Friday, May 30, 2014

"Summer School" Needn't Be a Bad Word

A two-week hiatus from this blog can mean only one thing—summer has returned to the farm.

The cicadas have marched forth for their every thirteenth-year visit, filling our ears with a constant background hum.  Even from inside my house, it sounds like a slowly circling ceiling fan someone forgot to turn off somewhere deep in the forest. 

All flora that is going to wake up from its long winter’s nap has already done so with great flourish, highlighting how hard this past winter’s ice storm was on the land.  I cut these losses and bury more life within the warm earth, praying for the increase.

Then, there are the longer evenings when the coolness accompanying the descending sun re-energizes both old and young, calling us all to after supper tromps through the briar patch in search of luscious blackberries for cobbler and even later dips in the swimming pool. 

In the end, all this summer means the dinner table is oft left until long after we are mere shadows against the failing light and the mosquitoes come hunting, drawn to our sweat.

And in the midst of it all comes a transformation where oldest son’s days become mine again.  We become a round-the-clock family again—always in each other’s way, for better or worse. 

An empty calendar lays before me.  Two short months.  All in the time in the world is given to me as my children’s mother.  It is mine to use or to waste, to choose what has worth and what does not.  It is this choosing that has occupied my extra hours for well over a month now, determining what mommy’s summer school would look like.

However, it’s not so much a filling in of calendar blocks with activities that has consumed me, but slowly putting into place new habits for us to all begin practicing over the summer, habits that we won’t leave behind come August but that we will carry with us over the next year and into the years to come.

Earlier in 2014, our family instituted the evening thankful journal, teaching us all to change the way we look at life, to daily give gratitude to God and find the good even in the bad circumstances.  Those lists have slowly grown over the months so that even my youngest children have listed over 500 things they have been thankful for this year.  It has made a dramatic difference in our household.

This habit was quickly paired with a second one--family prayer time where no longer would the children simply listen to husband and me pray.  Instead, we began giving them a safe place to learn how to pray aloud every day, a place where it’s ok to whisper, “I don’t know what to pray for” and ok to forget somebody’s name and have to stop your prayer until mommy fills in the missing piece.   

Two weeks ago, our family began summer vacation early, adding a few more habits to our summer calendar.  The first involved memorizing Scripture, something I as a mother have always failed miserably at.  Upon looking into my boys’ RoyalAmbassadors troop activities, there was a goal of 75 verses a year.  Let's just say that number was more than a little intimidating for this mother of three young children.  But when I broke it down, I realized that would mean working with my children to memorize less than two Scripture verses a week.  Two.  Surely that was do-able? 
This week marks our third practicing of this new habit, and I’ve been surprised with my children’s youthful ability to memorize.  Starting Monday morning at the breakfast table, we begin practicing our two verses for our "test" each Friday.  I can see in my children's eyes that it means something that their mother is taking the plunge and learning alongside them.  I correct them when they miss a word and they correct me as well.  Together, we hide those words away in our hearts for the tough days this life will bring.

The second habit added to our summer calendar involves activities to help our children think beyond themselves and their immediate sphere of influence, to become more mission minded.  One way we are doing this is by learning and praying about the countries around the world, a different country each week.  Together, the children and I check out and read several books from our local library, cook at least one authentic recipe from There's a Missionary Loose in the Kitchen, and pray specifically for the country's needs as listed in Operation World.  Last week involved playing with a boomerang and watching The Rescuers Down Under as part of our study of Australia.  This week's Mexico theme found us making maracas and dressing up in a sombrero for a photo op.   
It's fun.  It's exciting.  The goal, though, is to develop little hearts that love the nations as Jesus does.

Add in a daily dose of math and English worksheets, VBS at Grandmama's, summer reading programs at the library, and a trip to see Aunt Liza at the beach, and summer will be here and gone before I know it.

In the past, I have struggled with the months of June and July.  Summer has always been about do, do, do...along with the accompanying guilt over "what I didn't get to do."  But this year, I am trying to change the purpose of these months.  It's no longer about squeezing in as much as possible as it is about using that more relaxed space of time to develop life-changing habits, habits that we can take forward as a family throughout the rest of the year.

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