Thursday, October 27, 2016

Saturday's Kid


As the summer days began their surrender to fall, I found myself dreading Saturdays. Summer Saturdays were blissfully slow - wide open spaces to weed, read, and grill dinner at seven as the sun started to sink behind the hillside out back. All the while, September Saturdays loomed like a tempest on the calendar, the small white boxes filled with angry black sharpie marching orders: ballet, gymnastics, soccer games, grocery runs.


Busy is often necessary right now. We're in a busy season. Greg and I considered each yes carefully before we said it on behalf of ourselves or our children, sifting through the consequences of that choice before the words left our mouths. We have no regrets.


Even so, busy is hard. I sometimes find myself thirsting for grace as I heave the carseat in and out of the minivan and bark orders at my kids to hurry up, slow down, get your shoes on, grab your bag. And when that begged-for grace is faithfully imparted, it always catches me by surprise.


Greg usually heads in one direction with the older boys, while I head in the opposite direction with Chloe and the littles. With time to kill, we've taken to meandering the streets of one of our favorite little towns, hitting up the library and the sweets shop before the clock strikes twelve and our ballerina is ready for us. We love to walk down a few of the lovely tree-lined lanes running parallel to the main street, picking out our favorite houses and kicking up the leaves. 

God took what I was dreading and made it sweet.

As they say, all is grace.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Artist, Baker, Butter Maker

Never has there been a more eager kindergartener than our Charlie - at least not within the Smith family. Give this kid all the crayons, all the snipping, all the glue sticks. He'll churn through 'em and ask for more. I bought him his kindergarten  handwriting book (the same one his older brothers didn't even finish because they were so uninterested) and he cruised through the entire thing in - no joke - one day. I died - it was twelve bucks! It was supposed to take us all the way into May of next year, and instead I was back on Amazon four hours later.

When I casually mentioned as we were learning about the letter B that we might make butter, I was speaking from a purely hypothetical standpoint. What I meant was, It says here in the book that we're supposed to make butter because it starts with B, but I'll be honest, I'm not really into it. What he heard was, Let's get churning.

Way back when his big sis was in kindergarten, we attempted this very same project. The experience left me simultaneously unimpressed and filled with wonder that someone would rather do this than just buy some at Costco. They sell it in bulk there. 

But persistence is Charlie's middle name, or at least it should be. Every few days he drove the guilt bus through town... Mom, we still haven't made that butter, and Mom, we're already on G and we still have no butter! I realized there was only one solution to this problem, and it involved heavy whipping cream, a mason jar, and a whole lotta shaking.

He loved it. Of course, he loved it.



And we sure do love him.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Success Redefined

One of my fourth graders has a really tough time sitting still. He insists that he thinks best when he's dribbling a ball up and down my hallway. He invented this annoying game called "Hitball," and he has the uncanny knack of deciding to play it as soon as Oliver hits REM sleep during naptime. I'll be creeping and shushing my way through the house with a basket of laundry when, like clockwork, I hear the dreaded thud! thud! thud! of a dirty old deck hockey ball being hurled at my stairs in the latest round of Hitball. I drop the basket and skid like a maniac toward the stairs, shushing furiously, but it is always too late. REM sleep is broken, furious cries erupt from the nursery, and lo and behold, I'm teaching math to four different kids with a cranky baby on my hip.

Being this kid's mom is a schizophrenic experience. I often simultaneously want to hug him and shake him. On a recent morning I was running behind, so I wrote three sentences on the board for the fourth graders to diagram. The plan was that I would take a three minute shower and Oliver would remain in REM sleep. My sixth grade resident grammar scholar was on standby to assist in my stead if questions arose. A few minutes later I emerged from my room to check on their work. One of the fourth graders had neatly and efficiently diagrammed the sentences on his notebook paper, per my request. The other had abandoned his paper and had written, sloppily, on the white board instead.

These are the sentences he was told to diagram:

This is what he did instead:

At least he knew he had created an interrogative sentence that began with an interjection. Success, redefined.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Friday Wanderings


Science was held in the woods last Friday...
Vine swinging.
Constant companions.
Wide eyed wonder.
Sunbeam breakthroughs.
Crisp Autumn air.
"Keep close to nature's heart, and break clear away once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."   ~John Muir

Friday, September 9, 2016

First Day Hurray

Our first day went off without a hitch! Every year since our very first year of homeschooling, we have heralded the first day of school with a breakfast date with Daddy. This year was no exception.



Our happy baby came along for the ride...


Then it was back to the homestead for the annual pictures in the front yard.

Our Sixth Grader...

Our Fourth Graders...


and our Kindergartener!

We spent the week reading, practicing Latin vocabulary, struggling through math lessons, learning sight words, painting, imagining, talking, baking, singing, and playing. 

We got back in the saddle fairly easily this year...



I only had one meltdown, on day four. It ended like this:


The degree to which homeschooling has challenged me is in direct proportion to its value in both my life and the lives of my children. 

It is a joy to be home learning with these people.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Twas the Night Before the First Day of School



And all through the house...
All my kids were in bed,
And so was my spouse.


It's 11:30 and I was supposed to be in bed by 10:00 so I could be suitably rested for our first day of school. 

Oh well.

Ready or not, we're beginning 6th grade, 4th grade, and Kindergarten tomorrow!


This I know: there will be moments of impatience and occasional bad attitudes. Someone will forget what six times six equals even though we drilled it a thousand times last year. I will remind them, and then they will forget it again. Someone will try to snip zig zags and get frustrated because it's so much harder than snipping straight lines. Someone will bother someone else by humming the States and Capitals song in the middle of the math test. The house will start out clean and get gradually messier throughout the day. By dinnertime I will be exhausted. 


This, too, I know: this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. God clearly called me to this work and has blessed me and my family immensely as we have stayed the course. My children consider each other their best friends. I have learned more teaching them the past six years than I did in the 17 years of formal schooling I received. We start each day together, gathered around our table feasting on that which is lovely and worthwhile: prayer, scripture, hymns, poetry, and literature. I will fail in front of my kids and humbly ask for their forgiveness. Homeschooling is not right for everyone, but it is right for us. I receive more than I give. I am loved when I am not lovable. 


I learn more than I teach. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Safety First

You never know what danger might be encountered while coloring. Best to be prepared. Also? This newly minted five year old brings so much joy to our family. It is impossible not to adore him.