Friday, July 25, 2014

a summer daybook

We've reached a lull in our summer, two weeks of nothing on the calendar and I am relishing the breezes and the sunshine and no agenda. Thankful for the ways I sense God moving in my spirit and in our family, for time to reflect and the changes in routine which keep my perspective fresh, for the conversations and relationships that bring new things to the surface. Thankful God is always the same and always doing a new thing, Lord give me eyes to perceive it.

Outside my window . .. a fresh summer morning

Giving Thanks . .. the energy of my kids and their imaginations, everything summer.

Thinking About . . .  How to be most intentional with my life . .. my day . .. this hour.

Noticing that I thrive most when I can find myself within a story, but that I tend to droop or flail when I lose the storyline.

How to fall more in love with God and my neighbor and what does that mean practically?

A way to create a better art space for the kids.

I am thinking a lot about the unaccompanied child refugees from Central America, and how to help. I can't imagine the horror, as a parent, to sending your child on such a journey as their only hope. A book I read recently described such a scene between a mother and her son during the Holocaust, and I am haunted by it. So far I have found no opportunities in Ohio for fostering children who've crossed the border. If anyone reading this knows of anything, please let me know.

In the School Room . . . We are only reading aloud the month of July. Our dining room will be our school room again and I am trying to figure out how to organize our school things so that it isn't always torn apart. Searching craigslist for a bookshelf or cabinet. Wondering how to hang a white board so that it isn't too tacky. (If it were up to me the dining room would only be a classroom. If it were up to Jim our school work would be done on slates and that's all. ;-)  )

From the Kitchen. . . a triple batch of zucchini bread in the freezer. (This recipe)

I am Creating . . . working on the novel. Finding my way again.

I am Working On . .. choosing the best thing over many good things. Being more playful and less purposeful. Finding one-on-one time with each kid.

I am Reading . ..
A study of the book of James with our small group
Pursue the Intentional Life by Jean Fleming
Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education by Stratford Caldecott
Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child's Personality Type- and Become a Better Parent by Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins
Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris

Recently Read: 
Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge Five stars 
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick Loved reading this. A quirky, fun, snappy read with gentle, flawed, lovely characters.
Watch With Me, Wendell Berry  Classic Berry comfort food.
In Falling Snow, Mary-Rose MacColl

Praying . ..
Iraqi Christians and Shiites
Israel and Palestine
Central America and the children
Our friends the Johnsons

Listening . .. 
A Life In Grace podcasts- I loved all of these.

Clicking . ..
A Difficult Generosity- The Rabbit Room
The visions set forth in the books (and paintings and songs) we turn to for hope are offerings of love, given in the recognition that we truly are members of one another. We all bear the same hunger for eternity. We all walk forward in the dark of doubt, reaching for something we can’t quite name. We yearn to discover who we are meant to become, what it is we hunger to find in those midnight hours when our hearts will not be sated. But the artists and storytellers and makers of song offer the inner vision they have known as a sign of hope to the hungering world. They invite us into the sacred, inmost rooms of their minds and let us stand at the windows of their own imaginations where we glimpse, ah, wonders we might never have dreamed alone.
Around the House . .. open windows, ceiling fans running, endless toys, paper scraps, markers, grassy floors, sandy rugs, trying to look the other way . ..

One of My Favorite Things . .. Quiet mornings. The kids sleep past seven most mornings and I can get in nearly three hours of quiet. My mothering graces are multiplied for every hour of quiet I've had before the kids are awake.

Plans for Next Week . . . our last free week of the summer. My plans are to try very very hard to be lazy and slow and indulgent and to read a lot of books and eat a lot of watermelon.

Monday, June 30, 2014

the gift of work

A farmer depends on himself, and the land and the weather. If you're a farmer, you raise what you eat, you raise what you wear, and you keep warm with wood out of your own timber. You work hard, but you work as you please, and no man can tell you to go or come. You'll be free and independent, son, on a farm.” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy

My grandma used to say that a lot of people were unhappy because they hadn't learned to enjoy their work.

This, from a farmer's wife who was still gardening and preserving and baking and sewing and hosting-- and smiling-- the summer she died, two years ago. (We just finished our last jar of her green beans the other night. And just like that, an era is past).

I think of her often, especially as I work.

Sometimes- well, all the time- I am nostalgic for the simple life she lived, when creating a home and raising children and working with your hands was everything and enough.

It was the most creative kind of work-  to make the most of what you had. To create beauty out of the limitations life gave you. There was a freedom and satisfaction to their way of life; however poor they were also rich.

They raised children on a dairy farm and they worked hard. From the time my dad was very young he woke before sunrise to help milk cows, and came home from school to milk. He used to love telling stories from his childhood, and it would seem that there couldn't possibly be a happier childhood.

We are almost finished reading Farmer Boy. I am fascinated by the work- the endless, creative, physical work. I envy the satisfaction that must have come from the hard work of farming- preserving food to last the winter, churning the very finest butter, growing the very best pumpkin.

I understand now that work, physical work, is it's own kind of therapy. It seems important to give my children the gift of hard work.

My kids do chores, they all know how to clean a bathroom, but we don't work hard-in-the-fields-all-day hard.

So much of work now is solitary or sterile, requiring sitting, lacking touch and growth, rhythm and season.

This podcast: On Igniting a Love of Learning in Your Students at CiRCE Institute mentions that many kids play video games because it is their only form of accomplishment.

This struck me. What do we give our kids to accomplish?

How can I give my kids the opportunity to work hard work, and the satisfaction that comes with it?

One of the opportunities of homeschooling is for kids to find their own little cottage industries, to begin early earning money and responsibility.

My kids are still young, but I want them each to find something they will accomplish next year, in addition to school work. Ideally something which requires working with their hands. (Last year we renovated a dollhouse. It was a small project, but enough to get us through the winter, and I think provided some element of satisfaction and accomplishment).

This is what I am thinking about today, as I work. (We are busy preparing for grandparents to visit. I may have done one or all of these in the past week: meticulous cleaning tips for the OCD person. Ha.) 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How we are finding rest this summer (our non-schedule schedule)

Rest is the theme that found me this summer, I wasn't expecting it. But for me, rest is not about letting the kids fend for themselves and the house fall apart. That would stress me out. 

I am by no means an expert at scheduling. I shun schedules. However one daughter needs predictability and, alas, I am learning to appreciate routine too (becoming set in my ways. ahem).

So I share this only because it has been working well for us, and I enjoy learning how other moms plan their days. Like I said, not an expert.

I decided there were five main things I hoped to accomplish with the kids this summer. (I often look back to Ann Voskamp's Seven Daily Rungs- which is so lovely and inspiring. Maybe one day we will work our way to that). For now, these are the five blocks of time I aim for:

1. To work
2. To read
3. To learn
4. To play
5. To rest.

The first three happen in the morning: 

The kids have their daily habits: teeth brushing, make their bed, etc. Then they are to ask me for a chore. I prefer that they ask me rather than keep a weekly chore schedule because each week is different (let's not go crazy with the schedules mmkay?).

At some point in the morning we read aloud. Maybe at breakfast, maybe on the couch after chores. We might listen to an audio book in the car if we are running errands. 

I'd like a bit of learning to happen in the second part of the morning. Two days a week our learning time is swim lessons. The other days we may spend anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours at the table writing, practicing math facts, or doing copywork (we are focusing on science using the Magic School Bus books). It depends on what the kids, and I, are up for that day.

(To keep a record of our learning, at the beginning of the summer we went shopping for new pens and notebooks. Each child has a notebook, and all learning over the summer is kept in one notebook. At the back we record all scripture memory, books read, and skip counting learned.)

Afternoon is for play and rest: 

We choose one fun activity to do each day after lunch, which may be going to the pool or a playdate or may be as simple as setting out the paints or sprinkler. Then, by three o'clock, we are ready for quiet. (Me too). (I've found waiting until 3:00 is the best time when my 8,6, and 4 year old really are ready for quiet).

It is summer, days will change, but within an ordinary week our days are pretty predictable too:

One day is a cleaning and laundry day. The kids expect extra chores on this day, and our fun activity will most likely be something simple at home.

Two days a week are outside days. We have swimming lessons in the morning, and might go back to the pool or to a park in the afternoon.

One day is for friends or going places.

One day is Mom's Choice. I usually pick garage sales. Last week I chose to not leave the house all day. It was grand.

I am surprised by how content the kids have been (so far). They seem to be enjoying a good balance of work and play, and they like knowing what to expect. From out of this rhythm, we are enjoying a summer that feels pretty darn close to restful. 

p.s. The non-chart chore chart: I wanted the kids to be able to earn a little money, and to keep track of what we learn, without a complicated chart or systems which I would fail to keep. At the beginning of the week they each get a notecard. When they do extra chores (the "paid chores") they need to remember to put a sticker on their card. They almost always remember, and at the end of the week each sticker is worth a certain amount of allowance. Personal responsibility = no bookkeeper (me)

Monday, June 23, 2014

from rest

There is a new and unexpected theme of my summer: Peace. Rest. Sabbath.

I did not see this one coming.

Even now I am wondering if we will sustain this. The first two weeks of our summer have been consistently this.

It has been happening several times a day- an invitation to rest. I can't explain it. I just come upon it, out of the blue. The kids will be playing happily. Work is done. And there is a pause, like a quiet voice inviting me to rest a bit. 

The kids feel it too I think, just a good, steady, quiet, pace. 

I thought and prayed a lot about our summer. I wanted it to be intentional but not over-planned or controlled. I thought of this summer as an opportunity to teach the children Sabbath. How to rest. The enjoyment of good, lovely, meaningful things. To be content with a quiet life.

What I didn't expect was that I would learn these myself.

Truly, sometimes our Good Shepherd makes us to lie down in green pastures.

Maybe it is a shift in my state of mind or the ages of the kids or the circumstances we happen to find ourselves. Maybe I am learning how to rest in the goodness of God.

p.s. It all started with this podcast with Andrew Kern by Sarah Mackenzie on Teaching from Rest-- so good! 

(I just purchased Sarah's Teaching from Rest series- will be sure to write a review)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Some favorite podcasts

School's out and we fled to the country for a few days. My parents live in the most beautiful little valley on earth, where every single night the sunset is glorious. Does the sunset change in different places? I don't know. But you really need to come and see for yourself. Just show up and sit on their porch around nine this week. They won't mind.

I got to sneak away for a night with Jim to Pittsburgh. He went to a conference, I sat by a window and read Mary Oliver for an afternoon. It was glorious.  

With all of the time in the car lately I've listened to several good podcasts.  I'm really just beginning to listen to podcasts since I got an iphone a few months ago. Now that I've found a few I really like, I love having them in queue to listen to in the car or while folding laundry.

Here are a couple favorites:

Probably my all-time favorite podcast: Andrew Kern on Teaching from Rest
Inspiring beyond homeschool, one of the greatest sermons I've heard as well; what does it mean to be made in the image of God, correctly ordering our soul, filling our minds with good and beautiful things- and how this flows into teaching/living from a state of rest. Beautiful.

I love the Circe Institute: cultivating wisdom and virtue. Useful for homeschool, but inspiring in all pursuit of wisdom and virtue. A lot of great resources on the site, the free audio library is rich.

The Life{in}Grace Podcast by Edie Wadsworth- really great stuff here. I especially like A life in beauty and A life in faith.

The Read Aloud Revival by Sarah Mackenzie-  good practical inspiration for homeschool and reading together

NPR books podcast

The New Yorker fiction podcast