I’ll let you in on a secret about teaching: there is no place in the world where it rolls along smoothly without problems. Only in articles and books can that happen.
The new school year began in June for our family. One of the best perks of homeschooling is picking your own schedule. Schooling year-round makes the most sense for us, with the general idea being tied to the Sabbath scheduling plan: six weeks on, and the seventh week off. This allots for more weeks off during December–a month to be devoted to Christmas traditions, celebrations, and seasonal studies–and a few extra weeks off in the month of May, preceding the beginning of the next school year. This is how it is all mapped out, quite prettily, I daresay, and then everything is roses and butterflies, tulips and ladybugs, and other such pleasant things.
But then, oh yes, but then. The crisis hits. In truth our crisis began before our new school year did. Our crisis started the first week of May when I discovered water had been pouring through the kitchen floor, down, down, into our basement below. Subsequently after viewing such a disaster, I witnessed the water damage’s aftereffects in the form of sweaty mitigation men, wreaking havoc upon our home. It was quite horrific, seeing these strangers arrive somewhat uninvited, to crack off granite counter-tops, to tug and pull and drag cabinets out of sorts. They sledgehammered the sodden sheet rock, and tore back the carpet. They hacked, cut, then removed a large rectangle from our hardwood floor. The stench of burnt oak saturated our nostrils. It was an ugly, ugly sight.
Only to get uglier. Now, over two months later, nearly all kitchen appliances reside in our living room, we have no working kitchen sink, and our house excretes the tenacious odor of floor varnish. Needless to say, we are living in chaos. Every room is a topsy-turvy disaster, an absolute sinking ship. And, to add insult to injury, our street has simultaneously been under construction. The baby is lulled to sleep by jackhammers, dump trucks, and other machinery. We often have early morning callers, pounding upon our door, ordering us to park our cars half a block away unless we wish to be confined, jailed in our own homes for that particular day. Imagine, carrying much needed groceries with two small children and an infant in a baby carrier, while weaving in and out of cement mixers and backhoes, grouchy construction workers, etc., a street away from your home, in 100 degree heat. It feels like some sort of grueling choreography: you are on stage, dancing around shifting obstacles, unaware of what steps should be coming next. And the audience doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I almost wish I could have said, Enough. We are not homeschooling through this crisis. But here are the facts: homeschooling is the only thing keeping me sane. It yields the brightest fruits of my day. It provides full, restful joy, collaborative awe and wonder. And that’s the secret, isn’t it? To find rest and joy, awe and wonder despite all of life’s trials and tribulations. To acknowledge, to absorb, to drink in the beauties and blessings God grants us, despite the ugliness of an evil world.
And really, as far as crises go, this is a relatively small one in the grand scheme of life. We are healthy; my husband has a job; we have support. But it would have been so easy to just call it quits and give up, nevertheless.
Parenting is difficult no matter how your children are educated. It’s the teaching and learning together–that is what is truly enjoyable; it is one of the best things about parenting. Why rob myself of the best parts? The teaching and the learning? Every parent has to do it to some extent, but homeschooling permits parents to experience at great length the best kind of leisure with their children: the riches. What Charlotte Mason refers to as the riches. All the riches of an education, and we have the time to do them altogether. Everyday. The nature study, the picture study, the composer study, the literature, the art, the creation of handicrafts, the histories! Even science and math! How I love being the one to prepare a rich feast of ideas before the hungry minds and hearts of my own children. Even when they need baths, and haircuts. Even when there’s a dirty kitchen sink on the living room floor. Even when the poor middle child gets bit by a dog, or stung by a wasp. Even when the firemen show up at your house to tell you to evacuate due to a broken gas line. Even when preparing meals without a working kitchen feels two parts adventure, one part violating, we are in it together, learning and growing.
I’m not saying to not allow yourself breaks. That is another post in itself, how homeschooling is a lesson in mercy. And we have taken days off when necessary, never mind the perfect Sabbath schedule. But there’s something rather glorious about the battle, about soldiering on, about fighting the good fight despite the flesh wounds, despite the broken shields and dented swords. How effulgent and majestic it feels to persevere, to forge ahead through the trenches. And to do it side by side, with the people you love the very most. I wouldn’t have it any other way.