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An Ordinary Sabbath

It was just a typical and very ordinary Sunday, but today it was if my eyes were opened and I began to see what has always been there before me with new eyes, with greater insight, greater appreciation, and yes, with greater gratitude.

My husband and younger children left early since my son had some responsibilities to take care of in preparation for the meeting and since I would be staying later, we went in separate cars. As I arrived, I saw across the parking lot that Sister Schain had also just arrived and Hyrum was helping her with her wheelchair as others in the Butterfield family helped her to carry things in. I smiled as I waved a cheerful hello to them. I smiled because of course who could not smile to see a 12 year old boy cheerfully helping a sweet sister like that. I smiled because Sister Schain and the Butterfield family are all dear friends of mine. Memories of moments shared with them flashed through my mind. Serving with Myrlene in Relief Society. Rushing Susan to the hospital just in time to meet her husband there 20 minutes before their last child was born six (?) years ago. And I also smiled because my own children have often been the ones privileged to be the ones giving help with the wheelchair when we arrived just as Sister Schain was arriving.

As I walk into the building, I smile again and say hello to 10 year old Benjamin who is holding the door for me. I settle into my seat next to my family and we sing the opening hymn. Danielle is leading the music and though she is only 16, she leads the music with the easy confidence of someone much older and more experienced. There is a prayer and some announcements. A new family is welcomed into the ward. We all smile because the Freeman/Lewis family is not really new. They lived in our ward previously and have just moved back. 

We sing another hymn and the Sacrament is blessed and passed by our young men amid the reverent hush of people contemplating upon promises, prayers, and progress. This has grown to be my favorite part of the meeting. Each Sunday for the last 20 years, I have sat in this particular chapel to partake of the Sacrament. Before that, there were other chapels much like this one, such as the chapel of my childhood…where I was the wriggly child much like the one in the pew in front of me today. And though the chapels have changed, the spirit that I feel in my heart never changes. Over the years my family has changed as new children were born to us and as they have grown. And I have changed as I have, in these same pews, prayed and contemplated over challenges, blessings, and struggles…some my own, some those of friends and loved ones…and I have changed, and I have grown. Yes. This is my favorite part of the meeting, much like a touchstone to me which I keep coming back to week after week, each time finding myself changed in increments into something better…into someone more understanding of myself and of those around me…and hopefully into someone of greater use to those around me.

The mother in front of me, Lauren, sits with six children of various ages, at least two of them not her own. Lauren is somewhat new to our ward and I don’t yet know her well. I see that she has the two youngest Goodrum children with her. Lauren quietly helps her children to take the sacrament and keeps them busy with small activities. The youngest is a little more restless than the rest and walks back and forth across the pew. We smile and wink at him, retrieving the toy he has dropped.

And I remember when mine were that small.

Lauren’s little one wants to stand in the pew in front and she places him there where he walks down to Bro. Brown, who receives him with a smile and quietly takes him on his lap until the toddler tires of it and heads back to his mother. Beloved by all, Bro. Brown was just released after serving for a number of years as our Bishop in this ward. He now has another calling and Bro. Fortin is serving as our new Bishop.

As Lauren and those near her care with quiet acceptance for the needs of the toddler, we listen to those who have been asked to speak. Sam, the youth speaker for today, speaks with poise, humor, and understanding about obedience, particularly admonishing youth to be obedient to their parents and to the Lord. The next two speakers speak about choosing the right. I jot down a couple of notes which I want to remember and ponder on in the next couple of days. “You will move in the direction of your current most dominant thoughts.” And “You can only coast downhill.” Small thoughts but full of portent for my own needs in the coming week in which I can use some help in keeping focused on what matters most in my life as I seek to not be distracted by the trivial or false urgent things which tend to crop up and derail my efforts at living a Christ centered and meaningful life.

We then dismiss to attend our Sunday School classes as the youngest ones go to their Primary classes. Here the meeting is less formal and we actively discuss the lesson topic which is taught by Bro. McKinley, a long time member of our ward.

For the final meeting of the day, I head to meet with all of the young women in our ward where I am serving as one of the leaders. We meet first with all of the young women ages 12-18 and then divide into three classes by age. It is not my turn to teach, so I sit in as Sister Hermann teaches our small class of 12 and 13 year old girls, and as April signs for Darby who is deaf. April does not live in our ward and is a member in another ward, yet she gives up hours of her time and the opportunity to meet with her own ward in order to sign for Darby. She does this of her own free will and as a volunteer. In doing this she makes it possible for our girls to communicate more fully with each other and for Darby to receive and participate in the lesson.

Finally, with our regular church meetings over for the day, I send my family home as I meet with the other young woman leaders. None of us asked for our callings, but we each gladly…even joyfully… accepted the calling to serve and now we meet to discuss the needs of the young women. How can we strengthen them in their testimonies of Christ? How can we help them to place His teachings foremost and center in their lives? What is needed to help them to become good leaders?

As our meeting began, we learned that Lori who serves with us has been diagnosed with a stage four melanoma and will be having surgery this week. She slips into the meeting a little late looking like she needs a hug. After the meeting, there are hugs, a few tears, and words of encouragement along with promises of prayers for Lori in the coming week. We have been serving together for a short time, but have become quick friends.

I attend one more meeting this day. One of my students (from when I served in a different calling as a seminary teacher a number of years ago) is leaving next week to serve as a missionary for our church for the next 18 months. Before she leaves, she is speaking one last time in her ward…a sister congregation to my own ward which meets in the same building but at a different time. I attend to hear her speak and to give her a hug and tell her what a wonderful missionary she will make. I am so proud of her.

This Sacrament meeting is much like the one I attended a few hours ago, complete with a wriggly, yet obviously tired toddler who gets passed around among the patient adults sitting nearby until he finally falls asleep in his grandmother’s arms. This meeting is also different because it is the yearly Primary program in which the youngest of us (ages 3-12) put on the program with the songs they have learned in Primary over the course of the year. These sweet young ones, both the timid and the confident, also give short talks. The very youngest may speak only a line or two which they have carefully practiced. It is a wonderful program in which we adults can be taught in the spirit of  “a child shall lead them” if we only listen carefully with open hearts…which is so easy to do with children. In this particular program the more confident children seemed to outnumber the timid ones in the singing. There was even one sweet boy whom I’m sure is destined for opera. The final number was sung by the children with a counterpart by Danika, my former student, and one of our best tenors in the stake, Bro. Quinton. Beautiful, sweetly sung, and full of the spirit which I always feel in our meetings.

After the meeting, even though this was not my “home” ward or congregation, there was much fellowship and lots of hugs from friends whom I see less often because they meet in a different ward than I do.

So what was it that I found to be so suddenly extraordinary in this ordinary Sabbath? It is so hard to put into words, but I will try. I suddenly felt and recognized with new eyes this incredibly timeless sense of community amid the sweet spirit of worship that I have already so often recognized and felt. A sense of each person being there for the others. A recognition of each person serving in small and in larger ways. An acceptance of all from the smallest to the oldest…a recognition that though we each have our challenges and imperfections, we are all in this together. A feeling of “it takes a village”, but in the proper way…the way which recognizes the importance and preeminence of families even as we quietly do what we can to help, strengthen and uplift both individuals and families. And even as I saw with new eyes the things before me, I was also aware off the “things not seen”…the behind the scenes things that few people see and that we so often take for granted.

In a word, I saw charity in action at every turn. I saw acceptance and people who serve quietly and selflessly. And even with all of our personal imperfections, all together it becomes somehow perfect…a ward “family”.

A typical, ordinary, and very extraordinary ward family on a typical, ordinary, extraordinary Sabbath. There is no place I’d rather be on a Sunday morning or afternoon!

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Remembering 9/11. I’ve been pondering on this for most of the day. What are we to remember? And why? To what end? We each have our own personal memories of that fateful day. We can all remember where we were when we heard the news. We can all remember what we were doing. Most importantly, we all remember vividly how it made us feel…what our emotions and reactions were. And we all remember that things just didn’t seem to be the same for quite some time afterwards.

I remember how a nation…my nation, the land of my birth…turned to God and to prayer. I remember particularly the tolling of the bell on Temple Square a few days later when the president of our nation declared a National Day of Prayer and the leaders of my church presented devotional addresses and song in the historic tabernacle on Temple Square. I watched by television from my home far from Temple Square. The tolling of that bell brought a curious peace into my heart. I cannot tell why. I watched the video that was made of that devotional again today with my family. The tolling of that bell had the same peaceful effect upon me. I still cannot tell why. I do know that at that time, that devotional brought peace into my soul again. It grounded me and made me remember…there’s that word again…it helped me to remember the things that are most timeless and important in my life. My family, my God and religion, the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ. I suppose that the things I was remembering were not at all unlike those that Captain Moroni hoped to get his people to remember at a particularly troubling time in his own nation’s history (see Alma 46:12). Remembering these things brought me great peace.

What else do I remember? I remember the sacrifice of those heroes of that particular day; their disregard for their own lives as they sought to help the injured and dying. Their sacrifice is…as all such sacrifices are…a mirror of the great sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ. He who died that we all might live again…that we all might be reunited with our loved ones. Yes, I remember the heroes of that day…such sacrifice requires great reverence on our parts…we who remember.

I also remember the freedom and liberty of our country…and I remember others…other great men and women…our founding fathers and mothers who in like manner sacrificed so much that we might enjoy the freedom and prosperity which we daily enjoy. They were not concerned only with their own comforts and needs…no, they had much greater views and were willing to sacrifice their own comforts and needs…even their very lives…for those greater views…for us, their children. They have bequeathed to us a great legacy of liberty. Do we appreciate it? Do we protect and perpetuate it? What will be our legacy to our children and grandchildren?

Having studied the Old Testament, I remember the children of Israel. Their’s was a long history of remembering and forgetting. We are so much like them. It reminds me of another scripture from modern day revelation, “In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.” ( D&C 101: 8 ) Yes…we do that too…just like the children of Israel did anciently. We too have been promised over and over again in scripture that if we will turn to the Lord, we will prosper in the Land…but we so often forget.

The Father of our country counseled us in his farewell address,

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” (see George Washington’s Farewell Address).

I’ve heard a number of people comment on their memories of that day…how a nation seemed to pull together to comfort each other…and how a nation…our nation…also turned unashamedly to God and to prayer.

That is what I want to remember. That is what I want our nation to remember and to not forget. Love of God and of fellowman. (see Luke 10:27) Two quotes illustrate this for me today. Both are from the book One Bright Shining Hope by Gordon B. Hinckley.

“Each of us can do a little better than we have been doing. We can be a little more kind. We can be a little more merciful. We can be a little more forgiving. We can put behind us our weaknesses of the past and go forth with new energy and increased resolution to improve the world about us, in our homes, in our places of employment, in our social activities.”

Isn’t this one of the things that we all remember of that day? Isn’t this one of the things we seem to have forgotten? Let us remember again. And let our remembering motivate us to proper action.

This same prophet of God in these latter days has said,

“None of us is wise enough to make it on our own. We need the help, the wisdom, the guidance of the Almighty in reaching those decisions that are so tremendously important in our lives. There is no substitute for prayer. There is no greater resource.” (President Gordon B. Hinckley from his book One Bright Shining Hope). 

Prayer…no greater resource.

Yes, these are the things that I want to remember of that day…these are the things that I want to remind my children of…these are the things that I hope we will all remember.

RC

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I have been reading a wonderful book lately called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. This beautiful little book has inspired me to begin keeping a gratitude journal. If you are like me, you have also been blessed with numerous gifts and blessings in your life which often pass you by because you aren’t really paying attention. I suspect that in our rush-rush world, we can all benefit a bit from slowing down and taking note of the wonders and blessings in our lives. I’ve become convinced that we don’t really receive a gift or blessing until we’ve named it. (Ann Voskamp’s thoughts about naming have sent me on a whole “thought journey” of my own which I am not yet finished with.)

We are told in scripture that if we receive the gifts we are given….that is if we recognize and show gratitude for them, we will receive more. And if we continue not to receive…that is we fail to recognize and appreciate our blessings, then even that which we have shall be taken away (Matt. 13:12…also see D&C 88:33). How sad is that? How many blessings are sent my way each and every day, but I receive no benefit from them simply because I do not have eyes to see…I’m blind to those blessings. Being blind to them, it is as if they were never given…even that which I technically have has been taken away, so to speak. And yet, as I learn to see more clearly and name the blessings I have…and find the joy and wonder in them, I receive more. More and more, I think that the “receiving more” part is simply a function of my being able to see. How like the 10 lepers who were made clean…and the one, returning to thank is made whole. Thus, he received an additional…and greater…blessing because of his gratitude…because he took time to name and to thank for the blessing he received. (Luke 17:12-19) I want to be like that.

Just at this time that I’m really starting to count my blessings, I have a friend who posted about appreciating our children. Check out her blog on Appreciating Our Kids Month. Another friend that I have met in the blogging world has also posted on this topic. Her blog is called Do You Love Being a Mother? Let Your Words Show It!” I highly recommend these two thought provoking blogs.

Both of these posts, along with the book I’ve been reading, have gotten me to thinking. I love to think deeply and to ponder, but thinking is useless unless it leads us to some improving action, so I’m taking Leah’s challenge to write each day about the things that I love and appreciate about my children…and about being a mother. And what a perfect time to begin…as I’m beginning a new school year with my children and studying them and their interests, passions, and needs to determine the best way to approach this year together.

It has been said that anything that the Savior is allowed to place his hands upon…becomes whole. Can it be that like the leper who was made whole, my family might also have that blessing as I return and thank for the individual blessings that each child is in my life and for the sweet blessing of being their mother?

I’d love to share my list with you each day, but in the name of sanity…and for the sake of my children’s needs, I’ve committed to post on my blog only about twice a week. So, I’ll blog when I can, but be assured that I am keeping a daily journal and I will share some of it with you. Maybe you’d like to take the challenge too. What do you love and appreciate about your children? What wonders do you see when you look into their eyes? What do you love about being a mother (or father)?

My first entry into my journal…Hugs…next blog.

RC

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This is the fourth in a series of blogs on what I would define as “Principles of Happy Home Educating Families.”” Find the first blog here.

I remember the morning that I found that one of my daughters had taken a red pencil and scribbled all over the pages of my treasured set of scriptures. My children were ages 1 and 3 at the time, I’m still not sure which daughter was the culprit, but I highly suspect my oldest daughter. I was just about to come unglued and do some “disciplining” when I was stopped cold. As I was turning the pages to ascertain the extent of the damage, I noticed alongside her childish scrawls all of the carefully highlighted verses which I had marked. As my red highlighter fell from the pages…where I always kept it…I never read my scriptures without a highlighter close at hand, I had a thought…a realization…which totally changed me from red hot frustrated anger to…well, a sense of wonder and appreciation. She had only been doing what she had seen me do almost every day! How could I ever discipline her for that? Suddenly I realized that I had been setting an example and that she was doing just what I hoped she would do (albeit at an older age). Today those childish scribblings, rather than making me angry, have become something that I smile affectionately at each time that I see them. They also remind me of a very important principle of teaching.

From the day children are born, they are great imitators. We seem to be hard-wired as children to imitate what we see,  it seems to be the primary mode of learning. Watch a newborn child and his or her parents. Mother smiles, baby smiles. Daddy sticks out his tongue…baby follows by sticking out his tongue. Children are so adept at imitating their parents that you can often match up a child and his/her parent just by watching their mannerisms, their ways of speaking. 

It begs the question, if children learn so much by watching…and following us, then why do we so often try to teach using a “do as I say not as I do approach”? Think about it. What happens with most children about the time they turn 5 or 6 (and younger) in our culture. Most parents send them away at this point and when they get home, they tell them to go and do their homework. It’s not always much better in many homeschool settings. Following the public school paradigm, many parents purchase a curriculum and then tell their children to go and do their schoolwork. But wait…is this something that the child sees the parent doing? Most of the time, probably not.

I began the same way with my own children, but as I’ve watched over the years, I’ve learned that my children learn best that which they see me or their dad doing and being passionate about. I’ve posted about this phenomenon in the past. Beware the Watchers was about how my daughter learned to sew largely by watching me. Teaching by Accident also tells of how I saw my children develop a love of music…again, I think from watching my own passion for music. All of these outcomes, by the way, were totally unplanned on my part. I didn’t realize at the time that I was teaching…or that I was teaching in an extremely powerful way.

A couple more examples:

My daughter had her friend over for a play date. I had left my art supplies and drawing pad out on the counter, and my daughter (ever my best cheerleader) sat with her friend and showed her all of my drawings. I left the room for a moment and when I came back, there they were sprawled on the floor with my daughter’s art set, drawing and painting. Coincidence? I think not.

The most dramatic example of one of my children learning by watching and following a role model is with my oldest son. He was a very late bloomer when it came to reading. At age eleven, he was still struggling with the smallest and shortest of books. At the time he kind of liked the Time Warp Trio books but really struggled with them. These books are very slim children’s books of usually less than 70 pages.

I did everything that I knew how to encourage his reading. We went to the library every week. Our home is filled with bookcases full of books on every level. He had examples in me and in his two older sisters of voracious reading. We  read a lot, and we talked about what we read. We shared books and recommended books to each other. I read to the children regularly. We also had a daily scripture reading time where the children followed along in their scriptures as we listened to an audio being read. This son still struggled even to track the words and keep up with the reading.

I tried to be patient. I had done this before…this was not my first child who happened to be a late bloomer…but he was even later than his sister. I had also studied teaching reading as part of my college education. I knew better than to push. I knew that it was virtually impossible for a child to grow up in an environment as literate as our home and not be able to read…but I was beginning to get worried. I tried not to let it show.

And then something amazing happened. My husband heard about a book called Eragon by Christopher Paolini and became interested in it. This was a book that my daughter already owned and had read, so she loaned it to her dad. He read it. There were many exciting dinnertime conversations about this book over the course of the time that my husband read this book. When my husband was finished with the book, this son decided that he wanted to read that book. Now this book is probably about 4 grade levels above the books that he was already struggling with and about 500 pages long…I figuratively held my breath as he began. Over the next 3 weeks, my son carried that book everywhere he went until he had finished reading it. And then, he started right in on the second book of the series and finished it probably even more quickly than the first and couldn’t wait for the third book which was soon to be published. After that, he was hooked. He continued the habit he had developed reading Eragon and now took a book with him everywhere he went. He used to like to get the small paperback size books and carried them in the pockets of his cargo pants everywhere he went. Reading is now one of his favorite ways to spend his time. He is still never without a book.

I share this story because I think that it illustrates three things about learning. First, sometimes we just have to wait until the time is right. No amount of pushing or bribing is going to make learning happen. Second, example is prime when it comes to good teaching. Third, the role model matters greatly. As his mother, I set the example for reading for my son; so did his older sisters…two of them. But we weren’t the role models that mattered in this instance. The role model that mattered was his dad. And when all the conditions were right, my son learned to read without any struggle at all…it was as easy as the blooming of a flower. It seemed to happen as naturally as breathing for him.

In church one Sunday some time ago, someone gave a talk which really illustrated this whole concept for me. He spoke of the difference between a shepherd (our Savior, Jesus Christ, in this instance) and a sheep-herder. You see, a sheep herder goes behind the sheep pushing and prodding. A sheep herder is just doing a job…just getting the sheep from one place to another. He doesn’t necessarily care for the sheep or have a relationship with them.

A shepherd, on the other hand, knows each of his sheep intimately…as we do our pets or family members. He calls each by name. …and the shepherd doesn’t push or prod the sheep, he leads them. He shows the way…by example…and then he invites the sheep to follow…and they do because they know of his love for them and because they know where to go…the shepherd has shown the way. Of course learning is just like this. The Master Teacher has shown the way.

So the next principle that I would choose to emphasize to any home educator is to Lead Out. In his 7 Keys of Great Teaching, Oliver DeMille calls this principle “You, not them”. (I would call it “You along with them”…or maybe “You first and then them.) Either way, it’s a very powerful principle. Set the example for your children in all things that you want them to learn. And if you can’t set the example…and they don’t have interest of their own, then perhaps you need to do some deep thinking about why that is and change something…either your behavior, or your expectations.

Are you being a shepherd or a sheep herder for your children? Think about teachers you’ve had in your own life. Which have been shepherds? Which have been sheep herders? What has been the difference in your learning from each of these approaches?

So next time it comes to your children’s “schooling”, perhaps instead of saying go and do this or that, perhaps it would be more effective if you said let’s go and do this or that…or even better, don’t say anything at all…just begin yourself and then simply share your excitement and passion. 

 

P.S. After my husband read this post, he sent me this link. If fits. Enjoy.

Oh yeah! They are watching us and learning from us all of the time…whether we think we are teaching or not…

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I just dropped my sons off for their high adventure with our church group. They will be gone for a week backpacking. They have to carry everything that they will need. They’ve been preparing for weeks for this outing; packing their packs, weighing, readjusting, taking things out, adding things they almost forgot. As I dropped them off, the bishop commented on the weight that they are able to carry. This is not their first trip…they had a shake down hike a few weeks ago. Yes, my boys have grown into strong manly-type boys, I said. When did it happen? I really pondered on this as I drove home after dropping them off.

I remember when they were born. How I loved my babies! I loved the weight of their small bodies as I carried them in a little bundle. I used to love the way they snuggled and suckled contentedly as I nursed them. I used to wonder at the miracle of it. First I wondered at the miracle of their little bodies that I carried within me, feeling joy and wonder each time they moved and kicked. And then I wondered at the miracle of their growing bodies on what my body continued to provide for them. Oh how I loved nursing my babies…particularly those early or late hours when they would wake and it would be just the two of us and I really had time to enjoy my baby and the wonder of it all.

I loved it when they were toddlers. It is so much fun to watch a child grow…to joy in each new thing that they learn. Oh…they were exhausting, yes! I call that chapter of my life my the “Chasing Nathan” years. I remember the day that I found my (three? or four? year old) son on top of the refrigerator. How on earth did he do that? How did he do that so quickly while my back was turned? Never a dull moment!

I remember how one son used to leap from the floor to the top of my kitchen counter tops in one jump. No warning, no running jump, just a quick movement and there he was! How many times did I get after him for that? I’m so glad he finally did stop doing that!

Just a few days ago, they were playing with their trucks in the backyard sandbox; building mounds and tunnels, making all of those boy noises that boys make without being taught. …and I know that it was just yesterday that I glimpsed my oldest son in the backyard with sticks (no…swords and daggers) in every conceivable place in his clothing. He had sticks in the back of his pants, sticks in the front. He could reach behind his head and pull a sword from out of the back of his shirt…or pull a “dagger” out of his shoe. He was prepared to fight the foe; anywhere he reached, he would be able to grab a weapon to vanquish the enemy. He was quite the ninja! Oh how I had to smother my smile.

The other day, I had both boys go with me to the grocery store. As we headed off across the parking lot, I noticed how small I suddenly felt. Suddenly both of my boys were much taller than me. I remember feeling safe and protected with them. If someone meant us harm, they would defend me. Odd thought…as if there were danger on the way to the store. But a mother takes joy in her tall sons just as she does in her small ones. I never knew. Something inside me always cried out a bit as they grew up and I could no longer nurse them, as they passed each stage, I was always so sad to see it left behind…even as I took new joy in each new stage of development…and in the person each son was becoming. I guess I’m still doing that.

I remember watching them work alongside their dad…astonished at the tasks that my small boys were able to do. Today they are hard working boys. I watch their strong, young bodies as they chop wood, lift and haul, working hard taking care of the yard and the garden.

I remember bathing their little feet and soft downy heads…and then in later years, washing their very dirty feet from hours in the sandbox and scrubbing hard to get the sandy grit out of their hair. Now I wonder what happened as I see their big hairy man-legs, their extra large feet, and the stubble that is just beginning to grow on their chins.

Yesterday was one of those days when I was reminded that though my boys look like…are…tall responsible young men, sometimes they are still boys on the inside. They had a moment when they were not getting along with each other. Each wanted his own way with something trivial and an argument had ensued. I sat them both down and we had a discussion about how we should treat others, about pride, about wanting one’s own way and about giving way for others, about thinking about how the other person must feel…about character…about maturity and how a man behaves when confronted with frustration and about how a child behaves. It was a long talk…moms are good at that. I was frustrated with them both. Later they each came to me and apologized…and I heard them apologize to each other. This morning, they had a surprise for me. In the midst of their getting ready to go…at 4am…they had cleaned my kitchen for me…working together (yes!!). They even scrubbed out the sink. They wanted to make up for…and cheer me…from my frustration with them the day before. Yes, these boys of mine really are growing into fine young men. Oh how I love them!

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the family day for my husband’s place of employment. It’s a fun place for my boys to visit because my husband designs tools that are used to build airplanes. The tools and the airplanes are really cool stuff for them to see and to have their dad tell them about…and they love to see just what their dad does at work. In fact, they understand more of what he actually does at work than I do. This time at the family day was one of those moments when I wondered again where the time had gone…only because last time I had gone with them had been so many years ago and there was such a contrast.

Last time, I had my five small children whom I had to watch very closely. The crowd of people was very large and I had spent most of my time keeping track and counting heads…my greatest fear has always been to lose a child. They were small then and easily lost among the crowds.

This year was so different. I again (like the trip to the grocery store) felt small as I walked with my husband and four of my children…only one of whom is still smaller than me…and three of whom (my two sons and my husband) towered over me (my oldest daughter…who is still shorter than me, stayed at home that day). Oh, I still counted heads…mothers probably never stop doing that. It’s just that I needed only to look up. It was so easy to find most of them over the tops of the other heads in the crowd…and it seemed to me that we made an imposing looking group as we toured the factory. As we all walked 3 and 4 abreast at times…I can’t quite describe the feeling…I was surrounded by these tall boys…almost men…I felt that same sense of wonder that I used to feel as I nursed them late at night when they were so small.

I used to be surrounded by my small children whom I was constantly bending over to, constantly keeping track of…much like herding cats sometimes…and suddenly here I was…am…with this family of tall children. …and I really don’t know quite how or when it all happened…

What a wonderful and glorious journey it is to be a mother of sons…and daughters! Small ones and tall ones! I am loving each part of this wonderful journey together.

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Three weeks until the public schools are back in session in my part of the world, but parents around us are already beginning to say it…even practically shouting it out to the world according to some of my homeschooling friends…They can’t wait for their children to be back in school and OUT of their homes. How does one respond to such a proclamation? Sympathy? Dismay? Pity?  Yeah, I’ve been in that situation too. If their children are present, I feel especially bad. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that not all parents are as naturally enlightened as I am  angel smiley #5118 , and not all parents choose or can conceive of homeschooling their children…it’s a societal thing. But celebrating? Really? What’s that about. I’ve always held my tongue. Usually these people really aren’t interested in my thoughts on the matter anyway. But I think that these moms are not only missing something really important, but even worse, they don’t even know it.

I’ve often wondered…why? Why do otherwise sane mothers who waited anxiously for each child to come into their home, who were…and are…loving and attentive to their children…Why do they suddenly feel such eagerness (even joy and celebration) to get them OUT of their homes…and so young. Perhaps I could understand it if the child were 30. But no, these are practically their babies they can’t wait to be rid of for the best hours of the day.

As I’ve thought about it, I have come up with my own theory of how this happens in our society today. I think that there are basically three developments which get short-circuited in families today. But first a little side note. I recently read an article written by an un-schooling mom, Sandra Dodd. I loved her graph! I agree, the amount of time that we generally need to spend with our children is directly related to their age…well, sort of. As they get older, guess what?!…Yes, they need less of our time. Not less of our love, not less of our concern for them, not less of a lot of things…but certainly less of our time. And this is true even if they are homeschooled. In fact, I think that this sort of age/time spent-with-them progression seems to have the best potential of development and happens most naturally in the home educated atmosphere.

Here is what I see happening. You finally come to that long awaited moment…the birth of your child. You gaze lovingly into the eyes of that sweet child and the world revolves around the two of you…well, your world revolves around your child…the rest of the world revolves (for a time) around the two of you. That sweet baby takes up practically every moment of your day…requiring your constant attention. Yes, mothers, we are exhausted, but for the most part, we really don’t mind…after all we have oxytocin helping us out (particularly if we are breastfeeding), and frankly, we are head over heels in love with our own child! Then the child becomes a toddler and life really seems to explode! Now you have a mobile child who really does need your eye on him at every moment…and usually by this time you have less and less of that precious oxytocin to help out…but by then you are hooked, you are fully in love with this child and really, you love his developing “independence” …though exhausting to you.

But what happens about the time that this child starts to need less one on one time? He can feed himself, he’s out of diapers, and there are even moments when he really can entertain himself…what happens? We send him off to school…or even pre-school. There he is entertained all day, each moment filled by directed activity. Just when life with your child is getting easier, just when you have some time to breathe, just at the point when children are able to start self directing some of their activity, we ship them off to have each moment directed by a system. They are short-circuited in their developing ability to self direct. Evenings are also filled with soccer practice, homework, music lessons…so much so that many families find it difficult just to have a quiet un-rushed dinner together. And then when school is out for the summer…what happens then? Suddenly the child goes from having every hour of the day directed to pretty much having zero hours of the day directed…but they have not learned to self direct their activities or make choices, and they have lost what ever ability had begun to develop. They are suddenly “bored”…not that they weren’t often bored in school, but this is different. So mom fills the summer with day camp, soccer camp, swim lessons, outings, etc. By the end of the summer (before the end of the summer…maybe 3 weeks before the end of the summer), she is exhausted…and so are the children. No wonder she can’t wait for the children to go back to school.

Another thing happens. The child, removed from the home, begins to lose the attachment to…and ability to get along with…his own siblings. So along with being a summer of running helter skelter trying to keep the kids entertained, moms have children who don’t quite get along most of the time. Yeah…recipe for disaster. I guess I can see why they can’t wait for school to start. But that brings us to the third thing that seems to get short-circuited. Mom never sees that her children really are old enough to self direct their own activities and worse, in her hurry to direct every minute of the child’s day, the best moments are lost.

Yeah, you homeschooling moms know what I’m talking about…those moments when you are just “doing nothing” together; those moments when you really tune in to the wonder and miracle of your child and the person she is becoming. Those un-rushed moments curled up on the couch with a good book together…or even the ones where everyone is busy doing their own thing and there is a sweet feeling of both quiet (…or not so quiet) industry and peace in the home. You watch the seasons come and go together. You feel and settle into the unspoken rhythm of your days…your own natural and peculiar family rhythms.

I think that Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin say it best:

Christopher Robin: I like that, too. But what I like most of all is just doing nothing.

Winnie the Pooh: How do you do just nothing?

Christopher Robin: Well, it’s when grown-ups ask, “What are you going to do?” and you say, “Nothing,” and then you go and do it.

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing now.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again.

“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.

Winnie the Pooh: I like that. Let’s do it all the time.

(from The House At Pooh Corner)

Sadly, it so often just these moments which are missed or just too infrequent when we send our children away for 8 (or more) of the best hours of the day and bring them home stressed and tired…and with homework to be done. If you haven’t read this sweet little book, I highly recommend it. What follows this little interchange between Christopher Robin and Pooh is such a parallel to what happens in our society when public school systems take over and over-scheduling of our children and families begins.

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands, called out, “Pooh!”

“Yes?” said Pooh.

“When I’m — when — Pooh!”

“Yes, Christopher Robin?”

“I’m not going to do Nothing any more.”

“Never again?”

“Well, not much. They won’t let you.”

You see, Christopher Robin is going away to school. His days of “doing-nothing” are pretty much at an end. I guess that it is this that makes me so sad when I see parents celebrating a little too loudly that their children are going to school. My heart aches for the moments that they are obviously missing (both the mom and the child).

So homeschooling moms, my advice in those moments when you hear someone celebrating just a little too loudly for comfort about their children going away to school…is to just be glad that yours are not. Take joy in what you have with your children around you (even on those hectic days when you almost understand the public school mother’s celebration). Sit back and breathe a sigh of relief that you have not entered your child and family into the rat race we call “school”. In our family, we like to have a “NOT back to school” celebration each fall. So celebrate. And then take joy in the “doing nothing” moments.

And if you are one of those moms who can’t wait for her children to go back to school, then I guess my advice would be to try hard not to let go of every “doing nothing” moment with your children. See if you can at least “schedule” your days so that those precious “doing nothing” moments don’t completely pass you by. And please…don’t celebrate so loudly…at least not in front of the children.

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Oh Summertime, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee for

  • the warmth of the sun-warmed deck under my barefeet as I sit swaying gently in my hammock chair.
  • the coolness of that same deck under those same bare feet in the shade of the covered porch.
  • the gentle breeze which blows softly bringing with it the sweet smell of the freshly cut fir that my tall sons and husband have recently cut and stacked.
  • the evenings around the fire pit with all of my children around me, listening to the popping of the flames, enjoying the fun of s’mores and roasted apples, and then the quiet moments gazing at the embers which glow in the darkness.
  • the smell of the cool evening breeze blowing softly through my open window as I drift off to sleep at night…and again as I wake in the morning along with the sounds of the birds ringing in the day with their many varied songs, and hummingbirds buzzing by.
  • the fresh, sweet, better-than-candy taste of just-picked cherry tomatoes as they fill your mouth with their warm spurting sweetness.
I love thee for
  • thy lazy carefree days. Thy leisurely mornings and un-rushed evenings.
  • thy lying-in-the-hammock afternoons…warm in the arms of my loved one, gazing at the blue and white skies peeking between the leaves of the trees overhead…drifting off for a late afternoon nap and then waking still warm in the sweet embrace of my best loved one.
  • thy beautiful colors splashing merrily out of the hanging baskets around the covered porches of our deck.
  • the day after day mornings of breakfast “in-the-air”…fresh fruit and yogurt eaten in the warm early sunshine and cool fresh air while gazing at the lovely trees in my backyard.
  • the beautiful light shows of sunlight which dance and reflect off of the leaves, changing the leaves on my alders from glowing green to white…and back again.
  • the family dinners spent leisurely, gathered around the table on the deck just outside the screen of the sliding doors to the kitchen. The laughing and teasing of my big almost-grown family.
  • the smell of warm grass and hay…freshly mowed.
  • the warm apple cinnamon smell of my hot herbal tea as I sit in my favorite spot in that well used hammock chair, under cover in the warm summer rain…listening softly…
  • the un-scheduled hours spent locked into the pages of a good book as the sun drifts lazily across the sky.
  • the pink and purple sunset peeking over the tops of the trees.
Oh Summertime…How I do love thee…
RC

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