Monday, September 9, 2013

on the dangers of comparing... [for all those brand-new homeschool moms out there]

I read this post, the day after the day we started “real” homeschooling for the first time.  The artist in me began to ache as I scrolled down through her gorgeous images of perfect green apples, beautiful bunting, full-size world globes, “Nooks” for Science, Reading, Nature, elegant art supplies… I felt ridiculously envious, and like applauding at the same time.  Maybe by the time my eldest graduates from homeschool, my schoolroom will look like that… I caught myself thinking.  If I even have a schoolroom…

In my dreams, maybe.  But in my reality?

I look up from my computer.  I look around, take stock.  Sigh.  At this present moment, we are squatters in a small guest apartment, in a different foreign country to the one our house is in, away from our [borrowed] house in our [borrowed] country, for the third trip this summer.  It's the beginning of September, and as I was preparing for this (hopefully last) trip, I decided I can't put off starting off any longer.  After months of philosophizing, curriculum shopping, ordering books, having my sweet Mom send them thousands of miles and then trying to find time to read them, I still don’t feel ready.  But I'll have to be.  If it's even just to have stuff for them to do every day, we have to start this thing.  

I pack bags of homeschool books into the back of the car, along with a box of teabags, a canister of sugar and a half-finished carton of milk in the cooler bag.  I want to be sure I have the makings of a good cup of tea upon arrival - I’m sure I’ll need one.  

Six hours of driving plus a border crossing later, we arrive at this apartment which is God's gift to us for this trip [our second unwanted visa run in the space of two months].  Reasonably priced, owned by foreigners, meant to be a blessing, the apartment just fits our family (with all three kids in the bedroom and James and I on futons in the living room).  The building is enclosed in a gated compound, and there is a simple playground right outside the front door.  True, all the equipment is sitting on plain dirt - like most of the parks in this part of the world, if there is any grass it’s for looking at, not playing on - so my 11-month-old bottom-shuffler scoots around on a continuously filthy bottom, but I’m thankful I can send the boys outside every day for "Outside Time" without needing supervision.  

I have my cup of tea, allow a day or so to settle in, organize a tentative schedule, stick it on the mirror by the front door.  I ask my gracious husband (valiantly persevering with his work while surrounded by bickering kids) if he can have “Daddy/Ruby time” while I do school work with the boys for half an hour in the mornings.  I pray fervently.  Wrack my brain for things Ben can do while I work with Will.  

[Ok, did you click on that link yet?  Here it is again.  Go click on it.  Now, keep those beautiful photos in your mind while reading the following:]

For Will (almost 6), I have (drumroll please): the Student/Teacher books for MathUSee Alpha, a copy of Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons, a wipe-off whiteboard and a black dry-erase marker.  That’s it.  

For Ben (almost 4), I have a dry-erase Numbers workbook, a fat Alphabet workbook, and a new pack of crayons.  That’s it.  

No frills, no extras - barely the basics. 

We sit at the tiny rectangular table, me on one side, a boy on each end.  I pull out MathUSee and we attempt "Lesson 1: Place Value".  Will catches on quickly despite my stumbling along in the teacher's manual.  Ben gets frustrated, doesn’t want to do his workbooks, doesn’t want to do anything.  He perks up when we put "Decimal Street" on the floor and get out the manipulatives, start building 3-digit numbers.  That lasts about 2 minutes.  When he’s tired of it, I try to engage him with his new number workbook, hoping the novelty will last long enough for me to finish the lesson with Will.  It doesn’t.  He can’t figure out the directions, can’t work page by page, gets frustrated and gives up if his first tracing of a number doesn’t cover the lines exactly…

The second day is better, with Ben enjoying his workbooks a little more and both of them enjoying the number game at the end of Lesson 1…. 

And then, during a tea break on Day 2, I click on that beautiful post.  And I almost feel like giving up.  It takes me two read-throughs (with a session of serious dish-washing-thinking in between), before I catch what her post is really about.  

It’s about GRACE. 

It’s not about the apples, the globes, the books, the trappings, the paraphernalia.  Homeschool - learning at home, wherever home is - is about my. kids. learning.  

And there is grace.

Ann says it right there, halfway down:

“That’s the bottom line: Your sins aren’t enough and your strengths aren’t enough. You are not enough — for this parenting gig, this marriage relationship, this homeschooling year, this work project. 
Write it on the wall, ink it on some skin, because Christ wrote it with His blood: 
Grace is the only thing that is ever enough.”

That is the truth.  And I take a deep breath, and let it sink right in. 
I am not enough, and this life of sojourning may be challenging, but He is always enough.  He can meet every challenge.
The Holy Spirit takes this prime opportunity to replay a few scenes in my brain: 
The way Will’s face lit up when he registered how to read a 3-digit number for the first time.  
Ben’s big happy eyes when he looked up at me after successfully followed the zigzag maze to get the zebra to the zoo.  
The way they both fought over who could pick the units, tens, and hundreds cards in our number game.  
Will’s dawning realization that he. is. Really. Reading!  even after just 25 lessons in his book… 
I am teaching.  I’m actually doing it!  They are learning.  They really are!  And having fun at the same time.  Who cares where we are, or what trappings we don’t have?  Isn’t learning what homeschooling is all about?
Yes.  It is.  Much as my beauty-loving soul would thrill to a spacious schoolroom with lacquered oak furniture, wall-to-wall bookshelves, organizers galore, and fresh bouquets of school supplies, I’m realizing it isn’t where they learn, or what they use to learn, but that they learn that’s important. 
And with Christ in me, and Christ as our Home and our Constant, wherever we go, by God’s grace, they will.  

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I totally drooled over Ann's home school space too! Good job on "official" school with the boys! They are probably more advanced than you think, with the unofficial stuff you've been doing with them all along. And just remember, ALONG WITH ME (!!!), what's most important to pass on to our children. It's Jesus. It's love, and compassion for the world, and you my friend, are doing a fantastic job as a world class teacher. Love you!