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Day 59 – Coffee Shop Schooling

Coffee Shop Schooling

We began the morning by reading together from Advent Readings for the Very Young. As we lit the Advent candle, Sera asked about how fire occurs. I tried to explain it using several text books and a few different websites, but none of these touched on her basic question: “What is a flame?”


As I researched, I discovered that this not only a hard answer to find, but one that even scientists agree is difficult to explain to children. Scientists aren’t always the best at translating academic information to the rest of the population. This is when I discovered The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Their mission is to communicate science simply and effectively so that people (young people, specifically) can understand it.

Recently, they were challenged by a group of young students to produce a clear and entertaining video about fire. Several scientists submitted videos and the students voted on their favorites. The winning video, “What is a Flame,” answered our question precisely! It is a little strange (beware young/sensitive viewers: there is a cartoon devil and several scenes of flames are supposed to represent hell), but really entertaining and very thorough in its explanation of flame.

Because the girls have been studying the periodic table, they understood terms such as element, compound, carbon, etc. much better. They liked it so much, they showed it to Josh when he got home.

I had several end of the semester assignments due, so I bundled the girls and we all went to study at Ugly Mugs for the rest of the day. The girls sat quietly sipping hot cocoa and reading their books for over an hour while I got work done. It was great.

Coffee Shop Schooling Coffee Shop Schooling

There was not a lot of seating available, so we had to share the couch area with some other customers. The woman sitting beside me kindly asked to borrow the text book I was reading so she could look at the publication information. She showed it to another woman who sounded as though she might be an agent or an editor.

As a 30-something, a mom, a woman with my own career, I never think of myself as really lacking confidence. I thought I overcame that after high school–or in my 20s at least. However, I felt sure I was being judged by the woman beside me. She sounded like an ambitious writer. I assumed she was annoyed to have to share the couch with me and my children. I assumed she wondered why they weren’t in school.

As she returned my book she asked if I was taking classes. I told her that I had gone back to school and that now I was taking online classes so that I could stay home with the girls and homeschool.  I figured at that point she really thought we were weirdos. Then the unexpected happened. “I homeschooled all of my children,” she smiled and said to me. What?! 

She told me how rewarding it was and that her children were now all confident young adults. She asked the girls what they were reading and discovered that they had the same interest in books as her own children. She told us how they had spent hours as a family reading together: The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, for example. She talked so fondly about her time with her children and about how she is grateful for having had that time with them. We didn’t talk a long time. That was really all she said. Then she packed up all of her writerly things and headed out the door.

My heart actually was racing a little. It felt like I was at mile 4 and someone was handing me a cold cup of water. It felt a little bit like when I was birthing Amelie, and I was SO tired, and although I technically knew I wasn’t going to die, it was so very helpful to have my doula (another mom) say: “You can do this.”

It was also so lovely to see a woman who had given herself to her children also pursuing her own dream. Turns out she was writing a book.  I imagined myself in 10 or 20 years. It’s hard to remember that mothering is a season. But there is time. Lots of time. A time where I might find myself in a coffee shop encouraging another young mama while working on my own book. Now wouldn’t that be lovely? God knew I needed that little bit of Manna today–along with my coffee.

Coffee Shop Schooling


Subjects covered today: Science, Chemistry, Literature, Reading

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