My thoughts after this evening’s book study meeting…

Another evening with five ladies and Miss Mason’s philosophies on education. We discussed curriculum, and the wideness of the range of ideas brought to the children. We discussed science and math and how to keep the children from getting bogged down by technicalities. We discussed hanging works of art in our bathrooms. We discussed loving music and hating it, loving history and hating it. I think we are all agreed that we homeschool partly because we like how much we’re learning. It’s like we’re making up for those awful history textbooks, those hours of sitting in desks doing nothing, those teachers who did not inspire us the way good books do now.

I don’t think we’re really doing this for ourselves. We all have strong convictions about home education being good for our children. But I do know that my selfishness could extend in two branches, one desiring a quiet chunk of time during school hours for my personal writing and housework, the other desiring to teach things that I really enjoy. Either way, I’m certain my children would survive. Homeschooling isn’t really about survival, at least not in my case. It’s about making a choice to lead my children down a certain path which I believe is better than the other paths available.

It is God’s grace that the good path to lead them down is one I also enjoy to walk.

Gilead

There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.

— from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, 2004

This is my second time through Gilead, and I pulled far more out of it than the first time. I think it helps to read Home first. This particular quote is near the end. It struck me as encouraging. Sometimes it’s difficult just to find a reason to keep going. We come up empty when we search for one, and then we have to trust that God has reasons we know nothing about. And even if God has only one reason for me to be living right here, right now, then that reason is sufficient. There’s no reason to flee the scene. No reason to hide. No reason to not get up in the morning.

Waiting

Waiting by Gyula Zorkoczy (1873-1932)
Waiting by Gyula Zorkoczy (1873-1932)

A devotional book I picked up last night spoke exactly to the sore spots in my heart. God is enough. God has done everything for me, and of course He is going to help me today. Of course He will help me tomorrow. Of course He will keep helping me, whenever I need help. If I am a lonely person waiting on a quiet roadside or a lonely person waiting in the midst of loud people, God is already there with me.

Sometimes I think theology could be as simple as that. God is enough and He is near.

Beginning Five In A Row

After fifteen weeks of school, my first-grader went from “I love school” to “School is boring. I’m bad at it.” So I decided Ambleside Online is not really working for her. It wasn’t too hard to decide what to do instead. When all my kids were preschool I used a booklist from the curriculum called Five In A Row. That excellent booklist had been on my mind. I did a little research on Five In A Row, discovered it was a literature-based unit study approach to homeschool, read a very positive review by Diana Waring (who writes homeschool articles I read almost every week), and ordered a fairly inexpensive copy of the Volume 2 teacher manual. It is very flexible. You can choose the order you do things.

I chose to read a book we already owned first. It is Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully. I was a little apprehensive about the repeated readings (read the same book five days in a row) because that is very much NOT something Charlotte Mason would approve of. This style of schooling does feel very different from Ambleside Online. Whereas AO gives a feast of many great things, FIAR feels more like a cozy, intimate family meal. Conversational. Familiar.

It’s too soon to tell is FIAR is going to improve my daughter’s attitude toward learning, but I’m enjoying it even though it’s a little more daily work on my part. After all, this had been my third year of AO Year 1, and I was struggling to keep up the enthusiasm, too. I’m still using AO for my third and second-grader, who respond well to it. I think my second-grader does well to be right in the middle and nosy about everyone else’s business. She benefits from that wide range of learning. I hope we all benefit from adding a new curriculum into the school day.

Setting Thoughts Loose

Normally I like to tie my thoughts together, find connections, make tight little packages out of them. Tonight I’d rather set some things loose.

I trimmed my daughters’ hair today. They have beautiful hair. One golden-brown and naturally highlighted with streaks of blonde. The other almost white-blonde, very straight, very complementary of her eye and skin color. Both of them have thin hair, and also very fine, which makes it difficult to keep in any sort of style, but who cares? Lovely hair is lovely hair.

A nearby barn burned down today. The wind chill is below zero. I wonder how it felt to be a firefighter. Did they feel the flame-heat or the cold-burn? Did the water spray all over and make icicles on their helmets? They dosed the remains of the barn more than usual because of the dry, cold weather. Will it be ashy ice by morning?

What can I do to make my kids want things less? They seem so discontent. If I give them a nice treat to go with our poetry tea time, they wish they could have more of it. It seems if I give them anything, it simply reminds them of something else they don’t have but wish they did have. I spend so much time saying No to them. It doesn’t seem nice, any way I look at it. I think they just talk too much. How do I tell them they need to keep their mouths shut without opening my own?

We’re studying Hosea in Ladies’ Bible study. I think it is the most uncomfortable book of the Bible. Give me Song of Songs any day. I’ll talk about that much more than Hosea.

I recently finished an uncomfortable but very suspenseful novel which takes place in 17th century Amsterdam. It’s called The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (2014). The main character, Nella, really blossoms throughout the book, and I love the importance of responsibility and loyalty in the book’s themes. She loves her husband in much the same way Hosea loved Gomer. But it turns out differently in the end. Actually, I don’t think we know how the story of Hosea and Gomer turns out. There is no end. Just a prophecy.

Loyalty is a powerful thing. So is integrity. A person could find her whole life built upon those qualities. It is very disappointing when someone you are loyal to is not as equally loyal in return. But integrity stops you from doing anything about that disappointment. And, of course, it is disquieting to realize that God is more loyal to me than I am to Him.

Disquieting is a quiet word. It fades into a silence. But the silence is ungentle. Quiet and gentle have a lot to do with one another.

That’s enough for now. If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me. I don’t think my posts will often be like this. I still prefer short and to the point.

Sombreness Sunlit

Sombreness Sunlit by Emily Carr, 1938-1940
Sombreness Sunlit by Emily Carr, 1938-1940

Emily Carr is a Canadian artist from British Columbia. Some of her paintings display totem poles native to her homeland, and I like those, but this painting swept me up in its wind of light. Everything is so strong: the light, the wind, the trees, the ground. This is about a country that stands firm and a light so tenacious it rides on the wind. I’m trying to imagine how a person would look in the picture, but it’s not meant for small things.

Home

In some ways this has been a good year. I read lots of books. Some of them were good, even great. I wrote some small things and got them published. I kept up this blog, which is a writing exercise in itself, keeping myself from going rusty.

In other ways, this has been a bad year. I feel some sympathies with the two main characters in Marilynne Robinson’s Home (2008)A prodigal son (Jack) returns home and bonds with his sister (Glory) who also returned home after a failed marriage. They are taking care of their dying father. In the scene I’m about to quote, Jack has just attempted to go to church and backed out at the last minute. He came home to find Glory giving Papa a haircut, and so Jack asks for one, too.

“I’m going to trim around your ears. I’ve got to get it even.”

He crossed his ankles and folded his hands and sat there obediently while she snipped at one side and then the other. She tipped up his face again to judge the effect. There were tears on his cheeks. She took a corner of the towel and patted them away, and he smiled at her.

“Exasperation,” he said. “I’m so tired of myself.”

Me, too. But what else is there to do, but be myself all day, everyday? I can be polite and distant like Jack, cautious to let anyone be involved with my tiresome self. I can be good and careful and quiet like Glory, keeping my true story tucked away, quietly reading my Bible in moments of peace, crying a lot. This book packs a lot of pent-up emotion.

So here’s a pent-up hurrah for the new year. May it be good for God, and may God give us the grace to make it through each day.