I always joke and tell people that I used to be a perfect mom... before I had kids. I knew exactly the proper way to raise and discipline them. I found myself frequently very judgmental of the mom with the kid screaming on the floor at Wal-Mart... and then I actually had kids!
I also knew exactly how I wanted my children to be educated. They would be in preschool at age 3 and I would teach them to read by age 4 and pretty much they would be on their way to Harvard by 14 (I might be exaggerating... a little).
I was just laughing this morning about how much my "educational philosophies" have changed, and for the better! My eyes have been opened by reading about Charlotte Mason and then reading all of Sally Clarkson's books to a more gentle, family centered approach to education. Where I used to believe that kids should be learning as much as they could, as early as possible, I now feel like learning should be more gentle. I feel like young children should spend their days exploring and creating instead of doing worksheets and playing "educational" games and videos. Now, we still do worksheets and formal learning, but it takes us about an hour a day. The rest of our days are spent learning through reading good books, playing outside, building with blocks, and talking, talking, talking.
We also limit "activity". In fact, at this time with having a new baby we decided not to have any commitments for our kids outside of the home. No dance lessons, sports, art classes, Bible studies, etc. I was so encouraged what I recently read in "Seasons of a Mother's Heart" by Sally Clarkson,
"Looking back, I can see how I jumped into too many "busy" activities because I thought it was something we "should" do or because my friends were doing it. In the end, many of those activities only added stress to my life and overstimulated my children. I see so many young mothers now already worrying about their young children falling behind in skills or academics at the age of five and even younger. The pressure to conform, to be sure your child doesn't miss out on anything is constant and debilitating.
But there are so many amazing discoveries a child will make simply by being at home with his or her parents, exploring his world, pretending, playing with modeling clay, swinging on a swing, tinkering with simple toys, playing instruments, and singing, listening for hours to books while cuddled in mom's lap. These are the things God has built into the daily rhythm of a family, and they will help to build a rich soul. However, choosing to walk confidently in God's design requires a step of faith- a step away from the marketplace of activities and into the "mommy place" of the home, which is filled with beauty, love, creativity, purpose, and peace."
I am so thankful that we have the opportunity and resources to teach our children this way. But, that doesn't mean it is easy. I feel a lot of pressure to conform. I have been lectured on the importance of organized sports and properly "socializing" my children. It is not easy to have your parenting questioned. Especially, when you are constantly questioning yourself.
But, I DO believe that while following God's will for your life is not always easy... it is always worth it. The verse I often find myself clinging to when I wonder if I am doing enough for my children is Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
So, while my parenting looks nothing like I thought it would when I started out. I am thankful. I am thankful that God didn't leave me in my "know it all state". I am thankful that he slowly taught me and encouraged me on this journey. I am thankful for the wise and Godly women he has used to speak truth into my life and helped to change my heart for my children's benefit. And I pray that he will continue to work on me and never leave me where I am!