I picked flowers with my 3 year old today. We practiced calling them daisies. She tromped around the top of a ski mountain in Wisconsin with her cute little self and gathered a bouquet to take to Great-Grandma at the other end of the path. I picked more and wove them into a daisy-chain crown and put them on her head and it was adorable.
For one minute.
But then her bouquet was forgotten and trampled on the ground and her brothers and big cousin pulled off petals and she took off her crown and threw a fit when I tried to put it back on her.
As I gathered those sad, rejected, trampled daisies off the ground, it reminded me of homeschooling. Now this isn’t all gloom and doom so hang with me, here.
It’s a new school year and my social media feeds are full of smiling first-day pictures, and for some families, this is the first year for homeschool pictures instead of meet-the-teacher or big-backpack-getting-on-a-bus pictures. The faces are excited but also uncertain. And I know, firsthand, how nervous Mom is as she takes that photo, wondering what the year ahead will be like, wondering if she can do this, if they will get everything right. And I know that many of you are searching the interwebs and trying to figure out how all of these beautiful social media families do this, when you can hardly keep your kitchen clean enough for your lowest of standards.
We will begin our tenth year of official homeschooling soon, and there are reasons those trampled daisies felt familiar. You see, I love and strive for an idyllic homeschool life for my kids. There are days when we really do sit on blankets in the shade and read Tolkien, or paint pictures of wildflowers we found and identified in our yard while listening to classical music with my daughter’s rabbit lounging at our feet. It’s... amazing.
These are the days Instagram homeschool accounts are made for. Put the kids in neutral linen dresses and bam- it’s so dreamy. #nofilter
There are also days when half the household is sick. When someone is in tears over math. When someone has been slacking off on work and lying about it and gets caught. Days when my husband comes home and I leave the house for any and every reason I can think of because I just cannot anymore. Is there an instagram filter to make that day look airy? I haven’t found it yet.
Homeschooling isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. Whether you’re running it for nine months or nine years, it’s a marathon. And friends, it doesn’t all look like Instagram. Most of our days look like doing the next thing, eating Mac and cheese (again) for lunch, and just seeking to like each other at the end of the evening.
But like those daisy chains, what I can do is be intentional. I can pack the picnic. I can take the time to slow down to my preschooler’s pace and pick the flowers. I can teach my kids to weave them together. I can even try to catch a photo or two.
In Charlotte Mason terms, I can spread the feast, but I cannot control what gets digested. I can’t make my children love learning- but I can love it. I can slow down and develop wonder. I can incorporate what is true and good and beautiful and make it a priority for ME. And you know what? It’s contagious.
In our home, what that looks like is ME reading great literature - and now my 14 year old sometimes steals it when I’m halfway through because she’s intrigued. It looks like ME pulling out watercolor paints to make something beautiful, and now she wants to paint, too. It looks like having conversations of substance with my husband that my 12 year old overhears and wants to know more about. It looks like ME being amazed by science and nature and watching my 9 year old develop a love and intuitive familiarity with the world around us.
I can make the daisy chains because I like to make them, not for the quaint Instagram picture. And someday, maybe my kids will have an affection for wildflowers, a memory of a mom who loved nature and spent time with them, a curiousity to make a daisy chain themselves. Maybe not. But I still enjoyed the warm sunshine on my face and the joy of making something beautiful.
Don’t fall for the trap of trying to do everything perfectly, or comparing your daily life to those around you or those you see online. Love God. Love your kids. Love the world He made. Cultivate curiosity and wonder in your own life and share it with your kids as you grow alongside them. Take this year as a gift, with open hands.
I hope you get some pictures of the good days you’ll want to remember. And may God give us the grace to learn lessons from the bad ones.
New year. New mercies.