Our son Tobias (whose name means "The LORD is good") is doing me a service. He is refining my character and smoothing off my rough edges.
He began the day with a nosebleed. The trouble is, nosebleeds alarm him and he resists the whole process of stopping the bleeding. Crying and fighting, the blood only flows thinner.
Later, I walked through the kitchen with a laundry basket in hand, not noticing a cup of ice water left in the middle of the walkway. Not noticing it, that is, until I kicked it across the room.
At lunchtime, when I was fixing the macaroni and cheese, I took a moment to move the laundry over to the dryer and start a new load. I partly filled our front loader then left to check the bedrooms for things to add to the load.
On my way back, I stopped to check the macaroni. Around the corner I heard Toby say, "Clothes in, Mommy! Clothes in!" Popping my head around the corner, I saw him proudly stuffing clothes in the washer. My smile turned to a frown, however, when I realized what he was doing.
You see, I'm in the middle of emptying the boys' closet, washing it all, and sorting the clean clothes as they come out of the dryer. Out-of-season and too-small items are folded and go straight into a laundry basket, destined for the storage room. This basket was full of neatly folded clothes.
Toby was busy cramming these clothes into the washer.
When Toby frustrates me, I think of famous mothers who mothered amazing boys. Ida Eisenhower. Ruth Graham. Susanna Wesley.
Susanna Wesley (1670-1742) had nineteen children--ten survived, including Charles and John Wesley. She was married to a minister and they lived on a small income, facing many trials (including the death of nine children). Susanna believed that it was her duty before God to educate her children. (See Susanna Wesley: The Complete Writings, p. 368.)
Some of her wisdom regarding her home schooling methods (from Susanna Wesley: The Complete Writings, p. 370ff):
"In order to form the minds of children, the first thing to be done is to conquer their will, and bring them to an obedient temper...For by neglecting timely correction, they will contract a stubbornness [and obstinacy] which is hardly ever [after] conquered...In the esteem of the world they pass for kind and indulgent whom I call cruel parents, who permit their children to get habits which they know must be afterwards broken."
Her children "were quickly made to understand they might have nothing they cried for, and instructed to speak handsomely for what they wanted."
"None were taught to read till five years old, exept Kezzy, in whose case I was overruled; and she was more years learning than any of the rest had been months. The way of teaching was this. The day before a child began to learn, the house was set in order, everyone's work appointed them, and a charge given that none should come into the room from nine till twelve, or from two till five; which, you know, were our school hours. One day was allowed the child wherein to learn its letters, and each of them did in that time know all its letters, great and small, except Molly and Nancy, who were a day and a half before they knew them perfectly; for which I then thought them very dull; but since I have observed how long many children are learning the hornbook, I have changed my opinion."
"There was no such thing as loud talking or playing allowed of; but everyone was kept close to their business for the six hours of school; and it is almost incredible what a child may be taught in a quarter of a year by a vigorous application, if it have but a tolerable capacity and good health."
I have a long way to go!
Remembering Susanna Wesley's example encourages and inspires me greatly. Home schooling is experiencing a renaissance in our time, but I often forget that I am not as cutting edge as I might imagine. There are amazing women who have blazed the trail for me both in the last 25 years as well as over 250 years ago. I have so much to learn!
Image of Susanna Wesley from the following website: John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life, http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/wesley/