And all of those things– checklists and curriculum and planning– come with small boxes to check and, often, to-do lists to do.
It would give you the impression that I thrive on details.
Confession: that’s not true.
If I get TOO locked into something, I start feeling twitchy and claustrophobic. That will eventually override my (needless) fear of not doing enough, and eventually make me cranky and shut down. If I feel like my day is a huge “DO THIS” instead of “BE THIS,” I languish.
That’s a very old word that seems a bit hyperbole-ish, doesn’t it?**
It’s not, in this case. Ha! I vascilate between all of the definitions up there. It’s pretty pathetic.
I’ve tried to talk myself out of this part of myself. But it hasn’t worked.
And you know what? Maybe it isn’t supposed to.
Maybe I’m not supposed to be a super checklist momma, as convenient as that might seem to be.
Instead, probably since my youngest was born, I’ve had to just come to terms that I have to stop being a control freak– not just over my circumstances, and my kids, but myself, too. At some point, you have to stop wasting energy to erase your weaknesses and instead, highlight your strengths.
You know what? Big picture is my strength.
And it is going “big picture” that saves my sanity a lot of times. The Big Picture showcases what is essential to me.
A brainstorming exercise that I recently did instructed me to write a list of values for my business. As I was writing them, it occurred to me that those values incapsulated 4 key areas that I wanted in EVERY area of my life, not just my business. I want these 4 things in myself, my home, and my homeschooling.
These 4 things can serve as My Right Things checklist for almost everything I want to do, and every lesson I want to teach. I’ve put them altogether in a print-off that I’m going to include on my walls in a few key locations in my home… and I’d thought I’d attach it here, in the hopes that these words resonate with any other Big Picture people.
I hope your day lets you imagine and spark imagination in others. I hope you have the opportunity to both encourage and be encouraged yourself. I hope you enjoy the power of education today– and that the knowledge you give and receive blesses you intellectually, morally, and socially. I hope you take the time to truly enjoy today and everyday by seeking pleasure within the menial, noticing the benefit of each hour, and truly finding satisfaction with the ones you share your life with.
*She drops a lot of business goodies and truth bombs in her book Boss Up! You should check it out if you are balancing momming and businessing at the same time– or thinking about it. I wish I had several of her suggestions and early business walk-thru when I went into business a few years ago. But alas. Better late than never.
**Seriously, languish is an old word. Its origins are from the 14th century and comes from the latin word, languire, and means to “fail in strength and exhibit signs of approaching death.” It was probably originally used by a mother of 13 kids at a river, who was trying to pound a stain from a loincloth against a rock while simultaneously keep her 5 kids under the age of 4.5 from drowning. The other moms around her doing the same thing overheard, quickly made the word a part of their normal vocab, and the rest is history.
But for those who might be tempted to think that homeschooling is going to keep our kids from hearing about such things and living in such a world… I’m sorry. It doesn’t work that way. This IS the world we live in. Our children will HAVE to navigate it, as much as we wish they didn’t.
It’s our job to prepare them, not isolate them.
So, I’m not homeschooling my kids because I’m going to shelterthemfromallthethings.
I’m homeschooling them to prepare them uniquely– unique to my children. Unique to their gifts and abilities and our values as a family. That includes our faith of course; but it also includes…
our emphasis on loving story–the reading, writing, and telling.
appreciating and participating in music and arts. (There is a LOT of value in STEM, but I feel like the cutting/deemphasizing of creative arts is not good.)
lots of freeplaying and crafts/hands-on to help absorb big Truths and details alike
I’ve taught on the high school and college levels since 2005 (whhhhuuuutttt?! Pardon me as I ignore the fact that was 14 years ago!), and have noticed the trend to assess and test the love of education right out of students, and honestly, I have no desire for that to be true of my children. The students that succeed the most on the upper high school levels and in college are the ones who are still curious– that still ask questions and DARE TO GET IT WRONG in order to actually learn and explore, not just memorize to get right.
I want my kids to be prepared for life, not just a test.***
But I digress.
As a Christian homeschooling mom, I have made a choice that most people in my circles would squint at: I’m homeschooling and choosing to use a “declared-secular” curriculum as the major spine of our school year.
It will serve as our major science, nature study, language arts, and math/art study this year, as well as be a component of social studies.
Does it use living books and resources? Yes, and I LOVE that.
Do those living books and resources sometimes include evolutionary thought? Sometimes, yes.
In fact, one of the first science lessons is about teaching the principle that “everything on Earth, including us, come from the same material.” The major premise behind is “evolutionary” because of Big Bang Theory… but you know what? I don’t disagree with the lesson. Everything on Earth, including us, does have the same Origin, doesn’t it? We are all made of the same elements because our Creator made us with the same material. I can teach the lesson and talk about Divine Design.
So why not just go with a curriculum that I don’t have to tweak along the way here and there? Because this particular curriculum is constructed beautifully with 6 different areas to adapt the lesson depending on the type of day you want, or the learners you have. The ideas are living book based, hands-on, creative, thinking, and exploring… and frankly, I haven’t seen a non-secular curriculum have the options that this one does. Maybe one day there will be (my husband has even mentioned maybe I should do it), but I don’t have time to create it from scratch right now. So I will buy a great tool and tweak and/or omit here and there.
I will also admit that I find it interesting that so many things that are “secular” have a lot of Truth in them… because I don’t think people can escape Truth has much as they want to and think they can. (It’s true in Story, and it’s true in science.)
I’m not afraid to go with secular because, ultimately, I don’t think that the curriculum will be doing the brunt of educating my children.
The person–and perspective of the person– guiding children through their learning is the most important.
That’s us, whether we are homeschooling, or sending our kids to school.
We are the ultimate guides.
And as long as we make sure our hearts are in tune with Truth, and that our perspective is on what is really important, we don’t have to fear all.the.things.
We can rest, and have joy in the journey and in the road of learning we take with our children.
***Now, that’s not to say that I think that everyone who goes to public or private schools are doing it “wrong.” Not at all! Each family has to choose what’s right for each kid and for their family as a whole, and there’s a LOT of components in that decision-making process.
My observations are mine, and they shape my decision for my kids and family and what I think is best for them now. If my husband and I need to re-access in the future, we will.
So, I’m in the middle (chapter 10, to be precise) of reading Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read-Aloud Family. And by “reading,” I mean “listening.” Ironically, the only way I can read right now is to be read-aloud to myself. 🙂 I much prefer reading an actual book. I love underlining and circling and underlining and dog-earring. I love writing my thoughts and mini-essays in the margins. I process and remember so much better that way.
But after going through a LOOOOONG season of not reading much of anything besides board books and debate briefs, I decided a subscription to Scribd was a small price to pay for my own mental health and investment in mother culture.
I have no regrets.
There are lots of great parts in Read-Aloud that I wish I had pushed the “bookmark” button for, but didn’t get to, (alas, the downfalls of listening and driving…) but this one I managed to scramble and tap the small icon before it moved on too much past the thought.
Mackenzie is quoting children/YA author, Katherine Paterson, when she writes,
“When I write a story it is not an attempt to make children good or wise. Nobody but God can do that, and even God doesn’t do it without the child’s cooperation. I am trying, in a book, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls.”
These three sentences sponsored several thoughts.
First, I have written Christian drama, adapted books for stage, and even dabbled in children’s writing myself–although I want to do more. I have personally felt the conflict of wanting to make the best decision for the story, and the expectations of a conservative Christian audience to insert clear black and white messages and even work in a salvation prayer or a character hug somewhere. But you and I know that life isn’t like that. It isn’t black and white. We don’t know all the answers. And I don’t know why writers are expected to inject all of that in a play that’s 90 minutes long, or a story that’s barely 10 pages (in the case of a child’s picture book). I mean, we aren’t all script writers for Full House, you know?
Second, I love the implication here that, just like we shouldn’t expect an author to shoulder the burden of “making children good or wise,” we CAN expect THE Author to do that. I believe that each story has the Gospel in it– Creation can’t escape it. Every time a story has good triumph over evil… every time sin has a consequence… every time a character struggles to make the right choice… every time a princess is rescued or ANYONE is rescued– that’s Gospel. That’s Truth. That’s the Story that is inscribed on our hearts. I believe God can and does use story–all of it– to impress Truth on us. That’s His Craft. His Business. His Work.
The third thought Paterson’s words provoked had absolutely nothing to do with writing and everything to do with parenting. Ah, parenting. You know. That 24/7 job that, at least for me, takes 98% of my brain’s CPU when its in problem-solving mode.
I very much feel the heaviness in my heart when my children do things they aren’t supposed to do. The problem isn’t that they are “misbehaving” or “acting their age.” Children do silly things, have maturing brains, etc., etc. I get that.
My thing is, so often, I have a hard time discerning if something is “just a phase,” or the beginning of a horrible character flaw and sin habit. The first possibility requires more patience than anything else. The second requires intentional consistency that is exhausting, but necessary.
Unlike bookwriting, parenting does have more of a goal and obligation of imparting goodness and wisdom in their children. It is the parents responsibility to take care of their specifically-given children, unlike an author that writes for an age-group of people they don’t personally know.
But here is where I think the quotation hits home. Literally.
Like a story, I can’t make my children good and wise. I can’t. Sure, I can *try.* Sure, I can encourage it and make choices that help deposit those things in the heart of my children. And sure, I can do my best to NOT GET IN THE WAY of goodness and wisdom taking root. But the burden of squeezing in all goodness and wisdom in my children in the 18 years I have them? I can’t do that.
But you know what? Making my children good and wise isn’t my job. Because “nobody but God can do that.” And Paterson is also right– God waits for cooperation. A willingness. He waits for me– and will wait for my children– to come to Him, after feeling the tug and persuasiveness of His Love and Truth and promise of Rest.
And that leads us to the end of the quotation: “I am trying, in a book, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls.“
Recently, I have been full of my own wonderings of “what should I do?!” as a parent. I don’t want to under-react or over-react, so I don’t know how to ACT at all.
But when I heard this quotation, it was like a little light went off in my head and heart.
What if I tried, in my home, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls. That was it. To offer rest.
So when drama happens? Offer rest.
When they are tired? Offer rest.
When they are sad? Offer rest.
When they don’t know what to do? Offer rest.
And we might think to ourselves, “how much rest do they really need? How ‘weary’ can a 3 year old be?” (Or a 6 year old or 10 year old or 13 years old or 35 year old… <<ahem>>)
But weariness affects our children just as much as it affects us. They have their version. We have ours.
And in our weariness, what do we want most?
And think about it. Isn’t it life-Rest and soul-Rest that draws us to Jesus?
So, it makes me wonder. What would happen if I stopped trying so hard to “make” my children good and wise, and instead, focused on making a home that invited them to experience True rest?
Wouldn’t I be inviting them to Jesus?
Wouldn’t I be ushering them to the One who CAN make them Wise and Good and Whole and Well?
And in focusing on Rest for them, an interesting thing happens.
Both of these men talk about the power of story- how a story possesses “a way of understanding what is true that you can’t understand any other way” (Peterson). SD Smith is the author of the best-selling Ember series, and I love the soundbite he gives about the purpose of his stories in this little clip.
Honestly, I have gotten out of the habit of reading fiction myself, as I’ve been concentrating on personal development reading, education materials, research for other things kid and home related. These podcasts reminded me that I need to use my Scribd account for more make-believe in my own reading repertoire.
I am also re-listening to Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It’s got so many great truths in there! If you want to give a summary a try before jumping in, watch this visual one. It breaks it down really well… but you’ll have to read/listen to the book to get all the quotables. And there are a lot!
Now onto the week!
DAY ONE Just like our Rapunzel week, Day 1 was all about introduction. We read the most “well-known” version of the story as recorded by the Grimm Brother’s.
Honestly, the only thing E knows about the Frog Prince story is the snippets she has heard from her friends telling her about the Princess and the Frog (which we watch during our movie time on Day 3), so she was quite surprised that in the Grimm version, the princess gets so annoyed by the frog that she throws him against the wall.
E’s response? “Well. That wasn’t very nice.”
Nope, I didn’t think so either. And who knew a wall slam could turn you back into royalty… but better an unfriendly hurl to make you a prince than a beheading as in other versions, but I digress.
E wasn’t really sure why the prince wanted to marry the princess after she had broken her promise AND wasn’t kind to him, but that’s the Wonder part of this story, I guess.
She did think that the servant, Heinrich, at the end was very kind and was glad his heart wasn’t bound by metal bands anymore.
We decided to learn more about frogs at E’s request, so we watched “Reptiles and Amphibians,” a part of the Life documentary series on Netflix. (This corresponded well with a page in her funschooling book, asking her to watch something educational or a documentary to write about. Two birds, one stone!) An interesting tidbit: Did you know there is such a thing called a Pebble Toad? The thing is slate-looking, and when it is escaping from a predator, it stiffens and escapes by falling away like a small rock. Fascinating, yes?
DAY TWO Culture story day! We read 3 different Frog Story versions: one from Hungary, one from Scotland, and one from England. They had some variety, but not as much as the Rapunzel versions. Something we did this week that we didn’t do last week was actually look up the countries that the stories were from and some iconic places from each. E especially loved the castle in Hungary, and we talked about whether or not the US has castles. The closest one to us is the Biltmore Estate, a 250 room castle in Asheville, NC… which we might have to visit this summer sometime.
While reading our three versions, E colored/designed some princess dresses in her Princess funschooling journal. When she was done, we numbered them and I took a picture of them and put them on facebook, asking my friends to vote on which one was their favorite. This poll comes in handy later in the week!
After we get done reading the versions, we discuss our favorite. Mine ended up being the Scottish version, as the daughter was selfless in giving up her golden ring to get healing water from The Well of True Water to make her mother better. E’s favorite was the English one, because she liked learning how to stop a sieve from leaking water and because the frog kept singing a song, calling the girl “my hinny my heart.” At first, we thought it was “heinie” and a little research revealed that a hinny is a variation of a mule. Who knew? E was a little disappointed, because the song is funnier when she thought it was heinie. Ha!
After we got done reading and designing princess dresses, we decided to play “Pin the Kiss on the Frog.” This, of course, required lipstick and our best puckers.
Our buddy, Jboy, and baby L were both down for a nap… so it was just E and me. We used a hair band as a makeshift blindfold, taped our hand-drawn frog to a window, and started planting our kisses to see who got the closest to hitting the mouth-mark.
I’m sure people can get fancier by printing out a poster frog and laminating it and having a legit blindfold, but eh. Sometimes one must fly by the seat of their proverbial pants, no?
We gave the frog two puckers a piece and both decided it was a tie. 🙂
Shortly after we got done kissing our frog, Jboy was ready to join us, so we did some table time. E played with a felt fairy tale set that I got at Target forever ago that I had tucked away… and Jboy played with pebbles. It would sound all put-together to say that I planned it to go along with the fact that there are pebble frogs or that the well is made out of rocks or that frogs are often in creeks, so that’s why we played with small stones.
But really, it was just because Jboy likes playing with pebbles and pretending cups and bowls are excavators. Just keeping it real here, folks. Ha!
DAY THREE Movie day! So we AppleTVed Disney’s The Princess and the Frog as our last Frog prince version, like we did in the Rapunzel week. The kids loved making the living room a movie theater last week, so they did it again for this week’s feature length film. Not as many animals made it to the theater this time, but Baby L was delighted to get to play during the first few songs.
I hadn’t seen it myself, and I normally do preview things for the kids, but typically Disney movies I feel are still primarily safe. I’ll be honest; I probably would have made a different choice for a frog movie if I had realized that the voo-doo element was going to be so strong. I’m glad I was in the room to offer explanations and talk through some parts in the moment. Jboy was unphased by it, but E is sensitive to scary parts, and she did NOT care for the shadows and creepy music during those sections.
I don’t necessarily regret watching it though. It led to a Big Juicy Conversation about magic. What it is. How it shows up in fairy tales. How Mama Odie’s magic was different than the Shadowman’s. White/light/good magic vs. bad/dark. Of course the conversation wasn’t as in depth as one day I hope it will be (there’s a difference between 6 and 16…); but I do very much hope that these small conversations here and there are just foreshadowings of on-going lovely, deeper ones to come.
We finished our fairy time using our facebook votes from Day 2 to make our very first graph! It seemed a great way to use this first Math page in her journal. According to the votes, #4 was the winner by one vote, with #3 and #5 tying for 2nd. E felt badly for the “underdog” dresses, and used her vote for #6, while convincing me to use mine for #2. While I’m typically a “vote your conscience” kinda gal, I think it was okay to make an exception this time. 😉
DAY FOUR So we weren’t able to sneak in a momma/daughter date for our writing time this week, but I’m really going to try and make that a priority if we can. Our time was still nice, although we were interrupted by siblings during the process. E’s ideas came faster this week. I’m wondering if it is because we’ve done it already, so she knew what was going to happen; but I did tell her in the morning it was Wonder Writing day, so to start thinking about how she wanted her version to go. Maybe a head’s up combined with experience worked well for her.
Like last week’s wonder, you can definitely see aspects of several versions weaved in, but… this girl isn’t afraid to spin all sorts of other things in, too. (Including an R2D2 sidekick to the magician!) Interesting thing: her Rapunzel story and her Frog Prince both has seismic activity in them. I guess her science memory work is subconsciously emerging in her fairy world. Ha! Poor Rapunzel had colliding islands, and the Frog Prince as an earthquake which creates a chasm from which the magician comes out. So there’s definitely some tectonic plate problems going on.
I will say that I loved seeing some of our white/black magic conversation from earlier sneak into her story. At the end of her wonder, no one kisses anyone to break any spells, but everyone turns back into humans because “black magic doesn’t last forever.”
Isn’t that true? Darkness and the curse that we are under in the real world won’t and can’t last forever. I love how that Truth emerges in the most unlikely of places… like a 6 year old’s quirky version of a prince-and-girl-turned-frog-and-back-again.
I would like to say that “in everything, I give thanks.”
But both heaven and my husband know that’s not true.
I’m the solve-a-problem-by-preventing-it type… which means you actually have to pre-think problems in your head to solve them before they start. I am fairly decent at doing this for the day-in, day-out stuff. Packed diaper bags. Pre-snacked children. Plenty of gas in the car. Electronic tickets screen-shot vs. trusting wifi to open the email when I need them.
I’ve saved myself a lot of angst with this pre-thinking thing I do.
But you see, this Forethought Super-power comes at a price.
It requires I focus on the “bad” more than the “good.” The negative “what-if.”
And often, it’s hard to be thankful for bad.
This labeling of something “bad” assumes, of course, that you actually know what “bad” is… but can we all admit that we have a hard time knowing which is which sometimes? Things that look bad on the surface can actually be good… and the assumed good can sometimes be bad. And then there’s a whole bunch of morally gray areas in life that no one can really pin down this side of heaven.
But in this verse? There is no question.
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.
What He does is good.
We agree with that in the pews on Sunday and some people give a hardy “amen,” but can we all also admit that it’s hard to reconcile that with junkie stuff that happens? When tragedy strikes? When betrayals hit close to home? When sickness sweeps in? When fear takes hold? When loved ones die?
I’ve never been one to question God’s power.
But I’ll fully confess to questioning His Goodness. More times than I care to admit.
But last night, as I read this verse, something struck me.
It’s easy to read the phrases of this passage all disjointed and disconnected… like David was just sitting there going, “this truth sounds good. Oh, and this truth sounds good. I’ll just smoosh them together in a verse, I think.”
That’s not the way poetry— specifically Hebrew poetry— works. There is parallelism and cause and effect. We see that all over the psalms.
So here we go.
Give thanks to the Lord.
Because He is good.
Because *His love endures forever.*
We like to believe that the love on this earth is eternal, don’t we? I say to my husband and my children “I will always love you” and I mean it more than I mean anything. I can’t imagine the love I feel for them breaking. My heart may break in the loving, but my love? Surely, that will be steadfast.
We want that to be true with every fiber of our beings; but there are no guarantees with love or life. Whereas I believe that love is a choice, and we need to choose it every day, and we will always keep choosing it… the fact of the matter is, we do stop loving sometimes. We claim to love people, but hurt them. We choose ourselves over the object of our love, and harm the bonds between us. We break promises. We break vows. We break hearts.
But not Him.
We can always give thanks, not because He does good (He does). Not because He is good (He is).
But because He, as Love, endures FOREVER. And forever, loves us perfectly.
With Jesus, there is no altering, when alteration finds.
I have broken places. ⠀⠀ And since you are a fellow inhabitant of earth alongside me, I can pretty much guarantee that you have broken places, too. ⠀⠀ I can pinpoint to several places as a child, as a young adult, as a wife and mother, where I felt myself snap. Felt the break in my soul. Experienced moments where I knew I wasn’t going to be the same once the acuteness of the pain subsided to an ever-present ache. ⠀⠀ God doesn’t ask us to not break. He doesn’t ask us to be self-sufficient. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “thou shalt pull up thyself with thine bootstraps.” ⠀⠀ It is the opposite. He says He will be our strength. He says He will make beauty from ashes, because He knows we will not walk this planet unscathed. At times, our hopes will burn. Our dreams will go up in smoke. Life in this fallen world will set our expectations up in flames. ⠀⠀ But our Father promises Beauty. ⠀⠀ Not just in spite of the destruction, but He will take those cinders themselves and repurpose them into an amazing gallery of Redemption and YOU will be His Masterpiece. ⠀⠀ Here is to you. Here is to me. ⠀⠀ Here’s to courage to rise from our broken places today… ⠀⠀ and everyday.
I’m having a fun event at my house tonight… I really planned it because I’ve been wanting to learn how to make homemade cheese and realized I would never do it unless I gave myself some external pressure. (Thanks grad school.)
Anyway, I am making a tomato basil salad to go with the mozzarella and thought that the variety of small tomatoes would be a good opportunity to teach my almost six year old some knife skills.
She’s doing great. I’m right beside her, giving her instruction. She’s enjoying herself, and begins talking about the different tomatoes.
“This one is long and skinny and yellow,” she says. She cuts it and puts it in the bowl.
“This one is red. And it is really round,” she says. She puts it in the bowl. “It is like you. You are round, too.”
Enter that wave of shame.
Those of you who have always struggled with your weight are familiar with this feeling. It’s a horrible companion. It was the bully that tapped on my shoulder and called me fat before my kindergarten pictures when I was barely five. The shame made me suck in my stomach.
And I haven’t stopped feeling like I have had to suck it in and be small ever since.
With my shame present, I don’t say anything, except to place another handful of tomatoes on the cutting board.
My daughter chatters on.
“Mommy, do you ever wish you were skinny?”
I’m beginning to regret this impromptu chopping class. I was thinking the produce would be cut, not me.
I understand it is an opportunity. But it is definitely one I’m not sure how to take.
I use a cross examination tactic to buy myself a few extra seconds for my brain to process.
“That’s a really good question…” I say slowly, looking down and feeling sympathy for those slashed cherry tomatoes sitting in the bowl.
And then, words. Maybe grace.
“You see how pretty that bowl of tomatoes is? All different shapes and sizes and colors?”
I pick up an uncut round red tomato and a long skinny yellow tomato and hold them in my hands.
“These tomatoes look different, and they taste different. But God made them both beautiful and good, with their unique taste. Is the round, red tomato better than the yellow, skinny tomato?”
“No mommy. They are both tasty.”
“Right. They are both good. And then, we put all the kinds of tomatoes in the same bowl and they are even prettier and better together, aren’t they?”
“That’s how God made people. All different shapes and sizes.”
“And colors!” She interrupted.
“Yes, and colors. And He put us all together in this world, just like we put all the tomatoes together in this bowl. And all together, in all our variety, we are even more beautiful. Remember when God made us… what did He call us?”
She reaches for another tomato and cuts it and begins humming.
I place a few more tomatoes in front of her, not sure if I actually believe my impromptu tomato theology.
But in the moment, I know I have stumbled on truth.
And I hope that I will gradually come to this faith… and that my daughter will always be a believer in the beauty she was created with and in.