Turbulence, Tree Rings,and Homeschooling during Christmas

Oh man. Did life just get harder?

Let’s start with a few confessions.

  1. I’ve had headache for the last 3 months. This actually isn’t an exaggeration, although I wish it was. I’ve been to multiple doctors and had an MRI, but the only answers so far are that there are no answers but it probably isn’t life threatening. Most likely it’s a viral infection that was supposed to go away 2 months ago… so whatever that means. Anyway, my head hurts.
  2. I lost our spelling book weeks ago. So instead of just looking up spelling words on the internet, I decided it would just be easier to not do any spelling for a few weeks.
  3. I found our spelling book last week on the shelf where it goes. You know, the last place you would ever look for something at my house… actually put away!
  4. Even though I found the spelling book, we still aren’t going to do spelling this week.
  5. Due to some fortuitous scheduling we are down to science one day a week. And I have to admit, I am loving it! I was barely squeaking along with our science lessons for awhile, trying desperately NOT to get to a certain lab I was dreading. But then I remembered that I’m the boss and  I can do whatever I want. So I just skipped that lesson. Things were a lot better after that.
  6. During our last engineering lesson I let the kids make whatever they wanted out of their little building pieces as long as it had something to do with a simple machines (lever, pulley, wheel and axle, wedge, screw, and the other one.) So my 2nd grader made up a game called “linkages” which had nothing to do with actual linkages. And I didn’t care. Because my head hurts.
  7. Sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I am doing.
  8. Sometimes all I want to do is curl up on the couch and read a book. Read “sometimes” as every morning and afternoon. And evening.
  9. I strongly dislike cooking dinner. I even have an Instant Pot and my friend added me to the the Instant Pot Facebook group. But I can still barely get myself to make dinner. I think I’ve used my Instant Pot maybe 3 times, twice to make refried beans. If this appliance was actually going to revolutionize my life, it would just make dinner for me. Someone needs to invent a magic pot. I’d buy that.
  10. You know what, I strongly dislike preparing lunch also.
  11. My house isn’t clean.
  12. And my Christmas tree looks like the ornament boxes just threw up on it.
  13. But all the lights are working this year! So there is that. (I’m awesome!)

Ok, we’ll lets just stop at lucky 13.

The holidays are hard to navigate because there is just so much to do. There are concerts and family parties and more concerts and church parties and shopping and decorating and neighbor gifts and the Christmas letter and visiting Santa and whatnot. And then the normal cleaning and cooking thing which I already kind of fail at. And if you are me, then your insurance seems to change every year, which is a major deal for our family. I spend hours on the phone with doctors and insurance companies and sometimes even pharmaceutical companies. Talk about a major headache! (Plus, yes, all the extra doc appointments this time around for the curious aforementioned minor headache that just won’t let go.)

And then when you add in the fact that your children are home with you all day long and you’re supposed to be teaching them everything they need to know, lovingly, patiently, compassionately, and adjusting for all different learning styles and personality characteristics, it just kind of gets extra overwhelming.

Um… I homeschool so I can set my own schedule, right? Aren’t I supposed to be in charge of the pace of my home and family? Why do things feel so out of control?

So when things get like this, my “go to” mantra is this: “When in turbulence, SLOW DOWN!”

It was much more eloquently said, however, like this, “What do you suppose pilots do when they encounter turbulence? A student pilot may think that increasing speed is a good strategy because it will get them through the turbulence faster. But that may be the wrong thing to do. Professional pilots understand that there is an optimum turbulence penetration speed that will minimize the negative effects of turbulence. And most of the time that would mean to reduce your speed. The same principle applies also to speed bumps on a road. Therefore, it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.” (You can read/watch/listen to the entire address here, and I strongly suggest you do.)

The same speaker also introduces this concept by observing tree rings and how trees handle stress. “One of the things we learn from studying the growth of trees is that during seasons when conditions are ideal, trees grow at a normal rate. However, during seasons when growing conditions are not ideal, trees slow down their growth and devote their energy to the basic elements necessary for survival.”

My husband’s favorite saying, when people ask how we are doing, is to say we are in “survival mode.” Truthfully, I feel much of the time we are not just surviving, but actually thriving. However, when life gets so busy, and so complicated, and my head hurts day after day after day, it does sometimes feel like I’m just surviving from one moment to the next.

Turbulence. Less than ideal growing conditions.

Here is what I did to slow down this month.

  1. I cancelled the family Christmas party we host every year and have for something like 7 years. (GASP!) As soon as I decided I just wasn’t going to do it, a HUGE weight was lifted from my shoulders. And I promise, Christmas will still come on December 25th like it does every year, despite our lack of family Christmas party.
  2. I didn’t write a Christmas letter. (I still sent off a card, but no letter.) Do I feel guilt every time I read someone else’s beautiful letter? Yeah, a little. But not enough to go out and write one.
  3. I scaled way down on the Christmas baking. I suggested just caroling to the neighbors, but my husband says its weird to carol and not bring anything at all, so we still ended up making some goodies but only one batch of each, and the easiest of all the treats. No baking for evenings on end like every Christmas of my entire married life.
  4. I bought every Christmas gift online and/or at the dollar store. (Amazon Prime Free shipping! Bonus Points!)
  5. I skipped all our spelling lessons (ok, this was obviously not on purpose, but was one of those blessings in disguise. I have mixed feelings about spelling lessons anyway.)
  6. I have kept up with our school work, kept us more or less on schedule, and gotten us through where we need to be. But at the same time I tell myself daily, “there is no rush. It is not a race. We don’t need to be big or fancy or showy or prove anything to anyone.” So if we need to stop for a little bit then that is what we will do. And I don’t have to apologize to anyone for anything.
  7. I figured somethings just matter more than others, some traditions don’t HAVE to happen in order to have the spirit of Christmas in our home, and I decided I’m not going to worry about it anymore.

I will readily point out that my house is still messy. And our dinners are still minimal. And we still haven’t had spelling lessons for awhile. And I still have a headache and more doctor appointments.  But I think we are all enjoying the Christmas season and finding special moments of peace and serenity. For us, for now, this is our “optimum speed.” Quoting from my earlier source again, “we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most.”

Homeschooling at my house right now kind of looks like that. Nothing showy or picture perfect (or in any way perfect – what’s new?) but its good and it is us and I don’t have to apologize because there is nothing to apologize for. Another day will come when we can do amazing things and show off our awesome talents and wow the world with goodness, but today we are just going to be our awesome selves and do good where we can, as we can, and be very happy with that.

Happy December Homeschooling! (and good luck!)