When I wrote the title for this post, I chose the word “when” because there will be times we feel inadequate. Even though we’re only doing our form 1B year, some days I feel inadequate. Some days I don’t feel prepared enough. Other times the narrations are lacking. Perhaps attitudes are bad. Sometimes I’m just tired. Maybe homeschool isn’t the rainbows and teddy bears we envisioned. After the excitement of the start of school fades, what keeps us going? I realize that not every day will be a mountaintop experience. So, that has caused me to create reminders for when I feel inadequate.
Do Inspirational Posters Really Help Us?
Inspiration quotes are a popular thing these days. If you search Pinterest for inspirational quotes, you will find pages full of them. Often they are cheesy sounding. But I wonder… if Charlotte Mason were alive today, what would she think of our methods of motivating ourselves? My hunch is that she would think that many of them are twaddle.
I’m not saying to get rid of your inspirational posters. But I’m wondering how much value they provide. When we feel inadequate, when we feel low, do these words help us or mock us? No doubt on our “ok” days, they provide us a helpful kick in the tail. But when we’re feeling at our lowest, do we want pretty word art or a robust reminder that we’re not doing this alone?
Our Homeschool Reality
We are a bit over 3 weeks into our first-grade year with our son. There have been quite a few ups and downs already. The ups are when he is really enjoying something and catching on to a concept or idea. The downs are when he is not wanting to pay attention or gives a silly narration. Sometimes it’s the challenge of homeschooling a 6-year-old while his little sister is in the same room. I see why Mason had children do the most mentally taxing subjects in the morning. By the time we get through Bible, math, reading, and writing, our period of intense focus is waning.
I mentioned in another post that movement time is popular around here. Of course! But the playtime can’t last all day. I’ve realized that it is helpful for me to call him back from the break to a subject he really enjoys, like music, art, or handicrafts. He has also become interested in geography and for some reason is always trying to find Egypt on the map. Kids! You never know what will catch their attention. 🙂
Reminders for The “Inadequate” Homeschool Days
So, back to things that help me when I feel inadequate. The first is to remind myself of Mason’s first principle that children are born persons. My son isn’t a blank slate to be written on or a sack to be filled with knowledge. He doesn’t need to be spoon-fed bland facts and trained to regurgitate them on a test. Rather he needs access to living books and ideas. By giving him the best books and ideas, he will form ideas that are in line with the way God has created him.
Another of Mason’s foundational principles encourages me on the days when I’m dragging. Education is a life. This is a lifelong endeavor, and it encompasses all of us, not just our children. When I can back up and see the big picture, I remind myself that this homeschool journey is a marathon. We need to keep spreading all the courses of the feast before our children, calling them to partake.
It takes time and effort on our part to spread the feast. And this effort is demanding–emotionally, mentally, and physically. That’s why the marathon image resonates with me. I completed a marathon in 2000, and the reality is that this type of race has emotional, mental, and physical components. You train for the race and you press on through the course. Similarly, I have prepared the feast for my son, and I press on to fulfill the course laid before us.
The third reminder was inspired by an email from veteran Charlotte Mason expert Nancy Kelly (Sage Parnassus). Nancy sent an email to her list, saying that one thing she rereads in preparation for every school year is Mason’s Great Recognition (it’s in volume 2 of her Home Education series). I listened to the advice of this experienced teacher and read the chapter.
The Great Recognition
I first read The Great Recognition about two years ago. It was such an encouragement to find an educator who didn’t divide the secular and the sacred. That is a big challenge for modern Christian homeschool families. The fact that we’re studying math doesn’t mean that it is devoid of the Holy Spirit. The study of the Bible doesn’t mean we aren’t using our mind.
The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals all truth and knowledge–not just spiritual knowledge, but mathematics, rhetoric, science, etc. And the Spirit doesn’t reveal only to those in Christ. In fact, at times those opposed to God have received the gift of inspiration from the Spirit. But the line that caught my attention is this:
Let this be the mother’s key to the whole of the education of each boy and each girl; not of her children; the divine Spirit does not work with nouns of multitude, but with each single child. Because He is infinite, the whole world is not too great a school for this indefatigable Teacher, and because He is infinite, He is able to give the whole of his infinite attention for the whole time to each one of his multitudinous pupils. We do not sufficiently rejoice in the wealth that the infinite nature of our God brings to each of us. Charlotte Mason, vol. 2, p. 273.
How amazing that the Holy Spirit can teach each child! In addition, the fact that my work as my son’s teacher is in cooperation with the Spirit is hopeful. Ultimately it is the Spirit who reveals knowledge and understanding. I am a tool in that process, but I am not the source. What a relief!
I would love to hear what helps you when the reality of homeschool weighs heavily on your shoulders? What have you found encouraging for the times you feel inadequate at homeschool? Be sure to join the Ambleside Tales community. Sign up for the email list and follow Ambleside Tales on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.