Monday, April 30, 2018

Every Good Endeavor

This spring I am reading through Tim Keller's Every Good Endeavor with a few other people. I haven't finished the book yet, but I highly recommend it even with a few more chapters to go. Especially helpful and thought provoking to me was chapter four on work as service. In it Keller writes, "But the gospel frees us from the relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity through work, for we are already proven and secure. ... All work now becomes a way to love the God who saved us freely, and by extension, a way to love our neighbor.” 

 I don't entirely grasp this yet beyond head knowledge. Being freed from the relentless pressure of having to prove myself -not actually 100% there yet. Yes, I know in Jesus I am proven and secure, but in the day to day things of life I find myself battling the desire to prove myself, especially in my line of work. I have to "prove myself" because if I don't, what proof will there be that my work matters?

 Proving myself in this stage of life looks different than it did a decade or so ago. There is no paycheck. There is no ladder to climb. There aren't scholarly journals about motherhood. (Are there?) There is just me often wanting the less sophisticated labor I do to be noticed, forgetting that for much of Jesus' time on earth He went about without anyone noticing, just being a carpenter. How can doing laundry be a way to love God? How can driving to OT appointments be a way to love God? I'm still trying to figure it out. I find myself cranky on a Sunday evening for things not going the way I wanted them to go in my week, in my day. I feel the need to attempt to prove myself more often than I find myself remembering I am secure in Christ.

I don't remember feeling this struggle as much when I was a classroom teacher. Sure, I felt unappreciated by certain parents or students, or even sometimes certain co-workers. Maybe some of those feelings were balanced out by tangible evidence of what my job did and did not include. Maybe it is different these last almost nine years because before there was an actual going to work and a time at the end of the day I would come home, even if I brought work home with me to grade.  

Now someone depends on me, well two someones, but one depends on me for almost all of his care. I have spent the last year filling out the paperwork, answering therapist and doctor questions, rehashing how far my son has come and how far he still has to go. Our Arizona providers have not seen the six years of work we have put in with other doctors and therapists. Every one of these new visits feel like a time where I have to prove myself - as his mother, as his teacher, as his caretaker. Not once have I been affirmed by a professional here during one of these very hard appointments this year that what I do every day has made a difference. I do hear it from friends and loved ones, but still inside there is this battle of wanting to prove I am enough. Am I enough for my sons? Am I enough for my family? Am I enough for myself? Am I enough for God? And honestly, I am not enough and never can be, and that is a hard thing to say because if I am not enough, then who or what will be?

And the Sunday school answer of course is Jesus. And the good news is that Jesus is more than the parroted back Sunday school answer. I suck at remembering that. I took communion today - just about thirteen hours ago - a tactile reminder that Jesus is enough - but here I am just a short time later wanting it all to be about me. Trying to prove myself through my work, through my parenting, through anything at all will only lead to frustration and grief because in trying to prove myself I often intentionally or unintentionally demand that others appreciate me, which sets up a vicious cycle of sadness and disappointment. 

I don't have a checklist for how to face my Monday better than I faced my Sunday afternoon. It's not as simple as that because I am a flawed human living in a house and a community of other flawed humans. But I am going to come back to this truth - help me come back to this truth, Jesus - that You have freed me from the need to prove myself, and the work I do, both seen and unseen, can be done out of love for You and out of that love for You, done in love for my neighbor, my husband, my kids, as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

wandering through homeschooling

I don't write very much about homeschooling on this blog. I don't write very much about anything lately. Life is full and good, but it is also challenging. I have so many thoughts in my head, and some of them I jot down and post on Facebook or Instagram, but mostly the thoughts remain in my head because as my children have left the little kid stage of life and are in the school age stage of life, it becomes hard to discern at times what to share and what to keep for just our nearest and dearest. I don't have any concrete answers yet on the what to share question.

What I will share is that we are in our last term of our fourth year of homeschooling. We re-evaluated homeschooling when we moved to Arizona because there are so many more options available to us here than there were in Missouri in terms of schooling - at least there are for Bubby. There are public schools, charter schools, private schools, hybrid schools, online schools, or continuing to homeschool. Theoretically most of those options are available for Bug as well, but in reality, his options remain public or home school. It is something as an educator, as a believer, as a school choice advocate, and as a special needs parent that annoys me - how little options there really are for someone who lacks fine motor skills and the ability to communicate in the same way as his peers. But I suppose that is a post for another day.

We have ten weeks of school curriculum left, and for the first time in our homeschooling years, we will be schooling through the month of June. We discovered June is the nastiest month here, so I don't want to waste taking time off during that month. We will stay inside, in the air conditioning, with our books and notebooks, and we have taken time off at other points in the calendar. The grace to have a modified year-round schedule is one of the perks of educating in this way. Four weeks off at a time is about all my children or I need or can handle.

During this 2017-2018 school year I feel like I have learned so much about what works for us in terms of education as well as have gotten into a pretty good groove on how to apply it. I am always learning. Every week it seems I read or hear something that just adds another piece of the puzzle, as I learn how to tweak the way we do nature study or how to substitute a book that actually works for my child for a book that was recommended by a curriculum guru. We have learned that easing into our morning with books or audiobooks or a bit of free play before we really sit down is what works best for us these days. We also need to be done most days around one o'clock for optimum attention. I have learned that I still don't know how to sew, even though Bubby has learned a few things about it this year, and that is okay. Babushka can sew, and therefore I will outsource more of those lessons to her when she comes to visit. I have learned that we thrive on flexibility with specific end goals - meaning we can adjust our day or week for appointments or times in nature as long as during the week or month or term we do what we said we would do in terms of learning, milestones, and development.

I have been blessed to meet so many new homeschooling families in the last year. Many have been through the Charlotte Mason group, but some have also been non CM families in a co-op. Through all of these families and conversations with moms I have learned many things. What works for one family might not work for another, and that is okay. Every family has strengths and challenges, and we need each other. Not everyone has a child with a disability, but there are other things that other families struggle with. It is important to have grace to give one another. It is important to encourage one another, to challenge one another, and to even have boundaries with one another. Different seasons need different things, and there is grace for each season and each need.

My books have started arriving for August already. The teacher in me is ready to dive into the next thing, and forget what we still have left to accomplish. But that is unwise and unnecessary. In the remaining two and a half months, I still have goals and methods to try. I am going to add more math games into our week. I have learned there is more than one way to keep a nature journal, and so I will be sharing what I have learned with my kids. There are books to finish reading, and one book at least that will carry over into the summer. We have new occupational therapy goals for Bug, and we have swim lessons to persevere through and hopefully enjoy. The weather is still decent enough to get outside regularly before we hide away for a few months in artificial coolness. There is no Charlotte Mason judge coming around to see how the remainder of our school year is going. There is peace in knowing this - in applying the principles to what practices make sense for our family. There is grace for making education an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life in this home in this season. We have wandered a bit inside and outside the lines to get here, and I know some wandering is still ahead. But I am excited about the remaining weeks instead of counting down the days till July, and that is a gift for which I am thankful.