By Judith Jolma
What if I told you there was a curriculum guaranteed to shape your child’s entire life for good or for bad depending on how you use it?
What if I told you that this curriculum could determine your child’s capacity for human happiness, fulfillment, and contribution to the world?
What if I told you this curriculum was so powerful, it would become the lens through which your child would come to understand everything about his life and the world?
What if I told you this curriculum is YOU?
YOU are your child’s education.
Teachers tend to believe that children learn from books and materials. But children learn most intensely from the adult in their environment and profoundly so from the mother - her mannerisms, her patience (or lack thereof), her sense of wonder, etc. The most important work a mother can do for her child is to prepare herself each day before greeting them.
In Maria Montessori's famous work “The Absorbent Mind” She wrote about the role of the teacher in the classroom, and this applies to the parent who has the child at home: “The first step an intending … teacher must take is to prepare herself. For one thing, she must keep her imagination alive.”
If only parents could understand how important their sense of wholeness is to their child’s happiness, they would never feel guilty when it comes to personal development and self-care. Instead, when mothers invest in their own development they can think of it as if they are writing the textbook for their children.
It is worth quoting Dr. Montessori in length on this point because she expresses it brilliantly:
“If -- above all -- the teacher herself were slovenly, ill-mannered, and harsh to the children, then the basic essentials would be lacking for the goal at which she aims. The teacher, … must be like the flame which heartens all by its warmth, enlivens, and invites. … Everyone knows that a lively teacher attracts more than a dull one, and we can all be lively if we try… Every action of the teacher’s can become a call and an invitation to the children.”
What Maria Montessori is getting at here is that how you show up for your children matters! It matters more than your lesson plan, more than what you tell them, more than any opportunity you give them.
You are the mold that will form your children and the way they interpret the universe for the rest of their lives. Get the mold right, you get the child right.
You want your children to be happy. Are you happy?
You want them to be successful. Are you successful? What is your definition of success? That will shape their definition of success.
You want them to follow their dreams. Have you followed your dreams?
You want them to be mature, peaceful, kind, responsible, in control of their minds, emotions, time, health, and finances.
Children are absorbing more from us than we like to admit. Sometimes that is terrifying like when we see our children using unkind phrases common in our own speech. Sometimes, that is deeply rewarding like when you see a sibling tenderly stroking her little sister's head, and you know she is imitating the love and care you have given her. How amazing! YOU taught her that. You modeled for your daughter how to show competition, love, gentleness, and nurturing.
When you persevere in opening that tough jar, you are modeling perseverance for your children. They may very well remember that when it comes to solving that complex division problem. When you say, “I don’t know the answer to that. Let’s find out.” You are modeling for your children humility, curiosity, and resourcefulness. All these things are study habits that cannot be taught in a textbook. But they can easily be modeled as we live our lives side by side with our children always aware that little eyes are studying our behavior.
When we enroll in an adult class to learn a new skill for ourselves, we are showing our children that learning is not only a life-long pursuit but that it is something we want to do. When we volunteer for the church or a charity, we show our children the importance of our contribution to the whole world and not only to them. Consider the unintended message we send our daughters when we say, “I gave up all my dreams for you.” Our daughters can easily interpret that as, “You are the death of all my dreams.” Why would our daughters want to be mothers if they think that being a mother or homeschooling means giving up everything good? Though there are seasons to pull back and do less, we must never give up permanently those things we love when homeschooling, but instead change our perspective about them knowing that when we continue to live our lives and raise our children, we show them how they can do the same thing someday.
If Daddy comes home from work griping about his boss or co-workers or duties — what does that say to the children? “Work is not a good thing.” They will resist and complain about their work — chores, schoolwork — in the same way, they hear parents complain.
On the surface, we understand that children imitate their parents, but challenge yourself to become hyper-observant of your own words, movements, and attitudes asking what the children are learning from our smallest thoughtless actions. Observe how you speak to your child. Would you take instructions from someone who spoke to you like that?
Charlotte Mason, who was an educator contemporary with Maria Montessori said: "Education is an atmosphere."
Children are designed to learn from the environment around them. The atmosphere includes conversations, a sense of calm and peace, structure to the flow, and return of the day. There is an internal environment that is as important as the external environment -- that internal environment is created by the prepared adult who does not bring stress, anxiety, sloth, or frustration into the space.
Dr. Montessori in complete agreement says:
“The teacher becomes the keeper and custodian of the environment… [she adds that the teacher herself is part of the environment and therefore,] This means that the teacher also must be attractive, pleasing in appearance, tidy and clean, calm and dignified. These are ideals that each can realize in her own way, but let us always remember, when we present ourselves before children, that they are ‘of the company of the elect..’ The teacher’s appearance is the first step to gaining the child’s confidence and respect. The teacher should study her own movements, to make them as gentle and graceful as possible.”
This can sound very intimidating. How can any of us live up to this standard? The first place to start is by being friendly with error.
If your children see you beat yourself up every time you make a mistake, they will never have the
courage to try new and difficult things. Learning difficult things REQUIRES initial failure. Don’t be afraid of errors. Remember YOU are setting this example by the way you react to mistakes and setbacks. So be kind to yourself. If at first, you do not measure up to the ideal model you wish for your children (and few of us ever do), let yourself grow from failure. Your failures do not make you a failure. That alone is a foundational skill that children need before succeeding in academic studies.
Take care of yourself
If mom has not slept or eaten well or taken care of her physical, emotional, or spiritual health, can she be fully present and energetic for her children? If mom does not know how to manage her time, her emotions, her appearance, her tone, her finances, can she model proper maturity and happiness for her children? Of course not.
None of us can give what we do not have. We are trying to teach our children skills but often these are the very skills that many of us have not mastered for ourselves. Learn to get enough sleep. It can be a difficult skill to master, but well worth learning. Learn to ask for help. Learn to manage your time, friendships, finances, and so forth. After all, don’t you want this for your children? Each homeschool parent must step back and prepare herself so that she can model for her children a keen sense of wonder, a love of learning, self-discipline, etc.
So when considering your student's lesson plans, be sure to include a hefty dose of personal development for yourself, knowing that YOU are your child's textbook.
By Judith Jolma, Founder of Sophia Homeschool.
Sophia Homeschool teaches parents how to homeschool. Learn more about our training at Sophiahomeschool.com
Learn how to create a homeschool method and environment based on your family's needs so you can thrive. My Foundations of Homeschooling Masterclass teaches parents to work with their budget, schedule, learning style, teaching style, and resources so each member of the family has his or her needs met— including yours! Learn to create a peaceful and joyful learning environment that lasts a lifetime. Identify learning differences and adapt your educational plan accordingly. Unlock the mysteries of teaching multiple grades at once. By knowing what your needs are, you will save thousands of dollars, time, and energy on methods that do not work. We will end homework battles and restore your relationship with your child.
For more support in becoming whole for the sake of your children, Sophia Homeschool teamed up with Woman School founder January Donovan. We believe that the primary educator needs to be whole in order to be effective. The Woman School is an online school dedicated to equipping women with practical skills to design a life of meaning and contribution; a life that is whole.