Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
Crossing the Bar by Alfred Lord Tennyson
The poem above brought about many tears this past school year as my children would recite it and store it to memory deep within their hearts. This is a post I have been wanting to write for a while now. Although this school season was met with many difficulties, my family has grown in ways that wouldn’t have been possible without the challenges we have endured.
My family follows the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. For the past few years, I’ve been consulting with A Delectable Education for our course outline and book lists.
We started the 2017-18 academic school year well. My kids were on a great schedule. Each morning we were waking at 7 am, eating breakfast together by 8 am, and starting our studies promptly at 8:30 am. I started my family’s homeschool day by spending the first half hour teaching Little Mama her alphabet using the Peaceful Preschool curriculum by Peaceful Press. We pretty much went over the letters of the alphabet, one per week, painted, and read great picture books together. Little Mama and I really enjoyed this time together.
Once I finished up with Little Mama, I’d then begin the feast with her brothers, subject by subject, checking them off as we completed our lessons and narrations. We’d then eat a quick lunch and head into nature for the early afternoon. On Friday, we gathered as a group for our homeschool co-op. We had just restructured our co-op to follow a Charlotte Mason philosophy which allowed us to spread our feast into our co-op days while maintaining the friendships that are dear to us.
Really, things were going great.
And then, I had to say goodbye to my Mami. Really the month following up to that is when our lives were turned upside down. For over a month, we spent most of our days by my Mami’s side, up until the day she went home to be with Jesus.
Once she passed, the grief was overwhelming.
Days can still be very difficult but the first 4 or so months after her passing was excruciating. Not just for myself but for the children as well. They loved their Abuela so much. They spent a lot of time with her so this loss was just as painful for them.
There were days that we would start our Bible lessons with swollen eyes after a tear-filled evening, and a mere 10 minutes into our lesson, one of the boys would break down crying again. That inevitably would lead more of us to tears. We’d spend time consoling one another, praying, and spending the rest of the day visiting Papa or one of my sisters. It was a hard, hard time.
There were days filled in sadness and days filled in anger.
And, somehow, life was still moving forward.
We still had co-op to attend and checkboxes to check so we pushed through the grief by putting on fake smiles to cover the deep hurt within.
To make matters more difficult, shortly after my Mami’s passing, my husband and I made the decision to leave our home church that we had been a part of for over twenty years. This wasn’t a spontaneous act but one we prayed over for two years. It was time and we knew it, however, this brought about more hardship as we transitioned to a new church home while still deep in grief.
With all these new changes in our life and grief still weighing heavy within, we then decided to shake things up a bit more and move from a home we had barely lived in for a year and a half.
Not to the country where my husband and I always felt our final move would be to, but three homes away from my Papi and sister in a suburb of Des Moines. This was definitely not in our plans but it was in His.
It was too difficult for me being a half hour away from my sister and Papi. Seeing my Mami pass away was one of the most difficult times I have had to go through, however, having to see my Papi lose his flesh, to see him literally half dead has been, at times, just as difficult. I knew I wanted to be closer to him to be more of a help and comfort.
Once my sister announced that she was carrying her sixth child, the Holy Spirit made it clear that I needed to be near them to help as needed. One day I shared with my Papi that it would be nice to be closer to them and the very next day a home came up for sale just three houses away on a corner lot with a big enough yard to do a lot of gardening. I knew that would be our home when my husband was obliged to move for me. He is my constant support!
So in March, we put up our home up for sale and by mid-May, we were packed and moving.
Homeschooling Through Difficult Seasons
In one school year, we lost Abuela, we changed churches, and then moved to a new home. I suppose you may think that we quit schooling all together but we didn’t.
Following Charlotte Mason’s method of education allowed us to grieve while being able to relate and learn from those before us that have endured the same pain and hardships in life. With living books by our side, we didn’t feel alone in our grieving. Her 12th principle, “Education is the Science of Relations,” came into play as we traveled side-by-side with Abraham Lincoln when he lost his mother as a young boy. Or with Amos Fortune, an African slave who lost not just one, but two wives and still found a way to devote himself to the Lord as He sought His guidance and direction.
Reading these living books for our school lessons allowed us to recognize that others have traveled the same road and those that surrendered their grief to the Lord found a way to smile in spite of their sadness.
We did not complete every subject on our list, but we learned a lot in the subject of real life and what truly matters; God, the hope He has given us in Jesus Christ, and sharing in His love with family and friends.
My kids and I are ready for summer to begin so that we can lay aside our responsibilities for a time, rest, and stand on His promise that He will renew our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. As we’ve been winding down our homeschool, I’ve been able to reflect on the past school year and have found joy in some of our accomplishments that my children have achieved while we traveled through a difficult season in life. Below are a few things that allowed us to homeschool in spite of the challenges.
Keep it Simple
I had to set aside a lot of my own expectations and allow myself to be flexible. I had to stop listening to podcasts, set aside Facebook groups for a while, and set my focus on my family and doing what was best for us at the time. As long as we finished Bible, math, reading, and dictation, I was okay with letting things go depending on how I needed to meet my children emotionally throughout the day. Honestly, a lot of it depended on my own emotions or if my Papi stopped by to cry. We took each day, one day at a time and focused on serving each other as needed.
It’s so easy to wallow in one’s own grief and not realize what a sinkhole that can be. When the kids and I just couldn’t focus on what was in front of us, or there were too many tears to dry, I called it a nature day. We bundled up and hit the woods to be in His presence amidst His creation. It allowed us a respite from the grief as we listened to the wind rustling through the barren trees or stood still long enough to watch the eagles circle around their pray above the rippling waters. It allowed us to feel alive. Usually, after an outing like this, it brought us a bit of joy to be able to finish up a history or geography lesson in the late afternoon.
Be in Community
I think one of the biggest life-giving lessons we’ve learned this year is that community is essential to one’s health and well-being. It was important for me to continue in our homeschool co-op, even though I was ready to call it quits for the year. For my children, their friendships at co-op mean the world to them and it brought them happiness and a time to escape the chaos at home for a bit. For a little while, they could escape from their own grief and so we pressed on.
Look Back and Recognize Progress
I would be lying if I said I didn’t worry about my children’s education this past year but in looking back I was able to see consistent progress. Big Brother has come a long way in his reading and spelling and for that, I am very happy. The boys did great in their final exams for history, geography, and literature. We completed enough science this year to call it a success and the characters my children have shown this year in kindness, empathy, and love has allowed me to call this past year a smashing success.
Recognize progress, mama, and give yourself some grace.
I’m sure others of you have traveled more difficult roads than I which reminded me why I started homeschooling in the first place – to show our children, as best we can, that God is real and alive.
I feel our homeschool mission came to life this year. Year by year, my children are seeing God in a more tangible way and I pray that as they grow they will continue to deepen their love for the one who gives and takes away.
Now that we’re in our new home next to my Papi and sister, I do pray (and would covet your prayers) that we could settle down a bit and enjoy this summer resting in Him.
In His Love,