Well friends, Easter is over, and we have now entered the final segment of the school year. In some ways, spring break can be a welcome reminder that summer is just around the corner. At the same time, the warm breezes and the sweet scent of blossoms may seem to tantalize us as they drift by, whispering that we still have several weeks of school yet to go before we can fully enjoy them. . . . So close, and yet so far away.

It makes me think of a little adventure from our recent family trip to Corolla, NC. On one of our first days at the beach, I noticed something in the distance to the north. It looked a bit like a pier, but I couldn't quite tell what or how far away it was. After a few short strolls northward without any answers to my curiosity, I determined to walk whatever distance it took to reach the mysterious landmark.

If you've spent much time on the beach (or any flat, empty terrain), you'll know how difficult it is to gauge the distance of something on the horizon. It looks like it shouldn't be that far, and yet you can walk a long way towards it before it ever looks any closer. On my first attempt to reach it, I guessed the approximate distance and set a time limit, telling myself I would turn around if I hadn't gotten close by then. As my limit drew nearer and the landmark grew only slightly larger, I knew I had underestimated. It was getting late in the day, so I turned back.

That evening, I tried and failed to locate the landmark on a satellite map; it looked like the only way to solve the mystery was to do it the hard way. So the next day I set out a bit earlier and with a more generous time goal, bringing along my 10- and 7-year-olds. I imagined the distance couldn't be more than a couple of miles, but still, the uncertainty made our quest look a little bit daunting.

As we walked, we checked ahead frequently for any sign that our destination was getting any closer, but it was still difficult to tell. For a while, I marked our progress with a truck sitting on the beach. We watched the truck draw nearer, then passed it, then glanced back now and then to see how far it was behind. Eventually, I could see another vehicle near the landmark ahead. I tried again to guess the distance of the landmark based on the size of the vehicle, but it didn't really help. There were few ways to measure our progress other than the passage of time.

While walking to their beach destination, Jessica's kids found a little crab!

But finally, our view of the landmark grew clear enough that I figured out what it must be. Corolla is known for the wild horses that roam its northern beaches. We have never been up that far and don't know much about the area, but I eventually realized that our mysterious landmark was the fence that prevents the wild ponies from wandering out into the general tourist areas. (Hence why I had missed it on the map: I was looking for a pier, but a fence is smaller and more difficult to notice.)

Jessica and her kids reached their destination--a fence for horses!

Even though the mystery was now solved, I had a fresh wave of motivation to finish our journey and observe the barrier up close. Our first time goal passed, then our extended goal, but by this point we didn't really care how long it took us; we were surely almost there. The last few minutes ticked by, with every yard of distance seeming to take longer than it should. But at last, it was only about a hundred yards away . . . then fifty . . . then ten . . . and we'd made it!

Jessica's son and daughter take a picture in front of their beach walk destination--the horse fence.

The sun was now nearing the western horizon. We took a little time to walk the length of the fence and explore the area, then turned and headed back. Though it had looked like half a mile and felt like five, our walk to the barrier had actually been about two miles. That's a pretty good trek from my kids' perspective, but at least now I knew more precisely how far we had to go and how long it would take. Even with a few stops to rest as the kids grew tired, the ability to track our progress (with the help of smartphone GPS) seemed to make the return journey go more quickly. Soon we were counting down beach access points, until at last we reached the one leading to our rental house.

In many ways, this story expresses how I feel about the second half of the school year. The first half of the year often goes by in a flash—our subjects and motivation are fresh, and holiday preparations keep us busy and looking forward. But the second half of the year can drag on endlessly. Although we can see the goal in the distance, the weeks roll by, and it seems that our summer destination is still so far away. Finally, we reach our second semester check point: spring break. Now that we're on the return journey, we can take the remaining distance more in stride.

Maybe you feel like your mysterious destination is still a long way off, or maybe you feel like you're almost home. Either way, each day, week, and month brings us one step closer to summer. We're in the home stretch, getting ever nearer to another year of homeschooling accomplished. Take a moment this week to breathe in that fresh spring air—we're almost there!

—Jessica Cole