On Teaching From a State of Rest

Nov 15, 2013

We've all heard Andrew Kern say it before, right? In order to educate a child well, we must teach from a state of rest. When I first heard him say that, I thought the idea was laughable.

Mr. Kern, I thought, I have a passel of children. At this very minute there is dinner to cook, laundry spilling into the hallway, the toddler getting into the bathroom cupboards (again), one child having a meltdown over handwriting, another making paper dolls instead of doing math, and a third shooting nerf darts at my head. All this and I got five hours of (interrupted) sleep last night because the baby has an ear infection. What exactly is this rest you speak of?

But see, I didn't understand what he meant by "rest." He didn't mean, "Teach your calm children in a calm manner on a calm afternoon." He didn't even mean, "teach on a full night's sleep." (Thank goodness!) He meant that we ought to enter into God's rest and then serve Him wholeheartedly- not out of anxiety, but out of love and trust.

In the book of Philippians we are told to be anxious over nothing, and yet we are anxious over everything. We worry that our students will be "behind", that they won't score well on the SAT, get into a good college, or read enough of the Great Books. Our souls are restless, anxiously wondering if something else out there might be just a little bit better- if maybe there is another way or another curriculum that might prove to be superior to what we are doing now.

We choose anxiety as our guide, instead of humbly submitting to God and letting Him guide us. But God is good! He isn't going to let us pour out our hearts for our students only to be left choking on the dust of our mistakes.

God doesn't call us to this work and then turn away to tend to other, more important matters. He promises to stay with us. To lead us. To carry us. He assures us that if we rely on Him alone, then He will provide all that we need.

What that means on a practical level is that we have to stop fretting over every little detail. We need to stop comparing. We've got to drop the self-inflated view that we are the be-all-end-all of whether the education we are offering our students is going to be as successful as we hope it is. After all, our job is not to be successful- success itself is entirely beside the point. It's faithfulness that He wants.

How do we enter into His rest? We fall to our knees in prayer; we listen. We let go of comparisons that serve only to distract us from our real job: seeking God and raising up students to do the same.

Do we really think we need the perfect math curriculum? The best line-up of books we can find? We think God needs that to work through us? Because I'm pretty sure if we just offer up our simple best and do it without fretting or becoming anxious over many things, then God can bless that a thousand-fold. And I believe He will.

Of course we are going to research curriculum. We are going to assess our students and note their progress. Of course we are going to think carefully about how we go about this incredibly important task of raising our students up to love truth, goodness, and beauty. God does indeed want our all as we take on this supremely high task to which we have been called.

But there is a significant difference between crafting an education based on comparisons and standards (standards created, no doubt, by those who have never met our individual students and have no way of knowing what those standards ought to be), and prayerfully considering a few most important things, based on the heart of God and our intent to raise up men and women who know, love, and serve Him.

As we march on through the year, can we seek Him first? Can we live and teach from a state of rest? My prayer is that we will. But we must approach the Holy Spirit every single day, asking Him to lead us and to quiet our anxious souls so that we can really bless our children- not with a shiny curriculum or perfect lesson plans, but rather with purposeful, restful spirits.

I pray that we will spend each day loving God by loving them. And that, my friends, will make us the teachers we have been called to become.

Sarah Mackenzie

Sarah Mackenzie

Sarah Mackenzie is a smitten wife, a homeschooling mama of six (including twins!), and the author of Teaching from Rest: a Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace. She writes about books, babies, and heaps of grace at Amongst Lovely Things and serves as Editor-in-Chief at Scholé Sisters, a community for mothers committed to modeling delight, nurturing minds, and ordering loves.