936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
“Ok,” My nine-year-old states emphatically to his two younger brothers, “the only rule is, there are no rules.” They stand at the bottom of a concrete staircase, readying themselves to climb the flight then race back down.
“Hold on a second,” I tell them, strapping their toddler sister into the stroller. We stand in a parking garage, preparing for a walk around the lake. The boys busy themselves with made-up games as they wait for us.
“So, if someone wants to jump off the top of the parking garage to the concrete below, they can?”
“No,” my son responds, his answer hanging in the air, waiting on a resolution. “Ok, the only rule is you cannot jump off.”
“If they want to roll down the concrete stairs, is that ok?” I press him further.
“No, not that either, you cannot roll down the stairs.”
“So,” I conclude, “not having rules doesn’t really work, does it?”
He agrees, then runs up the stairs for a head start in front of his brothers.
My children are growing up in a world of gray space, an arena lacking definitive lines. “There are no absolutes,” they’re told. “Everything is up to your own interpretation.”
And yet, in a child’s innocent way — the way they often pick up on inconsistencies quicker than we do — I think they know the world cannot operate in this way. I think, this year, they’ve seen it even more acutely… the disarray and chaos that comes from everyone making up their own rules, or deciding that there are none. So quickly this arena of flexible, soft-edged, relative rules leads them into a conversation of dissolvable truth… rather, that there is no truth. This is the Postmodern era our kids are spending their childhoods in. In her book Mama Bear Apologetics, Hillary Morgan Freeman explains, “The basic definition of truth is ‘that which corresponds to reality.’ In other words, truth is telling it like it is.”
Never have I found such an extreme example of this than when I take my kids outside. This year I became a certified master naturalist and certified interpretive guide. And yet, with this training in interpreting nature, I find I do not get to give it my own definitions. I can paint it in a million fitting words, and that I will do… but I don’t get to define it. The Creator already has. As my children spend copious amounts of time outdoors, what they discover amidst all the beauty is this: nature is absolute. It is definitive. They do not get to decide whether a rock is hard, or water is wet. They don’t get to declare the height of a mountain or length of a valley. It is already fixed. “He established the earth upon its foundations,” we read in Psalm 104, “So that it will not totter forever and ever… The mountains rose; the valleys sank down to the place which You established for them.” As our children take in the absolutes of nature, they reconnect the dots from creation to Creator. They take it one step further, even, tracing this concept back to their own makeup. If God so finely tuned nature with its boundaries, then He has designed life-giving boundaries for my life, also. He has a plan and purpose.
As our children learn to state a thing as it is, black and white lines form in their minds… boundary lines acting as guardrails and map markers, leading them into the abundant life God has designed for them with minute details, just as He designed nature to flourish.
In the Handbook of Nature Study, a renowned 1939 publication and foundational in naturalistic studies and among educators, we read, “Nature-study aids both in discernment and in expression of things as they are.”
Educator Charlotte Mason took this concept and turned it to a scene of outdoor play. She says of children spending time in nature, “This is all play to children, but the mother is doing invaluable work; she is training their powers of observation and expression … when they ask, ‘What is it?’ and ‘What is it for?’… she is training her children in truthful habits, by making them careful to see the fact and to state it exactly, without omission or exaggeration.”
Our society exhibits much omission and exaggeration, does it not? I want my children to practice seeing and stating a thing not as they wish it to be, but as it is. This is when they grow their muscle of discernment, gathering facts instead of opinions, and coming to a conclusion based in evidence.
When this exercise of acute observation has been taken to science, we find the concept of “fine-tuning.” For centuries scientists have discovered a universe so meticulously designed for life to be possible, and for that life — us as humans — to have the intellectual capacity to understand the sciences which point to a Creator… an intelligent mind behind it all. Of this fine-tuning, Melissa Cain Travis shares in her book Science and the Mind of the Maker the scientific and philosophical discoveries of past generations and writes, “Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Boyle were key players in the scientific revolution, and all five of them saw the attributes of the cosmos as indicators of a wise Creator in whose image we are made.” She also shares, “Features of the universe and our planetary home appear to be customized for the existence of intelligent creatures and scientific activity; it is as if we were meant to uncover the secrets of the world around us.”
I want my children to follow in the footsteps of our great scientists and philosophers, looking at all that has been made, stating it accurately as it is, and seeing the direct line it draws to an intelligent Creator. It all begins with outdoor play.
Taking lead from Charlotte Mason, I have practiced this with my children. When they come to me with a fuzzy explanation of a thing, I instruct them to go back and gather more detail. Bring those details to me, I tell them, then I will go and see what you are excited about. I place before them detailed resources, full of contours and crevices, books of nature study with ample detail. Most importantly, I let them spend unconfined time in nature, exploring at their leisure and spending however much time they need in front of a beautiful thing. As they do, I pray and trust they will “uncover the secrets of the world around us” and state those truths absolutely, without omission or exaggeration.
Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies by Hillary Morgan Ferrer
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!