“Mommy’s home!” The kids shouted and crowded at the window. As soon as mommy opened the door they yelled, “Did you get any books for us?” Mommy had just returned from the library, and yes, she happened to get four books. One for each.
The one for Micaela was Crosby Bonsall’s, The Day I Had To Play With My Sister. A first level, ‘I Can Read’ book. Micaela accepted it with rapture. She gathered Annie and Emeth around her on the sixth step, and to our great surprise, she read the entire book to them. Afterwards she brought the book to the piano, placed it on the music stand, and plucked out a simple melody while setting the text of this book to music.
This was incredible to watch. The absorption of information, gathered through thousands of question and answer sessions, over the past several years, between child and parent. Information assimilated, sorted, made sense of, built upon. And finally, the fruit of this little child’s hard work ripens, allowing her to make sense of the English language.
It was joyful to see the fruit of Rachel’s patience and labor as a mother and teacher, reflected in the joy of Micaela’s voice as she read this book. It was a sweet satisfaction. A confirmation that we are not completely off track with our alternative approach to education.
Of course, our approach is not the only way. It is not the Right Way. It is simply our way. The way that we feel best suits the needs of our children. Will it work for all of them? I don’t know. But we will take it one at a time.
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Micaela has been sitting down at the piano, multiple times a day, to pluck out melodies that we have been singing to her for years. This, too, is incredible to watch and hear. I don’t think we have a genius on our hands. It’s more that I believe God has given every child the capacity to learn the things that interest them.
She is exploring the keyboard, just as she is exploring language. She is adding chords, experimenting with rhythm and the pedal. She has already written a short tune that ascends up the keyboard. Chords in the left, melody in the right.
Emeth, on the other hand, is not interested in music at all. The other day he said to Rachel and me, “I don’t really like playing music.” I was so glad he felt free to express that to us. (Especially since his father is a musician!) He’s more visual and hands on. He likes to build and draw, and pays much attention to the details in his world. He is drawn to books where there is a lot going on in the illustrations, such as Town & Country, by Alice Provensen. He loves to ask questions about what is happening, and what the people are doing. While Micaela is interested in music and language, Emeth is drawn to that which he can touch and see.
In some ways, Emeth is a mystery, despite his simple interests in wood and paper. He has a difficult time expressing his wants and needs. I wonder if this partly because he feels squeezed out by the strong personalities of his sisters. I do struggle to give each of my children the time they deserve. The time they need. Simply because their are four of them, and there is much to do in a day. I think, though, Emeth needs that time more than the others right now.
It’s an exciting process trying to figure out what interests each of them. What makes their little minds tick, and what moves their hearts. To discern how they are different than one another. To observe what is important to one and not to the other.
Annie is a free spirit, and mostly Emeth’s opposite and rival right now. We are still trying to figure her out. She has a very unique sense of humor, and is fairly good at playing by herself, when given the opportunity. She seems fairly independent already. She is a fireball. She doesn’t beat around the bush. Instead, she tears it up.
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Vitalia, has finally learned to crawl at sixteen months. Yes, some children learn to walk by nine months. But not our Talia. She started out very calm and peaceful. We joked that we should’ve named her Shalom, and not Vitalia (life) Joy. She observed and took in her world for twelve months. Then found her voice. She can yell louder than the other three.
She seems the type to take it slow, and to learn at her own pace. She does not let us force anything on her, and she knows what she wants. (Her wants and needs are fairly simple at this point, which makes it easy, perhaps.) For example, when she doesn’t want any more of a particular food, she lowers her head in the direction of the spoon to make it clear that spoon will not make it into her mouth. And if you continue to try, she’ll swat it out of your hand (if she makes contact).
She is coming into her name though. (Interestingly, they all seem to be doing this.) Talia is so vibrant and expressive, lively and joyful. She has more facial expressions than she knows what to do with. She can go from happy, to skeptical, to angry, to laughing with the slightest change in her brow and lip. She, too, has a sense of humor, and knows how to get us all laughing.
I wonder what they will all be like in a year.
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Lord, help us to know ourselves and our children. To know how you hardwired us, to know our needs, and to express those needs to one another. Help us to care for one another in a way that is meaningful to each. Fill us with your Spirit, and help us to love, not just when we are lovely, but when it feels impossible. When we make a mess, and when we ourselves are a mess. Amen.