I recently had the opportunity to travel to many of the Classical Conversations communities in South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia. The privilege of seeing how CC has impacted mothers and children across Africa is something that is often difficult to explain to others.
Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love, and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.
The Heart of a Mother
No matter where I go, one thing that I find stands out is the heart of a mother for her children. There is just something about a mother knowing she has the ability and privilege to impact generations to come.
A mother who knows that serving in the smallness of her own home—who knows she can raise leaders that will impact the world—strikes me as one of the most powerful forces on earth, and every time, that scene moves me to tears.
The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.
—Henry Ward Beecher
We have all seen photos of Africa: some are magnificent and breathtaking, and some are just plain heartbreaking.
And when you step into the midst of this, you realize just how much some mothers sacrifice and how there are no worldly measures of how much they love their children.
Having the opportunity to offer their children a better education means more to these moms than can be described in words.
In the midst of having very little, something as precious as classical education is a currency of immeasurable value.
Homeschoolers in South Africa
It is easy to become very complacent in the comfort of our homes and even complain about the disruption of comfort.
In South Africa, we are experiencing rolling blackouts up to twelve hours a day.
Over the last ten years, this was a reality that ebbed and flowed, but for the last year, it has become a permanency. Moms plan meals, school times, shopping, driving, and so much more around the times they will have power or not. Just being able to print something, cook a meal, or charge a phone becomes a matter of timing it right. And more often than not, the outage schedule changes without prior notice, making it even harder to plan!
We often say that we have become resilient and can face anything, but lighthearted platitudes do not make it less stressful or difficult or, at times, just plain worth crying over.
I have seen how a mother’s heart becomes a child’s schoolroom in the midst of these times. Being faced with constant difficulties grows a mother’s character, her faith, and her ability to teach more than just the book in ways like no fancy schoolroom ever can.
Our kids are watching all the time, and this is true no matter where we live. We must choose what we teach in these times and what we model to our kids. Many families now use nighttime without power for family games, family read-alouds, and sharing stories.
In many ways, these challenges force us to go back to basics or stick in the sand, as CC calls it. We learn that it is not by the wealth of the materials we use that our children are educated well but by the love and wisdom a mom shares in the midst of difficulty and struggles.
Homeschoolers in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, we had a Practicum for the moms in the community I visited.
I remember there was one mom who traveled to Practicum by horse carriage, then in a baja, then by taxi—and she also walked part of the way. She made it to the Practicum on time and with a smile on her face, ready to serve the rest of us and lead us in worship.
I was moved to tears knowing what she had to go through to just meet us on that day and so many other days. It is difficult to comprehend the lengths some people must go through to join a community.
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. —Nelson Mandela
The reality is that in Africa, there are often times when even water and electricity become a luxury. For many, these are basic necessities, and we give them little thought. For others, these are luxuries. And all of this does impact how we see life and why and how we teach our kids to become better leaders for our communities and societies.
Read: “9 Reasons to Attend Practicum”
Homeschoolers in Kenya
In Kenya, I met with moms from different parts of Nairobi for our Practicum.
Though the circumstances were not quite as hard as in Ethiopia, these moms still face many challenges. However, the gratitude they share in being able to share in a community that offers a world-class education to their children cannot be transcribed by mere words.
There is a sense of community amongst those moms that can only be felt with your heart, and when you do, it fills you with deep, deep gratitude to God and all His mercies and grace towards us.
The Hands of a Mother
I came home from all my travels with my heart overflowing.
I left on these trips knowing I would go to offer them a CC practicum sharing tools, but I came home with lessons in having joy in the midst of extreme difficulty and knowing God is and stays our provider, no matter what. These lessons I carry with me, knowing that no matter what I face, gratitude and a mother’s love do make a world of difference.
And now, one thing I know for sure: no matter who you are and where you live, as mothers, we can and will change the world one CC community at a time.
And in the end, no matter where you live or what you have, when there are no worldly riches to give, it is in the joy being shared and the grace we can tangibly feel that truth is shared with words, beauty is seen through the eyes, and goodness is felt in the hands of a loving mother . . .
That best academy, a mother’s knee.
—James Russell Lowell