Friday, August 24, 2007

A Few Million Stars From Now

The Night Will Never Stay

(Eleanor Farjeon)

The night will never stay,
The night will still go by,
Though with a million stars
You pin it to the sky;
Though you bind it with the blowing wind
And buckle it with the moon,
The night will slip away
Like sorrow or a tune.


When I was a child I loved Eleanor Farjeon's poem about the night. I would whisper it quietly to myself, savoring the rhythm of the words and the sonorous sounds of "moon" and "tune." I wasn't completely sure what it meant, but I thought the words were beautiful and oddly comforting, though there was a hint of sadness in them too.

When I look at it now I realize that what the poet was saying about the night is something about time itself. Days don't remain "pinned" to the sky either, though the sun would seem to be a more powerful push-pin than all those million stars. Hours run madly through our fingers as if we were scattering priceless gems into the street; minutes murmur past us while we watch them vanish, and seconds like scattered and restless insects flit by in a dim gray blur.

Monday I will begin my eighth year of teaching my children at home. I can't really wrap my brain around that thought, since like every other mother in the world I can at any instant see in my children's faces the toddlers that were running wildly around here just the other day, or maybe sometime last week. It doesn't seem possible that my oldest DD will be starting seventh grade after one final weekend of gearing up, both for Mom and for her.

Yet though I feel as though whole years, and not a single night, have slipped away all but unnoticed since this enterprise began, I have to admit that there have been many changes. The somewhat sulky five-year-old whose attitude about learning letters and numbers wasn't too different from one of her uncle's has become a fairly diligent student, whose ability to focus on the subject at hand is no longer completely dependent on her interest level (I'm sometimes tempted to think that if there hadn't been all those animal stories in the early readers, we'd still be sounding out words). Okay, not really, but if you'd told me that that scowling kindergartener would one day breeze through The Fellowship of the Ring and beg for more, while still on summer vacation, I'd have thought you were not a benign visitor from my actual future but a traveler from an alternative universe accidentally lost in the wrong time line. And if you'd told me that both of her sisters also weathered the early storms of early education and were well on their way to the capacity for mature and independent study, I'd have suspected you of planning to replace my whole family with pod people--yet all of these things have come to pass, and I'm standing on the brink of what will probably be an amazing and productive school year.

It can be hard to see such a bright future when things look somewhat dark. Some moms out there are experiencing burnout, and have returned from summer vacation just to discover that the burnout is still with them. Some moms are juggling a new baby with the task of teaching older children; some are facing the reality that the toddler who distracts his siblings five or six times an hour is more difficult to manage now than he was two years ago when he was the new baby. There are stresses inside and out; there are negative attitudes on the part of both the children and, sometimes, the homeschooling mom, and there are changes in our lives that end up impacting our schooling no matter how carefully we plan, or how much we think we have covered.

When those times come--and yes, they will come, and I know they will--I hope I can remember that not even a million stars could pin the darkness of the night to the sky. Morning will come, daylight will flood the landscape, and even when we see the approach of yet another twilight we will know that it doesn't herald the arrival of a never-ending blackness, but only a time of rest, a time to take stock of things, to step back peacefully and reevaluate what we've done so far and what we plan to do, and maybe even to change a few things around or to rediscover the joy of teaching our children and watching them learn and grow.

Because a few million stars from now, I'll be watching some poised and eager young women take their first steps out into the world, as they discover their vocations and find God's will for their lives. And in their faces I'll see the frowning concentration of the first-graders who struggled to make a letter "B" that wasn't too "bendy;" I'll recognize the focus and direction of the girls who were determined to understand long division; I'll see the joyful spirits of the young ladies who acted out the lessons on proper introduction from the grammar books; I'll see the thoughtful introspection of the daughters who read, a chapter at a time, the story of their salvation from the religion texts. And I'll see other things, too, things I can't even imagine yet (algebra, anyone?), things that will give my girls a chance to grow in grace and wisdom toward the lives to which God will call them.

3 comments:

Autonomouse said...

That was beautiful.
I found your blog by a google search for that poem that I also loved as a child.
I do not home school my children but so many of your words also ring true for other aspects of life.
This blog entry was a delight to read, thank you for sharing!
Good luck this year.

Hales Family said...

I also found your blog by a google search for that poem to use for our lessons tomorrow. Thank you for putting into words exactly how I often feel, homeschooling older children with a toddler and a baby in tow! And yet I was so uplifted and inspired by your words - "Because a few million stars from now, I'll be watching some poised and eager young women take their first steps out into the world, as they discover their vocations and find God's will for their lives." It is SO true! This time I get to spend with my own daughters and children is SO short! And despite the difficulties we sometimes have I feel it is SO worth it!

Hales Family said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and inspiring words! I found your post searching for this poem to use in our own lessons tomorrow. I also have 2 daughters that I home-school with my toddler and baby under tow, and you described my feelings to a tee! I love how you pointed out that,"Because a few million stars from now, I'll be watching some poised and eager young women take their first steps out into the world, as they discover their vocations and find God's will for their lives." The time is so short and the bigger perspective reminds me how wonderful, important, and short the time I spend with them is.