"The mother's heart is the child's classroom" 
-Henry Ward Beecher

It's true.  Things change fast when you have little ones.  All new moms are told this by every grandma, momma who's a few years ahead of us, and empty-nester.  Even our family feels very different than we were just six months ago. Little things like Jesse starting to walk and napping only once a day have made a big, big difference for us, and I've been working hard to lean into those changes.

I don't know which came first, but the decision to start homeschooling Ellis has brought a lot of heart changes for me.  It's one thing to make sure kids are fed, clothed, and cared for, and another thing entirely to be responsible for their education.  I look at the world a different way now.  I'm seeing how less is more, how depth is better than breadth, and am reflecting on book-knowledge versus the in-your-bones-kind of learning - in my own life and looking forward to what education will look like for us.  And then there's a tricky thing that plagues every homeschooling mom: expectations.  There's important work in the letting go of the "shoulds" and the "coulds..." and don't we all have a lot of those to let go of.  Part of the beauty of doing school at home is freedom from all that, though it's not easy when the world around you focuses on competition, scores, standards, and early-everything.  It is not easy to be parent and teacher.  There's a lot of tension between the two.  But connection has to win, every single time.  Sarah Mackenzie, whom I will quote several times here because she's one of my favorite homeschooling moms, writes, "Always choose your child".  After all, it's their hearts we're after.   This past year been a crash course of experiential learning, going with the flow, and intentional, Spirit-led parenting.

So the same old things feel a lot different to me.  I look at messes and see creativity happening.  Every experience seems to have a surprise ending these days, once I let go of those pesky expectations and join in on the fun.  I am also learning, it seems for the first time, what good taste is - because if I want to shift our gaze from what is common and commercial, to what is truly fine and beautiful -art and music, for example- I need to know that difference too.  I'm seeing in real-life how learning is happening all the time, although we can't always control what exactly that learning is. Giving the opportunity for kids to learn and grow at their own pace?  It's simple and natural, yet so counter to a culture that pushes kids for more: more education, more activities, more gadgets, more stuff.   I love knowing that I'm called to be faithful rather than successful, and to trust in God for all that I can't do and hold everything that I can do with open hands for God to use.   Sarah Mackenzie writes that the "true aim of education is to order a child's affections - to teach him to love what he ought and hate what he ought." It would seem that most of us need re-educating as well.

There has been a subtle but significant shift for me going from motherhood being me doing things for my children to doing things with them.  We can wonder together and wander on the path toward wisdom.  Share a spirit of adventure and discovery.  Can I be childlike, inquisitive, interested, and engaged? Because I'm not done learning and growing, either.  One of the beauties (and pitfalls) of this kind of life is that everything is shared.  We learn and grow together.  Do you know what I did yesterday?  I rolled down a hill.  Here I am, 35 years old, and thinking my hill-rolling days were over.  I did it to lighten a sour mood (it worked) and I surprised myself by having a lot of fun in the process!  But I have to work hard to have the patience to give them the time and space they need as kids, when I'm looking at my watch, getting bored or thinking about nap-time, and definitely ready to move on.  I reflect on what Jesus means when he tells us to be like little children, while I'm so busy "growing-up" our kids.  I was irked yesterday when my prayer got interrupted by someone who wanted to know whether an eyeball would sink or float.  My first reaction was to say "Don't interrupt!  Be respectful!"  But you know what?  I think Jesus would have answered the question thoughtfully, then howled with laughter.  "We have sinned and grown old - our father is younger than we" -G.K. Chesterton.

At the same time, this journey has taught me so much about myself.  How much margin I need in my days?  I've got nothing to offer when I'm running on empty, and so much of the Spirit-led parenting that I strive for comes from the overflow of my own soul.  Sarah Mackenzie writes, "Do whatever you need in order to behold the face of God in your children and to delight in them."  Because, as it turns out, delighting in my kids isn't always my default modus operandi.  I'm working on that.  

But it also turns out that the things that bring them life bring joy to me as well.  So we grab crayons from the art drawer and try to match the shades of green in the jungle.  We read fairy tales.  We ask a lot of questions, and search for answers to them.  We count the chocolate chips that go into our muffins (hello, math!)  We read really good books, that even I enjoy.  And maybe that's enough for now.  After all, we don't have to measure up to anybody else's measure of success.   If real learning is "sparking the awakening of the need to know," I think we have that covered.

{Mother's Day 2019...and currently adding to Monday's lesson: "How to Smile"}

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