Saturday, November 12, 2011

God cares for the sparrow and the homeschooler

A friend of mine is having some tough times financially, as so many of us are nowadays.  Her faith remains strong, however, and she tells me that she is newly amazed at how God really does provide, sometimes in the last minute and in the most unexpected ways.   In those times you often see His hand clearly, in a way that simply is impossible when you have set things up so that you are safe and comfortable no matter what. 

I've noticed that too, in the past.    But it's so easy to forget as soon as the times get easier.   My immediate reaction is to start surrounding myself with security -- not just what I need for that day or that moment, but trying to generate the equivalent of "passive income" in the form of continued security for the future.   In a similar way, the Israelites would have stored surplus manna, if they could have.  But God in His love wouldn't let them, knowing that if they could do that, they would start counting on the manna and their storehouses, rather than on Him.

This isn't meant to be a recommendation to give away all your money and set out into the wilderness to follow Him, though people who choose this option have chosen the more perfect way, and God really does provide for them, just as He provides for the sparrow and the lily.  

Rather, I am just thinking that this applies to homeschooling, too, and a problem I've noticed with my approach that I want to remember.

When something "works" or I hear about a good idea that has 'worked' for someone else, I tend to try to acquire it and then hold on to it, by embedding it into some system or daily routine.    Now it's not that systems or schedules are bad, any more than providing for one's family is bad; rather, that I have to be careful that I don't start focusing on the thing itself and placing my hope in my beautiful schedule or my great array of homeschooling things to have and do.

It was a little different when I had a baby in the house, because babies tend to have the very positive effect of throwing a creative and lively spin on the "best laid plans".  But now that I have school-agers, I have to look for other ways to introduce this providential element, things other than our impulses and whims, of course.  

Perhaps Charlotte Mason encouraged frequent forays into Nature because nature really is one place where I (or the generic teacher) am obviously not in control.   Perhaps that is one reason I have a hard time getting around to going outdoors with my kids, because in those situations, we are fellow learners; we are all opening ourselves for an adventure, something unknown and mysterious.   The kids are better at that than I am, because daily life is that kind of adventure to them, the more so the younger they are.

I think one of the things I like about unschooling is that it can explicitly depend upon this openness, this surrender to what might happen.   I say "can" because sometimes it doesn't; not all unschoolers walk this path, and probably most find it difficult at times.   I know it is difficult for me, for instance, to choose that way rather than one that diverges very slightly at first but ends up in a vastly different place -- a kind of carelessness and laxness not far removed from acedia

But the medievals knew, as we tend to forget nowadays, that busy-ness and constant hurried work are symptoms of that same acedia.   The Israelites, if allowed to store manna, would have been allowed to turn their focus away from that pillar of fire and cloud, that Voice, which after all is hard to encounter without a deep shaking up.   They would have been looking at their provisions of manna, counting it up, figuring out how to get more, relying on it, complaining of its blandness (as they indeed did, even so).

I already mentioned that being open to mystery and wonder is not the same as taking the easy way.    I feel its difference even though I can't put it into words.  In a book I read often as a child, Taran Wanderer, one reads of the man Llonio, who with his wife and many children, lives on what the river brings to them.  He has a way of taking what is around him and making use of it in very creative ways.  It's a quirky way to live, but Taran learns from it as he does from the more traditional craftsmen and women he also meets.   It is very different from laziness and shiftlessness, since it takes account of everything, is grateful for everything, and makes everything useful.    

St Francis de Sales often talks about the bee who goes out and takes bitter or common things and turns them into sweetness and nourishment.

I think for me this is more like a habit of thought than anything in particular that I do or don't do.   But I've been trying to wake up every morning and just reserve the checklist until I've thought of the day's shape, its promise, what it will bring, what God wants, what is new, what is old.  I'm sorry this sounds so mushy and not very practical, but it results in my checklist being more "felt", more connected to poetic knowledge rather than "what we have to get done today."

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