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Today was one of “those” days. It took a Herculean effort just to make sure we accomplished all that needed to be done: meals, vitamins, exercises, beginning reading, copywork, math, groceries, Bible, literature, Scripture memory. Not to mention conference calls, e-mails, writing, and scheduling.
I’m sure your to-do list looked just as full and loomed just as large.
This afternoon I was reminded of this quote by Charlotte Mason about the daily effort of education:
“To ‘endeavour ourselves’ to the daily effort of education, to live and act, think and speak before the children, so that they shall be hourly the better for all that we are, is harder, no doubt, than to make one enormous sacrifice” (Formation of Character, p. 156).
And I was thinking, That’s right, Charlotte. You hit the nail on the head when you talked about the effort it takes to get everything done to educate our children every day. In some ways, it would be easier just to make one enormous sacrifice and be done with it. But homeschooling requires a lot of work—ongoing work! Especially since our goal is that our children will be hourly the better for all that we do.
Wait a minute.
That’s not what Charlotte said.
She said the goal is that our children shall be hourly the better for all that we are.
Charlotte wanted us to understand the importance of what we are during those daily activities, not just what we do. (Maybe that’s why those two words are italicized in the book, huh?)
Our children are going to learn more by living with us day in and day out than they will by reading about ratios and proportions or Alexander the Great. What we are involves the ideas that rule our lives; it involves the attitudes that rule in our hearts; and it involves the actions and words that flow out of those attitudes. Those things—the ruling ideas and attitudes in our hearts—will have a bigger impact on our children than what they read about somebody who lived in the past.
Once again Charlotte was gently reminding us that the atmosphere of our homes makes up one-third of our children’s education.
What we are speaks so much louder than what we do or what we intend to do.
Is anybody else feeling convicted by this quote?!
Think of someone who inspires you to be your best. Spending time with that person is uplifting and motivating at the same time. You come away from your time together feeling refreshed and encouraged but also feeling like you’re ready to conquer the world (or at least your corner of the world).
A person like that gives you hope when you were beginning to despair.
A person like that calms your frazzled mind and helps you begin to set your thoughts in order again.
A person like that soothes your raw emotions and makes you feel loved and accepted, not because of anything you have accomplished but just because you are a treasured human being.
And you are better for it.
That’s what Charlotte had in mind when she encouraged us to have as a goal that our children “shall be hourly the better for all that we are.”
So what are you doing to make that happen? We need to give our children the best version of mom that we possibly can. Such an important goal requires some care, some intentional thought. It dare not be left to chance.
What are you doing to support and nourish your mind and heart, your personhood? Not as a mom. Not as a wife. But as an individual with unique gifts and talents, with personal likes and dislikes, with beliefs and even preferences that are part of your very core. Are you caring for yourself?
And before you dismiss such thoughts as selfish, consider this: When is it easier to be patient: when you are well rested or when you’re exhausted? Taking care of yourself overflows to your children. It is easier to speak kindly and with a calm heart when you have maintained some margin in your day—when you have intentionally set aside time to think, to pray, to read, to sing, to listen to music—not for schoolwork, not your children’s favorite songs, but time to refresh yourself.
Our actions and words come from inside our hearts and minds. Charlotte talked about living, acting, thinking, and speaking before the children. If we want to live devotedly, to act lovingly, to think correctly, to speak kindly—in other words, to be our best before our children,—then we need to spend time nourishing our hearts and minds.
If we want to be that person who inspires our children to be their best, then we need to intentionally do all we can to be able to be at our best. Daily. Without that regular refreshment, we will find ourselves struggling and frustrated, disappointed that our efforts are feeble and inconsistent, perhaps even cringing at the person we have become in front of our children.
It boils down to this: the daily effort of education is not so much about what we do as about what we are.
Are you giving your children the best version of mom that you possibly can? If not, what would help you do that more? Don’t overlook the power of rest, of worship, of learning, and of play for yourself; because the benefits won’t stop with you. They will infuse who you are and overflow to inspire your children.
“To ‘endeavour ourselves’ to the daily effort of education, to live and act, think and speak before the children, so that they shall be hourly the better for all that we are.” That’s the goal. It’s not an easy one. Charlotte admitted that the daily-ness of the task “is harder, no doubt, than to make one enormous sacrifice.” But often the best things in life are hard . . . yet so worthwhile!
Let’s help each other with this daily effort. Leave a comment and describe what helps you to be at your best for your children. What have you been doing, or perhaps plan to do, to support and nurture who you are? I’d love to know.