Sunday, September 30, 2012

Slowing Down

My friend Sophia made the comment the other day that sometimes she's so busy homeschooling that she's never home to homeschool. For the uninitiated that makes zero sense, but for others that statement is met with an immediate head nod and maybe a heavy sigh.

Homeschooling isn't just about worksheets and reading. There are many facets to it. For moms of little ones, there are the weekly play-dates, Children's Theater and field trips. For olders, the options are endless. And exhausting. Co-op, driver's ed, dance class, music lessons, tutoring sessions, Key Club, sports, and on and on and on...

Last year I almost drove myself into the ground. Literally. I was putting about 500-600 miles per WEEK on my van. No joke. Monday: music lessons. Tuesday: Biology. Wednesday: church. Thursday: co-op for the youngers. Friday: Biology lab. Saturday: football. Sunday: church. Start over. We never had two consecutive days at home to just school.

I learned something though. I learned that it can be done. We finished school books. We accomplished our goals. But it wore me out and almost broke the bank when gas prices skyrocketed.

This year we're trying something different. Mondays are crazy full. We have English Co-op, Anatomy class, piano and ballet, all in the same day. But then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are at home. Friday we have the youngers' co-op. One tank of gas per week. Oh yeah.

It is hard to decide what activities to do and what not to do. I wish I could whip out my handy dandy formula that tells you exactly how to find the right balance. Heck, I wish I had a formula like that. But it's not like that. Homeschooling is, many times, trial and error. You hardly ever get it right the first time. Or the second.

I have to remember (or be reminded by my sweet husband) that I don't have to do what others expect of me, just what is best for our kids. And I have to THINK. Be deliberate and thoughtful about what we do. Busyness for busyness' sake is exhausting and counterproductive. If in doubt, slow down.

Parenting Teenagers

Teachable moments with teenagers are rare and random. I was thinking of this as I painted Gracie's fingernails this afternoon and recounted to her tales of painting my nails during chapel when I was in high school. How must that have felt to my principal who was giving the devotional?... I remember maybe two or three talks from chapel.

I was subbing the kids' Sunday school class this morning and we talked about how we always watch our favorite movies over and over again. One little boy said that it was so we could examine them and understand them better. Or maybe it's just because we need repetition for us to ever remember anything!

We talk and talk and talk at our teenagers. Experts give us sure-fire strategies to get them to listen. We want to have that one movie-scripted, defining moment with our kids where they experience this huge epiphany and change their ways. But that's not how it works. When they're little we sing the ABC song ten times a day for months before they can sing it correctly, all by themselves. We remind them "chew with your mouth closed" and "put the seat down" and "wash with soap" and "no jumping on the furniture". We don't remember being told the same things over and over and over again as children. We think they should just know these things instinctively. I think the reason we don't remember it is because we were told so many times and taught so well, that it went very deeply into our core. We would never dream of jumping on the couch or not bathing with soap as adults!

Talking to teenagers requires the same endurance as training toddlers. We have to say it over and over in the hopes that it will one day go deep enough that something clicks. But we cannot give up and we should be encouraged, in a weird sort of way. I don't know about you, but I want the things I teach them to go to their spirit. I want the lessons I harp on about "loving your sister", "cleaning your room", and good hygiene to be a part of their lives.  I don't want instantaneous, superficial change. But Lord give me patience. It takes time.

Gospel training is just as difficult. Training my kids in grace means that I have really, really believe the Gospel myself. There are times when it feels like I'm screaming the gospel to my own heart. "I am completely known. I am completely loved. I am completely forgiven. I am completely righteous. By faith ALONE!" Over and over and over.

I forgot a meeting: Others opinions of me do not define me.
I committed that particular sin again: I am completely forgiven. Past, present, future.
I despise myself: I am completely loved and righteous.
Etc, etc.

If my own heart requires repetition, why do I think my teenagers hearts don't?