I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:15
Here I am, compelled to share a moment of raw, honest truth. This year has been a struggle for me. A real honest-to-goodness struggle. Not a struggle on whether we should continue homeschooling, not a struggle with my many failures, not a struggle with curriculum or any number of other things that I’ve wrestled with in times past. This year, I’ve been struggling with beauty.
You see, I have my “morning basket” (or “morning time”) plan. I have my resources. I have my utopian ideals of how I want to incorporate the good, true, and beautiful in our home. But the reality is… my former schooling background is an oh-so-hard habit to break. I default to what I know even though it is not what I want to do. Perhaps this is due to certain so-called survival skills for handling a toddler (whom I love dearly and would not trade for the world but who has an uncanny knack for derailing us every 26 seconds) while my husband is (what seems like) a bazillion miles away on an oil rig off the coast of some country for (what seems like) a bazillion days at a time. The days grow long and I grow weary. No matter the reason, here it is: I know what I want to do, but many times I instead do what I hate to do.
Have you been there?
All I can say is, “Aww, Man.” (Or maybe that should be “Amen.”)
So, I’ll just preface what I share here and underscore the fact that utopian ideals ain’t happenin’ in our neck of the woods. In fact, “survival” is happenin’ most days, yet it’s a joyful survival. Honestly, there’s nothing else I want to do with my life except be a wifey-wife and a mommy-mom and give the Lord the best I’ve got in those roles he’s given to me. I am blessed even though I don’t have it all together – or rather, I am blessed because I don’t have it all together:
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Here’s the deal. I decided to dump all my hopes and dreams and utopian visions of teaching truth, goodness, and beauty into a great big ole bucket. That’s probably not an attractive metaphor, but we live on a farm. Buckets are everywhere, and so are my hopes, dreams, and utopian visions. You’ll see that this survival mode may not be the most attractive plan, but somehow worship undergirds our day, and we find beauty in the midst of it as I lay it all in God’s hands.
Here’s what we’ve done (or rather, what God has done) with our truth-goodness-and-beauty bucket:
- I wake the boys up with a playlist of classical music and worship songs & hymns blaring on the Sonos (affiliate link). It’s not formal classical music and hymn study, but it’s something I look forward to every day – an exposure to truth, goodness, and beauty from the very start of our day. And if that’s all I can do right now for music appreciation and hymn study, I just have to leave it at the feet of Jesus. It’s all for Him, anyway. [Note #1: We are currently using a fabulous long-term resource for composer and classical music study, the Hands-On History Composers Activity Pak from Homeschool in the Woods. Note #2: Our community has been using Psalm 100 from Bible Readeez as a worship call to assembly (along with We Choose Virtues as a framework for our devotions). These two things have been a beautiful addition to our community days.]
- We not only listen to memory work, but we also listen to poetry in the car. (Thank you, Andrew Pudewa.) At one time, though, I balked at the very idea of memorizing poetry. After all, we have a house full of boys! What kind of manly men go around quoting limericks and “Roses are red..” sort of stuff? But… as we’ve witnessed the ability of others’ children-grown-into-teens-or-adults speaking eloquently and writing songs and poems as expressions of worship, I’ve recognized how wrong I was. Now we pursue poetry because I want my children to have a mental storehouse of tropes and schemes (and whatever else you call it) to draw upon to help them speak well and connect with others as they grow older. So much beauty exists in poetry.
- We use art cards (affiliate link) that make art a quick and independent activity once a week (and sometimes as little as once a month, though I am ashamed to admit that) for our three school-aged boys. To read more about our simple art study, click here.
- Formal nature study has been tough this year. In this season (literally and un-literally), we simply go outside and talk about what we see in the sky, on the ground, or in the trees. We still aim for consistent use of a nature/sketch journal, but we aren’t quite there yet. This is probably our greatest room for growth right now.
- We love reading aloud together. We spend anywhere from zero minutes (yes, we have had days where I altogether failed to read out loud to the boys; some days are just like that) to two hours reading together daily. Most days, I read to them for about 30-60 minutes. We read engaging books where they ask to hear “just one more chapter!!!” so it really does not seem long at all (unless the toddler is trying to babble over me, in which case my throat starts hurting because I have practically yelled the entire chapter, but that’s besides the point. My children still ask me to read to them even when I have been shouting the entire time. This is why I appreciate The Story of the World and Mystery of History audiobooks. Great stories read by… someone else.).
- Most importantly, we read the Scriptures together and converse about what we’ve read as we go through our day. Bible study does not need to be an arduous process. Simply read some verses together each day and talk about them. This art of questioning and conversation is a lifelong process I am still learning. I’m so thankful I can learn with my children.
As I write this, I feel like maybe y’all are way ahead of me in this area. Why would I try to share my thoughts when I need to be gleaning wisdom from you? (Yes, yes! If you have mastered the art of pursuing these altogether lovely things while juggling a baby or toddler, please do leave a comment for me so I can learn from you!) Nevertheless, I jot my thoughts for a few reasons:
- To help other homeschool moms and dads realize that our family is still figuring out this homeschooling thing after several years. Many people have incorrectly labeled me an “expert.” I’m afraid I’m nothing close. I’m just a mom figuring it out – facing trials, making mistakes, and rejoicing in the triumphs God grants along the way.
- For those who haven’t already done so, perhaps this will provide an idea or two for adding a truth-goodness-and-beauty bucket to your homeschool day. My best piece of advice is to start small if this is new to you. Just pick one thing and try to make it a habit.
- To encourage you to not grow weary in well doing. (Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9) Although we may face real struggles through this journey, it is well worth it. Just keep on keeping on (and pray without ceasing).
- To remind us all of the importance of seeking the true, good, and lovely that surrounds us. I need to be reminded to continue to cultivate virtue in our home, even if it’s hard to form new habits. Care to join me?
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8