There is an ancient story in the New Testament where Jesus takes two fish and five loaves and feeds thousands. I find parenting to be that sort of miracle, whereby we offer what little we have and watch God multiply it again and again. While certain family rhythms and routines have remained constant here this Fall, homeschooling and family living seem uncharted again. The pace of living has quickened and become more individualized. The conversations are deeper and sometimes more vulnerable. Although the hours in a day are the same as ever, they feel shorter somehow at the moment, more precious. Perhaps it is all the talk about changing bodies and SATs and adulthood, but I find myself whispering the words of the Psalmist with fresh humility, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
The short answer to those wondering where I have been the last few months is this: life requires pivots. This new stage of parenting and writing required fresh vision, and although it is business-sabbotauge to be silent for four months, seeing what our home needs and how to best lead our children as young adults meant temporarily putting aside writing here or in the social medias attached to it; it meant saying no to brand partnerships and a few other wonderful opportunities the last few months; it meant reading more books, studying the Scriptures, writing with pen and paper. Instead of trying to compare or cling to our homeschool rhythms and lifestyle in the years passed, I have been watching and listening and praying for wisdom in our small everyday happenings, curious about what our home needs right now.
We are a household coming of age–my children in one way and myself in another. The transformation is palpable, their bodies and minds and relational dynamics stretching into new places. My own growth is less noticeable than theirs, inward and more abstract, but I sense a new person forming, softer and stronger, better anchored in life’s currents.
In more practical homeschool notes, last Fall, we continued with the Classical Conversations curriculum as a guide in our home. While it’s not a perfect fit for us in all ways–which curriculum is?–it suits our home’s needs right now. We did make intentional shifts to create more room for peer-based learning, like opening our home table for study sessions with friends or weekly study groups at a local coffee shop. We added a weekly a la carte Chemistry or Algebra class for the older ones to give them a different classroom experience from their familiar CC Challenge classrooms and for added support. We still prioritze a simple, unhurried family routine, although admittedly, it’s far more challenging as the kids grow older. There are a few weekly lessons for piano, cermics, and basketball, but otherwise, we keep our extras fairly slim and simple. We visited an educational farm to learn about beekeeping and sustainable farming practices. We also took a trip to NASA in Houston to complement Olive and Blythe’s Astromony studies this fall. In the event you are curious about some of what each of the children’s learning has looked like the last few months, here are a few highlights––
For Olive, still in the late years of childhood, I am more intentionally digging in with her, tutoring her Classical Conversations class, allowing more unstructured time for play, giving her more time for independent making and project-style learning rather than limiting her routine to book work (which is tiresome for her dyslexic mind and kinesthetic learning style). She is doing far less copywork and dication than her siblings did at her age, but she is memorizing, writing and illustrating stories, recording heaps of personal voice memos, listening to audiobooks, and is often busy making something.
Blythe turned 13 this fall and is taking more leadership in her own studies and interests this year. Like Burke, she enjoys organizing her time and working independently toward her goals, and I am learning ways to support her through coversations and feedback rather than working through all the details with her. Logic and Latin lessons in Challenge B will grow more complex for her in the Spring, so Mark and I will intentionally work with her as much as possible in those areas. She is also taking an Algebra class through a local a la carte homeschool program, which has been helpful for consitency on my part (wink). Otherwise, she enjoys working through her academic work early and quickly each day so that she has more time for reading, writing letters to friends, illustrating, and a newer interest in ceramics (one of her creations pictured above). Blythe easily reads 2-3 books a week, and several of you have asked if and how I moderate her reading list. Since she is learning to read and write critically through her Challege B course, I allow her to read to her own whim in her free time. I use Common Sense Media to preview the ratings and content of what she chooses and try to intentionally ask her more about the ones she seems to love the most.
Burke, age 14, began high school courses with Challenge 1 curriculum this year, and he is thriving! I love seeing his creative and analytical mind come to life, but I’m also so grateful for a weekly seminar with peers where he is learning stronger interpersonal skills, how to listen to others and love them well. This semester he memorized several portions of important American Documents, researched and prepared for his first team policy debate about the death penalty, read several American novels and is learning to think and write more critically about them. He also loves the independence in his academic work to organize his time each week and work at his own pace. Burke has an affection for comedy and wit, and naturally studies the art of language and delivery, whether in writing or speech. He also still loves to illustrate and is learning how to transform his illustrations digitally, which is pretty fun to see!
Liam turned 16 this fall, learned to drive, took his first SAT, and successfully completed (and enjoyed!) his first two dual-credit university courses in Philosophy and History. Do you feel the increased pace? Wink. To help support him more in his interest to apply to universities next summer, he also enrolled in a local Chemistry class and has had a weekly tutor in PreCalculus. This year, he is reading five of Shakespeare’s plays and some of Caesar’s orginal works in Latin. He is memorizing 30 lines from each play and reciting them with dramatic intepretation. As someone who does not particularly love performance arts, this has been stretching for him, but his playfulness with the project has been so fun to see. He also has a kindred group of friends in the throes with him, making all the difference. He and Burke also wrapped up the third seasonal year of their lawn business, and Liam is currently exploring other creative entreprenurnial projects/interests.
As we begin our Spring term here this week, time feels energetic, hopeful, and unknown. We are scripting plans into the calendar, blocking dates or counting days until birthdays or other expectanct happenings. In my heart, they are numbered differently altogether, not by an accumulation of events or happenings or things, but the accumulation of days by which each of us under this roof unfolds and becomes.
You always inspire me. And (from what I have observed on social media) have gracefully adapted to finding the balance with home and work..though I am sure there were tears she’s along the way! Thank you for sharing with “the world”!
Thank you, Cali. You’re right: tears, hard conversations, and seeking wisdom through seasoned parents and time in prayer are always in the mix. I’m still trying to discern how to share those parts in a way that feels transparent and reminds mothers they’re not alone but also honors my children’s privacy and personal growth. There’s always a learning curve. Wink.
Thank you Bethany for this. It’s great to see how you homeschool your older children. As always it is inspiring. How do you keep your youngest daughter on track to get everything done? My 8 year old was fine with learning school work for a couple of weeks but then just wanted to play and do anything but school. I was also wondering if your daughters (I have three which is why I’m asking about your daughters) ever asked to go back to school? My two older ones wanted to and we were fortunate to find an incredible Montessori school that does lots of outdoor time and an incredible teacher and are learning a ton and loving it. However, I want to homeschool them once they get to middle school, but I can see and has been told by my 10 year old although she loves me she does want to be around kids her age during the day. Was Blythe like that? If so how did you talk her into staying in homeschool, and balancing seeing other children her age. My daughter does to dance 4 times a week so see’s her dance friends in the late afternoons, and on the weekends, and plays with the neighbor kids too. I look to you as you have gone through this with older daughters. Thank you for your input.
Jessie, thank you for adding your thoughtful questions and highlighting what is the most obvious challenge and gift of homeschooling: there is no track. If you don’t mind, I’m going to write a longer response to this in a blog post, since I think many other parents with similar questions will benefit, and I hate for it all to become buried in comments. Stay tuned, and thank you again for sharing!
Thank you Bethany. Of course. I can’t wait for that post/blog
Thank you for filling us in, especially because you know that you don’t have to. 😉 I love following you because you have older children. This post is a great reminder to pivot. ❤️
You are so kind, Shawna. Sharing pieces of our journey (as incomplete as they may be) feels like such an honor. I love turning back to see all the accumulated growth and maturity over the years, and when it happens, I naturally want to holler to those just beginning–“it’s all worth it!” Thank you for all of your support and for following along, even in periods of silence. x
You say it all so well. Wow! Love you and yours so very much, my friend.
I have thought of you so much on your birthday week this week! And I am always wishing I could blink over to you to enjoy a morning hike and coffee with you along the coast. Love you much dearest. xx
Wonderful to hear an update! I read with rapt attention and curiosity as I still have babies and the teen years seem so far ahead of me now!
They grow and change so quickly, and I’m so grateful to offer glimpses of what’s to come. These years are as delightful as the younger years, only in such different ways. Joyful days to you, Taylor!