Goodbye Sixth Grade, Third Grade and Kindergarten

Our third year of homeschooling will be logged in the books this afternoon when we meet with our Education Specialist and turn in our final report cards. The charter school system is funny, great, annoying and helpful, all wrapped up together. I am lucky to have a supportive credentialed teacher to help us out with curriculum decisions and roadblocks, but that comes packaged with the requirement that our kids third grade and up take the state standards test and turn in report cards.Report Cards

Filling out the end of the semester report cards is always such a revelatory experience. After weeks of wondering if we’ve made any progress at all, being blind to the forest for all the trees, I sit down with my calendar and curriculum to document everything we’ve done which counts as school. It’s a lot. And it’s all beautiful stuff. And I get to give everyone straight A’s because we don’t give up on our work until we get it right.

In a couple of weeks we will be attending homeschool graduation for our Kindergartener, just like her two older sisters did in their traditional school. I can’t wait to snap pictures of her little tiny face, with a cardboard graduation cap on top of her curly head.

As I say goodbye to my third year of homeschooling what do I have to say about this lifestyle? Well, it continues to be less stressful for our kids, and about the same amount of stressful for me. I have learned a lot about setting a schedule in place and counting on that to return to as I plan my weeks. This might be normal regular stuff for those of you out there who’ve been excelling at adulting for years, but I have always been a reluctant planner. It was a revelation that doing some work planning ahead can leave me space for more flexibility each day.

I’ve also made big strides in learning how my kids learn, and how I excel at teaching. We thrive listening to books together and discussing them. The skill my older two have in critiquing a work of literature or dissecting an argument or philosophy astounds me. It has grown simply because we spend up to an hour every day listening to literature from different genres and eras as we go about our day. If nothing else, my kids will grow up to be skilled editors.

Most amazingly, I’ve learned to love being a teacher who happens to be teaching her own kids. A couple weeks ago at the members meeting at church our head pastor stood up to give his 5 minute breakdown of what he feels our church’s mission should be for the next ten years. “More of the same,” he said. Knowing that he is an enneagram 7 (the Ethusiast) like myself, this was a powerful statement. Embarking on an adventure of sameness is hard for 7s to focus on, but it’s exactly the most adventurous thing you can do. Picking a trail and walking as far along it as you can gets you deeper into the woods than anyone has ever gone before. Walking the first 5 miles of every trail you see doesn’t ever bring you to the serious mountaineering of life.

Homeschooling lets my kids deeply explore their interests without the distractions of busy-work and superfluous grade requirements. It lets me relearn these topics with my adult brain and understand them so much more deeply. Yes, even long division. It also gives us time to become more interesting people, who go camping, rock climb, write movies, travel together, and serve our communities. As I say goodbye to this year of learning, I think I am saying hello to a committed homeschooling future. I’m saying hello to more of the same. And that’s something I have been striving to say for all of my life.

Now what?

I’m disappointed to discover that the Christian Liturgical Calendar was not as useful an indicator of my mood as I was hoping. You may recall that I’ve posted recently about my relief that we had finally arrived in Lent. Finally we were in a season of grief that I could share with everyone around me. And that was very comforting. Plus I was expecting Easter to be a big exciting happy day. “He is Risen!” I would cry.

It is true, He is Risen. I was surrounded by joyful friends in celebration for the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, but my heart is still heavy. Easter Sunday wasn’t better. It was sadder.

I am not sharing in order to navel gaze and publicly emote at all of you. This season of sadness and deep longing for life to be and feel differently is opening my eyes to the suffering of the world. Sunday afternoon I left the Easter picnic alone because I needed some time by myself. While I was driving I had a moment of inspiration about what it means to be a faithful Christian in this time of waiting for Jesus to return.

Mary Magdeline was  fortunate and beloved of God, enough so that she was the first to see the Risen Lord and go running in ecstatic joy to tell the news. And even though her male counterparts doubted her at first, eventually she was validated and Jesus walked into a room and revealed himself to them all. I imagine she was so thrilled. So happy that the first man who valued her, the first man who didn’t know her as “the Prostitute,” the first man to befriend her only to be violently killed before her eyes was not actually dead. He was still here. He could still be her friend.

And then just a few short weeks later He was gone.

As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Acts 1:10-11

Now what?

I imagine the deep disappointment of Mary Magdeline after Jesus departed this Earth on a cloud. Maybe the initial joy of the resurrection was so complete that her old suffering lived miles away from her brain. For a time the men and women in the early church forgot her past as well, they disregarded how her past was an embarrassment to their sensibilities and lived in joy along side her.

But months pass and in the waiting for Jesus to return from His Father’s house she began to forget what it was like to be close to Him. Perhaps a few months after Jesus rose from the dead, Mary would wake up sweaty from a dream where she was once again being sold and abused. I bet her traumatized brain would just regurgitate this horrid falsehood and she’d have to shake it away to make space for the truth. Jesus is returning. He will come back in the same way she saw Him go.

This is why each Sunday is a mini-Easter. Mary Magdeline. Me. You. We are practicing mini-Easters again and again until the Lord returns, and a whole lot of the time we don’t feel the joy. We feel the oppression of our fears instead. Fake it till we make it. Practice makes perfect. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.


Politics and Homeschool

Our kids have been very interested in the political events of late. I bet yours are, too. We spend so much time talking about the debates and issues in the mornings, in the car, before bed, that I decided to switch gears in our school curriculum for the next few weeks.

Normally we use the Build Your Library curriculum as our core and supplement science with group classes. Build Your Library (BYL) is a literature-based, history rich curriculum which uses Story of the World as its spine and much historical fiction for the literature. It’s Charlotte Mason inspired, so mostly learning through experience. I add in map work and documentaries to make it work for our kids. But as our interest is moving towards American politics, I am planning to skip most of our BYL work except the Story of the World readings and our timeline, to make room for a cool Presidential Elections Unit Study I found on Oklahoma Homeschool.

The first week of the study has the kids do research on voting rights around the world on the CIA website. It’s a really cool idea but there was no direction to the research. When my kids are given an assignment like that they mostly just look at me and say, “What am I supposed to be doing?” So, I made them this CIA Voting Rights Factbook Scavenger Hunt to get them going. They loved it so much that I’d like to share it with you. Feel free to download it, and even share the link to this page. Let me know if your kids use it and what you think. I’m planning on making more of these scavenger hunts, so look for more later.

CIA Voting Rights Factsheet Scavenger Hunt