As I sat on my front steps this afternoon at 1:30 and watched my two oldest children fill yet another bucket up with soap and water, I had this haunting feeling come over me that I was doing something wrong. You see, we had been finished with schoolwork for nearly an hour already and they were free to play and enjoy the day.
You see, school is back in session. By that, I mean the public schools in our area and that we too have started schooling. We celebrated our second day today. First grade is off to a positive start. My first grader, herself, is a more patient, enthusiastic, softer-spirited version of the spunky, frustrated and defiant kindergartener that she was last year. "Please Mom, just one more lesson of math before we move on to reading?", she has asked now for two days in a row. Strange. I know.
I felt like I should be "busier" or more frantic throughout the day. I mean come on. How could one woman actually remain sane and peaceful with three small children by her side, on her lap, above her playing in their rooms and outside her front door washing rocks.
My day was simple. I wasn't due to be anywhere at a particular time. No appointments. No one to pick up, drop off or wait for. No lunches to pack. No snacks to bring in. No backpack to examine the night before. No homework to check for completion. No notes to sign or permission slips to signature. Just me, reading with my kids. Presenting the concept of number value to my six year old and watching her shade and count items, blocks and pictures with enthusiasm as she wore an adorable side-smirking grin on her face. She was enjoying herself and so was I.
This is too easy. I thought. There's got to be more to it. We read a Bible passage from Luke and I watched as my children looked up to the ceiling in wonderment and amazement as they heard about the angel Gabriel tell Zechariah that he and his wife Elisabeth would become parents in their old age. And they remember when asked to tell me the "story back". They remember that Zechariah worked in the temple and that their son John would be the cousin to our Savior Jesus.
I stood contented as I watch my four-year old build with blocks and wear a serious and focused look on his face. His brows lowered and plump bottom lip being pushed out a bit. And of course, that yummy dimple in his chin.
I help my daughter with forming the number "six" by making tiny dots with my pencil so that she can trace over my steady and sure work. There are fables to read. I help in sounding out a word in "Little Bear" as my eldest reads proudly and with a sweetness in her tone. I assist in pronouncing the name, "Henry Wadsworth Longfellow" as she copies one of his poems to practice her handwriting and then share a giggle with my children as we ALL find his name long and literal.
And then it is done. And by "it" I mean school.
Natural. That is how it came and went. There did not seem to be a definite beginning or end. Only a sense that my children were soaking in all of the beauty, truth, insight, language and skill that was gently placed before them. For they do not know that what they are doing is called "learning" or that what they are trying at is this thing called "school". A thing that parents actually move out of neighborhoods for in efforts to be closer to the "better ones". The schools that score higher on standardized tests or that are better "racially balanced" that the old one that they used to live near. This thing that is a taboo at times among mothers talking at the library or the park. About circle times and clubs, bulletin boards with their children's work posted in the hallways and stickers and food for incentives.
I guess I have been programmed to expect the good things in life to come at a cost. To be hard to attain. I am by nature a hard worker; one who typically takes the "long and hard" roads in life. To believe it takes blood, sweat and tears to attain and obtain the "good things" in life. But this thing called schooling, this thing that allows me to be with my children as their mother both during the day as well as after 3pm, is not that at all. It is more like the ease and gentleness by which I first accepted these babies into my arms the day they were born. Instinctively and willingly. Proud and with favor. This is how I have accepted being able to teach and be taught by my children.