When I was a new mother I felt insecure. My baby cried. She cried everyday. That’s what newborn babies do, I was told. They may cry when they are hungry. Sometimes they cry or fuss when they are overtired or when Mommy is overtired, when they need to be burped, changed, cuddled, kept warm, and any number of things. Weeks went by. My baby cried. I felt nervous and anxious. When I heard, “How do you know if your baby is getting enough?” I couldn’t answer. All the women in my family chose to bottle-feed. I was on my own.
I was on my own geographically, too. Dean and I had moved to another state, to his new job position, four months prior to the deliver of our firstborn. Therefore, I read about babies and nursing in books.
When my second child was born I settled into a rhythm of nursing, changing, cuddling, bathing, etc. more naturally. I slept better. I was more relaxed. Supply and demand calmly took care of itself. This baby hardly cried or fussed at all. She gave me a satisfied milky smile. I never really knew exactly how much my babies were getting at any given hour of the day or night but they grew none-the-less. They grew out of their tiniest, cutest outfits and became heavier to hold by the week.
This is the trust a mother needs to have when she home teaches. She can trust that her children are born with a hunger to know. When she gives to them a wide curriculum of ideas they will grow. Aiming for order she will eventually settle into the rhythm of short lessons. She may read aloud several times a day, review phonics or math facts with an energetic wiggler, listen to a child hobble through his sentences in a reading lesson, listen to a narration with just as much required patience.
These same hobblers and wigglers are the ones who pick up classic literature in later years and are thoroughly absorbed in it – sophisticated vocabulary and all – sit for 30 minutes writing a history composition, spend 45 minutes with higher math, pick up and play their musical instrument because they want to, etc. Give children opportunity, skills and a wide curriculum of ideas - what they need to grow - and they grow – even without hourly evidence that comes by so-called accurate measuring.
“How do I know my child is getting enough?” This is a question I was asked frequently during the years I spent writing A Charlotte Mason Companion. New home teachers understandably felt insecure about doing things differently, about using living books, assigning copywork, listening and recording a young child’s narration rather than have him complete a multiple-choice quiz or the questionnaire from an authoritative teacher’s guide.
The “not-enough syndrome” doesn’t seem to be as much of a concern as it once was. This crossed my mind recently. Many in the home school world take courage in using all kinds of lovely books in the curriculum and it isn’t bizarre to hear children “tell” about them or write about them. A generation of home taught children have come of age since A Charlotte Mason Companion was first published. These children are teaching their children with confidence today. “My mother read your Companion,” is the message shared with me now. This was my greeting from the pianist (a mother of four) of my daughter’s church. I smiled. And momentarily reconsidered whether I should be dying my hair.
An envelope came to my mailbox from a long distance friend. In the letter she wrote that God has graciously enabled her to complete another year of home teaching. I love this statement. It shows her meekness, contentment and gratitude. She has been diligently teaching her children for twenty years. In raising her good size family I know the daily effort she puts out has to be enormous but she acknowledges from whom all blessings flow.
As mothers we ought to give all we can give. Our eyes are open to where we might make adjustments or improvements. But we are also faced with human limitations. Perhaps you have felt that your children aren’t getting enough or that you aren’t able to do enough. Take heart. Here is a truth that is trustworthy. If we are Christians we can place our trust in God to bring fruit from the seeds we lovingly and dutifully sow. Remember the parable of the loaves and fishes. The boy who offered the loaves and fishes gave all of his lunch, sacrificially. Was it enough for the multitude? No. Did our Lord Jesus make it enough? He blessed it, multiplied it and made it more than enough. He is able to do exceedingly more abundantly than we ask or think.
“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”
(2 Corinthians 9:10 from St. Paul’s message on giving)
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An Unexpected Link to Encourage the Educator