Spiritual reflections, family, home educating typical and special needs children ~
Dedicated to: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn.
"Rejoice in hope, persevere in tribulations, be constant in prayer." Romans 12:12
Certe bonum certanem! Fight the good fight!
St Gabriel Windows
Photocopy c. 2013 Jamie Laubacher
Sunday, November 07, 2010
I think I can!
"Yes, indeed!" said this little steam engine. "I'll be glad to help you, if I can."
So the little steam engines started back to where the train of cars had been standing. Both little steam engines went to the head of the train, one behind the other.
Puff, puff! Chug, choo! Off they started!
Slowly the cars began to move. Slowly they climbed the steep hill. As they climbed, each little steam engine began to sing:
"I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I think I can - I think I can - I think I can I think I can--"
And they did! Very soon they were over the hill and going down the other side.
The Little Engine that Could – 1930
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Nov 11, 2010 Dear Sisters,
How I recall being pregnant with my third child and truly feeling the weight of the pregnancy, pushing myself through the days. I remember the overwhelming tiredness while sitting alongside my second-grader and taking him through his math lessons and listening to my kindergartener recite poetry. I remember how I’d stand at the kitchen sink washing dishes, all the while gazing outside into the yard at the change of seasons, thinking and talking to myself:…”you can do this, you can do this…you can and you will….many women have done this, …you can do this!” Ah, I was so much like the little engine that could!...my personal pep talk kept me moving through the day caring for my children and the tasks at hand. I would occasionally smell the invigorating essence of peppermint oil that sat on my kitchen windowsill, say a quiet prayer and remember, ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me’ (Phil 4:13)….I’d take a deep breath, exhale, thank God for my blessings and continue on. I admit, it was during these days I questioned our home learning lifestyle…did I have what it takes to see it through? What was I to do?...pregnant and tired and letting a lot of “schooling” go by….would they be behind?..would we ever get caught up? What would others say? There’s so much we feel we have to prove in the early days to friends and family who challenge us at every turn of our home schooling decision. They seem to be watching our every move….what?..having another child?…how is she going to home school ALL of them? It was that big hill in front of me, staring me in the face…challenging me. I kept in mind, this season would pass and there would be many other seasons of life. I kept my focus on the big picture ahead, rather than the bumps and detours in the road at the time.
I knew also that many other home schooling moms had raised even bigger families, teaching them all at home and I took strength in that fact. It was through this experience that I also came to realize several enlightening features about home education. First, don’t sweat the small stuff...second, it’s really ok to chill-out …and third: RELAX! One of the finest blessings of home schooling children is that our children are allowed to be children a little bit longer than what our culture dictates is the norm these days. This brings with it flexibility. I found peace in letting go and letting the children play to learn on tough days, knowing they were still benefiting in a home learning environment in so many ways. Whether they learned to read right now, or a little later made no difference …in the long run, I knew that studies shown children that read early would even out with children who read at the average ages, somewhere around grades 4 and 5. Structured education didn’t have to begin at age 3 like the world out there seemed to push -- education for the little ones could be play and imagination and having the freedom of not having to sit still, but be active, …and the comfort of home to do so. A learning environment in the home could easily be enriched with baskets of good children’s literature, music, educational toys, puzzles, art and pastimes.
Soon enough our children will be grown with a world of responsibilities in a grown-up world; precious childhood will be gone and our time with them is fleeting. How wonderful to let them live in the moment of their young lives, innocent and secure and free to play and learn by simply being allowed to be children. How sad to realize the institutional modes of education seem to push the children into too much too early and too fast, from the weight of heavy learning to the weight of early boyfriend-girlfriend relationships…setting many of them up for quick burn-out at very early and tender ages. In the earliest years children really benefit from being grounded in security and acquiring a formation for future learning that comes from home and family, childhood play and simply being a child in a safe and loving learning environment.
It is no surprise that many home schoolers are counter-cultural; in many ways, it is our statement of rebellion in a positive and good way of course. We are taking back our children (or keeping them) and taking control, being thoroughly engaged at all levels with the raising and educating of our children in healthy ways, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Well, fourteen years into our home schooling lifestyle and four children later, I still often feel like that little engine that could….facing that train of cars on an uphill push and pull, attempting to get up enough steam and strength and conviction to get up over that hill…..and even though we have home schooled one into college already and another on their way, doesn’t make the job easier…but it does make it possible. When we focus on all that is “right” in our home education we give ourselves the steam we need to get up that hill…..and when we remember to reflect often on the precious words of scripture, ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me’ (Phil 4:13)…we fortify ourselves for the job. We pay no attention to the naysayer or what the “experts” say we should be doing with our children at all ages; “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) Place your trust in this truth, and you too will be the little engine that could!