Recollections of August usually include mornings at the beach, lazy, hazy afternoons with a book, and sticky evenings on the back porch with the ceiling fan on hurricane speed. The wooshing of the blades and clacking of the pull-chain accompanied by the songs of cicadas and crickets pretty much drown out everything but the occasional train whistle in the distance.
Our summer was lovely, but more demanding than past summers. The Daughter and I were on the go every day for weeks and while the opportunities were wonderful, we were pressed to finish school, and forfeited the relaxing summer school vibe that usually characterizes our June and July.
Several summer Saturdays were spent in long meetings with fellow board members planning for the 2016-2017 year for our American Heritage Girls troop. Because our area has so few troops, we are inundated with requests. We all highly value what AHG has brought to our daughters, so we have a hard time turning interested parents away. But a bigger troop requires more planning.
In early August, as I placed the last few book orders and counted the remaining days on the calendar before the orientation meetings that signal a return to “school,” it hit me that I was feeling pretty burnt out. It seemed like I had not really had a break, probably because I hadn’t. Yet the end of the break was on the horizon and the start of school was looming.
While The Daughter was away at AHG Summer Camp, Mr. Garner and I took some time to walk on the beach, and prayerfully evaluate our commitments; asking ourselves if they were meeting our family and personal goals, and whether they brought joy or stress, physically and spiritually. We tentatively made a few changes and by month’s end were confident with our decisions.
August is also the annual remembrance of the occasion of my birth. This year, Mr. Garner arranged for me to attend the Roanoke Streams of Living Water Charlotte Mason conference. We had a beautiful drive up to the farm on Friday. Saturday morning Mr. Garner and The Daughter dropped me off, and then set off to visit the Historic Roanoke City Market, the Science Museum of Western Virginia (butterfly rooftop garden was a hit) and have a Father-Daughter lunch.
At the conference, surrounded by like-minded moms (and some dads), I could breathe. It was an enormous relief to be among women where no explanations were necessary. We all homeschool; we all homeschool by Charlotte Mason principles. A discussion of a favorite artist or how to incorporate poetry, or a sharing of favorite nature lore writers, or scheduling questions could just happen without all of the typical disclaimers or explication of CM. That in itself was worth the price.
But, there was great content in addition to great atmosphere! First was a brilliant talk comparing and contrasting the Trinitarian root of CM philosophy with the Greek root of Classical education. Then we all had a (humbling) opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of our students with oral narration practice. Going by the busy pencils and questions asked, I wasn’t the only one who gained valuable insight from Nicole Williams of Delectable Education about scheduling the school day (and just in time to make some shifts before school started). Lunch was provided, and though most of us did not know anyone, perhaps because of it, the conversation was very comfortable. People made room at the tables, and opened up discussions with each other in a way that should be normal, but doesn’t seem to be anymore. After lunch we separated into groups for intensives. My afternoon was spent soaking up the wisdom of long-time CM educator Kerry Forney on applying CM to high school studies. It was an energizing and inspiring day all the way around and the perfect birthday gift.
Sunday morning we took the opportunity to visit another Anglican church, Church of the Holy Spirit. We found the congregation members very warm and friendly – we got a mug! The service was surprising. We found that it lacked many of the elements that drew us to Anglicanism, but there was a great view of the mountain from an enormous window on one side of the sanctuary.
After a quick lunch at Panera, we turned our car east by way of a state road that passed through farmland and small towns with an enormous cumulonimbus cloud leading the way, growing taller and brighter with every mile. We lost track of it when we turned into the long drive to Patrick Henry’s retirement home, Red Hill. We enjoyed an enlightening visit to the museum and visitor center, and delightful conversation with one of the best docents ever. Then we ventured out across the grounds to visit the house, law office and kitchen. When the sky suddenly darkened, and the wind whooshed and the thunder rumbled and we found ourselves drenched in Patrick Henry’s front yard, we remembered that cloud.
And just like that, August was over.
On my reading list this month: Last month I started Scaramouche, by Sabatini, and so I’ve toured the French countryside with first a lawyer, then an actor and then a fencing master. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book! I caught up on my reading through Vol 6 A Philosophy of Education in preparation for the conference. I’m persevering through ordinary time with the weekly entries of poetry and prose in At the Still Point (I confess, I read ahead sometimes…) as well as working my way through The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems, by Frances Mayes.
A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” Eudora Welty