Posted in At Home, Blog

The Boy Next Door

Safari Boots is not used to sharing his big brother at all, much less with a boy who holds the glamour of nine whole years of life experience, and a remote control car.
But he has had to make the adjustment. There is a little boy next door, two years older than Encyclopedia Boots. And suddenly, everything is about Felix. Felix is my best friend after my brother. Felix says I am his best friend, too. I can see Felix out the window. Can Felix come over to play in the backyard? Felix has a remote control car. Felix, Felix, Felix.Cragg & Hudson, best buds

I had a talk with Encyclopedia about how his brother is the most important friend he has, since he will be in his life forever. If I find that he and Felix aren’t getting along nicely with Safari, Felix will have to go home, while Encyclopedia learns to appreciate his brother. And Encyclopedia seems to be doing a pretty good job of including Safari.

This is a whole new world for me. Encyclopedia has had friends before, but they were mostly playdates arranged because I was friends with the child’s mother. This is the first friend who hasn’t been handpicked, and although Felix seems like a nice boy, he represents something of a loss of control on my part — a letting go of sorts.

Today, I ushered the children outside. “I don’t want you playing in the basement until I’m unpacked,” I told them. “Everybody into the backyard.” I saw Encyclopedia looking from me to Felix to see how my stance was being interpreted by his friend. It was like he was seeing me through the eyes of his friend, looking at me for the first time with a certain impartiality of gaze.

What would Felix think of Mama? Would he be offended by being thus ushered out of the house? Encyclopedia felt the need to explain me  to his friend:  “It’s just because we’re not unpacked yet. Mama doesn’t want a big mess when she’s still unpacking boxes and doesn’t know where everything goes.” His friend shrugged agreeably, and they headed outside.Hudson is getting so tall, but he is still very much a little boy.

It was a nothing-moment, one I could have so easily missed, had I not seen that look in Encyclopedia’s face. And yet it was so significant. Up to now, Farmer Boots and I have had almost 100% control over his impressions of us and the world. Today marked a shift. We’re down to 90%. His peer relationships can have some impact on his impressions of the world — and on his impressions of me.

Somebody, I can’t remember who, said that parenting is about learning to let go. I guess my little boy is leaving the baby stage and entering into the next stage of childhood — one which I have reduced power to shape for him.

God grant me wisdom in learning how to let go, and how much, and when and how to hold on. God grant me wisdom and peace in guiding this precious little soul, and indeed, all of the precious little souls in my care.

Posted in At Home, Blog

Bedtime Bonding

We are a moderately large-sized family in quite a small-sized house. A 1,000 square-foot semi-detached with a small fenced backyard. My husband works from home, and we homeschool in the basement. At work, at school and at play, we get a lot of use out of our tiny home.

So many people, upon looking at our four children and our tiny house, remark that we’ll probably be moving to upsize soon. While I would love to move, I am more interested in upsizing the backyard than upsizing the house.

Many people feel that it is imperative for each child to have their own room, signifying independence and privacy. But I love giving my children a built-in boost to their friendships with one another.

boys' room
boys before lights out

The boys used to have a bunk bed, but they always ended up asleep together in the bottom bunk! I love hearing their conversations (which aren’t as hushed as they imagine them to be) from my bedroom across the hall. Tonight, long after lights out, I heard Encyclopedia tell Safari Boots that he wants to be a missionary when he grows up.

Safari responded, “I like missionaries. But I want to be a knight.”

He is going to love studying Medieval History next year!

A little later, I overheard Safari say to Encyclopedia, “I have a secret. I’m not telling anyone.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a secret. I’m not telling you, either.”

“But Safari, you have to tell somebody. If you don’t tell anybody, it’s not a secret. It’s just a thought.”

I had to smile, wondering if Hudson really believed his argument, or if it was just his best attempt at persuasion.120509-1043b

The girls are still really babies, so I don’t hear nighttime whispers from them, but I often hear Shiny Boots singing her own lullabies to Baby Busy Boots. I don’t let them sleep together for safety reasons, since Busy is still an infant. But Shiny often asks to switch cribs for the night, sleeping in Busy’s crib, with Busy’s blanket and pillow, while Busy takes her crib. I think this is her way of wanting to feel close to her sister.

What a lovely thing, to hear one’s children telling each other secrets, dreams and aspirations in the darkness. This is something that will go on all throughout their childhoods, and it will cement their relationship with one another. They are so blessed to have each other, and I love this part of parenting them. God has truly blessed me, and I am so thankful.

Posted in At Homeschool, Blog

Why Do You Homeschool? (A Confrontation)

My husband being out of town, I took all four children with me to Encyclopedia’s spelling bee coaching, which is in a meeting room in the same building as the public library. I had brought along colouring books for Safari and Shiny Boots, and I nursed the baby while we waited at a little table outside the meeting room.

“You could wait in the library. They won’t be done until 7:00,” another parent informed me.

“Thank you,” I informed her, smiling. “We’re fine here.”

“The seating in the library is more comfortable. You could sit on couches and read while you wait.”

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving my little guy. He’s only 6,” I explained, still smiling.

She smiled reassuringly. “It’s just like school. They won’t let him go until the parents come to pick them up.”

No, it’s not just like school. This is a public building, with all kinds of people milling about. In a school, visitors are monitored. Also, there are upwards of 100 children separated into groups with teenage coaches, with only two adults overlooking the room!

But I didn’t say all this. I did say: “I asked the teenager overseeing my son’s group what they do if a child needs to go to the washroom, and he told me that they send the child with a buddy. I’m not comfortable with two 6-year-olds going into the public washroom out there without supervision. So I’ll just wait here in case he needs to go to the washroom.”

She turned away, seemingly repulsed by the sound of my helicopter-mom blades slashing the air. A few moments later, she was back, this time without the smile. “Where does your son go to school?”

“We homeschool.” I am used to questioning remarks from strangers on this topic, and it’s actually a topic I enjoy. This was different, however. Her questions weren’t friendly curiosity but an interrogative challenge.

“What books do you use? Where do you get them? Are you a teacher?”

(Of course I’m a teacher! I teach my children, don’t I? But I answered her questions with a smile, as if I didn’t notice the unfriendly tone. I am practicing meekness.)

“How do you know they are up to standards? Have you had your children tested to see if they are learning anything? How long are you going to keep doing this?”

(I plan on doing it right through, God willing, but I didn’t tell her that. To be frank, her demeanor was simply so challenging that I didn’t want to prolong the conversation!)

“Well, we’re doing it for now,” I replied with a smile. “We’re only in Grade 1, and I haven’t come across anything that I’m not capable of.”

My Interrogator was undeterred. “Don’t you want them to make friends with classmates?”

I listed a few homeschool group activities that we are involved with. At this point, a Friendly Mother who was seated nearby, jumped into the conversation with questions of her own.

What is the homeschool co-op like, and was it a drop-off or parent-attended?

Her questions were honest and curious, not hostile or challenging. She had thought about homeschooling herself. My Interrogator, finding herself alone in her outrage, fell silent.

“Do your children listen to you?” The Friendly Mother wanted to know. She glanced over at my 2 and 4-year-olds, one quietly colouring and the other reading Bob books to himself. “I mean, they are doing really well here right now, but do they listen to you for school? I find my son used to work well with me, but since he started school, he doesn’t listen when I try to teach him things.”

“I think that we give away our authority when we send our children to school,” I told her. “We are sending them away to someone else to teach them, and that gives the impression that this teacher can teach them something that we can’t. We don’t go to a doctor or other professional for something we are capable of ourselves. So if we send them to a professional teacher, we are telling them that this is beyond our competence. So they begin to trust the teacher more than they do us, because of our own implicit admission of inability.”

Interrogator could take no more of this nonsense. She looked directly at me and thrust forth a question as a challenge, in an almost accusatory voice: “Why do you homeschool?”

“God has given me responsibility for these children, and that includes overseeing their education. So far, I am more than capable of everything that we cover, and I see no need to outsource this responsibility,” I told her, smiling. I know my times tables, too, so I can even keep going next year! I thought this, but did not add it.

“But why do you want to do it yourself?”

“I like homeschooling. I like my children. I had children to raise them, to teach them…”

“Well, I like my freedom! I need some freedom, some time for myself. My children go to school, and I have freedom.”

The conversation ended here, as children started to filter out from the spelling bee coaching. But I really wonder why she seemed so offended by the fact of my homeschooling. I wonder if she feels guilty over her desire for freedom. I’m not saying that every parent with a child in school feels guilt or should feel guilt, but this woman had something going on that made her really antagonist towards my choice. I haven’t come across that kind of antagonism from a stranger over homeschooling before.