• Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Image courtesy of Etsy. Painted leaf can be purchased from LoisArmstrongArt.

Living on Willow’s farm has taught me more than how to butcher a chicken or render tallow for candles.  While making my own soap, cleansers, and personal hygiene products is rewarding and a step in the direction I want my life to go, the lessons I’ve learned from Willow and her mother can’t be seen in a row of canned vegetables, fruits, and jams. I’ve learned most from who they are (and were) as people.  These lessons are rooted deep in my heart now.

People meet Willow, hear about her life, visit the farm, and they’re struck by the vast amount of work it takes to “do it all.”  Those three words are like a mantra or something. The amazing thing is that having lived both lives, Josh and I see a truth that I don’t think most people can grasp.  Despite the hours of hard physical labor Willow puts in every day, she has much more free time–“me time”–than anyone we know.

When we were talking about it the other night, Josh suggested I write and share a bit of our conversation because it really impacted both of us.  So, here we go.

Did you know that Willow takes a walk every day?  A lot of people do that, so it’s really nothing remarkable–not unless you know her and know what happens on that walk.  She sees things.  She notices insects.  Nothing remarkable there.  We all tend to notice the pesky things.  But Willow notices things about them that I wouldn’t have thought to look for, much less embrace and enjoy.  She finds them beautiful (assuming they aren’t in her home).  She marvels at their design.  As workouts go, her walks are useless because sometimes she doesn’t make it more than a couple hundred yards from the back door and all because she spends too much time watching–observing.

She’ll also come back and tell you what insects were noticeably absent or overly abundant. From that, she’ll hypothesize about what animals and birds are in abundance and which ones are low in population this year.

But the most fun is when she brings nature back with her.  Yesterday, she brought home several leaves–some thoroughly dry already, others still pliable despite their vivid fall coloring.  The boys clambered to see, and she gave each boy one of the dried, curled leaves. They disintegrated in seconds.  I’ll never forget her words.  “This is why you need to learn to ask.  You say, “Mommy, do I need to be gentle?”

I thought she was a bit crazy, but she pulled out two of the fresher leaves and passed one to each boy.  Lucas’ little fist curled around the stem, but he didn’t seem willing to test its pliability.  But he didn’t ask. So she prompted him.  “Ask me if you can touch it or if you need to be gentle.”

And so the lesson went.  It took several tries, but after a few minutes, each boy had learned a lesson–not the one Willow hoped to convey.  They didn’t understand her explanation of how and why leaves change colors.  They didn’t grasp that the veins on the backs of the leaves are like the veins under our skin.  But they learned how to treat delicate things, and they learned it on something that didn’t matter.

And I learned.  I learned that being a mother isn’t diapers and feedings.  It isn’t tucking them into bed and reading a story.  Well, it is.  But that’s not the main thing.  The main thing is what your children learn when you do those things.  They learn how to care for things–for people.  They learn without even realizing it.  It began with Kari–that intentional education without a formal setting.  I loved reading about it, but I admit I’ve looked into local private schools and pre-schools.  I’ve looked into every educational style–every curriculum style.  And yes, my baby won’t even be born for four more months.  I’d decided on a Charlotte Mason approach in a home education setting.  I thought it sounded closest to Kari’s plans while still giving me a concrete framework and assurance that I am not leaving gaping holes in my child’s education.  I was sure Josh would agree with me, but do you know what he said?  He said, “Becca, you can’t love the principle, love the results, want to replicate those results, and ignore the process.”

He’s right.  Kari’s educational process isn’t the only right way to educate a child–whether at home, school, or anywhere else.  But I love the naturalness of it. It’s what my heart longs for.  And I’m compromising out of fear.  Well, I was.  I’m going to give myself six years of trying it Kari’s way.  Birth to six.  If I feel like my child is far behind other kids at that point and I can’t stand it, well… okay.  But I have a feeling that it’ll be far richer than I ever imagined.

I’ve seen the fruit of this life.  I want it.  I just have to learn how to develop it in my life without trying to be someone I’m not.  That is the hardest part of all.

Oh, and what did Willow do with all those leaves?  Can you believe she painted them?  Chad’s making barn wood frames from a few pieces they salvaged from the burned barn–even ones with charred edges.  They’re stunnning. I sure hope one is going to be my Christmas present!

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