Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Unschooling? . . . Nah, It's Just Called No School

We are trying to prepare our house for sale.  All of the little fixes and repairs that would have been nice but were deemed unnecessary over the past several years while my husband was in school are absolutely necessary now.  Things like replacing the broken basement window with something other than cardboard, fixing the leaky shower drain, replacing the screens with holes in them, painting the interior walls after 10 years of kids using them as art surfaces, installing the baseboards in the little girls' room, and so forth and so on ad nauseum.

At least the list makes me slightly nauseous.

In January I reduced our school plan to about 2 solid hours per day.  I still did preschool with H3 and A5 and still did language arts activities with A5.  I also worked on completing our Old Testament reading/study/journals with the older kids.  On their own they had to do math, their choice of workbook subject matter (more math, reading comprehension, grammar, whatever), and work on their individual elective:  Latin for E12, First Aid then Africa for M10 (now M11!), Goats then spelling bee preparation for S10, and Horses for J9.

The rest of the day was devoted to cleaning, painting, shopping, and otherwise prepping our home.

It still wasn't enough time.

We do have to eat.

And there are kids to take care of, after all.

We just had my dad out for a week.  He's a former general contractor, and he spent 5 days helping us solve problems that were just too big for us to solve on our own.  We did no school, but focused our energies on the urgent tasks at hand.

We were working hard, but then I got sick again.  I never get sick like this!!!  I've been out of comission for too long and the tasks are piling up.  Progress I've made is getting undone by just living life.  The kids can't walk around with their hands at their sides not touching anything!

So I gave a little speech yesterday:

"You're on your own for school until we get our house ready.  It is your choice to do school or not do it.  I'll be available for questions and help if you need it, but I will not remind you to do schoolwork and I will not require it of you.  If you don't want to fall behind where you want to be or forget what you've been doing, it is up to you to pull out your books when you get bored enough and do the work on your own. You may reserve library books.  You may do research online when I can take a moment to supervise your web-surfing, but I am not requiring it of you.  I will require you to help by watching the little kids, doing  chores beyond your own, helping with meals, and by doing house prep jobs that must be taken care of.  I expect you to help.  That is our priority right now."

I actually spoke a little longer than that and fielded questions the big girls had, but that's the crux of it.

A giant snowstorm was scheduled to arrive in the afternoon, so we ran to the library and the grocery store in the morning.  I borrowed about 12 science videos in the hopes that if I put the kids in front of them when I'm frantic with projects, I'd feel less guilty than if I put them in front of Disney videos--though I think Bill Nye the Science Guy is produced by Disney, so . . .

There's no "school" at my house these days.  I'll be watching the kids to see what they choose to do as the days and weeks unfold ahead.  In all sincerity, I hope they learn a lot about life and work and good choices.

This in an interesting season.

Friday, February 8, 2013

More Horses!

My precious J9 has only one riding lesson left--the one she's paying for out of her Christmas/birthday money.  The ones that we've paid for are over.

When I watch her with the horses, though, my spirit cries out that this must go on!  I cannot take this nourishment away from my small but growing girl.

I cannot afford it.

It cannot end.

I took my worries to my Heavenly Father . . . tentatively . . . informally . . . just wishfully . . . "I wish (J9) could keep riding . . ."

(That's not how I was taught to pray.)

I decided that one lesson per month cost the same as a month's worth of music or dance lessons, and we'd be willing to pay for those, so if she wanted to, she could continue with one lesson per month.  It would have to do.  It would have to be enough.

J9's beloved riding teacher is the owner of the barn  (What delicious understatement it is that she calls her breathtaking arena and stables and farm "the barn.").  Her daughters are beautiful, successful young women now, and as she cleaned out a few of their childhood possessions she thought that perhaps our family would enjoy giving them new life.  I was so very touched.

Our conversation gave me the courage to bring up my wish for riding lessons to continue, though on a much reduced scale.  I opened the topic with, "I never would have dreamed that horseback riding could be important, but when I look at my girl it is . . ."

And this dear woman said to me, "I've been thinking about that.  I think that (J9) knows how to work.  She has chores and responsibilities at home.  I have chores here at the barn that she could do in exchange for riding, if that would be all right with you."

I can't even type this without weeping . . . 

She was thinking about that? 

If it would be all right with me?

I looked at the shining face of my precious daughter and I swallowed the lump in my throat so that I could accept her offer without blubbering like a baby.  We agreed to email back and forth about the details.  She and J9 turned to head off to the tack room whereupon I stepped quickly outside and did blubber like a baby.

I just prayed and prayed my gratitude.

She gets to ride.  She gets her first job at age 9.  She gets to keep spending time with one of the loveliest women I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  She gets to grow her talents--to be fed and nurtured and mentored beyond anything I can give her.

Heavenly Father answered this smaller than small prayer in a way that is sweeter than sweet.