Summertime for a Homeschooling Family

For most families, summertime means a huge change of pace. The children are home and need entertaining. There are trips to the pool, BBQs, family gatherings, outdoor entertainment etc. Well, we don’t have access to a pool, and we rarely eat BBQ, and we see our extended families about the same as always. While we love getting outside, we do that more in the fall, winter & spring when the weather isn’t so unbearably hot…and places aren’t as crowded either. 🙂

Our kids don’t need entertaining. They are home all the time and know how to entertain themselves, if they need to. So mostly, our routine changes very little. I still do homeschool lessons because it’s easier to keep some structure to our days, but I always do something a little different. This summer I’m concentrating on Spanish lessons and read-a-louds. I’m hoping to find a Spanish curriculum that we will stick with, and I have some books I want to read that I didn’t get to in the winter.

But even though not a lot changes, that doesn’t mean summer doesn’t have its seasonal treats, so to speak. Here’s a list of everything I think about when I think about our summers. I’m including some links to posts I’ve written about our summer habits.

  • Going out of town. Though I guess it’s technically still spring in May, that’s when my husband usually has some time off, so if we can swing it, we go on vacation. This year we went west, and it was our most memorable trip yet.
  • Gardening. I always plant a garden, and it has to be watered frequently, which is a good way to get the boys outside even for a few minutes everyday. This year I planted roma tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and dill. We’re also trying to grow milkweed and sunflowers, but so far, that’s not going too well.
  • Plants and more plants. We also have some permanent flowers and herbs in the garden and around the house, and it’s fun to see them come back to life and grow. The boys take good care of their carnivorous plants, which provide insect control and entertainment every summer!
  • Baby Birds. We have two birdhouses around our house, and there’s usually at least one brood being reared at all times during the summer. We’ve also found bird’s nests in our trees and bushes. Sometimes we’ve been lucky enough to see the chicks fledge. These little miracles are my favorite part of summer.
  • Nature Discoveries. Even though we’ve lived in our home for 14 years, there is always new stuff to discover in our wooded yard. Sometimes it’s wild animals, and sometimes it’s plants. This year we discovered we have four wild black cherry trees in our yard! (It produces fruit infrequently, which is why we haven’t noticed them before.) We’ll probably leave the fruit for the birds because we love the birds and are happy to have a natural food source for them. (Well, I think the squirrels are going to finish off the cherries before the birds do.)
  • Lemonade. My 10-year-old loves lemonade, so I make him fresh lemonade every summer. He says mine is the best, and since he’s tasted a lot of lemonade at restaurants and his grandpa’s house, I am going to trust that assessment. 😉
  • Fruit. We love fruit in this house, so we love it when strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, watermelon, and many other kinds of fruit come into season. My 10-year-old loves fruit too, which makes me happy. Oh, and we love to make smoothies and sometimes margaritas! (Those are just for the adults!)
  • Summer day camps. Every year my boys attend at least one summer camp each. The camps at our local botanical garden are our favorite. I appreciate how the garden gets them involved in nature and with other kids in a way that I can’t, and they take great care of them too. My boys have so much fun playing large group games and activities – something they don’t get at home. It’s a nice change of pace for them, and it’s the only time I get a day off, so it’s a bonus that it’s five days in a row!
  • Homeschool Wrap-up & Planning. Summertime is record-keeping time. I have to write up progress reports, and I print out reading lists and certificates of completion. I put everything in 3-ring binders, and I generally clean up the year’s work. Then I store all that away and I make new binders for next year, and I plan what we’re going to start in the fall. It sounds like a lot of work, but the only thing that takes a significant amount of time is a slideshow I put together with all the photographs from our year. I use that when we have our end-of-year review, and the boys love it.
  • Part of my homeschool wrap-up involves getting my blog up-to-date too, so you can expect a few more posts from me in the near future. 😉

I’m sure I’ve missed something, but that’s pretty much what summer looks like around here. It’s pretty simple, but it’s pretty wonderful too.

Trip West

In May, we took a trip out west. We weren’t expecting to undertake such a big trip this year, but we often mused about taking the boys out west. Then, my sister asked us when we were coming for a visit…she and her family live near Denver, Colorado. That was the push we needed to get us on the road.

It was the longest road trip we’ve ever taken, so we weren’t sure how anyone would behave (most of all, the adults!). But we made it almost-painlessly on the two day drive to New Mexico, which was our first destination.

New Mexico

I used to live out west, but seeing it with my children was like seeing it for the first time again. The boys were thrilled to see the desert landscape, pronghorn antelope, a horny toad, and my 10-year-old was even lucky enough to get a glimpse of elk while we were driving! They were familiar with these animals from all the documentaries we watch, and especially Wild Kratts, so seeing them in person was very exciting! We (especially me!) were also thrilled to identify some birds that don’t live in Georgia — grackles, ravens, magpies, etc. It was so much fun!

Santa Fe, New Mexico

We spent a couple of days in Santa Fe, which I’d always wanted to spend more time in, and so did my husband. It’s a beautiful, artsy, touristy town with a lot of history. We spent an afternoon looking through the art galleries, and I thought the boys might get bored there, but they enjoyed that! My seven-year-old said he had fun because he “saw many things I liked!” The only place they did get a little bored in was the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, but I enjoyed that.

Oldest church ever built in the U.S.A. It was built by the Tlaxcalan Indians under the direction of Franciscan Padres, circa 1610.

The second day in Santa Fe, we headed a short distance out of town to see Bandelier National Monument, and this was perhaps our favorite site to see. We took what was at least a 2-mile hike through a beautiful landscape that was quite different from home.  This hike ended at some incredible Pueblo ruins. I had never even seen anything like that before. (We bought some books about the Pueblo Indians at the visitor center, which I’m reading to my boys now!)

“Tyuonyi (pronounced Qu-weh-nee) is a free standing pueblo from the 14th century built in an unusual circular shape in Frijoles Canyon midway between Frijoles Creek and the north canyon face. Two and perhaps three stories high in some places this village housed about 100 people in 400 rooms and was constructed of carefully shaped tuff blocks cut from the canyon walls. There was a single ground-level entrance and a plaza area that had three small kivas which served as the center for social village ceremonial life.”
My boys viewing the Pueblo ruins at Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico.
a kiva

After Santa Fe, we drove up to Denver and spent four days at my sister’s house. My grown-up niece and nephews stopped by to see us too, so my boys got to meet their cousins, which was great. There was a big snowstorm in the area when we arrived, which kept us from going farther north. But since we were tired from traveling, it was nice to stay around my sister’s area, enjoy the mountain view from a local park, and go to the pool at her gym.

Approaching the snowstorm.
View from Bluffs Regional Park. Overlooking Denver and suburbs.

After our time in Denver, we headed south again, but this time we went to Albuquerque. We were there for just one day, but we packed a lot in. We went to the Indian Cultural Arts Center, Petroglyph National Monument, and Old Town Albuquerque for dinner and a bit of shopping.

Indian Cultural Arts Center

This was an incredibly educational trip. The Indian Cultural Arts Center was a fascinating place, and I read most of the exhibits to my boys, which were full of stories and inspiring messages from various Pueblo cultures. The museum is owned and operated by the 19 Pueblo tribes that are located in New Mexico.

I had seen petroglyphs before, but I had never seen as many as I saw at Petroglyph National Monument. The petroglyphs are carved into large basalt boulders, ancient volcanic rock that had once flowed around a hill, but now the hill has eroded away. This is called reverse or inverted topography, and the canyon that is left behind is called Boca Negra Canyon.

This trip created memories that will last a lifetime, and we’re so glad we took the plunge and went.

Do you have any special trip plans for this summer? I would love to hear about them.

Thoughts on Photographs and the Last Ten Years

Due to several reasons, we had not been getting out for regular day hikes as much as we used to, and this made me sad. But last week we woke up, the weather was good, the time was right, and we decided at the last minute to go to the mountains for the day. (We never plan ahead for these things.) I can’t tell you how good this felt. My soul needs a good dose of nature. So included in this post are some photos from that hike.

Speaking of photos, I was also feeling sad that I have not gotten out to take real photographs in what feels like forever. My photography website has been neglected. My Nikon is collecting dust. Though I always had good intentions about pursuing photography more seriously, the life of a homeschooling mom proved to be a like an ocean wave that swept over all my prior intentions. Suddenly everything I once wanted to do isn’t so important anymore. My heart swells with pleasure at creating lessons, birdwatching, listening to classical music….all those things that my boys have brought to me. I know I will still pursue photography and all those other interests again someday, but for now, I am enjoying riding this wave.

However, I was determined to bring my Nikon with me on our hike the other day, and wouldn’t you know it, we were on the highway before I remembered that I had forgot it! How typical of me in my current state! At least my lovely husband bought me a phone with a decent camera, so I had something to capture our time on the trail.

Recently I also happened to look through some old photographs of my boys when they were babies, and it was a little shocking to me to realize that this was ten years ago for my eldest son. I mean, I know he’s ten years old, but to think that these photographs were taken ten years ago…that’s a decade! And so much has changed! We have different sofas now, but these “new” sofas are already starting to look old. The garden looked so green and fresh then, and we had grass too. Ten years of homeschooling and putting all our resources into our boys have taken their toll, and home improvements have taken a backseat too.

Yes, a lot of changes have occurred in ten years, including the fact that I’ve aged ten years. How young and thin I looked at 35! I was a new mother. A fresh mother. Now…..hmmm…..What will another 10 years do to me? **mockingly bites nails**

I have taken a lot of photographs over the years since I became a mother, and I’m so glad I did. As I scroll through a decade’s worth of photos, I notice how in ten, short years, I have already lived through a few different “stages” of my sons’ childhoods.

There was the infant stage. I remember breastfeeding, napping, breastfeeding, changing diapers, breastfeeding, going to the doctor a lot, napping, and breastfeeding. And we had a lot of visitors that year. (Family don’t visit as often after the “super cute” stage.)

Then there was the “nature stage,” which could also be considered the “science stage.” My memories are filled of visits to the nature center, snakes, making friends, walking on trails, discovering all sorts of critters, and realizing my son had a special interest in nature and science.

Overlapping with that was the “building” stage. He built with paper, cardboard, Legos, clay. He got into robotics. He took pottery classes. Life was rich with nature, science and creating.

None of that has gone away completely. He’s still interested in those things and does them when he has time, but I would definitely say we’ve moved into the “piano stage.” Or the “music stage.” And this is just another form of using his hands to create, right? A lot of time is spent everyday in this pursuit. It doesn’t leave much time for anything else. Not only does he practice piano, he reads about composers, watches classical music on YouTube, and enjoys attending concerts.

We are also in the midst of the “gaming stage.” Both my boys are deep into it. They play countless digital games and take them very seriously. They also love to watch other people playing games on YouTube. When I listen in on their conversations, it’s usually about a game, or their plans for future games. When they run around outside, I’m pretty sure they are imagining themselves in a game. Games have even increased their interest in history. In addition to this, my seven-year-old and I play board games or card games at least every other day. He’s my little gamer.

My seven-year-old also went through a “drawing stage,” and a “puzzle stage.” Just imagine drawings everywhere — on the walls, on the floors — and big puzzles all over the floor too. These interests still pop up every now and then.

Last but not least, my seven-year-old is still in the “bird stage.” It started long ago, and it’s still going on and on and on and on.

I see all these “stages” in my photographs, and I’m grateful I have a record of them. I am impressed with the longevity of these stages. People always tell me how children will flit from one interest to the next, but my boys have stuck with some of their interests for a good, long while. I know that proper support and tools inspire children to stick with things, but it may just be a coincidence too. Or my boys’ personality. I don’t know why, but I love it.

Notice, however, that I don’t call these moments in time “phases.” Somehow to me a “phase” has a connotation of something trivial that will pass whereas a “stage” is something that is natural and part of one’s development. It may or may not pass, but it’s an integral part of that development.

My husband and I take each of these stages very seriously, and despite criticism we may receive from other people, we know that it’s important to respect our children’s interests and consider each one as more than a “phase.” It’s what they are now, and we want to do whatever we can to help them do their best with it. We know that if they do their best now, they will do their best with anything they pursue in life.

I look forward to the continuation of these stages. I look forward to future stages. Really, it’s just one, big, magical time.

Autumn Musings

Ft. Yargo State Park

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year, and this autumn has certainly been full of interesting happenings both in my home and in the world at large. I have gotten a little exhausted at following the news and social media, so I’m limiting my time on that. While I’m disappointed with the election results, unlike so many people, I wasn’t surprised by it. I respect the democratic process, and I’m going to hope that things will be well. This doesn’t mean I’m not concerned or wondering what I can do. I am charged with the duty to raise my boys to understand that we must act out of kindness and love first and foremost. We also need to learn how to walk a mile in another person’s shoes so to speak, which I think many people on both sides think they are capable of doing, but they really are not. This includes trying to understand why others make the decisions they make and even why they decided to vote the way they did and not assume the worst of everybody. Even if that’s very hard to do, we must try.

One of my favorite posts I’ve read lately is by Jennifer L. W. Fink, who writes about what I’m determined to do better than I could. If you get the chance, go read How to Raise a Decent Human Being.

On the home/school/life blog, Amy also listed a few ways you can get involved with the political process with your kids, if that’s something you feel you’d like to do.

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The best way to live daily life, in my humble opinion, is to pay more attention to nature. Nature can certainly be cruel, but it helps me understand the world, humans, and that we’re part of something much bigger. Nature is also beautiful and inspiring, and that gives me solace.

Ft. Yargo State Park

On that note, we have spent some time out in nature a few times this autumn. For the autumn equinox, we drove down to Dauset Trails in Jackson, Ga. One other day, we spent some time wandering around Ft. Yargo State Park, and most recently, we went to Unicoi State Park to walk a lovely little trail around Burton Lake. The last time we walked that trail, my youngest son was in a stroller.

Our outdoor excursions are rarely planned. We usually wake up, realize it’s a good day to go somewhere, and then I frantically gather our things and get ready to go.

Barred owls (my favorite) at the Dauset Trails Nature Center.
Barred owls (my favorite) at the Dauset Trails Nature Center.

We also spend time in our yard, which is a haven itself. It’s fun to inspect what insects hang out around my son’s carnivorous plants, and to see all the leaves change color, which is happening right now in Georgia. And just yesterday, a gorgeous red-tailed hawk landed in the leaf litter right outside my bedroom window, and she stayed there long enough for my boys to come get a good look at her. We think she was trying to get a mouse or a vole, but she finally gave up. The crows and squirrels were sending out frantic warning signals while she was here too. It was quite exciting for us to watch!

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I feel like this has been the most academic year we’ve had homeschooling so far. I’m really enjoying it. That part of my brain that likes to organize and plan is getting a good workout! We do our lessons most mornings, and then the day is full of piano playing. My youngest son started taking lessons this fall, and it’s such a joy to hear him remind me that it’s time for him to practice! He takes this very seriously! He also tells me he only wants to learn piano up through “level 2,” and I told him that’s fine. Any music education benefits one’s brain. (I highly recommend following that link to a very cool video that will explain exactly how it benefits the brain.)

Dauset Trails Nature Center
Dauset Trails Nature Center

My 10-year-old has started taking lessons with a new teacher – his third teacher. It’s been quite a job to find the right teacher for our son who is moving so quickly to a higher level of classical piano. And finding someone who communicates with us well and whose schedule works well with ours is important too. If you are a parent who has no music background, there can be a steep learning curve when it comes to helping your children get the proper tools and teachers for their needs. It all depends on your child’s goals too. We have learned a lot, and I’m very thankful that my husband has been hands-on and so supportive of my son’s musical endeavor. I think we’ve finally got him in the right place, so I’m very excited and looking forward to the future.

Unicoi State Park
Unicoi State Park

One thing we haven’t been this year is social. This was kind of bothering me, but I’ve come to terms with it. Playing piano does not seem very social because my boys aren’t going to a classroom with other kids to take lessons. It’s a one-on-one session with an adult, but though this is different than our past extracurricular activities, I think it’s a great experience too. They are each forming a relationship with their teachers, working toward goals, and getting all those other benefits of learning music. As my husband reminded me, if they stay with music, they will eventually participate in music camps and play in ensembles, which will connect them to other musicians. We’ve already begun to take our eldest son to classical concerts and live music in town, and we’re starting to recognize some of the same faces each time in the crowd. Perhaps if we keep going, we’ll eventually connect with those people who so obviously care about classical music as much as we do. So I feel this is a year of digging into academics and music, and other opportunities will arise in the future, as they always have.

Unicoi State Park
Unicoi State Park

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On another note, I’ve been working on a few projects of my own, and this blog has been (and will be) quieter as I continue to work on them. First, I will write my grammar curriculum review for the next issue of home/school/life magazine, which will come out in January. Second, I’ve finished a rough draft of a little book about homeschooling first grade, and I’ll continue to polish it in the coming months. (I will be looking for some discerning writers to read it and give me feedback too. If you’re interested, please e-mail me.) I also have a few other small projects to take care of too.

In addition to this, November is my annual “decluttering month.” Every year I ask the boys to go through their toys and pick out what they don’t want to play with anymore so that we can give it to charity. This year feels like the SUPER PURGE. My boys have finally reached a point when so many of the toys that we have are not interesting anymore. My youngest son mostly plays with dinosaur and animal figures and zoob pieces. Legos are still popular around here too. But so much stuff is GOING, and not only toys, but books and clothes and homeschool supplies too. I am quite in awe at how my boys are growing and changing and becoming more selective about their play and activities. And I’m proud of myself for LETTING GO. 🙂

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If you have a question about how we homeschool or about our curriculum or anything else, please just ask. I am happy to chat by e-mail or perhaps write a blog post about it. I can always use ideas for what to write about, and I want to be as helpful to you as possible, so please let me know what you’d like to know. Besides this, your e-mails keep me going. 🙂 Thanks for reading.

Right Along Here

When I was young and traveling somewhere by car with my dad — and I think my Aunt Carolyn said this once too — I would ask, “Where are we?” and he would answer, “Right along here.”

When I thought about writing something today this seemed like the perfect title for this post because quite frankly, I don’t have any focus for this blog post. We have finished up our homeschool year, and we’ll be getting to the new one in due time. We just had birthday week, but we all got sick, so it wasn’t quite what anyone was expecting (and that’s okay), but it has driven me off the course I was expecting to go. I am not ready for anything. I have nothing checked off my to do list. And now I need to get ready for an upcoming adventure that I will tell you about another day, but none of that has anything to do with planning lessons, keeping house or getting work done. But that’s okay.

We’re right along here.

When I think about our daily life as homeschoolers, I realize that Life can interrupt us quite a bit. We get sick once or twice a year, or if we’re unlucky, more times than that. Some major house repair or a cleaning spree suddenly needs to happen. I realize we need to go shopping for clothes because everything is getting too small!  (Did I mention I have a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old now?! Wow. Just wow.) Or, I get tired, and I need to take a few days off. I need to watch Poldark on Amazon Prime. Life can toss you a wrench in many ways.

In short, Life is our routine with a series of bumps and interruptions that we navigate around and climb over constantly. And while sometimes that can be a little frustrating, it’s also good. It’s Life. Those bumps and interruptions make it more interesting, and we must embrace them.

We’re right along here.

So despite being sick, the boys had pretty good birthdays. My seven-year-old decided to first come down with the virus on his birthday and then give his brother and me the gift of illness. But he wasn’t that sick yet on his birthday, so he enjoyed a day of visitors and spending his birthday money, homemade cake and going out to dinner, etc.

My 10-year-old, however, was just about as sick as he could be on the morning of his birthday, so I did hear him said, “This is the worst birthday ever,” which I had to agree with, but by the evening, things improved. Now we are all recuperating and slowly getting back to normal.

Luckily I wasn’t as sick as I was in June. (Yes, this was my second summer cold. Hmfp.) You know, there are illnesses that make you go flat on your back, and then there are illnesses where you can walk around and do simple things, but please no thinking involved. This is how I felt. So on the first day when I just had a bad sore throat, I was able to at least walk around the yard, and I visited the praying mantis that lives on my son’s carnivorous plants (he’s a smart praying mantis, I think), and I found those beautiful little mushrooms, and I sketched a Carolina Chickadee. I haven’t been very good about sketching every week, but I do try to get the sketchbook out now and then. These down days are perfect for that.

Before we ever got sick and before the birthday week, I happily helped my son begin a new building project. He hasn’t wanted to build anything in a long time, and I think that’s because he’s so focused on piano. But I’m glad to see that when he has time, that urge creeps back up. Unfortunately, he never went back to finish this project, and I doubt he will. But, still, yay for the creative morning.

As I mentioned before, this summer didn’t quite feel like a summer. It was so hot that we didn’t get to venture into nature as much as I would have liked. But we did make it one day to Zoo Atlanta when we were pining to get out of the house. It was deadly hot, but the zoo has a lot of shade, and we were delighted to see that the flamingoes had babies!

It’s time for me to think about some posts describing plans for our 4th grade year and 1st grade year, and I’m sure somewhere on my to do list I have plans for other posts, but like I said…

We’re right along here.

Where are you?

What the Summer is Boiling Down to

Photo taken from Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain in Georgia. You can see all the way to the Smoky Mountains.

I am sitting here wondering where the summer is going. It’s already late July, and here in my county, children will start back to school on August 1st. Luckily, we’re homeschoolers, so I can start our new “school year” any time I want. On the official paperwork, I pick September 1st. But in reality it’ll be sometime in the beginning half of September.

Both my boys were born in late August, exactly one week apart. I didn’t plan it that way, but it’s turned out to be convenient. It’s at the end of our school year, so we take time off, and when the celebrations are over, it’s time to start a new year. There is a catch, however. Since the local schools start school August 1st, some of our outside appointments begin again in August. So we will be getting busier just as I’m planning birthdays, winding down one year and thinking about a new one. Oi.

This summer has not turned out to be exactly as I imagined it would, but that’s not all bad. I always think of summertime as a time to be outdoors, but we’ve been having the hottest summer that I ever remember living through in Georgia. (I’ve lived here for twenty years.) Starting in early June, temperatures soared to the high 90s and it’s stayed there. Most afternoons it’s between 95-99 degrees F. That’s way too hot for the boys to play outside. So we’ve been inside almost everyday, all day long.

Except for one day last week. We drove up to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. It was very cool on top of the mountain! Hopefully we’ll take some other day trips soon too.

It’s a very steep .6 mile climb from the parking lot to the top of Brasstown Bald.

I have tried getting the boys outside to play early in the morning, but 1) they like to sleep late, and 2) if they have to do lessons, they want to get them over with in the morning. Sometimes I just skip lessons and make them go outside, but would you believe it, my six-year-old is going through a phase where he really doesn’t want to be outside. So he’ll pout on the porch for a long time and then finally start playing just as it’s time to come back inside. :/

Despite being inside most days, I am actually enjoying the summer. (At least, after I finished the terrible cold I had in June and the heart-breaking task of euthanizing my cat.) I get up early in the mornings before the boys, and I either take a walk (nice and cool then!) or I do some yoga and write.

I water the garden by myself on most mornings and evenings. There was a time my boys fought over who got to water the garden, and it makes me sad they aren’t interested anymore, but it’s also quite peaceful standing outside watering all by myself. We’ve been having some good rain this year too, which has made growing flowers and vegetables much easier.

I feel good when I can keep my early morning schedule up. I am finally digging my heels into a medium-long writing project, but I will tell you about that another time.

I’m also enjoying the light lessons. We either do some science or practice multiplication tables, or the boys work in their apps. I have some workbooks I do some days with the six-year-old, but I’ve been lenient on this. It’s nice to not worry about accomplishing anything and just move along through our lessons like a meandering river.

I’m reading Old Yeller to my nine-year-old, and the six-year-old sometimes listens too. We also read about the great composers, and this week, my boys have been wanting to paint and draw again! I had noticed their enthusiasm for my “Art Fridays” was waning (to say the least), but one episode of Bob Ross on Netflix and I have little artists again! **Yay! Thanks, Bob Ross!**

One day this week we all drew/painted while listening to classical music. Another day, I read Old Yeller while the boys drew. I would love for every homeschool day to be just like that!

The nine-year-old is pushing ahead in his piano lessons as well. He is doing solid intermediate work now, so our days are filled with music. I can’t express how good it feels to walk around doing chores as I listen to my own son play so beautifully on the piano! His dedication awes me.

This summer we had the opportunity to try a new piano teacher because our current teacher received a scholarship to study in Europe for a few weeks. (Yay, him!) The summer teacher came highly recommended, and her experience and expertise were impressive. She was very impressed with the nine-year-old, saying it was remarkable how far he’s come in such a short time. We liked her so much that we seriously considered switching to her permanently. But ultimately, the nine-year-old said he wanted to stick with our current teacher. We are not sure whether this is the right decision, but we felt it was important to honor his request, especially when we haven’t been with the current teacher that long. After all, piano is his thing. We want him to own it.

So summer is boiling down to art and music and literature. How can I complain about that?

We’ve also had a couple of great play dates with friends, and the six-year-old and I are playing Uno and Yahtzee together a lot when my nine-year-old practices piano. We also baked chocolate chip cookies one day, and I’m still trying my hand at baking bread from scratch. (More about that soon.)

As I move into fall, I hope I can somehow retain this feeling of easy days. I know our appointments will build up, and I’ll get harried and worried about making progress, so when that happens, please, Someone, whisper in my ear, “Be a meandering river. You are a meandering river.”

May your homeschool days be like a meandering river too.

 

I am not much of an activist

I am not much of an activist. You will not find me writing about politics and whom I think you should vote for or what I think you should believe in. I am not going to promote many causes on my blog except for treating your children respectfully and supporting their ideas, and I may also urge you to respect wildlife. This isn’t to say I’m not going to ever share any of my other beliefs and ideals, but at the same time, I usually remain neutral on the big issues. This is because I choose to let this blog focus on my family and our daily life. The simple things.

If you like it this way, then I invite you to stop reading this post. It’s probably going to be the closest I ever get to writing about current affairs that isn’t about education or nature. But I am thinking about what I keep reading in the news and how that affects my children. I wonder what I have to teach my children now to help them navigate such a complicated and sometimes tragic world.

On the morning that I started writing this post, I read headlines telling me about many people who died in bombings overseas, and this made me sad and fearful….I don’t take for granted that I live in a relatively safe place. Not long before that we had a tragic event happen in Orlando, and while I let this post brew inside a folder for a while, we had even more tragic events occur last week. You know what they are. And now there’s Nice, France….I need to post it before I have to add more to this awful list!

I have a hard time following the news when these things happen. I cannot wrap my mind around it, and I feel so horrible for the loved ones who are still living and dealing with these tragic events. While I don’t want to read the news, I make myself read and look at photographs. I’m not in a position right now where I can do much to help other people, but I can try to understand what is happening. I can send out a prayer and hope it touches someone.

There is part of me that cannot understand why it’s not easy for other people to see that we are all connected and that all humans have similar needs and desires. Why do any of us feel the need to kill any other person or group? No matter what you believe in, what ethnic group you belong to, what your sexuality is, or who you want to vote for, you have to get up every morning, use the bathroom, eat, drink, find shelter, and figure out how to make a living. No matter who you are, you need love and companionship. No matter who you are, you will experience happiness, love, disappointment, failure, and sadness. Why can’t we help each other instead of making things harder?

We all have the same needs, but, of course, there are people and groups who experience extreme hardship while others don’t. For example, I can’t begin to understand the racism that black people deal with. (Though I got a tiny dose while I lived as a foreigner in Japan. That was good for me.)

For some reason humans insist on separating themselves from each other. To feel different, better, other than them. Does it really make us feel all that better? None of us can control what circumstances we are born under.

I see the great divides of culture and beliefs, and I understand how deep those currents run and how emotionally connected we are to them. I see how we set ourselves apart. I see how disappointment, anger and fear can rule our judgments. I understand that it can be very hard to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes. I cannot always do it either. I’m sure I say and do insensitive things without meaning to because I haven’t experienced another person’s pain. For all our similarities, we have vast differences too.

Sometimes I get angry. I cannot understand for the life of me why anyone would vote for a racist and misogynist or hold beliefs that uphold ignorance. Or, worse, supports selfish actions. People do not see or think clearly. They think with their emotions and imaginations. They believe what they want to believe. This burns me up.

But what tempers my anger and humbles me is that I know I’m human too. If any other person is capable of those things, I am too. Whatever another person is capable of doing, I am capable of doing that too. Sometimes it’s best to sit with that thought for a while.

As I navigate the headlines and realize that someday, somehow a tragic event may directly touch my family, I wonder what I want to teach my boys. I cannot control outside forces, but I hope, through my example, that my boys will never play a role in bigotry, terror, or wrong-doing. I hope that they will grow up to be kind, loving and gentle, yet I hope they can stand up to injustice, if they ever find themselves in a position where they can do something.

It may sound trite, but I will tell them that sometimes all you can do is the most loving action. Love needs to be their guide. What is the kindest thing you can do?

Understand that movements like Black Lives Matter does not mean anyone thinks any other life doesn’t matter. It just means that these people need to stand up for themselves, and we need to listen and try to understand why.

It means that if someone is different from you, or lives a different lifestyle, you can still be kind. You can still treat them like humans and understand that they want the right to form families and loving communities for themselves. Everyone deserves that.

It means if someone wants to vote for someone I can’t stand, then I need to understand that they have had life experiences that brought them to that decision. What do I not understand?

If another person is willing to live in peace, then live in peace with him. I truly believe that most people want to live in peace. Otherwise, the headlines hitting the news lately wouldn’t be so heart wrenching for us. It’s when people begin to hurt other people – physically or mentally – that we have to take action and stop them from hurting more people. How? I wish I knew the answer to that.

I am not much of an activist because right now my priority is raising my boys and creating a loving and safe home for them, and this takes all my time and energy. I want to give them opportunities in life so that they don’t have to struggle, and perhaps, by doing that, they will grow up to help others not have to struggle.

Perhaps, after all, that is my act.