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I live in Wisconsin – the Northern Midwest – a place of four true seasons. In this climate wonderland, we feel the rhythms of Mother Nature profoundly. She blesses us with gorgeous Falls and magical Springs. She gives us reasonably temperate Summers that can be productive and beautiful. And, well, of course, she covers our Frozen Tundra with intense cold and ice and snow for more months than I really like.
This rhythmic understanding of seasons has always made it easier for me to see patterns in other things – children, homekeeping, daily schedule and weekly flow. The patterns seem natural and normal.
When I read Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, I loved that four of the ingredients were the four seasons. They jived with me immediately. Three of the ingredients in LE:TPOL are blocks of the day (Mornings, Afternoons and Evenings) and I like those ingredients, but I must add a fourth and I must think of them as seasons.
My day starts with “Mom Mornings” – the time that like Winter is spent in darkness (much of the year), huddled under a quilt with a cup of something warm in my hand while I read the stories of my faith and my vocation and my mission. My Mom Mornings are a Winter because they are a creative time that focuses on finding warmth, inspiration and renewal. While my family sleepily greets the day, I am sequestered in my bedroom with my books and thoughts and prayers. This is my time to reflect on the gift of the day that we will have and how I am supposed to embrace it.
One of the longest stretches of the day is much like a Wisconsin Spring – “Mornings”. During the Mornings, the kids and I honor our routines like a farmer would honor his planting schedule. In fact, I am a farmer. I am sowing seeds of family culture, relationships, scholarly inspiration and work ethic. Some Mornings seem to never end and find us looking up from our lab experiments at 1:30 wondering how we missed lunch. In Wisconsin, Spring starts slowly and lasts a long time. The work of Spring will impact every other season for the rest of the year. We are planting not just for today but for many tomorrows to come. These mornings are hard work and require much discipline, hope and team effort.
My Afternoons are like our very short Wisconsin summers. Just two short months from July to August much like my very short afternoons that have to be maximized so that I do not waste the precious reprieve in the full schedule. If I have planted hard and well in the morning then my afternoons are spent caretaking the crops of with study and rest and time to refocus. While I must commit a portion of my time to weeding out the interruptions, I also get to nurture the ideas that have taken root in my study. Like a farmer with some early harvests of peas and garlic, I do attend to some housework but not too much. These Afternoons are a time of relative leisure but they also need to be guarded against powdery mildew (unnecessary Facebook) and varmints (too much online shopping) and slugs (too much snacking).
Finally, starting at 4:30, we begin the long and joyful harvest of Fall. We cook, we eat, we clean, we pray, we read and we talk. We are bringing in the fruits of a great day and are feasting on the good habits, good thoughts and good relationships that we have been growing in the sunshine and rain of our early seasons.
When I am asked what our TJEd day looks like, I would love to show my laminated routine cards. And, frankly, I will. But the reality is that that routine is a tool not a tyrant. (Thank you Holly Pierlot for that expression. I will steal it for the rest of my life.) I am much more interested in the seasons of my day. Those are organic and tangible and budding full of meaning. It has taken me 18 months inside of this beautiful Leadership Education journey to truly understand that a homeschooling day well lived is not the day that makes it through the to-do list. It is the day that honors the vocation and relationships within the home.
Order is helpful so long as it supports the goals of the day. I cannot have a wholesome and abundant harvest if I ignore the Spring planting. The seeds must go into freshly tilled and amended ground. They must be nurtured and encouraged to germinate and grow. That harvest is in jeopardy of failure if I do not use the Summer properly. I must rest and read or I cannot be inspired during the Winter or inspiring during the next Spring. I must see dinner as a Thanksgiving and end the evening with prayer and reading. If I shortchange our dinner or mindlessly turn on the tv at night, I am stealing the joy from this season of celebration and gratitude and I am making our efforts less meaningful.
There will be times when there are storms or droughts or gloriously beautiful days that demand a break from routine so that we can capture God’s artistic majesty into our minds (or our nature journals). When these days are the exception instead of the rule, we can weather them more easily and know that they are a season within a season and just let them be what they are. I am learning to embrace each season for the lessons that it has to teach me and I must confess: I am going to bed more fulfilled and contented than before. Like the early peoples who lived on this land, I want to go to bed tired from meaningful work that nurtures my family.