Don’t Be Afraid to Unschool

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This post is directed to Christian unschoolers but I hope it will be an encouragement to all who read it.

When the Lord led me to unschooling, I was so afraid. In fact, I was more afraid of this than even homeschooling itself (which had seemed crazy when I had first thought of it).

Unschooling just seemed so…risky. What about math? Did it mean gaming all the time? Did I have any say as a parent? What if…?

The feeling I had, waiting to obey the Lord, was like I was standing on the edge of a bridge, ready to bungee-jump off, and I was absolutely freaking out. Even though I know the rope will keep me safe, it is the fear that is overwhelming and preventing me from taking the plunge, as I stand high above the river and rocks below.

It is fear, isn’t it, that keeps us from willingly follow the Lord.

So, if you are sensing the Lord leading you to unschooling with your children, let me encourage you not to follow fear and be kept back from unschooling with these three points.

1. God has got them.

It was Sally Clarkson and Edith Schaeffer that first helped me realise that my children were not, in fact, mine. Both their books The Mission of Motherhood and What is a Family? respectively, were what confirmed homeschooling as the right direction for us as a family. A huge part of that confirmation was God pressing upon my heart how precious are these children and how much He loves them.

He loves them because they are His. He made them for Himself.

Julie Polanco, in her book Godschooling, also confirmed this by pointing out that God knows their future, not us, and therefore, He knows what they need to know and love as they are growing and learning. So let Him lead their interests, passions, and curiosities.

I can only see this in my own life. As I look back, I can see how God directed me to books, friends, places, movies, and many other things that cultivated interests and passions in my life that direct me to this very day.

We can trust God with our children.

2. You will be a better mother.

Now, I am NOT saying mothers who do not unschool are bad mothers – at all. This post is directed to mothers who, like me, have sensed God leading their children into an unschooling life – but it is scary. Unschooling is not the only way to educate children. I absolutely believe that.

Just like our children, God has got us, as their mothers. He knows what we need to be amazing mothers for the children He has given us.

When I release my fear to God and trust Him with the children’s learning, He opens my eyes so wide to them. Their joy and their love and their interests fill me with love and joy and interest. I really look into my children and enjoy them. I am a free, at rest mother.

God knows that I need this unschooling life just as much as my children because He knows, when I ask him, “Lord, please help me love my children” this is His answer to me.

3. He is trustworthy.

It really all comes back down to that. It’s simple. Trust God.

We hate being so finite – we want to know what the future holds for our children. If we knew, we could let go and not stress so much.

We also hear the criticisms of others – well-meaning, or not – and we doubt. Even if we have had clear guidance from God in Scripture that this is the way to go, as well as from those we trust, we still doubt. It’s like the serpent in the Garden, “Did God really say?”

But, God promises to give us wisdom and guidance and understanding if we ask Him. He is the only one who does know the future. We can rest in His providence.

And, we can trust Him that, as we go along the unschooling journey, if He wants to change our direction to something more formal or traditional, He will lead us. We just have to keep in-step with the Spirit, listen, and obey.

So…

…if He has been leading you to this way of education, trust God with your children. And, just do it – unschool. You’ll be absolutely amazed by what God has in store for your children, for you, and your whole family life.

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Encouraging Podcasts for Christian Women

Podcasts are such blessings for Christian wives and mothers today. Sometimes we just don’t have time to sit down and spend a good chunk of time reading a good book and journaling about it. But, through the gift of technology, God has raised up some wonderful women who have one purpose: to encourage us in our walks with the Lord and to serve our families with our whole hearts.

There are so many podcasts out there. But there are a handful that I return to, even listening to episodes from years back, because they continually encourage and equip me. If I’m washing the dishes, painting the stairwell, or having a rest during our daily ‘quiet hour’, listening to these podcasts have fed my soul.

Here are my five favourite podcasts for Christian women!

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Thankful Homemaker

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Ah, Marcie is a true Titus 2 mentor. I love listening to her podcasts immensely. The Lord has used several of hers, especially about Self-Discipline in the Home, to really convict and edify me in my role as wife and mother. She has the wisdom, the grace, and the love of living a seasoned life. This is my go-to podcast.

At Home With Sally

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Sally Clarkson has been influential in my walk as a mother. It is through her that the Lord spoke to the desires of my heart of being a whole-hearted mother. It is through her that He planted the idea of homeschooling. Now, seven years into motherhood, Sally continues to encourage me and speak to my heart. Sally calls us higher and that is something I am so thankful for.

Confidently Called

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Jennifer has had a couple of uears break with her podcast (and I think blogging too), but there are still so many gems there that her podcast just keeps on feeding! However, she has recently released two new episodes and they are fantastic – especiallu the one about Home with guest speaker, Jen. I also loved the one with Amy Roberts about creating anchors in our homeschool days.

Raising Arrows

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Speaking of Amy Roberts, I just love her grace and wisdom. There are so many pressures today for us to just have it together. Do you feel that too? With put together pictures on blogs, or stunning images on IG – there are unspoken messages everywhere for women to just be perfect. I have gone off IG for that very reason. But Amy? She is a mother of a lrage family and she knows that life is not perfect. Yet, she encourages us to just keep moving forward. I love that about her. She is like a warm hug!

Risen Motherhood

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This is one of the most popular podcasts out there for Christian mothers – and I know why! It’s Christ-centred, Word-rooted, and plain od’ encouraging. I haven’t listened to tonnes of episodes, because they tend to be slightly longer, but the ones I have listened to have been just such a blessing. A recent interview with Jani Ortlund (her book Fearlessly Feminine is one of my favourites) was just so rich and heart-warming. They have a book too, and many resources for your walk with Christ.

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 So here they were! Have you listened to any of them? Do you have any suggestions?

worship encompasses all of me

“Our devotion results in a conscious yielding of every part of our personality, every ambition, every relationship, and every hope to Him. Submission to God’s will is the true heart of worship.” ~ Barbara Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Woman

Have you ever found that you have lost your way before the Lord?

It comes on slowly, I believe. Sometimes it stems from struggles, from trials, or from big life events that suck us into the pressing needs of the moment. Sometimes it comes over time, the flower has lost it’s bloom, the fire it’s spark.

I have forgotten that, to worship my God, it encompasses all of me. Sometimes I think that one area of my life can be hidden from Him, or I tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I am slack in this way because in other ways I am doing my best. Sometimes I think that worship is just when I read my Bible, or sing a song, or pray.

But no. The Bible is clear that, when Christ fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial system, worshiping God no longer was contained in one place, by one animal. Worshipping our God and Creator requires all of my life.

Let All That I Do

Have you drifted away from this truth? Have you held back parts of your life that you believe don’t come under His rule?

Friend, like me, we need to submit all of our life to our Father. All that we have is from Him and, because we were bought with a price, our sacrifice of thankfulness and gratitude is pouring out our own lives to Him.

How I eat needs to be worship. (This is a big one for me.)

How I spend my time needs to be worship.

How I wash the dishes, smooth out the bedspreads, pull up the weeds, wipe away the soap marks in the shower all need to be worship.

How I homeschool the children needs to be worship.

How I respond to my husband and be a pillar to him needs to be worship.

Even what I watch or read or listen to needs to be worship.

“Every single time I confess my self-reliance and submit my life to God’s will in a particular area, I am worshiping God – as surely as any sincere Israelite offering a lamb in obedience to God’s plan.” ~ Barbara Hughes

The worship of our God and our Saviour must encompass all of us. There can be no place for stubbornness, self-reliance, self-delusion, or ignoring of truth. It is hard to face sometimes, in moments it may feel impossible. But true worship to our true God is a whole life, whole body, whole spirit sacrifice and service.

Let us start this new week, humbling our hearts before Him, confessing our self-reliance or the hidden things (that are not so hidden to Him), and submit all of ourselves once again to Him.

Let us truly, and deeply, and consciously worship God in our daily life, offering all that we do with thankful hearts and willing hands.

 

remember: education is life, and life is education

This week I have seen several articles in national newspapers about schools being in lockdown and how people/parents are worrying that their children’s education is going to be stunted. There was even a live Q & A with a principal  where parents could get help with all their concerns with lack of schooling. Thankfully, the principal was wonderful and essentially said ‘Relax’ over and over again. But, I couldn’t finish reading the session because I started to feel frustrated and sad.

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The overall theme of parent’s concern was this: ‘How is my child going to learn enough when they aren’t in school?’

It is one of the fallacies of our age that people believe that a human can only be educated in school. I believed this too, until I felt drawn to homeschooling, and I began to see that education is far bigger, broader, richer, and more beautiful than most schools can offer. Through the writings of John Holt, I was able to see that children are learning all the time and hunger for it, as their stomach hungers for food. Yet, it is the very practices of school that stunt this joy and desire.

Our eyes are blind to the fact that schools are production lines. As adults, my husband and I are still stripping away the tangled mess in our minds over what constitutes work and learning and worthwhile pursuits. As we are raising our children, we see our own schooling upbringings coming out in how we speak and act and what we require of our children. By God’s grace, the scales are slowly falling away and we are able to be different.

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The second concern I saw in the Q & A was this: ‘I am just their parent, I am not qualified to teach my child’.

This saddens me all the more. Mothers literally give their children life, yet we can’t guide them into the wonderful world of reading or numbers or art or physics or, well, the world? Somewhere in the last one hundred years, parents have fallen for the notion that only professionals can teach. We’ve become less confident in our ability and our position, and defer many things to those who apparently know better.

But some of us know better. At least, we know what is better for our own individual families. We see that education is not always found in a classroom. In fact, we can look back at our own schooling years and wonder if any educating happened at all? So we’ve decided to do something different with our own children. We want them to pursue life to its fullest which, in essence, is education.

 

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If you look through some of my blog, you will see that we tend towards Christian unschooling, which essentially means interest-led learning. For us, we are fully alive as a family as we gently embrace life and learning, intertwined and inseparable. I can see how they are thriving and it brings me, as their mother, joy as I guide them, provide them with opportunities they love. It is such a privilege and honour.

Through this Coronavirus, I am hoping and praying that families would realise that they can teach their children and that home life is a rich environment for learning. I pray they gain confidence in their position as parents and enjoy being with them. I really pray the western world wakes up to what they have been missing.

Birdsong on the Bad Days (+ Printable)

So far, our family have been enjoying our lockdown life. I am surprised how happy the children are and that they don’t seem to be missing their friends. Of course, they have their moments, but there has been a settled spirit in them. I think our daily routine of lessons have helped this immensely, as well as having a general routine for each day. Oh, how precious routines are! I realise now the importance of them, more than ever before. And it is something I am pondering during this time, hoping to have a plan for when lockdown lifts, how to keep this precious routine going.

Yet, we had one particularly rough day this week. It was one of those days when one or two of the family just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and it was a challenge to say the least. I spend much of the day in prayer, asking the Lord for help because I myself, was feeling particularly weak. I am so grateful that His power is made perfect in my weakness, and that I am free to give of myself, not counting the cost.

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One of the many steep streets we walked down (then up!)

It has been our routine to go for an hour’s walk from about 3pm each day. This day, however, I decided to take Josiah for a walk just on his own, knowing that he needed that special on-on-one time with Mama.

It was a glorious Autumn afternoon. The sun was warm, there was no wind, and the birds were out in their song. We were delighted to hear and see a native Tui which, usually, is found only in forests and bush. The new city we live in, Dunedin, has quite a lot of native bush within it, and so it is actually quite common for Tui to be seen. It was the first time in my life.

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Autumn colours everywhere.

As we walked down hill, through streets and bush, we chatted and discovered and listened. Both of us felt the peace of birdsong: these beautiful creatures that do what God made them to do – to be birds and sing for His glory. Their precious trust and simplicity always speak to me, and as we walked, I was just thankful for their audible praise.

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We saw the beautiful dark Tui with the white tuft.

The walk and birdsong restored our boy and he was much more settled afterward. Nature has always been, in particular, a balm to his soul. And on this day, it was the exact medicine he needed – as well as that special attention from his Mama.

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How hard and precious Motherhood is. It is crushing and stripping, but soul lifting and rich in joy. And there is something about the relationship between a mother and son that is unique and fragile. There is such a balance between closeness and space. I am so grateful this is all in His hands.

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A historic house of Dunedin.

The love of nature that my son has always reminds me of Wendell Berry’s poem which resonates with all who feel called into the wild. I have designed two printable pages for you of his poem ‘The Peace of Wild Things’ . I hope his words echo to you in this season as they have for many.

Click on the image to downloadwildthingsprintable1-page-001

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Monthly Unschooling Highlights: January

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We have had an amazing start to the year, albeit a bit rocky with some of the building work going on around here. Living in a construction zone definitely adds layers to our days with noise, contractors, Mummy heading outside to help Dad etc. But, it is a blessing in the long run for the children, and we believe that God is using this to shape their character (as well as ours, obviously!).

So in between all the renovation work, here are some wonderful highlights from this month in January from a Christian unschooling family!

 

+ Family Visiting: Both my brother and Father visited over Christmas and into the New Year. Some friend’s let them stay at their house on their farm to look after the house while they were away, so we were at the farm daily. Around this time the Australian bush fires were at their worst, and strange yellow clouds hung heavy in the sky all the way here in New Zealand. This created some good conversations and lots of prayer for Australia. There was also a lot of Pokémon card playing with their Uncle!
Later in January, my Mother visited also. Rosalie went with her to see Frozen 2 (the second time!) and we enjoyed visiting thrift stores and the beach. It was wonderful to spend time with her as we had not really been able to have a proper goodbye when we left Christchurch.
+ Otago Settlers Museum: The children had been wanting to visit this place since we arrived. Josiah has been so interested in the age of all the amazing historic buildings around the city, memorising which ones were the oldest. We were so impressed with this museum and I think our favourite room was the Gallery Room which held paintings and pictures of many of the early settlers. Josiah was fascinated with them.
+ Warm weather finally arrived and we have been to lots of beaches and enjoying our new natural home. Sometimes we have met up with other families, or we have just gone by ourselves. We’ve spotted creatures we’ve never seen before (shrimp!) and just enjoyed God’s amazing world.
+ Homeschool Group: After Christmas break, our group is starting up again. We mostly meet on Fridays for sport and play, but this year I hope to start a nature/outdoors group from mid-February.
+ Meeting the Otago Highlanders: Rugby has been such a massive part of Josiah’s unschooling over the last six months, so when we came across the 2020 Highlanders squad signing autographs we jumped straight into line! It was a dream come true! My Mama-heart was very thankful to the Lord for providing such a surprise for us and for filling Josiah’s boy-heart with happiness. It makes learning come even more alive.
+ Big Cats: Anything to do with lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards – anything Big Cats! I can’t remember how this began, but he has been reading many books about them and absorbing lots of facts and new ideas. We’ve watched a couple of BBC documentaries about cheetahs and jaguars, as well as some Wild Kratt videos. Josiah has read quite a few National Geographic Kids books and magazines, too.
+ Rosalie has been doing lots of art. This is not unusual but I have intentionally sought out art and craft books from the library, and we have had fun trying out new ways of doing art. I think our favourite has been using pastel and watercolour together. And we have enjoyed doing some craft activities, too.
+ Magic Treehouse Books: We have read about six MTH books this month. The kids have devoured them! And the adventures have often tied in with interests we have been looking into (eg. Sunset of the Sabertooth) and sparked new interests (eg. Afternoon on the Amazon). We love how short they are so our read aloud feels really attainable.

 

Of course, there have been so many other things that we have done, read, talked about, and seen. Much of life is not “documentable” and yet, is very much meaningful and all part of education. I love seeing all that we have lived in only one month and makes me thankful that our children are living such a full and joyous life!

What did you and your children enjoy this month?

Having a Vision For Motherhood

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Have you ever thought about having a vision for your mothering? If you feel like you are floundering in your days with your children, and you feel lost in your role, I would love to encourage you to cultivate a mission in your heart as a mother.

 

“The more clearly you can define your vision for your children, and the more specific your plan for carrying out that vision, the more confident you will become at the daily process of building your home.” ~ Sally Clarkson, Seasons of a Mother’s Heart

I remember holding my week-old son, rocking in his bedroom, trying to get him to sleep. Finally I was a mother, but, despair filled my heart. Was this really motherhood? It was so mundane and repetative and, well, hard. The sunny ideals that I had unknowingly cultivated in my heart for so many years were not at all like reality.
Yet, my ideals were not misplaced. Coming from a broken home, God had created in me a deep desire for motherhood and marriage for His glory. Motherhood is a beautiful and incredible ministry for His kingdom here on earth. I was so thankful for my son (and then, daughter!), but I didn’t know how to mother.
By His grace, I discovered Sally Clarkson.
When I got my hands on The Mission of Motherhood, my heart was filled with joy and relief: here was a woman who wrote all that I believed about motherhood and showed me how! And, the first thing her book encouraged me to do was, not just to believe in the mission and ministry of motherhood, but to have a clear vision of its’ worth and meaning.
Sally says,

 

“If your plan is based on clear biblical principles, you won’t be easily swayed by the conflicting voices of other opinions that will try to convince you that you are not doing it right. And if you are secure in your vision and plan, your children will be more secure because of your confidence.”

So, how to we create a clear vision and plan?

Ultimately, God will cultivate a passion for motherhood as you seek Him in His Word. Have you ever gone to the Bible and studied some of the many passages that speak about or image mothering? Here are a few of my favourites:

 

“He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who have young.” ~ Isaiah 40:11
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am convinced is in you as well.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:5
“But Mary stored up all these things in her heart.” ~ Luke 2:19

 

These verses, and so many more, have built up in my heart the conviction that being a mother to the children God has given me is the primary calling, under being a wife to Tim, in this season of my life. Obviously, I will always be a mother but I will not always be needed as much as I am now. The hearts and minds of these two precious ones have been given to me to steward, and to no-one else.
When I realise the vital importance of this task and, especially that they are not mine, but His, then the vision God has for them becomes the vision for me as their mother.

 

“So, start with a good plan. Know where you want to go with your family, and what you want our children to become, and start building. That’s how God planned it.” ~ Sally

If you need encouragement and guidance from a beautiful mother who has walked this path before us, I so recommend starting with Sally’s book The Mission of Motherhood. It is just amazing!

Homeschool Mama, Have Your Forgotten This Important Truth?

As I continue to figure out what this homeschooling thing looks like for us as a family, and as I figure out what I believe about education for our children and what that looks like for me as their ‘teacher’, a thought has niggled at me…
In my earnest desire to be a ‘good’ homeschool mother, and as I have pursued this new part of our lives with vigour, I have forgotten something far more important than curriculum, or philosophy, or co-op’s, or our daily routine. As I look around in real life and meet new friends online, I wonder if many of us have forgotten it too.
In my homeschool-earnestness, what have I forgotten?
I have forgotten that I am my children’s mother.

I believe that the most essential thing that we, as home educators, must never forget – but which we do, easily – is that, before all other things, we are mothers.

I think this is easy to forget this because we are all eager and earnest and jump into homeschooling guns ablaze. This isn’t a bad thing – we need to be this earnest. By choosing to swim against stream, we need to believe deeply in what we are doing and how we are doing this – because it is different, it is hard, and it is a responsibility we by no means take lightly.
So, we read all our books and blogs and educational tomes. We follow inspiring mamas all over the internet. We implement practices that speak to us. And this is all good, and true, and beautiful! This earnestness is what gets us through each day.
But – and we do really need to stop and think about this –  when we’re starting our day, pulling out our planner, and seeing all the boxes we want ticked by lunch, are we approaching our children as their mother or their teacher?

I am realising this: I am not their teacher.

I am not their educator, or facilitator, or any other form of imparter-of-knowledge. These may be things that I do for my children as part of our learning life at home – but they ought not be what defines my relationship with my children.

And now, children are pushed and pulled, tested way too early, expected to perform well for the sake of the mama’s self image and developing anxiety at far too early of an age. Sally Clarkson, Give Your Children the Gift of Loving Who They Are

And this is what I am learning: one day, when my work as an active parent is done, what will really matter? Will it be the curriculum’s we finished, or the list of books we read aloud, or that we followed Classical education to a ‘T’? Will it be that our children got into university, or that they graduated school at fifteen?
No, of course not. What matters will be the condition of the relationship my children have with me, their mother. Not me, as their teacher, but as their mother.

So, ultimately,  our relationship is the highest priority for every single day of our homeschooling life together.  

Perhaps this is why unschooling, or whole-life homeschooling (as a friend and I penned it), drew me in. When I try and do homeschool any other way (even in a lovely way, like Charlotte Mason), I end up treating my children like students and not my little ones.
Instead, when I see them – not only as my children – but as unique, respect-worthy people, with their own timetables of learning and interests and passions, my entire mindset in our days change. I remain Mama. There is no drill-sergeant in the house. There is (mostly) joy, rest, slow, calm, and appreciation between us (mostly, again – we’re not perfect!).
When I am Mama, and my children are children, homeschooling is a joy. So, if there has been strife, or dreariness in your home lately, could this be why? How do your children see you? And, more importantly, how do you see your children?



Christian Unschooling: How I Got It Wrong The First Time

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No matter how many times I try and bring our family into more structured/formal homeschooling, within in days or weeks, I drop it all to go back to what feels the most natural for us: unschooling.

Though I love how unschooling looks for our family, even though we’re still finding ‘us’ in this stage of life, I have really struggle with some aspects of it.

For one, the term ‘unschooling’ seems to trigger negative responses/emotions in some people. It seems to have so many negative conotations to it. People seem to not be able to get passed what is isn’t rather than what is is.
I have also struggled because the sheer breadth and depth of unschooling among families can make it hard to define. Unlike, say the Charlotte Mason method which has some firm principles and practices, unschooling – by definition, really – can look vastly different between two families. Allowing learning to happen through interest, conversation, experiences, books means the learning life for each child – and family – is unique. All I can say to that is, Yes!


Confusion

But, if you’re like me, this can also be confusing. I like clear lines. Perhaps that’s why Charlotte Mason appeals to me in many ways – I know how to ‘do’ her philosophy. But unschooling? Where is the clear line? Is this particular practice unschooling-friendly? Am I doing it wrong? 
And the big question for so many, including myself –

What is my role as a unschooling mother? 

People can have very strong – and varied – answers to this question! Talk about confusing.
But let’s add in the whole Christian element, too. We’re not unschoolers who are Christian. We are Christians who unschool. Does this make us a whole different kettle of fish? Probably!
Many unschoolers believe parents need to step back completely and let their children choose everything, not just their education. But, as Christians, we believe that God wants us to carefully and actively train and guide our children, so parental authority is involved in our lives. Where is the line between freedom for the children to learn and the wisdom/experience/authority of the parent?

So, naturally, this got me thinking –

can I be a Christian, obey God as parents, and unschool? 


The short story is, yes! Absolutely! (I accidently deleted a post that shared books that helped me with this question, but I will post it again soon.) The style of mother-child relationship that typifies unschooling is absolutely Biblical, and the respect for the free-will of the child (with sovereign-like overhead by mother) is also absolutely Biblical.
But I only see this now – a year and a half down the track of much struggle. 
Boy, have I struggled. If there has been a question asked about unschooling, I have asked it and sought the answer to it within a Gospel-framework. I have ran back and forth between styles of homeschooling because of this internal struggle and confusion. 
But as we are always drawn back to unschooling, I have faced these struggles head on.

Unschooling and the Mother

Because I was wrestling and struggling with all the questions and theology and practicalities of unschooling as a Christian; because unschooling looks so different with no ‘clear’ principal for a mother; I became afraid and confused about my role.
If I suggested something to the children, I felt I was ‘coercing’ them.
If I just let them be, I felt irresponsible and lazy.
Either way, I felt like an unschooling/Christian mother fraud.
In my favourite book on Christian unschooling, A Little Way Homeschooling, a mother expresses her similar struggle when she embraced more radical unschooling:
Radical unschooling was very liberating for me. I could feel myself throwing away checklists, embracing thinking outside the box, becoming free to be me. Or so I thought. After awhile, I found that I tended to hold myself accountable to some idealistic picture of the perfect unschool. I’d ask myself, Isn’t this coercion? Shouldn’t I let the kids make all their own choices? Overthinking every little thing soon became wearying…” ~ Leonie Westenberg (emphasis mine)
I understand her so much. Though we aren’t radical unschoolers, unschooling is a life of liberty! Or, so it should be a life of freedom, until you start overthinking everything and worrying that a particular practice for your family isn’t ‘unschooling’ enough.
I believe in unschooling as a Christian so much because of the freedom we have been given in Christ. But, being a human, I can easily exchange the liberty we have as a family for a law that wasn’t given by God.

Unschooling ‘Rules’

When I’m thinking about this dichotomy of unschooling and rules, I’m reminded of the conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees when they attacked Him about His disciples not washing their hands before eating (and thus, were being ‘defiled’). Jesus’ reply is so apt for me in this struggle I have:
[Quoting Isaiah] “This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” ~ Mark 7:6-7
Though I believe the way of unschooling is so good for our family, I need to be very careful how I treat the ‘commandments of men’ about unschooling. If I am living in fear or confusion, I need to ask myself: Am I treating unschooling as a doctrine?

Unschooling is a beautiful way, a little way as Suzie Andres calls it, and it is precious to me. It is gentle, nurturing, and slow. But it is a way only and not a mandate. And, because it is education for the child’s sake, it will look differently from family to family. A mother’s role, therefore, will vary – especially a Christian mother’s.
I should not fear how it looks for us as a family compared to another. Nor should I fear rebuke or criticism from an unschooling mother who thinks I am doing it ‘wrong’.
As a Christian, I know my role as a mother. I will be a hands-on unschooling mother. That is a clear principle for me now. But what is even clearer to me is this: the Gospel of Christ is my doctrine, it is His commands I follow, and as He leads our unschooling/homeschooling life, I will obey Him, even if that lead our family down a different path to another.

And Leonie, the mother from A Little Way Homeschooling? Here is what happened after her struggle:
Just as I had let go of more formal homeschooling, so I had to let go of this concept of pure unschooling anf of my monolithic vision of the perfect unschooling mother. I decided, instead, to discard labels, to live with joy and to embrace what felt most comfortable for us and for our Faith.”

As an unschooling mother, have you had this struggle also? 

Beyond ‘the Little Years’: Grieving and Rejoicing

Our beautiful daughter just turned five. Our eldest is six. Even though it seems only a year or two ago that we first became parents, it has been six years. And, because we have two children, those hard, early years of sleepless nights, nappies, spit-up, croup, crying, tantrums – gone. 
We have no babies, or toddlers, or preschoolers in the house.
It truly is hard to believe. I remember thinking that, with a newborn in my arms, the feeling of being dead tired would last forever… I couldn’t imagine feeling normal. I couldn’t imagine going to bed past nine o’clock and sleeping all the way through. Staying up to 10.30pm, enjoying a hobby, sleeping well, and rising just before eight? Couldn’t even contemplate it.
Yet, here we are. We are officially out of ‘the little years’. 
The past six months my baby-radar has been going ballistic. Friends have been having number three. I’ve taken on running the Creche at church on Sundays. Babies have been just everywhere. 
And I’ve been looking at our beautiful daughter, reaching five, intelligent and a light that fills a room, no longer the cuddly, demanding baby from a few years ago. And our son, tall and funny and boisterous, seeming older than his six years. 
Everything in me has been: I want more! 
But, unfortunately, having more babies just isn’t a safe option for us. It grieves us, but we have accepted it for awhile now. Sometimes though, when that deep maternal need to give life, to nuture, and to love arises – it can feel hard. Not only do I grieve not having any more children, but now that Rosalie is five, I grieve just all the things that come with those little years.
Yes, I haven’t forgotten how hard it was. I know too well. And it’s not like we don’t have hard times now, either. I’m still deep in character training, showing their hearts and hands how to love others more than themselves. And, we’ve thrown homeschooling into the mix.
But things are different now. Not a breeze, at all. I think, there is just more breathing space. Less demanding physically, but still emotionally whole-hearted.
I don’t have any sage advice for those still in the trenches. But I do have one encouragement: it does get easier. I promise. 
Increment, by increment, little pockets of margin appear in your life again. Sleep comes, bottoms don’t need to be wiped, water can be fetched without me, even seatbelts can be buckled in without my help. Tantrums, heart issues, and all those things abound. But, with more breathing space, there is more of an ability to step back and think about things, rather than react. Life is less of survival.
So, as I grieve chubby toes and round eyes looking up as a baby is fed, I also rejoice in the new stage we are in. There are now little people that I spend my days with. Little people with thoughts, opinions, ideas, and legitimate concerns. And that is so wonderful.
Instead of days of baby talk, we now have meaningful conversation. Instead of board books, it’s Harry Potter or Paddington. There are jokes, we hold hands on our walks, lots of games of UNO. Our days are full and fun, together. There is slightly more equal footing.
Anyway, these are just some thoughts that have been swirling in my head of late. Nothing ground-breaking for motherhood. But, a mother’s heart all the same. 
I hope it is encouraging to one mother, out there, who was like me – wondering where her life had gone. I promise you though, your life hasn’t gone. Just a new one has been made and, fully and completely, a better life than before. You just need to embrace it and not run away from the hard things.