the day I put my homeschooled kids into school

Friday, August 15, 2014

It wasn't sitting well with me. I kept trying, but I just couldn't picture the new school year at home.

I love homeschooling. Well, I love having my older kids at home with me. I love reading books together and playing outside in the middle of the day. I love playgroups and time for adventures. I don't love the constant chaos, or how little focused time I have with my two younger kids. I don't love being responsible for creating all of the energy for our day. Homeschooling requires you to be both the engine and the track for moving your kids forward, and that doesn't leave a lot of energy for much else. I love homeschooling, but suddenly I dreaded the idea of starting another year. I mean, really dreaded it.

But I have strong convictions about education, and what young kids need to thrive. I couldn't just ignore those ideals. Colorado has a charter system, and I found myself constantly staring at my phone, googling schools throughout the day. I couldn't find a school that genuinely interested me. In my head I went back and forth, round and round, all day long. I love having them home, I would think. But I can't be both train and track right now, I would counter.

Before I tell you what happened next, you have to know I'm not the type to play the God card often. I gave up on God's will, remember? I don't pray for specific things to happen in a certain way anymore. And I don't believe there is a right and wrong way to educate our kids. I believe God gives us our own temperaments and passions, he gives us convictions about what our kids need, and he gives our kids their individual personalities. We stir up all those ingredients, and we make the best possible decision for our families at the time.

But lately I can't trust my head or my heart. They are all muddled from the close call last month. Though I rarely pray this way anymore, one afternoon a few weeks ago I was tired of my merry-go-round thoughts. I closed my phone, leaned over my chair, and said out loud, "God, what do you want here? What is best? What do my kids need? What will be good for my whole family?"

I opened my eyes and clicked on Google again. The first site that came up was an elementary Montessori school. In my county. A charter Montessori school, which means it is tuition-free.

I love the Montessori approach. In my pre-kids life, I studied development and taught using many of her methods. If there was ever a school that would be a good fit for our family, this was it. Until that moment, I had not known they even existed locally. We're relatively new to the area, and we moved here with the intention to homeschool, so there is a lot I don't know about local education. I called their number, but of course there was both a lottery back in March and a years-long waiting list. However, the enrollment secretary mentioned there were other Montessori elementary schools in our county.

I was discouraged. No way we're getting in, I thought. It's August, for crying out loud. My wise husband said, "Don't give up. If you think this is best, call every single one you can find. Make them tell you no. You never know what might be out there." I am so glad I followed his suggestion, because the next day I found a school with an opening for both boys.

I couldn't believe it. A school who believed the same things about education as me. A way to spend more time with the two little ones, while also giving my two older kids what I believe they need.

I scheduled a tour, and as I walked through the rooms and talked to the dean, my eyes kept welling up. It was as though I'd yelled up, "Hey God! I need some help down here!" and He'd immediately replied, "Yes you do. Here you go," and handed me a school.

This is what I learned from enrolling my children in school: sometimes grace looks like a year at home with all of my children, working at the table and playing Legos and reading Peter Pan together. And sometimes it looks like carpool line and signing off on reading minutes and making new friends. God is good and big and gracious and wide. God loves my family as much as I do. Just as I want what's best for my kids, He wants what's best for us. All of us.

* *  * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Can I tell you the truth? Now that I've written it, I'm afraid to hit publish and share this story. Because education is so divisive, and maybe I'm about to lose every homeschooling mom friend I've made in the past two years? Even the online ones? And maybe I'm going to alienate my public school mom friends at the same time?  We naturally divide our world by who's like us and who's not, and maybe I'm about to get moved into the "not" category by just about everyone I know?

I hope that's not true. I'm going to hit "publish" anyway, and trust you to stick around. I'm going to trust that together we're chasing something bigger than school or friends who look just like us.

What I found in the past few weeks is grace - grace to homeschool, then grace to not. Grace to struggle, even. Grace to call out for help, and grace to receive it when it comes. I am trusting I will find grace with you all too. Together, we will keep looking for grace in the little moments of life. I'm hitting "publish" now, and I'll see you on the flip side. I hope.

O Captain my Captain.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

“O Captain my Captain.”
My friends and I stared at the screen, mesmerized. I was in high school, and Dead Poet’s Society was only a few years old. I’d watched it so many times I’d memorized whole scenes, yet every single time Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) climbed onto his desk, tears streamed down my face. I too wanted to suck the marrow out of life. Like his students, I believed Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) when he said, “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is full of passion.” There was a powerful play going on, and I wanted to contribute a verse.
In high school, Robin Williams changed my life. I'm sharing the story today at Venn Magazine. 

We were not created for death.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Our hearts weren't made for death.

We were never meant to come into contact with it. Our souls were created before the Fall, before Adam ever tended a field or Eve knelt beside her dead son's tomb. We were designed for communion, for relationship, for life to flow in and through and all around us. We were made for green sprigs and first birthdays and falling in love. That is our truest home. We were not created with death in mind.

Is it any wonder, then, that grief would be so exhausting? That touching death in any way would produce so much anxiety and fear? When it enters our lives, even for a moment, we are forced to do something unnatural. The weight of it draws us away from our true selves. Our common reactions - disbelief, anger, withdrawal, fear - are the opposite of who we really are, because we must process this awful thing we were never intended to face.

on living through a close call

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My life has been a series of close calls.

Late one Fourth of July night back in college, a friend, my sister, and I were driving home from a day at the lake. The truck ran off a slick country road, hit a tree, and bounced. My baby sister and I weren't wearing seat belts, and as I realized we were out of control, a thought - from God - ran through my head. "It's just like 'crack the egg.'" In one motion I curled into a ball and pulled my sister down with me, and we pinged inside the cab like kids playing a game on a trampoline. When the truck stopped, we were lying on the roof. A potentially fatal accident, and the three of us rolled down the window, climbed out, and stared at the truck, amazed. In fact, rather than hospitals or worse, that accident was the catalyst to a love story. Sixteen years later, that friend is asleep in my bed right now.

For the days when you'd rather hide backstage

Monday, July 14, 2014

The baby is screaming, the toddler is in the almost-but-not-yet stage of potty training, and one of the big boys has a cold with the snotty attitude to prove it.  Some mornings I long for a stunt double.

A nanny, a tutor, a housekeeper ... anyone willing to step in for the impossible, disgusting, and  dangerous parts of my life, while I drink coffee backstage.  To un-goop floors, enforce the media restriction, soothe the fussy baby, wipe the runny noses.  I want someone to show up and make being a mom easier.  I'll take over again when life gets to the good part.

The problem is, I suspect this is the good part.

healing takes a long, long time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

One thing I know for sure: healing takes a long, long time.

It's been not quite two years since we left a destructive theology. Six months later we moved across the country, decided to stay married, and wandered into a little Anglican church one Sunday morning. We are now in our second year of healing. As far as I can tell, the roots of damaging thinking have been pulled out of my life. I no longer cry when I hear them, the way I once did. I've rejected the idea of a temperamental, abusive god who is dangling us all over the pit of Hell - the "even when you're repenting, you're still sinning" god.

what I learned when my son went to work with me

Thursday, July 3, 2014

He asked to go to work with his dad. The neighbors' kids were planning a "bring your child to work" day, and he wanted to do the same. But it's not safe for children to be on site at my husband's job, so he had another idea. "Mom, can I go write with you?"

I don't make a dime writing. There is a small stipend for the editing work I do, but honestly my time as a barista was more lucrative (though not nearly as rewarding). Right now I'm not making a meaningful contribution to my family's income, but in my house, writing is my job, not my hobby. Because I love words, because I love you guys, and because I'm convinced words have the power to open our hearts and move us out of our cells of isolation and fear.  Though it's not a source of income, my family refers to the time I spend writing as my work time.

So one afternoon last week, my oldest son went to work with me. First he perused A Wide Mercy. Then I showed him how to write an article, choose and format images, publish, and share on social media. He wrote a submission letter (and even sent it, because I have very patient and generous coworkers), heard about the importance of editing, and studied my magazine's internal database for sharing information. Then he wrote for a while.

Work has always been my biggest source of insecurity in parenting. I know all the arguments for

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