Here’s a little vintage wisdom that may help you have a positive start to the new school year during these challenging times. Please enjoy two unusual back to school quotes from an unlikely source.
As parents and teachers and students contemplate the beginning of another school year under the shadow of Covid, folks are literally taking things a minute at a time. The situation is once again rife with unknowns and anxiety-inducing choices. These are circumstances we never would have envisioned or chosen.
But others have faced difficult times in the past and made it through, even when their choices were limited by their circumstances. And often their words can be strangely comforting and visionary.
One such person was a Scottish tenant farmer named Thomas Mitchell. Born in 1870, he farmed the same plot of land that his ancestors had cultivated for nearly 100 years. Farming is a hard life under the best of circumstances, but a tenant farmer didn’t even have the security of owning the land he worked on every day. Instead, he paid rent once a year to the landowner, who profited from the tenant’s hard work.
Although of modest, humble circumstances financially, Thomas Mitchell was an avid reader and student of life. His book, Essays on Life, by Thomas Mitchell, Farmer speaks of a man who was at peace with his circumstances, who knew exactly what he could and could not control, and who sought to be the best version of a human being he could be.
After reading the book, I found myself thinking about the wisdom therein and how well it suits our present challenges. And although these back to school quotes are not specifically about school, you might be surprised to see how they apply to life in our day and the start of a new school year.
For example, Mitchell knew how powerful an effect our words can have on the well-being of those around us. This is a topic I’ve written about before (Does Word Choice Matter, Helping Children With Learning Differences), but his words really struck home when I read them.
Mitchell observes, “A kind word in season may be spoken. A word of praise, where praise is deserved. We are all very sparing of praise, but there is more danger of hurting another by withholding it, than of injuring him by bestowing it. A word of encouragement in times of failure and disappointment; a word of hope to one who is in the depths of darkness or despair; a merry smile, a jocular remark, even a clasp of the hand, go a long way in cheering the heart or lightening the burden of others when they are in need of sympathy and cheer. They are helped and strengthened much in this way.”
Whether our children are struggling readers, are behind in their schoolwork for other reasons, or are simply feeling overwhelmed, they will benefit from our words praising their efforts and our patient inquiry about what they are feeling and experiencing. A child most needs to feel seen, heard, and understood when they are overwhelmed, and a loving parent, grandparent, or caregiver can make themselves available to partner with a child during their struggles and to help them find their way.
I found a second piece of wisdom which can also be a source for timely back to school quotes. Mitchell writes, “One of the best secrets of a happy life is the art of extracting comfort and sweetness from every circumstance. . .People are always looking for happiness at some future time and in some new thing, or some new set of circumstances, in possession of which they someday expect to find themselves. But the fact is, if happiness is not found now, where we are, and as we are, there is little chance of it ever being found. There is a great deal more happiness around us day by day than we have the sense or power to seek and find. If we are to cultivate the art of living, we should cultivate the art of extracting sweetness and comfort out of everything, as the bee goes from flower to flower in search of honey.”
Following this advice, what sweetness and comfort can we extract from our current circumstances? We might feel we have to look hard to find any positive aspects, but they are there. Have we grown as people during these last seventeen months? Have we had more time to spend together as a family? Have we gone outside our comfort zone to accomplish some type of home or virtual schooling, remote job assignments, or other things required by our circumstances? Have we rediscovered simpler pleasures like working puzzles, playing board games, or playing instruments with family and friends? Have we read great books together as a family or as individuals? Have we parents been able to observe aspects of our child’s learning style or learning challenge that we would have never seen without such close involvement? All these things and more can offer meaning to the pandemic experiences we’ve had, but only if we take the time to notice them.
Whatever your choices for your child this school year, I hope that you make moments of kindness, love, encouragement, and fun together. I hope you enjoyed these two back to school quotes from Thomas Mitchell.
A Great Kid’s Chapter Book Series to Start the New School Year
If you’re looking for a series of exciting adventure books that appeal to reluctant readers, check out the award-winning Sir Kaye the Boy Knight chapter book series. The Sir Kaye series for kids by Don M. Winn has everything—action, medieval adventure, excitement, mystery, knights, friendship, chivalry, kid heroes, and plenty of humor and fun. Written for independent readers, but also ideal for shared reading, this compelling series is sure to attract even the most reluctant young reader. Also available as audiobooks.
Cardboard Box Adventures picture books are great for shared reading and can help parents establish a strong preliteracy foundation for their children. Check out the CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators. Visit my Amazon author page for more information.