May 26, 2013

Farewell, Homeschooling

It was with mixed emotions last week that I made my last homeschooling lesson plans for Zoe for this school year.  This fall she’ll be attending the local international school the older three attend, and my stint as a homeschooling mom will be – at least for the foreseeable future – over.  I’m a bit sad not to be picking out curriculum and making plans for the next school year, but a bit excited, too, for the opportunities she’ll have at the school, and the extra time I’ll have.

I was a relunctant homeschooler back in 2002 and over the years had a love-hate relationship with it.  There have been things I really, really love about homeschooling.  There have been less-than-stellar moments, like when I thought we should sing every morning to start our school day (who was I kidding? That was only fun for me).  I loved the laid-back mornings; hated how hard it could be to get going when so many other things (laundry, meals, crying babies) vied for my time.  I loved reading together, but struggled to explain math in some other way than “I don’t know why, it’s just the way it is.”  I enjoyed having lots of time with my kids, and getting to know their learning styles.
A Roman feast, 2010
I loved doing projects (Panning for gold! Growing beans!) and crafts (very, very simple crafts), but never seemed to have as much time for them as I would have liked.  By far the most satisfying thing I accomplished during my stint as a homeschooler was teaching each of my kids to read.  If for nothing else, I am glad I homeschooled for that reason.  

I was forced to move out of the “I would never homeschool” camp – and survived.   I have experienced guilt because I do homeschool (“Are they missing out? Are they well-adjusted?”), and guilt because I don’t (“Is my influence in their life as significant as it was? Are they negatively influenced by peers?”).  I have come to realize that even if I’m not their primary teacher of the core subjects any more, there is still plenty opportunity to teach them through reading aloud together, playing outside, learning new games, cooking, etc.  The key is intentionality – purposefully setting out to spend time with each kid.

And so I step away from homeschooling for now and into a new season for our family. 

May 13, 2013

Letter to My Future Self

Preparing for the first goodbye, 2001

I read a blog post recently in which a woman wrote to her 15-year-old self.  She reassured her past self that the awkwardness of teendom would give way to a more relaxed adulthood.  It’s an interesting concept, writing to your past person, but I don’t find myself reflecting so much on the past as I do pondering the future, and I often find myself making mental notes to the future Natalie.

It’s been on my mind lately because we are going back to the U.S. this summer for a short furlough.  Making the transition from one country to another can be a tricky time for me, and it’s usually the trip coming back to Indonesia that gets me.  It can cause me anxiety, and to calm myself I sometimes mentally reassure my future self.  It goes something like this:

Dear Natalie of mid-August,

By now, Lord willing, you have enjoyed a few months of all the wondrous things that the Land of Plenty has to offer.  You have spent time with your beloved family, visited friends and supporters, attended your 20-year high school reunion, eaten way too much, bought clothes for the next few years, etc. etc.  And now, the dreaded moment has arrived.

It’s time to say goodbye, again.  It’s time to wrap your arms around your parents and in-laws, kiss them, thank them for the good times, and say the awful goodbye.  You will cry.  Blubber like a baby is probably a more accurate description.  You will think, ‘what the heck are we doing this for?’  You will have moments of questioning if you can really do this yet again and you will wonder why you choose to straddle two worlds.

Years ago, you’d watch older, veteran missionary ladies and think, “Look at them – they’re okay; obviously, it will get better, easier with time.”

But now you know that, at least for you, it doesn’t get even a smidge easier.  It’s just as heart-wrenching as it was 12 years ago, maybe even more so because now you know exactly how far away the airplanes will take you.  You couldn’t be any further away from home and still be on planet earth.  The moon seems closer, maybe because you can still see it in the sky, while Savannah, Georgia seems as far away as Pluto.

You will perhaps struggle to remember the good about where you live in Papua.  The stressors will loom large in your mind: malaria, inconvenience, distance from everywhere, lack of good medical care, the draining heat of the tropics, the drunks, just a general feeling of vulnerability.

And so I want to remind you, Future Self, of the good you have experienced in Papua: the friends you have, your home, a fulfilling ministry, the school your kids love, the beautiful places.  It’s hard to remember this when you’re sobbing your eyes out, climbing onto a plane that will take you 10,000 miles from your passport country.  

But you just have to remember the good; turn to the kids and David, and remember the good.  Speak to your Father, and thank Him for the good, and thank Him for giving you such family and friends that make it so hard to leave.

And then sit down, put on your seat belt, and go.

May 05, 2013

This week in pictures

Zoe celebrated with our Dutch neighbors the crowning of the new Dutch king.  The dress code was orange!

This lovely nanny goat was one of David's passengers this week, along with a family that serves in a remote interior village.

The Amphibious Caravan is a pretty cool plane all on its own, but strap a canoe onto one of the floats and the cool factor increases exponentially.  Tom, one of the pilots, was doing a test flight with the canoe before going out the next day to deliver it for a couple serving interior.

The kids had track and field day this week.  So proud of Luke with his "3st place" ribbon.

This weekend we hosted two girls from a local school called TITIP that gives high school graduates a year of discipleship and intensive English classes.  Our TITIP girls, Ivon and Elise, were a delight to have.

We took the girls to one of our favorite local hangouts, the "swim bak" at a military complex. It's a beautiful spot by a river, with rocks for the kids to jump off and scramble on, and there are always lots of colorful butterflies.

Carter has the gift of finding critters.  This is his latest acquistion, a viper boa.  When he came out of the jungle with it, he assured David it wasn't poisonous.  "How do you know?" David asked.  "Oh," Carter replied, "it would have bitten me by now."  Aha.  Yes, keep praying for us!