For many teachers, it is the time of year to prepare for a new academic year, or at least to start thinking about the preparation.
This will be my sixth year of teaching my children at home with the support of Ambleside. I have a routine of sorts when I approach my yearly planning, beginning with determining the classes for the next year, ordering inventory, planning a workable schedule, etc. But similar to the difference between planning a meditative time with God and actually communing with Him, I am aware of the difference between planning a year with well-appointed academic accessories and a year of actual growth: one does not inevitably lead to the other. My brain needs to be reminded of this. By personality, upbringing, positive reinforcements, whatever the case may be, my brain focuses on the planning as if the plan will ensure the desired outcome. All the while the quiet voice of my spirit powerfully testifies against the plan’s assertion of supremacy. My spirit knows, if not intuitively, certainly experientially, that growth this next year will occur because of the Spirit’s communing with us, not because of my well-appointed academic accessories.
"Red-tail Hawk in Flight" by Angie Vogel
As I write, I hear the call of a red-tailed hawk. (Perhaps it is the juvenile red-tailed hawk that found its way into our home a few weeks ago, and we successfully ushered back outside. We have discovered its nest, and we hear its parents every morning.) A few weeks ago, we learned in science that hawks have only one mate for its life. Soon after we learned this relational characteristic of these magnificent birds, I came across Isaiah 34:15-16:
There the owl nests and lays and hatches and gathers her young in her shadow; indeed, there the hawks are gathered, each one with her mate. Seek and read from the book of the LORD: Not one of these shall be missing; none shall be without her mate. For the mouth of the LORD has commanded, and his Spirit has gathered them.
I brought this verse before my students and we discussed the idea that God has ordered His world in such as way as to testify to the certainty of His word and plans. God’s word can be counted upon just as assuredly as the fact that the hawk will not be without his mate. We shared a refreshing moment of awe in God. One that I did not plan.
When I began my school planning last year, could I have planned the Spirit’s striking instruction of us through His creation and word at just the right point in our science studies? Could I have planned the many other times of direct inspiration where the Spirit breathed truth into our inner persons during our school day? Of course not. So am I to stop planning and see what happens? No. As Charlotte Mason says, “…we do not always make enough of the fact that Divine grace is exerted on the lines of enlightened human effort; that the parent, for instance, who takes the trouble to understand what he is about in educating his child, deserves, and assuredly gets, support from above…” (For the full context, see: http://www.amblesideschools.com/manual/Charlotte-Mason/part-iii-habit-te...) But as I plan this next year, I am choosing to give voice to my spirit that says to rest in the Spirit, not the plan.
Image: Angie Vogel, Red-tail hawk in flight, 2013.