More Lessons from the Homeschool Table

Momma told me there would be days like this….

Actually, today began really well. I slept in because I had a bad night, thank you to restless legs. I came down to be greeted by a cheerful Nate who asked how I had slept, then showed me that he had already completed a fair bit of his work for the day. I have a calendar on the wall with all the work listed out for the week. The kids are able to see what they have to do on their own and check it off as they go, then see what we will be doing together. The system has worked well, and especially today when he got to work before I even got up!

Somehow, between that point four hours ago and now things have gone downhill.

I feel like I’m repeating myself, and I have a feeling a lot of days will be like this, but I am slightly stunned by how the day can turn so quickly. I have one moping and hanging his head. One on the couch who suddenly doesn’t feel well. And one little man who is cheerfully working on his math problems on the ipad.

Here is what struck me today, though….home school is at its very root different than regular school because there is this link between the teacher and the student that is inherently different.

There is emotion and history and relationship that is different.  There is also love and care and all the button-pushing and the things that set us off.

There is not the objectivity and separation that a “regular” teacher has with the kids. When the teacher at school loses their temper (and we all do) and hollers at the kids or comes down on them, there is the break of a night away and a fresh start in the morning.

There is not that break for the homeschooler, and there is not the space when dad comes home to talk at the table about how frustrated they were that day at school…because the teacher is sitting right there.

The fact is that I am going to frustrate the boys and they are going to frustrate me. Today I was the one who ended up in tears because I felt inept in trying to get them all to pay attention and to stay on task and to get something from what we were doing. We took a break…they rode scooters for a bit (although only Sammy actually did the whole two laps I asked for), and we tried coming at it differently, but it just didn’t work.

There is, I think, in all of us a fear of being inadequate to the task that is before us. That fear can be brought out by our kids more than any other person. When the task is not only parenting but teaching and educating, there are lines I am not sure how I blend and which ones to cross or others that need to be made bold and clear. I am not sure how to make it clear always that it is the teacher-mom and not just the parenting-mom at the moment.

This doesn’t mean that we are failing. It means that we are interacting and there is always friction when we interact….sometimes the friction is good and healthy, and sometimes it hurts a bit.

The lessons we are learning in homeschool are far more than just the knowledge, and I knew that would be true. We are learning that you don’t give up.  Now, I know this is true in regular school as well…but this is a little different.

The teacher is mom and the students are my children. I am invested in them in so many ways; my hopes and expectations for them are far more nuanced than a regular teacher. And I will have them every year, not just for one year.  That means that when we frustrate one another or when we make the other cry….we have to find a way to resolve the issue and to move forward and do better. We have to learn to communicate better and to respect each other. Those are lessons that will take us to much richer places as a family whole.  So, even on the not-so-fun days, I’m finding that this homeschool adventure is precisely where God wants me to be for the moment.


So yesterday was his actual birthday.  I didn’t get a chance to write this up yesterday, though…and plus, today is Saturday and his friends are coming over to celebrate him today. So, today seems a good day to wish the boy a Happy Birthday.

Yep, that boy.  

The one I made cry the other day.   He was stubborn from the start. Turned sunny-side-up and didn’t want to come out. Spent the whole day walking up and down Oak Street in Vancouver trying to coax him out, and then finally he was here. He was quiet at the start…quiet enough to make the nurses worried. Quiet as he got older; he would be content to be with people and not talk at all. Then he began to find his voice and the boy blossomed. We joke that some day he will be a street preacher with that voice.

He uses it now to express that creativity and amazing imagination. He is the boy with the stories and the plans and the laughter.  Yep, he is the one who will make his own Halloween costume and come up with the best party games.


He is the one who is hurt easily by word, and who is so concerned about how people are feeling. His friends are so important to him. He loves to be with people and to be engaged and playing and laughing and giggling and yelling and making things.

He is unpredictable. He feels things deeply and lives more alive than most of us. He’s our amazing Nathaniel David, and we are so blessed to have him in our lives.

Happy Birthday, Nate!! I can’t believe you are 9, and I cannot wait to see what the next year holds!! You are loved!!!!

I Made Him Cry…

Meet Nate.  

He’s my middle boy, right on the verge of turning 9.

He is amazingly creative and compassionate and energetic.

He has his own website that has short stories and facts about all the toys he collects. He can recount facts about Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin, Webkinz and other toys in great detail and with great enthusiasm. He created a story with several chapters and great descriptions. He loves animals and loves being outdoors.

He can make you laugh at the drop of a hat and he has this fantastic smile that he cannot contain when he is slightly embarrassed but also delighted that you are paying attention to something he is doing.

He is stubborn as anyone you’ve ever met. I mean, really, really stubborn. I’ve done the dance with him many times.

He loves deeply and is deeply hurt when someone mocks him or when he thinks they think he is stupid or less than who he truly is.

Words hurt him.

He has an innocence that will capture you, and yet he can push your buttons like no one’s business. He attracts kids like a magnet, though. We went by to play with his friends at school one day and I could tell he was concerned about how he would be received. He got out of the truck by the playground and was swarmed by his friends…they all came and hugged him and were chanting “Nate”.  He was smiling that embarrassed-yet-pleased-smile.

He is complex.  

Today was not such a great day with homeschool.

We got a late start because we went to bed late last night since we stayed late at Biblestudy.  Everything was late.  I was irritable because I don’t like being late.

Maddie was fussy because she has a cold and teeth coming in, and she’s 15 months old.

Nate likes to goof and I was not in the mood. Now, I had given the boys a 15 minute freeze dance session to disco, so I was hoping to have spent some of the energy. Not quite enough.  I could not get Nate to focus and to answer the questions I was asking about our reading.  I left him to it and walked out of the room frustrated.

That frustrated feeling that makes you want to scream or cry or just fall on the floor and pray that God will do something with your pathetic parenting skills. That frustration  where you know you have lost your patience too early and you know they are just being kids, but you still feel it boiling up within you and you just can’t help it.
I went to walk out of the room and that’s when I saw that he was crying. Very quietly, not putting on a show, not asking to be paid attention, but very quietly crying.

I had hurt this amazing, creative, passionate, impulsive, lacking-control, wonder boy.  

I know it will not be the last time I will do this, and it surely is not the first.  Homeschool will provide many more opportunities where I am going to be pushed, and I already am aware that part of the frustration is that I am not as prepared as I would like or need to be…so the frustration is amplified by guilt. There will be times that I will not guide him correctly or I will not contain my frustration appropriately and I know there will be times he will cry again.

And yet, I know that this boy is going to teach me more about life than probably anyone. He is going to push me to be a better parent. He already has changed us. If there is one thing I pray with consistency it is to allow these kids to be who God has created them to be….not who I might want to mold them to be.

He is an image bearer of an amazing, creative, imaginative God.

I hope that days like today are fewer than days like yesterday when everything went smoothly and we enjoyed each other’s company and we were happy to be home together. I hope that the reality of homeschool in the Wolfe Academy meets the vision we have and the reality that God intends and enlarges our idea of what this is all about. I hope that days like today are fewer, but that they make me stop and think and be aware of the gifts of these kids…and never take for granted the joy of being able to parent them.


Well, I said I might do TGIF on a Monday since I posted Messy Monday on a Friday.

Life is confusing, isn’t it?!

It is a good Wednesday here in homeschool land, though, and I am thankful. I’m thankful that we were home all day today and didn’t have to go anywhere during the day. We were able to relax a little and get the school work done without much fuss. I still feel like I have so far to go in figuring out how this is supposed to work. I am getting there, though, and I am realizing that I am capable of the task. As my confidence grows in my ability, my vision for how this venture should look begins to take more form.

Life is not all about homeschool, though, and the boys are still in the midst of just ‘life’ with us. Right now that means hearing a fair bit about the elections coming as Steve and I dialog and we watch different things and read and listen and talk. And pray.

I have to be careful sometimes about leaving my FaceBook page open because there have been comments that I wouldn’t want them to read. Not because the content was something I disagreed with, but because the language the content was delivered with was vulgar and filled with arrogance and hate.

Comes from both sides of the aisle. I will say, thankfully, that most of my friends have been carrying themselves with some measure of grace. I do not mind strong debate and I do not mind dialog (although I am not sure FaceBook is the best place for the conversation). I do mind, and will ignore, arrogant rhetoric laced with vulgarity. I just do not have the time for that.

Our pastor is pretty vocal about his opinion on politics:

He doesn’t want us to be vocal about our opinions on politics.

He wants us to pray and to vote. Period.

There is a lot of wisdom there, especially because our congregation is pretty diverse and heated dialog of politics would probably do nothing but cause division.  That doesn’t mean that we never talk over a cup of coffee with a friend, but it does mean that in the house of worship we will not be wearing our pins and passing out pamphlets.  And I’m thankful for that.

I watched the Republican Convention and have watched some of the Democratic Convention so far.

I’m listening. I am conservative and not ashamed of that, but I am also listening. I have friends on both sides and I want to understand their views, but ultimately I will vote as I have peace about voting…not to win brownie points with anyone on Facebook.

I heard the closing prayer for the DNC last night and while there may be things I disagree with in relation to the Democrats, I thought Jena Lee Nardella (from here in Nashville, no less) prayed what was on many of our hearts. She prayed with compassion and grace for both candidates and she prayed with wisdom for all of us caught up in this adventure of democracy.

I wish that we were able to dialog without hate and with understanding that most of us are doing the best we can to understand and to vote in a way that we hope will bring the best about for our country. For those of us who are believers, we also vote in the hope that God will be glorified in the choices that are made.

Ultimately, though, I believe that God will still be God the day of the election and the day after. As the boys and I have been studying China I have been humbled by the luxury we live in in this country…not just financially, but in our freedoms and in the possibilities that truly are all around us. I have found myself praying toward the election with more of a spirit of gratitude and hope, knowing that God has worked and will continue to work in situations that seem impossible. I have prayed toward the election with more affection for my country…not arrogance or pride that comes from vain conceit…but affection as I hear stories of amazing people all over the country.

So, I’m Thankful on this Wednesday for a few minutes to catch my breath in a busy week. I’m thankful for brownies beginning to make the house smell wonderful….brownies that will be eaten in the presence of friends at Home Group tonight. I’m thankful for children who are beginning to be quicker to learn and catch on to the fact that we are doing more than just knocking out schoolwork…we are trying to understand our world and think about it more creatively.  I’m thankful, and humbled, that I get to stay home and be with these kiddos and bake brownies.

And I am very thankful I get to vote in November. I’m humbled by that freedom and responsibility…and pray that we, especially we believers, will carry ourselves toward that election day with dignity and with great compassion and grace even while we take our stand and make our vote.

Lessons Learned from Cleaning the Closet

Things I’ve learned in cleaning out my closet.


First: I’m great at starting things and terrible at following through. I think most people I know fall into this to some degree or another, but the greatest evidence of this in the clutter I found was the countless journals. Each one would begin strongly and end before the pages were filled. Calendars were similar…lots of notes in the early months, tapering off to nothing notable by the end.


Yes, this does terrify me when I think of homeschooling. I do not want to fall into the easy temptation of starting well and finishing poorly.


Makes me think of the Eugene Peterson book titled, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”  Such a visual example to me of how easy it is to get lazy.


Second: I don’t like to throw things away. Catalogs. Notes. Papers. School papers. Drawings. Notebooks. Pictures. Scribbles.  Yep, after 9 garbage bags (I told you it was a big closet!!) I am aware that I need to throw more things away. I filled up boxes for each of the boys with school papers and drawings and cards from their grandparents and friends. Little things to look back on some day and remember. Which leads me to number three.


Third:  I’m really glad I don’t like to throw things away. Okay, I could do better with the scribbles and the catalogs. I found, however, the history of the last few years in the cards that my folks have sent. The messages from my mom of well-wishes for birthdays or get well cards when someone was sick. Notes that were in her familiar pen (and I can picture her hands as I think of this), that began to be not so familiar. Shorter messages with a stilting cursive. Then just her name. Then the latest ones with Dad signing her name.


There is history in the things I am saving, and I save them because they carry that history. Some day when I am gone, if these things survive floods and fires (which many things did not for Steve’s folks in the Nashville flood a couple years ago), my children will go through these boxes. I have no doubt I will make Steve lug them to wherever we land next, although they are at least organized. My children will go through them and they will see the notes and the love and the stories that are held by fragile pieces of paper.


Pieces of paper that tell a story beyond just the words written on the paper. And I am thankful I didn’t throw them away and they are safely tucked away now.


Fourth: I realized that life has a way of getting in your attention in peculiar ways. Cleaning out a closet. Yes, the cards make me think of my mom and her progression in her dementia. They also make me laugh and bring back great memories of the boys and of this amazing life I’ve experienced. I did not expect the clothes to catch me off guard. The yellow sleeveless dress that I have not fit into in I don’t know how long, and the red suede jacket. They have hung faithfully in the corner, mostly ignored. Tonight, though, they stood as another reminder….that I’ll never go clothes shopping with mom again. I won’t have the opportunity for her to tell me what she thinks looks good, or for her to send an outfit or some makeup off to me, just because.
And that is painful.


We humans adapt to things in amazing ways. I’m reading a book about women in France who were in the Resistance against Hitler. The things they adapted to are astounding.


We all do it all the time, though. We adapt to pain when our bodies begin to fail. We adapt to pain when relationships begin to change. We adapt to life as a family instead of an individual when we marry. We adapt to new places to live, new jobs, new relationships. We adapt. And in the adapting, I think sometimes, we grow a bit numb to the reality. We grow numb to the pain, because if we focus continually on our sadness or pain we become unable to move forward.


Sometimes, just like pricking our finger on something we didn’t see, something peculiar will get our attention and God will remind us that there are greater realities we need to pay attention to.


So, the closet is clean (well, almost…but so very nearly done I thought I could go ahead and write about it). Trash is discarded. Things not needed are ready for someone who might need them.


And memories have been sparked. In the midst of cleaning out clutter God has spoken.


“Pay attention.”


“Don’t be lazy…be consistent and follow through to the end. Persevere.”






This life He has given is amazing. It is filled with color, with sounds, with joys and sorrows…and sometimes those enormous realities are carried in the frailties of paper and fabric. He uses these little things to remind us who we are and what is important.



Closet from Hoarders….

2:25 am.

I am in the midst of cleaning out my closet. I should take a picture.

My closet has been neglected for most of the time we have lived in this house. 7 years. It has become the catch-all of the house and has piled high enough it would be respected on the Hoarder’s show.

The rest of the house is lived-in. Most days it is not too bad, although there are always evidences of the children. Socks on the floor. X-box remotes on the couch. The endless supply of kids plastic character cups that can be found in the strangest places.

Lived-in, but not out-of-control, and usually just a few minutes away from being respectable. I’ve become a better keeper of the house as I have aged.

Except that dang closet. I’ve been working on it for the last hour or so and have made a scratch. Not a dent but a scratch.

I have this inkling that when I get it clean…I mean really organized and clean…it will mark something for me. It will mark the first step to the other projects around the house that I would like to get to.

The problem is I keep finding treasures as I clean. Little notes from the boys. Pictures that I’d forgotten. Books I want to read.

Things tucked away because they were important, but have been lost in a bunch of “stuff”. Mind you, this closet is a walk-in that comfortably houses two 6′ bookshelves along with all the built in shelving. I can cram a lot of stuff in that closet.

I think this is one of the things that gets me when I watch a show like Hoarders…we want to keep things because they mean something, and then all of a sudden we find that the important things are mixed in with the trash and we’ve lost track of which is which so that everything means less. The people on Hoarder’s started holding on to stuff almost invariably because there was a tragedy.

Tragedies scare us and they rattle us. And we want to hold on to something to remind us that we’re still here and we’re still part of something and we still belong….and there are still important things.

If all we are doing, though, is holding on to things to find some source of comfort, eventually we look and we are holding on to trash.

Life is like that, yes?

We hold on to habits, to ways of doing things, to thoughts, to activities…to people even…because we want to know that we are part of something. That we belong and there are important things that mean something in our lives.

Sometimes, though, all that stuff becomes cluttered with things that don’t mean anything, and we find ourselves overwhelmed.

Sometimes we need to clean things out. We need to clean out our thoughts, our habits and our activities…even the people we are investing in…to find what is really important.

When we’ve cleaned the stuff out, it is easier to breathe and to be efficient and to see that what is important is not the stuff. What is important is that we are created and made and called and loved by a Living God. We are His and we are not alone or forgotten. The stuff has not made us valuable…we are valuable just in being us. Unique, amazing creatures.

Back to the closet I go…redeeming the things that are truly important and finding them places where they can be remembered and enjoyed, free from the distractions of the trash. Back as well to redeem the things that are important in life, and to release the things that are not….