We were at the homeschool convention last weekend. It was only the second time (in the 9 years we've been schooling at home) that I've attended, and it was the first time for my children and The Lawyer to be part of the convention. We decided to go at the last minute, mainly because Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis) was one of the keynote speakers and our children really enjoy listening to him. Plus, The Lawyer seemed inclined to have me attend, which really meant that I should go (whether I felt like it or not!).
So, I've never attended a convention like this with my children in tow. When I went two years ago with my friend Amy and her family, I was able to stroll around at my own pace, looking at vendor booths and chatting with the few people I knew, sitting in during sessions and taking notes, reviewing my notes and thinking things through in a few quiet moments between speakers. Of course, having half a dozen kids with me changed the experience! We tried not to lose anyone in the vendor area, not to disrupt all of our neighbors during the sessions, and spent a lot of time shuttling little people back and forth to the potty!
Honestly, it was a very positive experience. The kids loved Ken Ham- so much that we heard him three times! We also listened to Buddy Davis talk about creatures of the Ice Age, which was another of their favorites. They loved seeing so many of their friends and families that we know. The vendor hall was terribly exciting to all of them and we were feeling inspired!
The surprising thing for me was the realization that I'm not the kind of homeschooling mom I thought I was.
I've seen myself as a classical education kind of mom. One who is organized and structured and has a plan (including Latin and lots of classics!) to see my kids through high school at a rigorous, academically-rich pace. I identify strongly with my friends who participate in Classical Conversations. They seem to really have their act together all the time! I like their approach to schooling and I like how it looks. But that's not really where I find myself anymore. I still VALUE these things, but it looks and feels a lot different than I thought it would when I actually try to pull this off in our home.
At the convention, I saw myself as a mom wrangling some little ones and also trying to meet the needs of my bigger kids. I had a two year old who was awfully loud during some of the sessions, and a five year old who was overly tired and whining, as well. Add to that some kids who kept excusing themselves for the restroom... well, you get it. Messy.
And I found myself in a session with Melanie Young on how to homeschool when you have a houseful. And that's not a session I ever would have thought I would have attended. She was talking about eating off of paper plates and letting things go and being okay with it. She spoke of keeping the baby in bed as the only way to sleep and also mentioned eating fish sticks and other highly processed food as time-savers. These things could have been offensive to me... but I was attracted by her spirit of love toward her children. I heard her mission to raise independent learners (which apparently worked well for her son at Oxford!). She clearly loves her children and has found ways to manage her home so that she can accomplish MUCH (Prov 31). I was impressed by her attention to details for her older kids but also the way she talked about loving on her littler ones by looking them in the eyes and giving them attention that they need during the school day.
This is me right now. I'm a messy homeschool mom. I'm needing to spend more time loving on my kids and meeting the immediate needs (food! clothes! love!) than achieving the high academic standards I'd like to pursue for/with them. I simply can not pull off the rigorous schedule I have in my head... and it makes us all miserable when I try. Listening to Melanie was surprisingly refreshing! I didn't want to identify with her, and yet I do. I was challenged to clean up some things (our daily schedule, my budgeting), but also to simplify where I can and to focus on what is truly important.
That. Just that idea of what is truly important; it's a big idea. It's one worth thinking on. Voddie Baucham said that we need to think about why we are really homeschooling. Ken Ham says that we are doing this first for GOD and then for our children. We serve God first. It looks different than I expected, our home school. Yet, I'm encouraged to press on in service to the One who redeemed me. For His sake I'll embrace the messiness, agree to change, go on loving, release my expectations, and even let the world see that we're a little bit unkempt. We aren't pursuing perfection here, or even academic greatness. We're pursuing a knowledge of our Lord.