"On my arrival at Ambleside I was interviewed by Miss Mason who asked me for what purpose I had come.
My first encounter with a homeschooling family was at the induction ceremony of my soon-to-be husband’s first job after college. The children of this family seemed to be such well-rounded kids: each were able to converse with adults and other kids well, and to sit quietly and respectfully during the ceremony. I could tell they had a great relationship with each other and with their parents, and there was such a striking joy about them. Something about the family was so captivating. Upon learning that they homeschooled, it was sealed into my heart.
Just over a year later, at the young age of 22, the time had finally come for me to begin leading a tiny little person on the paths of life. At that time, I hadn't thought much regarding the homeschooling role beyond simply that I was to be a mom who would also teach the 3 R's.
The idea of being the one to nurture the potential in my new little daughter thrilled me, like the excitement a gardener gets sowing the first seeds of the year, anticipating the green signs of new growth. I was so eager to unleash my enthusiasm upon the bright eyes looking up at me, yet so naive to the full magnitude of meaning there was in being the mother to the precious gift I had in my arms. I knew I wanted to do all I could for her, but I had no idea just how much she (and the 4 to follow) would do for me.
As a new mom, I thought little about what I may have lacked as I changed diapers, read stories, and encouraged first steps; it appeared to me that I had a good handle on this mothering thing. I looked forward with more and more eagerness to beginning formal homeschooling lessons, thinking I would automatically be equipped for the task.
"The parent begins instinctively by regarding his child as an unwritten tablet, and is filled with great resolves as to what he shall write thereon."
Though as my child grew, so did my awareness of how very inadequate my best efforts were to do justice to the potential stored up within her. I began to realize that there was more to leading this life than first steps and ABC's.
Parenting a toddler is an experience you just can't quite imagine until you're there. So much wide-eyed wonder with such surprising mischief; so much sweet joy with such perplexing tantrums...Oh, how I loved my little conundrum.
Yet, I was at a loss for how to guide her through the turbulent moments which I hadn’t planned on. I became stuck between an intense desire to help her learn and grow, while too often fumbling in my attempts. All my striving to make her into the person I thought she should be seemed to backfire in almost every way. I had a growing doubt of my ability to do any good by her in homeschooling (regardless of how well I knew my alphabet). I found myself burdened under the weight of believing I was messing up this precious little life and completely powerless to do anything about it.
It's a scary place to be...but the best place to which God could have brought me. There, amidst my failures, I had to face the truth that an imperfect being cannot produce a perfect being.
She is His creation--not mine.
I hadn't understood the nature of my child's personhood. She isn't a lump of clay for me to mold or shape into the person I imagine; she is already the person whom God imagined, already equipped with the fullness of who she is -- just as a flourishing garden is already contained within the seed. She simply needs an atmosphere which fosters her best growth -- to nurture the beauty that God has already created in her. I cannot provide this atmosphere for her if I am stagnant in my own growth. Thankfully, our Mighty Creator is the One alone who can sanctify, and He had already been working on not only my child, but me as well.
I've heard it said before that motherhood is one of the most sanctifying experiences one can have on this earth, and I am sure most mothers would attest to this. There is no vocation upon this earth which can so inspire you to be your absolute best and to sacrifice so much, while convicting you in the most painful way when you are at your worst, all the time filled with love and awe and gratitude. All is at stake while you have the entire world to gain.
The first years of motherhood had begun to form me.
I had been rocked with a sense of inadequacy--a feeling which demanded action. It required me to come to a place of humility and see how very much I needed to grow, and improve, and to keep on, not because I am not 'good enough', but because there will always be more good to get!
Ascending through the rocky soil, desperate for the life-giving warmth, the seeds God sowed had begun to push higher.
Sanctification is progressive work, and a life-long process.
What began in my heart and mind when my oldest was a toddler was a slow growth, and it would be years until I found the iteration of a lot of what lay hidden to my consciousness in the writings of Charlotte Mason — when my oldest was 8. Words are so powerful in that regard. They have a way of bringing truths before you in such vivid, undeniable ways.
Two years after Charlotte Mason's writings began to bring before me so many rich and wonderful ideas, I know I've only scraped the surface. I'm merely beginning to turn some of those thoughts into practice, and I know there are so many great thoughts which I've not even yet begun to think.
The journey lasts a lifetime, yet He who has begun the good work remains faithful.
The more God allows me to glimpse the potential stored up within each of my children, the more I want to do all I can to cultivate that potential and foster growth. Since one cannot impart what one does not possess, I know I have to be committed to cultivating my own potential as well.
I will grow as they grow, so I can be ever-available to them to encourage, guide, and nurture, as the Master Gardener tends to each of our souls.
"There are seeds to sow, and weeds to remove.
Alongside their mom, may my children and yours learn well how to live, and never stop growing.
Together, may we strive towards our utmost for the glory of God.