This is the Life God gave us. In all its intensity,hardships included, but specially,in all its wonders.
My oldest girl is almost 11. I’m looking at past pictures of these two “chimpees”, and I find many of them hugging, laughing, enjoying every breath of life together.
This season is not easy for us. Homeschooling, the lessons, the home, husband’s never ending hours at work, parenting, the stress of urban life, mid forties, all of it together is not easy to balance.
I believe we live in a peculiar Middle Ages. I read in The Clockwork Universe, that the Middle Ages could very well have been called 10 centuries without a bath. Our times could be defined as 1 century without an Internet break. If they were in the dark, as they say, or at least in a state of uncertainty (given that only a few people could read books, specially the Bible), we are in a constant daze, blinded by all the information we have at the tip of our fingers. We ought to be one of the most insecure generations ever. (Maybe I’m projecting myself. My dear friend Shang says that when we describe others, we truly talk about ourselves).
We constantly give ourselves a hard time with many aspects of life. I’m always hearing my friends being critical with what they eat (we all desire to be healthier), with how we spend our time (we all are holding desperately to bullet journals, -grin), how we parent, what products we use for cleaning, and, if you happen to homeschool, you may be (like I am), a “mea-culpa” type of mom (the habits I have failed to established, the lack of consistency, the eternal search for a schedule, a rhythm, and tens of other critical issues we are aware of daily).
There is surely an ideal we understand and want to aspire to, and we even recognize it in some people. For example, while reading Volume 4 of Charlotte Mason’s works, titled Ourselves, she talks about our five senses, how well (or not so well) trained they are, and she talks about our sight, and our listening, and the rest of our senses, and proposes an easy (yet daunting for most of us) test for sight:
Describe, from memory, one picture in your mother’s drawing-room without leaving out a detail. Name a tree (not shrub) which has green leaf-buds? Do you know any birds with white feathers in their tails? If you do not know things such as these, set to work. The world is a great treasure-house full of things to be seen, and each new thing one sees is a new delight.
And while reading a short biography of Corot and I wrote this in my notebook:
“Once rises early, at three o’clock, before the sun rises; one goes and sits at the foot of a tree he looks and waits. Nature resembles a white tablecloth; everything is scented; everything trembles with the fresh breeze of the dawn. Bing! the sun is clear; the little flowers seem to waken joyously, the leaves shiver in the morning breeze; in the trees invisible birds are singing. –Bam! Bam! the sun has risen, the peasant is passing the end of the field with his cart harnessed with two bulls. Ding! Ding! the tinkling bell of the leader of the flock of sheep; the flowers hold up their heads, the birds fly hither and thither; it is adorable. Boum! Boum! it is midday, the full sun burns the earth, everything becomes grave. Let us go indoors. Bam! Bam! the sun descends toward the horizon, it is time to return to work. –Nature has a tired look. Poor flowers! They are not like men who grumble at everything. They have patience. ‘By-and-by’ they say, ‘we shall have what we want.’ They are thirsty; they wait –the sun has disappeared; twilight comes. Everything is vague and nature grows drowsy; the fresh air sighs among the trees, the birds say their evening prayers, the dew scatters pearls upon the grass, the Nymphs wish to be unseen. –Bing! a star, Bing! Bing! a second star. Bing! Bing! Bing! three, six, twenty stars –there is my picture complete.”
Corot surely knew how to listen, how to look, how to engage in life with all his senses. And we yearn to be like him. But I know others like him, who are less than him, and more than him, they are urban naturalists, fighting the stress of the city, the ugliness that construction and clutter brings to our lives. We offer our souls as shields to the materialism and inhuman messages we receive from all fronts.
Surviving this New Internet Middle Ages, may very well mean to share with others we are not perfect, that we don’t have it all together, but at the same time it means celebrating life; it’s focusing our sight on our small and beautiful moments and all that’s good. It means to call a friend on a stormy day, and listen to the frogs in a symphony of croaks through the phone, or to share lovely conversations here and there through FB that help us with our day to day decisions for lessons. It means to have a terrible Monday, and end up the day commiserating with a dear friend through Facebook Messenger, and reminding each other why we are here and who our Creator is, and looking at tomorrow with renewed hope and faith.
Today it has been a wonderful day. It’s still not over (as I finish typing, I have dinner waiting to be cooked, and Bible class to be taught), but it has been a good day for this stressed urban family, with ‘white world problems’ that yes, seem so stupid when we put them side to side with what others face daily, yet they are the life we live. Maybe in the past they had a life of rougher physical conditions, but we cannot undermine that mental stress exists and afflicts us. We believe technology has removed us from what was poetic in the Middle Ages, but I’m convinced we have our own peculiar mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Technology alienates, and yet there is a very human side of it, love and compassion travel through our emails, Facebook, -or whatever social media you use-, forums, texts, images shared, podcasts, etc.
Yes we are confused, in perpetual criticism of ourselves and our life choices, in constant search for improvement, success, joy, peace, purpose; but we can do this because, wherever you are, whenever you find yourself at, this is the life God has planned for you.
And for those with specific questions (such as how we do Ambleside Online), I have to tell you this year I have changed my approach (not to read as I already have nailed it, -wink). I’m bound to have rough days, -aren’t we all, who are alive and kicking, ever going to have flawless days?-, but I can see a slow but firm change in my approach, specially to the lessons and schedules. This year I’ve broken free from following AO schedules to the letter. But I have not left things out gratuitously, neither I say this is the route to take, but it’s our route. Years 5 and 3 of Ambleside Online as written, were impossible to us, a ridiculously impossible ideal. But it was I who was ridiculously following it, and it was to us for whom this was impossible, (shame on me). I need to remember that my ideal is others’ reality, and what a blessing that is.
We were mostly true to AO until last year, but this coming one, I realized my loyalty was wrongly aimed to the schedules, and I needed to take an honest look at my girls instead. Yet nobody at AO tells us we have to follow them, (this is a self inflicted, unnecessary pain), it has nothing to do with these wonderful and generous women who devised AO with lots of work, effort, love and dedication. My own heritage and view of life and school, that was working against me. It’s still my advice that you consider all that it’s in the AO years. Start with it all (don’t break up the whole thing and then try to put it together again), and from all you can start making adjustments according to your needs, like Nancy so graciously explains for us. NEVER forgetting to follow Charlotte Mason principles, as they indicate.
I may talk more about all this, if you are interested -as your emails tell me it’s the case, (even though I prefer the details to be private, not to set up confusion), but this year I’m trying to stay abreast with history, and from the other disciplines, take as much as it’s adequate to my daughters and my family. I’m making a very needed reality adjustment, and it seems to be right what we needed.