NEVER and NEW

 

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We start our fifth year of homeschooling on Labor Day. It’s hard to believe I’ve been homeschooling for this many years (half the number of years of my public school teaching experience.) It’s amazing to see how quickly my children are changing, growing in beautiful ways, and learning to embrace the unique person God made them to be.

It feels like yesterday when each hour, each season of babyhood and toddlerhood seemed to have no end. I walked around in a constant state of exhaustion. I was barely able to think beyond the diapers and bottles. Some dreams were put on hold, some dreams exchanged with dreams of a good night’s sleep. Survival mode seemed to be the most common mode of my life but this was also a time of great thriving. There was joy, growth, excitement, and a lot of love in between the surviving and thriving. Love so powerful it was the fuel that kept me going. As time kept going, things got “easier.” I still hoped for more sleep but my foggy mind started to clear just enough to think in complete sentences again (not in paragraphs, just sentences…) In this time, new opportunities presented themselves to be explored, embraced and be experienced. New dreams were born.

Right around the time my daughter turned three, I started to think more seriously about what education would be like for my children and what my future place in education would be. I remember walking through our church with two homeschool moms and declaring something to the point of “I will never homeschool my kids.” One of the ladies laughed and looked to the other and said, “She will. Just wait and see.” At the time, I was irritated that someone would dare think they knew me better than I knew myself but I also knew there was truth (and love) in her statement. The next few years proved her right! After much prayer, MANY discussions, and more prayer, we decided to homeschool and I found not only what education would mean for my children but also what it would mean for me. A new teaching position in a new setting. My kids, my home. A position I feel I was being prepared for long before the thought of homeschooling ever crossed my mind.

Fast forward five years, homeschooling is without a doubt one of the best decisions we’ve made for our family.  It is also one of the more challenging things I’ve taken on. It is a full-time commitment, often requiring much sacrifice and patience. LOTS of patience. Patience and grace with my children and patience and grace with myself as we all are challenged to learn, grow, and try new things. Education is a whole person, whole family, all-areas-of-life experience in our home.

At the beginning of each school year, I pray about a verse to focus on, memorize, and pray God will use in mighty ways in our lives. This year, our homeschooling theme verse is:

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

ISAIAH 43:19 (ESV)

It’s a new season, a new school year, new ideas are flooding my head, new dreams are being placed on my heart. In school, we have a newly organized school room, a new “schedule,” new books, new crayons (LOVE the those new crayons,) new skills to master, new challenges to accept, new ways to learn. I feel like this is a start of all things new and I’m praying we would be able to perceive the new things God is doing in our lives in very new, tangible ways. Here’s to a great new year and all it holds!!

 

(PS. And just so I do not mislead people, I still wish I got more sleep and there are still days of survival mode living. BUT when those days come around, we are learning to close the books and eat some ice cream. Ice cream is the magical cure for many things. 🙂 )

Happy New Year!

Back To School

Happy New Year!  Today was the first day back to school for the public school teachers and the students in our town. I love this time of year. A mixture of hope, nervousness, excitement, and anticipation. To me, “Back-to-School” feels much more like a new year than January 1st ever will.

There has been a “Back to School” time as long as I can remember. For the most part, I really liked to go to school. And as early as third grade, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. The church my family attended met in a school. On Sundays, during coffee hour, I would wander around the school, looking through the class windows at bulletin board displays and classroom set ups.  One fortunate day, my sister and I rescued some old teaching manuals out of the trash in the school. I was ecstatic to find those manuals and can remember thumbing through each page imagining what it was like to be a teacher. Most days, I could not wait to get home from school so I could PLAY school. I created worksheets for my imaginary students and corrected”their” work.  I would take “them” to imaginary assemblies and field trips. And I kept a Teacher’s Record Book and Attendance!

As I got older, my imaginary students turned into real ones. I started taking care of children in the church nursery and teaching Sunday School.  In high school, I participated in our high school’s preschool program as a student leader. Deciding that I wanted to be a teacher was one of the easiest decisions that I ever made and when it was time to go to college I knew exactly what direction to go in.

My first teaching job was a dream job!  It was on a small island accessible by ferry. I had five students. I was fresh out of college with a degree in special education and I was ready to inspire, motivate, and lead my unknown students to success. I can vividly remember sitting at the teacher orientation breakfast. It was held in an island hotel, the wind was whipping against the building, postcard ocean views could be seen from every angle. Staring out to the ocean, I felt so extremely thankful and blessed. It was almost too good to be true. I was a teacher! From that moment on, I told myself to try to never take things for granted and every day try to take in as much life as I could.

Over the years, my teaching experience has grown and my life had taken me many places. In those seven years between my first job and staying home with my children, I had the privilege of teaching in three different states to three very different populations of students. In each state, in each classroom, there were no two things the same except ONE- my feelings of gratitude and the excitement for the start of the school year.

This year is just like any other, the same feelings of excitement and anticipation for a new year are flickering in my heart and mind. My classroom is no longer housed on an island or in a public school. My classroom is my house and my students are small in number. Only two this year! Everything still feels the same. There is a room to be rearranged, school supplies to buy, desk name plates to be carefully and lovingly written, a new curriculum to be excited for. And a bulletin board to create!

Years of teaching and motherhood have brought me to this point. It is such a blessing to be able to look back on your life and see God’s hand connecting the dots. From the earliest desires to teach, to small group instruction in public schools, to holding my babies in my arms, and now to teaching them at home, God has been with me through every step and allowed me to gain knowledge to be used for the next one. Every day, I strive to do better than the last and to improve myself and my attitude.  So with that, here’s to another year of TEACHING and LEARNING! It is going to be great and I cannot wait to see what is in store!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a]and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11, English Standard Version (ESV)

PS We are extending our summer. Our first day of homeschool will be September 1st. Homeschoolers privilege. 🙂

Lessons From A Playdate

I was enjoying the peace and quiet of the morning. The girls had a new friend over for a play date and the three of them were playing upstairs.  As quietly as I could, I crept upstairs to peek through the half-closed door of the bedroom. It had been turned upside down- every costume owned was on the floor, tap shoe boxes were empty on the bed, random toys were scattered around. All signs of a play date going well. I smiled, walked away and left the trio to their imaginations and laughter.

Moments later, my youngest daughter came to find me, “Mom, E said that S could not play in her house and now S just walked down the stairs and she is sad.” What! I almost could not understand what was just said. One, I had just checked on them and everything seemed great. Two, my oldest, who in my eyes, is very sensitive and including of others, just told our guest that she could not play in her house (whatever the house was) in a way that made someone upset. That did not sound like something she would do at all. I got up to go see what was going on and found S at the bottom of the stairs about to cry. E was coming down the stairs with a convicted, guilty, concerned look on her face. She looked like she was about to cry.  The play date was quickly falling apart.

After trying to figure out what exactly happened, giving some “wise” words about how we treat our guests, and asking my daughter to apologize, I motioned my oldest daughter to the couch to sit with me for a moment. My youngest and her new friend, bounced back up the stairs as if nothing happened at all.

Through whimpers and sobs, I was able to piece together the real story of the play date. My daughter felt left out- like the third wheel. She felt slighted, her sister and friend were not listening to her ideas about WHAT and HOW to play. She admitted that S and A had tried some of E’s ideas but they decided that they would rather play another way.

These were relatively new and very real feelings for E.  Her sister was usually the youngest in the group and the one following along with E’s friends.  Today A had a chance to play with someone her own age and with someone who seemed to share many of the same interests as her. They just clicked. I was happy that A had found a friend of her own and someone to play with in their own way.

My daughter may not agree with me, but I think it was good for her to have this opportunity. A chance to walk in her sister’s shoes. I hope this will teach her to be a more open to listen to her sister’s ideas of how and what to play. I also hope that she is able to see what a good thing a friend just for A is.

For me, I learned that my daughters still need me to help them in social situations. Allowing kids to figure out things on their own and not micro-managing their behaviors is a good thing. But I think it is healthy and beneficial to talk about the attitudes and behaviors that you have observed.  Provide opportunities to role model and practice positive attitudes and behaviors that need work at home. Help your children become socially aware and competent in the security of a safe environment and with parental love.

About ten minutes post couch, the tears dried and the three girls were back to playing a new game. The play date ended as successfully as it started. A promise of another play date was met with excitement and hugs. It was a good learning experience for all of us and the girls are now looking forward to the next play date- this time without the tears.