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The way I made my life work last year was by doing zero extracurricular activities, but that's melting away... the kids are getting a little older and it's so fun to see them doing something they like. But I think that doing a year of "observation" (so to speak -- school with zero extra activities) helped me understand what I was up against.

So fun to hear about life on the bottom of the world! Just imagine-- New Year's Day in an outdoor pool. There's something really "right" about that!

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Yes, I think it's so hard to go against the flow when "all the friends" are doing stuff and have their sport or hobby to say no to extras. We are lucky (I guess?) in that in South Africa, extra curriculars are bundled into the school system. So school finishes earlier in the day than I think it does in the US, but then kids go directly to their sport time (they have a choice between 2 options for the term...but they *have* to pick one). In first and second grade it's pretty low key, kind of like T-ball level stuff, but by 4th they start playing against other schools and then suddenly the pickup/ game days schedule becomes a whole new story. But beyond what he has to do at school, YES, I love the "observe / survive" approach to other extras! Those little pockets of free-time to play and get bored are so brief in childhood!

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I think there are a lot of advantages to that kind of system -- it's a little bewildering to pick up people from school, take them home, throw food at them (they may even eat it!), take them to their thing, take them home round two, and then have dinner. 😂

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Hey Steph, retired elementary teacher/current writer here :-) This post was a joy to read and I do have thoughts.

In the U.S. never mind misplaced pencils; would you like to know how many warm coats end up in the Lost & Found every quarter because parents neglect to label their kids $60-85 dollar coats? I can't even. Like, do they not miss them?

And I'm with fellow teacher Sindi below--labelling pencils makes perfect sense.

As to Lent, this Evangelical is sooooo grateful for discovering the church calendar a number of years back and thankful for the season that allows us the opportunity to fast--from noise, from busy, from what-have-you, and prepare our hearts to focus on Christ's sacrifice on our behalf.

The first day of Lent is Valentine's Day, yes? February 14th? What a mash up!

p.s. I'm gonna have to find that Thursday Murder Club book--I just discovered Agatha Christie in my old age (I'm 71) and recently finished Death on the Nile. Loved it.

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Ah! I hope you enjoy the Thursday Murder Club! Has a very British feel, and each character's voice was so distinctive - I also chuckled out loud several times.

You teachers have convinced me -- I will embrace the labels! (Coats! Oh my goodness! Can't imagine!)

Yes- a Valentine's Ash Wednesday is one I'm pondering as well! Interesting to think of Christ's sacrificial love as a way to start the season (as opposed to the "Hallmark"/candy atmosphere) . Thank you so much for sharing your perspective with everyone!

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Steph, this is a great way to frame the coming season of Lent, "a Valentine's Ash Wednesday is one I'm pondering as well! Interesting to think of Christ's sacrificial love..."

Thank you for y o u r perspective :-)

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This post made me smile! I am a South African who has lived in Switzerland for 6 years. I have two little kids and I was recently journalling about this very thing. Just the other way around. How it is so strange that the start of a new school year and the actual start of a new year don’t happen simultaneously here. The New year in SA feels hot and full of promise. I remember the feeling of it in my skin, sunlight and energy. Ambitious new beginnings. I started at a fast run and would inevitably loose pace or stumble as the year continued on with its ups and downs. Here January is heavier. Greyer. More exposed. More tired and definitely snottier. Harder to feel bubbling with that New Year energy. It makes me a better person, I think. I start humbled. I start close to my limit and then trust. I start with hope, a quieter kind. Eyes on God and not me. Refresh, renew. Move me to where You are. Priorities are clearer, like the way the earth is quieter when it snows. Swiss people say they can hear it when they wake up, before they see it. The lack of sound. Snow. Absorbing the noise, reflecting the sunlight.

I am learning to lean into the liturgical year and have really been enjoying the process. Living here has helped me lean into the rhythms of the year, the way the seasons are so distinct and yet they flow into each other. And the rhythm of the church year seems to be echoed by the environment. That being said, I miss the sunlight and the vitality and many many other things about South Africa. I have recently found your work and it does my heart good to read about home from your perspective.

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Oh this was SO beautiful, and I'm so grateful that you shared this!! I would say as a child, I had that same energy -- there was this looooong summer build-up to Christmas (well, it felt like it!) and then after Christmas it was like "pools!" but also feeling so ready to dig into my new box of stationary and see all my friends again and get newly covered books and all that. Whereas getting older, summer holidays felt shorter, and the "back to school" seemed to come so much quicker.

I love what you have said about missing the bright vigor of a new year -- (for example, everyone always gets inspired to start running or exercising after Christmas, and I can't imagine having that energy and impulse and being dark and cold!! -- I had the opposite here at Easter, I started an early morning prayer walk for Lent last year, but as it slowly got darker and darker in the mornings it was harder and harder to do the closer we got to Easter!) But so true that perhaps it helps us to hold ourselves more gently and realise the New Year, and the growth it will bring is a gift, not something to hustle for.

Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful thoughts!

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It's so interesting that you long for the reset in the dark of winter! I'm reading about your "fresh start" right after the holidays aligning with the new year and want it all! Trying to start new habits on 8 hours of daylight (notice I DID NOT say "SUNlight"), no thanks :) I am immediately going to buy This is How We Do It. I love books like that!

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This made me chortle @Steph. Why yes, we probably are pale northerners, currently in the middle of Storm Jocelyn here in Scotland. And we do have 2 chances to be a Pinterest mum, or feel the pressure atleast. The thing that often catches me out in our back to school transition is the unrealistic life plans I make during the summer holidays when my teacher husband is off. Then back to school for everyone is always a much bigger adjustment, and I have to dial back all my ambitious plans.

I love the way you phrase this invitation of lent. ❤️

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Ha ha, thank you for grounding my dreams of wee Scottish babes in reality 😂 -- and that's very true about the "twice a year set up" pressure -- I suppose I should be thankful we are doused all in one go and then can carry on. I sometimes feel like it's that "being sick" thing -- how you can't remember what it feels like to actually be so sick when you're well, but then when you're sick, you can't fully remember in your body what it feels like to feel well? I think summer/school is like that. Summer-me is like, "Oh yes, one day when school starts we will have home-made yoghurt cups and also I'll get so much work done when kids are not home" and then School-me is like, "Can we exist on frozen pizza and why do I have so many work deadlines?!"

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I love the way you phrased “Have other British colonies evolved?” 😂😂😂😂 I so appreciate your different perspective on stuff like this because I’m a teacher who went from this system into this system and I need my worldview shaken up because it just seems normal to me. 🫣

However, with regards to labels, it makes life SO MUCH EASIER for me if I pick up a pencil (or whatever) in my classroom (happens daily) and it’s labelled, so I know who to return it to. When it’s not labelled it just languishes in the constantly-growing pile of lost property in the front of my classroom that no one ever checks and I end up handing out at random or throwing away near the end of the term. 🤷🏻‍♀️

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I love this Sindi. Yes, it makes complete sense from a teacher perspective (especially when they are all so little!) -- I went through this all as a kid (but gosh, things have evolved, now I order name labels online, and don't have to sit with a permanent marker putting initials on everything😂) But now that I am married to an American, he's like, "What IS all this?! If my kid loses his crayon too bad" (Also, I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that in lower grades in the usa, his stationary was just communal at school, vs "these are all my tiny things I have to keep up with"). Also, don't get me started on "hands out of pockets" and uniform inspections. I've become so American in my old age. STRENGTH to you as a teacher!! Can't imagine having 25 kiddos I'm responsible for!

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Jan 25Liked by Steph Ebert

Oh, communal stationery for littles makes SO MUCH more sense than “here is YOUR pencil, better not lose it”. 😑 The uniform stuff is very weird given how different most workspaces have become with regards to “professional dress”. I am a fan of uniforms, but why not just nice tracksuits? Or jeans and a school shirt? 🤷🏻‍♀️

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