The Marathon of Education

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A little over a week ago, I was in Napa, California working on a personal goal of mine that had very little to do with homeschooling. I set off without the children or my husband for something for me. At first glance, it seems selfish to the world to leave my children, spend money on a trip, and create memories that don't include them. Like all parents, my life is woven so intricately with theirs. Every day, I'm with them- fretting over long and short vowel lessons, kissing and bandaging boo boos, keeping track of the expensive cochlear implant that allows my six year old to hear, preparing food twenty million times a day, and creating a home that is a safe place from the rest of the world in hopes that they can grow up a bit slower and sturdier. The pressure is often so heavy, yet I know I'm up for the task. I look down and see these hands that accomplish very much. The tasks don't seem grand and certainly aren't valued by many, but they're of utmost importance to some and I consider it a great honor to be able to do what I do.

So when I hear the comments about homeschooling, about children as a secondary goal, or anything along those lines, the words grate on my heart. It's insulting. Most don't support our decision to learn at home and that's okay. I make a mental note to address those topics directly when my kids wonder why people quiz them on various topics or they overhear someone asking why they can't read yet, why they aren't in school during the day, or joking that we're hardly providing them with an education. While it may be hurtful to hear, these remarks are reminders to fold in on my family of six and to remember what we are building here in our home and "school." Their education is not what they can do, what facts they can rattle off, or how successful they are at some standard set by someone who doesn't know them. They are people. Already. They have vast interests and talents and dislikes. It's not up to me to force likes upon them. It's obvious because math is Chinese to me, but I would never let my kids know it. They ask to do math every day. Children are eager to learn when you find out what they're interested in and what they're ready to learn in their own time. These hands of mine place a feast in front of them daily. We are surrounded by classical art, music, and nature study. We use games, baking, and unmatched socks to practice math concepts. They learn conflict resolution by being with their siblings all day and our togetherness is building conversation skills and so much love. We sit down and read aloud together every single day. We are not building children, but an atmosphere of a love of learning that I hope lasts their whole lives long. My hope for them is not to go out into the world and blend into it. I want them to live in the world, set apart through their identity in Christ- to be the people that God created them to be. Part of my job is to learn who my kids are and aim to teach them individually and accordingly. Yes, it's a huge undertaking and these hands do very much.

I've got to believe that when my mom held me as baby she didn't look down at me and think, "Yes, this child will have such a clean home when she grows up. My hope for her is that she makes a lot of money. She'll know fractions better than any fourth grader there is and she'll grow up to know the periodic table of elements in her sleep." No, I'd be willing to bet that what she wanted for me was so much more than that and so much less at the very same time.
These hands, which are sorely lacking some attention to them with their outgrown nail polish and their sticky jelly smudges, are working all the time. I'm spending time with my children and they're learning through love and experience. My thoughts drift back to the hands that helped to shape me in the same ways- my step-dad teaching me to read, my dad helping me learn to drive, my mother endlessly modeling selflessness, the quality time, strategy, and math aid I got when my Mimi played Yahtzee with me as a child gathered around the table my great grandfather made, the delight my Papaw displays when he tells stories of me as a child reminding me that time together has been the greatest blessing. I see my Nen at my slumber parties passing down the incredible gift of storytelling. I see long conversations with my Aunt Karmen and Aunt Alyson about raising children, special needs, and education and I'm reminded how much other people love my little people and me, too. There are countless others.
There are more important things than knowing all the vowels by three years old. When these children are grown, I want them to be able to feel all the hands that held them. I want them to look back on our time here learning at home and know that their mother cared to show them the beauty in poetry and laundry, in routine and freedom, in school and home. While I was in Napa, I ran a marathon. I feel like learning at home is a marathon, too. I can't set my kids off on a sprint with that distance and expect them to finish strong. We must find a pace that's steady for each of them and not worry about what anyone else is doing. 
Our end goals are likely different than everyone else, too. 

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