I approached the start of this year’s homeschool season with reservation. Over the course of the summer, Bob and I seem to have each adopted yet another full-time job with the new cafe. Mondays and Tuesdays were supposed to be our days off, but they went toward receiving orders, bookkeeping, training, and catching up on all errands that were neglected the prior week. Wednesdays were for prepping meats, Thursdays were for prepping doughs and batters and packing for the farmers market, Fridays were for driving around to the other farms for pick-up, and for prepping the fresh vegetables. Saturdays and Sundays were for running the cafe and handling the farmers’ market. And in between we cleaned. And cleaned and cleaned and cleaned.
Over the course of the past few months as we learned the new routines, Bob would casually ask me about my plan for homeschool. “How’re you gonna do that, too?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
I knew I couldn’t enroll the kids in public school. Ula’s vision problems still require daily work, and her need for accommodations would make full-time public school nearly useless. But Saoirse doesn’t need special accommodations. Academics come easily to her.
But everything about this cafe makes her heart soar. She rushes out of bed on the mornings we’re open. She stands beside me as we bake, prepping the sticky bun pans, stirring the cookie dough, frosting the cupcakes. In the cafe she pulls the shots, works the register, scrubs the floor. There is nothing she refuses to do with cheer and enthusiasm. Sending her to school might lighten my teaching load, but it would interfere with her own pursuits…and I’d feel the loss of her assistance keenly.
But how could any of us, with this new grueling schedule, find our way to the kitchen table to start school?
How were we also going to make sure the tomatoes, peaches and green beans got canned, the fire wood stacked, the peppers sliced and frozen? Beginning August 15, Bob and I wouldn’t see another day off until October 9th.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It’s supposed to be a SLOW life, lived with intention and ample rest. A life that allows time with family…time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us.
In all this planning for this new venture, how did I lose site of this? How did I think we’d be able to get everything done that mattered so much to us, and still run a cafe?
We usually start homeschool the first week of August. I couldn’t make it happen. We aimed for the second week. Too much going on. Third week, couldn’t happen. Fourth week, way too much going on.
It was at the end of the fourth week when the girls came to me. “We’re ready to start.”
And so, the following Monday, Saoirse came down the stairs and started her lessons. Ula met me at the kitchen table. We began.
And the phone rang.
And we remembered our homeschool policy: we ignore it.
And an email blipped in. I ignored it.
Ula’s best friend wanted a play date “After I finish my lessons,” she told her.
I thought the girls would be too tired for lessons. Instead, they seemed super-charged for them. I thought the polish would wear off a day later. It didn’t. Two days later. It still didn’t. A week later. Nope. Still going strong.
And the tomatoes and peaches and the green beans got canned. The firewood is all away. Yesterday afternoon, I even finished freezing the peppers.
And no one stayed up late. No one panicked. No one got into a stress-induced shouting match.
Late summer is a notorious time for high stress for us as we try to make the money and the preparations that we need to get through the winter. And yet this year, it seems like we are less stressed than ever before, even though we have more to do.
As best I can figure, the pressure of the cafe this summer seems to have transformed my daughters into powerful team players. Rather than fighting for more goof-off time, they are jumping in to help, easing Bob’s and my burdens.
But I think there’s something else happening. . It’s true that there aren’t any “days off” in the commonly understood sense of the word. There is always something imperative to do this time of the year. But now, I am feeling luxury in that necessity. If I have to teach lessons, then I have to tune out everything else and focus. I don’t have to distract myself responding to emails, picking up the phone, or running errands. The girls don’t, either. We have each other’s complete attention. If I have to run the pressure canner, then I can’t run around any place else. If we have to stack the firewood, then we can’t do anything else at the same time.
It’s true that we would all enjoy a good goof-off day, and in a few more weeks, we’ll have a string of them. But what matters now is that this crunch time doesn’t deplete us. And surviving the crunch means embracing the luxury of necessity. The luxury of necessity is that it removes the confusion of choice. We’re not trying to figure out how to cart the kids to their different activities. We’re not trying to think up things for the family to do together. We’re not trying to accommodate social invitations. We have jobs to do, and we know these jobs well. The motions required to complete them are ingrained in our muscle memory. The mental state required to complete them is also understood.
Thus, I can’t help but wonder if our days-of-work are just as restful as days-off. They bring us clarity, they allow for good sleep, they nourish us with good food and a sense of accomplishment. Until the harvest season ends, we will continue to find our rest in our work.