It started with oatmeal and a way to remember that it was Tuesday. A few weeks into home education of Spring 2020, we were experiencing the Groundhog Day strangeness of each day feeling like the one before. Laundry day was no longer enough to keep the days from morphing into each other. Weekends together definitely lost their excitement. To help break up the week, Tuesdays became oatmeal day and I became an oatmeal-making guy.
I have had an embarrassingly low amount of experience in the kitchen, so making oatmeal that’s not in a package felt like quite the challenge. I had to search for measuring cups and spoons. I didn’t even know what type of oatmeal we kept in our house. After a few weeks of cooking up Tuesday Oatmeal, I was surprised to find that I remembered all of the measurements and could make it without looking up the recipe. Instead of feeling an energy drain from concentrating and double-checking my recipe, I started to enjoy the familiarity and ease of the process. Oatmeal became a sweet weekly lift. I felt glad to be making something. Not only was I watching the Great British Bake Off with my family, I was now mixing up something in the kitchen. Making waffles, oatmeal chocolate chip banana bread, and then pizza dough soon followed.
Waffles got me thinking about baking powder and banana bread got me working with lots of ingredients: my curiosity and confidence grew with each new recipe I mastered. Why does it make a difference when dry ingredients are mixed before wet ingredients are added? Why did that one batch of banana bread have such strange texture when all I did was change a small step in mixing? Why did all this dough stick to my hands when I thought I followed the recipe? What do I do when my gas oven has shut off multiple times and I keep having to start it with a lighter? How many times do I have to watch this Youtube video before I start taking my oven apart? How amazing am I that I just fixed my oven!?
The growth I experienced in the kitchen resembles the growth I’ve seen in my children. Our time at Ambleside has filled our home with the language of growth. Growth requires effort, involves struggle, and sometimes even tears. We have learned to try new things together, like 3D penning, drawing foxes and face painting. We are learning to take our mistakes in stride and know that our first attempt will lay the foundation for better work that will follow. We are learning that success takes steadfast work and many tries. We are learning that failure doesn’t need to feel defeating because we can grow through it.
The freedom that comes with a growth mindset is life giving. We aren’t defined by one moment or our latest success or failure. The pressure of the spotlight is taken off the one moment in which we live and we can encourage those around us to recognize their potential, not just their present. In our classrooms, this growth mindset enables students to keep pressing on with tasks that can feel impossible. Because we are all made in God’s image, we can do good work; we ought to do good work; we will do good work.
Mostly, I am learning the freedom I have in Christ to work through perfectionism, and to grow without perfection. I am learning more deeply that my identity is secure in Jesus and my Father’s love, rather than my most recent try. I am learning to try new things without fear of failure. I am learning that the joy of creating can be in the moment of creating, rather than evaluating the product or outcome. I am learning I like to make pizza, and I’ve got a long way to go before I’ve reached the perfect pie.