As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Friday, September 5, 2014

Back to School (Thank Goodness!)

Back in July I wrote about how much I needed summer vacation.  And it's true, I did.  For a multitude of reasons July ended up being super-busy, and there was no way I could keep up the pace of the many months that preceded it.  I always enter the summer with the realization that I need this break, and I always leave it with the realization that I need my routine back.

August was much slower than July for us, though still quite busy.  We had a really incredible summer, and were able to do some really amazing things thanks to the many good people God has placed in our lives that provide friendship and support our family life.  We have travelled more in the past four months than we have I think in the past five years.  We even had not one but two opportunities to get away all by ourselves, and two opportunities to get away with just the three oldest boys.  And yet in the downtime of August, I found myself both grateful for the abundant life of the summer, and longing for the familiarity of September, and back to school.

I get excited about going back to school for a different reason than the average parent.  My children don't leave on a bus, instead we kick things into high gear and prepare for the marathon that is homeschooling.  This year I have four school-aged children in grades 1, 2, 3 and 5.  It is the first year I don't have a new student starting Kindergarden since I began homeschooling four years ago, and also the first year I don't have a very small baby (my youngest is two).  It's kind of a good place to be in, no curve balls this year just building on the work we did last year.  

We all know the saying, "less is more", but after this week I feel like the opposite is so obviously true - more is more.  The downtimes I had in the summer while restorative at first quickly became demotivating.  Though I had less work to do I struggled to stay on top of the regular household chores.  I had all but abandoned the idea of baking (something I did once a week, though to be fair I don't feel too bad about this because hey, it's summer!) My point is that for the lack of daily duties (school, baking, piano lessons, co-ops, etc.) my house didn't seem to show any improvement.  In fact, things were more difficult to stay on top of.  I found myself easily distracted, and the days would slip away with me wondering, "how did I possibly waste so much time?"  But this week, I knew what needed to be done.  Bright and early Tuesday morning (well maybe not so early, because Jeff was off work so I slept in a tiny bit!) I knew my schedule for the day: breakfast, school, lunch, dishes, laundry, supper, bed.  Though I had more work to do I managed to get caught up on household chores from the weekend all because I knew how to allocate my time.  I ended the day having barely sat around, feeling confident in all that I had accomplished.  More is definitely more (obviously!)

And yet this week has not been without its challenges.  One of my students spent the last half of last year desperately difficult to focus, and unmotivated to work.  This child is smart and I know he understands his work, but he is content to just sit for hours staring off into space.  There is so much going on in his head, and what ends up happening is I forget about him (because I figure he's working like the rest of the kids) and come back after half an hour to find he hasn't done anything else.  I struggled through last year and ultimately gave up on doing any summer work (partly because I couldn't bear the thought of spending the summer fighting with him), and then on this first day of school, same story.  Though I know it was the first day and I should have expected a certain amount of distraction, it brought me right back to the insecurities I had with this child last year.  I know what he needs - he needs me to be more engaged in his work.  But when I have three other students and household to run, and activities that take us out of the house at least two days a week, how can I commit a lot of extra time to one child?  I felt like I knew what he needed, but I wasn't capable of giving it to him.  And that was a scary thought.

We had a Mom's meeting for a Catholic homeschool group I'm involved in that same night, and while I hadn't shared any of this with the other Moms, one of them read a reflection that really spoke to my heart.  I can't remember the exact words, but the jist of it was that we are not perfectly equipped to do the job in front of us, but that is what makes us perfect for the job.  That the Lord sees our shortcomings and failures, and yet chooses us in spite of them because He can work in us.  She gave an example of St. Maximillian Kolbe, who was able to maintain a disposition of peace even amidst the terrible conditions he lived in Auschwitz, and challenged us that if he can face a reality such as that and still maintain a peaceful disposition, how much more so can we do the same in the face of our own daily challenges.  It really helped me to put my struggles into prospective, and made me feel a little foolish about how easily I had fallen into despair earlier in the day.  I may just have found myself a new patron Saint, he gave me great comfort.

The rest of the week was beautiful in its simplicity, and it felt good to be almost back into the swing of things.  I say almost because our weekly commitments don't start until next week - Piano, ballet, Cubs/Beavers, Co-op will keep us on the go, but I feel like we've laid a good foundation.   God has certainly helped me to see the goodness in the struggle of my daily life, and the reward of a hard day's work.  I think I will dedicate this year to St. Kolbe, and ask him to intercede for me to maintain a peaceful disposition.  Such a beautiful way to begin the year, focussed on his example.

We ended by celebrating the birthday of my third son, who turned seven yesterday.  For so many reasons he is a treasure to our family, and it's hard to sum up a little boy in a paragraph but I'll try.  He is quiet, thoughtful and compassionate.  He takes a very long time to say things because he takes his time, and he often gets spoken over by his brothers and sisters, or a mother or father who is busy hurrying onto the next thing and finds it difficult (and at times frustrating) to wait for the entire sentence to make its way out of his mouth.  But patience with this boy is rewarded, because there is often a gem hidden in those secret thoughts that hide themselves at the end of his statements, and if we take the time to hear him out, we get a glimpse into that beautiful mind that connects everything together in brilliant fashion.  He is sweet, even-keeled, and intelligent.  He is quiet and subdued, and notices the beauty in the everyday things most of us ignore.  While the rest of the kids tear through the yard on a million different toys, he often finds himself distracted by the birds, the butterflies, or the flowers.  The created world is an amazement to him, and when I allow him to do so, he draws me out of myself and helps me to see it with the wonder that he does.  We have spent an amazing seven years getting to know this little boy, and I know that we have only barely scratched the surface.  Such a joy to have been chosen as his parents, he is a treasure.

Thank you Lord, for this beautiful life.  For all the work that goes into it, for the summer break that sustains me, the simplicity in the ordinary where I find the greatest provocation to search for your presence.  Happy back to school parents, teachers and students everywhere.  May the Lord bless the good work we do this year!

1 comment :

  1. Ah - the "freedom" we experience when we cobble together some predictable structure for ourselves. I am still working on it. I pray you and St. Maximilian have an intensely blessed school year!!