I think I’m quite an idealistic person; I have a vision of how I’d like to parent, what I’d like to pour into our kids, the environment and experiences I’d like them to be surrounded by and enjoy. The more I read, the more this vision is fuelled with fresh ideas. This is good, I think, as it keeps me on my toes and challenges me to keep adapting our home, rhythms, celebrations etc as our family grows.
However, I think there’s a downside too. I can also feel like I’m failing when I read of ideals and even realities which are far from our own experiences. And this is not solely social media. I enjoy reading about education, in particular home education. I wonder if home schooling mums are an idealistic bunch by definition? We probably need to have a pretty clear vision to embark upon such an adventure in the first place….and I hugely appreciate all that encourages me from others’ writing.
I think, however, that I need to remember that each of us is uniquely created, as are each of our family members. And with so many variables, every family will be a unique mix, with its own blend of giftings, strengths, weaknesses and challenges.
Of all the learning styles I’ve explored, that of Charlotte Mason most resonates with me. She based her philosophy of education on the foundation that each child is uniquely created and loved by God. From this foundation, she advocates lots of fresh air and exploring nature, lots of time to play and discover, an abundance of stories and books, and access to “real” music, art etc, rather than watered down children’s versions. (She doesn’t put much emphasis on science though, other than nature study, which for our family plays quite a central role in our learning). However, my simplistic interpretation of her philosophy is living and enjoying life to the full!
However, during my most recent foray into her ideas, I felt a growing sense of failure and frustration. I’m sure this would not have been her intention. As I reflected, I realised that although these are great ideals, many of which I try to attain, she didn’t have children of her own, and subsequently didn’t have to contend with piles of laundry, permanently hungry tummies and constant clutter. And, as a Victorian neither did she have to compete with the plethora of screens, you tube, social media etc, especially with teens.
So, I have a tension between the ideals I aspire to, and and the reality of my life. We’ve been enjoying watching “Outnumbered” a BBC sitcom based on modern British family life. Caught in the middle of some of our own family crossfire, one of the boys remarked wryly “We are so like the outnumbered family!”. And he has a point!
I would love to be a calm, artistic and beautifully crafted Charlotte Mason homeschooling family, but instead our kids identify us with a BBC sitcom! I guess there’s lots of humour in the latter, and we fortunately have a ready supply of that.
Diana Waring, whose history syllabus I’ve used, writes about each family playing to their own strengths. I love this. Rather than trying to be either like an ideal, or like another family known to us, we can create our own family culture which reflects who we are and what we like doing. A multi faceted diamond which sparkles whicever way it is turned. Diamonds are not only the strongest of stones, but are also made of carbon, utterly essential to life. Bonded together in a giant covalent structure, they make a strong and beautiful jewel.
So, I can enjoy being inspired by all my reading and yet come away free to love my own family as we are, a glorious but messy mix of six individuals gradually being honed by God’s redeeming love to to be all He created us to be.