Here’s something to ponder: where do you draw the line for the “end of summer”? Is it when school is back in session? Or when pumpkin spice shows up on the Starbucks menu? Maybe you’re a calendar purist, so summer doesn’t end until September 22. Or perhaps you look to the weather for your seasonal boundaries—in which case, the end of summer is still months away for many of us ….
I know there is no “real” right answer to the question of when seasons begin and end, yet these are the types of unimportant but maddeningly relevant questions that keep me awake at night. I have no definitive opinion, so I suppose that Labor Day is as good a time as any to declare that summer is “officially” (unofficially?) a thing of the past.
I learned a lot this summer but struggled to come up with a conclusive list. (I’m sensing a theme with this post … ) Instead, I’ve organized my summer takeaways according to a few event buckets from this summer that held the biggest lessons I hope to remember.
Field Notes from Our California Vacation in May/June
We’ve made the long drive from Texas to California more than ten times, always along the same route. We took a new route this time; it was longer, but more scenic and totally worth the extra two hours. We drove through some darling towns and beautiful scenery, stayed at a new-to-us lodge (that was far more exciting than our usual generic lodging), and confirmed that the shortest path is not necessarily the best one.
On our trip, we also learned that a road trip with newly-potty trained twins isn’t nearly as bad as anticipated (neither the pull-ups nor the baby potty were necessary).
And we learned that family camp is better with slightly older kids (last time, the twins were only twenty months, and the weekend was a challenge) and WAY MORE fun when we stay in a whole-family house (rather than individual cabins).
Perhaps most important of all, we learned from my parents how to play Mexican Train (loved it!), and that this domino game was first played in the United States by Latin American laborers who worked on the railroads in the 1860s.
Silver Linings to Kitchen Inconveniences
We came home from vacation to a refrigerator that had bit the dust, which I unfortunately discovered only after returning from the grocery store with enough fresh groceries to pack that defunct fridge. Through that experience we learned that dry ice is (mostly) effective—but highly inconvenient—in keeping a fridge cool for a week until the replacement arrives.
From the friendly deliverymen who installed our new fridge, we learned there is a reason all four of our appliances (fridge, oven/stove, microve, and dishwasher) called it quits this year: it has to do with the power outages and surges that took place during our winter freezes.
Though I was happy with our older refrigerator, I learned to see the unexpected benefits of having it replaced: namely, a newer fridge that I like much more, a forced purging and organization of our freezer storage, and a newfound appreciation for the convenience of refrigeration.
I relearned that same lesson on purging and organization when our pantry became infested with moths the following week, and I
had to had the opportunity to throw out most of our dried goods and transfer all of the replacements into mason jars.
Reflections on Finding a New Church Home
Luke and I are not church hoppers. In my adult life, I have only called two churches home, and we had been attending the same church since we moved to Texas in early 2016. A few years ago we began feeling a nudge to move on, but not being ones to make abrupt and unnecessary changes, we stayed and even deepened our church involvement. We participated in groups and even led some, and we increased our volunteering and giving. But that nudge did not go away, and after talking with many mentors and praying long and hard over whether or not to stay, we made the decision to find a new church. In that, I learned that God does not always provide the clear answers we seek: I prayed fervently for more than a year that God would give us a VERY CLEAR sign that we should leave; that sign never came, and yet we came to a point that we just knew.
In leaving, we learned that saying goodbye is awkward and hard and not nearly as smooth or as tidy as we would have expected. We still have many ties to our old church, and though not what we intended or anticipated, it has proven to be a blessing.
There have also been abundant blessings in discovering our new church home. We expected to spend the summer church hopping; we tried out ONE new church and never left! We have not missed a Sunday and are currently completing the process of becoming members. In this we’ve learned what we were looking for in a church and why our last church was no longer the right fit. Our kids have learned to love a new church environment (the themed Sundays helped—Pajama Day was especially a hit). We are looking forward to establishing new friendships within our new community and discovering all that God has in store for us there.
On Summer Sunday Routines
One of the unexpected benefits of our church move is that we now have more time together as a family on Sundays (this church is closer to home, so we spend less time commuting, and services are earlier in the day, leaving us almost our entire Sunday free once we get home). We have fallen into a good rhythm of a post-church trip to the pool, followed by lunch, naps, and a movie. Luke and I have been intentional about keeping work to a minimum on Sundays; we had never practiced a true family sabbath until this, and are reaping the benefits. Turns out that God knew what He was talking about when He commanded a day of rest!
Our Sunday pool time has taught us that regularly swimming together as a family is a whole lot of fun (this came as a surprise to me since I am not a water enthusiast) and that the kids make far more progress with their swimming technique and water comfort through just being at the pool than in official swimming lessons. In other words, we learned that the cheapest path to learning to swim is also the most effective.
Homeschool Convention Takeaways
I attended my first homeschool convention in July and have concluded that conventions like these are a MUST for homeschooling families. Those three days spent alongside like-minded families did wonders for my morale and offered the inspiration I needed to make this coming year our best yet.
That said, I also realized how glad I am that I did not attend a convention like this in my first or second year of homeschooling as I would have found it pretty overwhelming. I was able to take what I needed from the sessions without falling into comparison mode; I could make wise choices in the seminars I attended; and I didn’t overspend in the exhibition hall.
I learned that I am in good company amid other first-generation homeschoolers (like me, MOST of the other parents I encountered attended public schools themselves) and that families of all shapes and sizes are choosing to homeschool.
Through the various seminars I attended, I learned which books to prioritize with my boys and my daughter, the approach we want to take with our history, the value of etiquette, and that I don’t need to feel pressured to do it all!
My reading this summer was strong, and I learned a lot about my own reading preferences: namely, that I am craving backlist books (like this and this), well-researched history (as with this), and fiction that is slow-paced and literary (such as this book, this one, and this favorite novel of the summer).
From the books themselves, I learned (courtesy of Gretchen Rubin) how poorly attuned I had been to my five senses and how to better appreciate my world and experiences through different sensory experiences.
Ben Shapiro gave me clarity on the origins of Western government, and why our country seems so broken at the moment.
I discovered that Dallas Willard was BRILLIANT; from him, I learned the history of the spiritual disciplines, why they have fallen out of favor among contemporary Protestants, and the vital role they play in our discipleship and Christian witness.
Also brilliant is Nancy Pearcey, whose book on masculinity provided me with an entirely new framework for understanding manhood, family rhythms, and gender roles.
Schooled Through Homeschooling
We are only a few weeks into our homeschooling year, but already I have many takeaways. I am seeing the value of doing even more of our schoolwork as a whole family: watching Charleston teach the twins has been a joy, and learning in Science, Bible, and Literature has been solidified through doing these lessons together. This shift that was done out of necessity has proven even better for their learning and sibling relationships.
I’m starting to learn the differences in each of my kids’ learning styles. Kali is an internal processor and very methodical in her work. Sully is about speed and volume in his reading and writing, and learns through talking and asking questions. Charleston learns best when he is involved in the crafting of his learning experiences and when he gets to exercise his creativity.
I’ve seen how simple notebooking can lead to a more memorable and effective learning experience than worksheets (and makes a lot less work for me as their teacher).
I wake the twins up for school each morning (rather than letting them sleep until they wake up on their own), and have been surprised by the benefits we are seeing in their daily rhythms. The earlier wake-up has made for smoother mornings and led to longer, more consistent naps and an easier bedtime.
Speaking of bedtime … in order to have an hour with God before waking the kids, I’ve been getting up earlier and going to bed much earlier myself, and I am realizing how much I had missed going to bed at the same time as Luke.
We have started doing family-wide quiet reading time after lunch every day, and I’ve seen that this is key to helping the twins settle down before nap. I am also learning how much I LOVE getting reading time to myself while the kids read on their own, and that all three of them are capable of quietly reading independently for a full thirty minutes. This is now my very favorite time of the day.
However you define “summer,” I hope that yours was (or continues to be) marked by plenty of learning. I would love to hear any takeaways you are eager to share!