Last week I had the immense privilege of attending the CiRCE National Conference in Charleston, SC. It was an incredible week, and one of the main highlights of the conference was watching homeschool mother Cindy Rollins accept the Russell Kirk Paideia Prize, given in honor of one who has dedicated a lifetime to the cultivation of wisdom and virtue. Most people know Cindy from her (now inactive) blog Ordo Amoris, or from her podcast on the CiRCE podcast network, “The Mason Jar.” She speaks primarily about how she used a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education in her homeschool, and she is frequently sought out for her wisdom and experience as a mother of nine grown children (8 boys and 1 girl).
In conjunction with the awarding of the Paideia Prize, CiRCE also released Cindy’s debut book entitled Mere Motherhood: Morning Times, Nursery Rhymes, and My Journey Toward Sanctification. At her book release and signing, where they recorded an episode of The Mason Jar, I was lucky enough to grab one of the first autographed copies. My roommates and I then met a few new mom friends in the hotel lobby. We all went back to our room and immediately began reading the book aloud together.
We each took turns reading, but it was hard to get through a page without laughing or getting teary-eyed. Cindy writes in a very conversational tone; you feel as if you are hearing her stories over a cup of coffee in her living room. And, Mere Motherhood is very much Cindy’s story. More memoir than mommy-manual, the book is filled with recollections of her children and her homeschool days. Full of grace and encouragement, she recounts both her successes and failures in a way that tells the beautiful story of her sanctification and God’s constant hand in her (and her children’s) lives. Our little reading group only made it through a couple of chapters because we kept stopping to exclaim how much we could relate to one of her stories, or to commiserate with her feelings about a particular aspect of motherhood. I had to finish the rest of the book after I returned home from the conference and I am so glad that I did because, by the end of the book, I was utterly sobbing. Cindy’s beautiful accounts of her fleeting time with her children and the impact that time had on them after they left home hit my mama-heart hard. I cried as I realized the influence that a mother truly has in the lives of her children. Sometimes, as a mom with a specific mission to raise little men who are followers of Christ and preserve the Christian Classical tradition, I feel as if I am spitting into a hurricane. But I must continue to daily cultivate a love of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the hearts of my little boys. In the end, it will matter.
Someone asked Cindy during the conference what is the one thing that a new homeschooling mom needed more than anything and Cindy answered, “Perspective.” And that is exactly the gift that she has given us through this beautiful book. She has run the course; she has finished the homeschooling race, and she writes as one looking back through all of her mistakes and victories and shares what mattered most. It is a beautiful love letter to her children and to the books that she read with them. As I closed the last page, I went and watched each of my three small boys sleeping soundly in his bed, and I vowed to take Cindy’s words of wisdom, encouragement, and warnings to heart. I felt a pang of melancholy as I realized that it will only be a brief moment—I will blink—and I will be in Cindy’s shoes. I do not want to squander even one second of the time that I have for this sacred work of motherhood.
This book is for the weary mama who needs to know that what she is doing really matters. This book is for the new mama, who is full of visions and ideals about life with this precious new little person. This book is for the mama who is trying to trust the Holy Spirit to guide her while the cacophony of “experts” sings in her ear. This book is for the mama poring over curriculum magazines, burdened by all of the choices at her disposal, praying to make the right choice. This book is for the lonely mama, whose children have already left the nest and is wondering “what’s next?”
Cindy talks frequently about the “long haul” of mothering and homeschooling, and I will be forever grateful to her for giving us this book to fuel us for the journey. It is a beautiful book of encouraging words that I know I will turn to again and again.