foil in my times of hand wringing.  (Kids need moms and dads, I’ve found over and over).  I’ll leave these ramblings with a Facebook status I posted not long ago, highlighting the difference in the way my husband protects the kids:

Some evenings Husband and I like to go to Baskin Robbins and then drive around listening to 80’s music on the radio. Of course, our kids are often with us when we do this. So how does Daddy deal with the occasional, uh, inappropriate lyrics that Sir Mix-A-Lot incorporates into his, um, songs? Why, Daddy yells nonsense over aforementioned words, at the top of his lungs, with no warning, in the enclosed space of our minivan. I almost had a heart attack tonight. One of these days you’re gonna kill me, babe… 

And there you have it.

What do you do to maintain the balance between freedom and protection in your kids’ lives?     

How Much School Is Too Much? How Much Is Enough?

An email from a reader:

We are in our second year of homeschooling our daughter. She is in kindergarten, so we have not been very formal about it yet. I also have an almost 4 year old and a 9 month old. They all keep me on my toes. I’d like to think our difficulties with homeschooling–being consistent, engaged, keeping good attitudes, etc–can be easily explained by this season of life. But I’m just not sure! I want to be successful and enjoy the time teaching and learning with my children…I really do. 
I have had a difficult time finding a curriculum or curricula that I like and that my daughter likes. It’s been discouraging starting and stopping the few we’ve tried. At the same time, I feel like she is still so young…maybe she doesn’t need a curriculum yet. 
I think my biggest problem is that I feel as though I am doing this alone and I have no direction or guidance. And, of course, part of me feels inadequate and unable to teach my children the way they will need to be taught. 
Currently we are looking into a few different options for next year, two of which include homeschool co-ops of sorts. Like I said, I see the benefits for the future in homeschooling, but it can be so difficult to keep that perspective while going through the day to day. 
Thank you for being kind enough to offer your help and/or encouragement. (Sorry this kind of rambled on!) I look forward to your reply and also reading more on your blog. Have a blessed morning/day!
This is how I answered her:

Oh, A.  I wish we were sitting across from one another at a coffee shop and I could look you in the eye. 

Here’s the first thing I would say:  It is going to be OK.  Really.  Your little girl is TOO YOUNG to be forced to do school right now, unless you can have some workbooks and library books lying around and she picks them up because she wants to be a “big” girl.

The second thing I would say is:  Let her curl up in your lap and just read to her.  The same books, over and over, if she wants you to.  Let her know how special she is to you.  She will NEVER forget that you did this and it will mean the world someday.  She does not need more than that right now. 

Third:  Have you read Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s book, ‘Better Late Than Early’?  If you haven’t, let someone watch the kids while you run to the library to check it out.  You will be encouraged to find that children learn better when they start later with formal seat work, not earlier.

Fourth:  The library is more than adequate to provide you with curricula right now.  But when your daughter wants to read, you might like to try ‘Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons’–but only when she wants to!  I taught all three of my kids to read using this inexpensive resource.  It’s been passed down to my nieces and nephews and is tattered now.

Fifth:  Co-op can be a wonderful encouragement for your child, but the real winner might be you.  I find that co-ops offer some educational benefits to children here and there.  But the biggest beneficiaries are the moms, hands down.  If you can find one that suits you, and one that you can afford, then I’d say it might be worth it.  My kids and I did not join ours until we had been homeschooling for almost 7 years already, but it has been a real blessing for us.

My heart is for people just like you.  I am woefully human.  The Bible calls us ‘jars of clay’ because we are all so ordinary and easily broken.  My homeschool journey doesn’t make sense unless I tell you that it is Jesus who has made all the difference in my impatient, hurried, driven heart.  He is helping me to be kind, loving, patient.  It’s just taking a long time! 

But even with all my imperfections, and please know they are many, I asked my kids the other day if they’d like to go to school.  They looked at me as if I’d said a bad word, though I haven’t spent my time trashing the public school

They said, “Absolutely not!  Never.  No.” 

I said, “But I get angry at you all, and sometimes I want to explode, and so do you.” 

To which they replied, “Yeah but we still pick you.” 

And your kids still pick you.  Your daughter would pick you any day of the week. 

Be encouraged.  You can do this.  I know you can.

Love,

Hannah

For those of you who have a bit more experience on this journey, what can you add to help this mom?  There are many more like her (more every day, if the statistics are correct) and they need encouragement.  Leave your (polite, kind) thoughts in the comments.  I know they’ll be appreciated!