What I learned on my summer vacation

Summer Vacation meaning homeschool retreat, of course. The main theme I heard through out the conference was one of Faith. It stood out to me in all three of the main sessions as well as much of the smaller breakout sessions and even just in my talks around the table with other moms. 

I did a quick narration on the forum the day after the retreat and came up with a couple bullet points but as I've been thinking, I've added to them. I'm not sure if it will make sense to anyone else because honestly, I'm taking hours of talk by woman with years of experience and trying to reproduce it in one blog post but I'm going to try anyway. 

Faith in the mind - the mind of a child to assimilate and process the mind food of ideas we offer and grow as they need and our minds as mothers to apply Charlotte Mason's principles in our family.

The very first talk, given by Karen Glass, was about believing in the Mind. We as Christians can't fall for the modern worldly trap of believing that the mind is the same as the brain. The big question of the day during Charlotte Mason's times was "What is consciousness? What is the mind?" but in today's modern times, "we" don't even think it needs to be answered. But "we" are wrong. A person is more than a data machine. Our children have souls and minds that need to be nourished and feed with ideas.

What we believe we are doing - filling a brain with data or feeding a mind - impacts how we educate. Charlotte Mason's principles require belief in the mind. But we can trust these processes (Narration, learning through literary works, etc) because they are natural and inate. A child will assimilate the ideas it needs. He is  eclectic and he may reject 9/10th of the ideas in a book but still take what he needs as long as we get out of the way. That seems risky, but it really isn't anymore than feeding a child a meal with a variety of flavorful real foods is riskier than figuring out what vitamins and minerals that meal contains and giving it to the child in a pill form. It does requires faith though. Faith that God designed the human brain to grow on ideas just as he designed the human body to grow on food.

Anne White also talked a little about this in her session on Living Books. She describes the need for a living book to have many ideas because part of the will's function is to choose. A mind can't choose what ideas it needs to grow if a book doesn't offer lots of choices. But again, this means that it won't choose them all - and that's okay!  That seemed so obvious when she stated it that way but it was a huge shift for me. But it comes back to trusting the mind and having faith that it will grow. 

Faith that the little things we do day in and day out, the habits we develop, will produce God's fruit in due time.

Cindy Rollins also talked about Faith. Faith that all those little things we do, day in and day out, really do make a difference. We can't see the fruit after a week, we have to wait for it. She gave practical ideas for both moms of littles and bigs but I focused on those for littles - to guard your "10 minutes here and there," to find time to read the bible even if its short, to make your top priorities habits and not allow other opportunities to interfere with those. I had to laugh when she mentioned that habits wasn't always her favorite topic because it isn't mine either but after hearing her talk, I might have to retract that. She talked about decision fatigue and moral fatigue, how habits free you to use your energy on other things and how we can have faith that those little habits really do make up the essence of your home and the lifetime of education you want it to contain.

I really enjoy all the seasoned mother's talking about fruit. Because, I'll be honest, while I may have fun moments now and then when I see teeny tiny buds forming, Jonah telling Craig to "Do it properly, with breadcrumbs!" and Lucy amazing me with her observations at the aquarium, for the most part when it comes to fruit - the pickings are slim. But they reminded me that I really do need to add a "for now"  to that last sentence.

But the emphasis wasn't just on the future part of the fruit, it was also on who's fruit we are to be expecting. Karen's food to body/ideas to brain analogy helps illustrate that we don't feed a child's mind in order to manipulate the outcome anymore that we would try and control what color hair or eyes our child has by what we feed them. We offer a generous feast, the child's mind takes what it needs and the natural (God ordained?) results occur in time.

Cindy brought this up on a more personal level. She spoke of being amazed at how God used the things she had included in her morning time in her children's lives in completely unexpected ways. Someone else brought up in a Q&A session that neither you nor your child knows enough to decide what doesn't need to be in their education. You don't know, or get to control, what God's plan for your children entails (of course, there is a balance there, but generally speaking). They aren't yours to manipulate into what you want (although having two large car repair bills lately, I can't help but think having some sort of mechanic in the family in the future might be nice :-) but are simply entrusted to you by God for a short period of time. So prepare a feast for them and see where God takes them! 

Faith in the Personhood (of the child and the mother)

Faith in God's fruit ties in very closely with the idea that children are persons. I've always thought of that mostly in immediate terms of what avenues are open to me as educational tools and how I treat them in the now, but it also plays a huge role in long-term planning and expectations. 

BUT, the flip side to that is that mothers (and fathers) are people too. We were reminded that CM believes in the minds of mothers. I've heard AO and CMers being described as always philosophizing when asked for practical tips but Charlotte Mason believed nothing was as practical as an idea. And that she offers parents her philosophy because she trusts that those who understand her ideas and principles can bring them to forms of vitality in their homes. 

We were reminded to cultivate our minds as mothers. This means a lot more coming from a mom about to send their last child out into the world after having been a homeschooling mom for 10, 15 or even 20 years. As hard as it is for me to imagine that day (I still can't imagine a day when I don't have to help someone "potty"), I know it will come.

Faith in God

This was everywhere. Everything I mentioned above really starts with faith in God. But our closing session brought me, and others I'm sure, to tears when Donna-Jean implored us to remember the reasons we have for being here, the blessings we are trying to educate. I'm going to completely fail at narrating this talk because it was so encouraging and uplifting and all I can think of to summarize the message is - love your children and trust God. But isn't that the point of the whole thing? God loves us, God loves them. And he has entrusted them, these little (but soon to be not so little) people, into our lives so that we can love them and show God's to them. So never forget that. Be faithful to Him and love them with the love that He has given us. That's all we can do so. Rest in that and don't be afraid. 

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