Being: Conscious, mortal existence; life.
Every month we welcome two families, two people, two voices to share their stories in whatever way they chose. We hope that you find joy in their daily lives, and their simple habit of just being.
Before I became a parent I thought having children was basically this—the long complicated process of teaching small people how to become grow ups. I had it completely and utterly backwards. Parenting, when done right, is a simple and beautiful process that reawakens the child inside a grownup. The magic behind this transformation is a curious one indeed.
Children are born curious creatures. Each child I have given birth to begins life by fixedly studying my face. They’re fascinated by the line where my dark hair meets my pale skin. I can see in their eyes as they study me that they’re not empty buckets, waiting for those with more intelligence to fill them up. They’re wise souls already. Curiosity glows and burns inside them with as strong a rhythm as their heart beat. They have no need for someone to pick apart their mental growth, to chart it, to compare it to all their peers, or verify its progress in order for them to learn to smile to crawl to walk and to talk. They learn as easily as they breathe.
All a child really needs to learn is simple. They need a stimulating environment and someone within that environment who loves them. Someone they can run to with their endless questions. Someone that will take the time to help them find answers. My oldest taught himself to read simply by asking questions.
Can I touch the sky if I reach high enough?
What is skin made of?
How does grass turn to milk inside a cow?
Why does the moon change?
I’m the human question collector. I have baskets full of them before we’ve finished breakfast. We spend our days finding answers for a few of those questions and searching for new things and people and places that inspire us to ask more. We follow all these threads of curiosity out into the great world. Connections and points of discovery loop and form these threads on the way. Yes diaper changes, missed naps, dinner burning, and mountains of laundry—all that day-to-day stuff—tangles things up. It’s not always an easy journey. But when I look back over the years I see a beautiful tapestry weaving in our trail. Call it homeschooling. Call it crazy. Call it anything you’d like. I’m not into labels. I don’t have to call what we do anything specific in order to believe in it.
Years ago I looked into my children’s eyes and saw that all they needed to learn was inside them already. I made the brave yet simple decision to trust that and protect it. Then I searched myself and found a small glimmer. It was a fragile hope that I could fill in the rest—create an environment to fan the flames of learning already burning in these little people. I didn’t fully trust myself in the beginning. But there was that glimmer. I gripped it. I inched forward. And then I ran with it.
This is when I first saw that glimmer. We were driving to our favorite spot up a local canyon while my husband and I discussed whether or not this kind of lifestyle was really possible for us. We had two small children screaming in the backseat. I was uncomfortably pregnant with number three. Putting learning on my to-do list with the toilet scrubbing and grocery shopping and everything else seemed impossible. I simply couldn’t handle one more thing.
Then I looked out the window. I saw as if in a dream me standing there in the juniper and brush and exploring with the kids. We were learning about how the plants and animals interacted just by being there and watching and asking questions about what we saw. It was a small but delicious slice presented of the kind of lifestyle I wanted. I felt that pang of hope.
This moment was forgotten until a few years later when our family, now with four children, was in that very spot. We were about to move and had come to say goodbye to this special place. We stepped out and went about things in what had become our peaceful, curious way. My oldest son was analyzing animal tracks. My daughter collected seeds from various plants and asked me to help her identify them. My middle son observed the moon’s cycle in the sky above us. I scanned the tree branches for nests. The baby crouched down to watch the bugs. It didn’t seem extra special at first. It was simply what had become a normal outing for us.
Just then I remembered my dream from years ago, and I was struck by the remarkable beauty of the moment before me. We had become that family I saw way back then. I stepped back, watching my children with hushed reverence. Then I reflected on our journey.
We had come far in a few years, yes. But the only real transformation had happened inside of me. I breathed in and said a quiet prayer of gratitude for the woman my children had helped me become. Learning with my children isn’t something added on my to-do list. I know that now. It’s the magic, the reward that all those to-dos are for. By following my children’s lead I have rekindled my own curiosity, dug it out from under twenty years of textbooks and teacher expectations. I’ve rediscovered that glowing, burning treasure that came into this world with me as a birthright. My natural curiosity, reawakened, has set me on the path of true parenting. My children educate me as I help guide them in their learning. It is a bright, beautiful circle.
Today is Arianne’s last post in the Being series, and it is hard to say goodbye. We have all been inspired and moved by her words and images, and we look forward to having her in the Rhythm of the Home community for a long time to come. We hope that you will continue to follow Arianne’s journey on her blog, Still Parenting.