Nature Notebooks and Budding Artists

An artist I am not…

I leaned more toward music and writing in high school, and all of my extra-curriculars were taken up with choir and creative writing; art was never “my thing”. Thus, when I kept reading about “nature notebooks” in correlation with all things Charlotte Mason, I was trepidatious, and honestly, a bit skeptical. I couldn’t imagine young children being mature enough to sit and sketch pictures of bugs and leaves and flowers.

My skepticism grew when this year’s homeschool materials called for a nature notebook and a black fine-tipped drawing marker.

“A marker?!” I thought. “There is no way my perfectionist son will be able to draw things with a marker without freaking out if he doesn’t get it right.” So I began looking for sketching pencils with erasers instead, along with some fun nature notebooks for our first year of “Exploration Friday” where we would go on walks and sketch any special findings before coming home to identify them and learn more about them.

But when you stick your toe into the world of art, it is an incredibly overwhelming place. The available supplies were endless.

Therefore, I did what I always do: bug all of the public school art teachers I know for wisdom and advice. And I was surprised by what they told me: “Whoever planned your curriculum knows what they are doing; you need to use drawing markers so your children can learn to correct their mistakes without erasing them.”

Well, what do you know? The people who write curriculum actually know more than me? Shocking.

I was humbled, and from then on, I followed the path that had been paved for me, and OH my goodness, what fun surprises I have found there.

From the day I presented the children with the nature notebooks I found for them, they have been completely on-board with “Exploration Friday”, asking all week if it is time to go for our walk and draw together. And not one tear has been shed over a drawing mistake; rather, I have watched in wonder as both children have naturally corrected any flubs or flaws in their pictures.

I paid a little extra for their notebooks, because I wanted to give them something really special that would inspire their imagination and would be a good memory for them. Don’t you remember those special school supplies that just caught your fancy and made you happy everytime you opened your desk? Plus, since we use only one sketching page per week, these should last us all year.

Here is Rebekah’s notebook (click on the picture to find it at Amazon):

And here is Gideon’s (p.s. I really, really love Eeboo products):

And these are the markers I purchased for them, at the recommendation of my art teacher heroes. They’ve been perfect!:

It was a beautiful day when we went for our first Exploration Friday adventure, and Papa was able to take off the afternoon and join us (and Jake the Puppy, too!). It was truly fun, relaxing, inspiring…everything the books said it would be.

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Our exploring took place on my parents’ property, where I grew up – the possibilities for exploring here are extensive!

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First we came upon a busy anthill…

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then we found a most interesting Passionflower…

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The children were happy to sit and sketch, and it made my heart happy to see them so content, their imaginations captured by God’s beautiful world…

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Our nature walks will look different every week, and I’m sure we will miss many along the way, but this is definitely another Charlotte Mason tradition we plan to continue.

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~

Do you use nature notebooks? How has this practice enriched your homeschool experience? Questions and comments are welcomed!

Book and Product Review: Schoolmarmee’s Honey

Homeschool is an experiment, in every sense of the word, and most usually, you don’t really know what is going to work for you and your family until you try it.

Thus, I thought it might be helpful for those of you coming behind me to share which books and products were personally worth our money and time, which ones made our hearts and imaginations soar, and which ones we would purchase all over again if we had the chance.

I have plenty of children’s book and puzzles and products to share in the days (weeks? months?) to come, but I wanted to start with the most important books in our homeschool, and those are the ones that have fed and inspired me, giving me fuel and inspiration in my educational roles of Schoolmarmee and Headmistress.

You know that feeling that bubbles up in your soul when you are reading words that resonate within you, giving conviction to the heretofore unexpressed emotions you held in your heart all along? With each passing sentence, you find yourself nodding your head, feverishly underlining nearly every word, and saying ‘yes!’ as you discover the guidance you needed to aid you in your journey…

I felt that way about each of the books I am about to share. Opening their pages was like discovering and then building upon an uncharted section of my soul, and to say that these books changed my life and paved a solid foundation for our homeschool would be an understatement.

I am sure I will discover more books along the way that will add to our home education philospophy, but you can be sure that these three will always sit upon this teacher’s desk and that I will draw and drink from them as often as possible. To find these books at Amazon, click on the provided picture.

1. A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola:

This book.

I cannot begin to describe to you the level of confidence this book gave me to embark upon my personal homeschool adventure. Not only did I find a kindred spirit in the author (our common likes are unprecedented: George M. Cohan, Beautiful Girlhood, Cheaper by the Dozen, Stepping Heavenward, picnics, nostalgia…I could go on for days), I found a gentle voice to guide me in the Charlotte Mason method of education, as well as in the art of motherhood and homemaking. Reading each chapter was like a feast for my soul, full of anedcotes, advice, and wonderfully-researched insight into the field of home education. If you want to know all about Charlotte Mason’s methods, but don’t have the time or stamina to plunge into her own writings, Karen Andreola has done all the hard work for you; a better voice of encouragement, of wisdom, or of enthusiasm simply cannot be found.

Magnanimous. That’s what she is. And if you want to know what that word means, you really must find a copy of this book and read it, posthaste!

2. For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay:

After the previous book’s glowing review, it will be difficult for this one not to sound lackluster in comparison, but if Karen Andreola’s book is my Batman, this one is my Robin, the perfect sidekick to build upon the previous book’s message. There are several reputable guides available to Charlotte Mason’s methods, and I sometimes wonder if the one you love most will be the one you read first. I read Karen Andreola’s first, and as it opened up to me a world I had the heart, but not the foresight, to imagine, it is my very favorite. That said, this wonderful and biblically-honoring book is chock-full of incredible principles for child-rearing and home education, and I found myself continually convicted and spurred on by its reading. In fact, I plan to read it again before school starts to get my mind and heart back on track, and to rekindle the fire of my educational philosophy.

3. Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt:

I have only just discovered this gem of a book, but I find that I can’t put it down! Building upon all the ideas found in the Charlotte Mason method, Gladys Hunt expounds chiefly upon the practice of making books BIG in your home, reading aloud to your children, and finding the best character-building and inspiring books on the market. I don’t know what I like best, her chapters on the philosophies behind her motivation, or the well-researched and extensive book lists she provides for every age of childhood. This book is simply a must-have on a homeschool teacher’s shelf, and provides such needed insight and inspiration for making much of the written word in your home.

~

Like I said, there are so many books on the market to help you as a homeschool teacher, but so far, these three are my favorite, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask in the comments section!

p.s. Special thanks to Sonlight and My Father’s World curriculum for introducing me to these books in the first place. Links to both (as well as to Karen Andreola’s blog, Moments with Mother Culture) are available on my blogroll.

A Homeschool Room (with a View!)

Now that school is out for most of us, I thought I’d finally share pictures of the room we used this year for our educational pursuits, for there is no time like the summer to prepare your home for the upcoming school year!

When I first began making my list of wishes for this room at the beginning of last summer, I had no idea how we were going to make it happen. We were paying for two surgeries and the lingering hopsital bills from the birth of our 3rd child…there was NO extra money in the budget, not even enough for a wall map. But I made my list anyhow, and then I got busy…

By the grace of God, by summer’s end, I had sold enough homemade granola and cookies at our local Farmer’s Market to pay for everything on my list.

Every. single. thing.

I seriously couldn’t believe it!

Thus, this room not only served as an inspiring place for our family to learn together, it became a visual reminder for me of how kind our God is. I could have done without this room, for sure, and would have had a million reasons to praise Him without any of it, but it thrilled me to see it come together so beautifully, in good time, and without going into debt.

This space will not work for us forever – in fact, we are beginning the plans of saving up for and building a one-room schoolhouse in our backyard to meet the needs of our ever-growing family – but for our first year of Kindergarten, with our firstborn son, it was perfect.

Take a look…

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The little chalkboard is made by French toy company, Moulin Roty. I purchased it for 50% off at Olive Juice Kids one Christmas, and we have enjoyed it so much. The schooldesk and chair are antiques, and the rug was purchased from Anthropologie.

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Around the corner, we set up a little school area for our 3-year old daughter. She enjoyed playing and coloring here, and it made her feel like a big girl to have a desk like her brother.

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I love this picture. Such enthusiasm. :) But I didn’t make him sit there all the time! We’ve had school all over our house, but this little desk is always here should he decide to work at it.

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In fact, I’ve since moved it in front of the window so he can look outside while he does his worksheets…

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I snapped this picture one Fall day when my son was busy working…

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The bookshelf that holds most of our children’s books came from Restoration Hardware Baby and Child, and was purchased with a bit of inheritance money from my Granny. I love the rail that the kids can step up on, and even though this shelf is pretty pricey (and I bought mine during a special sale event!), I hope to purchase another one when we build our schoolroom. I just love it, price and all.

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We covered the wall with “maps” and vintage-inspired posters that are actually giftwrap from Cavallini and Co. At $3.95 apiece, you can’t beat them! I LOVE this line of paper products. Find your own here!

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And probably the most important and special part of our schoolroom was the chalkboard my husband built for us. This board was actually salvaged from my old high school and was used by one of my favorite English teachers, the first person who told me I had a good “voice” for writing. It was HUGE, so my husband cut it in half and framed it with wood trim that he stained a dark brown.

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My favorite part is the little shelf he made at the bottom to hold our chalk and erasers. Clever, clever. And so pretty…

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Here’s another picture of one of our Cavallini posters…

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along with others that we have bought as souvenirs on special trips. The one from Prince Edward Island was purchased on our honeymoon almost 8 years ago!

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I made these little flashcards on our computer, quoting our school song, “Would You Like to Swing on a Star?”…

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and these vintage flashcards were also purchased at an antique store.

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Behind one of our doors, we hung wire baskets from Ballard Designs to hold special books or papers for each of our children…

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And finally, here is a snapshot of the schoolroom on a normal day when it was being enjoyed by the children and their cousins. They have played and worked in this room all year long, and we’ve already made some wonderful memories here as a family.

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If you have any questions about anything you saw in the pictures, please feel free to ask! All available products can be found through the links I provided. Happy summer, everyone!

Schoolmarmee’s Mid-Year Update: Homeschool Happens

So here we are, more than midway through our Adventures in Kindergarten, and I really thought it was time for an update. This “Home Academy” blog has been poorly neglected, but the reasons for that fit quite nicely into what I want to say today, anyway. Don’t you love it when everything matches and has a theme? I sure do.

Because, what I have learned foremost in my first year as a homeschool-teacher is this: homeschool happens.

Meaning, more often than not, there is not anything really noteworthy (or for that matter, blogworthy) about our days here, other than the typical beauty that is found in a life lived in simplicity at home.

I am not so creative that I have neat little craft ideas or recipes to share, and I am not such a pioneer in the field of home education that I have worldview-shifting philosophies to inspire and motivate you. Thankfully, there is a wealth of ideologies out there already that speak far more eloquently than I ever could (I’m looking at you, Charlotte Mason, xoxo), and my sisters on Pinterest have got the awesome snacks and tricked-out craft department more than covered.

But what I do have to offer is some gentle encouragement by way of transparency and honesty…

As much as I absolutely adored our first days of school, with the strict schedule and the novelty and the whimsy (and believe me, I wouldn’t change a thing about it!), as time has wore on, and as I have traveled through the very dark and difficult days of 1st trimester pregnancy misery, school hasn’t so much taken a back burner as it has simply found a way to fit into our life, whatever our life looks like on any given day.

And I think that’s what homeschool is all about.

One of the most notable benefits I have observed during our first year of schooling is that my kids are learning the great art of flexibility and self-education, as well as self-entertainment. As much as I would love to coddle them and max our days out with back-to-back colorful and educational activities, life just isn’t like that. At least mine isn’t.

It’s messy.

It can be hectic.

And it hardly ever goes as planned.

And so one of my very favorite things about the first half of our first year has been watching my Kindergartener, as he has learned his letter sounds and early reading skills and how to tell time, learn to live.

Here are a few examples of Gideon’s greatest accomplishments in Kindergarten thus far (in Schoolmarmee’s sort-of-humble opinion):

  • Learning to appreciate the library.
  • Learning to concentrate on school with one sister crying at our feet and one watching “Little Bear” in the living room.
  • Learning to accompany me and his Papa on church calls and to sit quietly and respectfully while we visit. I’ll share more on this in the future.
  • Learning to become best friends with his siblings and to help take care of them.
  • Learning to hold the door open for me and his sisters.
  • Helping me bake, helping Papa build things, and helping with cleaning and yard work.
  • Learning to listen sort-of intently to chapter books with no pictures. He even chose this over a television show today! Major score.
  • Learning to paint and draw from his imagination rather than always using pre-made coloring sheets.
  • Identifying and naming classical music selections and their composers and giving vivid descriptions of what the music makes him think of.
  • Growing in his love for his entire family and desiring more and more to do kind things for them.
  • Learning to come to us and confess when he has done wrong, before praying and asking God to keep “fixing his heart”. This is my favorite development of the year.
  • Learning to have good manners, at the table, at church, in the car, on errands, and at home.
  • Learning his first song on the piano.
  • Learning to read simple words and books.
  • Developing the foundational stages of his theology.
  • Memorizing dozens of nursery rhymes and songs, including some hymns that he really loves.
  • Learning to dress himself, if not appropriately, at least in an always interesting manner (and I have learned to just go with it).
  • Learning to dislike bullying and cruelty, to people and animals.
  • Learning to become friends with nature and find fulfillment just by being outside.
  • Working simple math problems, at his own pace and for his own enjoyment.

Notice I said “learn-ING” a lot; he is not yet master of any of those subjects, but I share all of these things for one simple reason: in all honesty, I wasn’t very terribly intentional in all of the above. And that’s what I mean when I say “homeschool happens”, because, as we live and move as a family unit, sitting down to read here, listening to music together there, and fleshing out the triumphs and trials of the Christian life in front of each other, we naturally grow. We learn. We develop. We flourish in the things we are good at and we learn to persevere in the things we are not so good at.

Yes, I have to “do school”. Unfortunately, I can’t just throw out a bunch of worksheets and say “figure it out.” And the only reason Gideon can name songs and composers is because I taught him. But my point is, the greatest school moments we have had this year took place when we were doing life, and when we, as a family, were enjoying the things we love.

Homeschool happens, you guys! Especially in the sweet, simple and flexible year of Kindergarten.

And all that was my very roundabout way of saying this: if you’re feeling down that your homeschool isn’t very organized and looks nothing like the schools in the land of blogs and Pinterest, take a moment to catalogue what your children have learned, and take inventory, not just on the hours of your schooldays and the number of projects on your wall, but on all of your moments and days together as a family, and on how your little man or your little lady has changed over the past year. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be surprised to find that you’re doing more than fine, and learning far more than you even realized.

Every single one of you.

"Homeschool Happens" - encouragement for fellow less-than-organized homeschoolers.

Teaching with a Kate

After publishing the post “Teaching with a Betsie” (concerning the difficulties of homeschooling with a little stinker underfoot), my sister-in-law, Amy, reminded me of these pictures she took of HER stinker, Kate, when she was 1 1/2 years old…

In the first photo, she is standing on the dining room table, helping herself to chocolate donuts. In the second, she is standing on her sister’s school-desk helping herself to No. 2 pencils.

Same ornery expression as Betsie.

Same climbing skills.

Same pajamas. (We are firm believers in the art of the hand-me-down).

Unbelievable (and so stinkin’ cute!).

And I thought it would bring those of you who are in the same boat as me – attempting to teach older children while your youngest eats crayons and climbs onto tables – great encouragement to see little Kate now, 3 years old and well on her way to being an upstanding student in Amy’s homeschool.

These days are fleeting, are they not? Before we know it, the little one that runs us ragged will be sitting on a stool reading a book and coloring.

And so I think the best thing we can do is pray for grace, patience, and mostly, for eyes to see the humor and the beauty in life as it is today (and keep those cameras ready!). Because any way you slice it, a baby stuck in a basket of Little Golden Books is just funny…

even if she does interrupt your Home Academy and all thoughts of order and cleanliness for the unforeseeable future.

Teaching with a Betsie

I was initially determined to conduct our Kindergarten classes at 9:00 sharp, in the hopes that both Gideon and I would develop a healthy respect for order and punctuality.

We did very well those first 2 days (and I’ll share more on that in the days to come)…

But we had a little problem.

Betsie.

16 months old and the orneriest kid I have ever given birth to. Just when she stopped trying to eat every single inedible object in sight (for MONTHS!)…she learned to climb. And her favorite new perch is right smack in the middle of our homeschool table…

Or on her brother’s school desk…

where she gets stuck.

Or on…anything, really.

She’s winsome, alright, and just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. But she has reeked havoc on our little Home Academy…

and has single-handedly shut down all educational operations until her naptime after lunch.

Sometimes I try to imagine a bonafide schoolteacher in her classroom-full of students teaching with a Betsie underfoot.

I don’t think she could do it.

But then again, neither could I!

Amy’s First Day of School

Remember my sister-in-law, Amy? The one who hosted the most awesome Homeschool Field Day in the world?

Well, she is super talented and so creative, and I have made it my goal to force her to be a part of this blog. As she is a few years ahead of me in the homeschooling world, I’ll be bugging her as often as possible for tips and ideas to share here at the Home Academy blog, but more often than not, I’ll just be swiping her photographs off of facebook and sharing them with you…always with her permission, of course.

While building their first home, Amy and my brother, Jerry, are temporarily set up in a rent house. Most of their possessions will remain in boxes for months until their house is completed. Add to that the fact that Amy is 8 months pregnant and her ankles and feet are so swollen that she broke a flip flop the other day…

still, she manages to not only “make do” but to make awesome.

Here are the pictures of her first day of school…

Kate is in preschool, but still gets to be included with the “big girls”

Anna is 2 weeks younger than my Gideon and is as excited as he is to be in Kindergarten!

And Abigail, a 3rd grader, is an old pro at homeschooling. I love how Amy made them little place cards and found cafeteria-style trays to eat on.

thanking God for food and homeschool

remember learning cursive handwriting in the 3rd grade? I’m so excited for Abigail…

Geography is fun when you have a huge bucket of colored pencils to work with.

and its pretty too…

Beautiful Anna works on letter identification.

Kate stays occupied with a “Meet the Letters” DVD. Someday soon, I’ll have Amy share some ideas for keeping the youngest family members busy during school hours.

…and Schoolmarmee Burns

So yes, I cried the first night of homeschool when it hit me like a doorjamb (has anyone else ever run straight into a doorjamb? It hurts…) that my baby is a schoolboy now.

But that was nothing compared to the tears I shed on the 2nd day of homeschool, this time of a very different (and much darker) variety.

Sometimes it dawns upon a lady with an unsettling and depressing clarity that she has limitations that are in need of supernatural healing and strength, and sadder still, that she is undeniably selfish.

Schoolmarmee was met with such a dawning before we were halfway through our 2nd lesson on the first Friday of homeschool.

Gideon wasn’t so much being bad as he was being a normal and wiggly and self-absorbed little boy. The problem was (as is the norm) that I had set my expectations too high, and, during our week of preparing our homeschool sans children, I had conjured up blissful images of a Home Academy wherein my children sat on the edge of their seats, brows furrowed sometimes in concentration, sometimes in wonder, as a world of learning was opened up to them via my creative heart and eloquent tongue. There would be lots of laughter and order and tranquility and movie-quality moments, and my children would arise and call me blessed before we sat down to the extraordinary lunches I discovered on Pinterest (and then actually made).

But mostly, I expected that they would be grateful for all the hard work I had done and respectful of the amount of love and time I had poured into preparing our homeschool for them…

but I wanted a gratitude that 5- and 3- and 1-year olds don’t know how to express.

Unless they are characters in a book or on the big screen.

Needless to say, it didn’t take long for my high hopes to be violently dashed, and before I knew it, I was frustrated up to here with my students who wouldn’t know a good teacher if she was staring them in the face and who were absolutely undeserving of their tricked-out vintage homeschool room. (Not really. But that’s what I was thinking for a bit).

Don’t get me wrong – Gideon had plenty of fault in the matter, and was being as stubborn and mind-gamey as I was being unreasonable. And Rebekah and Betsie weren’t cooperating much, either…

but I am very ashamed at the way I lost my temper and yelled in anger at the human gifts God has entrusted to me.

I banished the lot to their nursery upstairs and called Mr. Gore on the landing of the staircase, crying.

“What’s wrong?!” he exclaimed, after the telltale silence on my end of the line.

“I don’t know if I can do this…” I sobbed.

“What?” he asked.

“I’m just not very good at this…” I whimpered.

“What?” he repeated.

“Oh…everything,” I wailed, “teaching…training…disciplining…being a Mom!!”

Because, worse than my disappointment that my life was not going to be a picture book, was the renewed awareness that I have a really hard time sometimes living for others. As excited as I was about our new routine and our new venture of home education, there was an underlying sense of dread that my days could not be spent doing what I wanted to do, that I was “chained down”, in a sense, to the decision we had made to homeschool for the next couple of decades, and worst of all, that the root of that morning’s frustration had more to do with my own sick and selfish heart than it had to do with the actions of my childish children.

Gideon occasionally peeked out the door to see if I was still crying, his eyes doleful. No matter what he has done, or how badly he has behaved, he hates to see his Mama cry. He slipped past me on the staircase and went downstairs as I continued to seek counsel from his Papa.

Mr. Gore is always good medicine, for he knows just how to encourage me while still giving me a good dose of tough love. He is always understanding, but never indulgent, and as he led me in truth, he helped me to remember that what I was doing was a praiseworthy and important thing…before reminding me gently that if we were going to choose this route for our children’s education, I must continue to work hard at living the gospel out for our kids and to mortify the sin that had been creeping into my life. (I had confessed to him earlier in the week that I had been sharp with the children more than ever before, and how much I hated it).

We hung up the phone and I sat there quietly sniffling, gathering myself, redirecting my focus, praying for forgiveness and grace…

I heard footsteps, and Gideon began to climb the stairs tentatively, a piece of paper in his hand.

“Here…” he said, shyly.

I took the paper in my hand and looked at it. It was a heart and it said “I love Mama”.

“I’m sorry I acted that way.” Gideon said.

“Gid…” I interrupted him, “I’m sorry. I should not have yelled at you like that.”

“But I was having a mean attitude,” he said. “That’s why you yelled at me.”

“Well…” I said, “We were both wrong. Do you forgive me?” I asked.

He nodded.

“I forgive you, too,” I said, “Our hearts are so broken, Gid. But God is going to keep fixing them and teaching us how to follow Him.”

We embraced, and sat there together, our hearts healing as we rocked back and forth.

So we had our movie moment, after all, even if it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. But we also discovered another facet of homeschool that I had yet to consider…the art of learning to live in harmony and to treat one another in the way that God commands, 24/7. And there on the staircase, I accepted the challenge of the lifestyle God has compelled us to live – the real one, not the one I had fabricated in my fluffy daydreams…

The breaks from each other will be few and far between. We will have ups and downs, peaks and valleys. We will have triumphs followed by miserable, miserable failures. We will be learning about the world and history and language together, but in the process, we will be on an intense journey of sanctification as a family unit. After our blissful week of preparation and our euphoric first day of school, reality had set in, and I’m glad. Because I think the best way for a Schoolmarmee to run her school well is to crash and burn right off the bat before swiftly handing the reigns back to the God who takes hearts of stone and turns them into hearts of flesh; I am confident that if our homeschool will turn out to be any kind of success, it will be by His grace and, for His glory alone. I pray that, more than book knowledge and cultural smarts and classical music appreciation, we will learn to love and to love well, beginning with one another.

And they say that home schooled children lack socialization and people skills…

On the contrary. I have a feeling that, by graduation day, we’ll be pros in the department of human relations.

Schoolmarmee Crashes…

Our first day of school was a breeze, but during all the planning and orchestrating, I forgot to mourn the fact that my baby boy is in Kindergarten…
until tonight. I just cried a river in my living room.

Mrs. Gore, Facebook, September 6th, 2012

~

I have to admit, our first day of school was somewhat idyllic, and for the better part of the day, I was floating on the good vibes that had surrounded our entire week of preparation and celebration, and was 100% pleased by how our morning had gone. And since we spent the rest of our day at my Mom and Dad’s house in the country, by the time we returned home late that night, our house was still spotless, ready to welcome us fluidly into Day 2 of our Home Academy adventure.

It was straight to bed for the children, and in a short amount of time, Mr. Gore and I had collapsed into our favorite chairs to watch another episode of “Parks and Recreation” (season 3). I should have been thrilled. The day had been lovely from start to finish, the house was as perfect as it had ever been, and all in all, things could not possibly have gone better during our homeschool debut…

but that’s when I realized I had zoned out and missed the first 3 minutes of our sitcom.

Why?

What was I thinking about?

What could possibly distract me from the 20 minutes of humor that I had been looking forward to all evening?…

My thoughts, by this point spiraling out of control.

Gideon.

Gideon is 5 now.

Gideon is in SCHOOL.

I am a teacher now.

I am the lone teacher, janitor, cook, nurse, and daycare provider in my house every morning for…

the rest of my life!!!!

Gideon is in SCHOOL. What happened to my little baby? How am I going to survive him growing up? Why is life so cruel?!…

“Wait!” I said loudly, “Pause it!”

“What? Huh?” Mr. Gore (dumbly) asked.

I put my hand over my face.

“I have no idea what’s going on.” I answered from behind my fingers.

“A cook-off. Remember? They’re having a cook-off.” he replied, gesturing to the TV.

“No. I have no idea what is going on…I haven’t seen one bit of this episode.” I said.

“But…” Mr. Gore hedged.

“Can you rewind it?” I asked, my hand still over my face. It felt safe in there, like I could hold it together if I just kept my hand over my face.

“What’s going on? I’m confused…” my husband asked, suspicion in his voice. He can always tell when I’m about to lose it.

“I just…I just…I just…” I tried to speak…

but it was too late, and the words blurted out in a rush, followed by a Lucy-ish wail, “GIDEON IS IN KINDERGARTEN!!!”

What followed was a 5 to 8 minute rush of tears and blubbering about the quick pace of life, finished up by a confessional wherein I owned up to all of my doubts and fears concerning homeschool, in general, and my capability and selfishness, in particular. Mr. Gore fetched me a tissue and did a decent job of keeping his smirk hidden, listening patiently until I got all of the hysterics out of my system.

It was not pretty, folks, but then, my tears are never really pretty. I hold them at bay until, like a dam bursting forth, they come crashing down and drown me and Mr. Gore in a pool of lament and misery and drama, and yes, a bit of humor; my husband has always called me a caricature of a real person, and we always find something to laugh about, even when I cry. Before too long, we were giggling and back to watching our TV show, although I may or may not have continued to drown my sorrows via the giant glass canister of Multi-grain Cheerio’s in my lap. I can’t remember for sure, but I might have been eating them by the handful (also not pretty).

The morale of this story is, like I mentioned earlier this week, Kindergarten is a rite of passage for youngsters in America – it’s a HUGE deal – and I think it requires a moment of mourning, whether you homeschool or not.

Sure, Gid the Kid went out the back door to leave for school and came in the front door to start school…

but he still went out the back door.

Our First Day: A Moment I’ll Never Forget

At 7:00 a.m. on September 6th, 2012, I woke up to my new schedule, butterflies in my stomach, lists of to-do’s racing through my head…

It was 2 hours until schooltime and I had a lot of juggling to do to pull off our first day of homeschool in the manner I had dreamed of for months and months.

How was I going to get everything done in an orderly fashion? We were used to just puttering through the day until naptime, doing a little of this, a little of that…

What in the world was I going to do with Baby Betsie? After months of eating every non-edible object in sight, she had started to become trustworthy again…only to learn how to climb. Nothing is safe from her reach now, and most of it still goes in her mouth after she scales the table to fetch it.

And, most importantly…when would I find time to blog? (answer: well past my bedtime).

But this was no time for second-guessing. We had much to accomplish, me and my Mister, and even if the day was kind to us and went by slowly, Gideon was too excited to be put off for long. With a 9:00 a.m. deadline, I bathed, I groomed, I drank my coffee, I read my Bible and prayed, I led the kids through their new schedule, I made the bed, I made breakfast, and, sending the children upstairs with Mr. Gore to tidy up their room, I put the last finishing touches to my wardrobe and to our schoolroom. Straightening the large round rug in the middle of the room with my toe, I looked at my domain, glistening and gleaming from the overhaul it had received earlier that week, the smell of crayons and chalk feeding my enthusiasm….

I took a deep breath.

It was time.

Throwing my heavy bathrobe over my clothes, I tightly cinched it with a sash and called for Mr. Gore and Gideon to come downstairs (while Miss Sunday was left to “baby-sit” Betsie in the Betsie-proofed nursery).

Gideon was all smiles as he came down the stairs – he had been waiting for this day as expectantly as I had. I fussed over him and told him to stand with Papa for a first-day-of-school picture…

And then I began to reveal the plan that I had envisioned over and over again in the past months…

“Okay, Gid! Go grab your backpack and put on some shoes.” I said.

“Where am I going?” he asked, confused.

“To school!” I answered.

“But I am at school!” he laughed.

“Nope…not yet,” I replied, my heart doing crazy hyper things in my chest. This was the moment I had been most looking forward to, more than the party, more than the schoolday, more than anything…

We went on to explain to Gideon that, after telling us goodbye, he needed to go out the back door, walk through the side yard, go to the front door and knock. Then he would be at school.

His expression was priceless, and I knew that we had hit the jackpot with this idea. The novelty and fun of this adventure resonated so deeply with our little 5-year old boy.

After gathering his things, he told his Papa goodbye, but before he turned to me, he said “Oh! I need an apple to give to my teacher!!”

This child is truly mine, for that was the final detail to our day that I had completely forgotten. A red, shiny apple lay drying next to the kitchen sink, forgotten in my excitement. Me and Gideon may have many faults, but we are very faithful to the roles we choose to play…

Apple in hand, he turned to me where I stood beside the backdoor, a vision in white terrycloth. I knelt down beside him, and, licking my finger, began to scrub at the remnants of cinnamon toast now stuck to his face…

I took his face in my hands, and memorized him, kissing him, hugging him, and telling him all the things Mamas of Kindergarteners get to tell their children: “I love you!” “Be a good boy for your teacher!” “I hope you have fun at school!”

He hugged me back, his smile of wonder now a permanent fixture on his face, and Mr. Gore and I waved at him as he began his solitary walk to his first day of school.

I shut the door, the old-fashioned shop bell we bought at Victorian Trading Co. jangling above me.

It was showtime.

I untied my robe and dropped it, revealing the “teacher” dress I had ironed the night before, an Anthropologie gem my Mom had bought for me last Spring with a little bumblebee print, topped with a black cotton cardigan. Slipping on my t-strap wedges, I ran on tipey-toes through the kitchen, letting down my hair as I ran. I couldn’t stop giggling and suspected that I was smiling like a 5-year old at Christmastime (yikes…I was right).

Mr. Gore and I followed Gideon’s progress by the office (schoolroom) windows, and within seconds, I saw his shadow pass by the living room window, followed by a little knock.

Mr. Gore got into position with the video camera, this time facing the front door rather than the back.

Smoothing my hair one last time, I crossed over the entry rug and opened the door. Gideon looked up at me, dazed, his smile somehow huger than it was when I had last seen him…

“How did you DO that?!” he asked in awe.

“I’m your teacher now!” I said, laughing. “Welcome to your new school.”

“But this is my home!” he laughed.

“Nope. This is school now…” I said, my smile matching his as I scrubbed his hair and touched his little face once more. I was dying to scoop him up and hug the living daylights out of him.

“This is for you!” he said, holding out his apple. Laughing, I accepted it, sealing this new phase of our relationship with the most timeless token of scholarly affection known to teachers.

We posed for a school picture, my student and me, our first of hopefully many. Whether the sheen of tears in my eyes is from laughter or sentimentality, I’m not sure…but probably both.

and with that, our Home Academy was finally in session.

I shared the following later that night on facebook:

Gid was hilarious today and somehow managed to be the class clown in a class of ONE. Public Schools…you should thank me for keeping this one at home.

But really, I’m the one who is thankful. I will admit that I have broken down into tears several times in the past week (tears of frustration and doubt this time rather than sentimentality or laughter), but if homeschooling provides memories of God’s grace like the one above, then I am positive…

we’re going to do just fine.