Teaching with a Betsie

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

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

But we had a little problem.

Betsie.

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

Or on her brother’s school desk…

where she gets stuck.

Or on…anything, really.

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

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

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

I don’t think she could do it.

But then again, neither could I!

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…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.

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.