A deep sigh from me the other morning drew comment from Tim, so I explained it was a sigh of contentment. I am very content. I have much to be content about. In this corner of contentment I find myself holding a mirror to my life and reflecting – reflecting also means lots of piano and violin playing, lots of reading and lots of writing. I am loving redrafting last year’s work. I was dreading redrafting it. But once I got going, it is such fun! I am doing lots of reading at the same time. The fiercesome wind has helped to keep me awake to read. Reading helps me to be more critical in evaluating my own writing. I’m sure the reading makes me more reflective.
I was thinking it must be so as I saw my book worm burst into concerned tears on Monday evening. He was worried about Longshanks, who had flu. It wasn’t that serious but Rich Tea Boy displayed great compassion and I decided it was a compassion nurtured in his hours of reading. I am very grateful for how healthy our family are and compassionate Rich Tea Boy is. Longshanks’ illness is the first bug for months. We have escaped all the usual Autumn/Winter ailments.
It has not all been reading and writing. We have been listening too. As a rule, I don’t like radio 4. Too much talk. I prefer music. But on the way to Miss Friendship’s riding lesson the other day, I happened to turn it on and listen. It was very interesting. Our listening led Miss Friendship to ask, “What is Dyslexia?” and we had a lovely chat about that. Our listening had me fighting back tears so that Miss Friendship didn’t see, thinking how everyone has a story to tell with their life and how we can never know what people have been through. Our listening had me reflecting on the power of music and how it can be used to tell the emotion of a story. I had forgotten.
Earlier in the week, another car journey had been flavoured with the same reflective sweetness. On a Wednesday evening, I am privileged to drive the “Brownie Bus” – that’s my affectionate name for it. I take four (sometimes more) Brownies to their gathering. Two are my own Brownies and two are delightful, local girls. They were asking us about home education. As we discussed it, the one said “I would love to have piano lessons all day instead of going to school!” I am teaching her piano and she is a hungry little pupil, so eager to learn. She is really fun to teach. Her enthusiastic comment amused me. She associates piano lessons with me and home education with me. So she put two and two together and concluded that home education for her would mean piano lessons all day. We had been discussing how home education helps to make pursuing your interests and skills easier because there are less constraints.
“You can talk to your Mum all day” was another conclusion she drew. That idea seemed to really appeal to her. But it was the other Brownie’s comments that broke my heart. You never can tell the story of others lives or what they are going through but her comments exposed her fears. She said about being home educated “You never have to worry about parents evenings and what the teachers are going to tell your parents because your parents already know.” That was the first thing. This particular young lady is one of those characters who has a very high voltage of energetic activity running in her veins. If she doesn’t have anything to do she soon creates something to do – good or bad. I know those sort of live wires don’t always flourish in the constraints of a classroom. She is a very bright and naturally inquisitive child. Yet she always sits quietly with me in the front of the car and has very grown up and candid conversations but I really felt for her when she said with revelation “You don’t get bullied, do you?” She paused as the penny dropped. “I want to be home educated now.”
I value home education as a viable mode of education for many reasons. Self confidence, self worth and strong character are priorities that I want my children to carry through their lives. Life can throw all sorts at us but I feel strength of character and real sense of worth makes you stronger in the storms. I am grateful for the direction that led us to home educate. It has helped protect our children from certain erosion to their self confidence (like bullying) that they might have encountered in a school setting. I say “might”! It is the other side of the fence that we haven’t lived on. Regardless, it is the home life that influences a child the most. I think of the bullying I experienced at school, while not very pleasant nor very great (a girl in the year above me took a distinct dislike to me but I never knew her name) actually strengthened my character. I know that was because of the quality of my home life and my amazing parents. Without that quality my story may well have been a very different one.
I have been thinking over my story. Our biology teacher, who was fascinating and always very honest, told us that marriage gets better and better. I believed her and have found her wisdom to be true. I realised this week that I have known Tim in my life for longer than I haven’t. Does that make sense? He recently said to Longshanks “Do you realise you only have four years to go and you’ll be the same age your mother was when she met me?”
I wonder at what feels like a rapid rush into independence these teenagers go through. It is very strange to be on the other side of the fence on that one, in the “parent enclosure”. I am reflecting on that as I book another lot of train tickets to send Longshanks off on his second solo adventure. I am loving the growing up and changing season our family is experiencing. I feel very content in it. But I wonder at the future. Tim teased me that as I chose to sleep on the sofa one night because of the wind – unlike him, I don’t sleep with ear plugs in – I was practising for when we are old. If we ever get old there is that beautiful commitment we made that we will do it together. I still marvel at the incredible quality that such a commitment is and the beautiful life it breeds.
Whatever the future holds, I do feel discomfort in hearing God, this week, saying “Go! I will be with you” with reference to a new area in our lives and yet none of the resources are in place for the journey. There is no lack of content in the story but there is discomfort! I am back on the familiar path of trust – my biggest life lesson! It is ironic how safe I feel when I trust God.
Opening the boot of the car revealed a summary of my life in this season: a big bag of carrots, a violin case, communion cups, groceries, riding hats and gloves, a picnic blanket, a laptop and photocopied entry forms. That is a mirror on my week.