Written by Misha Thompson of The Offense of Joy
What have you learned this school year?
I am in the final month of finishing up our very first year of homeschooling and I am asking a lot of questions: What have I learned? What would I change? How did the kids do? How will I do it differently next year?
In the midst of all this, two ladies in particular have been helping me think through some pretty big queries in my life. Neither of them were homeschoolers (that I know of), but both were parents, authors, wives and women whose choices have challenged me.
These writers have helped summarize what I have learned.
1. Be myself.
Madeleine L’Engle is well-known for her famous book A Wrinkle in Time, and for her many other books that children love and grown-ups love to discuss. She married a famous stage actor, Hugh Franklin, and together they raised three children. In the midst of bringing up young ones, her husband’s career and her own “calling” to write, she worked endlessly to find a way to be true to who she was.
In her book Circle of Quiet Madeleine tells a beautiful story of an old lady at her church who everyone called Grandma. Grandma was an organist at the church where Madeleine was the choir director.
“In a sense Grandma was the organ, and the organ was Grandma…” she writes. Grandma was also the caretaker of her precious husband, Grandpa. Eventually he passed away and Grandma wanted to play the organ for her beloved’s funeral. The people in the church were very concerned about this. Madeleine’s response was “You can’t take the organ away from Grandma, today of all days. Let her do whatever she wants to do.”
Some time passed and Madeleine herself was involved in a very painful situation. Some horrible gossip was spread about her, her husband and three other couples in her church. The rumors were vicious and deeply wounding. Although all the malice was lacking in veracity, the eight friends eventually decided it was best to offer their resignation from their various jobs at the church. They waited for the church’s response–in the meantime Madeleine went to her choir’s rehearsal.
“The story,” she writes, “in various versions, was, of course, all over town. When I walked into the church Grandma was there to meet me; she had to talk to me before we started rehearsal. Now, I was quite certain that Grandma would have heard the whole sorry tale from a great many people who would like to see us put down. I loved Grandma, and I thought Grandma loved me, but I doubted her.
Grandma said to me, “Madeleine, I just want you to know that if you go, I go, too.”
Grandma was offering to give up the organ. Grandma was giving me herself. That absolute gesture of love is what remains with me.
The deacons tore up the resignation. The gossip blew over – though, after all these years, there are still a few people with whom I feel very tentative. But only a few.
Grandma gave me herself, and so helped to give me myself.”
If I can summarize the single most important thing I have learned as a homeschooler, it is that I have to give of myself to help give others themselves.
2. Live it to Give it.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh was perhaps best known for her book Gift From The Sea. She was married to Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviation pioneer. I am reading her journals, novels, biographies and the books her youngest daughter, Reeve Lindbergh, wrote as her mother was fading with Alzheimers.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes in Gift From The Sea about the ever widening circles we relate to that continue to expand and reach far beyond our capacity to manage and carry them:
“Faced with this dilemma what can we do? … Because we cannot deal with the complexity of the present, we often over-ride it and live in a simplified dream of the future. Because we cannot solve our own problems right here at home, we talk about problems out there in the world. An escape process goes on from the intolerable burden we have placed upon ourselves.
Can one make the future a substitute for the present? And what guarantee have we that the future will be any better if we neglect the present? Can we solve world problems when one is unable to solve one’s own? … Have we been successful, working at the periphery of the circle and not at the center?”
I have learned this year that I have to live life from the center. I cannot give what I don’t live. My inward life and outward life have to be at one.
If I live a life of joy and inner truth, of being loyal to my talents and alive in my passions, then that is the very best that I can teach my children.
The pressure of raising and teaching kids exposes any lack of authenticity in me. It shows any area where I am hiding or inconsistent, any areas of fear that bind and lay hold of me – my kids will sniff them out and by sheer virtue of their zest and genuineness, they will pressure them out to the surface for me to either deal with or be exposed by.
This year I have embraced that. I have stopped substituting future hopes for present reality. I have incorporated the fact that enjoyment – here and now – is catalytic.
Confidence is contagious. Life is infectious. And I have the power through my choices to give that to my children.
Who do you admire? Who do you long to be like? Whose blogs do you read? Who would you want to be friends with?
I want to be that person for my kids. I want to play, run, laugh, fail, dream, hope and love in such a way that they want all those things and so much more. I want to live the life I want them to have. I want to be who I teach them to be.
That is what I have learned this year.
“And what I must learn is to love with all of me, giving all of me, and yet remaining whole in myself. Any other kind of love is too demanding of the other; it takes, rather than gives. … To love wholly, generously, and yet retain the core that makes you you. ” ~ L’Engle
What have you learned from homeschooling this year?