When my older children were still toddlers I discovered the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method. I was delighted. I was homeschooled myself and was looking forward to the day when my babies would be old enough for school. I had been praying for guidance in how I should teach them and I was thrilled with how God had answered. (I still am.)
Being a researcher, I spent many happy hours devouring articles, books and blogs on Charlotte Mason education. I loved how these practical, gentle – yet powerful – methods and philosophies merged perfectly into daily family life. I could do this.
Nine years ago, my two eldest were finally old enough to “do school” and I was eagerly looking forward to our first real school year. God had other plans for us though. I had been struggling with my health more and more and and in August 2007 it plummeted to rock bottom and I hit a crisis point from which I have never fully recovered.
Instead of cuddling on the couch reading books or heading off on adventurous nature walks of delight and discovery I was focusing on things like breathing, trying to find my own pulse and staring at the ceiling. The most effort I was able to put into anything was playing Tetris on my phone since I only had to move my thumb – and that was on a good day. (I did get really good at Tetris.)
School was put on the back burner for awhile (and thankfully the children were still young enough that this really was OK – Charlotte Mason would have approved) and focused on survival. I slowly improved and didn’t feel like I was on my death bed anymore, but for two years I was still sick enough that my sister lived with us. I was only able to be up – very carefully – for about half of the day and was still extremely limited in what I was able to do.
Since then, I have had years where my health has been better and years where it has been worse, but every year has been a struggle. God has been so faithful though. The children have continued to learn and grow in spite of this and I am so thankful. Yet, one of my greatest sorrows is not that they are not learning – it’s that I have not been able to implement all the ideals I hold so dearly in all the ways I so desperately want to. My best laid plans have had to be set aside again and again. As a slowly reforming perfectionist, that’s been hard to swallow.
God has been teaching me lots of lessons on trusting Him in all this, and He keeps directing me back to Deuteronomy 6:
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deuteronomy 6:6,7
These verses have encouraged me over and over. I tend to like to make things hard for myself, getting bogged down in the perfect “way” to do everything and then browbeating myself when I fall short. But God’s commandments are not burdensome. His yoke really is easy and His burden is light. He gives us a basic outline with plenty of options in what the nuts and bolts of education can look like. He doesn’t say “Teach your children between these particular hours with this particular curriculum, in this exact way. At a desk.” Nope. Life is learning and learning is life. We can teach them as we live, whatever that happens to look like.
When I really take hold of this I realize that in spite of all the struggle and days that feel like a total failure, I actually am equipped to teach my children. Maybe not in the exact way my perfectionistic little mind would prefer, but capable none the less. What is even more encouraging is that even on the “liest down” days where spelling and Latin and nature walks and history all fall by the way side I can still teach them the most vital, life giving, crucial lesson of all: how to love God.
As much as I love Charlotte Mason education, and as much as I believe that it actually intertwine with and flows from Deuteronomy 6 (something I’ve been doing lots of thinking and reading on and hope to write more about), I can’t always logistically implement the practical out workings of it all in the nitty gritty day to day. I so love that I can, however, still apply the absolute foundational, simple principles, given to us by our Almighty God Himself.
Over the past two years as I have been learning much about scholé and teaching from rest. Mystie Winckler gives an excellent definition of scholé that has great application to what I have been pondering along these lines:
To the ancient mind, scholé was about pursuing truth and losing oneself in the process. The category was broken down less along productive/unproductive lines, but along self-oriented and truth-oriented. To be out working in the world was to be pushing your own goals forward; to be seeking scholé was to set your own agendas and goals aside for the sake of seeing, experiencing, and seeking truth. Scholé means seeking Truth, Goodness, and Beauty first and foremost, laying aside personal agendas, prideful goals, and desires to control so that we can be open and able to embrace Truth, Goodness, and Beauty when we see it.
And we should be seeing it all over the place. God is True, Good, and Beautiful, and we are reflections of Him, called to increase our reflection of Him more and more as we mature and grow all our lives.
So is our focus in our day-to-day homeschools about achieving our own ends or about encountering Truth, Goodness, and Beauty? It might look exactly the same in method, but it is the motives and the priorities – the heart – that is different.
The more I realize this, the more my burden is lifted. The very lessons I have been learning myself – to trust God, to relinquish my own ideas of what our days should look like, to seek Him above all things – are actually a fundamental part of what it means to truly educate. Eureka. It all comes full circle. This is really living out in the day to day what it practically means to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and might and to teach His ways to our children.
I may do a lot more sitting and lying down than rising up and walking, but I can teach my children just the same. Fellow weary mothers, we can do this. As Charlotte Mason says so succinctly:
Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.
We can provide an atmosphere and a life permeated with a love for learning. We can cultivate discipline and good habits. We can give our children a love for Truth, Goodness and Beauty. We can help them grow in Wisdom and Virtue. We can do this as we just live life together, pointing them to Christ on the hard days and on the happy ones.
This has been such an encouragement to me as I face another school year that will be a challenge and will not fit neatly into all the lovely charts, book lists, schedules and detailed plans I still insist for some reason on making. Education can, and does, happen in all the nooks and crannies, twists and turns and ebb and flow of life.
I am learning (“learning” being the keyword there) to loosen my death grip on my plans. Not that I don’t still do the best I can in whatever our current circumstances are, but that I accept that this is my best and then leave it with the Lord. I am finally beginning to rest in the fact that school for our family needs to fit our family, our circumstances and our season – and that although it might not remotely resemble perfect – which doesn’t exist, after all – it is good.
If you are in a difficult season of life that makes educating your children at home a challenge, I hope you will be encouraged. Take heart and a deep breath. Remember,”Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (1 Thess. 5:24) Hang in there. Or rather, stop hanging and let go. Rest in Him (And, oh, how I am writing this to myself too). Underneath are the everlasting arms, we and our children are in His hands and His strength is made perfect in weakness.