If you are starting out homeschooling with a bright-eyed little 5-year-old – a toddler tagging along and another on the way – you eat up the stories of those ahead of you on the journey. What curriculum do you use? What is most important in a homeschool day? What should I be doing? How do you homeschool and do laundry and put meals on the table?
When I was in that spot 8 years ago, I had my mom who had homeschooled 7. I also had other local older moms who let me browse their bookshelves and ask them questions. And then on my computer screen, I had Cindy Rollins, whose ninth child at the time was in elementary school, only a couple years ahead of my oldest. She was about to graduate her oldest, and she was funny and smart and real.
A couple years ago she took down most of her blog – blogging (and having archives) about your kids after they are adults is a tricky business – but her essential Morning Time posts are still available. She also occasionally writes for CIRCE, and is the cohost of their podcast, The Mason Jar.
And now she’s the author of a homeschooling and mothering memoir: Mere Motherhood. Order it now if you haven’t already.
In honor of the release of her new book, I wanted to share five ways that reading Cindy for all those years changed my life.
1. I read books – hard books – that I had never heard of before.
I might not have ever heard of these books if it had not been for Cindy Rollins. For a number of years she hosted or participated in book clubs for books she wanted more homeschooling moms to read.
Because of Cindy’s prodding, I read
- Norms & Nobility
- Poetic Knowledge
- Leisure, the Basis of Culture
- 10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child
- Towards a Philosophy of Education
- Desiring the Kingdom
In fact, were it not for Cindy, I would likely have persisted in my anti-CM ignorance. After all, Charlotte Mason lived in the 1800s, nothing good came from that century, so therefore she couldn’t be worth reading. That was my logic, but Cindy’s continual pairing of CM & classical, when neither the classical side nor the CM side would acknowledge the other, finally wore me down and I gave CM a shot. For that alone, I will be forever grateful.
Reading Norms & Nobility woke me up to the shallowness of my initial conception of classical education and gave me a new, richer vision for what education was supposed to be. Not only did I learned this book existed from Cindy, but my understanding of the book was aided by all those who participated in her online book club.
2. I saw that living life with lots of people was messy and beautiful.
Of course, I knew this from growing up as the oldest of seven myself, but at the time, in my early twenties, I was high on idealism, thinking I could figure out the way to do it Better. I was sorely tempted by the visions of everything-perfectly-in-order with color-coded schedules. I thought I could set things up so that everything just sailed along smoothly.
Cindy’s take always acknowledged that life unrolled not according to plan, and that was ok. It might be a muddle, but we can muddle through. What’s required is faithfulness, not perfection.
I remember the day Cindy included the line of poetry by T.S. Eliot:
“Dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.”
I read it. I read it again. I felt like I had been punched in the gut.
Systems so perfect that I wouldn’t need to be good was exactly what I was searching and working for. Ouch.
That convicting thought knocked me off my horse and it took while to figure out how to get up again, but I am so grateful for the blow.
3. I included poetry in our homeschool from the beginning, and I doubt it would have occurred to me without Cindy Rollins.
Cindy not infrequently quoted poetry in her posts and encouraged young moms to read poetry to their children. I purchased a number of children’s poetry books based on her recommendations. I am not sure the thought of memorizing poetry would have occurred to me. It appealed to my young, English-major self – it seemed like the sort of thing that I ought to include, since I was an English major and all that
So we read poetry during “couch school.” We memorized poetry during Morning Time.
And our lives have been enriched because of it.
4. I started homeschooling with Morning Time and had the faith to hold on even when it was hard.
When I had a non-cooperative 8-year-old boy, a rambunctious toddler, and was so tired because I was pregnant, I really wanted to give up on Morning Time. It felt like a slog to get started. Sometimes it felt like a slog the whole way through. I felt like I was trying to corral a circus, not introducing anyone to anything true or good or beautiful.
We could have taken that year off and started back up the next year. But I’m so glad I held on. Holding on proved our priorities – to myself and to the kids. Singing & Scripture is actually more important even than math pages. And though there were terrible, horrible, no-good days, the good days were bright spots of surprise sprinkled throughout – and they made it all worth it.
When I heard a little voice singing Holy Holy Holy in a corner, I knew it was worth it. When the kids would use a word in conversation that I knew they picked up from our memory work, I knew it was worth it. When we had at least spent 30 meaningful minutes together, I could lay on the couch and count it all good.
Morning Time has been Cindy’s gift to us.
5. I “met” Brandy and Dawn in the comments of Cindy’s blog.
Cindy Rollins’ comments section could be a hopping place. Real conversation happened there. There was discussion. There was disagreement. There were embarrassing typos. I wrestled with ideas and sometimes was difficult. But the conversation remained kind yet meaty.
Through all that conversation, I made good friends. Brandy emailed me a question about 7-8 years ago, after a number of years of being comment companions at Ordo Amoris, and now a week hardly goes by where we don’t chat (thanks to voxer). We were finally able to meet in person last summer!
If I had a bucket list, one item on it would be meeting Dawn Garrett in person, also, another compatriot from those early days.
We’ve learned and grown a lot over the years, and Cindy helped us stay on the right trajectory.
Thank you, Cindy, for putting yourself out there for us young moms. It made a difference.
Ladies, get your hands on Cindy’s book. It will both comfort and challenge you.