Just A Little Lack, Please!

I said at the very beginning of this year that this was going to be the year of reading, and that is proving to be true. This has been a year of reading more than of writing, and that has been a good thing. A year of listening more than of speaking.

 

I have things stirring within that I want to talk about, and yet I feel the need to let them simmer. The need to keep them close and not to expose them yet. The need to allow them the space for pondering and being stored up rather than for for rapid exposure.

 

This is unlike me.

 

I like to get my thoughts out there quickly. I tend to jump around. A lot. I tend to not follow through on thoughts to their finality.

 

I am not very patient.

 

This is not the best trait in a home school parent.

 

We have begun our third year of homeschool and I find myself with those mornings of agitation; those mornings of not having all my ideas in order and all the plans completely in place. The agitation that the kids are two steps ahead of me and will be asking what is next before I can tell them.

 

The agitation of being unprepared.

 

I hate that.  Kind of the opposite of patience.

 

Part of my lack of preparation is because I am trying to keep up with reading for my own sanity…reading to fulfill my own refreshment and deepening as well as for educating the chi’dren.  I am still finding the balance.

 

This morning, our third Monday into our third year of home school, something truly wonderful happened. There was just that moment of “Ahhh…..yes.”

 

It was not a brilliant moment of insight or of imagination or of grasping a deep truth. It was not a moment of the boys hanging on truths of history. No, it was laughter during prayer and prayer that rambled and was sincere in its humor and transparency.

 

Prayer that ended with “I pray that Mom doesn’t ground me for this prayer.”

 

A morning of lingering breakfast, of reading a novel out loud over cereal and chocolate milks,  leading into prayer and Bible reading without rush. An awareness that patience is growing in myself even when I am not completely prepared, and even more importantly, that friendship is growing among three young men. Awareness that home school is right for this moment, and that history is being learned, along with math and science and English…but that they are in this moment not the most important.

 

See…the thing is, I cannot force these three boys to enjoy each other and to grow in affection toward one another. I cannot force the atmosphere that happened this morning. When I rush the day and have all the plans worked out to the minute, often what I want the most is simply impossible.

 

Sometimes what I need is my lack.

 

This morning was that glimpse I needed.  The awareness that my insufficiency will not overwhelm this endeavor.  The awareness that I do not have to lay everything out all at once. I can hold back and ponder and be patient. I do not have to rush. There are moments which call for some lingering.

 

Did you hear that? Our insufficiency will not overwhelm the endeavor called life. In our weaknesses….God’s power is made perfect.

 

Everything moves so incredibly fast, it seems.

 

Lingering and pondering…these seem like old-fashioned ideas. And yet….they are so vital. It is hard to be agitated when you are lingering and pondering.  Sometimes it is good to sit with our insufficiency a little, sometimes it gives us the space to ponder and to linger and to find that God has done something we could not do ourselves.

 

The rest of the day we turned our attention to our tasks with a diligence that was engaged with humor and friendship.

 

So, I tuck my thoughts back in close and let them simmer a little longer. I’m thankful for those of you who keep popping in to read. I’m thankful to have a place to write…and I know there are more things stirring….

 

 

 

 

Tests Do Not Tell All…

Next week the boys will go to their umbrella school (the school where we report our grades and attendance) to take part in the standardized testing. They are familiar with the process, especially the older boys who have been through it many times. The boys attended this school until we began home school two years ago, so they know the drill.

 

For the most part they are not intimidated by the testing. We have talked about the need for the testing, but also that we are not defined by these tests. Last year I wrote a bit more about testing, and as I read through the post again this morning I thought it was worth sharing again:

 

The boys are testing this week. Testing to see not only what they know, but how well they have been taught. Those in the schools…well, the teachers are being tested as well. I know in some areas these tests bring stress and anxiety and frustration; there is pressure to do well.

I told the boys not to worry and to have fun. I told them I’m not worried a bit…I know they are bright and I know they are learning, and I know this year will be a bit different since we began homeschool. We are using a different curriculum, and I know that will show, especially in math.

They are relaxed and they are not worried about the results, although they know I expect them to do their best.

Yesterday I saw a video and it has been on my mind since. See, I know there are loads of opinions on education, and I know that not one way is necessarily the correct way for everyone. We’ve chosen homeschool for this season, and we have done so for a number of reasons. I am excited about this venture, and I am hopeful. I truly think this is the best option for us, and I think there are some opportunities in the homeschool arena that simply can’t happen in the classroom.  Opportunities to pause the syllabus and explore.

That is a touchy issue because some people feel judged just by my saying that…my choice for our family can frustrate others who have not made the same choice. Some think that I am making a statement about public education or private education…and I am,  to some degree. Still, because I have found our niche and am celebrating that does not mean that another’s choice is worse. I have friends who have children flourishing in public school and friends with children flourishing in private school.

Here is the real thrust of my thinking, though, and here is where this video comes into the discussion.

My kids, all boys at this point for the discussion of education, get bored easily. They are not avid readers or avid ‘learners’ and there are many days in the classroom or at home where they just want to get through the material so they can get on to something fun.

That bothers me.

I love to learn, and I love education. I know I didn’t always…but I have found that I love learning about people and about places…I love reading and I love learning new things.

I want them to catch that. I want them to see learning as something vital and alive and filled with wonder and imagination and truth…and not drudgery.  It can be drudgery in the classroom, in the home, wherever. The same education can be exciting and grab our attention…in the home or in the classroom.

I am not completely sure how this will play out, but I know that something is stirring in me about how I approach teaching the children. There are still facts they have to learn, and sometimes those facts are drudgery. There will, however, be things that will grab their attention and spark something…and those things need to be given the room to grow and the space to breathe.

When something makes them sit up and makes their eyes sparkle and makes them talk excitedly, I need to pay attention. I need to be listening for that moment, and I need to breathe life into that spark. 

That doesn’t happen in testing. That doesn’t happen in drudgery. That requires attention and the flexibility to give room to that interest. The hope is that as that interest sparks learning, the enjoyment of learning will spread to the other subjects.

There has to be room for imagination and for experiments.

And for failure.

And for play.

Space to find out that actually, I don’t care at all about this subject.

Testing doesn’t make that room.  I am not saying that testing is meaningless; we do need to know that our kids are learning the necessities. I am saying that our kids are so much more than the testing reveals.  I love this video because the young man is obviously bright and intelligent and creative and passionate. He is not saying education is meaningless…he is saying to pay attention to that spark and not just learn because you have to learn a set of facts.

Give room for that love of learning without suffocating it with facts that become drudgery.  

I am not good at this yet…I still make it drudgery sometimes. I can remember my teachers who were able to grab my attention and I can remember when the realization began to take hold that learning is really amazing. This is an amazing world filled with some pretty incredibly stories and people and facts and wonders…that is what I want to convey.

 Here is the real kicker…I can lose sight of that wonder just as easily in the home school setting as the teacher can in the classroom. I need this reminder as we near testing. 

Check out this video, and thanks to my friend Tina Hunter for posting it, and then watch the one after as well. I want my boys to think like this…I want them to think and to challenge and to explore, not just to prepare for tests.

 

Update: I have to add something, as I’ve been thinking about this through the day. I have to add that I have so much respect for my friends who are teachers…who are able to create an atmosphere of creativity and individuality in the classroom. Those teachers who make our children feel special, who truly care about the children they teach…those are some special teachers! I know that there are many who have made an impact on my kids…and on our family as a result. There are many teachers who are simply tired, and many who are restricted and find themselves in a difficult position to try and create a unique environment. So, I wanted to add that I know there are not simple answers to how we inspire our children…and whether we homeschool or have kids in school, we have to continue the learning throughout our family life.

I Resent that Spotlight!

The fish died.

Yep.  I pretty much have been side-tracked on a multitude of other necessities and I didn’t get around to cleaning out the fish tank. We were down to just two…we’ve lost a few lately…and one of them died. We were actually buying new filters while this little guy gave up.

Nate took it in stride; actually I think he expected it considering the fact the water was so murky lately we could barely find the two fish each night when all the boys went up to bed.

And what does this have to do with Advent?  Stay with me…

I realized something yesterday. Or maybe it is just that I allowed myself the freedom to admit something. There are times I resent my kids.

Yep, I just said that outloud.

When we start out our homeschool day and I am not prepared. I resent them…not hate them, not mad at them, not that want-them-to-go-away resentment…but I resent them because in that moment they are spotlighting my weakness and my inadequacies.

My reaction? Oh, highly spiritual. I usually bark at them and get irritable. Because, well, I hate having my weaknesses and inadequacies spotlighted.

Kids will do that, though. Just by being themselves they will make you aware of all the areas where you fall short. Suddenly you are completely vulnerable and insecure and they are wondering why you are over at the computer whimpering and tearing up while they are just goofing around.

The fact is, most days I am not prepared for the day. The lessons may be written down but there are other things that will throw me. Calls will come in that someone is sick, or a friend has made life-altering choices and suddenly all I want to do is pray. There are days the weight of the awareness of my mother’s intricate and powerful mind decaying away to dementia leaves me feeling without any enthusiasm to take on the homeschool endeavor. The laundry constantly interrupts us. Or the fish dies.

They are not earth-shattering events, but they pick at me and I find myself irritable and on edge because I just can’t seem to get ahead of it all.

Advent? Yes…I’m getting there.

A babe in a manger. Silent night. Little Drummer Boy.

These have all become so familiar to us we do not let them impact us when they should completely drop us to our knees. The spotlight is on.

400 years of silence the Jews had been waiting through. God had been awfully quiet. Had he forgotten all those promises? Had he not noticed that we just keep seeming to be inadequate in our attempts to fix things?

God had noticed. The long anticipation was over, Messiah was coming. But he came in the most extraordinary and unexpected way. God pulled the rug out and surprised everyone.

See…Advent should be about joy and about wonder. It should fill us with moments when we are stunned by the glory of the whole story. But there is more. It spotlights our inadequacy and our need. God had to come to redeem us…we simply could not do it ourselves. And he came in a way that completely took everyone by surprise, and left all the glory to God.

He walked in the room, crying like a baby.

Angels shouted. Stars led the way. Creation noticed.

And God entered creation with the baby-born wail…and I am sure hell shuddered at that infant’s wail.

We can resent God for showing that we are inadequate, as I sometimes resent my kids for spotlighting (without even knowing) where I fall short. We can shake our fist and be angry because He has called us sinners first. We can be mad that the mere fact that there is an Advent season or a Christmas celebration calls attention to the fact that there is a God who noticed we needed redemption.

Or, we can hear those songs and that simple story of the babe in the manger, of the silent night…and we can drop to our knees. We can allow ourself the freedom to admit we desperately need that redemption and we just can’t fix things on our own.

We have 20 more days. Be still with the story for a bit. Don’t rush it. Let the spotlight rest on your and don’t turn away…don’t resent the fact that your inadequacies are being noticed. Rejoice that our inadequacies and sin were noticed…and were overcome.

O come, O come Emmanuel
within this fragile vessel here to dwell.
O Child conceived by heaven’s power
give me thy strength: it is the hour.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high;
like any babe at life you cry;
for me, like any mother, birth
was hard, O light of earth.

O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
whose birth came hastily at night,
born in a stable, in blood and pain
is this the king who comes to reign?

O come, thou Rod of Jesse’s stem,
the stars will be thy diadem.
How can the infinite finite be?
Why choose, child, to be born of me?

O come, thou key of David, come,
open the door to my heart-home.
I cannot love thee as a king–
so fragile and so small a thing.

O come, thou Day-spring from on high:
I saw the signs that marked the sky.
I heard the beat of angels’ wings
I saw the shepherds and the kings.

O come, Desire of nations, be
simply a human child to me.
Let me not weep that you are born.
The night is gone. Now gleams the morn.

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel,
God’s Son, God’s Self, with us to dwell. -Madeleine L’Engle

Be Still. Wait with Anticipation.

advent

Two more days.  Advent begins on Sunday!

I know that I have been harping on this theme. I have been pestering. I have spent far more time on this this year than ever before, and probably more time on this than any other theme on the blog…at least for writing on one theme over several days. Other than maybe the theme of wonder.

There is a reason.

I need the harping and the pestering myself. Even with all this, I still feel slightly unprepared. I fall into a trap fairly often in my parenting: I want to make things perfect. Pinterest worthy. Picture perfect.

Rarely do they work out that way, and often I become stressed.

So, that is part of the harping as well.  Advent is absolutely, non-negotiably, emphatically NOT about being stressed.

Whatever we do, this season is about stilling ourselves so we can listen and we can wait. Wait with anticipation, and wait with hope. Wait with joy.

Advent is about the awareness of our need for a savior, yes. There is in the history of Advent the element of penitence, but it is more I think about this anticipation of the arrival of the Christ child. And that should be filled with wonder and awe.

In the midst of of struggles with jobs and with life and with raising kids and with being tired and with laundry and with family dynamics and with the turmoil around us in the world…and it is great…we need moments when we focus on wonder and when we focus on hope. When we still ourselves and we wait.

So I pester and I harp and I poke you, and myself, to pause over the next four weeks and pay attention. Do something to make this season stand out.

Light candles. Sing songs. Read poetry.

Be still.

How is this going to look in our family? Steve and I decided we would not ask for the technology to be completely shut off, because that would feel more like punishment to the kids. We are, however, pulling it back. We will only have one tv show a day (and one a week for mom), and the tech time is being cut in half…down to just an hour and half a day. And it has to be off by 6pm.  At 6pm we’ll have dinner and light the Advent candles and we’ll talk and sing and be with each other.

Not drastic, but something to make this season stand out. In the midst of the days there will be other activities that draw our attention toward the coming of the Christ child. We will keep pointing and focusing and making room to think about the wonder of Christmas.

And we will pray that God will meet us in this season. That He will enlarge our imagination and He will infuse this season with His Spirit. I hope you will come along with us!

Here are a few more links with ideas and resources…

Ideas for Adults:

I posted a few links Wednesday  here which will help the adults with some devotionals and focus, and I will be posting poetry each day through Advent here on the blog.

Poet and musician Malcolm Guite  last year posted sonnets from his book Sounding the Seasons. Each of the seven sonnets is accompanied by art.

SimpleLiving has a fantastic list of ideas on ways to make your Advent season and Christmas stand out from the commercialized season it has become.

Ideas for Families:

Baby Steps for Celebrating Advent

No Panic Advent – with a bunch of great book suggestions

Simple Kids – Great ideas on how to make Advent simple and kid-friendly

Homeschooled-kids has an $8 printable packet with activities and crafts and lots of ideas.