This series was inspired by Chrisopher Perrin’s great webinars on the principles of classical education. One of my favorites so far was his “deep dive” into the principle Festina Lente.
Erasmus wrote of this proverb in his Adagia:
If you weigh carefully the force and the sentiment of our proverb, its succinct brevity, how fertile it is, how serious, how beneficial, how applicable to every activity of life, you will easily come to the opinion that among the huge number of sayings you will find none of greater dignity.
So, I feel fully confirmed in my writing about how this motto and the others apply to our full lives and not simply to our children’s education. However, I was tempted to veer into education talk when I read Erasmus’ essay on Festina Lente, because he clearly sides with a “better late than early” mindset. If you’ve ever been tempted toward an “accelerated” mindset, read sections 28 & 29 in this short essay and be encouraged to not push your children before they are ready.
This phrase, Festina Lente, juxtaposes both briskness and plodding. We should make haste because we should not be stagnant or lethargic, but we also should go forward slowly because, as Erasmus put it,
Things that are foreseen and provided for by slow and gentle forethought are safer than what is hurried into action by hot and hasty heads.
So the maxim of festina lente opposes both laziness and impulsiveness. It requires both action and thought. It steers us from both sides of the ditch.
A poem Cindy Rollins through the years has oft quoted is
Little drops of water,
little grains of sand,
make the mighty ocean
and the beauteous land.
And the little moments,
humble though they may be,
make the mighty ages
Most of what we as mothers do all day are little grains of sand: read a book, correct a child, make a meal, sweep a floor, change a diaper. Our days are full of small tasks, but their smallness does not mean they are insignificant. It is in these ways that we love our families.
I think that the English word that summarizes this Latin motto is faithfulness:
1. strict or thorough in the performance of duty: a faithful worker.
2. true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc.
3. steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant: faithful friends.
4. reliable, trusted, or believed.
5. adhering or true to fact, a standard, or an original; accurate:
Faithfulness doesn’t imply large, impressive deeds. Faithfulness is all about doing what’s in front of you – your own duty, however humble that is – reliably and earnestly. Faithfulness does not evaluate how a duty ranks in the public eye or whether or not the duty will earn credit; faithfulness steadily fulfills its calling.
Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2, ESV)
Faithfulness at Home
To make haste slowly in the home, I think, is to embrace routine, embrace maintenance, embrace the ongoing nature of the task. I have fought against this aspect of homemaking more than any other. I have been the queen of boom and bust cycles. There is no avoiding it. Maintenance – daily chipping away at the work, bit by bit, over and over – is the only way to avoid chaos and filth. I’m finally starting to realize the error of my ways and work at accepting the dailiness of home life. It’s only taken twelve years! Perhaps within another twelve years I may even learn to enjoy the dailiness.
It feels more productive to get into a cleaning frenzy and take a room from utter disaster to sparkling clean. But the real productivity is in the quick, daily cleanings that don’t appear to make as much of a difference. This ties in with having true virtue rather than the appearance of virtue. And, there will always still come those opportunities to tackle disasters.
Nothing in the home ever stays done. It is not like sewing a dress or painting a picture, where you ever end with a finished product to display. Keeping the home is like tending a garden: its very nature is ongoing. And, like tending a garden, the best way is to weed when the weeds are young and small, to weed often, and to weed a little bit every time you go out to pick a tomato. Weeds breed weeds, so the longer they go, the harder the task becomes. Also, there are many miracle methods out there, claiming that they will show you how to have a weedless garden without work, as if it were possible to reverse the curse by chemical or by mulch.
There are tactics we can implement to make the job easier, but entropy is how the world works and no method will conquer entropy in this life. What is asked of us is not a immaculate home, but faithfulness. We are to keep at it, do what we can, even when it seems like entropy is winning, even when we can’t do the job we’d like to, even when we don’t like the job.
Faithfulness in Schedule
Festina lente is the planning proverb. In fact, this seems to have been the primary application of the motto when it was current: to make long preparation for war so that it can be won quickly. Or, as we say these days: think before you act.
Thinking before acting is exactly what planning is. Take the time, think it through, so that what you do is considered, prudent, and strategic. Make it a good use of your energy, and plan for recovering and even increasing your energy, as well.
Festina lente also reminds us to make progress by baby steps, incrementally, and be content with slow but steady progress rather than boom and bust cycles. I know I get a passion for a life overhaul and want to go gangbusters, but I can never keep up that level of momentum and soon crash. Still, usually one or two small changes stick, and I am better off than I was before. How much better to strategically choose the one or two small changes and apply myself to those! It is less glamorous, there is less immediate gratification, but it is much more effective and sustainable.
Faithfulness as a Mother
Festina lente reminds us that slow days, days that feel like not much is being done, days that feel like no progress is made even though you’re bone tired, are still moving you forward slowly but surely. All those little moments that you don’t count are counting. Even if we aren’t perfect, if we yell, if we don’t keep the orderly and lovely house we want, we are there and we care and we want our children. This I can tell you from the child’s perspective: the imperfections don’t matter as much as the fact that mom is a constant, reliably present. These long, seemingly unproductive days, will yield a harvest if we are patient and do not give up. That is one way we make haste slowly.
Do not be discouraged when you feel like you’re constantly messing up. Ask forgiveness, make it right, keep on going despite all odds, and in the long haul, we will look back and see that it was worth it and that we really have “made haste.”
Let us walk by faith, slowly and steadily, hastening unto glory.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:7-10, ESV)
This week I am baking up a storm for our church’s annual fancy bake sale, Confection Selection, that benefits the local Pregnancy Network. Baking reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese, which is a laugh-out-loud funny and entertaining book, particularly if you’ve ever been caught with the “I can make that myself” bug in the kitchen.
Is that really a good rule?
‘Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself,’ Michael Pollan writes in Food Rules. ‘If you made all the french fries you ate, you would eat them much less often, if only because they’re so much work. The same holds true for fried chicken, chips, cakes, pies, and ice cream. Enjoy these treats as often as you’re willing to prepare them – chances are good it won’t be every day.’
Oh, Michael Pollan, you underestimate me.
I can whip up a batch of fudge or salted caramels or batch of cookies all too quickly and easily. And eating caramels is so much preferable to wrapping them…
And, for a bonus, here’s another of my favorite parts from the book:
When my daughter, Isabel, was small and I worked full-time at an office, I used to pick her up at day care and rush to get home, where, if I put her in front of Dragon Tales and ran straight to the kitchen, I could get the chicken into the oven within fifteen minutes. Then I scrubbed my hands like a surgeon, sanitized everything the raw chicken had come within three feet of, mixed a gin and tonic, set the table, and tossed a salad. We never ate before eight, by which time Isabel was cantankerous and I was a little drunk.
I used to eye the rotisserie chickens, those warm, whiskey-brown birds under the heat lamp near the cash register at the supermarket. They smelled so seductive I wondered how a person could get one home without stopping by the side of the road to eat it with her fingers. My mother, by then a divorcee who was feeding only her footloose self, was always buying rotisserie chickens. I looked down on her for it. Rotisserie chickens were what you ate when you gave up. No, I was going to turn myself into a human pretzel to give my family a proper Norman Rockwell roast bird dinner at least once a week.
I so relate. And, we’re going to have a Costco rotisserie chicken for dinner on Monday. I guess I’ve given up on Norman Rockwell. ;)
Life is like a race, which means it is something we must train for.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, ESV)
Sanctification – the path of life we are on – is not a competitive race where our success means others lose, but it is a race in that perseverance and deliberate practice makes a difference. It is a race we run with due diligence, not a moving sidewalk that does the work of progress without any effort on our part.
This passage in Corinthians tells us that this running requires self-control, aim, and watchfulness.
You are running a race, which requires training; therefore, exercise self-control.
My son, getting better at something means working through the sweat, the sore muscles, and the temptation to give up. Those things are normal, and the athlete who succeeds is the one who doesn’t give up when they come. This is true in sport, in school, and in sanctification.
Myself, making a face and saying, “Ugh!” over another meal, another load of laundry, another spill, another fight is not exercising self-control. These things are opportunities to practice doing the right thing, the duty in front of you, instead of what you would prefer to do. Praise God for these little steps toward the fruit of the Spirit.
You are running a race, which requires training; therefore, run with a purpose.
My son, none of the hard things in life are without purpose, because they are all from God’s fatherly hand. When you feel like quitting – quitting a chore, quitting math, quitting a good attitude – remember your purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Doing the right thing instead of the easy thing is one way you will fulfill that purpose.
Myself, you have a purpose much higher and grander than keeping a clean house or reading Shakespeare with the children or making meals for the family. Your purpose is to glorify God yourself – by gratitude & obedience – and disciple those in your care. These other things – housekeeping, educating, cooking – are tools for discipleship and not ends in themselves. If they are not supporting that purpose, then they need to be put in their proper place.
You are running a race, which requires training; therefore, watch yourself.
My son, running this race well will not come easily or automatically. If you are not watching and working, your sin will sneak and strangle you. Always watch. Always be on guard. Never give up. You have God on your side and will not lose the war if you keep up the fight.
Myself, running this race well will not come easily or automatically. If you are not watching and working, your sin will sneak and strangle you. Always watch. Always be on guard. Never give up. You have God on your side and will not lose the war if you keep up the fight.
Run to obtain the prize: the “Well done, good and faithful servant” of God.
I am so excited to be the host for the book club of James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom! We will begin January 7th and go for an entire 16 weeks though the end of April. I will have a summary and link-up post here every Tuesday (Lord willing!) between those dates for you to come check out and join the discussion. Whether you have a blog of your own or not, or whether you write a post every week or not, you are welcome to participate as much as you are able and inclined.
In addition to reading the book, another good preparation for the discussion would be to listen to Jenny Rallen’s talk at the Society of Classical Learning’s 2013 conference: “Incorporating Liturgy.” And, if you want to follow along, but can’t commit to reading the book, you can get a good overview of his arguments from his talks at Society for Classical Learning and also at Inside Classical Education. Calvin College, where he teaches philosophy, also has an hour-long video of him speaking on this topic: Desiring the Kingdom. I haven’t listened to them yet, but I also found these lectures on the topic.
Following is the schedule, which will also become the index of posts as we go. I also have a pdf version of the schedule you can print out or (better yet!) send to Evernote.
Book Club Schedule
- January 7 | Introduction, p. 17-36
- January 14 | Chapter 1 until “I am what I love,” p.37-46
- January 28 | Chapter 1 “I am what I love” until “From worldviews…” p.46-63
- February 4 | Chapter 1 “From worldviews…” through the end, p.63-73
- February 11 | Chapter 2, p.75-88
- February 18 | Chapter 3 until “Sacrificial Violence,” p.89-103
- February 25 | Chapter 3 “Sacrificial Violence” until “Picturing the University’s Liturgies,” p.103-118
- March 4 | Chapter 3 “Picturing the University’s Liturgies” to the end, p.118-129
- March 11 | Chapter 4 until “Picturing the Sacramental Imagination,” p.131-144
- March 18 | Chapter 4 “Picturing the Sacramental Imagination” to the end, p.144-154
- March 25 | Chapter 5, through “Call to Worship,” p.155-166
- April 1 | Chapter 5, “God’s Greeting” through “Song,” p.166-173
- April 8 | Chapter 5, “The Law” through “Baptism,” p.173-190
- April 15 | Chapter 5, “The Creed” through “Eucharist,” p.190-203
- April 22 | Chapter 5, “Offering” through the end of the chapter, p.203-214
- April 29 | Chapter 6: “A Christian University Is for Lovers,” p.215-230
- May 6 | optional wrap-up thoughts
Please feel free to spread the word, invite your friends, and use the graphic! Please link the graphic to this post so that people can find all the posts as we go.
I hope you can join us!
Advent begins December 1st this year, and I want to be ready. Last year, I was still recovering from an unexpected C-section, and so my notes consist of two-year-old jottings and last year’s half-baked and undone ideas.
During the month of December, I plan to ease off our normal schedule, do more fun things, do more free reading and free playing, bundle up against the cold and the gray, and drink more hot chocolate.
Of course, my goal is to keep the season simple and manageable. I am not so much a crafty mom or a field trip mom; I tend to focus more on foods and routines and traditions (because I like to find something that works and just do the same thing every year rather than reinvent the wheel).
Advent School Plan
After five years of homeschooling and trying everything from completely taking December off school to trying to keep full school days up until Christmas week, I now plan for a middle ground.
School, during the entire month of December, will be only a math review page (after all, no time is wasted which is spent in review), Circle Time, and free reading (for everyone! Myself, included!). We’ll still do 3 Elementary Lessons days, which is known around here as “Fun School.” All month we only have one writing class and one speech class, so our days will be more freed up for projects and reading.
Here’s my plan for our Advent Circle Time
- Recite Luke 2, twice daily. This is a tradition I am carrying on. My mom had my brother and I memorize Luke 2 simply by practicing it a few times daily every December. Within a couple years, we had it memorized, and we reviewed every December. I have been following that same pattern for a few years now, and my oldest two are very close to having it memorized.
- Do a Jesse Tree devotional. We’ve done several different Jesse Tree devotional plans over the years. This year, I finally committed to an ornament I liked and ordered the pattern from NavyMango. I have barely begun the stitching, but even if they aren’t all done this year, we still have over 10 years of family Jesse Tree devotionals ahead of us, Lord willing!
- Sing two Christmas carols. Probably we’ll do one before and one after the Jesse Tree devotional. I’ll let the kids take turns picking favorites.
- Read aloud Dicken’s Christmas Carol. I’ll use my Audible version, and we’ll listen to The Christmas Carol while coloring or drawing, at least a couple times a week until we finish the book.
- Listen to The Messiah. In the mornings, we’ll listen to The Messiah as we do our chores or later, while we play and work on projects.
- On the first Sunday in advent, we pull out the Christmas decorations, set up and decorate our [real] Christmas tree, invite friends over for cider and popcorn, and exchange all non-Christmas music and picture books for exclusively Christmas music and picture books. One new Christmas picture book will be wrapped and waiting on the breakfast table.
- Every year my friend and I make an advent calendar garland, with a little paper packet filled with a peppermint for each child, one packet for each day in advent, to be opened and consumed after dinner.
- This year the kids will be in our church’s Sunday School Christmas play, which will simply be a pageant acted out to children reciting sections of the Christmas story from the gospels and singing the appropriate carol. I’m helping with Sunday School this year, so I’ll also be helping with kid management and logistics during practices.
- We’ll do an advent-specific family devotional after dinner, but we still haven’t picked what that will be. Last year we used Cindy’s 25 Days of the Messiah – that was great! We’ll light the advent wreath while we do them and blow them out after the advent calendar candy is consumed.
- At some point in the month, the kids will do extra chores to receive some extra spending money (plus a Christmas bonus) and then go one by one with me to WalMart to get their siblings Christmas presents, which they then also wrap themselves. That day is a long day, and Ilse I only take straight to the candy bar display at the cash register and have her pick one for each person on her list.
This last year I’ve started making cinnamon rolls on Saturday for Sunday’s breakfast, to help make Sunday a little bit of a mini-holiday (they’re whole wheat cinnamon rolls so we don’t get sugar crashes during church), so an idea I had for this year was to make advent Sundays a little extra-special by doing something different. Some recipes I’m looking at are
This year I’ll try a few different recipes, maybe even on weekdays if I feel like it (or maybe make a midmorning-tea treat), and if one is a hit, I’ll add it to my traditions list. Let me know if you have any favorite holiday breads!
- The kids will make sugar cookies, from creaming the butter to frosting and sprinkling.
- My friend and I will swap a craft day or split a younger/older craft day, but we’re still looking into options.
- They’ll dip pretzels into almond bark and sprinkle with sprinkles, then bag up for their friends and aunts and uncles.
- This year I want to finally do cute gift tags instead of the tacky cheap stickers I have done in years past. This year, presents will be all brown paper and string and a cute gift tag and topper. I’ve been dreaming of doing it this way for 2-3 years, and it’s finally time. I think I’ll just do a basic gift tag with a snowflake hole-punch. The kids can punch a snowflake punch for me. And maybe I’ll even get wild and crazy and put a dab of glitter glue at the edges.
It is the little things that the kids look forward to. It doesn’t have to be elaborate to make it special.
For more ideas for celebrating advent, visit Pam at Everyday Snapshot‘s Living Liturgy Advent link-up today!
Sometimes I feel silly working on yet another plan, another schedule, even if it’s not one where I’m scheduling every half hour of everyone’s day.
But, I keep coming back to it.
I mentioned my feeling silly about it to my husband, who shrugged, “I thought it was your hobby.” Well, yes, actually, it is. And, generally, I think it’s been a hobby that has benefited myself and my family.
But whether or not it benefits myself and my family has less to do with the plan and more to do with my attitude as I implement it. If my plan is a managing tool that I can wield skillfully, then it is a good thing. If my plan is a taskmaster, wielding me, then I go splat against the realities of a life lived alongside many other little people.
So, here’s my strategy this week for wielding my schedule instead of it wielding me: I will laugh at it. I will laugh at life. I will laugh at myself. And I will do it while not giving up or giving in. I will laugh while rolling up my sleeves. I will laugh while falling on my face. It is all good, because it is all made good by God.
It might take until the next day before I’m laughing about it, but here goes.
Having and executing a plan makes me pretty happy.
Here’s my little morning laundry helper. Previously, the kitchen laundry to fold would pile and pile up in a basket until it absolutely had to be done. Now, we’ve had a little chore-responsibility-switcheroo, and Ilse is now folding the kitchen laundry every morning. This also has removed my barrier to putting cloth napkins at the table for dinner. Now, cloth napkins for the win: because my 5 year old can and will fold them!
And, then, I come around the corner to see this again:
I do just put them back in the drawer and call it good, you know. That is the only sensible option, right?
Having and executing a plan has a funny way of making the day seem both longer and shorter.
Above is my lunch “break,” where I took a big, deep breath and corrected math and Latin in a timely fashion instead of getting lost in a book.
Making a plan that takes into account the actual (limited!) hours in a day is a good exercise, even if it’s never implemented completely. The week, chunked into waking hours, is a lot of time. And also, a day is not as much time as we might think the night or week before. I don’t actually have enough time in one day to give as much time to every responsibility as I would like. But on the other hand, when there’s a plan, I can give more time than I would otherwise to those things that are easy to ignore and shove to the back burner (like, oh, teaching a 5-year-old to read and cleaning the bathroom that three boys and guests use daily).
Having and executing a plan doesn’t harness real life and end unpredictability.
I’ve tried and I’ve tried, and now I think it’s finally sunk in that there is no magical set-up where my home, my kids, and myself will hum along on autopilot, without any real effort being expended.
When I was a newer, younger mom, I clung to the Charlotte Mason quote about securing “smooth and easy days.” Now, certainly a plan and good habits do greatly reduce friction. However, habits are no magic bullets that remove our sin, our messing up, and our need for repentance. There is no system and no habit and no routine – if the Lord is gracious to us – that covers over our weakness and brokenness. We grow in strength and endurance, but we never outgrow our need for grace and forgiveness, no matter how perfect our plan.
Having and executing a plan does help me become a better steward of the real life God sends my way.
Yes, still, having that plan and those habits does reduce friction, and I’ll be happy with a reduction in friction even if I can’t have a total elimination of it. I will be happy with a floor that gets swept once a day, even if you wouldn’t guess it was ever swept at lunchtime. I will be happy with books on every surface and books never put away correctly. I will be happy putting yet another meal on the table, every morning, noon, and night. And it will not be because I’m doing it so well, but because this is the path of sanctification I am on: being brought over and over again to see how inadequate I am so that I can look to the One Who is All-Sufficient.
It is not so much the plan as my attitude: pretty satisfied, a contented sort of happy, enough sense of humor to call life funny rather than frustrating, and real presence of mind to respond with faith and obedience when real life doesn’t go as planned.
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, ESV)