I was talking to my friend Auntie Sue the other day, and she was wondering what it is about younger moms that makes them want to listen to us.
As she said, it’s not that we are so great at what we do.
“No,” says I. “It’s just this: we’ve lived through a bunch of stuff.”
Just surviving intact means so much in this life of ours.
Have you ever heard of this virtue…longanimity?
Dear friends, this is our virtue! February itself is a sure sign from the good Lord that we are meant to grow and embrace it with all our hearts.
That innocent and holy matron had rather go clad in the
snowy white robes of meekness and longanimity, than in the
purple mantle of blood.
It’s human nature to be more than halfway through a project (such as the homeschool year) and be assailed with dryness, doubts, and, yes, let’s admit it, despair. You know what I’m talking about.
What can I offer you as you wrestle with the growing certainty that you should have put the kids in school long ago?
I offer you this: the sure knowledge that it’s the same in school. Any teacher will tell you: everyone feels the same way: tired of walking on sand tracked in from the snowy driveway, sick– and sick of being sick, quite sure you’re getting nowhere with school subjects, and, worst of all,
So turn up the volume, sing along with the kids, and then let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
Remember why you are doing this in the first place?
I do it because I believe that children need order and wonder.
No one really knows how children learn. But it seems to me that our family needs to be a place where a child can be sure not only what their own place is but also what can be reasonably expected of him — in large part because we, the parents, have confidence in what our part is and that we can provide this framework.
That’s the order.
Then, the mysteries of life — intellectual, spiritual, and artistic — will unfold themselves to them, according to their abilities and openness.
And that’s the wonder.
Don’t expect affirmation from them along the way. Just have confidence in your goals — order and wonder — and the means you use to get there. Even if you really aren’t sure about either, because let me tell you, it’s a learning process!
I answer that, Just as by magnanimity a man has a mind to tend to great things, so by longanimity a man has a mind to tend to something a long way off. Wherefore as magnanimity regards hope, which tends to good, rather than daring, fear, or sorrow, which have evil as their object, so also does longanimity. Hence longanimity has more in common with magnanimity than with patience.
That’s from Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 136, Article 5 — and I bet you never thought you’d get Muppets Treasure Island and St. Thomas in the same blog post, but that’s how my mind works.
February is a good time to clean out bookcases and craft shelves, on the principle that what your children won’t pay the slightest bit of attention to when you carefully offer it to them with nods and smiles, they will devour if they “discover” it on their own.
No one is more disposed to read a book than when they are organizing the books, and nothing is more appealing than a bunch of craft materials being straightened up in the cabinet!
I don’t pretend to understand it, but ask a child to take everything off his school shelf in order to rearrange it, and you will soon find him engrossed in things you despaired of ever getting him to glance at.
Now is the time to go back to your original thoughts about this year.
Did you hope that your child would learn to enjoy a chapter book? Then why are you fretting about goals you never even set yourself, but maybe overheard some other moms discussing?
Do you know this syndrome?
Rather than reinvigorated by the recent homeschooling group meeting, you found yourself thrown into a panic by someone’s mention of their Extra-Zowie Laminated Ancient Greece Unit Study or their Curriculum Packet of Supersonic Inter-Galactic Genius-Makers.
Even supposedly classical study methods can have this effect on us. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so great that we are reading some poems at bedtime, because we don’t seem to have the bells and whistles we keep hearing about!
But you know what? If we go by the intelligent people in history, we should rather come to the conclusion that the best thing we could do for our children is make them spend all day hunting and chopping wood (Lincoln), or maybe subject them to outright abuse (Franklin), or maybe just settle for “a difficult struggle to get ahead in life” (Marie Curie).
We just don’t know. So spend this February doing what you think best. Learn some folk tunes. Insist that they do their math first (or let them do it last for a while if that helps). Remember that you meant to read out loud every day from a book that’s just a little bit above them. Go to the library and get out a bagful of the oldest-looking books there. Make a lapbook. Bundle everyone up and see if the willows have started sprouting. Get out a book on drawing in perspective.
As for me, I’ll try to tidy things up, get outdoors more, and get ready for Lent, which begins on the 17th. Before you know it, spring will be here. Longanimity…
Go visit Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things for more posts about avoiding the February blues!