Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Education is a Life


"No phrase is more common and more promising than, 'I have an idea'; we rise to such an opening as trout to a well-chosen fly"                              

 - Charlotte Mason

For most of our school years, we are handed information in the form of tiny slips of paper 
called facts.   We take this little bit and file it away.  'The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776." - and we place it in our American History file.  "The name of the father in To Kill a Mockingbird is Atticus Finch."  And so we go.  After awhile, our mental filing cabinet is quite full.  We find ourselves becoming more and more capable with games such as Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy.  But, how else do these facts serve us?  Have they affected us as persons?  Have they spurred us on toward greater personal growth?

The answer is a resounding, "nothing, not at all, no."  For, in the words of Charlotte Mason,  
 "mere information is to it (the mind) as a meal of sawdust to the body;"  And, true growth comes only from exposure to great ideas.  What if we not only knew when the Declaration of Independence was signed, but we had a connection with the person of John Adams - we remembered the passion involved in the events leading up to this moment and had a sense of the atmosphere of that very room.  What if those ideas spurred us to a life of public service and the pursuit of liberty?

You see, if education is to be affective at all, it must be rich in a wide variety of ideas.  Now, before we busy ourselves with thinking that we can use these ideas to control who children will become, we must take a step back.  

  "Probably he will reject nine-tenths of the ideas we offer, as he makes use of only a small proportion of his bodily food, rejecting the rest. He is an eclectic; he may choose this or that; our business is to supply him with due abundance and variety and his to take what he needs."

So, we never know which idea will strike him - which idea may become the guiding idea for his own life.  Yes, he needs to know data.  But, even more importantly, students and adults alike need regular inspiration found in the best books, music, art and nature.  This is how education moves from mere information to formation.  A well educated person has relationships with a wide variety of subjects and is always eager to learn more.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mothers, Don't Be Deceived

Return of the Prodigal Son
by Rembrandt

Recently, a woman that I know - a beautiful, godly, loving woman - shared with me a heartbreaking struggle that she is walking through with her lovely daughter. My oldest is now twelve, and I am beginning to see that it is not so much if but rather when - my children will face struggles, especially in the teenage years. And, they will probably break my heart at times.

Last night, I was thinking about this dear mother. I hoped and prayed that she has not fallen prey to believing any lies. The prince of this world would very much like to convince sincere mothers that their efforts have not been enough to save their child from pain. He whispers, "You're a failure, how could you not have seen this coming?" The whisper gets louder, and if no one else is shouting in her ears, she just. might. believe the lie.

And so, I am shouting. I am shouting to all of the mothers out there. NEVER FORGET, these children are not ours. Our gracious, heavenly father will do whatever it takes to draw them to himself. Not sometimes, but often, that requires struggle and sometimes even pain. Like the Prodigal Son, He allowed me to plunge into a valley that I might recognize my need for him. Likely, there are many of you who have experienced the same. In fact, even the great King David felt this way about his life:

" Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s."
Psalm 104:2-5 (ESV)

As mothers, we have a great deal of power to raise our children well. We love them and expose them to goodness, truth and beauty daily. But, we are still sinful, broken people raising sinful, broken people in a sinful, broken world. Sometimes, the last truth we have left to cling to is really the only one we needed in the first place.

"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the almighty reigns."
Revelation 19: 6

Let this truth drive us to our knees as we seek to be stewards of His children, knowing that their lives are in His very capable hands.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Assuming the Best in our Children

Sometimes it can't be avoided. There will be those people who know us only for our faults. To them, we are: that woman whose kids never have their hair brushed, or that man whose car is always filthy. I don't know about you, but I am thankful for people in my life who choose to overlook my faults and see who I really am. It is so encouraging to have people who see my heart, yes they know my struggles, but they see me for who I really am - a unique woman made in the image of the creator who is trying to live a worthy life despite the crumbs that are perpetually on my floor.

I think that most people feel as I do. Yet, how often do we forget to do this for our children? How often do we look at them in the midst of their messy anger and think, "What is WRONG with this child?!" If only we could learn to see them as we long to be seen - as a whole person struggling to live well.

When we see our children as a whole person, we learn to assume the best in them. Outbursts of angry "I hate yous" become signals to discover their needs. When I assume the best in my child, I look at her in these moments knowing that she is not showing her true self. She is not a mean, angry person - how unkind to give her those labels. Instead, I think of what I can do to help her. Does she need some alone time? Is she tired? Hungry? Is she feeling loved?

A little one on one time with Mom or Dad can make a world of difference in a child's heart. When we pour love in, they have love to give. When we serve and care for them, we set the example for them to follow. When we refuse to judge them and instead, overlook their faults, we teach them about grace. How blessed is the child who knows that she is seen for who she really is - a unique person with a heart that wants to live well.

As always, I write these words as a reminder to myself. That I may seek to know and to love these beautiful people I have been intrusted with.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Raising the Baby

I've heard from many that the baby of the family is always the baby. Looking at my fourth and final child who is now four, I am beginning to understand what is meant by that. My expectations for her are lower than they were for my other four year olds. The child still doesn't dress herself, or buckle her seat belt or squeeze her own toothpaste. She throws a fit almost everytime she is denied her wish. (she throws a lot of fits - we don't always give in) They say the first step to recovery is admitting the problem. So, I admit it, we baby our baby and we need to help her grow up. Not to mention, her attitude is becoming increasingly unpleasant. For a child with a naturally sweet and caring disposition, it is obvious that our 'babying' her is not bringing out the best in her as a person.

So, yesterday during our school time, she was becoming increasingly unpleasant. "No, you can't play with my iphone, you need to listen to the story. No, you may not stand over there, you need to have a seat with the family." Etc, etc... After the third or fourth meltdown, I send her to her room to have some time to calm down and return to being kind. Then, the thuds begin. The thud, thud, thud of little feet kicking the wall in frustration. At this point, I am feeling nothing but frustration and anger in my heart. I am not seeing this child as a person who needs me to help her grow up, I am seeing her as an annoying distraction to my day.

Whoa - hold on, I know better than that. Quickly, I ask the Lord for help to bring out the best in my little girl. And, as quickly as that, He guides me.

I walk into the room and see a little girl banging on the wall, with a face full of anger and I say sweetly, "Can we talk now?" As I sit next to her on her bed, she perks up and leans her little head on my chest, already sensing that I have come as an ally. I asked her, "How do you feel when someone tells you No?" She thought about it for a moment and replied that it made her mad. "You wanna know something, sometimes I feel mad when someone tells me no, too. (little eyes are looking at me now) But, part of growing up is learning how to behave the right way even when someone tells us no. How do you think you should behave when someone tells you know? (shrugs little shoulders) Should you say, "aaaahhh, but I WANT it?" (bursts into giggles) Was that the right way to respond? Okay, okay, let me try again..." We role play for awhile, taking turns to be the one who asks. Silliness ensues, but the lesson is learned.

She is learning how to handle disappointment. But, I am learning, too. I am learning that godly parenting involves empathy and seeing my child as a person. It involves prayer, thoughtfulness, and time. I am so thankful for the one who shares my burdens and guides me daily.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Beginning Anew

A couple of nights ago, I was lying in bed, talking to God silently when it dawned on me. I hadn't done this in quite awhile. Christmas was over and gone, and while I'd gotten in a few advent readings with the kids, I hadn't done much else to focus myself upon the King of Kings humbling himself to earth. Why?

Every year, I sort of dread the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. I enjoy choosing thoughtful gifts for friends and families, but the stress of doing it all at once gets to me. Then there are the numerous concerts and school performances to prepare for and attend, classroom parties, teacher gifts... I find myself wanting to do it all well, but knowing that I'm not the type of person who can manage too much of this busyness. I don't want to be a complainer. I want to be the woman who enjoys His goodness while keeping my focus on him. But, I'm weak and easily distracted. Lists of gifts yet to buy and errands yet to run occupy my heart and mind. And, like that, I make this world my home and remove heaven from my view.

What I would like to know is HOW do I celebrate joyfully with my eyes on Him? The answer is beginning to materialize. I think it has to begin anew each morning. Each day will have it's stresses and busyness. But if I can begin each morning dedicating that day's lists and activities to Him, seeking His face and wisdom - then maybe it will be out of the fullness He provides that I will be able to live joyfully in the chaos.

The only real difference between my December days and my October ones was that October days began with my Father. Last Summer, I began working on the habit of rising early for exercise and prayer. I was trucking merrily along until the cold, dark mornings settled in. And, I traded those precious minutes of restoration for more time on my pillow.

And so, at the dawn of a New Year, I begin anew. Once again, seeking to form the most life-giving habit that I can. The alarm on my phone is set for seven; that's early enough for tomorrow.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Comforting our Children

My second child is the one who I sympathize with most. She's also my greatest challenge. She's a deep thinker; quick - witted, and exceedingly sensitive. She's a fiercely loyal friend yet a strong introvert.

There are days when she is such a joy with her funny remarks and her thought-provoking questions. But, this afternoon was not one of those. She seemed content enough when I picked her up from school. And after we left the library, she eagerly requested to carry out her book from the stack. But, when we arrived at home, I had a different daughter.

She yelled at her little sister for coming into the room. She called names. She refused to listen to calm reason. I had to leave the room in frustration so that I could cool off. Goodness. What to do? - The only thing a desperate mother can do. I asked my husband for back-up and I prayed for wisdom. After a dinner strewn with unkind words and plenty of food left on the plate, she left in a huff - back to her room. And then, it dawned on me.

I recalled the words I had read this morning and thought about how I could bring her comfort. I peeked my head into her room and asked, "would you like to take a bath in my tub with the good-smelling bath salts?" INSTANTLY, she became a different child. Back to her sweet, kind self - she climbed into the tub. I set out her pajamas, robe and slippers; brought her book into the bathroom and told her that she could stay there and read as long as she liked. As I took her precious face into my hands I remarked, "Dear one, did you need a night alone?" "Yes." "I understand, I need nights alone, too. Do you think that next time you feel like this, you could calmly let me know that you need some time alone?"

And that was that. Good-golly, I hope that I can remember the next time this girl is acting like a crazy person, that she's a young lady who needs her space now and then - just like me. A dear friend of mine once said, "It doesn't take much to bring us back around, a little chocolate, a glass of wine, a warm bath and we feel like a new woman."

Saturday, November 26, 2011


As a mother, it has been important to me from the beginning to expose my children to the best in books and music. From the time that they are very small, I read wonderful stories to them. And, there is almost always good music from a wide variety of genres playing in our home. I have done this with the hope that a taste for beauty and excellence would be cultivated in them, and that they would also be inspired to pursue greatness as well.

Well, here I am with an official ‘tween’ and one soon-to-be amongst my brood. Even though we don’t have TV channels, they have seen enough of the Disney Channel to become pretty fond of a particular young, pop star. My gut instinct is to shut it off, talk to them about why it’s not great music and quick – turn on some Tchaikovsky!

However, I’ve been convicted lately that maybe that’s not the best route. These wise words have given me some new eyes to see and ears to hear. How can I possibly expect them to have any interest in what I care about if I refuse to even listen to something that they truly enjoy?

And, what if I viewed the things that they share with me as a pathway to their hearts? A chance to understand more about whom they are as persons? An opportunity to simply love them for who they are. What if I saw these years of transitioning from childhood to adulthood as a time for me to listen, care and be available? Do you think that maybe, they’ll be more likely to listen, care and be available for me, too?

Of course, I will continue to expose them to beautiful words and sounds. And, of course, there will be times when the line will have to be drawn when something is clearly dishonoring to the Lord. Hopefully, by knowing how much I care, those times of drawing the line will be easier for these sweet young ladies to handle. Lord willing, we will all be able to love and admire each other for the person God created us to be. And, within that love and admiration, hearts and minds will flourish. – That is the sincere desire of my heart.