This is our 6th year with kids in school. I KNOW. It blows my mind too. Zoe is our oldest, in 5th grade, and then Olivia is in 3rd, and Hudson in K5. I’m not sure how I ever got old enough to have a 10 year old daughter, or be big enough to have four kids, but here we are!
I attended the Wild + Free Conference in Nashville in September, and if you’re a home educating mama, let me just tell you about this balm to my soul! I’ve not talked a lot about our choice to home educate, because I know that healthy parents do what they feel is best regarding education. For some, that’s a school setting. For others, it’s home education. And I’m a cheerleader to any parent who is invested in their children and who cares enough about them to do what is best. And I truly believe that it is varied per child, family, age, and many other factors. I want to be a cheerleader to other mamas, and although education can be a divisive issue for some, that’s clearly not my intention.
So whether you’re a home educating mama or not, I’m hoping these little nuggets from the Wild + Free Conference will encourage you.
I first saw the Wild + Free community on Instagram quite a few years ago, when my kiddos were quite young. I was intrigued by what I saw, and when they started doing podcasts, I loved listening and learning. I don’t know about you, but even after 6 years of this gig, I still don’t always feel like I know what I’m doing! ;) So this spring a couple of friends and I finally decided to just sign up and jump on a jet place for a weekend with 800+ other women, and it was like pink drink to my soul – ha ha. Nourishing, delicious, so what I needed.
It was a group of Jesus-loving mamas who loved deeply, lived intentionally, but weren’t trying to portray a perfect image of motherhood or even home education for that matter. And while being genuine and real has always mattered to me, the older I became (ripe old 34 right here), the more I love the lack of pretense, the real and genuine, the not-trying-to-impress, but the sharing of what’s worked, what really matters, and “Mama, you’re brave. Let’s do this together.” (cue the tears because MAN, sometimes just being a mama is hard work and lonely and I just need someone to tell me I’m brave and strong and doing a good job even if I’m not perfect at it).
We learned from so many women, including Sally Clarkson, Leah Boden, Sarah MacKenzie, Jodi Mockabee (Talking about Sex and how that relates to kids, anyone? SO GOOD – but not what I’ll talk about today ;)), Tina Ingold, Jennifer Pepito, and goodness, it was the coolest group of homeschoolers I’ve ever been in. Not your grandma’s denim-jumper-wearing crowd – ha! ;)
There were golden nuggets that strengthened my soul, made tears prick my eyes with encouragement, and gave me courage to carry on…These little snippets are a compilation of various speakers mentioned.
…What are things you want your kids to remember in 20 years? What do you want your kids to remember about you as a mother? Sometimes the best way to live well now is to ask questions about what we want in the future, and then make decisions based on your answers and what matters to you. Right now can sometimes seem so close that it’s hard to get perspective. Ask those questions instead of asking what you want your kids to turn out like, because then you won’t turn your kids into projects.
… The best homeschool year ever won’t be because of the best projects or the most beautiful things, but because we delighted in our kids.
(favorite quote of the entire weekend right there ^^)
… Just because you’re messing up doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for this; it’s just means it’s life.
… We have to prioritize JOY when it comes to our children. Take time to d e l i g h t in them, let them know how much we love them, enjoy being with them, enjoy their company. We don’t have to be the most fun mom ever, but we can be the most loving mom ever.
…Carve out time for “just because we can” days: 4 times a year or so have a day of having a day off just because you can, and on that day there is one goal: to simply enjoy the presence of your children. (L O V E this idea)
What I came away with is that motherhood, and education, is about N O U R I S H I N G our children. Nourishing their souls, their hearts, their minds. It’s not about test grades or performance for the one who rolls their eyes at home educators; it’s about rich nourishment.
Y’all. I’m not the best and I’m not perfect. But nourishing the souls of my children through enjoyment of them, through delighting in them, that I want to do with all my heart. And I think that’s what we all really want, regardless of our decision on education.
Even scientific studies show that nourishment of soul and body as essential keys to a child’s learning and development. It’s the foundation for a good education; loving and delighting in them.
This school year is only a couple of months in, but the perspective of enjoyment of my children > checklists & tests is huge for this Type A personality.
The weekend was an encouragement to me in mindset even over education. While that may seem contradictory to some, I think that mindset is essential to a good education. Knowing what to value, and where to place the importance, is so key.
Okay, so that’s the mommy-balm. :) What about the education end of it all ? I’m not going to get into that actually, but I’ll say that although I’m not an unschooler, there are parts of the Wild + Free lifestyle that I definitely incorporate into our education and want to do more of. Education and book learning is very important to me too, but the freedom to learn from things other than books is something I really value also. Goodness, this is why books have been written by so many authors because just a few paragraphs are never adequate about such a broad subject. ;)
Some people have asked me how I can do the “Wild + Free” aspect of education when we live in the city, because a huge part of that is getting outside, enjoying nature and the outdoors. And I purpose to enjoy nature as part of our education, to get my kids out in it, to experience it. So, we live in the middle of the city with a postage stamp yard that they literally get dizzy running around in, so this is no “Go outside and play, kids!!” This means an intentional taking them to parks, getting out in nature, having passes to local outdoor things where they can enjoy and observe and create and take time to notice, going on family hikes and to nature reserves, etc). My kids are SO HAPPY when they’re outside, and I think that having kids in nature is a necessary part of childhood. The imagination that runs wild in nature is second to none, and that’s not even including the fresh air and exercise for young bodies. We’ve done more nature time and field trips during our two years in our little city house than we have in all the previous years put together, and it’s because we’ve had to be very intentional about doing that.
For us it’s also the valuing of art and music. My kids (except for the baby) are all in art classes once a week by a fabulous teacher, and the girls take music lessons weekly also. Besides that, pulling out art supplies is a frequent thing around the house. In the winter months we have “Watercolor Sundays” where we pull out paints and brushes Sunday afternoons while the boys take naps, and we draw leaves that we found while on a walk, or watch a Youtube tutorial about a new technique for watercolor that we haven’t learned yet. We’re not pro’s at any of this, but I just want them to enjoy learning and developing new skills. And I think that comes from them seeing me trying new things and not doing it perfectly either, but enjoying the process of it anyway!
So really, I just want the best year of school this year, not because everyone scored 100’s on all their tests and because we had the most stunning projects, but because my kids know that I delight in them, that I simply E N J O Y who they are. I want to take the time to look in their precious eyes and tell them, “I am so glad you’re my little boy! You are such a delight to my heart!” or to my daughter, “You are such a joy! Do you know how much I like being with you?” I want to further their education first of all through nourishment of their souls and hearts.
Now after all that, I’m just wanting to sit and chat and hear you talk, because a one-sided conversation isn’t much fun, plus I’m feeling a little rusty on this keyboard and blog thing. ;)
Have you been to a Wild + Free conference, or what kind of education inspires you and lights your fire? I would really love to hear. <3
All photo credits to the fabulous Kelly Lapp Photography