Friday, October 19, 2007

Unschooling

“Did we do school today?” I had to ask myself this question because it was another crazy day with my five little darlings. Of course, this was the week I didn’t even write my lesson plans. Every night I planned to write the next day’s lessons, but we managed to trudge through without any real planning. I decided that I would eventually go back and write them anyway, so our accomplishments would look good on paper.
This morning, we were getting ready to feed our outside cats when my oldest child, Rachel triumphantly announced, “Tiger had her kittens!” “Are you sure?” my husband, David inquired. And, yes, she was sure as Tiger, who we renamed Tiger Lily when we discovered she was going to have kittens the first time, was indeed smaller around her middle. We watched from the window as David went to the barn to try to find Tiger’s kittens. He came out holding up three fingers. Tiger had three sweet little kittens. My husband left for work and Rachel was ready to dart out to the barn when I requested that she change into her clothes and a coat and shoes first. Jonathan got ready to join his sister and then, Hannah awoke and joyfully told me that she still had her Happy Meal toy! She knew that we were not pleased with the toy, which appeared to be a teenage doll with skimpy tight clothes on rollerblades. She was so happy to find that the little doll hadn’t disappeared mysteriously like all the other Happy Meal toys! When Hannah heard of the kittens, she changed, too and before I knew it, my oldest three were out the door.
By this time, I had fed my almost two year old son, Stephen and Mary, our latest addition born three months ago. Mary went back to bed and I cleaned the kitchen and prepared breakfast for my outside adventurers. They all came in and gave me the details as they ate and as Rachel made her toast, I heard her humming of an Irish tune performed by the Chieftains. I found the song on our computer and made a play list of Irish music to enjoy as the kids finished their chores. Little Stephen promptly toddled to the sunspot in our kitchen and danced and giggled and soon, the other children joined him. I retrieved the rhythm instruments and soon they were all dancing, singing, banging and clanging together. “Okay, that was Music”. I made a mental note that I had cleverly completed at least one subject for the day!
We all gathered in our living room as I read from the Bible in I Peter. We worked on our memorization of the Beatitudes, prayed for our country of the week, asked for the Lord’s blessing on our day and sang praise songs. We ended by saying our pledges to the American and Christian flags and to the Bible. Our devotional time was not unlike many other mornings of, “Sit down! Keep your hands to yourself! Jonathan, move to the other side of the couch. Both of you, share that blanket….wait, give that blanket to me! Hannah, move to the other couch. Rachel, get that Bible away from Stephen. Jonathan, don’t wave that flag. You’re going to poke someone! Kids, you can sit still for a couple of minutes to pray! Mommy, they’re not closing their eyes!” But, all in all, it was a good devotional time.
I wanted a shower and didn’t want the kids to be idle, so I popped in a Moody Science video, gave strict instructions that the children watch the video and their brother, Stephen and strapped Mary in her bouncy seat to take her with me to the bathroom. I enjoyed a few minutes of bliss as the water streamed through my hair. My little one cooed from her seat, but alas, showers must come to an end. I dreamt to myself, “The kids will be sitting peacefully in front of their video speaking to each other about the interesting life of the sloth” and then, I woke up from my daydream. The sound of stomping feet and loud giggling resounded outside my bedroom, but when I opened the door, the kids dove onto the couch with innocent expressions on their faces as I surveyed the damage. The toys were scattered. The couch cushions were all on the floor. I was given a brief synopsis about the video and realized that they had probably learned something. Subjects covered: Mathematics- How many minutes does it take to clean up the mess? Art-What primary color does Mommy’s face change to when she’s really mad? Architecture-block towers built, forts made of cushions. Physical education-running and jumping. Childcare techniques-watching a toddler…well, sort of. Espionage-sneaking around while Mommy is away and oh, yes…science. We must not forget about the interesting life of Mr. Sloth.
The rest of the morning, we managed to squeeze in a Spelling and Math test. We studied grammar, practiced handwriting and read books. “A noun is the name of a person, place, thing or idea” was buzzing through my head as the lunch hour followed and before I knew it, it was time for the kids to have their quiet time in their rooms while I tried to get the babies to nap. Sometimes, I’m able to get them both to bed and sometimes, not. Today?...Well, I don’t remember. But, I think I closed my eyes for ten minutes!
Not wanting the kids to be loud in the house and knowing that the fresh air was good for them, I sent Rachel, Jonathan, and Hannah outside to play. I soon heard the familiar sound of our neighbor’s tractor putting up the road. I thought he would turn into his pasture, but instead, Marwood came up the drive. He finally found some time to cut the tall grass that our riding mower couldn’t handle. I instructed the kids to stay in their outside fort, which they had named; “Terabithia” and they could watch Marwood from a safe place. “Old McMarwood had a tractor, Eee-eye Eee-eye Ooh!” Boy, I hope he never hears the songs we make up. And, now I remember. Stephen wouldn’t go to sleep as long as there was a tractor to watch.
Soon, my dear husband would be coming home and I was thankful that I had some leftover spaghetti to serve for dinner. I know… the true gourmet meal. But, hey, it beats macaroni and cheese, even if it is organic. And, anyway, that would be tomorrow night’s meal.
As I began to clear the table and prepare the dinner, I started thinking about that new nursing top I purchased a few days before that went so well with a pretty skirt I had. Stephen was taking a late nap and Mary was also sleeping, so I had few minutes to change, comb my hair, apply some make up and spray a little perfume when I heard David’s car arrive. Of course, as soon as David walked in, the older kids were so excited to see him that the noise awoke the babies! At the same moment, David and I entered the nursery from different doors to comfort the little ones. It was dark, so he did not notice that I had dressed up, but when I walked to the living room to feed Mary, I was noticed. At that moment, I wished that I had arranged for a babysitter, so that we could go on a date. It still was nice to feel beautiful for him at home!
Later that evening, the kids were in bed and I was picking up some of our clothes from our second closet, our garden bath tub, when I suddenly had the urge to smell David’s sweaters and hold them close to me. I closed my eyes and remembered a time that I did that very thing every night. Those long months when he was in the Navy and out to sea. It seemed so long ago. We did not have children then, and I had time to ponder how much I loved him. How much he loved me. We were so young and immature and yet, I had time to think only of him. I began to cry and held his sweaters even closer. “Lord, forgive me for taking David for granted. I only have him for a little while. Even if we do grow old together, there are so many days that I don’t show how much I appreciate or love him.” It was time to dry my eyes and return to the living room where David joined me for a cup of tea. We talked and shared about our tiring day and went to bed. Our love is not exceedingly romantic, but it is steadfast. It’s that love that God has given us, to stick it out during these kid years and beyond.
My home school day had come to an end. I survived another challenging day and I had learned some things as did my children. “Thank You God, for this family. Thank You for these precious children and my sweet husband. Goodnight, Lord.”

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