And just like that, life changes. We move back to our schoolhouse.
“I’m strangely happy today,” my husband said just before he realized the source of this joy came from shorter days, cooler mornings and the sweet relief and hope that comes with the closing of summer and the beginning of fall.
I have many books on hold at the Hughson branch of the Stanislaus County library, picture books telling stories that sneak math into the lives of unsuspecting children, and books about apples and harvest and fall festivals.
There are pencils everywhere, in every corner of every room. On every surface, stacks of books form a chaotic organizational system of a new school year.
Kendra Tierney, author of the “Catholic All-Year Compendium” reposted an early post on homeschool choices that lightly characterized the types of people who choose these various homeschool paths. After a handful, she wrote, “And then there was Mother of Divine Grace which seemed like it was made for someone who would prefer a one-room schoolhouse at the turn of the last century.”
That is our curriculum.
That is my world. I even have the turn-of-the-century desks to prove it. My husband points out our schooling happens in one room, in a house, a perfect school house.
The method these past two weeks are to ring the bell, invite the children into the school area (a row of desks along one side of our living room) and say, “Good morning, children.”
It tickles them to respond, “Good morning, Mrs. Casey.” We begin with a prayer, the pledge of allegiance and start our day.
We have our plans and work through our day, sending the kids outside for freedom and recess or freedom and lunch. We ring the bell again.
It was not until adulthood that I read “The Little House” series with its images of a remote claim shanty, a country walk to school, games of tag or catch outside a school house, adapted education for the daughter who can no longer see, a husband at home on the farm coming in for meals, a wife whose work is tied to those around her. Laura Ingalls Wilder recounts this fictionalized version of life as a pioneer and early settler from the eyes of a children, when parents could do no wrong and as long as Pa and their dog was there, they were safe.
It is not that I think we should turn back the clock.
I do not glory nostalgically in all that was before antibiotics or good dental care. The evils of that age are not hidden from me.
And yet there is good that I take from it, that appeals to me, that I incorporate into our modern lives whether aesthetically through wooden desks and a primitive Hoosier cupboard or educationally through memorizing poetry and Shakespeare, playing piano, singing folk songs, and reading classics.
They say the division of the man’s work outside the home and the women’s work inside the home made more sense when the man worked outside the home nearby, still connected to the world he supports through his work. The two worked as partners in complementary spheres. The situations around COVID-19 moved our lives more and more home-based as work from home became the norm, and our lives have been better for it.
My husband works in his music studio teaching then rehearsing. I work in my office and drive away from our homestead to the world to report on events important to the community. We all travel to the next town over to attend church on Sundays.
It’s the life we live right now.
Never do I feel its strange, other-worldly, old-timey-ness more than at the beginning of the school year. At Michaelmas, we host friends and family for an outdoor dinner celebrating the bounty of fall. We haven’t quite raised a barn yet but if invited, we’d be more than willing. That’s what neighbors are for, after all.
I know what goes on in the world outside this little slip of land. Yet I’m so grateful for events that have fallen such as they are to lead us to this point. We tone our muscles and learn what our bodies can do through labor on the land. We learn something similar about relationships and love when children can run next door to a neighbor’s house and when fruit and vegetables are shared.
It is not for everyone, indeed. There’s a privilege even in the difficulty of what brought us to this point.
I take the gift of it now, treasure it, appreciate it, and stand amazed that the architecture of life that strikes me as particularly beautiful is within our grasp, even if it isn’t perfect. It’s the lack of perfection that makes it real.