Dear tired mamas,
This is a hard time of year, especially for homeschool moms of teenagers. Believe me, I know. After twelve years of Classical Conversations, my son finished up Challenge IV this week. At times, it seemed as if we would never make it. Then, in the twinkling of an eye, a man dressed in a suit presented his Senior Thesis. No more straggly teeth and shaggy hair. No more crying through Essentials or high fives when the math made sense. No more grumbling about Caesar translations or ear-to-ear grins after a successful speech. Suddenly, he is finished and on to the next thing.
And then, of course, there are my three girls. My littlest is only eight. She was born in January of the last year I directed Foundations and moved on to directing Challenge. She has been in Classical Conversations literally since birth, and yet she won’t even be old enough for Essentials next year! On the other hand, she’ll probably get the best education of the four because I will finally have some things figured out.
As I close this chapter with my son, I need to rest, celebrate, and treasure the memories. At the same time, during this season when I am at my lowest level of energy, I need to make plans for the next year of homeschooling. How do we do this? How do we gear up to keep going?
I come from a long line of Oklahoma farmers. A line that goes back to the Land Run. I have no idea how my ancestors survived the Great Depression while farming cotton in Southwest Oklahoma. After reading The Grapes of Wrath in school, I asked my grandmother how her family had been able to stay. Her answer, “Well, honey. We couldn’t all move to California. Someone had to tend the farms.” That was the best answer I ever got. Apparently, they were tough.
When the days of homeschooling get long, I think of the stories she told me. One that often comes to mind is how she spent a year of her girlhood dusting the house every hour with her mother. Houses weren’t well insulated then, the prairies had been stripped of vegetation, and the dust was blowing. Every hour, the dust would be an inch thick in the house. She and her sister would dust the furniture and the windowsills while their mother tackled the floor. They tied kerchiefs around their faces to keep from breathing the dust. And every hour, they had to do it again. It was an all-out war. A dirty, frustrating, never-ending war.
Yet one day, the dust storms ended, and they could stop this weary labor.
I think of this so often when I’m explaining a math concept for the millionth time or sounding out the word “the” with a new reader who knew the word just yesterday. Or when my teens do not want to do the work or when they do the work but without any joy. I think of it when friends tell me stories of health issues or struggle to care for their parents and kids at the same time. I think of it when spouses are hanging on by a thread or when young people are having problems with their friends. Dusting, dusting every hour.
In some ways, we Classical Conversations Tutors can ask you to do things at the wrong time. I know moms are tired, and yet I’m asking them to commit to next year and already sending emails about buying books. (I truly am excited for next year. I may be a nerd, but I started outlining ideas for new ways to tackle Latin and biology while my current students were taking their blue book exams). I hope this excitement and my messages don’t feel like the dust that piles up every hour, but I know that they might.
At Classical Conversations, we truly believe that parents are the best educators for their children. That’s why we keep such a careful line of parental authority. I’m here to serve as a partner next year in prayer for my students and in prayer for their parents and, yes, in all six seminars. I wish I could give everyone a peek into the beautiful ideas and conversations that are woven through the Challenge books and assignments. It really is this truth, beauty, and goodness that keeps me coming back year after year. (I’ll tackle my 13th year in CC next year and my 8th year as a Challenge Tutor.)
I know my ancestors held that deep love of home which is what kept them coming back and tending to the farm tirelessly. I have a love for and a longing for heaven which is what keeps me coming back and tending to my students at home and in Challenge. Every time we have an insight in Challenge that gives us a glimpse into who God is, we get a glimpse into our far-off home.
Can I encourage you just a bit today as someone who has traveled the road before you? There’s a lot of dust, but there is also a lot of fruit. (If there hadn’t been, my grandparents couldn’t have stayed on the farm). Years ago, when I was frustrated with grumbling and other teen habits, a wise older mama said, “Just wait and pray and keep working. They come back around.” Wise woman.
In the Challenge III and IV years, there was so much fruit and so many rewards that it was almost overwhelming. The transformation was amazing. I’m glad I got to be such a big part of it. Hopefully this can encourage you to keep dusting. It’s so hard to see ahead, especially with that firstborn!
It may be difficult to accept, but it appears that the dust and the struggle to get rid of it are the very things that sanctify us. In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about the need for God to strip away our illusions so that we live in the real world where He has placed us. We must tend to the gardens and the people He has placed before us. And with people, there is bound to be dust.
Last year, I was talking to Leigh Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations. Her last son was graduating and leaving home. All those years of homeschooling her boys had been about their sanctification, yes, but also about her own. She wondered what in the world God would use for her sanctification then!
So, can I encourage you to keep clearing away the dust? All too soon, those clouds will lift, and a man or woman will stand before you in place of the child with whom you struggled through math and reading and even Latin. Can your Director pray for you in some specific way? (They are longing to do it.) Can they answer questions that don’t even seem academic? Can an another homeschool mom in your community provide wise counsel? Can she help to bear your burdens?
This Mother’s Day, take a few moments to reflect. Get a hot drink and put your feet up. List the fruit that you have already seen this year. Pray for the wisdom and strength for next year.
With joy in serving alongside you,
This post was originally published on May 3, 2017.