A Back-to-Homeschool Party (with literary visitors!)

Do you know what I never shared in 2016?

Last year’s back-to-school party!!

How forgetful of me!

It’s never too late, though, and so I’ll tell you now that on a special Friday in September, we celebrated our annual back-to-school bash, which just so happens to be one of my most favorite days of the year.

Back-to-school reads something like Christmas round these parts, but instead of candy canes and toys and hot chocolate decking our halls, there are apples and books and 1% milk in vintage milk jugs.

I don’t know if the kids feel like this is a second Christmas, but I sure do.

This small party is the way I personally enjoy passing out all of our new books and school supplies, our wardrobes for the next season (I’m serious about clothing, y’all), and is my one big attempt to get our little family, including myself, excited about learning in the context of our home academy.

Normally, I have each child’s secret stash set out at their spot at the table, but last year, I wanted to do a little something different with our routine, something that would throw an unexpected bit of magic into our party.

So my idea was to find four literary characters — characters who are important to each of my children — who would be willing to stop periodically by our house at the time of our party to deliver each child their box of goods.

Of course, there IS that one problem of literary characters not actually being real.

So my next plan was to find four actors who would be willing to PLAY literary characters who would stop periodically by our house at the time of our party to deliver each child their box of goods.

Of course, there is that one problem of us living in a small town and being far from all the big towns — we might have a lot of drama, but we don’t DO a lot of drama — and, though I did discuss this plan with a beloved former teacher who heads up the drama team at the high school, I knew this was a major MAJOR long shot, especially with the short notice I was providing.

It just wasn’t going to happen.

Thankfully, at close to the last minute, a new — and much more reasonable! — plan materialized, with no actors, costumes, or physical literary characters necessary, why?

Because our literary friends were going to visit our party in the delightful old-fashioned way…

through snail mail!!!

The day of the party, letters for each child were quickly penned, and their supplies were gathered into a big box, taped up, wrapped with brown paper, addressed, stamped, and stacked up in a secret place to be distributed  by a mysterious delivery man (Mr. Gore) during the party.

For “stamps”, I went…nay! I ran!! this was SO last minute!!…online and found a picture of each child’s literary friend, printed it off, and glued it to the top-right corner of their box, serving nicely as a fun little clue about who their box was from.

By the way, I was plumb GIDDY when it came to this part of the party execution, for this sort of whimsy is the stuff of life that causes my hands to shake in glee and excitement.

Does that make me super cool or super dorky?

Let’s go with super cool.

Now. Who wants to join us for a back-to-homeschool PARTY???

(I can tell by your enthusiastic response that you are super cool, too.)

~

Can I just say one more time how last minute this party was? I threw all our new books on the table, I slapped a school-ish message on the chalkboard and voila! An easy back-to-school party.

img_1583

Decorating for school parties is so easy. Apples…milk…vintage school bells…

sniffle, sniffle. I LOVE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL!!!img_1594

These darling cookies just happened to be available at Merritt’s Bakery in Tulsa, totally saving my day. I didn’t have time to make cookies! I had fanciful letters to write from literary characters!

img_1595

This was a big year for us. We finally took the plunge into the world of electronic devices, buying a couple of Kindles for our homeschool. The kiddos went bananas over them.

img_1596

I went bananas over the books and the freshly sharpened pencils. ❤

img_1597

Now on to the really fun part!!!

Hidden in the sunroom were each of the kids’ packages, each containing an encouraging letter from their literary friend.

To our baby boy from his FAVORITE friend, Little Bear:

img_1592

To our youngest daughter from her pal, Mother Goose:

img_1590

To our eldest daughter from her bosom friend, Anne Shirley:

img_1588

And to our eldest son, from one throne warden to another, from Artham Wingfeather:

img_1591

Oh! We also had a surprise visitor from the REAL world that day, my daddy, who stopped by on his way home from work. Methinks he knew there were cookies about.img_1599

I joked with my Facebook friends that this picture reminds of the famous scene from “Little Women” where the March girls are clustered around Marmee to read the letter from Father, except, in this scene, the children are teaching their granddaddy how to play Subway Surfer. How quaint.

img_1600

HOMESCHOOL RULES!!!!!!

img_1605

img_1622 img_1626 img_1627 img_1632

img_1615

img_1619

After we had enjoyed our cookies and milk (and coffee for Mama and Grandmother), the doorbell rang.

(Are you as excited as I am???)

The kids ran to the door to see who it was, but alas, the only thing there was a package!

It was for Sheppy!!

He sort of FREAKED OUT when he saw the “stamp” with Little Bear on it, and I knew then that we were in for a fun party.

img_1639

img_1641

A card from Little Bear himself! I have to say, we were in a major time crunch when it came to readying for this party, and the letters written on the FLY. It made me especially happy, then, to have Little Bear as one of our guests, for he, too, is just learning to write and composes the simplest of letters.

img_1643

img_1646

After our littlest had had ample time to look over his new box of school goodies, the doorbell rang again, this time for our youngest girl!

img_1649

img_1651

A handwritten card from Mother Goose?!

Okay, now I’m a little jealous.

img_1654 img_1656

img_1658

img_1659

Before long, the doorbell rang AGAIN, and the kids were starting to catch on. This box HAD to be for our eldest daughter, they just knew it!

img_1661

img_1662

 

img_1664

img_1665

I’ve got to say, writing a letter from the one and only ANNE SHIRLEY was a tall order. I needed more time to think and get my words in order! And then I needed more words!! My hand was cramping by the time I finished this missive, but the result was worth it…

img_1666

img_1667

img_1671

That just left one more surprise delivery, this time for our firstborn.

img_1674

img_1676

Reading the Wingfeather Saga with our oldest two had been a year-long journey for our family, and the whole concept of the throne-warden resonated deeply not only with our eldest son, but with all of us. This letter, penned by Mr. Gore, made me a little teary-eyed.

Then AND now.

img_1678 img_1679

We hope that Andrew Peterson will forgive us for spelling Artham’s name wrong. Did I mention that we were in a hurry??

img_1681

img_1683

Sigh…

‘Twas a magical day, through and through, one that lives sweetly in my memory and continues to fuel our family as we pursue a life of education at home.

Perhaps some favorite literary characters will visit your children this year? Who will you choose?

~

Thank you for reading today! To keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

 

Advertisements

The Majors of Homeschooling

majors of homeschooling

With a new school year upon us, I want to steal a few minutes between lunch and tonight’s VBS to talk about some important things I’ve learned about homeschooling in the last four years.

And the fact that we are in our fifth day of VBS should mean you will show me some grace, won’t you, should the words and the thinking and the processing not work for me?

I’m the music director, and a girl can only hear those same catchy songs so many times before her brain erupts into a gurgling stream of nonsensicality…

I shall do my best, though, to bring to you what I feel are important components of homeschooling without losing my wordage stuff.

So let’s get started!

When you first start out in the homeschooling world, you tend to focus more on the minors. The question: “What do we need to run a homeschool?” brought different answers to my mind four years ago than it does today. I was desperate in those days to simply find a curriculum I liked, some sensory toys and puzzles, some educational videos, and DEFINITELY some vintage lunchtrays.

Today, I still like all those things…curriculum is good, toys and games are fun, videos are helpful, and lunchtrays are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL…but it is increasingly dawning on me that what I have always most needed to run a happy and successful school-at-home — the MAJORS, if you will — cannot be purchased at Mardel’s homeschool sale. Or, alas, even at Etsy.

In fact, they’re quite free.

And, in our home, they are absolutely essential; when I get the following things right, the “minors” fall nicely into place.

This list might vary from person to person, but the things that I’ve realized Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy NEEDS to stay open are as follows:

1.A belief in what I am doing.

I have been at very low points as a homeschooler when I am not valuing, deep down, the basic importance of education for my children.  Simple as that. Without seminars and daily peer encouragement from others who are enthusiastic about education, it is easy to become lost in the daily grind of checking off boxes and keeping the housework afloat and to completely forget WHY you’re doing what you are doing.

And when you forget WHY you are doing it, you can look up one day to realize that the “school” part of your homeschool has almost been lost. You’re not really schooling your kids, so much, as you are just keeping them at home.

If you are going to choose this route of home education, I think it is really important to develop a sturdy philosophy behind your decision, which will include some education for yourself about…well, education!

And in this discovery of “why”, I encourage you to get beyond the boxes that you’ve lived in all your life. Don’t just settle on educating your children because this is America and education is what is done with children. Don’t just do it because your kid is five and when you were five you learned the alphabet so you should probably teach your kid the alphabet.

Step back and observe bigger pictures. WHY is education so important, in the first place? How will “being educated” really serve your kids? What is the purpose in all this?!

There are many great philosophies out there, and you can draw from any or all of them, but Charlotte Mason has played a big role in my own philosophy. Her teachings just make sense to me, and I agree with her in almost every regard, which means that I can employ her tactics with a heart that truly cares about what I am doing.

It doesn’t take much to develop a genuine passion for your homeschooling operation and can be as simple as reading a good book — or even an article! — about why education is important.

On the brink of our 5th year as a homeschooling family, I understand now that I can’t homeschool because my friends are doing it. I can’t do it because it is popular in my denomination. I can’t do it because I’m scared to send my kids to public school.

I’ve got to do it because I believe in it, or I’ll not have the stamina to stick with it for the long haul.

2. A full-time job mentality.

Okay, this one has been a big deal in our house. It didn’t take me too long as a homeschooler to realize that, in order to maintain a constant atmosphere of learning in our home, I was going to have to make a job out of it.

In other words, my BELIEF in what I was doing (see: above) was going to have to dictate how I spent my day in a very intentional way.

Homeschooling is very simple in the beginning…as simple, really, as learning the ABC’s and counting to 10 and reading “Little Bear” and Mother Goose..but, like me, eventually you will arrive at the point where you have to make a real, life-altering choice: who is more important? Me or the kids? My Facebook account or our read-aloud time? My late wake-up hour or my son’s understanding of mathematics?

It has become ever more clear to me that I can’t live like a stay-at-home mom whose kids go to school outside of the home and still run a smooth and vibrant homeschool. That sounds obvious, right, but…sometimes we try to live that way!

And since I personally need rigid guidelines to keep me from floating adrift, this meant serious changes in our household. An early wake-up time which calls for an earlier bedtime (wahh!!!). A strict “no internet in the morning” policy. A phone going straight to messages because, from the hours of 8 – 12, I am at work. And then again from the hours of 1 – 3.

Use your imagination, here. What is it like for people who work outside of the home? Sure, part of the greatness about homeschooling is we don’t HAVE to live like people who work outside of the home…we can be flexible! we can learn as we LIVE! we can take our workbooks and do school on the way to the splash park!…but we can take a few tips from the professional world.

My daddy doesn’t sit in his truck and talk on the phone all day. He doesn’t scroll through the internet every 30 minutes, looking for updates. He doesn’t watch television, ever. From the hours of 7-3, he’s at work. I want the same to be true of me, even though I’m at home! From the hours of 8-3, I’m at work, doing worky things, dying to my previous life of non-work.

This sort of mentality makes ALL the difference in a homeschooling day and ensures that I am leaving my family open to endless outlets of education.

The great thing about this is, it doesn’t mean that you have to have your day rigidly scheduled. It just means that, for the most part, your head and your heart are dedicated to your homeschooling operation. You are “on the clock”, ready to read aloud, ready to answer questions, ready to train and teach and inspire.

3. Motivation and encouragement.

Oh my goodness…

I just want to start cackling hysterically when I contemplate what a lone ranger I was when I opened the doors to our homeschool in the fall of 2012.

I had read a few books, sure…two, to be exact…but…thaaaaaat’s about it. The daughter of public school, myself, and a college graduate with a degree that had nothing to do with education, especially of the childhood sort, I had only the vaguest ideas of what homeschooling even looked like and NO idea of how I was supposed to accomplish this gargantuan task of educating four children alone.

Since that time, not surprisingly, my homeschooling career has been a pretty repetitive routine of “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.”

That ALL drastically changed earlier this year when I discovered — far too late, in my opinion!! — the Read-Aloud Revival, a bustling website chock-full of resources and motivation for the homeschooling mom.

When I first watched Sarah Mackenzie’s Periscope series on “How We Homeschool”, I was blown away by the ideas she shared. Here were simple things I had never even thought of, things that would make my life so much easier!

And then I started listening to the podcast, episode by episode, and it began to dawn on me, in levels, how crazy I had been to tackle this lifestyle without seeking out an education of my own, followed by frequent…and I mean FREQUENT…inspiration.

After I listen to a podcast on education, I am inspired. I have excitement in my heart to do what I’ve been doing, but to do it with vigor. I have POWER, because knowledge is power and the more moms and experts I hear from, the more ideas I have to draw from and the more capable I am to handle all the bumps that come up in our day.

I just had no idea how terribly thirsty I was to be taught. To have someone lead me. To have a voice in my ear, spurring me on.

If you are feeling shriveled up and alone in your homeschooling world, I would suggest that you are in need of food. Feed yourself by finding a cheerleader, whether that comes in a website, podcast, co-op, or mentor. There is simply no reason in our modern and connected world to feel alone in this. Which leads me to my next point…

4. A teachable spirit.

The fastest way, I think, to wind up in the homeschool graveyard is to think you’ve got it all figured out.

It’s easy, since these are your own children you are educating, to feel a weird temptation to put on an “I’ve got this all covered” front. I birthed these children. I keep them groomed. I’ve had them vaccinated. I CAN HOMESCHOOL THEM.

Now, I’m no psychologist, but perhaps…maybe?…we carry around this facade of capability because we are deep down kind of terrified that we are going to mess our kids up?!?! I know I have harbored that fear, too many times to count.

But listen, most of us don’t have teaching degrees. Most of us don’t know the first thing about teaching kids to read, write and do arithmetic. Most of us are homeschooling from a compelling conviction in our hearts more than a background in home education.

And that’s okay!

What is not okay is never admitting that we need assistance. Or forging ahead with our noses in the air because we don’t want anyone out there to know we are weak, or scared. Or keeping blinders on our eyes to the abundance of help, service and mentorship out there.

It seems counter-intuitive to our stubborn hearts, but we do ourselves — and our families — a world of good when we stop and say, at least to ourselves, “You know what? I don’t really know what I’m doing here. I NEED HELP!”

Believe me, help is out there. It might be from your homeschooling neighbor who has tried a different curriculum, a homeschooling veteran who knows her stuff (I love homeschool veterans. I NEED homeschool veterans!), a husband who might gladly take a class off your hands if he knew you were this close to losing it, a church lady who would help you clean your house once a month, or even from a refreshing book like Sarah Mackenzie’s “Teaching from Rest”. (a link to the book will be at the end of this post!).

Whether you have to actually leave your house to find this help is up to you, but one thing is necessary in the equation: humility.

Humility in homeschooling bring waves of refreshment to the heart that has grown weary of pretending to be masterful. It will keep you from comparing other homeschoolers to you (in an inferior kind of way), or you to other homeschoolers (in a superior kind of way). It will keep you from trying to force things that aren’t working for your family. It will keep you from living in fear when you could be discovering the world, with the joy of a forever student! And it will most certainly keep you on your knees.

When you start with a humble heart, your homeschool can only go UP.

5. A custom plan for YOUR family.

Dear ones, if you listen to one thing I say today, please make it this one.

A crucial turning point for our homeschool took place when I pulled all the square pegs out of the round holes I had been shoving them in and actually developed a plan that worked for our family.

Tell me, when it is time to plan for our kids’ wardrobes, do we go online and print off another family’s list and try to make it work for our family?

No, because that would be weird.

They might have more kids than we do, and we’d wind up with more clothes than we needed. They might have fewer kids, and we’d not have enough clothes to dress our family. They might have all girls when we have all boys. Or they might have a girl, boy, boy, girl, when we have a boy, girl, girl, boy. Their sizes would be different. Their climate would be different. Their budget would be different. Their style preferences would be different!

The same is true for a homeschool.

Going online and printing off someone else’s daily schedule can give you guidance, and buying a pre-planned curriculum can be useful, but expecting them to work, verbatim, in your house is not an idea that usually pans out.

I’ll be honest, it is borrowing trouble when I line up our “home academy” to a family whose eldest is a daughter rather than a son. Or to the schedule of a family with a type-A mom at the helm. Or to the plan of a family who relies on a co-op for their schoolweek. Or to the resources of a family that lives in the city rather than a tiny town with no stoplights.

Those families are not the Gore family. And when the Gore family tries to be the So-and-So family, the Gore Mama winds up in a puddle of self-loathing that directly effects her educational prowess, her confidence, and her SANITY!!!!

Now, I will warn you, crafting a homeschool that suits your family and fits you like a glove can take time. You have to scrap some things and try again. You have to adjust with the changing seasons of life. You have to learn as you go.

But when I peeled myself away from the idea that I could find a magical print-out that would solve all of my scheduling bumps and homeschooling problems, and began building, brick by brick, an infrastructure that could cradle and nurture MY family — with our specific needs, personalities, budget, schedule, priorities, etc. — I began to really ENJOY  homeschooling, like never before.

I daresay we began to soar!

And homeschooling, with all of these MAJOR components more firmly in place than ever, has never been more gloriously doable. I’m a fan.

~

Wow, I tried to keep that short, but there you have it! There are many more homeschool majors in my life, including the Holy Spirit and a good support system, but these are the five things that I wanted to focus on today. Is there anything you would put on your “majors” list? Did any of these principles resonate with you? Please share below! And if you want to hang out with me on Facebook and hear funny stories and go shopping and have tickle fights, find our page here!

And find Sarah Mackenzie’s “Teaching From Rest” from my affiliated link by clicking on the picture below. I love this book, and I know you will too!

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.

…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.

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.