Homeschooling Nature Study Our Backyard Book

Shards of Little Moments

Bittersweet. Summer’s final breath. Boxes, a mini fridge, and baking pans neatly stacked in her van. An exuberant college Junior ready to return to friends and professors and her life, apart from me.

This time of year always reminds me that amidst my feelings of sad separation spring joyous pride and immense gratefulness that God helped me prepare her for all that she is becoming.

And I’m glad I worried less about checking all the right “boxes” of our homeschool years and helped her pursue her passions as a child and young adult.

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One day during her last summer before starting her new collegiate life, she was out back, hitting around the tetherball with friends under a bright, powder-blue July sky. I was sitting on the wide, knotty pine floorboards of my kitchen sobbing, picking up chunks of a gray speckled, thick-walled pottery cup with her initials carved into the white, porous bottom. It had slipped out of my hand.

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And I lost one more piece of her childhood.

I could never repair the 22 shards of the beloved pottery cup she had made so many years ago. Just as I could never again teach her a letter’s sound, help her balance herself on a two-wheeled symbol of childhood independence, or discover with her how a preying mantis lays her ootheca. Those days were spent, the details—like the pottery pieces that were strewn across my pine boards that July day— were scattered in roughly-remembered moments. Scribbled in childhood journals. Glued in disorganized scrap books. Randomly stashed away as faint memories.

My tears flowed. Unrestrained. Because I was alone in my kitchen. I didn’t have to be brave for her sake. She had lots of reservations about the looming last weekend of August, but she also eagerly anticipated the possibilities that lay ahead, on a college campus filled with potential for a young woman who was eager to excel as a Mechanical Engineer. So in her presence, that’s what I focused on, the potential. Alone, surrounded by a vivid, scattered symbol of her fading childhood, I focused on my loss.

An intricate, valuable part of our family was moving out. We would experience a great deficit. We wouldn’t be the same.

I cried many more summer tears, but then the day came to pack her boxes in the van, tie her bike to the roof, and watch her say goodbye to sad doggies that would be looking for her return every day until her first break.

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No tears tickled the corners of my eyes that morning. Instead, I noticed how perfectly suited she was for the adventure ahead. That little ringlet-haired toddler who struggled to learn balance without training wheels had grown into a capable woman who knew the precise way to bungie cord her bike onto the van roof.

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The sweet elementary student who hand-sewed Christmas ornaments resembling the characters from Island of the Blue Dolphins, knew she would need a creative outlet in the midst of grueling academic challenges. Her sewing machine was packed and ready.

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The little girl who loved to help her Daddy in his shop went on to build 120-pound robots with engineering mentors, and her final thought as the van is about to pull down the driveway that morning? She had to grab her adjustable wrench that she had forgotten to pack. (My final thought? I gathered a ziplock baggie of q-tips for her and laughed that my future engineer is thinking tools, while her rather lame mom is thinking about the perils of ear wax.)

On the campus that afternoon, there were tears. But not what I had expected.

They were tears of pride. My daughter who had homeschooled all her life, under my limited tutelage and incapable hands, had been accepted to a prestigious engineering school. I made endless mistakes from pre-K through high school, but even on the difficult days I tried to focus on my most sincere desire–to make learning fun and a life-long pursuit for each of my children. Now today, walking the paths of this worthy campus, she looked at ease. She belonged.

Tears of joy. The campus was smaller but nicer than our limited tour had revealed last summer, when we still had no inkling of where she would be applying, not alone attending. Her dorm room was diminutive but infused with natural sunlight through a wall of windows, and the furniture was new. She was friends with only one other freshman on campus, but she found him easily and met many helpful, friendly upperclassman all day long.

Tears of excitement. I had an inner assurance that deepened as the day shortened. God had led her here. Then he had provided scholarships and aid for her financial needs to get her here. He was standing ready to help with her needs tomorrow, when I wouldn’t be here.

Over the last 14 years of homeschooling, I doubted myself almost every day. I worried that I would limit her potential because of my own limitations. But now I realize how beneficial my own insecurity and inabilities were. I had to find outside resources (FRC robotics and community college courses), and she gravitated toward mentors (not only for robotics but also for entrepreneurship, computer skills, and, yes, a pottery internship)–something a reserved, quiet young lady would not have done if somehow I could have taught her all these skills. And in the end, God provided many people and resources to help my daughter grow into a young woman prepared to follow his plan for her life.

My advice?

Worry less about stacking up academic achievements, and focus more on building a loving relationship… Worry less about checking off all the right “boxes,” and help every child discover their passions and pursue them… Worry less, and enjoy the moments more.

Just worry less.

Instead, bake cookies.

Hide love notes in Daddy’s sock drawer.

Cuddle and read a great classic book together.

On a morning when someone is up way too early, watch the sunrise together.

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Be willing to toss aside the day’s grammar lesson when a child discovers a preying mantis in the back yard, and discover the joys of learning all about that little creature side-by-side with your children. Read all about how to care for it, build it a home out of a giant pretzel jar, crawl under trees and dig under rocks with your children for weeks to catch food for it, then sit glassy eyed in wonder as you all witness the miracle of her making her ootheca and laying thousands of eggs.

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If you do have a child interested in preying mantis or other creepy crawlies, please print my FREE Insect ID page here to help guide you in the learning process.

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Your children will eventually learn the correct placement of commas, but they will never forget the day mom helped them house and feed a pet praying mantis.

On a day when you want to scream at your children, grab your keys and some snacks, and take them for a beautiful drive to somewhere fun.

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Soon those precious events of today will be roughly-remembered, scattered moments in childishly scribbled journals and photo albums. You may even sit on your kitchen floor one July afternoon, when your hair is peppered with gray, sobbing, wishing you could relive this very day that you are walking in today, littered with difficulties but filled with blessings.

So every once in a while remind yourself that in just a few more tomorrows your child will be loading boxes in the car and headed for a new, far-away adventure without you. You’ll never be able to recall and place together all the shards of little moments from average days that are scattered across the years. You can’t relive one moment, but you can work hard IN the moment to enjoy the journey—difficulty, heartache, and all. And rest in the fact that you were part of God’s plan for your child, and everything HE does will endure.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

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If you discover a fascinating insect, feel free to use my insect ID page I link to above to help your family research all about it. Our Backyard Book  is one of our family treasures.

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Be sure to follow along right here, on SoulyRested.com, for more nature study resources, posted often! (Just enter your email and click the “FollowThisBlog” in the right-hand column. A few times a month I’ll share tips on Keeping It Simple from my New England homestead.) And—coming soon—a complete nature study resource for even the least science-oriented parent (or grandparent) ever. Really.

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My favorite resource, for all my daughters who love learning all things technical, is TechGirlz. If you have middle-school daughters and live in the Philadelphia vicinity, I highly recommend joining forces in your homeschool adventure with these amazing mentors. At the very least, check out their online resources and maybe they have a shop in a box available in your area.

0 Comment

  1. Amen. Beautiful post. And as a mother of 2 who now have children of their own and look back at all my worries. Those worries didn’t change one darn thing! Wise words, my friend!

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