Megan was refreshed after a day of listening to three wise women at a one-day retreat…and she brought home another booklist. Note the fairy tale motifs: Three wise women giving counsel.
A few weeks ago I drove three rainy wee morning hours to hear Cindy Rollins, Angelina Stanford, and Renee Mathis speak at the CiRCE 2019 Kindred Retreat. I have been impressed with Stanford’s convictions about evidence of Truth in fairy tales and mythology, and was eager to meet her in person. Rollins is known for her Morning Time habits through years of homeschooling her children, and is the author of Mere Motherhood. Mathis is an interesting character: her credentials include making her own bona fide denim jumper, winning Jeopardy, and being a power lifter. Definitely some fascinating ladies.
Here are the things I want to remember from the retreat. Perhaps they will encourage you, too.
- History reminds us that evil exists and must be prepared for. It creates a moral conscience on behalf of the teacher, tethering the child to the past to strengthen them for the future.
- You cannot read the 100 Great Books until you have read the 1000 Good Books. It is important not to give your children sophisticated reading material before they are ready and have developed a good appetite for it.
- Nature study: The teacher’s job is to teach herself and be curious. When you take time to teach yourself, you are educating your children. Have a nature book of your own, and expectations. Ask “What is God going to show us today?”
- Poetry: The highest form of language that helps us connect with one another. Don’t explain the meaning; leave it for them to ponder.
- God: Morning Time is for remembrance, to present the knowledge of the holy in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
- Trust the seeds that have been planted. They are not wasted; they blossom in time.
- Reading is the centerpiece of education. Focus on Bible stories, fairy tales, myths, fables, folk tales, legends and Shakespeare. Read the books that shaped the Great Books.
It was lovely to talk with all three speakers after the sessions, and I came home inspired, invigorated, eager to apply these principles on Monday morning. I had my index cards, my stack of books, and the tea was ready.
And…it didn’t take long for the day to fall apart. What did I have to hold on to for the next day? Wisdom shared by Cindy, who knows from experience. “We are going to fight with passion. We may fail, but we will try. Repent of forgetting. God can turn our meager efforts into pure gold.” And from Angelina: “God’s grace is more than enough to cover my flaws.”
I am learning to practice the balance of structure and substance. Structure alone is like the skeleton of dry bones, while substance alone is like a shapeless pile of flesh. Put the two together, and you have a corpse that still needs the Holy Spirit to breathe life and being. Then, when He inspires, creative juices begin to flow and we cannot help responding.
I see that happening.
In the following weeks I have been gradually unschooling myself, disobliging my expectations of accomplishment from completing a curriculum in favor of encouraging the development of family culture—including my own and my husband’s.
Instead of fretting over what I have failed to teach my children, it is important for me to become a student as well as a teacher. This does not mean ignoring their education, but working through the lessons alongside them. If I invest time in developing my own skills, both in areas where I am weak and also my strengths, I model that I am far from finished in my education, and my boys can see that they are only just beginning. Anything that matters, they can go on and learn themselves.
I feel like I am coming alive. I see my children coming alive, enjoying more time and freedom to create. I am choosing enrichment that I love, including folk music like Bluegrass and Broadway.
I am teaching myself to draw, sitting beside my talented son who had given up asking me to join him because I felt burdened by other obligations. I am eager to knit and write, while my husband plays with his model trains in the basement. I really want to diagram great sentences in literature because…I don’t know why, but I find it fascinating. I am closing internet windows of articles I intend to read in order to read a Great Book and copy a beautiful passage out of it.
God yet has many things to teach me–especially character issues. (Psalm 16:11; 25:8-13; 34:11-14) Such life and peace is only blessed when Christ, not curriculum or method, is ruler over the spheres of home and school. In His service, I am content and encouraged to press on.
Cindy Rollins kindly gave me permission to share her Fortitude Booklist, which is not obligatory reading, but drawn from a mother with experience. If you would like to hear Cindy and Angelina, they are offering an online Literary Life Conference in May.