“It is so exhausting- sometimes even demoralizing- to realize that our work in raising up and teaching our children is never really done. But we must remember that we were never intended to finish it.”
Every once in awhile, a book comes along that so completely and fundamentally alters your thinking, you feel as if the entire trajectory of your life is changed. Sarah MacKenzie’s Teaching From Rest: A Homeschoolers Guide To Unshakable Peace was that kind of paradigm shift for me.
I first read this little gem last November, when I was in the midst of my first official year of homeschooling. The truth is, I had been vacillating for some time between two very different philosophies of education. After four years of teacher training in college and subsequent years of researching educational philosophy, I could not decide if I was going to ascribe to a rigorous style of Classical Christian education, or if it better served my children to let them follow a delight-directed path (i.e. unschooling). Both philosophies resonated with me and, yet, both still led to reservations. The result was a homeschooling mother who went from weeks of strict, structured adherence to lesson plans, to other weeks of completely throwing the lesson plans out the window and following the whims of my six-year-old son. In other words, I could not find my footing in the world for which I had been preparing for YEARS. And, although I told no one, I was in a state of constant anxiety.
When two of my co-moderators at the Potato Peel Pie Society and I picked up Teaching From Rest one weekend and read it together, I knew that what I was reading was life-changing. MacKenzie writes from her own experience, and the personal tone really makes you feel as if you are sitting down and having a conversation with a very wise friend.
“As homeschooling moms, we are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. If we choose the good portion, it will not be taken from us.”
MacKenzie explains how she learned to choose the “good portion” when she began to understand and heed the words she heard from Andrew Kern of the CiRCE Institute: “The most important thing a homeschooling mother can do is teach from a state of rest.” At the time, she was pregnant with twins, had a toddler and three older children. Rest and peace seemed to be elusive goals for her, just like they were for me. And yet, by leaning into the Holy Spirit and honing and trusting her instincts, MacKenzie learned how to rest and focus on the cultivation of wisdom, virtue, and eloquence in her children, instead of worrying about completing the curriculum by year’s end.
In fact, MacKenzie explains, curriculum isn’t something that you buy at all. “[Curriculum is] something we teach. Something we embody. Something we love. It’s the form and content of our children’s learning experiences.” It was MacKenzie’s explanation of the traditional understanding of curriculum and the ancient aim of education that was the “a-ha” moment for me. Homeschool resources are our servants, not our masters. And they assist us in the cultivation of wisdom and virtue and help us as we labor to rightly order our children’s loves.
Over the course of this short but powerful book, MacKenzie takes us through the process of letting go of our expectations and anxiety. Although she begins by directing the readers to clarify their vision of home education, she does not advocate for any specific educational philosophy. Instead, she encourages us to lean into the promptings of the Holy Spirit and trust that it is our faithfulness that the Lord wants, not our results. “We are teaching people, not books,” she says. But, do not be deceived, the book isn’t without practical help. MacKenzie provides pages of sample schedules (including a detailed explanation and example of loop scheduling), practical ways to simplify the curriculum, ideas for how to make your homeschool plan work with a broad age range of children, and how to play up your natural strengths as a homeschooling parent. One of the tips that was most beneficial for me was how to use homeschool resources and curricula to serve the child you are teaching, instead of being a slave to it.
The freedom and peace that can be found by applying the tips found in Teaching From Rest is incalculable. My homeschool is now operating from a place of peace and rest, as opposed to bouncing back and forth between anxiety and negligence, and my boys and I are thriving. As a result of the inspiration and transformative power of this little book, my Potato Peel Pie Society co-moderators and I created a new Facebook group, Symposium at Parnassus, where we could encourage others to put into practice the paradigm-shifting philosophy that we had encountered in its pages. This is one that I will return to over and over again, for many years to come. It has become my number one recommended book for homeschoolers, and is a rich, rich resource for the entire homeschooling community.
A word about the “extras,” Teaching From Rest is available in several formats. The printed book is a gem entirely on it’s own but there are some valuable add-ons which can make a big difference in how easily these truths can be absorbed. A Teaching From Rest bundle may be your best option.
Companion Journal: The Companion Journal is a workbook for mom and dad – a place to play with the ideas of Teaching From Rest and make the principles relevant.
Audiobook: The audiobook is read by Sarah herself. Those of us who follow Sarah on Facebook know how expressive she is. The audiobook is a wonderful way to get TFR into our hearts on a walk or while doing housework.
Audio Companion: Exclusively available at Classical Academic Press, this audio add on contains several conversations that Sarah had with homeschooling experts about teaching from a state of rest. Included in the audio companion:
- Andrew Kern: Teach from a State of What?!
- Dr. Christopher Perrin: Scholé: Changing the Way We Think about School
- Brandy Vencel: Let’s Get Real: Mothering from a State of Rest
- Cindy Rollins: If I Knew Then What I Know Now