I love ideas. I love the excitement that floods me when my eyes are opened to a new way of seeing the world, when I feel overwhelmed with a beautiful vision. Monday morning? Bring it on! I hit the floor running and ready to conquer our week. When I’m full of motivation, I can climb mountains and plant a flag for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
But then, life isn’t always like that, is it? Some days Monday feels like... well, a Monday. Rolling out of bed is only accomplished through a mixture of habit, defiance, and bone-deep desperation for that first cup of coffee. The past few Mondays, I have stood at the head of the week, and looking forward made me feel more exhausted than excited. I wrote to a friend that I feel like all I can do is to keep moving forward and trust that something is going to light a fire.
Where is your heart today? Do your lesson plans look more like a roadmap to wonder or a list of drudgeries? What is a homeschool parent to do on a dreary October day, when the lesson plans stretch far past the motivation?
Forget motivation. It’s fickle and unreliable and it isn’t worth your time.
Better to cultivate discipline than to rely on motivation...
Motivation is fleeting and it’s easy to rely on because it requires no concentrated effort to get. Motivation comes to you; you don’t even have to chase after it.
Discipline is reliable; motivation is fleeting. The question isn’t how to keep yourself motivated. It’s how to train yourself to work without it.
~ theangryviolinist on tumblr.com
Charlotte Mason, of course, calls discipline “habit.” In Volume 1 alone, she writes well over 100 pages about habits―what they do, how they form and change, and how to use them as a lever to lift our children up. Habit training is one of the three pillars of a Charlotte Mason education. Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life. The beauty of this (in fact, of all of Miss Mason’s educational principles) is that it works just as well on us parents as it does on our children.
Don’t misunderstand me, motivation matters if we define it as "why we do what we do." We must have a vision for the future and we need a plan to get there. That vision is inspired by the Bible, books, other parents, and quality teachers. In my home, as in many others, Charlotte Mason has inspired a beautiful vision for education, life, and my own soul. However, inspiration itself goes nowhere until we give it feet. We need truth to guide us, but once we have those truths, we have to live them out. I think where I have gone wrong―and maybe you have, too?―is to equate motivation with the feeling of wanting to do something and then to believe that I have to feel motivated if I’m going to do the right thing. It isn’t true. We can work without a feeling of motivation, but we have to fill in the gap with discipline.
This is actually good news! Today, weary parent, you can rejoice knowing that you don’t have to feel anything in particular. This morning you can choose to get up, show up in your school room, smile at your kids, and begin your day. Don’t waste your time chasing after a feeling. Remind yourself of the truths that you know, and then choose to do the next right thing.
Find your homeschool plans. Are there things that you have allowed to drop off? Pull out those art prints, and maybe even some watercolors or pastels so that you and your kids can experiment in a certain style. My kids still talk about the time they drew their own versions of Renoir’s Girl With a Watering Can with sidewalk chalk. Play that classical piece, hand everyone some colored pencils and a sheet of paper, and draw the way the music sounds. When was the last time you and your kids went outside? Move your lessons to a blanket under the tree. Perhaps today’s math lesson would be a little easier for your resistant child if he chalked a number line on the sidewalk and jumped his sums.
Last week I discovered that sometimes nothing needs to change except my attitude. That day, the answer was as simple as pausing during an intense part of our read aloud, looking into my kids’ faces, and taking notice of their excitement. I find that when I feel weary, I paint everything in shades of grey, and I miss the kaleidoscope that is swirling around me. Don't miss this, friends, because it is beautiful. Pause and listen to your kids laughter. Take a few seconds to rest your hand on your son's shoulder and realize how much bigger and sturdier he has grown in the past few months. Look into your daughter's eyes and offer a heartfelt “well-done.” Pray for strength, yes, but move forward to meet it instead of waiting for it to arrive.
We are called to do our duty because it is the right thing to do, but it goes deeper than that. God has filled our world up with Good, True, and Beautiful things. Education is the process of encountering those things, learning to respond rightly to them, and being changed. When we do the next right thing, we build good habits and strengthen ourselves so that it’s easier to choose rightly next time, but there is more to it. When we do what we ought, we position ourselves and our children in the right place to have those transformational experiences. Education is its own reward, but we have to show up for it. We have to open our eyes so that we don’t miss those encounters―the tiny ones as well as the “important” ones.
This morning, take a deep breath, my friends. If you are excited and ready to burst into your week, enjoy it! If you are weary and overwhelmed, take heart. God has called us to a huge task, but He hasn’t left us to do it in our own strength. Hold on to what you already know to be true, get dressed, and show up for your kids and yourself this morning. Position yourself to receive His blessings, look for good things today, and trust that you will be changed.