I just spent a weekend at a conference with some wonderful homeschooling mamas: some who are new to homeschooling and some who are veterans. As I was chatting with one mama who is just in the midst of her first year, she told me something that made me pause and ponder.
This mama explained that when she had decided to start homeschooling, she had talked with some of her friends who were already doing it. This new mama remarked that all of those friends had freely talked to her about the academics and the scheduling and the resources and the assignments. And that was helpful, of course. But none of them, she said, mentioned the life challenges that come along with homeschooling. “No one prepared me for the every-day-ness of dealing with the attitudes and habits of my children.”
That comment stuck in my head and in my heart. Have you ever noticed that often it’s not the academics that wear us down but the life issues in our homes? I’m not saying that planning, preparing, and overseeing lessons every day is a cake walk. But it seems like those things would be so much easier if we weren’t also dealing with the bickering and the messiness or the dawdling and daydreaming.
Well, when we begin to separate those two aspects in our minds, Charlotte Mason would gently come alongside and remind us that we are educating the whole person, not just the mind. The academics are only one-third of our children’s education. Those everyday life choices are just as important as the math and the reading.
And Charlotte knew that the daily, moment-by-moment work on character and good habits requires a lot of effort. We can work hard on helping our children form good habits in attitude and action, but sometimes it takes a while before we get to see the results. Habit-training is not usually a quick and easy undertaking. It can be a long process. And that incessant work can be draining sometimes.
That’s when we might begin to question whether we’re accomplishing anything at all. Are my efforts having any effect? we wonder. And we begin to entertain thoughts of slacking off; maybe not giving up entirely, but taking a little break because it doesn’t seem to be doing any good anyway.
That’s when we would do well to remember this short but powerful statement in Volume 3, School Education. In those moments of weariness, Charlotte would remind us:
“Let us not despise the day of small things nor grow weary in well-doing”(School Education, p. 23).
Our efforts do matter! Sure, we might not be seeing progress as quickly as we expected, but that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening in our children’s hearts and minds. The seeds we have planted may be growing underneath the soil. We might not be able to see the fruit visible right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not coming. Growth happens at different speeds.
To this day I don’t remember where and when I first heard this, or even who said it, but I do remember the three-letter word that was given to me and its power to completely change my attitude. Someone in my life suggested that I tack a little three-letter word onto the end of any negative statement, such as “My child doesn’t” or “I can’t.” I took this person’s advice, and it has made a world of difference in how I view growth and progress.
That powerful three-letter word is yet.
“My child can’t read… yet.”
“I haven’t taught her how to cook… yet.”
“I am not consistent in following through… yet.”
That word yet adds hope to the statement. We may not have reached our goal, but there is still opportunity to attain, there is still hope for growth. In the moments when we begin to feel weary and it seems like our efforts are in vain, on the days when we don’t see any fruit from our labor and we feel like we have failed, those are the moments when we need to use that three-letter word stubbornly!
“My child doesn’t seem to know where the laundry hamper is… yet.”
“My child won’t pay attention… yet.”
“My child can’t control her temper… yet.”
“My child hasn’t learned the difference between I want and I will… yet.”
“My child doesn’t chew with her mouth closed… yet.”
There is still hope for change.
And it will come as most growth does: through consistent effort in the small things.
This is not the time to give up. You are doing a great work. Don’t lose heart. Don’t think that the small, everyday efforts to build good habits are insignificant; they aren’t. Those small things add up to a powerful force welling up inside your child.
The main tools we parents have in our hands to help our children become the best that they can be—to live out that personal motto of “I am, I can, I ought, I will” to the fullest—are good habits and good ideas.
So we feed their minds—one passage at a time—with loving, noble, good ideas to inspire them, to train their consciences, and to direct their reasoning. And we work with them—one choice at a time—to cultivate good habits, to fortify their wills, and to make good decisions.
Will change come as quickly as you want it to? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean it’s not coming. Remember that little three-letter word and its power to give hope.
And teach your child to do the same. Teach her to add yet onto the end of any “I can’t” statement.
“I can’t tie my shoes… yet.”
“I can’t do fractions… yet.”
“I can’t remember to do my chores… yet.”
“I can’t spell very well… yet.”
“I can’t read that book… yet.”
“I can’t draw a horse… yet.”
That small word can encourage that child and you to keep going in this good work, in this every-day-ness of life choices.
Don’t despise a day full of what you consider to be small things—things you can’t really see the results of, things that aren’t on your lesson plan, things you can’t check off your to-do list. Don’t grow weary in well-doing, my friend.
Lift up your head. Take a deep breath and keep at it.
There is hope!
Honey, you ain’t seen nothing… yet!