Tracing Memory

Scattered pieces of tracing paper graced our home much like the misplaced or missing socks were also doing. My girl had traced the lines of many a princess. This wiggly little one could magically sit, all dolled up, under the spell of paper and pen. Looking back at tracings from two years before, I saw a big difference. The ability to follow a line and obey the shape had become stronger. Lines more refined, she had almost moved on to drawing these beauties from memory.

Tracing got me thinking of how we had grown in learning how to learn. I remembered when this little artist would feed helpless—tracing the lines of my face, studying my eyes. A minimum of 1500 times we sat down to give and receive nourishment and in the meantime, trace faces. She memorized early the curves of my nose and lips, the boundaries of my teeth, the sound of my voice. In those earliest days, I was teaching her, unaware.

What seemed to be years away, hopped right into my lap: the school years. It was time to start learning! The first day came with no big fanfare; I don’t recall the date, but there we were “doing school.” I felt the need for our schooling to be run by a published list of lessons on a specific timetable and I was tense. Learning wasn’t quite as fun as I’d thought it would be . . .

Find my complete article, published earlier this week, over at Classical Conversations’ The Writer’s Circle!

Cabbage Lines-001

The Science I Thought I Couldn’t Teach

It’s a Friday and my assignment is a class of 9 five-year-olds.  Our mission:  Memorize Newton’s First Law of Motion,

“An object at rest tends to remain at rest,
and
an object in motion tends to continue moving in a straight line at constant speed,

unless an outside force acts upon it.”

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It’s a lot for them.  They won’t truly memorize it this year, but at 5 years old it’s about exposure.  As they grow, we will return to this law and watch it get bigger in depth and meaning.  But really, any child who knows the song, “On Top of Spaghetti,” unconsciously knows this Law of Motion.  That meatball sits pretty atop its pile of pasta until a sneeze makes it roll.  It then continues to roll until something stops it.

Coaching these wiggly worms in memorizing this “dry fact” of Science while singing a song, I suddenly see something they don’t.  I pause the song and say,

“Kids, this is about our hearts!  My heart, and yours need God to change it!”

To myself I realize, “We think we’re learning about meatballs sneezed off center, soccer balls kicked into flight, and satellites floating endlessly in space, but all of these things point to more.  This law is not only about physical matter.  It’s the law that my heart will not move, or be still, without an outside force, sometimes gentle, sometimes not so, stirring me to do or not do, think or not think, love or not love.”

Stuck in Leaves

My little ones are unaware of, and unimpressed by, the explosion of light that’s just entered my eyes.  It’s no joke that the teacher often learns more than the students.  Is that a law too?  I’m standing in a divine moment, worshipping overjoyed to be teaching this deep science I never thought I was interested in.

And I love the law for simply stating what is.  It tells me what I am and what I do and points me to that outside force that I see, over decades of progressive understanding, is a loving and unfailing force.  I pray silent for my little ones anxious for snack time,

“May the “Force” be with you, and may He move strong in your hearts.”

It’s ok that they don’t get it.  This law we give the man Newton credit for does not need to be understood to be true.  I am confident in this:  that in kindness and love, He moves lifeless hearts stuck in an unseen state of inertia.  And I hope as these children grow, the highlight of education in any subject is the sheer joy of seeing the law and love that works on our behalf.

Weeee

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, . . . 
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ 

Ephesians 2:1, 4-5a

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.  But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

Titus 3:3-4

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Romans 2:4

Things I’ve Learned about Teaching

I often get the question, “How do you do it?” referring to the fact that my children are homeschooled.  I tend to shrug it off with something like, “Oh, if I can do it, anyone can do it,” or “Oh, I don’t know if I’m really doing that great of a job.” While these are true statements, they’ve come to be more telling of where I was in the beginning and don’t hold much weight now.  I might have a bit more to say, about learning at home or elsewhere, after what I’ve learned so far along the way.  

wonder3

The first thing I did not know in the beginning was that teaching is not always the same as telling.  I told my first student in the ranks what she was supposed to know.  She rarely caught on quickly and I worried about a learning disability.  Through trial and error and trying to understand how to teach, I’ve learned everyone truly does learn differently.  Much of my teaching has become showing, not just telling.  

letters2

I learned that repetition is normal and necessary.  I am not alone in feeling the frustration of repeating yet another time, for example, that “The number on the bottom of the fraction is the DENOMINATOR for crying out loud!”  Somehow, through this journey of becoming a teacher, I realized this wasn’t much different than the sometimes frustrating, but mostly enjoyable, process of learning to get pizza dough to turn out right.  It’s about repetition.  Seeing it, feeling it, and then knowing when it’s right.  

I began homeschooling with the notion that the goal was results.  I now believe that without relationship, you rarely get results.  The eyes will tell how the relationship is going, with you and with learning.  Are their eyes glazed over?  Am I rolling mine?  The relationship is not healthy when I do; I’m looking for results.  The eyes are the lamp of the body, a window to the soul.  Watch them.  

wonder4

Together

It’s about the process and learning together. Since when was it not? From the first day in the hospital, she knew physically how to eat. I, on the other hand, had to learn the best way to get that to happen without too much pain. With each successive child, the experience has been different and I have always been a co-learner. It’s the same with teaching them reading or multiplication. I’ve had to go on a hunt for ways to impart the wonders of the created order.

Vision is essential.  What do you want for your child when they are 20, 40 or even 70?  What do you want her to know about relationships and living?  What do you want to instill in his character?  Will she know how to talk to someone who has hurt her feelings?  Look to others’ interests and not only talk about herself?  Will he know God and His joy?  Thinking far down the line can help you decide what to focus on now when they are 6, 8, or 10.  You need some idea of where you are going, but don’t get lost way down there.  Yes, vision is essential, but so is right now. . .

Together (2)

Remember when they kept waking in the night?  Wouldn’t potty train fast enough?  You wondered if they would wear diapers in 6th grade.  Would they want to sleep in your bed through college? (Which I probably wouldn’t mind!)  You know it was ridiculous.  It still is now, if they’re struggling with their times tables, to think they always will.  Relax.  Keep at it.  They’re 8 only once and real success in anything never happens overnight. 

So how do I do it?   

My goals now are opposite of what they used to be.  Telling my kids what to know has become a desire to growas a teacher that is able to show them wonders.  

The results I was looking for will probably still come, but the relationship my kids have with me, with the world they’re observing, and with the God who made it all is at the forefront of my mind.  

wonders

My vision is reigned in as I remember my children are still children.  They are not at an age to be masters of much, but wonderers.  They are being exposed to how the world was and is and is to come.  

I don’t believe educating my little ones has anything to do with checking boxes, clocking in hours, or determining their skills based on their birthday.  Nor that learning only happens between certain hours of the day and when one sits with pages of text and worksheets.  That mindset only brought me anxiety and answers that kept my eyes looking down when asked how things were going.   

Letters

Do I think I’ve got it all figured out?  By no means!  But by now I no longer feel the pressure of thinking I should.  I have no intentions of them leaving the nest fully “educated,” all “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed, like a brand new computer fresh off a conveyor belt, nicely packaged and ready for use in the “real” world.  Rather, I envision them leaving equipped to never stop learning.  No matter where your kids are schooled, I believe you can have the same goal.  

Christmas at the Planetarium

I never thought I was interested much in Science, but there I sat among children, craning my neck to the artifical canvas of stars.  We heard about the Sun and other planets, all fascinating.  We found perspective when told 1,000 Earths could fit inside Jupiter, and 1,000,000 could fit inside the Sun.  Hoping they would catch this wonder the first time around, I repeated these facts to my girls.

When regular ol’ earth showed up, my heart felt something like a song or a sigh.  There was something beautiful about the blue and green in vibrant hues and the swirl of clouds over them.

Back home from the planetarium, I read more about the planets and their atmospheres, or lack thereof; about what lies beyond our giant solar system.  The more I read and pondered the seemingly endless universe, my wonder turned gloomy.  We are like dust.  Our solar system is like dust.  We are in a sea of which boundaries aren’t found.  We refer to heaven like it’s just beyond the clouds.  We’ve been beyond the clouds and all we see are more planets and stars and black.

I don’t know God like I thought I did.  He’s untouchable, I’m insignificant.  I scream inside, not unlike the time I was small and thought I was lost in an elevator.  “Where are you? Why isn’t this canvas smaller so we can see you behind it?  And do you really see me?”

Feeling disoriented and bothered as my understanding of what can be seen expanded, my need for hope did the same.  

Christmas was coming, and good thing it was.  I was needing a good story.  But such a silly one, that a baby is our God.  We sing and remember angels heralded his arrival and are far removed by now.

Yet of all the stories, there is not one like this.  The world went on as always in its searching and striving for greatness and meaning . . . for the best story. Meanwhile, down to the stuff of earth, huge hands entered helpless and small, first covered in skin, next in what was available.  Smaller than dust from the moon’s perspective, it was a quiet entrance marked by a faraway star.

Whole Earth

Photo by NASA on the Commons

I remember how He meets me every day; a presence too big to see with the kind of eyes I have. I remember it’s not time yet, all will be revealed in the end.  It’s the way great stories go and I stop asking, “Why can’t I see you in the cosmos?”

There’s something different, something colorful brewing here.  I think that’s why my heart did something when technology allowed me to see earth from afar.  On the planet where life can live and skies are blue, there’s a different brush swirling over.  One of the dwarves in a line of 9 spheres, ours is indistinct, but kissed by the touch of God; come small, come flesh, come for crippled eyes to find.

The untouchable became touchable for a little while and gave us hope.  And this hope will not disappoint.

Is there any better story for a wandering speck of dust?  

Raising Fools in Love

Night after night, she wants the same story read.  I’m anxious to reach the end and kiss good night. I don’t always enter into what I’m reading, but she is entranced.

Bear
 
A recent favorite is about a group of friends:  bear, mouse, and mole; raven, rabbit, and wren.  They play together, hunt strawberries together, and cuddle up to sleep.
 
Another is a little girl day-dreaming.  In her own garden “there would be no weeds” and the flowers would “never die.”  Anything would grow.  The fruit of her labor would be abundant and large (except for carrots which she hates).

In my garden
Garden 2
 
My children listen, not batting an eye.  When I am present, I remember what these stories are really saying.  They are beckoning to their imaginations of an ideal life; whispering a reality we’ve lost and must, for now, imagine.  
 
So when I’m there in my heart and not 15 minutes into the future when the house is quiet, I tell them why they love these tales.  I tell them what once was, . . . 

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” . . .

and I tell them what will be . . . 
 
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
    and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
Isaiah 11:6-8
 
Creation will be renewed and weeds will be legend.  We will be friends with creatures, perhaps cuddling for naps or hunting for strawberries on their backs.  

Bear 3
 
Children are supposed to grow up, leaving childish ways behind.  I’m not sure what all those ways are, but being a fool in love with the hope of paradise lost again being found is not one of them.  

The Legacy of a Window

Sometimes I’m embarrassed for my children to be seen playing on my iPod Touch or iPad. It seems that’s all children do these days and I don’t like to contribute to the impression. Sure there are educational apps, but I won’t get started on that.

I like to limit the time spent, but since summer hit, it has crept upward.

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As soon as we get in the car, someone asks to play one of my devices. I’ve gotten in the habit of allowing it. What’s the big deal? They didn’t play much at home so I just let them.

We recently waited outside my husband’s office for him to come collect a delivery. I had shakily decided that morning we were taking a break from games in the car. They could learn to sit and look out the window because I believe boredom has a place.

So as we sat my oldest, who loves animals and nature said,

“Wow! Look at all those birds!”

On the roof in front of us, birds were swarming like a bunch of roaches. It was an amazing sight we all enjoyed.

Tokyo Tower

This moment helped me to stand more firm on the decision I had made. I pointed out that if they had been playing games while we waited, they would have missed such a sight.

A window stood between them and the world outside of the car; another kind of window sometimes sits in their lap. One is quick to produce marvels at the touch of a finger; the other demands a waiting gaze; attention.

I realized it’s not about contributing or not to what everyone else is doing; it’s about habit.

I’ve decided I’m willing to greatly reduce a hindrance that can shape a mind slowly but surely away from a curious, thoughtful life and into one that has a quick, easy solution whenever boredom knocks.

Habits like that never changed the world, I’m pretty sure.

 

When You Don’t Know What to Say

I had no language yesterday.  That happens sometimes, but after living here 4 years and returning 5 times, it’s not a good feeling.  Depending on the group of people, the topic of conversation, and the amount (or lack of) one-on-one conversation, my fluency goes up or down.  I needed my husband to interpret most of the conversation and I was humbled.

kani catching 2

Instead of talking or following words, I watched.   One girl in the group had my full attention.  She carried her 5-month-old girl on her front side in a carrier.  We walked around, picnicked, and fished for crabs.  Her baby was on her most of the time.

Yumi

She was patient, sweet, never begrudging the child attached to her.  When the baby had a blow-out diaper and stained her shirt, she laughed and gently changed the baby into extra clothes.

I ached.  Not sure if from wanting to do that all over again, or wishing I had carried mine like that more.  Wishing I hadn’t been shocked everytime they made a stain.

Kasai Rinkai Koen

Walking back from running a little one to the bathroom, I felt incompetent in lanuage and groping for the missed moments in my life.  I could’ve studied the lanuage more diligently and taken more advice when I delivered my baby here.

I knew it all back then.  I didn’t need advice.

Why do we realize we need advice when we get older and it feels too late?

The girl walking this soil 10 years ago with a swelling belly is different than the one walking now.

Oh, they keep telling me I haven’t changed a bit since our last visit.  I hope they mean on the outside, that’s a compliment.  It doesn’t feel good to hear I haven’t changed when I know I’ve learned so much.

I write to make sense of the absorbing that goes on in a day.  Yesterday I absorbed the yucky feeling of being unable to speak; humbled because I know more words than they think I do.

I absorbed the regret of the distance I kept with my babies when I knew it all.

kani catching

Now I’m absorbing the lesson.  Ten years ago and all the years before, I knew what I was doing.  I see my error now.  Yesterday I came full circle.  A decade later, when I know more for sure, I was struck dumb and reminded it’s good to remember you have a lot to learn.

Standing up to Live

“How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live.”
~Henry David Thoreau

I know better than to think you are living each day to check what I’ve written here. But I have an undeclared (which is probably a problem) goal of posting here twice a week. I haven’t met that goal for at least a week now so I wanted to pop in and share why.

“When the cat is away, the mice will play.”

Feet

I’m the lead mouse when my husband is gone on business.

He’s not a drill sergeant, like many often assume, but he brings a sense of order to our home that I don’t naturally exude. Almost all discipline that I put forth in my life is due to his patient and kind direction in wanting to help me succeed in doing what I do.

When he came back last time, I was lost in a cloud of frustration and resentment. It took me a while to figure out what was going on with me. Sure, it’s hard to be on your own when you’re not used to it, but the problem was not the “cat” being gone . . .

It was my choices while he was away.

So I’m challenging myself, because I realized, on my own, that I need to get my big girl pants on and be responsible for the time I keep wasting and wondering why there’s never enough.

I’m trying to stand up from my bed early in the morning when there’s no one’s lunch to be made at 6 am (which is usually the only way I will get my fanny out of bed). I’m doing this so that I can live my life, not just have life happen to me.

I’m trying to see my children, whom I have chosen to stay home for, and be with them instead of feeling the pull to write my latest thought down or feel resentful that I wake to their needs every. day.

I love this writing thing. It’s the only place I can really figure out what I’m thinking and share with someone. When I don’t put forth the effort to use my time well, I don’t get time to write, my kids get all of my time by default, and things don’t end well. I don’t want to give them my time by default, I want to give it freely. I’m learning to do that, one step at a time.

This is not the blog to come to for 3 tips on time management, make-ahead sack lunches, or best app reviews. But I can point you to some like that . . .

Since my last wasted week of Hiro gone on business, I read Mindset for Moms by Jamie C. Martin. I think she stole the first chapter from my thoughts, I related to it so exactly. If you’re needing to reset your mind (which I’m thinking needs to be done as often as setting the table), give it a try, it’s worth the five bucks!

Living for the Day

It’s dark outside, time for little ones to sleep.

We’ll read a story, maybe one in each language, if we make good time on milk drinking, teeth brushing, and jammie dressing.

Some nights it’s a quick hug, I love you, and hope for no deep questions. Other nights are stretched out with more feeling in, “I love you,” and I breathe in their skin with each kiss.

The last time I was soaking in that smell of young skin, I was trying to make up for not really seeing them all that day. They were here, under my nose. It was Sunday and I was reading on the couch while they played happily. It was a fine day, but I didn’t notice until it was closing time. That’s when I brought out my list of nice things to say and tried to hang on to the last moment of the day with them.

I was giving the day an epitaph, making up for the things I hadn’t said when there was time.

Songs on the radio praise the night, living for the life that happens in the dark. But what about the dark that stays? When it’s too late?

The day can be hard to wake up for. Lots to do, we’re slaves to the urgent. When is there time for the important things, important words?

Epitaphs

What if I decided to stop having funerals every turn of the axis? To stop living for the night, slapping all my best wishes onto the casket of the day? I’ve tried almost every day. I think I’ve gotten better at defining important vs. urgent, but not much. My effort makes a difference but still has a way of showing me how very short it is. There’s only one Arm that is never too short and it’s not mine, I am reminded . . . again.

So like I said, it’s dark outside, but it is still today and words need saying.

The “I love you’s,”
“I’m sorry’s,”
“Wanna talk?”

I’ll keep trying to live for the day, but will still proclaim my daily epitaphs most of the time. I’m so glad the words were penned for us so long ago, “His mercies are new every morning.”

When the darkness closes in and doesn’t shine this side of the sun, the only epitaph I need is that His mercy has covered all that I’ve left undone.

Skimming the Deep

Sometimes my thoughts are too much to handle.  As I write them, I feel weight.  Maybe they wouldn’t weigh as much if I didn’t post them out in space where “who knows?” is reading.  But even my journals, that only I have read, have been weighty at times so that’s probably not what I’m burdened with.

Weighty

The “Whos” in my own “Whoville,” they must be what I’m afraid of.  The ones who know me, but also don’t.  They don’t get the depths of my heart unless its the right time and place.  When they do, I feel like I’m just a little weird.  So why do I have this bulging need to write if my thoughts are weighty and, for some, a little weird?  There’s something that still wants out.

Writing is an exposing art, if you are writing the truth.  Could be I don’t like the truth about me.  I’m a dreamer.  I’m not content with looking at life from the surface.  I like the deep places, but sometimes they’re scary (there’s some yucky, slimy things down deep), or just . . . weighty.

The sea too has some scary things in it and the further you go, the water weighs down, even crushes.  It consists of depths which have yet to be discovered and I don’t believe all ever will be.  There are “jewels” hidden that have been seen and enjoyed only by the eyes of God.

Jewels

Is that the way with my heart?  Are their jewels there I will never find?  Are they there just for Him?  Does He find pleasure there?  I’ve heard He has set eternity there . . . Is that how deep my heart really goes?  So I will never understand it?

Or is it that deep so that I will keep searching?

My thoughts even before I write weigh down and my words are lacking, only skimming the foam of the waves.  There is more down under I am unable to mine.  With the weight and few words, why write?

beach

In this moment, as I write, I know why.

I mine the depths of a heart that’s never completely been my own.  And when you know there’s more to it there’s a reason to keep searching.  Have we ever had to be told there’s more?

Diving

Eternity is long and to have the joy of seeking His treasure for just as long gives me courage to keep facing my deep yet incomplete thoughts.  After all, the more I dive, the more I discover, not of myself, but of the Captain of the Sea.

Psalm 107:23-24  
Those who go down to the sea in ships, 
Who do business on great waters;
They have seen the works of The Lord
And His wonders in the deep

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything appropriate in its time.  He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.