Notes at the End of a Long School Year

Finished up the last exam for school yesterday, which probably explains why I’m so tired I can barely open my eyes today–the inevitable mental, emotional, and physical crash at the concluding moment of a long year. Now I have to muster some remaining energy to write my final reports and then I’ll be done.

Read a good article that I can’t, of course, find anywhere now, about how homeschooling has become hijacked by the craziness that drives regular school culture forward. It looked back on a nostalgic past when pioneer homeschool mothers educated their children without shiny curriculum and knew the balance between rigorous study and living regular life. (I am paraphrasing my impressions so don’t quote me.)

And, I would say, that’s probably very true. Most homeschoolers I know, including me myself, are harried, stressed, anxious, and sure they are doing a bad job. I have yet to meet a homeschooler who thinks she is adequately hitting all her subjects and is having a good time doing it. Thus the proliferation of blogs and blog posts promising the single trick of the mind that will make everything wonderful–Homeschooling With Beauty, Rest, Confidence, Joy, Delight–any good thing, really, that will overcome what is the substance of many homeschool days. That list for me would be Panic, Irritation, and Oh My Word You Have To Do This Math Right Now.

The author seemed to indicate that we should do our best to recover what was lost in the original homeschool movement. They didn’t try to replicate a school day, and neither should we. They did what was best for their children, and so should we. They had faith that what they were doing was good, and that faith carried them through. God was provident.

And, for real, I am not going to argue that last point. God is certainly provident. He gives readily wisdom to the one who asks. When you lean on him, he does carry you along day by day. No question. No argument.

But, because of course there is a but, I don’t think it’s entirely the fault of homeschoolers that they are so stressed. I don’t think I’m going out and trying to make things more difficult for myself by replicating school. I may feel a lot of panic but I don’t act on it. My homeschool days are orderly and calm. I don’t (any longer) fling curriculum aside when it doesn’t seem like it’s working this particular second. I have found materials I like and I go through them in a calm, rational way. We have a pleasant balance between study and living life. We go to the library and read books out loud.

But all the time that I am doing what I believe to be best–what is good and right for the children in their individual needs and capacities–there are always these two storm clouds threatening my every moment. One cloud is the judgement of other people, both real and imagined (thanks Internet, for all the stress you give me day by day). And the other cloud is the encroaching state.

The first cloud storms and rages because of human nature in general, and my own fallen nature in particular. I look at the worst of what I am doing and compare it to everybody else’s best and conclude that I have failed and I might as well go climb in a hole. I might be doing a fine job, but subjective hysterical insecurity clouds any objectivity that cowers in the back recesses of my broken personality. When Matt tells me that I’m a good mother and I’m doing a good job, I implore him to stop lying to me and tell me the truth. It doesn’t occur to me that he might be right. The toxic combination of my own insecurity and everybody else’s glorious lives (the true substance of which I can’t actually see) keep me from ever being really happy. Which is ok, because I basically enjoy being unhappy.

The second storm cloud is scarier because it’s not just a game I play in my mind. Anyone with any sense at all can see where this culture and its political system are headed. It’s fine to chatter on about the providence of God, but sometimes the providence of God includes the judgement of principalities and powers. And sometimes judgement includes God letting people do what they want. And in America right now, what people in power want is for little children to be molded and fashioned to hate God. So, I say to myself every day, I live in Babylon. God has brought me here and told me to plant my garden and tend my vine. And, having no literal vine (well, I did have one but I killed it) I must occupy myself with growing and nurturing the minds of my children, like so many olive shoots around my table. If I am stressed it is because I feel the great tide against which I am swimming, or even just trying to stand up and not be swept away. I can stand there and trust God, but my heart is always in my throat.

And so I don’t think I can go back and recover what was once so lovely, because we corporately are in a darker more troubling place. If homeschoolers are trying to be extraordinarily rigorous, staying ahead of the curve and ship shape in all their doings, I think it’s because intuitively they understand that lots of people are looking at them. And some of the looks are not particularly friendly.

And yet, and yet, God really is provident. He really does give what is needed. In the swirling darkness of fear and anxiety, he does give to the one who asks. And, even when you forget to ask because you’re in a screaming panic, even then he gives abundantly–both what you need and then forgiveness for all your failings. It is because of his great cloud of providence, pushing back the darkness and the trouble, that I’m grateful we got through the year and already looking forward to the interesting books and work we have waiting for us in the fall.

Here’s a picture of me tired and relieved after a bunch of testing.

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