Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Rainy Day Mutterings

I wish I could say it was rainy enough to warrant the amount of time I've spent inside today, sorting through old boxes of stuff. It needed to be done. I'm trying to cram boxes and bags of my stuff and the kids' stuff under the guest room bed. The time had come to address two huge boxes of school records and old family documents. Just stuff.
Happily, I reduced it all down to one bin!
Sadly, the bin has no lid. Those folders and papers you see are just a fraction of the old teaching documents I keep from the three schools where I taught high school English (and a little history and Bible). My mind is flooded with memories both happy and sad. I found old checkbook registers and an old calendar from 2003, the year we moved away from Alabama. That was a very hard, gloomy year when Adam was so sick, lost his job, and we moved in with my parents. It was also a glorious year of finding diagnosis and treatment for him! But oh the work, stress, and worry we went through to get there! Words on a screen simply can't convey the weariness of life that year. I felt our family was overshadowed by a dark cloud of sorrow. But all of that passes with time.

Through it all -- illness, many moves, friends found and lost, laughter and anger and despair -- I taught school. I educated so many children. If I wasn't homeschooling my own children I was teaching full-time in a school. How did we do it all? How did we cope with the constant waves of gaining and losing in life? It wore me out.

For a great teaching experience, I must say that my best year was probably our year in Massachusetts. Not that I didn't love teaching at Cono in Iowa, where I learned to be a teacher, nor that I didn't appreciate my years in Statesville. But that one year in Upton, MA I had more freedom to teach what I wanted and how I wanted. I gathered about me all the American literature and history and all the ancient literature and history that I loved. And with a small group of students (maybe 13 total?) we fleshed it all out. I chose my own textbooks and compiled many documents from public domain. We studied more, and more deeply, than any other year.

I homeschooled for ten years ... eleven (I think) if you count what I did with Julia this past year. I've kept only a smattering of books from all those years with Christian Liberty.
Adam just reminded me of how thrilled we were each year when the curriculum boxes arrived! I'd forgotten. Those years were certainly not all gloom and hard work. I especially cherish memories of field trips with the children. I loved those.

I want to share one more very special thing with you, for those of you who love creative writing. The woman whose classes I inherited at Cono Christian School, Jean Belz, gave me a writing assignment she'd used, and I've loved it ever since. I wish I could find the original light blue page she wrote on, but it's tucked away somewhere unknown. But I made copies for my students, and here is one:
Here's what you do. Write a paragraph of three sentences. The first sentence should be in past tense and contain a particular date. Mrs. Belz writes, "I was married on October 15." Simple enough. She always wrote simple, direct, elegant prose. The second sentence should switch to present tense, moving the reader into the event. This sentence should be complex and descriptive, engaging as many of the five senses as you can reasonably do. She writes, "On that day the sky is deep blue, the trees are on fire, the garden stuff is stowed away, and the wood fires send out marvelous fragrance." The third sentence is quite fun. From the lists you see on the page above, choose one item from each list and combine them to make this third sentence. She chose "The effect of autumn is like a dream."

The finished product is a perfect whole, and my students produced some fun paragraphs using this exercise. It's useful for beginning writers who don't think they can write; it gives them enough guidance to bring them along, and always produces a satisfying result.

Why don't you give it a try? Leave your paragraph in the comments, or you can do a short blog post about it on your own blog, and leave a comment or link so we can follow along and read it. Okay? Ready ... set ... go!


  1. That IS a fun writing idea! Thank you!

  2. I enjoy reading about your teaching experiences. I admire your perseverance and dedication through those hard times. But I imagine that in those moments you felt that you were only doing what needed to be done....yet you were doing it out of love.

  3. I just wrote a LONG comment and I think I erased it. So, you may be hearing from me twice if I'm wrong. lol.
    I find that sorting through old stuff brings back a lot of the weariness of all the old hardships my family has been through. It's hard to decide what to keep and what to throw, but I'm trying to keep only what reminds me of the good times. My life has been full of good things: my children, my husband, life on the farm. The hard parts we dealt with one day at a time, out of love for our family, as Gretchen said. Now my son and his family are having a hard time and I intend to help them in any way I can. But I know that I'm not God, and I must let Him handle a big part of the load. I think this sort of thing won't end as long as we live on this broken planet. But through this sort of thing we can grow closer to God, if we allow Him to work in us. Preaching to myself! I have a few old Christian Liberty books from our homeschooling years. Just a few. I may use them with my grands! :)


Hello! I hope you leave a word ~ I will get back to it as soon as I can!