Our primary goal in this home, with these children, is not academic excellence. It is time. Our primary goal is living a life of faith wholeheartedly together as a family. Our primary goal is to give them time for intimate relationships--with God, with nature, with art, with literature, with science, with us.
Please don't misunderstand. I think academic excellence is a worthy endeavor. I just don't think my children need to get a leg up on algebra in the second grade at the expense of time in relationship to other significant people. Instead of the academic questions above, the questions framed in our home are, "Is he managing his time well?" "Does he listen to his siblings when they talk or just barrel over them?" "Is he orderly?" "Does he respect boundaries?" "Does he ask thoughtful questions?" "Is his speech sprinkled liberally with familiar references to God?" "Can he still himself and listen and watch with ears and eyes wide with wonder?" "Does he care?"
i would add a few more questions of my own:
how to help our children listen to one another, and help one another? how to teach them to contribute to household work with joy? how to turn our own focus away from screens/print/audio and onto our children? how to make eye contact and truly listen to their words, even when they take a long time to say them? how to more frequently put aside the lists of things to be done, and say yes to their requests to read a book, play a game, play outside with them?
the author says:
I believe that if I can work towards the affirmative in those questions in the early years, the academic success will come. And it will come with social, emotional and spiritual peace.
she also quotes at the start of her post from charlotte mason, a quote that i have written down and loved for a while.
In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother's first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet and growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it for the most part spent out in the fresh air.
such a good reminder of our job as parents to keep the pressures at bay. to secure for them a quiet and growing time. i am thankful that the seasons give us this natural change in our rhythms as well, that in the summer we can spend long, hot afternoons quietly reading library books or playing legos. some days we don't do much of anything at all, and i think, i have failed them today--i should have provided a learning experience! i should have planned an adventure. but they don't need me to provide learning experiences for them. they have one another, and they have this environment we've set up to be comfortable and fun for them. and they take it from there.