Thursday, August 27, 2009

I officially declare Thursday nature walk day. Despite rain, snow, grumpiness, laziness, or whatever else comes our way, Thursday is the day. In years past, I didn't schedule nature study. I just wrote it on the master plan and told myself that we would go once a week. Whichever day had the best weather or the least other things to do.

Well, that doesn't work for us. Nature study was the first thing to go when the sun wasn't shining or the apathy bug hit the house. So, this year, I'm scheduling it for each and every Thursday. No matter what!

As we left the house this afternoon, it started to rain. Not easily intimidated, I continued on my mission. There is a nature preserve very close by that we had yet to visit. Just as we arrived, the rain stopped...right on cue. This is my new favorite place!

It's woods and a garden all in one. The openness of a meadow of flowers and the density of a forest where the sun never hits the ground. Flowing water and creeping vines. Birds and deer and a multitude of singing insects. All putting on their best late summer show for us. Every living thing drank up the rain from up above, down below, and on all sides. The green was so vibrant. The plants were so thick and rich. The smell of life was so intense, it filled our noses and literally tingled. I felt like I was a thousand miles from the city, even though I was right in the middle of it. Oh, how I treasure our park system! The people who carved out these spaces and protected them from urban sprawl were geniuses. Absolute geniuses.

We watched minnows in the creek. Listened to the birds. Sketched trees in our nature journals. Time flew by, and before we new it, it was well past time to leave and pick Lonna up from school.

And what was Lonna doing on the second day of public school while we were communing with nature? Why learning about jock itch of course! Seems like in 8th grade health they just jump right the male reproductive system. Sigh. I miss her.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Great Big Year of Learning

My oldest daughter is going back to public school this year. After six years of homeschooling, she has an unquenchable desire to be around middle school girls. Not really a surprise. She never was a homeschool poster child. She never snuggled on the couch in rapturous love of read alouds. She never begged for the next hands on project.

On the contrary, Lonna watched the school bus go by and wished she was on it. She despised field trips and homeschool classes. She turned up her nose at pretty much every attempt I made to accommodate her learning style and interests. Lonna is a good learner, but she doesn't love to learn. She's not an academic. She just wants to be like her perception of everyone else, and she's still young enough to believe that's a goal that can actually be obtained.

So even though it literally goes against what I said I stand for, I'm sending my baby off to 8th grade on Wednesday. And even though we've known it's coming for a long time, it's almost unbelievable.

I've been thinking a lot about the first day of Kindergarten. I remember her so clearly standing in front of our house, posing for a picture with her seemingly giant backpack dwarfing her tiny, lovable cuteness. I remember walking her to her class while holding her hand just a little too firmly. I remember managing to hold back the tears just long enough to get to the parking lot. Then I let it all flow, sniffling and snotting the whole drive to work. I was a mess. This whole growing up thing wasn't at all what it was cracked up to be. I wanted to be the one to teach her things. To watch her grow and to share her life. Instead, we scurried through night after night of crazy busyness after I got home from work. Our lives lived separately. Our experiences individual rather than common. Homeschooling wasn't even in my vocabulary at that time, but my heart knew what I wanted, even though I didn't have the word to name it.

I also remember distinctly two years later when I went to her classroom to pack up her things for the last day. We were pulling her and her brother out of public school to embark on a new journey. Homeschooling. God had made a way in a way that I didn't even realize was a possibility. Just like something He would do! There was much trepidation and confusion, but there was an underlying support of faith and truth. We were doing the right thing. We were living our lives together. Whenever I planned for the future, I never calculated one of the kids going back to public school. Never once was it a possibility. Until it became a reality.

Homeschooling is not an educational choice. It's a lifestyle choice. It's who we are and how we interact. It's the rhythm of our day and the structure of our lives. If you don't live it, that won't make any sense, but if you do, you know how it's so much more than you can quantify or describe. It's an alternative lifestyle. It's against the norm. But it's our normal. It's us. We're homeschoolers. And now, our lives will never be the same. It's not just as simple as sending Lonna to school. It doesn't just change her life. It changes all of our lives.

I'm still trying to process this new dynamic. I look at my schedule and somehow my brain just can't grasp that she will be gone for almost 8 hours a day. I can't believe she won't be reading her History in the recliner with the cat on her lap. I can't fathom that she won't be complaining about those read alouds. I can't imagine that I won't be able to look at her face when I want to, just because I want to. I can't bear the thought of a house without her voice in it five days a week. It literally hurts with a crushing ache when I think about the depth of the level that I will miss her.

But I also know without a doubt that it's the right thing to do. I've always been quick to wax in poetic argument about how wonderful homeschooling is. How it is one of the best things that ever happened to our family. But the flip side of that argument also pertains. If I truly believe what I say, that homeschooling lets each family member reach his or her full potential, I have to also entertain the possibility that it doesn't work for one of my own family members. I've never been anti-public school. Rather, I bill myself as pro-family. What works for some families doesn't work for others. Don't just blindly follow our society's model. You don't HAVE to send your kid to school. Women don't HAVE to be career driven. There is another way. I advocate choosing what's best for your individual family. Not all mothers are built for homeschooling. There's no shame in that. Not all kids are built for homeschooling. There's no shame in that. But realizing that one of those kids is mine??? I did feel shame in that.

I felt like a failure. Like I didn't do enough for her. Like I just wasn't enough for her. But I finally realized it isn't me. Lonna is an individual. Doing what's best for her means saying she needs to go to school. Not because I can't teach her, but because I CAN teach her. I can teach her that I respect her and her choices. Even when they aren't the ones I would make for her.

So, this week, I sacrifice my dream of the idyllic homeschool. I lay aside my own plans. I let Lonna take the lead. She still looks so small to me, like the picture on the first day of Kindergarten. I guarantee I'm going to sniffle and snot my way through this day, too.

We're going to be a different family in many ways, but we're still us. Public school or homeschool. We're us. Nothing changes that. We're continuing to learn together, and as everyone knows, you learn the most from the lessons that are the hardest. My great big year of learning...starting now.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back by Popular Demand

I guess I'll blog again. People keep suggesting it. O.K. O.K. Never fear! I'm not getting a big head from the hordes of people seeking after me. There's been about...oh...four people. :) That, and I think about things to write with nowhere to write them. Things to say and nowhere to say them.

I just finished reading back through this blog, and it was eye-opening. It's only been four months since I've written. Not a huge span of time. I feel like an almost completely different person, though.

First off, I had to change the ages of all my children. Summer is birthday season around here. I apparently give birth best in a 6 week span from the end of May to the beginning of July. That, or I conceive best somewhere around September---but we won't go there!

I'm now the mother of a teenager, although the hormone-charged atmosphere has existed in our home for awhile. Now it's just official. And Hilary is four. Does that mean I stop calling her "the baby" now? Doesn't seem at all like that is possible.

I had another angioplasty for Pulmonary Vein Stenosis in June. The fifth one in less than three years. Will the fifth time be the charm??? I don't know. My doctor seems to think so. But of course, she did the third time...and the fourth.

I went for my follow-up appointment the other day. I had a metabolic stress test to see if my exercise tolerance has improved any. I detest that test. It's not just the treadmill. It's the mask that they attach to your head so tight, it feels like your cheeks have become one with the plastic. It's the million and one wires and blood pressure cuffs and the incessant questions. "How are you doing? What number is the level of activity on the chart now? And now? And now?" It's the apparently clueless researcher who decided that you should never, ever hold onto the rails, even when the incline is seemingly straight up. The incline...oh, the incline. Don't they know that's my arch nemesis? Don't they know I can make it through an entire day with careful planning to never face a set of stairs or a sloping hill? I can fake healthy most of the time. Except for the hills. There's no covering up on the hills.

But I did better. I am improved. I'm back to where I was before the veins re-narrowed. Not where I was years ago before this all started, but that's not expected. There is no cure. Just management. It's been a decade now anyway. There's all kinds of things that have changed with my body in a decade. I'm older. And squishier.

This is as good as it gets for me. I can make it through the day without a nap. I can breathe without trying so hard. My lungs only hurt if I overdo things. Life is good. But will it last? That nagging question I face again for the fifth time. Will it last? That's the number one spiritual lesson I've gained from this experience...nothing lasts. We live our entire lives wasting our lives fighting that truth. If we truly believed that nothing lasts, we wouldn't be so materialistic. Vainly trying to hold onto things or acquire new things. Things. Things. Things. They really don't matter if you know nothing lasts. Also, if you truly believe that nothing lasts, the pain and sorrow and suffering shouldn't matter so much. The darkness can never be so black if you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But we don't see the light. We feel like the pain will never end. Like the time will never come. That the wait is just too long. So we ride the ride of uncertainity up and down and up and down. Chasing after the job or the income or the place that will finally be the one that makes us happy. Seeking the people and the behavior of those people that will finally meet our standards. Running from the trials and tribulations that could be meaningful learning experiences and refine us with fire, but we don't see the opportunities. All we see are the flames.

So, I'm dealing again with the truth that nothing lasts. Good or bad. Only God remains. Never changing. The one sure thing to look to. The one true thing to turn to. Nothing in this life lasts. But God is so much deeper and wider and higher than anything this life can throw at you. Nothing lasts...but God.

I also find it interesting how much my thought process about headcovering can change in four months. It's been over a year now since I've covered full-time. And you know what? I don't really think about it anymore. It's just me. It's what I do. I don't fret over it. I don't feel awkward or strange. I feel like me. My mind is no longer filled with the focus of the covering itself. How does it feel? Does it match? Is anyone else doing it? I'm over those things. My head and heart are free from that distraction to focus on the real meaning of the covering. The humility. The obedience. The prayer. So then, what exactly is my excuse? Because I'm not there yet. I'm not now on some enlightened path free of battles. No, I've let go of one set of distractions and just replaced them with others. What's my excuse for not praying more? For not being humble? For not being gentle? For not seeing the light? That indeed is something to think about.