When the kids all trooped out the door with backpacks at 7:45 a.m. one day this September I was left on our inside stairs staring at the closed door with a strange feeling. What was it? Oh, yes, I was alone — with nobody to teach!! For the first time since the summer I was pregnant with Lydia I had nobody to teach. How did this happen?
We are planning our first furlough in November, and with just a couple months of the school year before we leave, Lyle, Lydia, and I had been discussing Lydia going to Russian school with the boys during this time. I considered it a “minimester” that so many colleges offer where students take a short course in between the regular semesters. This idea percolated over the summer, and we saw several benefits.
1. Language improvement. While Lydia speaks and understands very well, her formal writing and reading need work.
2. Safe environment. We know many of the staff and students from church, and the school is small.
3. A defined length of time before returning to the US and to homeschooling.
4. I was leading teacher training in Indonesia during the first two weeks of September. Having the kids all in school would give Lyle more time for our usual ministry events.
5. Lydia could cement some of her budding friendships with the kids who attend our church.
Lydia decided she wanted to give this experience a try. She was ready with backpack, notebooks, and, most importantly for a Russian student — blue pens. (Seriously, they do everything in blue pen.) All the kids participated in the First Bell celebration, which is always September 1 throughout Russia. On September 2 I left for Indonesia — the very first day of school! I checked-in with the kids from the airport awaiting my flight. What kind of a mother am I? Each night I got an update about the school day via Skype. It was rough going at first on a number of fronts, and I was pretty sure Lydia would opt to return to homeschooling when I returned. Even Lydia hinted that this experience might be short-lived.
Oh, I must also mention that I am taking a sabbatical year from teaching online for the Potter’s School where I have taught for the past eight years! Our furlough travels would not allow for me to stay sane and continue that this year. I also did not renew my teaching at the orphanage down the street for the same reasons. The kids there need a consistency I can not provide this year.
So, I returned home from Indonesia expecting AT LEAST to be homeschool mom again. Suprise! Lydia decided to tough it out at school! We are thrilled with her maturity and realize the grace God has given her to face some steep adversity. This left me…alone. Even though we have our homeschool day on Monday, and Wednesday is my Russian lesson, I have 3 days where I do not have a long-standing commitment. It’s weird. Really weird.
At first I actually felt PANIC. What do I do? I must be forgetting something! What should I prepare?
I felt irritated. I felt sad. I felt useless. All within the first few minutes of their departure. I headed to the bathroom.
From our bathroom basket of books, I picked up Hope Rising by Kim Meeder — a compilation of vignettes about Crystal Peeks in Oregon — a recovery ranch for hurt and neglected horses and for neglecting, hurting children coming there as a kind of therapy. As I cried my way through the first few chapters, I wondered why this book touched me so much. I realized the focus on healing emotional pains had struck a chord. But why? I’m not abused or neglected.
Ah, but God is so good and so gentle. He has led me into a time of reflection that I could not have had if there were kids to teach, lessons to plan, and papers to grade. It is a time for the Lord to teach me in these few quiet hours before the bedlam of furlough. No, I’m not abused or neglected by any person, but life in Russia takes its toll physically, emotionally, and mentally. Now I fight back the tasks that are creeping into my quiet times so that I can continue the lessons with the Lord as my ultimate teacher.