Self Care through Mother Culture

Many a homeschooling mother has heard the term mother culture, but not all of us have a good grasp on how to implement it in our own lives. As I enter my fourth year of homeschooling, I’ve realized the importance of setting aside some sacred time and space to nurture my heart, mind, body, and soul. This goes beyond personal prayer and devotionals. While those two things are integral to my walk with God, mother culture is a type of self care that fills me up so I can continue giving to my children. It also anchors my soul in a way that lets me be me. At some point, my little birds will leave the nest. When that day comes, I want to know that I haven’t completely abandoned my own growth. Mothering is never finished, but it will change as my boys become men. In the midst of those changes, I cannot forsake kindling the fires of my mind, heart, body, and soul.

My latest Mother Culture Day was admiring Monet’s paintings at the Kimbell.

At any given moment, I have two or three books on Audible that I listen to while doing dishes, laundry, or driving around alone. My book table is spilling over with Sally Clarkson’s words of wisdom and several prayer books. Every other Tuesday night I meet up with a handful of homeschooling mamas for a Charlotte Mason book club. We also get together once a month for kid-free fellowship.

On Sunday nights the boys attend Awanas…and I cozy up with books at a nearby Starbucks. Approximately every six weeks, my husband will take the kids for a fun Daddy Day so I can have an introverted date day. Six hours all to myself. This is time I set aside to feed my soul — not to do laundry or dishes! I’ve been known to watch plays, wander through museums, listen to audiobooks while getting a pedicures, or meet up with my mom for a fun girls’ day. In the beginning, I felt guilty for this time away, but it makes me a better mother. This sought-after mother culture recharges my batteries and settles my soul for the work at hand: motherhood.

To commemorate my precious self-care time, I like shed my mom-uniform and dress up a wee bit.

If this concept seems entirely foreign to you, please don’t give up before giving it a shot! Ask your husband to take the kids to Chick-fil-A for two hours so you can read a book with a cup of tea in your favorite chair. Better yet, have him pop some popcorn for a movie night; this will buy you at least ninety minutes at a local coffee shop! If nature speaks to your heart and soul, sneak in a quick hike or nature walk around your neighborhood. Start small — steal away for a few precious moments to feed your inner self, and add more time each week. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Truth, Goodness, & Beauty-Sleep

On those days when all of your best efforts just aren’t enough to get the train up the hill, it’s probably best to pump the breaks and take a rest. Morning Time kicked off with a pirate treasure hunt, then moved onto MadLibs and play-dough and Legos — oh my! Scripture and Shakespeare were full of truth and goodness; Nature Study was full of beauty…and…then…things began to derail when it came time for nature journaling.

Asher had told himself before the pencil ever hit the paper that he couldn’t do it. While he never said it aloud, it was written all over him (that limp-noodle body language speaks volumes). With supernatural love speaking louder than my internal impatience, I urged him to try his best. Encouraging words just weren’t quite enough to pull him from the doldrums. Nevertheless, we persevered. Not because he wanted to, but because I sat with him and wouldn’t allow him to quit. I cheered him on and complimented his finger spacing between words. His perfectionist personality type can be a huge stumbling block when it comes to subjects like handwriting and drawing; frustration ensues when he can’t make the paper look like what he sees in his mind.

In these frequent situations, my attitude can go one of two ways:

1. I can allow that frustration to sweep us both out to sea and chide him for what some might see as a lack of effort.

2. I can look at the little boy God has entrusted to me, see both his strengths and weaknesses, and love him through it all.

A few hours after nature journaling time, he walked into the living room where I was folding laundry. Shoulders slumped and face fallen, he said, “Mom, I just have this big ball of feelings that I don’t know what to do with. I feel sad, like crying, and I don’t know why.” I gathered him up in my arms and told him that I sometimes feel that way, too. I thanked him for telling me his feelings, and snuggled him close. “Mom, do you think we could cuddle up and take a nap?” So we did, because hours earlier I had chosen option number two. How would our day have gone had I allowed frustration to reign? What would he have done with his big ball of feelings then? Over our three years of homeschooling, I’ve come to understand that it’s rarely just about the handwriting. The seeming problem at hand is usually a telltale sign of the condition of my son’s heart.

I’m so thankful that I stepped back and followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting. It was an incredibly humbling experience to realize that I held my son’s heart in my hands when I made the choice to extend kindness in the face of frustration. Keane was more than happy to join us on the couch, and we all crashed for a good two hours. Asher enjoyed his first nap so much that he took another one thirty minutes after waking up from the first. That, my friends, is God’s grace in action.

Adventuring with your Children

Throughout all of my reading, research, and experience as a homeschooling mother, I’ve learned that the best way to teach is to come alongside your children.

Do you want them to develop a love of reading? Don’t give them a stack of books and a command to read, read WITH them!

Cuddle up on the couch with blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals to read together. I’ll read a paragraph, then point to my sons and have them each read a few sentences. This improves confidence and fluency, not to mentions fills everyone’s cuddle tanks! Each summer we sign up for the community library’s reading program (together). We listen to audiobooks (together), log our collective hours, collect our reading prizes (together) and celebrate each five hour milestone (together)!

Notice a trend?!

Do you want them to love nature and become passionate explorers? Make discoveries WITH them and explore nature with them!

This is another beautiful aspect of togetherness which will lead to budding independent exploration as the boys grow. Together, we take nature walks, hike trails, splash in puddles, and write in our nature journals. This outdoor together time sets the stage for semi-independent exploration. We are now to the point where my oldest is allowed to walk to the pond by himself — with me watching from the front porch. I can trust that he will be safe and follow our family rules because it’s a walk we’ve taken together countless times. (He’s also an ESTJ, so that helps!) After allowing him a bit of solo birdwatching time, I traipse down the path with little brother (an ISFP who enjoys having Mommy nearby for his explorations). Then I make things really exciting and announce that it’s Brother Time! I remind them to stay together on the bench to watch birds and turtles, then I quickly walk back home to pack snacks and umbrellas. I consider myself more of a hummingbird parent than a helicopter mom. A little space and perceived independence goes a long way in building confidence and nature skills!

Do you want them to love the Lord your God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength? Don’t just park them in Sunday School every week and assume the lovely volunteers will take care of that…bring them alongside you in your faith walk!

Read the Bible at bedtime, have morning devotionals, pray aloud (often, for anything and everything), worship together through music, recite liturgies, pass out cold water to the homeless when it’s 106 degrees in July, adopt a grandmother at the local nursing home and love her well until Jesus calls her home — all of that and more will show them what it’s like to worship with their whole life. Ask God for opportunities; I promise you he will provide and stretch you beyond your comfort zone!

I follow the mindset of missional motherhood; my home is my mission-field and my children are little disciples, eager to soak up and share the love of Jesus. They are God’s first and foremost, on loan to me for a short blink of an eye.

What will I do with that time?

Will I give them a stack of workbooks with a list of lessons and send them on their way with a deadline in mind?

Or, will I come alongside them in the spirit of discipleship and act as a godly mentor?

May I never grow weary of walking this journey alongside my children. May the peace of the Lord Christ go with us, wherever he may send us. May he guide us through the wilderness and protect us through the storms. May he bring us home rejoicing at the wonders he has shown us; may he bring us home rejoicing once again into our doors.

Morning Nature Walks

For the past couple of years, our school days have started with Morning Time at 9:00am. This year, we began instituting an 8:00am nature walk! Spending an hour in nature prior to beginning our school day has been a wonderful way to ensure the most important things aren’t forgotten.

Making time for wonder and wander opens our hearts to God’s grace and provision. The boys take time to catch frogs, marvel at Osage orange trees, drop sticks in the stream, and count how many red-winged blackbirds alight in the trees.

An hour outdoors at the start of our day sets a beautiful tone for everything that comes after. It’s a flawless transition to practice handwriting in our nature journals, leads to an organic drawing lesson, and unites our hearts for the coming day.

The boys discovered a hidden trail, neighborhood bat boxes, and the perfect place to bring our paints for a Monet-style art lesson. Creating a habit of starting each school day with a nature walk will no doubt enhance every aspect of our educational endeavors!

Endless Summer

Lazy days at Hudson Acres fill my heart with peace and wonder. My boys roam freely, visit the cows in the pasture and the chickens in the coop, splash cousins with a water hose, and catch frogs until the sun goes down. We gaze up into the dark prairie sky to spy the Big Dipper and far away planets.

I worship the God of all Creation while swaying in a hammock tied between two ancient Catalpa trees. The birds offer up praise songs, build cathedrals of nests, and the cicadas sing of His glory. This is the Sabbath rest my soul craves.