I love the time of year when I get to reflect on the previous year of schooling and see the growth of the children and myself. Every year we have areas where we hoped for more fruit than what developed, and every year we have areas of unsuspected weakness that turned into opportunities for great fruitfulness. I hope that as I mature I realize that the greatest joy of our lives is in the daily journey, not in spite of it. Sometimes the work of homeschooling feels like aimless wandering more than anything else, but the whole point to all this is developing a sensitive ear to the Holy Spirit until my will is within His entirely.
This year more than ever before I have really struggled with what seems like the increasing loss of simplicity in my life. We are in a transition as a family into a new season, and I have yet to fully realize and embrace it. There is an uncomfortable requirement of growth to being in a place that is teeming with the excitement of the unknown yet scary because of the seeing-through-a-glass-darkly phenomenon that often accompanies those times of maturation that are hand-curated by the Lord for us.
I have many times in this past year looked back to a season in my life when simplicity was more of a given, though I didn’t realize that at the time. It was right at the very start of our homeschooling journey. I had five little ones five and under in tow and felt such tremendous pressure to make my little pupils perform to the high standard I thought was required. I want to go back and tell my energetic yet exhausted self that time would reveal itself to be slipping through my grasp at every turn and the opportunities for character development and enjoying the children would be numerous and yet nearly invisible if I wasn’t looking for them in my rush to get my children reading and writing well. I had yet to learn that I would one day miss the time when what was required of me was actually quite straightforward. I wish I could go back, even if just for a minute, and feel what it was like to have little ones begging me for a story just for enjoyment, to build a Lego city on a lazy afternoon and not be missing out on any “more important” stuff. I know that I was not present for many of those moments as they occurred because I was so busy pressing on and dragging the kids with me. I wish I would have reveled more in the pleasure of that simple time, for simple is what it truly was. Our biggest problems centered around silent e and the 9 facts. There were very few deep heart troubles and questions, and in the midst of the incredible physical toll of nursing, pregnancy, and toddlerhood all combined with venturing into home-learning, I don’t think I realized just how precious that was. My heart was in turmoil because I constantly felt as though I was not doing enough. I did not know what resting was. It has been good for my heart to look with honesty at moments previously lived so I can learn from them and see the result of not having done something well.
What I have seen is that while I have lost some of the simplicity of having tiny ones underfoot all day (I still have a 2 year old and 4 year old, so it’s not completely over!), what I have actually been seeking and which has felt elusive is the simplicity of living firmly within the grasp of the peace that passes all understanding. I’m not so much looking for less clutter and a more organized schedule (although those things have been wonderful tools) but for less turmoil in the heart – a minimalist environment where resting in faith is the color I paint on the walls. I’m seeking a quiet, joyful trust that is not marred by the chaos around me. Isn’t it so that when we crave less instead of more and quiet instead of noise that we are actually looking for something that can only be understood deep in the core of our beings? And He is offering it to us. This is the portion that is made readily available to me. All I need to do is receive it.
If I look at it this way, I have not lost simplicity at all but have only redefined it. In fact, the simplicity that Abba wants to reveal to me in this season when nothing is simple and we are facing some cold, rocky mountains on the landscape of our lives is that He provides the simple. It is He who gives the peace. It is He who carries the burdens that are so heavy compared to what they once were. It has only been recently that I have realized when looking back at my “simple” days that I wasn’t really in peaceful surrender, which is something I was unwilling to admit to myself then. I was carrying burdens in my own strength because they weren’t as heavy as they are now. Each year that passes in homeschooling and raising children, I sink more into the mud the more I try to do on my own. But what if the Lord were offering me something priceless on this journey of a new year? What if I listened and believed when He said He would take my burdens and give me that simplicity and peace in exchange? What if this year could be even sweeter than it was when I had only little ones following me around like happy ducklings? I believe that is what is in store for this new year as I prepare to lead my littles (and not-so-littles) into our 8th year of homeschooling.
In my personal quest for MORE peace, there are a few practical areas I have started to address with habits that we plan to carry forward into the new year with us.
The first area of making way for peace is by placing a greater emphasis on quality versus quantity. This seems so obvious, but I have often gotten carried away with adding this or that program or book only to realize the kids are so bogged down with STUFF. We’re de-cluttering the schedule more than ever this year. Oh, there will be lots of rigorous learning taking place, but I’m aiming to glean more out of what we have rather than add more surface studies on top of everything. One way we’ll simplify the day is in doing Morning Time regularly with a loop of learning topics rather than every subject every day. The particulars of that are for another blog post, though!
The second area of making way for peace is by maintaining two habits that have nothing to do with school itself but have created such a positive outlook that we are going to continue to practice them. Pete calls every morning during breakfast to pray with the family over the phone. Since he leaves for work at 6:00, just before the kids get up, we started doing a conference call every morning so that the kids can have Dad’s authority re-emphasized as well as start the day with prayer and encouragement. It only takes a few minutes of our time but the connection with Pete because of these calls has really been amazing.
A couple of months ago, as I was reading a book about the love languages of kids, I realized that some of my kiddos were not really getting enough physical touch and words of affirmation. Yes, we hug them before bed and mention positive things we see in the kids, but I wanted to be even more intentional and more habitual about it. So every morning after breakfast is cleaned up, the kids line up on the stairs that head into the school room. I shake each child’s hand, welcome her/him to the school day, affirm my love for each one and the knowledge that nothing they could do would ever change my love for them, and finally give a long “squeezy hug” – the best kind according to us – with eye contact and great affection. I mean to say, I really pile on the smiles and kisses! And they LOVE it. My love language is not physical touch and closeness, so this habit was difficult for me to begin at first. But I have seen incredible benefits from this simple little routine each morning. It absolutely sets the tone for the day in the best possible way. “Morning hugs” is actually now listed on our block schedule chart. The kids don’t let me forget!
What a wonder this year has been! My gratitude for my Shepherd’s leading has filled my heart to overflowing.