The Virtues of Nursery Rhymes

I love children’s books. Long before my children could understand, I was reading to them. When my son was a toddler I would read to him things far above his attention span while he played toys. Initially it seemed like only a soothing activity to me, but now I realize that I genuinely love the content of children’s books. They are likable for a few obvious reasons: the stories are happy, beautiful, or peaceful; and if not, they are exciting stories of adventure. They are a short reprieve from the reality of adulthood.

My toddler daughter has been very interested in Mother Goose lately, so I have spent a lot of time with our tattered copy. The poor thing has tape on almost every page.

As a child I learned many Mother Goose rhymes by heart. I was surprised how many rushed back to me once I started reciting them for my son. There is all sorts of virtue mixed into the classic stories of childhood. For instance, there is the classic rhyme:

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

I struggle to take this philosophy to heart, but I would like to.

There is also a lot of sneaky wisdom in Mother Goose. For instance, we have the importance of details:

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
For want of the shoe, the horse was lost,
For want of a horse, the rider was lost,
For want of a rider, the battle was lost,
For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Perseverance:

The itsy bitsy spider
Climbed up the water spout.
Down came the rain
And washed the spider out.

Out came the sun
And dried up all the rain,
And the itsy bitsy spider
Climbed up the spout again.

Procrastination:

They that wash on Monday
Have all the week to dry;
They that wash on Tuesday
Are not so much awry;
They that wash on Wednesday
Are not so much to blame;
They that wash on Thursday,
Wash for shame;
They that wash on Friday,
Wash in need;
And they that wash on Saturday
Are lazy folks indeed.

Kindness:

Speak kindly to your dog, my boy!
All things that live know pain and joy.
Speak harshly to your dog and see
How sad and shamed he seems to be;
His head, and ears, and tail all say,
Oh! Let me go far, far away!

And for patience:

Little Maiden,
Better tarry;
Time enough next year to marry.
Hearts may change,
And so may fancy;
Wait a little longer, Nancy.

Then there is the more well-known side of Mother Goose, which leaves the reader full of questions.  Like this one about the ultimate party:

Hey, diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with
The spoon.

And lastly, one relevant to conclude this post:

The man in the moon
Looked out of the moon
And this is what he said,
“Tis time that, now I’m getting up,
All babies went to bed.”

Goodnight World.

Headmistress

I am a reasonably young person, with an old person’s mind.  My body might be thirty-one; my mind is seventy-one.  If reincarnation is possible, I was likely a headmistress with a well pressed dress, hair tied up in a fierce top knot, a scowl across my face, and a ruler in my hand for slapping knuckles.

In most other facets of my life I am a disorganized mess, but when it comes to my children I have high expectations and become a strict, and at times intense personality.  It is simply because I want them to not be a procrastinating, disorganized mess (i.e. me).  The trouble is, I feel like most of humanity has a bit of a rebellious streak.  There is something about being given a forceful command, which makes a child want to do the opposite.  I have been slowly accepting that my role as scowling headmistress is not going to fly.   You catch more flies with sugar, I believe the saying goes.

I need balance, and patience, and…maybe a sugar high.

This sketch is my reminder to fight my alter ego tooth and nail–to save our little schoolhouse and my forehead from those deep set wrinkles.

Headmistress

 

 

The Kitchen Table

Books
This homeschool’s greatest love: Books.

I crept away from the soft blue glow of a nightlight and sleeping children.  The house was silent except for the gentle tick of the grandfather clock.  I nuzzled down into the couch that has grown well-worn from nights like these. I could see the smooth gray river rocks set on the kitchen table, contrasting awkwardly with the brown faux-granite tabletop.

We used those rocks earlier to illustrate arithmetic.  A glorious moment happened with those rocks this morning, when I realized my son understood the concept of multiplication.  At the same brown tabletop my son learned to read—step-by-step, one little piece of phonics at a time.  The faux-granite has been rubbed raw of its glossy sheen over these months of arithmetic and phonics.  Craft projects hang from a miniature clothes line suspended in a corner nearby.  Colorful toddler scribbles, shaky abc’s, dried glue drippings, truck outlines in thick blue marker—each one is a masterpiece in its own right.  Each one is a testament to growth.

Water plants
Hands-On Learning

I turned on the lamp so that my work space was cast in gold light.  I used a book on constellations as a mouse-pad.  The grandfather clock ticked on as the soundtrack to the night.  I felt heavy from the weight of time.  I feared losing a grasp on it.  I wanted to hang onto those lovely, peaceful nights of planning and reflecting.  I thought about the day’s successes—about the sudden realization of multiplication.  In that moment my son looked at me in silence.  I could imagine the gears turning in his head and could almost feel the rising of emotion as suddenly the connection was made, a second before the correct answer to the problem was spouted out.  It was another concept to be put in his memory.

We are laying a foundation that I am fascinated to watch, as it continues to be built onto, closer and closer to something magnificent.  I hope his mind will be a mansion someday, but I know that isn’t in my control.  What I do know is that with our work on that worn kitchen table, his building will have a strong foundation.

Running on the beach
Life is a field trip: Learning happens everywhere.

I sipped earthy tasting coffee turned beige from heavy cream.  I looked at that book on constellations.  I felt a thrill roll through me as my eyes wondered to my ever growing collection of texts.  A globe sat idle on the desk, looking very foreign with all the bumps and ridges of its continents.  It didn’t look bland to me like it did when I was in school—here in the comfort of my living room it was approachable.  I wanted to touch it.  On the coffee table sat The Complete Chronicles of Narnia.  A red ribbon dangled out the end, inviting me to open it again.  The world felt wide, wide open.  I get the feeling I’m not the only one in this house that feels that way.

Dog Eyes
A deep sigh.

Big brown German shepherd eyes looked up at me, followed by a deep sigh.  When are we going to bed?  I felt a tired sigh in my lungs too.  The grandfather clock told me the night was slipping away.  I can’t stop time.  This is a season in my life that I want to fully embrace—and that I want to share.

This is homeschooling. Welcome to the kitchen table.