Thursday, July 2, 2020

Year Four in Homeschooling: An Ebenezer



"Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far, the Lord has helped us." (1 Sam 7:12)


Today, I pulled up this old blog space and scrolled the archives a bit. Every post is a stone, a memorial of humility where God bent down and helped me in some way. And for the first time in a long while, my fingers itched to add more. Not because I'm particularly keen to do the hard work of collecting those stones, but because I was reminded that in intentionally piling them here in the Lord's name, they make a sort of alter.

In the current season of tension, viruses, and general world chaos, alters dedicated to the Lord seem more necessary than ever.

I'll be honest though, in picking this up again I'm reaching for the closest stone: The school year we just finished. Kind of feels repetitive to have two of these in a row, but it has been a year since I wrote that last one. This one feels starkly different than the last one too - darker, heavier, harder.

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In our family devotions, we continued through our favorite story bible with the continued hope of building a foundation of chronology, context, and wonder at the whole story. We celebrated Advent, then recognized a world-wide Lenten season for what it was. We struggled through sickness, change, and how to pray through all of it. We saw answers we hoped for, and answers we didn't know what to do with. It was and continues to be a year of living the faith we claim to hold.


In Literature, we puzzled over basic Greek myths, climbed mountains with Heidi (never did climb down, though), and got to know the beloved characters of The Wind in the Willows. It wasn't our richest year in this area, but it was good. We asked questions, made observations, and were challenged by views different from our own. Closing it out with the antics of Toad and the wisdom of Badger was rather healing. 


In History, we dipped our toes in the world of a set curriculum and kind of failed at wading any deeper. Like I explained to a friend, when you start learning with a deep dive into the delightful waters of good books, it's kind of impossible to backtrack to wading the shallows meant to prepare and direct you to those deeper waters. So back to the waters we went, dabbling in a dual timeline of English and American histories. We learned a lot, but most especially the fact that swimming is both hard and fun.


In Math, we were introduced to the world of multiplication and division. Never have I felt more thankful for the cheesy skip counting songs and activities of the last two years. We actually finished a workbook (a first) and used a lot of flashcards and manipulatives. It was a challenging year that didn't end in joy, but definitely held a lot of hard earned satisfaction.


In Science and Geography, we paced the world in exploring oceans and continents, and reached into space to see God's creative hand there as well. We made good use of our globe (broke it from spinning it so much) and filled a notebook with interesting details about planets, black holes, ocean depths, and water mammals. Burgess became a friend this year and taught us much in the way of ocean life, where in other years he'd been a bit hard to know and love.


Language Arts was probably our most consistent subject this year. With many a dictation lesson written and marked from my bed, we were reminded over and over of the importance of word choice and clear writing and had a gentle introduction to grammar (Mad Libs did us favors there). A had a growth spurt in her independent reading and narrating, and for the first time we experienced the bittersweet of balance independent and dependent reading. It was a measure of grace as well, though, as I had no choice but to step back and ask her to take on a little more than usual. We closed out the year with an amazing two page narration about Pocahontas that I kind of want to frame.


We did very little extra since most everything was interrupted by Covid and my being bedridden for a few months. We did manage to squeeze some basketball, church activities, skiing and snowboarding before things went too far south, though. Looking back, I'm thankful for the flurry before the calm (which feels like such a backwards thing to say). 


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In writing all this, I'm reminded that this was not our richest year, it felt more like bare minimum survival than anything else. The thing is, because of everything that happened and the fact I'm reflecting on anything at all feels miraculous too. Like Samuel and the Israelites who were ambushed in the middle of their repentant worship yet saw God help them there, in that moment, I'm standing in what feels like a worldwide ambush and seeing (in maybe less obvious, much quieter ways) God's help here as well. 

I see Him in the records of our school year, in the test A took and did just fine with, in the growth of hunger to observe and learn in all three girls. I see Him with me in the bed I was stuck in, with my family in a messy house they made do with, and in the middle of all the family prayer that came from that. I see Him challenging His people, exposing our weaknesses, and allowing sin to be on it's most disgusting display. Somehow, right here in this moment, I see His kingdom being the more desirable thing and that being good and holy.

But man, I really am looking and hoping forward into next year.