A War for Peace

It’s here: The Season.  I swore I’d never be one of those people who got caught up in all the mindless busyness of modern American holidays, the hand-wringing over recycled wrapping paper, gluten-free finger foods, and gargantuan expectations.

I wasn’t during our years in India.  And I wasn’t before that, when my kids were very small.  But since we’ve been back in the U.S. (three years now), I’ve felt holiday insanity sneaking up on me.

Have you seen the movie Alien?  I don’t recommend it, but I’ll just say that the raging fever of consumerism and ubiquitous Pinterest Faerie Land Photos feel to me like the hideous thing that attaches itself to the guy’s face in order to lay its eggs in him at the beginning of that movie.  (Since I’ll  never be able to un-see that particular scene, you might as well see it, too).

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And just like in the movie, this craziness means war. A war for peace. And I’m gearing up.

I just got done cancelling the kids’ jujitsu for the entire month of December (boom).  And we only have one more piano lesson before we shut down the semester (hooah!).  I’m saying no to math.

And you know what else?

I’m saying no to perfect because it doesn’t exist (except in the Person for whom all the fuss exists).

But I’m saying yes to our Advent readings, to my sister and her family staying with us for a week, to a Christmas concert with friends, to fires in the fireplace, to Crock Pot chili.

I’m saying yes to shopping on Amazon and wrapping the boxes as they get here and sticking to the budget as much as possible.

I’m saying yes to donating to our favorite causes, even if it’s only a little bit, and to sharing coffee with our neighbor whose husband died a month ago.

In short, we’re going to have a White Space Christmas season, if not a White Christmas, exactly.  I’m finding that it takes guts to carve out time for nothing, but I just strapped on my flak vest.

I dare you to join me.

 

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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.

A Homeschooler’s Guide to Surviving December

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I love this month we’re in.

I love looking for beauty and meaning in life, and I can find a lot of both in December.  I love the snow, the ubiquitous sparkles, the fuzzy cardigans. I love peppermint mochas and peanut butter balls.  I love Christmas contatas and casseroles and Nativity scenes.  I love to remember why we celebrate: Jesus.

What I don’t love is all the shopping, the feeling that there’s not enough time, ever, ever to finish all the tasks on my list, the huge holiday expectations of basically everyone, and the feeling that the kids and I are getting behind in our academic goals.

And while I can’t really get out of shopping (no, I can’t. I’ve kind-of tried for years), or create extra time where there isn’t any, or make my entire circle of family, friends, and acquaintances expect less from the season, and from me, I’ve learned that I can manage our homeschool goals for the month of December so that we end up feeling like we spent our time the way we meant to.

Here’s how I do it:

I set the bar low for academic work.  This means we don’t do math, basically, or Latin.  Instead, we gather together at some point during every day to read an Advent-related portion of Scripture and an accompanying devotional, plus a chapter of whatever novel we’re working through, and a couple of poems.  We talk about the day, pray, discuss what’s coming up tomorrow, etc.  That’s it.  For the whole month of December.

I set the bar high for sleep.  We love our sleep around here (and by ‘we’ I mean me).  And, of course, all the holiday merry-making of December is completely exhausting, especially if you host parties or have overnight guests.  Since I don’t want us to give less time to the people we care about, and I also don’t want the kids to be sick and good-for-nothing when we start a new semester come January 1st, I try to have everyone in bed on the early side.  We’re better able to avoid illness and crankiness this way, and, as an added bonus, waking up at 5:00 a.m. on Christmas morning doesn’t hurt quite so bad.

I carve out big chunks of “white space” in the day.  This is not so that I can stare off into the middle distance and drool, though that would be so nice, wouldn’t it?  It’s because I know that things will come up every day of this month, things that we’ll need to do, or want to do, things that teach us, things we couldn’t have planned.  I want to be able to seize special moments without freaking out about not having enough time in an already over-packed academic or social calendar.  So I build in downtime each day, as much as I can, knowing full-well that it will get filled in some way, and that there will learning opportunities I didn’t know we needed.

The upshot of all of this is that when we look back on the month of December, we’re able to see all the things we were able to experience–people we got to visit, chapters we got to read in front of the fire–instead of all of the things we weren’t able to get done.  Not only does this make for a sweet holiday season, but it also sets us up for a productive, fresh start in January.

And that’s a Christmas present this homeschooling mom wishes for every year.