I just read a blog post in which the author talked about how homeschooling is a lifestyle – it’s not a curriculum or set of courses; it’s your whole life experience. That has definitely proven true for me. I love exploring and learning with my kids, and though I had to alter some of my own life plans to do it, I have no regrets.
But it can be intense at times. The kids and I don’t do this lightly. We have a ton of fun, but we put 110% into our days. This time of year is especially difficult, as we’ve been at it for six months and still can’t quite see the end of the tunnel that is summer.
Last week, you may recall that the kids went on a public speaking frenzy, which was outrageously fun and inspiring. And exhausting. At the end of Friday, Eva, so proud of her accomplishments, also felt wiped out and emotionally drained. Teary, she longed out loud for a week off so that she could just what she wanted to do. I asked her what it was that she wanted to do. She said (in tears), “I want to make a Jabba the Hut body pillow!” You will be impressed that I didn’t even laugh.
Allow me to explain. A couple of weeks ago I brought home The Star Wars Craft Book by Bonnie Burton. Eva had been flipping through it, and set her heart on said body pillow, which is huge, and green, and looks like a giant slug. We had picked up a green fleece blanket at the thrift store for the skin, but really, we hadn’t had time to do any more.
Ian, in the meantime was beginning to buckle under his own stress. He’s forming a new teen band for a March gig, composing a piece for his middle school band to perform (also due in March), and trying to coordinate study times with his Science Olympiad teammates, who have been very busy and difficult to get hold of (regionals are once again, in March). So many big projects, and so much to coordinate. He was feeling overwhelmed.
We decided to take five. Eva would get her week off so that she could bring her plush monstrosity to life, and Ian would drop everything except for the projects that were feeling so loomy. I bought a bunch of pillows for Jabba’s stuffing and gave Eva some sewing lessons. For Ian, I worked with him to set up a checklist of tasks, complete with a box to indicate when he would do them, and a friendly box that he would check off upon completion. I may not be able to do the tasks for him, but I can organize the heck out of them.
And this is where the lifestyle bit comes in, because as you may have noticed, even though we’re “taking the week off,” we’re actually not. And I’m certainly not. Eva found great joy in her Jabba pillow, and Ian is feeling much more on top of things. But I still felt tired and wanted some time just being off duty.
Enter one Knight in Shining Armor. Husband Jamie, observing my downward swing (because I told him about it at length, blesshisheart), swept up the children yesterday, and the needy and aged dog as well and took them away from the house for four consecutive hours, running all the errands I was supposed to do with them. I almost cried when he showed up, smiling and waving, and telling everyone to hop in the car.
I took that blissful opportunity – something I haven’t experienced since last summer in all likelihood – and did many things.
1. I finished a novel I was reading.
2. I quietly put on my coat and got in our battered pickup.
3. I drove to a garden shop and loaded the truck with mulch. I drove back home.
4. Without speaking, I freshened the front gardens with mulch, cut back some perennials, and felt the sun on my face. I paid close attention to my breathing, to the smell of the mulch, the feel of the ground beneath my feet, the texture of the soil, the weight of the garden fork in my hands.
5. I re-stacked the rocks around our small garden pond. I felt each rock as I picked it up, enjoying the warmth, the smells, the amazing lack of sound.
6. I had a lovely visit with our propane service guy who had come out to look at our tank. We talked about homes, neighbors, and family. His wife had passed away three years back, leaving him with three children, ages 2-9. He was not beaten down. He was in fact, a force of joy and chatter, and clearly loved his life and everyone else’s he came across. He changed me a bit, I think.
7. I resolved to perform more random acts of kindness, because it will make me happy.
8. I lit a small fire in the fire pit and let the smoke play with my hair and clothes. I love that smell.
9. I just stood there, smelling the fire, and listening to the hundreds of Canadian geese who were flying by in their annual formations. I watched the geese and the fire and the smoke and smelled and listened and was so deliciously quiet.
My entire four hours was one overarching meditation. When Jamie and the kids and the dog returned, I was quite a new person. I had been growing increasingly testy over the past few weeks, but now I felt calm and recollected.
My life won’t be this full always. Though I wish I had more of these wonderful balancing moments in my life now, I am also aware that our homeschooling and family lifestyle changes with the seasons. There may even be one day when my life feels off-kilter the other way and I long for some of the fullness and noise of my current experience. But for now, I am so thankful for this wonderful afternoon, and this week of restoring balance.