Sunday evenings my mom calls. We talk and talk and when I've closed my cell phone and Bryan asks for the news I can usually sum it up in a minute. These days we don't talk a lot about daily details, we talk about keeping sheep, unused art supplies, photo projects, and writing projects (okay, we dream a little too). And we talk about homeschooling. Now that my mom's finished raising and educating her own, she's a wealth of knowledge and encouragement.
This week my mom's heart was aching for a friend, busy with six kids at home, longing for all the best for her family and absolutely miserable. Her children wake in the morning, turn on the screens and spend all day in front of them doing school. The children are unmotivated (of course some of mine are too - maybe it's somewhat universal!). Mama will pause the program and ask what they've just learned and those kids can't always repeat the lesson. They do math, science, language, literature all "on screen." Even Bible, my mom adds, even Bible.
Now I understand there are many, many reasons we feel we need to school this way. I know all about feeling incapable of teaching my children the multitude of subjects they need to learn and learn well. I have whole closets full of insecurity. I know a lot about being busy and not knowing how to get everything done in a day, and I only have four children. Sometimes, maybe, a husband just has a different vision for his family. Certainly as we were schooled we took our turns at Co-ops, and watching video courses, and filling in poorly written workbooks. Surely we could fill shelves with partially completed school books.
So when my mom gently shared her advice, it wasn't to drop all the online and video courses, it was simply to take time to enjoy the children. Enjoy being together. It's a gift, isn't it? My mom advised taking just a little time each day to sit on the couch and read aloud a really good book. Together.
I was only homeschooled a couple of years, the daughter from the first marriage with a hard, unruly heart. But I have good memories of those years. I remember "Bible Time," and the innumerable readings of Proverbs that we completed. When we were asked to pick a favorite Proverb, how often did we try to choose one that couldn't possibly involve any personal reproach? We memorized all of Philippians those mornings on the couch. I wonder if my brothers, who are much younger, remember? I remember afternoons, my mom pregnant and exhausted, resting on the couch. The boys playing on the floor. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." I read Tale of Two Cities aloud to them all, and wished it would never end.
In a sense that family circle doesn't end. Every one has grown now, even that baby. Now there are new babies, new boys and new girls. The circle grows. The cord that holds us wasn't twisted around the core in the times we spent alone, but by all we shared. We laugh now, not about computers and videos (though they were around) but about live lizard shows, Little Davy Crockett in the driveway with the rabbit, not a few naughty episodes and one spoiled mama's boy. He was that baby, so really everyone loved him, but he's grown now and laughs at himself, so there's always hope.
We set aside our regular school schedule today. We dug out the colored pencils, paper and some drawing books. When we finally all sat down, when I was done growling over how long it took to find a Vivaldi playlist, we had a sweet time. We drew green igloos, space ships, ground hog colonies and windmills. When Bryan came home for lunch some of us couldn't stop, the picture wasn't done. We didn't sit in silence. We talked and laughed, we fought and shared and created something much nicer than art. We twisted another strand around the cord. Now that I'm the mom, I pray the cord is lengthened, strengthened and holds.