We’ve been shuffling the contents of our house around. That’s a pretty way of saying we’ve been moving books, bookcases, papers, desks, CDs, and games. I’ve been bravely culling our collection, mailing an average of five books a day. We got to the point in the process where the mess was overwhelming and I was approaching paralysis. My husband, seeing the situation—calculating the time before our house is full to the rafters with boys, toys, and thrills—pitched in, bringing order out of chaos.

I had boxes and boxes of binders: small, medium and extra-large three-ring binders. I’m embarrassed to admit the years of my life that I’ve spent putting paper in binders. I had at least eight thick binders, full of magazine articles I’d clipped, trimmed, indexed, paper-protected, and clicked into binders.  I had reams of notes from conferences, classes, seminars, forums, symposiums, and workshops, all three-hole punched. And a half dozen binders with full magazines slipped through those plastic-strip thingies you see in libraries.

All those years of organization sent to the recycle bin. The humiliating recognition that when I thought I was being so clever, so resourceful…um, I wasn’t.  

Finally, I worked through the residue of my homeschool life. Binders for every subject. Binders for sub-subjects. Samples of my sons’ work. I saved representative pages, but recycled dozens of three-point paragraphs.

Curt kept me focused. I felt the refreshing lightness that comes with relinquishment. This is good, I told myself. At the same time, it was sad. A huge part of my life—15 years—is done. I worked to keep up a disciplined view of what was happening. And then, I had an emotional hernia: my reasoning tore and my emotion bulged. I kept working through tears.

“I loved this. I loved learning so much. I loved teaching,” I sniffed. “Do you remember coming home and we couldn’t wait to tell you about Savonarola, Cortez, Romney, or Fibonacci numbers?”  Selective memory: I didn’t mention the anger, the failures, the frustrations. “It feels like I’m throwing away proof that I really did this.” 

“Our sons are the proof. And now you can pour yourself into our grandsons.”

I write this to encourage you who are in the trenches. Work hard and persevere. There will come a time when you look back on what you are doing now with a fierce fondness. You will say, “I loved this. I loved learning so much. I loved teaching my kids.”


6 thoughts on “Purging

  1. “Our sons are the proof. And now you can pour yourself into our grandsons.”This is wonderful advice! So wise. I read this with a lump growing in my gut, I know what I have been putting off, what I have to look forward to; a back room needing attention . . . gulp!

  2. Carol, I had to do that when I was getting packed to move out here. I had not homeschooled, but I had clipped magazine articles and bound whole magazines, among other things. So I shipped relatively little. And much of that is in a storage unit here in town. When the weather warms up I am going over there and clean it out. I plan to donate most of the books that are there. When I say “clean it out” I mean at least my part of it. Dave and Russ both have things stored there too. 

  3. I get a little more time in, but have already started to experience that – the wondering who I will be when I’m no longer a homeschooling Mama. Thanks to a close by married son, I get to be a homeschooling Grandma and I am determined to make this job an easier one for my daughter-in-law! I want to be available for anything she wants, even if it’s just to fold her laundry!You are right about those notebooks, I have several just for decorating ideas.  I am coming to grips with the fact that I spent too much time wishing (or preparing, I told myself) and not enough time doing the absolutely best with what I’d been given.  They are my little idols and I’m not sure that I am able to get rid of them! What if…? I applaud your courage and your stalwart hubby! 

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