“To craft from sick days and bored hours a home and life in which the eternal springs up in time, made touchable in hugs, feasts, cups of tea, and bowls of soup.” The Life giving home, by Sally and Sarah Clarkson
It has been a while... I felt like I needed to give my voice a break in order to gather my thoughts and ponder on the meaning of belonging in the midst of this pandemic.
BELONGING... I love that word so much! I’m a big fan of Brene Brown, and her many talks, podcasts and books on the subject are so rich I don’t even know which excerpt from her work I could possibly share that would do justice to the whole of her knowledge on the subject! But here goes:
“True belonging is not passive. It is not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are.”
“We hunger to be deeply known, and in the knowing, held. We pine to belong to a place in which our story began, where the stories of others intertwine with ours in a history that sustains us through dark nights and winter seasons, where our loneliness can be comforted and we can encounter the affection of God and human alike. We yearn for familiar beauty, for the knowledge that the physical trappings of our lives, the spaces in which we breathe and suffer and love, have meaning. We want a refuge that is more than a house, with rooms that speak to us with a living presence and enwrap us with welcome when we return. We hunger for the rich community of love, the family that ought to fill those rooms.” The life giving home
This quote has been the desire of my heart for my family since I can remember. I find it so amazing whenever I read someone else’s words and they speak so profoundly to my heart. These are the words I would use to describe my motivation, my drive, what get’s me up in the morning, what some people would call “my calling”.
Yet, in the last few months, I think my “home educating mama identity” was struggling a bit. Somehow the lifestyle we have been striving so hard to accomplish over the past few years seemed to be the “default” mode to which every one reverted to for the past months.
Working from home, less extra-curricular activities, less distractions, more family time, school at home... many of you found yourselves confined to these options and new roles not out of choice but out of fear or obligation. We all experienced a shift in our identity, for some that shift was a long awaited desire, for others it was another hardship to deal with amongst all the chaos. I needed to adjust, to ponder and to learn how to belong again...
I rarely feel comfortable sharing my thoughts out loud when I truly believe we are all trying our best to navigate whatever life throws our way. I felt out of place sharing our homeschooling lifestyle since many of you were trying it out for the first time and I was afraid of coming across as all-knowing and experienced when, let me tell you, we are all in the same boat trying our best not to screw-up these little humans with which we have been entrusted for the time being...so that being said, I missed expressing my heart through our blog and most of all, there are some things that I wanted to immortalize for my posterity;)
Lately, I felt like whenever the need to share the fact that our kiddos were homeschooled, we also needed to specify that we have been doing this since the beginning of their school years not just as a result of this pandemic!
Why this need to justify our choices and our lifestyle? Frankly, I don’t know... maybe I was afraid that somehow all my “hard work” as a home educating mom, all my efforts at creating a beautiful learning environment, all these hours I spent researching beautiful content and living books would just fade in the new crowd of “homeschooling” families...
Then, it dawned on me that the people I do this for, the people I love more than my own life, the people I want to gather around my table with good food and good books are the same ones as before this pandemic!
They are the ones who call me mommy ten thousand times a day and then a few times at night, they are my inspiration, they are the motivators behind our “alternative” lifestyle, they are the ONLY ones that matter.
So here I find myself once more, sharing a little bit of our lives, mostly our last semester of school so we can have something to look back on in a few months or a few years from now and remember those beautiful days when even though the world seemed so chaotic around us, our home felt like a safe haven, a place where we could be ourselves, explore, gather, learn and mostly a place where each and everyone of us feels like we belong!
At the end of August, I took a few afternoons to reflect on the content I wanted to explore with the kiddos during this school year. Of course we cover Math (we use The Life Of Fred series) and French (which has been mostly practicing reading, vocabulary and writing up till now) on a daily basis but I had a few ideas I wanted to put on paper just so we would have some kind of “bone structure” to guide us through our learning.
While doing a bit of planning, I discovered that I LOVED timelines. I find they are the perfect visual aid to all the reading we are doing. So I decided we needed one for Canadian History.
We’ve been going through historical fiction books and they are a real delight for our family! From the Dear Canada series to other living books recommended by Bonnie Landry, a veteran homeschooling mom(you can find her blog here https://www.bonnielandry.ca/)
It only seemed natural to add these famous characters and events to our timeline.
Here are the books we have read so far this year(not all of the ones that are pictured here have to do with Canadian history but we had to add a few for context and then added diverse biographies to the mix plus a few just for fun):
After realizing how well our Canadian history timeline was working, and debating wether I should buy a science curriculum to follow Finlay’s love of science or create our own, I got inspired by the Beautiful Feet science pack https://www.bfbooks.com/History-of-Science-Pack-New?sc=18&category=858)
I studied their booklist and decided to create our own timeline including biographies we would read on famous scientists! We love the Who Was series for this subject.
Here are the books we have read so far for our Science study:
We have also watched youtube documentaries on the lives of a few of them and on their discoveries and inventions! We also bought a few tracks from yourstoryhour.org which are audio adventures of the lives of a few of the great inventors. Once we feel like we have covered a great enough amount of information on a specific person we print out there picture and add it to our timeline.
There’s something special about being able to see all these great men and women interacting in the same time period and being able to understand their relations to one another... I strongly believe that good character in children is developed not only in their day to day lives but in the studying and reflecting on the lives of the people who have come before them. We just love biographies so much! It has given us plenty of opportunities for heartfelt discussions on more than just what these great men and women have accomplished but their values, their motivation and perseverance.
When I first sat down for a bit of planning I had envisioned “themed days” throughout our week. History of the world on Mondays, Art study on Tuesdays, Canadian History on Wednesdays, etc. But I soon found out that since most of our subjects are based on read alouds, meaning that we cover our Canadian History through great stories and the same with science, we had a hard time going from one great book or biography to another.
So as the weeks passed, we found ourselves doing more of a “block study”, reading through one biography within a few days and then switching to the next read. We stick to themed days for world history(reading through the Story of the World volumes and then narrating), art study ( using these resources https://www.letsmakeart.com/ ) and geography but the rest of our learning flows organically through our reading time as a family throughout the day.
I had wanted to follow amblesideonline.orgcomposer and art study but then again we had a hard time sticking to specific subject on specific days... we decided to do a brief study on Leonardo Da Vinci, reading his biography, watching a beautiful short documentary, studying a few of his most famous paintings and techniques and then building a model of one of his inventions.
We then added his picture to our Science timeline of course! From the same youtube channel(NowYouKnowAbout) we then watched Vincent Van Gogh’s biography which piqued our curiosity so I’m thinking we might do a short study on him in the near future.
As for our composer study, I had planned on studying Richard Wagner and George Frideric Handel but reading through different biographies at the same time was just too much for us. So this has been on hold until I find that it can organically be added without it feeling like a burden.
Meanwhile, Jeremie has been giving thrifting a try(to my greatest surprise!!!!) and he has found us many little treasures from beautiful copper cookware to this “Great men of music” collection which I’m all excited about using sooner rather than later I hope!
Of course the kiddos have been enjoying many audiobooks by themselves while playing endlessly with their legos. That is when I find myself cozied up by our wood stove with a cup of Earl grey squeezing in as much reading time as I can before the next chore or kid calls my name.
Here are the books I’m currently reading:
If you are still reading, I hope I did not bore you to death with all this nerd talk! Like I said earlier, home educating for us was a decision that we made long ago in order to foster this love of learning that both my husband and I have. We felt like there is sooooo much more to life than what regular schools could teach our kids, and since we LOVE learning alongside them, there was no better option than to do this life long learning lifestyle together!
Now that our first school trimester is over, I can marvel at how much we have covered even though, if you were to ask the kiddos, they would tell you that we don’t do any « school »! I guess my attempt at bringing learning into our daily lives as organically as I can is starting to have it’s affect!
December has been a month of cozying up, of slowing down even more than usual as the days are shorter and colder. We’ve switched our daily read-alouds from biographies to Christmas books that we unwrap every now and then as part of our advent calendar. We’ve gathered with a few dear friends, read “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S.Lewis as part of a bookclub, and enjoyed Christmas movie night almost every night of the week!
Even though this year, and more specifically, this winter has nothing to do with what we had planned (we are still living in our RV and this will be our first winter in Canada in three years... yes, as people keep asking us, we’ll be just fine but still, it will be a bit colder than Thailand) we are determined to make the best of those days where all of us are still at home and enjoying each others company!
We are looking forward to spending our afternoons by the wood stove or skating on the outdoor rink that Jeremie has been preparing for the kiddos. We are slowly starting to long for a house we can call home, all the while knowing that what we have here and now is HOME even without a house. We will cherish these last months(hopefully) of tiny living looking forward to what the future has in store for us, cause as we all have been witnessing for the past few months, we never know what lies ahead! What a crazy year 2020 has been!
Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season no matter what that looks like for you this year. Even though we might not be able to gather as we traditionally do, I wanted to share this last quote with you so you can let it sit with you and maybe let it find it’s way to the core of your family culture so that when we can physically gather once more you do it with a renewed sense of grace.
“Through the years, I have realized over and over that I conduct the atmosphere in my home by the way I rule over my heart. When I focus not on performance or perfection but on joy, gratitude and service, everything seems to fall into place. Working to prepare and maintain a beautiful, welcoming atmosphere does convey that I value and welcome my guests. But allowing them to enter my world even when it isn’t quite as beautiful as I want it to be communicates that, in our family, grace abounds. They learn that family culture can be both full of life and beauty and immersed in grace in moments of struggle.” - The life giving home
Hopefully we can welcome you into our home soon and share this family culture that I am longing to create, a place of belonging, a place where grace abounds!
Remember there are great things to be grateful for no matter the circumstances cause happiness is a matter of the heart above all else!
And since I’ve been listening to Jewel lately(taking a short break from our Christmas music since we started listening to it in October) I will share what she says... “ in the end, only kindness matters!”
With love, from our family to yours!