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Posts Tagged ‘homeschooling’

“Pretend you’re eating with the Queen,” she’d say, my mother, in those preschool years when my sisters and I would gather around the table for our lunch of cottage cheese and tinned pineapple rings. Oh, and we knew something of the Queen, over in her castle in England, and of Princess Diana and all her lovely clothes. I owned copies of them, after all. Paper copies, which fit neatly onto my Princess Diana paper doll. 
And so when she’d say it, our minds were filled with pictures of a royal banquet at Buckingham Palace. And my sisters and I made sure to keep our elbows off the table, chew with our mouths closed, and always say “Please pass,” instead of stretching for something out of reach.

 

But they weren’t quite enough, those lessons in manners. Didn’t quite do the trick when, sixteen years later, I found myself dining with real royalty–well, they were only 42nd in line for the throne, as I was told. But for this young American, that came close enough.

I arrived by train. My friend was there to greet me, and as we climbed into the car and whizzed down the single track road towards his family home, I felt as though I were being driven to another world. Through the maze of green hedgerows that towered around us, I caught glimpses of thatched cottages and gently rolling fields.  The sky grew smaller as the hedgerows grew taller. And in the next couple of days, I would grow smaller, too. 

“My mother is hosting a dinner party,” he said, my friend, “and you should probably apologize for arriving in the middle of it.”

Wide-eyed, I assented, and when we arrived at the most ancient of large cottages that his family called home, I found his parents and six of their friends gathered around a table (which was really a 400-year-old door) for a casual four-course summer evening meal. 

I dutifully apologized, was met with murmured acceptances of that apology, and was then seated to the left of his mother. 

The meal could have gone worse, I suppose, if I’d tried to make it so, though I made a small disaster of the affair quite well without even having to try. 

And what did I do that was so very wrong?

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I could have laughed a little quieter, eaten a little less, declined the cheese course. But I did not. 

And when the man to my left made a comment about the side-by-side American style refrigerator that my friend’s family had just purchased, followed by the statement that everything in America is large, I could have smiled demurely and said something diplomatic like, “Perhaps that is so, but bigger does not always mean better.” But I did not. 

And when, for the first time in my life, my nose started to bleed, I could have quietly slipped from the table into the other room until it stopped. But as I had a proper handkerchief with me, I decided to use that to dab at my nose, thinking the bleeding would soon stop. But it did not, and I waited until the elderly man who sat across from me looked at me with a measure of horror before I decided to slip away. 

But there is more. 

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.  

– Emily Post

The next day I awoke to find my hosts in the garden wearing their wellies, having just returned from a countryside stroll with their King Charles spaniel. I was offered some strawberries from a large basket on the kitchen door-table and asked how I had slept.

The main activity of the day was watching my friend play cricket, that most English of games. I sat with his parents to watch the match, where we could look down at the local castle and admire how brilliantly the men’s white cricket uniforms stood out against the green.

“Do you ride?” I was asked. 

had taken horseback riding lessons, but as it had been a few years, I replied with an honest, “No.”

His parents looked thoroughly unimpressed. 

And later on back at the house, as I sat beside the enormous inglenook fireplace while my friend watched a football match on the telly, I was asked, “And what do your parents do?”

It was all a bit too much like that scene in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth Bennett visits Rosings Park and is interrogated by Lady Catherine De Bourgh. “Do you play and sing?” and “Do you draw?” and all the rest. 

I cringe as I remember the humiliation I endured, though I didn’t realize I was enduring it at the time.

I sigh as I recall the golden English June sunlight that bathed those few days, illuminating the green of the fields and pouring through the windows of that old house.

I laugh at the shock I must have given my friend’s family, especially when I imagine the fear they must have felt that he would fall in love with me and that they would have to welcome me into the family.

And what I wouldn’t give to go back and re-do the visit. Not to deny who I was–the great-granddaughter of poor immigrants who chose to make America their home–but to present myself with more of the discretion, thoughtfulness, and self-respect that I now possess. But that was then, and this is now, and had the visit gone differently, I wouldn’t have been left with such a fine story to tell.

Read more on manners in part 2!

Avonlea xo

Find me on Facebook & Instagram @avonleaqkrueger

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happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday 

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I threw the phone on the sofa and shook my head. A good ten minutes or more I’d wasted, ogling over photos of other people’s living rooms, and fall outfits, and–for goodness’ sake!–what they had for dinner. That, instead of, well, cleaning my own living room, perhaps. Or cooking something for my family to eat (they do get hungry some–all–of the time).

And I’ve said it before how all of these images–perfectly filtered glimpses of another’s world–can leave me downright flat and dissatisfied with my own world–the life that was given to me.

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This week, though, I was struck with a feeling very different. As I scrolled through my Instagram photos–those images I’ve carefully selected and filtered before sharing–I realized that yes, I may have purposefully chosen these particular photos to show the best of my world. But these most splendid photos are glimpses of my wonderfully blessed world! Those awful, funny messes that Littlebear makes for me to clean up. The peeks at Professor and his cello. The glimpses into my writing life. The pirate and viking adventures I watch my wee men get lost in. They are all gifts. And they are mine.

So this week as you pick up your phone and are tempted to start scrolling, go to your own page. Let yourself linger and smile over all that God’s given to you. Don’t focus on what you don’t have, but on what is yours. 

Avonlea xo

Join me Instagram & Facebook — @avonleaqkrueger

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I wasn’t ready for it. A restless night of twisted sheets, being forced from bed to soothe a crying baby, and strange dreams of being a gymnast, practicing my skills on the bars, had left my body feeling tired, my mind distracted and dazed. But it came anyway. The start of the day. Breakfast, and packing lunches, and making beds. Changing nappies, and dressing wee ones, and preparing for the school day ahead.

Before my boys came along I worked as a teacher, but this is my first year of official home education. My first year of adding tutor to my already full job description of chef, maid, nurse, chauffeur, activity director, police officer, and kangaroo (for the Admiral, who, at a whopping 24 pounds, still wants to be carried the day long).

And so an hour later I found myself, still dazed and unprepared for a day of living (let alone living well), trying to have a discussion about odds and evens with the Captain, all the while jiggling the Admiral on my knee and trying to ignore the General, who had squeezed onto the dining room chair behind me and in his very high-pitched three-year-old voice was speaking non-stop about wanting some cake (although I’d told him several times over that he had to wait for elevenses).

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I tried giving snacks, introducing different toys, and even (though I try to avoid it in the mornings) putting on the television so I could get on with the lessons.  But still, each soldier in my little army remained intent on being inches from me, if not in direct contact, each asking for something more or different or better from what he already had.

My head seemed to spin faster than I’d spun round those bars in my dream. I longed to crawl back into bed and find the unconsciousness of deep sleep. Or even the still, quiet surroundings of an empty house, where I could potter about, making sense of my jumbled thoughts.

To my right, the living room was strewn with giant colored cardboard bricks and scattered sofa cushions, the abandoned remnants of my attempt to entertain the younger ones. My mind seemed just as disorderly as the house, and as I attempted to turn my focus back to the math lesson, the thought crossed my mind that it would be awfully nice to have a real nanny and maid, so that I could be left to teach the Captain, and do only nice things with the boys (and perhaps sleep in a little on rare occasion). But of course that seemed as likely as my getting around to organizing some kitchen cupboards and planting the bell pepper seeds as I’d hoped to do that day (not to mention the school subjects we had yet to get through). 

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But unrestricted sleeping hours and empty houses are not some of the frequent luxuries of mummies of armies of wee boys, and in the chaos I longed for some little escape, some little treat to bring me comfort, and temporary escape from the swirl of color and noise that surrounded me. 

A square of dark chocolate, perhaps? 

A cup of espresso, topped up with raw sugar and heated milk?

A few minutes to skim the news feed on my Facebook account? 

These are the things I often turn to bring drops of sanity to my busy, noisy day, but yesterday as I contemplated what method of escape I would employ, I thought of a different way. Down the hallway on my bedside table sat my black leather Bible, which I hadn’t yet touched that day. 

And I didn’t have time,  not just then, to pour over it as I would have liked to do. But I did have the time–as long as it would have taken me to slip into the kitchen to devour a square of chocolate–to flip to the Psalms, and the sweet morsels of goodness found there. 

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

– Psalm 34:8

And I wondered as closed my Bible,  felt peace wash over me like a cup a chamomile tea, what I’d been missing.

Although there isn’t anything wrong with coffee, and chocolate, and Facebook news, what had I been missing by reaching for them instead of the Living Water found there in the Psalms, so accessible, so available to me? 

For while our SIN can be easy enough to spot (though at times it’s not), there are deeper, sweeter paths of closeness to the Lord which we can go a lifetime and not discover. And what if those paths, those changes I so long to see in myself, can be reached not only through long segments of time spent in the Word, but through little moments of calling out to God for strength, and reaching for little pieces of His word? 

What change could even one pure morsel of eternal truth make to my day?

After taking the time to read from the Psalms, I went on to finish the school day, plant those pepper seeds, and even clean out my kitchen junk drawer! 

What a difference the reminder of Jesus’ love and presence had made. 

In Him is strength, beauty, refuge, truth, and the nourishment I need to help me view my boys, my home, my life in the light of eternity.

The eternity that continues in the next life,

the eternity in which we live today. 

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