From my adorable big sis comes the suggestion for this post. She's been homeschooling for a lot more years than I have, so when she talks about something that can put a strain on homeschooling moms, I tend to listen.
Imagine that you're talking to a fellow homeschooling mom. It's a bright spring afternoon in mid-May; the baby, two-year-old and the twins are all napping at the same time for the first time since the baby was born; your four older children are playing in the backyard. Giddy with all the freedom, you call that nice lady from the homeschool group, the one you're just getting to know. She has eight children, too, but she's only been homeschooling for a year. Though she's taken to it like a duck to water, she still likes to talk to you from time to time, and you enjoy getting to share your experiences with homeschooling (and also, let's face it, you like being able to talk to someone who understands when she hears you say, in the background, "No, I'm not buying more band-aids until you've used up all the ones we have!").
You have it on your list of things to do to call her, as she said something to you after Mass the other day about summer activities, but you were too busy keeping the twins out of the bee-filled holly bushes to answer her. So now, you dial her number, and spend a pleasant few minutes just catching up (and talking in polysyllabic words!).
"I just can't wait for summer vacation to start," the woman, whom we'll call Mrs. Cheever, says a little breathlessly. "I'm going to get so much done this summer!"
"Oh, me too," you answer as you finish chopping the vegetables for the casserole you're making. "I really need to clean out, and there's some painting we need to do, too..."
"Wow! You're going to do home improvement projects? Do you call that an elective?"
Wondering if you heard incorrectly over the whirr of the mixer as you start the biscuits, you say, "Not really. It's just routine maintenance, but I haven't had enough time to catch up on things."
"Same here," she agrees. "But I don't know when I'll get to stuff like that over the summer. We're going to be so busy!"
"Are you taking a trip?" you ask as you pop the casserole into the oven.
"We have to visit relatives in early August, but the VBS will be over by then, and the hands-on day camp sessions for the early readers..."
"Vacation Bible School. There's a Catholic group doing one this year at St. Quieta's. It's a two week program, and it's just like the ones the Protestants across the street are doing, but of course it's all Catholic, which makes it so nice, doesn't it?"
"I suppose so," you reply a little hesitantly, shredding lettuce for the salad. "We've never done one before."
"I'll send you the link to the info," Mrs. Cheever says enthusiastically. "The only bad thing about it is that I think we'll be late for the Early Readers' Day Camp at the library the first few days; it starts the second Wednesday of the VBS, and since it's clear across town we're going to have to jump into the car after VBS, pick up something for lunch, and hope we get to the library in time to drop off Isidore and Martinian for the camp. If they're more than half an hour late they won't let them join the rest of the group. But after the first three days we should be fine."
"Once VBS is over, you mean?" you ask, sitting down with a glass of iced tea and preparing to focus a bit more closely on the conversation.
"Right, because the Little Seamstress class the girls are taking the next week is early in the morning, so it won't be such a rush to get the younger boys to the Readers' Camp on time. Of course, picking up the boys in time to get them home and changed for swim lessons will be a challenge, but thankfully that's only on Thursdays. And that reminds me--are you one of the mothers signed up to help plan the Altar Server's Picnic at St. Q's?"
"I think so," you say, checking your calendar. "Yes, I'm signed up. Are you? I've got to find out what day we're meeting for that..."
"What day?" Mrs. Cheever laughs. "We're having eight meetings, starting the last week of June."
"Oh," you remark, startled. "We've always had just the one meeting before, and then the picnic the next week."
"Well, the mothers took a vote--it was that week you couldn't make it, when the twins were sick, I think. Anyway, a lot of us wanted to do something a little more exciting than a picnic, so we're having a fund raiser to raise enough money for the servers to go to the Giant Fun Carnival of Expensive Rides. We're thinking either a bingo night, or maybe a dance--plus the candy sales, of course. As long as I've got you on the phone, how do Tuesday nights work for you? Thursdays we've got swimming lessons, as I said, and between Sallustia's violin lessons on Monday and Ultan's painting tutorial at the Museum on Wednesday afternoons, I've only got Tuesdays left open..."
"You certainly are going to be busy this summer," you comment. "Tuesdays are fine."
"Good!" Mrs. Cheever says happily. "Busy? To tell you the truth, the only thing that's really worrying me is the baby aerobics class some of the moms asked me to organize. I'll be teaching babies from fourteen months to three years some simple aerobics, and of course Almedha and Ebrulf will come with me, and the other children will be fine with Theonus and Tecla in charge (it's so nice to have teenagers, isn't it? Oh, wait; you don't have teenagers yet!)...where was I?"
"Baby aerobics," you remind her.
"Oh, yes. The class itself is no problem--Friday mornings at the community center, if you're interested--but I'm having a lot of trouble with the homeschooling music approval committee."
"Yes, that's the group. 'Homeschoolers Approving Music and Song,' and would you believe it? Not only is 'Barney' off the list--well, I expected that--but any children's nursery rhyme tapes that contain rhymes or songs "suspected to have pagan origins" are automatically out. So far all they've approved are some church songs, and I've got to tell you, it's a little hard to do aerobics to The Glory of these Forty Days. But we've got three more meetings set up, so I'm sure we'll reach some compromise--it's just that the aerobics classes are supposed to start the first week of June, so I can get a few weeks of class instruction in before the VBS comes along. I've told the younger children that I'm going to have to finish baby aerobics and drop the toddlers off at home before I take them to VBS on the two Fridays, so they're prepared for that, but it's going to be a little hectic for those two weeks. Other than that, everything should be calm, until we drive to the Other Coast for the family reunion which I'm in charge of planning this year..."
"Is that the trip to visit relatives?" you ask blankly.
"Yep! All three hundred and fifty of them! And boy, the number of dietary restrictions the older generation has is making the meal planning a tad difficult, especially since the caterer I thought I had lined up had all these unreasonable restrictions about not driving more than an hour...but I'll find someone else."
"Look, Wulfhilda, I can understand why you wanted to talk about summer activities!" you say. "I think it's really important for homeschooling moms to remember that summer is a time to recharge our batteries, to look forward in a leisurely way to the approach of the next school year. It's so easy to burn out, and while I think it's wonderful that you want to do all of these things over the summer, maybe you're taking on a bit much, here! It's only twelve weeks, after all. Why not take things a little slower? I know lots of moms who get caught up in the possibilities of summer vacation, and plan every iota of their time. Usually, though, they're so tired by the time school starts back up that things get off to a bad start. Believe me, I sympathize with your desire to do so much, but maybe you've over scheduled your time a bit?"
There's a long silence on the other end of the line.
"Wulfhilda?" you say.
"I think you've answered my question," she says, a light breezy tone in her voice letting you know you've offended her.
"I'm sorry if I..."
"Forget it. We're just different, you know. I'll mark you as 'not interested' in the soccer league I'm starting June 15, then, shall I?"
The baby monitor begins to squawk behind you, so you let it go for now. But as you get the baby up from his nap, and peek in on the still-snoozing twins, you wonder how long it will be before the Cheever children are back in St. Quieta's School.