School as Sandpaper
Something has happened to our family. We haven’t boarded an airplane or stepped foot on foreign soil. But it darn sure feels like it. It feels like it when my girls come downstairs dressed for school, and they head to the Mud Room to put on their navy rubber soled shoes and knee high socks. It feels like it when I stuff every single text book known to man into their backpacks, and Lillian walks around with a bent over back in order to carry it all. It feels like it on Tuesday and Thursday mornings when instead of heading out the door for school, the girls are sitting in shorts and t-shirts at our kitchen island, waiting for me to orchestrate our school day. And it feels like it on “Fun Fridays” when the whole day looms before me, and instead of doing something “fun” like all the other home school parents promised, we catch up on Grammar and Bible, and I lay comatose on the couch in my study for several hours.
No, we haven’t stepped foot in a foreign country, but it certainly feels like it.
We have entered the country of Home School.
And I have to keep reminding myself what it feels like to step foot in an actual foreign country. When you make your airline reservations and plan your itinerary, everything sounds so romantic, so foreign, so different, so wonderfully other than.
And then you get there. The romantic aspect of foreign travel wears off quickly, and instead of enjoying your destination, you realize you’ve over packed after promising your husband you would never would do that again; you’re lugging all of your heavy bags from one place to another and spending all of your time sweating, unpacking, and re-packing, and you catch yourself thinking, “What in the world was I thinking bringing all five of us to this country? Next year, we aren’t going anywhere. All I want to do is go home.”
The language is different, and although you may both be speaking something called “English,” you realize after you told someone you really like their pants, what they heard you say is that you really like their underwear. The hotel rooms are inevitably way too small to comfortably fit a family of five. The food is untouchable, uneatable, and when you go to the grocery store to buy a pound of ground beef for something like tacos, they tell you, “No, we don’t have ground beef; but we do have minced mutton.” Gross.
And everything operates under a different set of rules. It so happens that there are rules for everything; except you don’t know what the rules are…until you break one of them. Don’t walk on the grass, don’t get too near the cliffs, don’t drive on the right side of the road, don’t talk in too loud of a voice, and don’t be overly friendly in public places. And to make matters worse, you have to learn all the rules and adjust to all the newness while under the influence of jet lag, which makes one feel the equivalent of a slug stuck in jello.
That pretty much sums up Home School.
The leggings are too tight, the confines of our home too small, math is done on an abacus (seriously?), I am so tired from staying up late to flag my lessons for the next day that I constantly feel like a slug in jello, we seem to learn the rules of the classroom only by breaking them (as in, trying to do math with Lillian and Science with Lizzie at the same time does not work), and I am having to learn a completely different language: a language that begins with the letter P and ends with the letter E: the language of PATIENCE. My kids are now so accustomed to me apologizing for something I said or the way in which I said it that they see me coming into our school room and simply say, “It’s ok, mom, I forgive you.”
Home School. What in the world was I thinking?
But I have to remind myself – travel to a foreign country doesn’t mean total ease; it means slow adjustment. It doesn’t mean jet lag lasts forever; it means every day is a little better than the day before it. It doesn’t mean you have to see every castle and historical landmark in the first few days you are there; it means slow down, enjoy the view, and trust there are enough days in the trip to see what you need to see. It doesn’t necessarily mean the tight boundaries or lines are going to disappear; it means you have to adjust and learn to live within the boundaries you have been given.
And it does mean, remember why you travelled here in the first place. It wasn’t for the food; it wasn’t for the plush accommodations; it certainly wasn’t for the extra sleep. It was for the extra time with your family; it was for the opportunity to learn things you never would have learned by staying in your native country; and it was to learn how to speak a new language, one that is good and necessary for your soul.
There always comes a moment during overseas travel when the hedges part, the skies clear, the cliffs and the sea come into view, your children laugh, and all the effort of the trip is tasted in the sweet bite of the fruit of that moment.
I am still waiting for that moment on our present journey, but I am believing it will come as I wait with patience, trusting a good God who does all things well, and has called us to this country called Home School. And on the days I don’t remember exactly why I booked the tickets, He definitely does.