Homeschool May-June 2016

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I often wonder how it is possible that our home life which is so dependent on the lull of a routine for its success is also nothing short of wondrous and breathless at the same time. May and June went by with school examinations for the older children and they prepared for them mostly independently as I spent much of my energy homeschooling Piglet and Roo, the latter right smack in the middle of her fantastic two’s. At two, everything is truly marvellous and must be fully explored even if it means scaling dangerous heights to get there.

In this Keeping-Up-With-Roo season, I tend to cling more than ever to our simple routine, following it mindfully, sometimes tenaciously, but also knowing it has to be held loosely in order to educate the whole child, “head, heart and hands” (think Waldorf). This, and also the awareness that childhood is indeed precious and fleeting has made for relatively peaceful mothering for the most part even though there will always be the usual heart-stopping toddler-initiated event or two, often more, that comes with the territory.

Every day we work through practical life – self-care habits and the mountain of chores it takes to run a household of seven – dog included, fish and caterpillar excepted. The older children have begun to grumble or drag their feet occasionally which tends to make my blood boil but I’m choosing to view these as teaching opportunities to remind ourselves that learning to persist through drudgery in order to serve others and keep on top of our own “mess” is part of educating the heart.

I say “remind ourselves” because, in truth, upon deeper reflection recently I have come face to face with my own internal grumbling about the constancy of clean-ups and have therefore come to a new resolve to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Character is caught, not taught. As Rudolf Steiner famously said, “You will not be good teachers if you focus only on what you do and not upon who you are.”

While there’s been an hour or so of academics for each child, more than double the amount of time spent reading-aloud and reading independently, and good progress in two languages, history, science and art, we’ve stalled miserably in music and math.

Thankfully though, besides simplicity I’m also learning more confidently to adapt to life’s changing seasons without feeling too badly about fudging some areas. With home-based work projects set to increase in the next few months and the unpredictable rains alternating between brief drizzles and torrential downpours, I decided it was timely for us to get a head start on garden work during sunny days. Our small green patch, on maintenance mode since Roo was hospitalised in April (a bit of a scare deserving another post), would benefit from a good deal of changes and provide in itself a myriad of practical outdoor activities central to learning, imagination and play. The previous season of crops was nearing its end and it was time to uproot, let the land rest awhile, and plant again.

I’ve been falling into bed exhausted each night but growing a few more inches in wonder at how spending time simply with children whether at home or in the world outside has blessed and enriched my own life beyond measure. Education truly begins with being present and attentive, reading the open book that is their lives and then stepping out into new paths with them, mutually enjoying the adventure and the fulfilment it brings.

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Studies on Egypt – making an Egyptian collar

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Kitchen work suited for toddlers – washing vegetables and peeling garlic

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Learning how to prepare a planting hole and add more colour to the garden

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Roo’s current favourite indoor activity – beading assorted colours with pipe cleaners

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Piglet enjoying the privilege of reading aloud a new book to me while I nurse Roo at nap time

Experiments with air - homemade wind vane and string pulley

Experiments with air – homemade wind vane and string pulley

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Patience

Looking for earthworms as we plant spring onions, parsley and Brazilian spinach in a new bed

Looking for earthworms as we plant spring onions, parsley and Brazilian spinach in a new bed

 

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” ~ Charlotte Mason

Come walk with me

Come walk with me.

Let’s go where the grass is green and our hair keeps getting tousled by the breeze and we can smell the woodiness of the outdoors.

Mugs of tea unfinished the night before because of falling asleep, nursing someone else to sleep – they’re telling me it’s time to get the adrenalin moving.

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Little feet cuddled against my tummy at nights, how I love to see you run in the day.

That love note reminds me of a papa that plays outdoors often enough with his kids, on weekdays.

You are so blessed to have him present.

As for me I’ve been so busy working late nights the past couple of months it’s sometimes easier to watch you play more often than play along.

Today’s the day.

There are books everywhere.

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I love watching you read.

But it’s time to get out. You remember, the way we used to every morning.

I thought about walking with you last weekend when I repaired the terraced garden beds and amended the soil for a new planting season and you little people got busy with scissors of all sizes, trimming the unruly, prickly hedge and then dragging all the stuff down to the compost heap below.

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You’ve become adept at handling so many things including a phone camera!

Forget the garden now, come walk with me.

Walk, simply.

Forget laundry piles because we’re tired and because the soft purple blossoms you picked for me alongside the French beans make me remember our long walks around the neighbourhood with Roo still in my belly and then in her infant stroller and we never tired of spotting cats and dogs and a hundred different flowers.

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I’m glad we went for that walk today.

We went on the fly because the weather at 10.30am was still cool instead of the usual tropical burn and we had enough of school at the table.

How delighted you were with the first treasure you spotted on the grass!

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A jackfruit? I wasn’t sure. It was awesome heavy but you took turns carrying it between you.

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And then you – not me! – you had the first glimpse of the bird.

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What kind of bird? I didn’t know.

I laughed because I know so little, because there is so much more of God and His amazing creation to know that can be known!

We breathed in awe and whispered together for a long time and tried not to fall over into the lake watching that gorgeous bird catch and swallow one tiny fish after another.

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You decided it was time for a snack of bananas.

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You ran tiptoed and chased birds.

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You couldn’t believe how small some green leaves were, they could fit onto your finger and oh, how fresh they smelled!

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You thought these were beautiful, these “berries!” and I had to tell you it wasn’t possible to eat them right then and other times too.

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We had our fill of fresh air and of holding hands on a casual stroll, then running like crazy and being amazed at just everything.

It was humid and sticky but it wasn’t bad.

It was time for the school pick up and time for washing down Roo’s muddy legs before we got into the car and I had to tell myself that although I didn’t like it, it really wasn’t so bad either.

On the way back we belted out “The Greatest Treasure” along with Colin Buchanan blasting on the car player and somehow it just seemed right that on this day you could say it clearer than ever before – “Peace with God”.

I felt God’s amazing presence and His Fatherly love envelope us today. Did you?

I know I will miss days like this when you finally go to school and stay in a classroom for hours.

But then there will be evening walks.

A different kind of sun and where the birds fly to and things we’ll talk about.

Oh, the things we’ll talk about.

Full

So there are some water bottles to wash in the sink, dishes to put away, floor mats to dunk in the drawer.

I hear the washing machine beeping.

There is always laundry. Always.

A stray Nerf gun on the couch. A box of Jenga on the floor.

It’s 12.32am and I’m giving myself 15 minutes to write. Just 15, before my OCD kicks in and I have to get our house ready for homeschool tomorrow. Yes, I am absolutely into that Clean Desk Clean Mind thing.

You will understand if you have a toddler holding onto your leg crying for an apple and breakfast and you’re losing 20 seconds because the peeler and a whole lot of stuff wasn’t washed the night before.

But they’re still little.

She has to be taught the refrigerator isn’t a room where you can open the door, draw up a chair and put up your two years old feet to cool.

He’s five and he tries and he’ll still miss that foam bullet in front of the kitchen sink so I can step on it and jump three feet high thinking it’s a lizard.

He’s eight with an awesome tender heart and still be afraid of things that go bump in the dark.

She’s ten and like a little mama herself to the rest of the crew and we still cuddle in bed and I’ll stroke her forehead.

The laundry won’t be there for always.

Not all of 10 kilos.

I have often thought having four children is the best cure for OCD. They make it impossible to keep up.

Actually just one kid does the job.

So dig your heels in deep and hold on tight, mama.

Breathe in their littleness. Smell their hair and hold their hands and pray over them all the blessings Father God promises them and thank Him a thousand can flow to them right through you.

Because of you.

I’ll tell myself that the next time I think I’ve stepped on a lizard.

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