I don't even know where to begin! I wish I had been able to blog about this sooner, because I don't think I can find the words to express the emotions I was experiencing when I returned home from the seminar called Reaching Your Child's Heart, given by Sonya from Simply Charlotte Mason this past Thursday evening.
This year has been especially challenging for me, as I have tried to implement our RDI program and balance that with the educational goals I have for the children. It has seemed, at times, like the two should never meet. Either I could implement RDI effectively, or I could stick to the educational goals for the children. The more I learned about the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education, the more I recognized that it blended fabulously with the RDI program. But it was hard to see how the CM method could help me achieve my more traditional, 21st century academic goals. It's been a rough mental battleground.
I have been pondering these things mostly in my head, and occasionally to friends. I was going to go back to a more traditional, classical approach. But in my heart, I knew that the bigger goals that I have for the children, even for Riley, do not revolve around academics. They involve true, deep, meaningful relationships with other people, and with their Lord. And the sort of development they need to achieve those relationships cannot be found in a textbook or in any curriculum. It has to be nurtured through the very relationships that they (Austin and Reece) struggle with because of their ASD, and that I struggle to maintain with Riley because of the nature of the intensive work I have to do with the others, and because of the nature of our personalities that struggle to mesh. ;)
This brings us back to the topic at hand, which is my reflections on the seminar about Reaching Your Child's Heart. I was very intrigued at the topic, to say the least. I was anxious to hear this topic from a CM perspective, and spoken by Sonya, whom I consider to be a friend. I first met Sonya through a series of workshops she was giving in the local area prior to the start of her Simply Charlotte Mason site. When I was attending these seminars, we were in the process of getting Reece's diagnosis. Sonya's youngest daughter also has autism. When we got Reece's diagnosis, Sonya served as a huge source of encouragement, and reassurance, and information. She kept pointing me towards God, even while I was so angry with Him.
Sonya used a portion of Luke 1 as the basis for her seminar. This particular passage involves Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist) and Mary (the mother of Jesus), when Mary comes to Elizabeth shortly after finding out that she is carrying the son of God. I cannot describe the way I was moved just in hearing this small introduction. You see, it is from this interaction that I got Reece's middle name: Elizabeth. I chose it because of the reassuring way Elizabeth greets Mary when Mary comes to her scared, confused, and overwhelmed. The first thing Elizabeth says upon seeing Mary is, "You are blessed by God above all other women, and your child is blessed. What an honor it is, that the mother of my Lord should visit me!" (v. 42-43) When I found out I was pregnant with Reece, the first thing the doctor told me was, "Don't get your hopes up." I had suffered a number of miscarriages, and the numbers on her pregnancy weren't looking good. I was bleeding and cramping, on as much medication as they could give me to try to protect the pregnancy, and the doctor didn't think this pregnancy was going to make it either. Then once I got past the first 8 weeks, I tested really high for gestational diabetes and had to go for genetic counseling. Where they told us all of the things that result from my high blood sugar so early in the pregnancy, and that we should prepare for the worst. How I wanted someone to greet me the way Elizabeth greeted Mary. So I chose Elizabeth for Reece's middle name, in remembrance, and in the hopes that one day she would be a source of encouragement and comfort to others.
So Sonya had my rapt attention from the very beginning! She shared 6 ways to reach your child's heart, and 3 obstacles. One of the things that encouraged me most was hearing this room full of homeschooling moms nod and "Mmmm-hmm" in agreement with the anecdotes that Sonya shared about the obstacles especially. All 3 obstacles were things I struggle with and feel guilty about at times. And all of these other moms in this room were agreeing with her, and with me?? They struggle with it, too? I'm not alone? Wow!
It was the second obstacle that really spoke to my own heart though: a fear of man, rather than a fear of the Lord. Do we focus on the visible things (test scores, written work) because of what other people think? Are we trying to impress others because our children are so smart? Or, like in my case, am I afraid that people will think badly of me because some of my children aren't academically advanced? With some serious prayer and soul-searching, I realize that I tend to want to focus on the visible, the academics, wish a misguided sense of "Well, my kids' behavior may not look good to other people, and that one is going to take a long time to see the visible results, so at least the kids can be smart and academically advanced, and people will think I'm a good mom/homeschooler." All of this thinking has not been so much because I think that's what is best for the children, but it's because I am concerned about what other people think of my parenting or homeschooling! Wow, wow, wow.
I am still processing everything from that seminar, along with the other realizations I've come to recently. I'm sure this won't be the last you hear from me on this topic! As I work to TRUST in the Lord with my children's futures and with my entire life, I am sure to have some other great (and hard) epiphanies! :)