You might have noticed a distinctly large pause in my retelling of our lovely Ireland trip. I'm not attempting to chuck it out the window, but I also feel that I shouldn't keep you waiting for the next installment of What's Happening To Beatrice.
I started homeschooling my kids today. Well, 2/3 of them. The remaining 1/3 took a few tentative crawling steps today, so I guess I could claim that I'm teaching her something. Mostly she just wanted to get her chubby little fists around another pair of Polly Pocket pants that would cause her (again) to choke and me to run (again) for the phone to (again) call 911.
But back to the 2/3. Just as an interesting side note, I've always liked fractions. I cannot explain this, but I've always felt that in the mysterious and yet still frighteningly dull world that is everyday mathematics, fractions are the most like letters. I've always had somewhat of an obsession of counting letters and syllables and separating conversation into equal or comparable parts (fractions!).
I would like to tell you that I spent hour upon hour researching the best method of teaching for my future Rhodes Scholars. I should have color coded schedules of WHEN to implement, HOW to execute, WHY to teach. I would also like to tell you that I read the introduction to each textbook, and have lesson plans for at least the next month.
But I don't. I'm putting that out there because...well...because I am. I'm hoping that other parents might read this and feel really, really good about their own parenting and/or teaching skills. *Or* they just might feel that they aren't the only ones who are flying by the seat of their pants. And then, if they are even more like me, they will wonder how you fly by the seat of your pants anyways. Where on pants should one fly? In my opinion, pants should be stationary objects. Legs inside the pants can of course be called upon to walk...but pants moving about of their own volition would be terribly frightening and a reason to go inside and lie down until you don't see moving pants anymore.
I'm excited and terrified and ready and unprepared to be teaching my kids this year. I don't want to wax poetic/insane about why I'm choosing to keep them home. Let's just say that the matter is complicated and this seemed the best option.
But in parenting, as in life, I find that the rules and the expectations are sometimes too complex that I cannot even bear to think of how much more I can take before utterly breaking apart and writing wax poems about flying pants.
Should I be frank? I'd rather be hazel. But I'll go with conventional wisdom here.
My house burned in June. Not a kitchen fire that you might expect from one who literally burns the first grilled cheese every stinking time. Not even a contained fire that has us renovating the downstairs bathroom. Short of the entire house burning to the ground in a pile, our house is ruined. The outside seems the same, aside from a black flame of cakey smoke on the garage brick. But inside...inside, my house is gone.
The insurance will fix it, so they say. Most days, I'm pretty hopeful that no matter how difficult Allstate Insurance has been, (you read it here folks!) they will make the house livable again.
But first we had to wait. We had to step through puddles of grimy muck and recognize the Monet print that my dad bought me for Christmas when I was 15. We had to look at the perfect shade of red paint, peeling now in patches to reveal that all of Painter Austin's hard work last year was now literally up in smoke.
We talked to an adjuster. Then another. Then the first one. Then the second one's boss. Then another and another and another and I'm not exaggerating.
Our amazing friends and church family helped us clean the refrigerator that Austin swears was more disgusting than the time he had to peel a fried cat off our car engine. (Sorry...hope you aren't eating.) They pulled our things out of boxes, took pictures, wrote down each item, and made jokes while we tried to feel lighthearted about this ridiculous new project that we don't really have time or heart or stomach for.
And it all seemed to be ok. In fact, it seemed almost comically unbelievable.
And then one Saturday, while working in the heat of a hideously warm southern summer, I pulled two small hats out of a dirty box. Flies swarmed around my hands, covered in gloves, covered in black ash. I had written down individual brands, sizes, colors of pants, shoes, toys, dishes, pictures, dolls, books, blankets. I felt sad sometimes, but really...I know that life is so much more important than the things we keep.
But the two hats...they were something different. I held them, sat on the dirty floor of the burned out room that used to be our garage. And, hopefully kept secret by my breathing mask and sunglasses, I cried. I cried and couldn't stop crying. The little pink Mickey Mouse hats had my girls' names sewn on the back, recalling a lovely Disneyland vacation. And for whatever reason, they made it hard to breathe, made the fire hard to bear. The rivulets of grimy tears were still etched on my face hours later when I came to my parent's house, now my home, to bathe.
Finally in the comfort and security of a hot shower, I tried to wash away the feeling that I had let my children down. I tried to fumigate the smoky feelings of inadequacy and failure. I scrubbed at my nails, I scrubbed at my legs, and I scrubbed at the idea that things matter...but they don't...but they do.
I can't say that I'm over the feelings yet. Every time I visit the burned house (as it is now called in Cagle vocabulary) I try to remind myself that a house is just a house, even when it was a home. Every time I'm away for a few days, I tell myself that it isn't as bad as I am making it out to be. The walls are still there.
So...what does homeschooling have to do with flying pants? I'm not sure. Throw in my sad thoughts about Mickey hats and my wreck of a home and I don't know how to tie it all together.
I guess I will go for the obvious and say that when you aren't sure how to teach your kid math and when you aren't sure why the small stitched hats make you cry, you have to remember that in the end...it probably isn't as bad as you are making it out to be. Right?
I could be bordering on delusion, but what I've told myself is that when it is hard for me to teach multiplication and why we must learn about nomads, I can just set it aside and at least build up the walls of the kids' education. Make them love to learn, and the rest can fall into place. They don't have to know why yet, but they do have to want to know why. Fan the flame of love of learning and the resulting warmth will take them farther than mere facts and figures.
When it is hard for me to wait up for Austin to get home, and when I wonder why I must learn about patience (grocery shopping with three whole children) I can just set it aside and build up those things that make my family what it is. We laugh together. We spend money on hats with our names on them, even though we'll only wear them once.
It probably doesn't make any sense, or, *gasp* sounds like the last section of Eat,Pray,Love in which the author gets so obscure in her desire to make sense that she she borders on Great Aunt Martha kind of crazy.
But I kept the hats. They are full of smoke and are permanently smudged with the thick, greasy nastiness that is fire aftermath. But they are reminders of what is important, even when you are throwing out everything you have.