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pencils

Things have been a little slow in my blogosphere the last month, but real life has been zooming along. This is our first week back to school, which carries a great deal of weight as a homeschool teacher. While the real reward is in spending my days educating and enjoying my kids during the school year, the tasks of the summer months are full of promise and potential: waiting for UPS to deliver boxes of new school books; planning our schedule and lessons; filling binders with blank pages; and sharpening a batch of pencils for the first time. (And nothing makes my geeky, organization-loving heart go pitter-patter like a shopping trip for new office supplies and calendars. :)

As with the rest of the homeschool year, the summer also provides plenty of opportunities for humility. Even after teaching for eleven years, I still have magnificent moments of naiveté and hubris, when I am utterly over-ambitious and under-prepared. In the kindergarten days, I planned so many activities back-to-back that the salt dough had barely dried on my five-year-old’s fingers before I was thrusting a paintbrush into his hand. By the end of the first week, the classroom looked like the victim of an F5 glitter glue tornado that rained down flashcards and worksheets like hail.

The good news is that these days my mistakes are less messy, and I’m a little quicker to admit them. It only took me a few weeks after receiving our two-year (non-refundable) Latin curriculum to realize it was so dry and undecipherable as to challenge the ancient Romans themselves. With a sigh, it went up for sale in the homeschool classifieds, and I went looking for Plan B. Vivo et disco. (“I live and I learn” in Latin, not “I live and I dance feverishly,” though that could also occasionally apply.)

Being sovereign ruler of the classroom means I own every victory completely, as I do every setback. Motherhood and teaching are certainly not professions for the weak-stomached or the glory-hound, and seeking the best for my children often means confronting my own worst habits and attributes. But there is such beauty to be found in the beginnings, in watching and helping them learn what the world is about, where they come from, and where they are going. For every angst-ridden math lesson, there is the joy of finally conquering long division. Spelling errors and lectures on sentence structure give way to a child who can communicate his thoughts and feelings. And of course there’s all the things they teach me, about huge subjects like courage and character, and even about plain old book-learning. (I was corrected about the origins of the northern-dwelling ancient Celts only this morning.)

Homeschooling and parenting are not for everyone, but beginnings are. Sometimes beginning is the hardest part, balancing patience and preparation with just doing it already. Whatever beginning you find yourself at right now — school, work, relationship, or change — I pray you find the courage and strength to start, and fulfillment and peace as you continue.

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