Summer is over (sort of). Featuring way too many pictures.
I have a small amount of bitterness, deep in my soul… Just kidding. Kind of. Our family has become regulated by the dreaded School Calendar. “Dreaded”, that is, if you’re a homeschooling family, not used to bending the family’s schedule to the imposed will of others.
I say that a little tongue in cheek, but the struggle is real. Or, real-ish.
Two of my young men, Grant and Wesley, started school yesterday at a local charter school, Jefferson Preparatory High School. Wes attended there last year as a freshman, to mostly-success.* Grant has been homeschooled from kindergarten through 11th grade, but decided that he wanted a traditional campus experience for his senior year. And, frankly, I was growing weary of cracking the whip for him to get his work done and not get distracted by managing his fantasy soccer team. He will still be applying to the U.S. Air Force Academy this fall, but is also working on several other Plan Bs, virtually all of which include an AFROTC scholarship. Those scholarships aren’t guaranteed, of course, but he is doing well in school and is set to achieve his Mitchell Award in Civil Air Patrol Cadets next month, an honor conferred to only 15% of CAP Cadets. This is my son, by the way, who was diagnosed at age four with Nonverbal Learning Disorder. A couple of weeks ago, as I was preparing enrollment papers for Grant’s time at JPHS, I decided to see if the phone number for his old Occupational Therapist was still active. We had a long and encouraging text conversation. She worked with him from age four through 12, and I think Grant is still reaping benefits from our hundreds of hours with Carol the Occupational Therapist.
So, anyway. We have decided that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks (mostly molding our family around The Dreaded School Calendar), and both Grant and Wes are enrolled.
For my three girls (and me), summer is still in full swing. Mostly because I’m not ready (nor am I willing) to start our homeschool year. My 7-year-old, Fiala, got impatient with me, though, and started on her math yesterday. I spent the day looking into co-op classes for the girls, reviewing curriculum (I’m very undecided about which way to go for our curric), and starting to plan for the school year with the homeschool group I lead. From the bottom of my heart, I feel like a lousy leader. Our group has upwards of 250 families in it, and I’m sort of blindly feeling my way along, very much an introverted fish out of water… But, the benefits gained from the group (and the benefits to grant; with 14+ years under my belt, I have a lot of experience and a lot of resources to share) outweigh the challenges.
We were able to save up some money and take a “real” vacation this summer. Typically, we camp, because a family can camp for an entire week for the cost of one night in a hotel. But, we decided to go to California and go to Disneyland, the beach, and even a short stay at a little mountain lake. All six kids were with us; I can’t help but think this may be the last vacation, all together as a family. Grant has a friend-who-is-a-girl, a darling young woman — also homeschooled, also in Civil Air Patrol — who is from a conservative Catholic family. Very coincidentally, her family was planning to go to Disneyland THE VERY SAME DAY we were. Cuh-razy. So, our families met up — their four children, our six — and we hung out all day. I have decided that going to a day-long outing like that tempers everyone: Kids are less squabbly, parents are less crabby. Everyone helped each other, and it was pretty ideal. The teens frequently ran ahead to collect Fast Passes for everyone, and Martin and I used the parent-switch pass with Jeanie, who, at 39.5″ was just a hair too short to go on most rides. Even though it was the middle of July, we really didn’t do a whole lot of standing in line. We were there from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., maximizing our time. I’m so pleased that our mid-summer trip worked out so well. A “mid-summer trip” wouldn’t be necessary if our family was 100% homeschooling — in years past, we have often waited until September when destinations have only 10% of the tourists that were there just a few weeks previous.
My summer has also been consumed by decisions. Like many homeschooling families — or at least, ones like mine, where the mom really can’t multitask all that well — I had saved up a ginormous list of projects to do around the house, purchases to consider, doctor’s appointments to schedule and attend, decisions to be made… And, truly: Those last two sentences consumed most of my summer. Lots of research, lots of comparison shopping, lots of trawling Craigslist and local Swip Swap sites, lots of time in the car, schlepping here and there. But, I feel like I accomplished a lot this summer, which is much more than I can say for most summers. See? The dreaded school schedule, to which I am beholden, lights a fire under my rear and causes me to make things happen. It’s good. I guess.
I have also been gardening, of course. Right now is kind of a lull in the garden: Yardlong green beans, Armenian cucumbers, Clemson spineless okra, and sweet white onions are pretty much the only thing I’m harvesting. Many things have died — between the birds, the rabbits, and the heat, I feel like a garden is a fight against encroaching wildness, in order to eke out fruitfulness from our caliche clay “soil”. To encourage myself, I started weighing my harvest in November of last year. This summer, the lowest week of harvest was just under four pounds, and the highest week around 30 lbs. A typical week is around 10-15 pounds. So. Eking is worth it.
Among the never-ending garden lessons I’ve learned: The Phoenix area is far enough south that we really don’t get enough sun for long-day onions. Also, sweet onions don’t keep as well as spicy ones. And what did I plant? Long-day sweet onions. I’m storing my harvest in the fridge, once they cure. I hope they keep longer, that way.
There are always lessons to be learned. I think that is the main lesson I’ve gleaned in the last 20 years. There are always lessons to be learned in marriage, in motherhood, in gardening, in personal growth, in relationship with God.
And on that note, I’ll sign out and clean something. Because there is always something to be cleaned. That’s another lesson I’ve learned. There is always something to be cleaned.
*Wesley did get a “D” in one class, primarily because he just didn’t click with the teacher and really couldn’t figure her out… He had the opportunity to be a T.A. in one of her classes this year — as a tutor and assistant in the French II class, as the school does not offer French III, which Wes wanted to take. He said, “I don’t think Mrs. W would appreciate me being her T.A.” He’s probably right. So, he’s taking the class as a concurrent enrollment class with a local community college. And for that “D”, we made him take summer school, and he finished the month with an “A” — barely; it was a 90%. Still. G.P.A. mended.