heart of a Child ministries blog
about family life, mothering, homeschooling, farming, and the things that are important to the hearts of our children
As I watched our new chicks run around my children's feet, scratch the dirt, nibble at grass, and jump at bugs, I thought, " No matter how small, they just know what to do. God put the DNA inside of them that causes them to peck the ground and be chickens. They don't have to think about it - it just is - and we, as humans, for the most part, respect that. We don't try to turn them into cows and milk them. We see that they are chickens, we know what they do, we let them do it and we, in return, reap the blessings- eggs, meat, new chicks, enjoyment.
Then I looked at my kids and thought, "It should be the same with children." We should simply pay attention to what children naturally do, let them do it, and then reap the blessings as individuals, families and society.
As a whole, children are natural learners and explorers. Just like chickens are programmed to munch on bugs, children are designed to feast on life. God created them to stomp in dirt, watch butterflies, jump in puddles, dance to music, smell flowers, splash in water, and ask questions. When we simply give them the freedom to do this and answer their questions attentively, children learn naturally and beautifully.
As individuals, children are also uniquely created by God. One child has the DNA that makes her an artist, while another has what is takes to be a great scientist. My 5 year old son, Isaac, for example, naturally picks up sticks and logs outside and builds houses for the chickens, and "fires" and forts for himself. He is a natural builder. My son, Ben, age 16, on the other hand, was naturally enthralled with balls as a toddler and anything that rolled - including thunder. He is now a high school athlete and future meteorologist who like a chicken, knows who is, and does what he is designed to do.
I propose a society where there are less hard desks for young children behind closed walls and more families willing to let children be children in the natural setting of home. I propose that we change our idea of education and let children focus on what they are naturally drawn toward. Rather then teach them everything that there is to know at a young age, let our artists embrace art, our scientists embark upon wild experiments, and our children learn what it means to work together as family. While living, playing and working together, we as parents can simply answer their questions about life, then later, plug in any missing pieces through a more formal education that will equip them to be successful people. From what I have seen in my kids, they are more ready for this around 5th-7th grade.
I propose that this formal education is much simpler then what we currently have in place. For example, most should just be taught the math needed to live and work well in our world. Let's face it....do all of us really need to learn advanced algebra or trigonometry? No...only the natural math heads should take on such a feat..and they can! Yet basic math skills are enough for most of us to live successful lives.
We don't try to turn a chicken into a cow, so why are we trying to force our natural artists to be mathmeticians, and our musicians to be mad scientists? Wouldn't our kids be better off diving into and developing their God given gifts early rather then spending the majority of their lives memorizing facts that they'll forget a week later? I am convinced that if we prioritized letting our kids be kids in the context of family -focusing on their natural interests first - then learning any important skills and facts that they missed, later, we would all be blessed. We would see far more happy, confident, God-respecting, thirteen year old Mozarts, Galileos, and future great spouses, moms and dads in a thriving culture - and far less confused and lost teenagers in a dying society.
So let's trust how God created us to be. Let's let our chickens be chickens, our children be children, our artists be artists, and our mathmeticians be mathmeticians, and we will all reap the blessings.
(I recognize that for some, this model is impossible. Yet I know that there are many out there who are considering homeschooling. I hope that this post gives you the encouragement to do so or to look into it further... For it will bless you and your family abundantly!)
Comments welcome! All thoughts appreciated!
My six year old daughter Sophia happily said to me today, "Mommy, I want to die."
"Why Sophia?" I asked somewhat taken aback by her comment.
"Because I will go to Heaven!" she said and smiled. " I am not afraid to die, Mommy, because I know where I am going. I am going to Heaven! It's better than earth," she said. "It's better than getting toys, better than having a golden house, and better than having a rainbow outside. It's Heaven!"
Praise God for the wisdom of children! "For it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to....."
The word "holy" means to set apart. Therefore we are called, as families, to set apart this week from the others.
How do we do that?
For me, it means to draw into simplicity, silence, play, prayer, and to draw further into family.
Jesus said that He came for the poor- to free them from their poverty. We are the poor!
Our deepest poverty in our culture today is the poverty of silence. We are all so busy. There is so much noise and so little down time....and the core of family is being destroyed because of it.
Therefore this time of Lent and Holy Week is a time to recognize this poverty, to draw into it and to allow Jesus to combat it and resurrect through it within our bodies, within our choices, within our prayer and within our families.
Every year is different for us during Lent. as family....because we are at a different place in our lives and in our journey. Yet, I would like to share some things that we have done that have drawn us into deeper stillness and joy of the Lord.
This Holy Week was begun by serving the poor and the homeless. It was so good to connect with the materially poor as we have so much (too much)..and Jesus invites us to holy simplicity. We typically then take this Holy Week to begin the process of clearing out the stuff....of cleaning out closets, clothes and extra toys that we do not need. When the process is done, we bring the items back to the homeless shelter.
As a homeschooling family, we also choose to stop the academic learning. We set aside, the books, the schedules and leave more time for the Lord to move in different ways.
This year, He has moved us to watch the movie Jesus of Nazareth - as in years past. Last night was a joy as we all got out blankets and sleeping bags and camped out on the floor in front of the movie. We ended at the Last Supper and it drew forth a beautiful discussion about the Eucharist and the Passover Meal and how Jesus was the new Lamb, the New Covenant, fulfilling Old Testament teaching. With no time constraints, many then fell asleep on the floor, some crawled in bed with us and continued the talk. What a gift!
Last year, we washed each other's feet on Holy Thursday. We cooked our own Cedar meal and ate it low, on the floor, as Jesus would've done with His disciples. All the kids said that they want to do this again. It was fun pulling out the water and having the 3 year old wash the 14 year old's feet and all the way in between. There was splashing and joking and silliness, as families do. I also invited the kids to say something nice about the person whose feet they were washing - to say something that they appreciate about them, a favorite memory with them, etc.
Going to adoration as a couple and one on one with the kids has also come forth during Holy Week and it has been wonderful to experience the silence and time with the Lord - one child at a time. Sometimes younger kids bring crayons and I love to see what they create in that silence. There is much fruit when we enter into the quiet of our hearts with the Lord and with one another.
Also, Stations of the Cross and Confession as a family during Lent or Holy Week has always been important . To receive God's graces in this beautiful Sacrament is simply gift.
This Holy time also always opens up the space in our family for more natural play - for going into nature. God finds such joy in watching us delight in His creation and I find great blessing in delighting in my children as they come up with new games outside, jump on the trampoline, go on a bike ride of hike together. Praise God!
May each one of us during this Holy Week, choose to set it apart, to enter into the silence, into simplicity and to allow the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus to live big within us and within our families. Amen!
Nikki is a Catholic homeschooling mother, author, artist, speaker and founder (inspired by her daughter in prayer) of Heart of a Child Ministries. She writes about her experiences as a wife and mother, homeschooler and hobby farmer.