This is one of many letters that I will write to you because you appear in my daily gratitude list over and over again.
Because of you I was able to hear myself say these words over the weekend:
“Put your schoolwork away. We have to go to the beach! You have all weekend to do it!”
And then I heard these words:
“But Mom, I just want to do my work. Can we go to the beach later?”
For the last three weeks, we have had a solid family rhythm thanks to you. When we moved into this final long term rental that we will live in before moving up onto our land, I announced our lessons and that we would be having some structure with their learning. After a year of unschooling, the kids were excited. In the last year, they learned lessons in how to travel including how to pack efficiently, currency exchange in multiple countries, how to cook differently. But most importantly, they learned lessons of the heart and its resilience as they have had so much opportunity to sit in the fullness of emotion, and that emotions aren’t like a multiple choice question and sometimes the answer is “all of the above.”
In previous years, we have been able to maintain a good balance of unschooling and a structure of lesson blocks that follow the outline suggested by Rudolf Steiner. Before the rise of “Waldorf Education” and its subsequent pedagogy, Steiner referred to education as an “art.” Although I refer to Steiner often, I always have one of more of his quotes in my mind as I develop lesson plans.
Where is the book in which the teacher can read about what teaching is? The children themselves are this book. We should not learn to teach out of any book other than the one lying open before us and consisting of the children themselves.
― Rudolf Steiner, Rhythms of Learning
You remind me to look at my children. Where are they now in the development of their body, mind, and soul? How are they interacting with the world? What hindrances can I remove? What light needs protecting? What do they see? What do they hear? How do they see the world? Do they love the world? Do they wonder? What do they wonder about? How do they feel right now?
One of the most important lessons you have taught me, my dear friend, is to be flexible. When the children get excited about a project, let them go deeper and follow the interest and the joy. Other times, I introduce things that excite me or things I think they need to hear at this stage in their development, and this leads to igniting that spark.
As I meditated on my 11 year old, I kept seeing this vision of quicksand and mud. Shortly after, I came across this quote quite randomly:
I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parents seeking to guide him or her, it is not half so important to “know” as to “feel.” If facts are seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. – Rachel Carson
I remembered that we didn’t get a chance to finish our Botany block at the end of last year’s school year because we had decided to sell the house just when I started the block. I began planning this block again to focus more on the senses and emotions rather than the factual information so I taught it alongside geometry. We began it on the New Moon, planting seeds and intention. We finished this 3-week block of both topics this past week and it was just what she needed. She looked forward to each lesson and the beauty of her drawings and her writings were imbued with life. She wrote poetry about the plants and trees. We talked about which plants needed the wind or the butterflies or the bees to pollinate. And we finally talked about the Rose. Her second name. It is a beautiful balance of a plant that is of the light of the sun and heavens and the grounding of the earth. She learned how to construct the Flower of Life for her title page. Nature provides the consistent patterns and beauty as fertile soil.
References: Charles Kovacs’ Botany book, Live Ed Gr. 5 Botany/Gr. 6 Geometry Curriculum, Christopherus Gr, 5 Botany, and of course, our own observations of the plants around us here in Costa Rica. I also hope to schedule a plant walk with a friend who can speak to the plant wisdom of our locale.
And every time I teach lessons that work on their soul, my soul feels it too. As I researched different aspects of plants for these lessons, I learned quite a bit about where I am.
For one particular lesson, we talked about seaweed and algae. We compared them to babies just beginning to walk. They can stand upright only supported by water all around them just like a baby holding the fingertips of their parents’ hands taking their first steps. As we adjust to our new life and create a new family rhythm, I hold my children’s fingertips as they begin to walk again after a year of being pulled, pushed, carried, and thrown into challenging situations. Even my oldest. As she stands upright in the world on her own two feet, I am gently supporting her through our texts and phone calls, encouraging her to take those scary first steps with new opportunities that push her past her comfort zone. I ease my fingers just outside of her grasp so that she can see for herself that she is strong enough to support herself now.
#3 went on a scavenger hunt with the camera to find the different types of plants we had talked about and here is her seaweed picture that she said looks like a tiny evergreen tree which led to a lot of wondering…
Seaweed and algae also have this mechanism called a holdfast. It is a root-like structure at the base of the algae or seaweed that fastens them to a hard substrate like a rock. They use these “holdfasts” to anchor themselves to their environmental substrates. For examples, those that live in sandy environments have holdfasts that are flexible while ones that anchor to smooth and hard surfaces have a flat base for a holdfast. Holdfasts are different than roots because they do not absorb moisture of nutrients, they serve only as an anchor – a way to stay stationary.
This by far is the best way to describe my shifting definition of motherhood at this time of transition. When we established our life in Toronto, we set down roots. For those early years, these roots gave them a sense of security and rhythm that they needed as we figured things out as a family – as I figured out what kind of life we wanted to create for our children. But now that I have uprooted them and have not been able to root or ground ourselves in another solid foundation yet, I serve as a holdfast. Right now, I shape shift into different anchors depending on the child and situation so that they aren’t swept away by turning tides of a stormy life of inconsistency and constant moving. I hold them in position just enough that they can catch their breath and know that they are loved.
This makes sense. A temporary anchor until we can set roots again in a home built with a solid foundation…
Thanks again my tried and trusted friend, homeschooling. Through you, we learn a lot about where we are right now and how to be grateful for it all.