I haven’t posted in almost a year — homeschool life is so full, and I feel connected in so many other ways, less in need of the online world. We started second grade material this January. And I can’t believe it! It just feels so right. Like it was meant to come to us right now. Homeschool mentors often say this about the Waldorf material — it comes just at the right time.
Second grade includes Saints. I have always sensed my daughter’s connection to the spiritual world — and she has brought it to me. So I feel some worry or sadness about her stepping forward, out of the dreamy childhood realm, to leave some of that connection behind. Learning about figures that could bridge that gap — historical or legendary figures in our world who could still reach the spiritual world — these stories could help ease the transition! I was totally on board for that, although Catholic saints are new to me, and I wasn’t sure how I would feel. As I read and learned more, I was intrigued. Long ago in my teens, a mentor had connected me with Brigid, so that was a natural place to start. But a conversation with my dear friend Raquel reminded me to look beyond the Waldorf classics, to educate myself about other religions. So I began to read!
I devoured books in the library, speed-reading and sneaking peeks when I could squeeze them in between daily tasks. I started with Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, especially Hasidism. I read and read, transported. As an American and a Jewish person, I felt especially called to educate myself about Islam, to unpack the stereotypes. I have been so moved by what I learn, so moved! The connections among us all, as brothers and sisters, are so profound! I found so many descriptions of all that we have in common, how our worlds fit together, all part of the same universe.
While I don’t know how much I am “understanding,” or really getting it “right,” I think often of the story of the simple-minded boy who attended services with the Baal-Shem Tov. The boy was so moved that he played on his flute, loudly and with all his heart, in a moment completely inappropriate by the standards of protocol. But the Baal-Shem recognized the heartfelt prayer that it was.
As I have worked with my daughter, telling stories of holy figures from various spiritual traditions, these stories are working their deep magic on us. As I have been told, the angels are interested in these stories, and they do come near! At times when I’ve been worrying about one of my children, after learning and thinking about this material, I’ve instead felt calm, as if surrounded by a fullness; I’ve felt accompanied, no longer alone. A feeling I remember from those long, dark nights of holding crying babies: suddenly, a presence that helped me to feel less alone and less afraid.
One day, during a week when we were learning about Islam, we were in the parking garage of the supermarket. My daughter said, “Look! There is a man doing his Islamic prayer.” And indeed, in a nook of the garage, in the middle of all the noise and bustle, was a man kneeling on his jacket on the floor, praying. I felt rush of feeling. In the middle of everything, prayer. Neither of us would have even taken notice, before.
We’ve started practicing more Jewish traditions, and they have brought more depth than I imagined. The angels are interested, and they come close, I guess! Shabbat and Havdalah, a seven-day rhythm; it fits. (Thanks to PJ Library for the instructions and the confidence!) One night, singing the blessing over the Shabbat candles, I suddenly felt a strength come into my voice, like I could hear my own voice singing for the first time.
Another day, when I felt my youngest was struggling and needed something just for him, to support him and hold him just right, I opened a book and the story practically fell into my hands.
Recently, we met another family in which the mom studies with a spiritual teacher. She was so ready to find us, and has begun teaching meditation and yoga with our group of little ones. Yesterday, I watched my littlest with his eyes closed and hands in a flower shape, held there for a long moment.
The Late Winter is so full of festivals, carrying us through this time of change, of holding onto hope when it seems the darkness will never pass! Here are ours.
And one of our main lesson drawings, Jalal al-Din Rumi:
And Anandamayi Ma, la Madre del Mundo: