This Spring marks 14 years since I felt the soul-stirring to bring my oldest home from a transitional kindergarten into learning at home. My homeschool journey has not been a neat and tidy trip down an educational highway, but more like a spontaneous trip out West without a map or money on back roads in a beat-up VW bus. I have no perfect, prescribed plan to offer.
There are however some ideas I have learned along the way that have helped, guided, and shaped me and my children. Some of them I live unconsciously and don’t even know how to put into words, but many are ever before me, like gentle guideposts along this bumpy learning adventure. These thoughts apply to mothers whether they home educate or not.
Children are born persons. I read this thought so many years ago and it is what I always come back to. Children deserve respect and dignity, made in the image of God. When we view them as persons, we know that they have their own personalities, ideas, and ways of seeing the world, and as a mother, we get curious and seek to understand them. We humble ourselves to serve these valuable souls. We don’t treat or educate all of our children in the same way with identical methods because each child is unique. My oldest son needed a different path of education than my oldest daughter did. My second and third son have totally different personalities, interests, and styles of learning. It is my job to take notes, listen, and find the ways of learning that will connect with each. I stumble through this but I try, try again. Never try to fit a child into a philosophy of education that suits you but not them. Serve the child, not an ideal.
Wear out your library card. Keep lots of books around. In baskets in the living room and bedrooms. Download audiobooks regularly. Buy used books. Keep a bucket of books in the car. Read aloud. Read alone. Ask friends for recommendations. Be in a Book Club. Read challenging books, differing viewpoints, a variety of genres. Create a reading and listening culture. A child can learn anything they need to through a great book.
Get outside. Fresh air, walks, nature study, riding bikes, camping, hiking, botanical gardens, the beach, parks, new cities, lakes, rivers. Cultivate a connection and appreciation of God’s splendor with a regular diet of sunshine and exploration. All of my kids love being outside and live their best lives when unplugged and breathing deep. Create a home culture that values creation, that cares for it, and finds God there. Healing happens there. Art and writing and thoughts take shape. Curiosity and questions come to the surface. Awe is inspired.
Add beauty. The center of a home education is home. Home is where we spend our time. It is here that we have chosen to learn, to eat, to make art, to listen, to read, to connect, to rest. Adding beauty to the dailiness nourishes our hearts, minds, and souls. It delights us! Beauty leads us to worship, reminds us of our value (we are not robots), and stimulates our senses to wake up and engage. Beauty can arrive in a million little ways. Fresh flowers. Candles. Music. A comfy colorful quilt. A framed piece of art. A handmade craft. Pretty dishes. Plants. Soft rugs. A geometric print pillow. A branch in a vase. A morning fire. A colorful salad. A plate of warm cookies.
Find your rhythm. You can’t be like her. You are different, and so are your children. Your rhythm may share components of others that you admire and respect, but when your eyes open each morning, you are you. And that’s enough. Find the ways you can be grounded and rooted every morning, and that is not dependent on whether you are an early bird or not. As the mother, build a foundation of living well. Know yourself, your great strengths, and real limits. Find the rhythm of living that gives you energy, consistency, and renewal. Be committed to surrender, personal growth, and learning. Get enough sleep. Treat yourself like a professional. Take retreats. Go to conferences. Plan. Get better at your roles.
Simplify. Everything. Your home, first and foremost. A well-run home is a strong foundation towards achieving a sustainable home education. Get rid of the superfluous decor, toys, kitchen items, clothes, meals, calendar, curriculum. Keeping home basic and easy-to-clean reduces stress and frees us up for greater joy and creativity! Add systems and routines into your life that get the daily basics done. The calendar must remain doable and life-giving. Be vigilant over clutter, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Get rid of it! Trust God that you have enough. Simplification is a worthy journey that yields solid long-term fruit.
Be flexible. God loves to keep us listening to Him and not to our ideals. Change keeps us humble. When we hold tightly to a way of seeing and doing, claiming that it is THE way, God has a way of gently prying that loose from our hands and opening our minds and hearts to greater freedom. All the ways you judged other moms? You might end up walking a mile in those shoes. Listen to Him. Did He say one way and now another? Has the calling changed? A calling once isn’t necessarily a calling forever. Be dependent on the Holy Spirit. Surrender and acceptance will be the foundations of a healthy spirit, home, and education.
The longer I parent, the more I need Christ. My oldest child moves into his 20s this year, and I feel now more than ever that my mothering journey will never end. I will serve and nurture and offer guidance until my last breath. My daughter graduates from high school in one month and my baby will graduate from kindergarten. And so I begin again. More than ever, I know that this path requires grounding in Him, stretching my roots deeper and deeper to draw up more of His life through me. My will needs strengthening. My soul needs focus + fortitude. More than ever, I know that my strength is small, and His is big. To run this mothering marathon well, ground yourself in Him. Rest in Him. And also? Make sure to take a nap.