And the hearts and minds and struggles and strengths and loves and dislikes of each.
I love knowing that I know them. I intimately know them in ways and intricacies that I have always longed to.
I know the dimples in chins that deepen when hearts are furious. I know the exact opposing angles of the new set of front teeth showcased in a blistering grin. I know the swollen knots on left hand middle fingers from tight pinches to the pencil during afternoon cursive. I know that lunch choices are preferred in the moment instead of packed the night before. I know laying down with books downloaded on devices are more exciting to read. I know the difference between music demanded to be practiced and music that flows from fingers itching for a break from math. I know the laughter of history studied together and the tears from too much time with siblings.
And much of that has been gained from spending almost every waking moment of their lives with them for the past eight to twelve years. Mornings of greeting the sun and the day together over breakfast and then gathering at the kitchen table or living room couch with lessons or sprawling on our bellies with the trampoline spread beneath and books under our noses. Afternoons of swimming or ice-skating or field tripping or arts exploration or lessons pounded out on piano or fingers whistling dixie over guitar strings.
I have had the privilege and luxury of being their mama and teacher for full days of their lives. It is a gift I haven't taken for granted and one I continue to cherish as my single greatest gift of motherhood.
All of that changed a month ago.
After an unexpected pregnancy and a rough first trimester while facing an incredible life change in less than nine months, I realized I needed a break. A break not from instructing my children and taking an active role in their education but from being their primary teacher. I knew that this school year would be my last moments of normalcy preceding a new, challenging season of raging hormones and infancy. With added health concerns and a hi-risk expectancy for this gestational period, I knew it was time to put me at the top of the to-do lists. The recognition that something had to give was fostered not so much from being concerned about my kids falling behind academically but more an admission that I couldn't rise to the level of excellence and stimulation I wanted for my kids' education and knowing that there was another alternative...
At the end of November, we put our kids into the public school.
With raging peace and a tentative confidence, we switched the mainframe of our children's education from home to traditional school. Each child has adjusted remarkably and have found their unique place in the social construct of their classes. We have already found enormous benefits to their experience in a classroom as well as affirmed advantages to their time spent at home. We applaud certain advancements in their understanding while recognizing other homeschool methods as superior.
It is not the perfect system. Neither was our school at home.
Since our experience no longer includes one view through the schoolhouse windowpane, I have found myself a more willing advocate of choice in education. Though never a strident homeschool evangelist, I was proud of our choice and never reluctant to share the triumphs or tears of our experience.
We never believed that teaching your children at home was mandated by God or parental love. We never believed we were providing a superior bubble of existence or experience.
We kept our kids home not to shelter them but to savour them. We have never hid the realities of life from them or filtered their relationships. We haven't spared them details of ideaologies different or contrary to our family's held beliefs. We kept them home to spend time with them. We kept them home for more snuggles and whispered midday confidences. We kept them home because I wanted to teach them to read and write. I wanted to be their teacher as my career choice. And so we have. Savoured them right up and nibbled on their arms wrapped around our necks...just shy of gobbling them up whole.
We kept our kids home not to protect them but to prepare them. Our intention was never, ever to shelter them or because of fears of evil lurking in elementary halls. And trust me, I'm well aware of real evils that do exist within school walls. We just wanted more time together. More time to equip them individually instead of relying on a system to blindly test them for their weaknesses and strengths. We wanted to excavate their hearts and minds and have the freedom to choose how best to construct a framework of education and life lessons easily understood by each. We wanted to prepare the soil of each of their soft hearts to combat evil and courageously stand for good.
We send our kids now to school not to be evangelists but to live missionally.A lot of public school advocates say they send their kids to school to be diminutive David Livingstones or beardless Billy Grahams. Homeschoolers renounce this agenda as being premature and devastating to fledgling faith. We say that we send our kids to be kids. Kids with a foundation of our faith but kids who already know that our neighborhood is filled with kids from Muslim, Jehovah Witness, Hindu, and atheistic households, homes with weektime tv privileges or access to underage facebook, some with a mom and a dad, some with a mom and grandma and grandpa, and some with a mom and a mom, and still others whose parents drive vehicles with bumper stickers in support of US presidents! - in short, kids different from them. And we demand that our children don't pull up a soapbox next to any of their classmates and whip out a book detailing what God has to say. We remind them not to climb a pulpit on their way to the front of the class to present their views on saving the whales. Their mission, if they choose to accept it, is to love their neighbor as themselves. What their classmates need is a kind friend with a home always open to young guests, not an enemy staking out their theological territories on the blacktop. What their classmates have to offer are differences that challenge and those in turn cause our own kids to question and to grow.
So we've sent our kids out to school. Even we don't know the length or full panorama of this season. But we still believe in going home to school because there are still lessons aplenty that only mama and papa can teach - whether it be all day long or in the morning and evening hours before and after classes at the red brick schoolhouse up the road.
//these are our official back home to school pictures taken in August 2013. better late than never, yeah? :)