So this is how it’s done. We run some errands while Jason keeps checking in on his WeChat friends’ moments. Shen Lan, one of his friends, posts pictures of fish they’ve been grabbing from muddy waters. He sends Jason their location. We try to follow them after finishing our tasks for the day. We are too late as they have left but we find the exact spot where they were, an area partially drained of water so it’s easy to catch the helpless but still slippery fish. The kids go in with Jason and they have a hoot!
Jimmy goes in with a bright yellow shirt and exits like a creature from the black lagoon. Joshua starts slow and unsure but then after the experience, he nags his dad to take him back. Jason is proud of his catch while I just admire them from a safe distance, taking pictures, vicariously dipping my legs in the jet black mud without the ickiness and stickiness. When they come out, Jason partially washes their bodies using beer that was left by his friends. They enter the car stinking of beer and mud, then go straight to the hot spring pool to wash the smell off.
In the car ride, we pass through Jason’s childhood home and he points out where they went mud fishing with his buddies when they were about Joshua’s age. At that time, all around were just swamps and fields of tall grass. No buildings and factories blighted the land and there were no electric pumps to drain the water. They had to manually scoop the water themselves using whatever container they can find — wild boys with all the time in the world to drain half the water from a pond. It takes them way longer to do this than to catch the fishes.
We were lucky that the swamp, when we arrived that afternoon was already partially dry although Shen Lan and his cohorts had already gotten most of the fish. He posted the most delicious looking fish dishes on his WeChat that evening. Shen Lan is a chef and I’d go through mud if I knew at the end of it, he’d be doing the cooking.
What’s the connection of this to homeschooling or our dream to drive around the world? It’s practice following where the clues lead us and perhaps a lesson in biology and geology. While waiting for them to have their fill of fun in the mud, I took the following notes from the book, “Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace” by Sarah Mackenzie.
“Rest is the virtue between negligence and anxiety, but many of the homeschooling moms I have met, myself included, find themselves more likely to fall prey to one camp or the other. When we are weak in virtue, we inch toward vice. A curriculum that leaves no room for the soul to breathe will suffocate, but so will the absence of purposeful and intentional teaching . . . . . Rest, therefore, is not the absence of work or a failure to consider and carry out a plan. It is work and leisure, properly ordered. It is doing the right thing at the right time . . . .”
“We must drop the self-inflated view that we are the be-all and end-all of whether the education we offer our children is going to work out. We are too quick to feel both the successes and the failures of our job as homeschoolers. Our kids test well on the SAT and we pat ourselves on the back. They are miserable writers and we scourge ourselves for failing them. . . . The success we seek is not the same success that the world seeks. All true education begins in wonder and ends in wisdom.”
“That writing assignment on the plan today? Do it well. That math lesson that your child struggles over. Sit down next to him and do one problem at a time, slowly and carefully. Smile a lot. Lavish him with love. Because whether or not he becomes an excellent writer or a proficient mathematician is not your business to worry over. Your business is that single assignment today and loving him through it.”
I’d love to be a homeschooling mom with unshakable peace but I still get shaken and stirred in every which direction. Not cool. But days when I see them immersed in and leaping through mud, I could be at peace knowing that we are doing what we believe is best even if people think otherwise. My study sessions with the boys still carry some tooth-pulling pain but I’m balancing between being too relaxed and too demanding. If only I let go of wanting the results veer a certain way, as Sarah Mackenzie says and as my happy fisher husband believes, it’d be okay.