Today’s ‘Imago Dei.’ post is from our friend Mystie. If you are new to the Imago Dei series then you should know how it began. The Imago Dei series is all about you and your story as you have encountered the truly human things that transform us more into the image of our Creator. I first had the idea for this series shortly after launching this blog, but did not know exactly how it was to look. Then, I received a gracious gift, an email from a fellow Christian classical mom sharing her story. Immediately I was taken and knew that our series had found its form. Let the series continue.
Here is Mystie’s story
I’ve always been rather a stick-in-the-mud.
My mother would suggest I go play outside. So I’d take my book outside and sit under a tree. My friends would want to play fairies, and I’d make a wry face and trot around behind them. I loved Anne Shirley, but deep down, I knew I was actually boring Dianna Barry.
I’d much rather read and write than do or play. I labeled myself “not a math person” and “not a science person” early on because my preference was to read a trite novel instead; I was perfectly happy that my mom was not a frog-dissecting or baking-soda-and-vinegar-volcano-making or sugar-cube-pyramid-crafting homeschool type. Read the books, check the boxes, then spend the afternoon pursuing interests. The only problem was that my interests were very limited and I was perfectly content that way.
My reading led me into classical education topics before I even had children – and I had my first at 21. Being an enthusiastic young married homemaker, I read copiously on homemaking, cooking, parenting, and educating. I quickly learned in the arenas of homemaking that I was a much better book reader than doer. This made me nervous about homeschooling.
But at first, homeschooling is really just an extension of parenting. The two are hardly separable. Teaching a child to say please and thank you turns into teaching them that a says a, ay, aw. Not a big deal. Meanwhile, I read more and more and crafted scopes and sequences and philosophies of education based on what I read.
At heart, I am an administrator. I’d rather make a plan and delegate its implementation to others. I’d rather refine a practice than do it day in and day out. I’d rather assign work to my children than do any myself.
But teaching is done through imitation. And what if all my children have to imitate is a bossy hypocrite? Turns out they become stubbornly resistant to be what I myself am not willing to be – an open learner, one willing to wonder.
Wisdom begins in wonder, Socrates says. But wonder had been seriously lacking in my perspective. Childbirth and mothering planted seeds of wonder in the hard terrain of my heart. When I read Norms and Nobility for the first time, I started to get an inkling that just making a great plan was not going to be adequate for this homeschool vision I had set for our family. I might actually have to be it and not merely assign it.
If that only meant being willing to read the middle and high school lit courses and teach writing and grammar and have discussions, I’d have been perfectly content. But homeschooling doesn’t start there. It starts in seemingly endless rounds of a, ay, aw and arithmetic drills. Where’s the wonder there? I don’t have to engage with that myself, do I? Aren’t I above that now? I can wait for middle school to engage with the material, can’t I?
Charlotte Mason says send your children outside for hours? I’m in. Charlotte Mason says tell them all the names of everything they see? I can’t! No way. Masterly inactivity all the way and only, if you please. Joseph Pieper says to arrange your life for times of leisure, others call this a monastic way of life – yes, let’s do it. Susan Wise Bauer says you have to stay at your son’s elbow all morning if that’s what he needs. And James Taylor and David Hicks say this liberally educated life is a thing we should all pursue and not simply foist on our students? Well, let me reconsider. Let me piece together my own philosophy that takes all the heady thoughts and the telling your kids what to do and eliminates as much of the actual effort required of the mother as possible. Classical education for the kids. Unschooling for mom. Can we do that?
Pursuing homeschooling in a way that was both idealistic and realistic made these concepts clash within my own head and within my home as our family grew in number and increased in age. I knew more was being required of me than I really wanted to give, and it didn’t even have anything to do with reading more books. It had to do with opening myself to the possibility that I might no longer be allowed to be “not a math person” or “not a read-aloud person” or “not a science person.” If classical education was meant to make complete persons, and that’s what I wanted for my children, I had to want it for myself, too. But I was happy with my small, comfortable self.
However, it’s pretty humbling when it takes your eight-year-old less time to do his math fact sheet than it takes you to grade it. As my second child moved from the first math book into the second, I realized something: I was a lot better at arithmetic than I had been three years before, before I’d led any child through addition and subtraction. And I discovered something else: getting better at something makes it more interesting.
I’m not an outdoor person, yet I started gardening. I am a terrible gardener – currently in September I have many more weeds than tomatoes – but every spring hope returns. What I love about gardening is how it is like doing a metaphor for life, seeing before your eyes how the world works in a little microcosm. What I don’t love about gardening is getting dirty. What’s really strange about gardening is that carrots are actually very dirty; and when you wash your lettuce, bugs float to the top. Growing food is sort of disgusting. But it’s real. And even all that is metaphorical. Yet all of it is literal, too: it’s all real magic God works through sun and soil every season. It’s incredible. It’s wonderful.
In small ways I’ve opened myself to seeing and feeling the wonder – not only reading and thinking about wonder. Wonder is a thing felt and comes from observing with an open heart and eager eyes. To experience it, I have to be willing to be a learner and willing to open myself up to changing and growing and learning to love that which is lovely, even if I have to take the truth that a thing is lovely on faith at first.
Mystie and her husband, Matt, are second-generation homeschoolers now educating their brood of five. She is author of Paperless Home Organization, Simplified Dinners, and the course Simplified Organization: Learning to Love What Must Be Done. She blogs at Simply Convivial about homemaking and homeschooling and at Simplified Organization about managing a home and family well.
Wow Mystie! I cried through half of this. Thank you for sharing. These are reminders I need EVERY DAY! I pray blessings over your home and school. You have wrestled with one of the hardest things each classical educator must wrestle with if we are to truly embrace this tradition. You are a great example for all of us. Thank you.
[box type=”info”] Friends, I would love to hear your story as well. If you are interested in sharing contact me for more information. Blessings.[/box]
Expanding Wisdom, extending grace,