You know what I’ve done during this pandemic? I can tell you what I didn’t do. I didn’t write a book, learn a new trade, renovate a house, become fluent in another language, or read Anna Karenina (I’m on page 77 of 963).
I didn’t do any of those impressive things “they” say you should have done during lockdown.
What I’ve done? I’ve read a lot of board books.
Last month, as Aveline was reading Phil James’ Preparing for Michaelmas aloud during morning time, the following sentence jumped out at me.
“Sometimes the war is fought in great battles,
but mostly it is fought in very small ones.”
Small ways like picking up a hundred scattered LEGO bricks. Small ways showing up to read a board book again for the hundredth time. Small ways like wiping off the highchair tray, helping with Chinese homework, biting your tongue when you want to answer in sarcasm, listening to an eager child talk about the four-color theorem, bending down to clean up a stepped-on blueberry, and starting dinner when you’d really rather read page 78 of Anna Karenina.
My friend @_bethanyhoover likes to say, “Homeschooling is my dissent.” I texted her today, between board books and cold coffee and mathematical bar models and she replied,
“It is not for me to marginalize
how much this will matter to God’s kingdom.”
Wipe up the floor under the table. Clean the toilet. Teach another math lesson. Tackle the hard stuff in history. Read another board book.
Zechariah 4:10 in the New Living Translation says,
“Do not despise these small beginnings,
for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”
If your homeschool is in a season of small people right now, then time spent holding chubby hands and reading board books is just as important as Shakespearean literary analysis.
Just as important.
It’s not as fancy to talk about. I don’t see webinars on it. It’s not a hot topic at homeschool conventions. Dropping a quote from a board book isn’t going to impress your homeschool Instafriends like a Cicero soundbite or a quotable from the Great Books.
But it’s much more likely to impress your toddler.
See, a child not “old enough” for formal lessons is still “old enough” to be a wholly complete person. Let’s meditate on that for a while —
A child not “old enough” for formal lessons is still “old enough” to be a wholly complete person. [Click to tweet this]
Personhood doesn’t begin once a child is old enough to stop disrupting your homeschool and join lessons instead; personhood already is on full display in this baby before you, a gloriously-made image-bearer of Christ.
And this particular image-bearer of Christ, Lochlan Ambrose, loves board books.
Who am I to say this does not matter?
Who am I to say this time spent reading a board book with Lochlan is less important than the time spent reading a chapter book with Aveline? Can I not do both, without minimizing the other? Board books matter greatly to him. He might interrupt the school day often — dozens of times daily — but these frequent interruptions do not change the fact he is a whole person, sent to us from the presence of God.
Charlotte Mason wrote,
We underestimate [children]…we confound the maturity of their frames, and their absolute ignorance as to the relations of things, with spiritual impotence: whereas the fact probably is, that never is intellectual power so keen, the moral sense so strong, spiritual perception so piercing, as in those days of childhood which we regard with a supercilious, if kindly, smile.”
What if, in showing up to serve the littlest among us, we ourselves receive a blessing? What if these smallest students have just as much to teach us as we have to teach them? What if we stopped viewing babies and toddlers as interrupting the other students, and instead as students themselves?
This post isn’t about curriculum for babies, it’s about personhood. It’s about not despising the days of small beginnings, the small interruptions, and the small ways we can love the smallest family members. It’s about showing up, day after day, to fold the laundry, chop the vegetables, and teach another math lesson, and read another board book.
Board books matter, because the tiny people in our homes who love board books matter. [Click to Tweet This]
Because they are no less persons than the people who are old enough, or capable enough, to be officially enrolled in your homeschool. Because they are no less important than the children you need to buy curriculum for. Because they matter.
Cheryl Swope tenderly and powerfully wrote,
“Whether you teach a child to write a zero, to say ‘thank you’, to parse a Latin sentence, or to simply know that God loves him, you are doing more than educating that child. You are continuing the longstanding, important work of affirming his humanity.”
So pick up a board book. Fight the great battles. Do not stop to marginalize how much it will matter to the kingdom of God.
Be faithful, be obedient — be rewarded.
This matters so much.