I often wonder how it is possible that our home life which is so dependent on the lull of a routine for its success is also nothing short of wondrous and breathless at the same time. May and June went by with school examinations for the older children and they prepared for them mostly independently as I spent much of my energy homeschooling Piglet and Roo, the latter right smack in the middle of her fantastic two’s. At two, everything is truly marvellous and must be fully explored even if it means scaling dangerous heights to get there.
In this Keeping-Up-With-Roo season, I tend to cling more than ever to our simple routine, following it mindfully, sometimes tenaciously, but also knowing it has to be held loosely in order to educate the whole child, “head, heart and hands” (think Waldorf). This, and also the awareness that childhood is indeed precious and fleeting has made for relatively peaceful mothering for the most part even though there will always be the usual heart-stopping toddler-initiated event or two, often more, that comes with the territory.
Every day we work through practical life – self-care habits and the mountain of chores it takes to run a household of seven – dog included, fish and caterpillar excepted. The older children have begun to grumble or drag their feet occasionally which tends to make my blood boil but I’m choosing to view these as teaching opportunities to remind ourselves that learning to persist through drudgery in order to serve others and keep on top of our own “mess” is part of educating the heart.
I say “remind ourselves” because, in truth, upon deeper reflection recently I have come face to face with my own internal grumbling about the constancy of clean-ups and have therefore come to a new resolve to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Character is caught, not taught. As Rudolf Steiner famously said, “You will not be good teachers if you focus only on what you do and not upon who you are.”
While there’s been an hour or so of academics for each child, more than double the amount of time spent reading-aloud and reading independently, and good progress in two languages, history, science and art, we’ve stalled miserably in music and math.
Thankfully though, besides simplicity I’m also learning more confidently to adapt to life’s changing seasons without feeling too badly about fudging some areas. With home-based work projects set to increase in the next few months and the unpredictable rains alternating between brief drizzles and torrential downpours, I decided it was timely for us to get a head start on garden work during sunny days. Our small green patch, on maintenance mode since Roo was hospitalised in April (a bit of a scare deserving another post), would benefit from a good deal of changes and provide in itself a myriad of practical outdoor activities central to learning, imagination and play. The previous season of crops was nearing its end and it was time to uproot, let the land rest awhile, and plant again.
I’ve been falling into bed exhausted each night but growing a few more inches in wonder at how spending time simply with children whether at home or in the world outside has blessed and enriched my own life beyond measure. Education truly begins with being present and attentive, reading the open book that is their lives and then stepping out into new paths with them, mutually enjoying the adventure and the fulfilment it brings.
“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” ~ Charlotte Mason