At the school where I was educated, teachers were given a sabbatical every 7 years. For a semester, with some financial support from the school, they could do something personally or professionally enriching away from the school community. The idea was that they returned to school as better educators because of the time spent away. Sometimes, they say, a change is as good as a rest. I think that teaching, and homeschooling, are prone to burn out because the demands are relentless. This year, in my 6th year of homeschooling and my 11th year as a parent, I am taking a sabbatical from suburban mom life to spend 6 weeks doing the thing that I love most in the world, alpine skiing.
I teach skiing on the weekends, so we have season passes and a place to stay, and this year we have decided that we are just not going to go home for the weekdays. I am using the same budget that I spend on childcare at home to arrange some babysitting for my younger ones and I am hitting the slopes every morning from 9-12. We come home to a little bit of school work (streamlined version, mostly math and reading), a nap, a cozy meal, and time for a board game and a long read aloud session. We are reading Heidi, which fits our mountain days nicely. While we do school, the little boys play outside in the snow. Tonight, I brushed out and braided my daughters’ hair after their showers.
I feel present to my children in a way that I have not been since they were really little. At home, we have a rich, full life, with friends and commitments, activities and appointments. All of that is wonderful, and privileged, but it can be exhausting. Our life takes us away from the dinner table and the fireside, and so here we are, recharging.
There is a lot of adrenaline and exhilaration in our weekday ski mornings – there are no lift lines, and my children are excellent skiers, so it is huge fun to just rip it up with them. Last Friday, as we were getting on the lift with my mother, the lift-op said “the family that shreds together, stays together.” While my mother questioned her shredding creds, she was keeping up, and it was all pretty awesome. We also think that the family that prays together stays together, and my son has set an alarm for noon so that we pray the Angelus together on the mountain each day.
For all of my life, I have felt closest to God in the mountains. When I look at the huge blue sky, and the sun off the snow is so bright that I can barely see, and I fly down the slope, I am totally certain that this life cannot be a vast molecular coincidence.