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.


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.


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 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.

A Welcome to School Party

If you’ve been following Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy, you would know that our first day of Kindergarten was set for Thursday, September 6th, 2012. You would also know that our children spent the first part of the week at their Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house as our home underwent a major overhaul in preparation for the debut of our homeschool.

And, most importantly, you would remember that we would be ending our time apart with a reunion party on Wednesday, September 5th, wherein we would kick off the schoolyear with a big schoolroom (and nursery) reveal, snacks, presents and (dork alert: I’m about to use the word “oodles”!)…oodles of fun.

{If you haven’t been following Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy…I’m so sorry that you don’t know any of the above information. (see what I did there?)}

I will admit, by the time party time rolled around at 3:30 sharp on Wednesday afternoon, I was barely standing. Something about completely reorganizing and decorating half of our home’s square footage, cleaning every nook and cranny of the entire square footage, doing 8 or 9 loads of laundry, planning and decorating a party, and buying groceries in the span of 42 hours will wear a lady out. It might have been glorious work, it might have been unusually quiet and uninterrupted work, but still…it was work.

However…worth every second.

The following photos will showcase the little “Welcome to School” party we enjoyed before hopping in the car to go to Wednesday night church. I have to say, I think this party will be a tradition in our home. It was a great way to make much ado over the coming school year, and, in a stroke of genius, I used it to turn regular old school supplies and school clothes into presents. How so? I wrapped them and said “We bought your presents!” (a.k.a. crayons, safety scissors, glue, polo shirts, etc.).

And speaking of school supplies, such was the main component of this party decor – so easy! – while the rest was gathered from the various drawers and hidey-holes in our house; I’ve been collecting old books and vintage children’s products for years, so I didn’t have to look far to throw this little party together. Without further ado, I present to you our first annual “Welcome to School” Party, on the cheap!


Our holiday chalkboard always has something festive to say. This particular message is my favorite yet. Well done, chalkboard…

A Cavallini and Co. alphabet chart was taped to the dining room wall (I’ll share more on this in the future), and an old wooden thingy my Mom uses in her office proudly helped me compartmentalize schoolish necessities…

I came across these vintage-inspired Crayola tins in our stationery drawer, purchased at Cracker Barrel for Christmas stocking stuffers. In the disgusting gluttony of Christmas consumption, they were forgotten, and chose to make a reappearance just in time for our party. Well done, Crayola tins…

Vintage school decor is so easy to drum up – apples, old school readers, vintage-inspired type, chalkboard slates…and lots and lots of crayons. I especially love the “Dan Frontier” reader my Mom and I found at a local antique show. It is so charming, and my son loves it, too. (but MAN, is it ever long…I predict that the first time Gid reads it to me, I will fall asleep by page 8). Well done, Dan Frontier…

On the other end of the table is a spool of twine, colored pencils, timeless pink erasers (I used to love those things!), and the Webster’s collection I won in the 3rd grade spelling bee…

and my Mom bought me these McGuffey’s Readers many years ago –  I’ve yet to remove the twine she wrapped them in. Well done, Mom. Well done, McGuffey’s. Well done, apples and twine…

and this little utensil caddy that participates in all of our parties was the perfect display for No. 2 pencils and rulers. Well done, caddy and featured supplies (sorry…I can’t stop).

Presents!!!! I will admit, by the time I sat down to wrap them and watch a sitcom late Tuesday night, I was beat. I wrapped them sloppily like a teenage boy wraps his Mom’s b-day gifts…

but this pretty number tape I also found in my stationery drawer helped to redeem the sloppy wrapping job; it was another forgotten stocking stuffer that jumped out at me just when I needed it. Thanks a million, tape!

I kept the party food simple, reminiscent of after-school milk and cookies. Had time allowed, I planned on making Pioneer Woman’s Homemade Whoopee Pies, but…I went with Little Debbie instead. THANK YOU, Little Debbie. Your Oatmeal Creme Pies are still glorious, and the preservatives were delicious.

and this is a universally known fact, but ice cold milk = school party perfection

But enough about the set-up! Let’s party!!! My Mom and Mr. Gore met at the church to get the kids dressed in real clothes (that I forgot to send to my Mom’s house)…

But I wouldn’t let them in yet. It is a cardinal rule that children must wait expectantly for a party or holiday to begin. Even if I have everything done, I make them wait, just like my Mama used to do to us! (It builds anticipation AND character, don’t you think? And it is our cruel right as grown-ups.)

Finally…we let them see their new school domain (but I’m sorry…I can’t reveal it to you yet and have cruelly chosen to build your anticipation and character by making you wait). But here is an example of what their faces looked like – and I’m almost positive you’ll make the same expression when I show you the pictures in the weeks to come.

Gideon was overwhelmed – he has his finger in his mouth in every picture I took – while Rebekah took it all in with her steady gaze (we think she was excited too, though. Key word: think).

After tearing open their presents, we went straight to snack consumption.

son and mother, student and teacher…this week has been big for both of us!

Gideon (the Kindergartener!) was the true star of this party, but since Rebekah is now kind of in preschool, she received a new bed and schoolwork area and a few school supplies to keep her occupied during her brother’s class time. Betsie, on the other hand, got nothin’…

except for this peanut butter cookie. But she was totally cool with that…

and Bubba shared his milk with her.

Soon after the party, Gideon ran upstairs to put on some of his new school clothes and try out his backpack. His favorite gift, however, was the Ace comb I bought for him at Wal-Mart. He keeps it in his pocket and combs his hair when he thinks it might be sticking up. Fastidious.

It was a simple and short affair, but our little homeschool party was the perfect way to kick off our first year of school together. When I collapsed into bed that night, my heart was well pleased. And Gideon? Well, he was beside himself, just like a Kindergartener should be.

Well done, Welcome to School party.

Twas the Night Before Homeschool

Somehow, someway, we did it.

By the time my Mom brought our children back home at 3:30 this Wednesday afternoon, our home had been transformed from one of disorder to order, from cluttered to organized, from haphazard to….unhaphazard, from unschoolish to schoolish…

and in the meantime, my vocabulary was obviously shot; I am one exhausted puppy, and even my words have gone to sleep.

But regardless of the fact that it is nearly 1:00 a.m. and our first day of homeschool starts in the morning, and unconcerned over my current state of brainlessness, I’m hopelessly atwitter, and I simply cannot go to bed until I record just a tiny bit of this day for the future and wiser Mrs. Gore to shake her head at with an indulgent smile over the gungho and enraptured state of her former self.

Would you like to indulge me, as well, oh internet people?

(Thank you).

I can’t imagine what my son was feeling as he drifted off to sleep tonight.

For there is major change in the air…

He came home to a house that had been rearranged to proclaim from nearly every corner that the rite of passage that a nation full of Kindergarteners experienced this past month is also available to him, regardless of the fact that his schooling will look markedly different than most of the children who live on our street. And I suppose that was why I labored so intensely over this occasion, aside from wanting to show off for my blog; I want Gideon to look back someday and remember the day he stepped into the world of education. I want him to feel a little more grown, a little more special, and most importantly, a little more in love with the world God made for us to enjoy.

Heaven knows I allowed him to be a baby for as long as humanly possible: when he left for Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house on Monday night, he was still sleeping in a toddler-sized bed and spent his days watching cartoons and playing soldiers and dress-up and digging in the dirt and making thoughtless messes and occasionally throwing fits…

but when he came home this afternoon, a new (twin-sized) bed with new bedding sat in his favorite corner of the bedroom, a new backpack waited to hold his very own school supplies, a box of new school clothes updated his closet full of too-short pants and shirts, a new schedule had replaced the laid-back and lackadaisical one that had dominated his days for the past 5 years, and even his Mama had been transformed into a lady more polished, more organized, more responsible…

And I didn’t realize it until now, but it was time for this change, for all of us. Time for us to step it up a notch. Time to grow and learn and take on new responsibilities. Time for some order. Time to step into a new season in life.

Time for a new adventure, but one that will take place in the familiar and cozy walls of our home.

We kicked it off with a family back-to-school party in our dining room this afternoon – I’ll be sharing pictures in the very near future. And now just one more sleep remains until school is finally in session.

Any fear or uncertainty concerning my readiness or capability just cannot be entertained…

for there is a little boy sleeping in a big bed upstairs dreaming about his first day of Kindergarten, and he is counting on me.

Schoolmarmee Gets Ready and Gets Set…

Mr. Gore and I have spent the last 24 hours preparing our home for what feels like the biggest day of my life coming up on Thursday…

the first day of school!!!

My parents have been planning on keeping the children for us for 2 nights so we could celebrate our anniversary (on June 11th), but things kept coming up, and the date kept getting pushed back…

but then the stars seemingly lined up and we used our baby-sitting card for this Monday and Tuesday night. What was initially supposed to be a romantic staycation at home turned into a bit of a work holiday, but we have had such fun together as we have enjoyed the luxury of working and thinking and planning without interruption, and completing projects in our home that have been on a waiting list since at least 2011.

In hindsight, I honestly can’t think of a better way to kick off the schoolyear, and I am shocked at what we have been able to accomplish without the children underfoot.

Maps have been hung, wire baskets have been drilled into the wall, the furniture has been rearranged, groceries and supplies have been purchased, the yard has been mowed, presents have been wrapped (that’s right…in Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy, we don’t do school without a few presents!), and tomorrow afternoon after the children’s naps, they will come home to a house that is ready to educate and to inspire and to celebrate!

Honestly? I could weep and sing and run and dance all at the same time.

I haven’t been this excited since Miss Sunday’s 3rd birthday party.

You see, I love my kids. And I love being home. And I love being home with my kids. And I love school. And I love clean houses. And I love celebrations…

And tomorrow through at least Friday will be a conglomeration of all of the above, to the point that I am doubtful that I will be falling asleep anytime soon. Especially since I had a Dr. Pepper at 7:00 p.m. (I knew better, but you can’t eat Chinese food during your staycation without a Dr. Pepper…). I feel like Leslie Knope the night before the Pawnee Harvest Festival, surveying my handiwork and my realm with a manic smile. Even the most negative cynic could not bring me down tonight…

And while I am almost positive that I will someday look back and chuckle at my utter naivety concerning the monstrous task that is ahead of me, I am determined to walk confidently and optimistically through this week, to grab the homeschool bull by the horns, to be a cheerful and chipper Pollyanna, and to entertain the notion that even this time-consuming and self-sacrificing act of voluntarily being the homeschool teacher to at least 3 children will be as beautiful and as lovely and as enjoyable as I imagine it will be.

I’m sure there will be days when I wake up late, when will I feel selfish and want to watch “Live with Kelly” instead of teaching, when all 3 kids will be crying at the same time, when there will be nothing to eat for lunch, when I will be up to my neck in laundry, when I will wonder if I was an absolute lunatic when I decided to homeschool…

but today? I am full of hope and gratitude, for only God could have brought me to this place, and so I know full well that He will continue to work in me, even as I teach my children how to read and write and – Lord, help me – do arithmetic.

I have another full day of cleaning and baking and prepping and grooming tomorrow, and then, once naptime is over and my Mom brings the kids back home…its the day-before-school cookie and present party!! Depending on how my day goes, I’ll either be baking Pioneer Woman’s Homemade Whoopee Pies or sending Mr. Gore after a box of Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Cream Pies.

I’ll let you know how that goes…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some mopping to do!

Library Adventures, No. 1 (newbies)

This homeschool blog is so exciting for me, because I am truly starting it at day 1. Lord willing, our entire experience will be catalogued here, and I thought, since Gideon and I have only been to the public library a total of TWO times in our life together, I would share our library “adventures” with you as they happen, should anything noteworthy or interesting take place. Luckily, I wrote about our first trip to the library at Mrs. Gore’s Diary back in September of 2011. I know I promised that I was finished with the copying and pasting from the archives, but…this is the last time, I promise. Then I can share Library Adventures No. 2 (a brand new post) with you next week! If anything, I hope these posts will inspire you to make the public library your home away from home, and an oft-used resource for your entire family to enjoy. Happy reading, book nerds!


Mother Hen Goes to the Library

It was an exciting day for me. So exciting that I somehow managed, for the first time, to get myself and my three children completely ready and out the door by 10:00. Everyone, including me, had everything we needed, all the way down to our sippy cups of milk, mine with a little coffee and sugar thrown in.

The drive to Grandmother’s house was fun, mostly because I was so proud of myself. I am at that stage now with the new baby where I feel like I am beginning to get back on top of things. At first it was simply managing to brush my teeth for the day, then I made that first meal, then I made a meal and did a load of laundry, and now…well, now I’m almost feeling like I can be counted on not only to keep us all alive and somewhat groomed, but to do so with a good portion of whimsy, served with a smile. Key word: almost.

But my excitement did not solely stem from this re-found freedom and sense of accomplishment. I was also excited because Gideon Gore and I had a date to one of my favorite places in the world, a place I have not visited in far too long…for the first time ever, I was escorting my son to the (dork alert!) public library.

It was a bit soul-stirring even considering this outing, for Gideon is getting to that age where he is beginning to experience phases of childhood that I well remember. Teething and learning to walk and use the potty are things that I obviously have absolutely no memory of, but learning to read and write…learning how to swim…making friends…these are things that I not only remember, I feel like they happened just yesterday.

Such is the case with my frequent library visits as a child. My Mom took me there quite often, and I can still smell that place, I can still feel my fingers running down those long rows of books, I can still hear the occasional high-heeled shoe shattering the utter silence of that giant building. My mind’s eye is as familiar with that library as it is my kindergarten classroom and my Granny’s kitchen.

However, today’s spontaneous outing had much more to do with quality time than it did literacy or revisiting Mama’s childhood memories, for it had become glaringly evident to me that my son and I needed to get away for a bit, just the two of us…

There are so many psychological excuses for human behavior, and for the most part, I try to ignore them and just biblically deal with whatever behaviors pop up in the best way I know how, focusing more on my children’s sin nature than on psychological cause and effect. Otherwise, doting mother that I am, I might always find an excuse or a justification for their bad behavior (“he didn’t get a good nap” or “she’s teething” or “he’s having trouble adjusting to his new big boy bed”). That said, I have noticed that, while they both absolutely adore their new sister, our newest addition to the family has perhaps resulted in my two eldest children going absolutely crazy.

There has not been one smidgen of ill will toward Baby Betsie (except for Rebekah telling everyone who holds her that they “can keep her”), but perhaps the changes that have resulted from her arrival have just thrown them off a bit. Which means that if I sit down to hold Betsie, I will soon have Gideon at one elbow and Rebekah at another, their foreheads somehow touching somewhere over the top of Betsie’s head in a billy goat-like showdown for who gets the prime baby-viewing position. We are a walking human puzzle, the four of us, and unfortunately two of our pieces have not been getting along as well as they did before I had Betsie. There have been lots of scoldings, lots of discipline, lots of correction, and in the meantime, I think Gideon became discouraged. My heart just knew by the end of last week that it was time to spend a few hours alone with my firstborn to try to get us back onto solid and familiar ground.

Genius idea.

The minute we loaded back up into the van after dropping his sisters off at Grandmother’s house, all of the angst and the unsurity seemed to melt away and my son and me were immediately back to normal. I could feel it, and I think he could too.

“Gideon,” I said, catching his beautiful eyes in the rearview mirror. “I’m really, really proud of you.”

He nearly gasped. “Why?” he asked.

“Well…you’re a really good big brother…” (he smiled, like, “I know”) “and you’re funny, and smart and you’re turning into a really nice guy.” I said. Which is true. As big as his temper can still be, his tenderness is even bigger, and he blesses the entire family with his genuine concern and kindness. His love runs deep.

“Yeah…” he answered. “Being nice is called fresh (I don’t know what he was talking about there…I didn’t interrupt him, though). But being mean is called…a sin. God says so.”

We went on to discuss God and Jesus and sin and kindness and meanness, and then we began to play our favorite game, “the animal game” where we take turns describing an animal until the other person can guess what it is. Nothing new, nothing extraordinary, but my heart began to swell, filling the entire minivan with those feelings I have had for my young cub since day one. And the best part was, I had the leisure time to revel in those feelings a bit. Betsie would not need to be fed for 3 hours, I had no other errands to run, and no one else to share my attention with. Just me and Gideon, Gideon and me.

We soon arrived at the library, and walking hand-in-hand toward the door, I began to explain the rules: 1. No talking loudly – we must whisper just like we are in church. 2. No horseplay (I love the word “horseplay” and use it as often as possible). 3. Look at one book at a time and return it to its proper place on the shelf. 4. You may choose three books to take home with you. 5. And then that universal rule, whether we are at the library or at home or at Smashburger, don’t pee your pants. Simple as that. After a few speculative questions from Gideon about why we must adhere to these so-called rules, he agreed to the terms and we entered into the library.

Whispers. The tap-tap-tapping of computer keys. Quiet movements from all over the room…a man sitting in an armchair looking at a Farmer’s Almanac, a young mother checking her facebook account while her children played almost noiselessly at her feet, a little boy scooting across the children’s book section on his knees…and two librarians looking expectantly at the “new kids” who had just entered into their quiet realm. I had never been to this particular library before, but it was like coming home.

As I discussed the terms of membership at the front desk with a kind and elderly librarian, Gideon found something to tinker with at my feet. I heard a thump and looked down to see that a large circular “hours” sign that was attached by Velcro to the front desk had fallen down as a result of that tinkering. His eyes, unaware that I was observing him, were huge as he scurried to put it back into place. When it successfully stuck on the first try, he quickly distanced himself from the entire situation, a sigh of relief evident on his face, and I inwardly chuckled. Yes, I completely remember situations like that.

When the nice lady helping us leaned across the desk to ask if he would like to have his very own library card with his name on it, he nodded solemnly, reigned-in excitement lighting up his eyes. I covered my mouth with my hand. I remember the joy of my first library card, too…

And then we went to look at books. With exactly forty minutes to spare before we had to return home, I ambled over to the “B’s” and started looking for some Berenstain Bears titles, just like I always did when I was a child. Their collection was small, but I found a few books to show to Gideon, knowing he would be excited to see some familiar characters in stories he had not yet read. However, he had apparently discovered the non-fiction/reference section in my short absence and had already chosen his three books to take home, including a lengthy book on inventions, a book called “Houses” that was about…houses, and, my personal favorite, a book with a monkey on the cover that was simply titled “What is a Primate?”

“Ummmm…Gid?” I said, gently. “These books look great, but don’t you want to look around a bit first? Before you choose?”

“I love these books.” he said, clutching them to his chest.

“Well…look at the pages. There are hardly any pictures…and they’re really long. See all those words? Are you sure these are the books you want?”

“Well…okay.” he said, and sifting through his selections, finally conceded on returning the books on inventions and houses; however, when it came to “What is a Primate?” he wasn’t budging. I added it to the best of the Berenstain titles and determined that his Papa could read that one to him.

After perusing the aisle for a bit longer, I told Gideon he could choose a few books for us to read right there on the spot. “Really?” he asked, looking left and right to determine if we were breaking some sort of rule. “Sure! We have all kinds of time.” I replied. And so there we sat on the floor, my beloved son in my lap as I whispered story after story in his ear. He loved it. I loved it. And the librarians must have loved it, too, for everytime I glanced up, they were smiling in our direction. Fellow dorks, I guess.

Right on time (40 library minutes for a 4-year old = perfect), our time there drew to a close, and my heart was so happy. Not only was I relaxed in a way that I hadn’t been for weeks, I was so thrilled that Gideon, another step closer to boyhood, followed all of the rules. Well, all but rule #4…we did leave the library with four books…and an animated movie about George Washington.

As we emerged from the library, our small pile of borrowed treasures accompanying us, we were smarter, we were more experienced, and we were more accomplished than we had been before we entered. But best of all, we were closer to one another. With my permission, we both gave a few hoops and hollers to celebrate our near hour of silence, and then drove straightaway to the McDonald’s drive-thru to seal our good day with a carbonated drink, a Dr. Pepper for Mama, and a “Root Deer” for Gideon. Fun had been had, and our world felt right and sure once more.

It doesn’t take much, you know, to heal the wounds of your little chicks…just a little “something”…and the countenance that was cloudy will shine once more.

And Mother Hen heaved a great and happy sigh of relief…

Schoolmarmee Prepares Her First Lesson

It is a quiet Saturday afternoon.

The children are mostly asleep (I periodically continue to hear thuds upstairs), and I am sitting alone at the dining room table, a stack of file folders, some college-ruled paper, my favorite pen, a good pair of scissors, and my new homeschool curriculum scattered in front of me.

I’m atwitter….

For in exactly a week and a half, I will finally have the opportunity to introduce my beloved 5-year old boy to an uncharted and exciting world of learning, beginning a new adventure for our entire family…



And I – Schoolmarmee – will finally be introduced to the world of teaching.

{Schoolmarmee = Schoolmarm + Marmee (the endearing and gentle Mother from Little Women), and this is who I will strive to be as I rule my homeschool with a firm hand and a soft word. And as teacher of this school, if I fail, I can still force my kids to call me this! Win win.}

Since our first day as mother and child in 2007, I suppose Gideon and I have been learning together. I have taught him to be civilized and to keep a lid on his temper, and he has taught me how to be patient and humble and long-suffering; we have taught each other how to love and how to forgive and what it means to be bound to someone by unbreakable chords.

And so it is only fitting that we begin this new journey together; he’ll be learning to read and write and do arithmetic, and I’ll be learning how to do this homeschool thingy. As ever, we will fail at times, we will succeed at times, we will be grouchy at times, we will be happy at times, we’ll have trouble communicating at times, and we’ll be on the same page at times. But we are in this together, and though his sisters will follow behind him in the years to come and I’ll do Kindergarten all over again, I just know in my heart, this year is going to be special.

My excitement is palpable. As I sit here (admittedly, a bit dazed by all the instructions) perusing my new schoolteacher books, I can’t help being transported back to my first day of Kindergarten. I was terrified to leave my Mama, and I have been told by eyewitnesses that I cried and clung to her legs, shy and scared and unused to being anywhere but home and with anyone else but her. But after the trauma of that first day (or week? Weeks?) wore off, my memories grow much brighter: the excitement of new assignments, my very own desk with a place for my books, a cubby with a little hook to hold my embroidered bag with the carousel print, the smell of pencil lead and erasers, my sweet teacher and her vibrato singing voice, the feel of  sticky Elmer’s glue on my fingertips, the brightly colored cut-outs on the wall, fat crayons and rulers and pencil boxes…

And today, sitting here preparing for my first day of school, it is all coming back to me in a glorious rush of nostalgia and sweet childhood academia.

How glad I am to be in Kindergarten again, and I vow to make this year as special for my little boy as it was for me.

I have no idea what lies ahead; there is a fear in me that I am naive in my excitement and that this venture is going to be much, much harder than I am expecting. But one thing is certain: my heart has been called to our little school at home, way back when my first pupil was growing in my tummy. And though almost 6 years have passed since that conviction was first born in my heart, I have never been more certain about anything in my entire life…

And I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to share my journey here at Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy. It means the world to me to have you alongside me…

But if you’ll please excuse me, I’ve got a lot of work to do! This curriculum, sadly, isn’t going to organize itself.