For this Paideia Conversation, Jenn Discher from Paideia Southeast joins Melissa Cummings from Paideia Northwest to dialogue with today’s guest, Mystie Winckler. Protecting family margin on the calendar, prioritizing Lord’s Day rest & fellowship, and picking soul-filling books like God in the Dock by C.S. Lewis are some practical ways Mystie encourages us to pursue godly paideia as well as rest… and don’t overlook her tips of quieting the mind by learning how to nap and honing the skill of brain dumping!
Links to Resources
Melissa: joining me today for this paideia conversation is my cohost Jenn Discher from Paideia Southeast, and our guest today is Mystie Winckler. We invite you into this conversation with us as we continue to practice, pursue, and implement paideia.
It’s so much fun, yeah, to sit on opposite sides of the country – you’re in your basement, I’m in my closet, and we can come together and just chat about things like creating a culture for our children…
Melissa: to further the Kingdom of God, and ask His blessing on it. It’s so great!
Melissa: so, this, Every Moment Holy is something that both Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast, and our respective people, have loved and used and recommended; and I just want to read a little bit from A Liturgy to Begin a Purposeful Gather. And, dare I say, a Purposeful Conversation.
“So we are gathered here, uniquely in all of history, we particular people in this singular time and multiple place, accomplish Your purposes among us, O God. Tune our hearts to the voice of Your Spirit, wake us to be present to You and to one another for in these showered moments we are given You, O Lord. You have gathered us from our various places and You alone know our hearts and our needs. O Father, enlarge our hearts, O Spirit, expand our vision, O Christ, establish Your Kingdom among us. Be at work, even now, O Lord, and may Your will in us be accomplished. Amen.”
So as we continue our chatting about paideia across the country and with a variety of different events and things coming up, I know Paideia Southeast has had one event recently. What did you call that?
Jenn: yeah, we called it a Moms’ Encouragement Night.
Melissa: Moms’ Encouragement Night. Yeah, so that was a panel and fellowship and sort of your introductory event. And now in another couple weeks you have another event, a nature walk, right?
Jenn: yes, yes! It’s a… we’re calling it a Moms’ Enrichment Day. It’s a, it’s a nature walk at a local botanical garden.
Jenn: and so there will be some nature journaling, kind of time for personal reflection, connection, fellowship, and then a lunch afterwards.
Melissa: yeah. Think I can, you know, just, be a fly on that wall maybe?
Jenn: yeah, we would love that. [laughter]
Melissa: so on this side of the country, we’ve got the Paideia Northwest conference coming up very soon, so today we get to have one of our speakers join us for our conversation here about paideia and about rest, which is the theme of the upcoming conference. Jenn, do you want to just sort of tell Mystie what we are up to, what we are doing?
Jenn: yes! So we are just chatting, Mystie, about the concept of paideia, being representatives of Paideia Southeast and Paideia Northwest. And then we’re also gonna chat a little bit about the topic of the upcoming Paideia Northwest conference being rest.
Melissa: so I’m Melissa Cummings from Paideia Northwest up in northeastern Washington, and I’m here today with my friend Jenn Discher. Tell us where you’re from.
Jenn: I’m from north Georgia, north of Atlanta.
Melissa: and you are with Paideia Southeast.
Melissa: yeah, so we’ve got one from each coast today, which is fantastic. And we are welcoming our friend Mystie Winckler, who is going to be speaking at the upcoming Paideia Northwest conference in just a couple of weeks. So, Mystie, thank you for taking the time to join us.
Mystie: thank you for inviting me.
Melissa: yeah. Jenn, do you want to go ahead and ask Mystie to tell us about who she is and what she does?
Jenn: yes, Mystie. Please do. Tell us a little about who you are and what you do.
Mystie: well, my husband and I have been married for twenty years this year. We had our twentieth anniversary. And we are in eastern Washington state in the Tri-Cities, and we both were homeschooled from the very beginning. So when it was very uncool, or even just very unknown. And then my husband and I both did dual enrollment at the community college which is about the age that we met each other in early high school. And we got married at nineteen, and now we have five kids. And our oldest is about the age that we were when we, like, were interested in one another. So that’s weird. So I have an eighteen year old, a sixteen year old, an eleven year old… um, I skipped the thirteen year old, and an eight year old. So we’re kind of in those older grades now, but they have all been homeschooled from the beginning. My oldest graduated last year with his AA from the community college, and my son is currently in that program, my second son is in that program. So I’m really only homeschooling three actively every day, but we’re in a different phase of life now. It’s a little bit strange.
Jenn: and tell us, you also, you work with, out… beyond homeschooling… Scholé Sisters.
Mystie: yes. So I am a cohost of Scholé Sisters which is a podcast and an online community for classical homeschooling moms. And then I also have my own blog and podcast and online, like, mentorship type community for homemakers. For Christian homemakers to overcome overwhelm and perfectionism and establish habits in their homes.
Jenn: I’m glad you mentioned that. I’ve been blessed by your work in all of those areas over the years, so I’m very glad you are doing all those things. To bring it back to paideia, there’s this idea, and it comes from a chapter in Ephesians in the Bible where Paul is talking to the Ephesian church, and he’s telling parents, specifically fathers in that passage, to raise their children in the paideia of God. Melissa and I have been talking about this a lot lately, we’ve been talking with other folks about this… what does this concept of paideia mean to you? How would you explain that to someone?
Mystie: well, one of the things that I love about the concept of paideia and the word and then how it’s used in Ephesians is that it was a known word to the Greek and Roman culture of the time. It would have been their word for education. You can look back through some of those classical education sources and they talk about education being paideia, and they didn’t have the categories that we do today about education where it happens in a schoolroom during certain set hours. But their idea of education that they used the word paideia for meant your whole life, everything about the whole society and culture was shaping people to become the kinds of Greeks and Romans that they wanted to raise up. So it includes the kind of typical hours, sorts of activities and education but it includes, but it’s so much more than that as well. It’s really all the pieces of life and how everything goes in to shaping our children’s loves and their desires and raising them up in that nurture and admonition of the Lord, is how it’s usually translated about where we can take this… they would have called it, enculturation could also be a translation of it. So becoming a part of a culture, and the culture that we’re supposed to be passing on to our children is the culture of the Lord.
Jenn: mhmm. I love that. It’s very holistic. I think when I finally got a handle on it… which, I mean, I don’t know that I’ll ever fully get a handle on it. But when I really started to really chew on that, it was kind of mind blowing and really encouraging. And I think, very reflective of, I mean, if a Christian worldview is supposed to be holistic, then this is, these are like holistic actions we can take, you know, by God’s grace within that. It’s exciting. So then, how does your understanding of paideia- how does that kind of flesh out in your home?
Mystie: I think as homeschoolers, one of the advantages that we should recognize and work with is the fact that we do kind of administer the whole life picture. And so we can make sure that all the pieces of life are working together and in balance with one another and give our children an education that is not just, you know, a check list, and not just passing tests or getting grades. But it is a working towards loving God in all that they do, and that includes schoolwork and it includes service and it includes work and play and everything. And since we are there all the time in all those pieces, we have to kind of keep them all working together and not compartmentalize. And then if, you know, for those who are… have their kids at a school and then they’re at home, they can really focus on the home element of paideia, because it is, I think, more enculturating. The home is really where people are formed. So it’s not optional even if your kids are at a day school, you are still a huge part of raising them up in the paideia of the Lord.
Jenn: mhmm. So, well I mean, I referenced this and I think you touched on this too, that it’s a really big, rich concept. And it can be, it can kind of take a while to chew on and think through, okay, how does this flesh out? What does this mean for us as Christians to be enculturating our kids? So can you give us kind of a tangible glimpse of, like, like we call it a glimpse of paideia, or the paideia of the Lord in your home? Whether it’s a schooling, specific to homeschooling or not.
Mystie: yeah, one of the things I think of is how we go about choosing, like, what we memorize or what we sing during our school time. We have a Morning Time where we’re all together and do Scripture memory and singing and prayer time together, and so that’s really the cornerstone piece of our homeschool, and that is a huge part of the paideia of building up a family culture that is centered on Christ. And we choose what we sing based on what we sing at church so that my kids can participate better in church. That’s one way to like tie in those different pieces of our lives and make them one piece, is that the efforts we put in, you know on this one side of our school day, are also working together to build up helping them feel like a part of the worship service as well. We often end our family dinner time together with the Lord’s Prayer. So just when these different pieces come up in different parts of the day and not just, oh, that’s what we do during this time, it’s happening kind of all over the place, that’s one way where I see paideia happening.
Jenn: I love that. I like the idea of being intentional to have those things be crossing paths in different contexts. One thing actually that I’ve found helpful in our Morning Time in our homeschool has been mottos… probably your mottos… [laughter] We’ve adapted! We’ve pulled in… I have a good friend who’s great at that, and then I’ve come up with some, but mottos have been so key for us. Those short, snappy little phrases of little, like, little nuggets of truth or just good things to remember. And that over time, if you practice them, to put them in action, it really does become part of your family culture. Right. I love that.
Mystie: yeah, that’s a great one too. Because they apply, then, throughout life. You might be learning them during one piece but you’re applying them and referring back to them throughout, and it changes your actions, which is making a culture.
Jenn: yes! Absolutely. And you get reminded of them by your children [laughter] when you need to remember the motto. They are so good at that! At reminding you.
Melissa: Jenn, that really goes over into the idea of, it’s not just a culture of our children… I know what we’ve talked about this before is, we’re also in that culture and we’re still being formed. So even as the mama or as an adult, we are still being shaped. And so how, how we are in that culture making with our kids, having those hymns and those Scriptures and those mottos – all of that – or even, Mystie mentioned the word service – entering into acts of service with our children is continuing to shape us. And just like we need to be intentional with our children because they will be shaped whether we are intentional or not, so will we.
Melissa: so yeah, good thoughts.
Jenn: love that. That’s so true. So I guess along those lines Mystie, what’s one resource, maybe like a book or a website or event, song, poem, podcast, whatever – that you could recommend to others, to other moms who are seeking to raise their kids in a specifically Christian culture in their homes?
Mystie: I do think music can be one of the most powerful sources of enculturation, and so just, each family thinking about what is the music tying you to? What culture is the music tying you to? And what are the resources available to you that help you make, use music, to tie you to your local church body? So we have a huge stack of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, which is the hymnal that our church uses, and we use that for our Morning Time every morning. My piano students are always practicing at least one hymn from that during their piano time. It has the catechisms and the creeds in the back of it so we use it for reference, and so, that’s not like, oh, use this resource – we’re using that resource because it is what our church uses. And so, you know, whatever, I would recommend finding something that helps you tie your family culture to your local church culture. And just considering your local church a part of your paideia in your family, your extended family, I think is really important.
Jenn: mhmm, I love that. It makes me think of even just as a resource the people. Like, the other older women at our local churches. Like looking at someone else’s family or like, oh, I love what you’ve got going on there, tell me about that, where did that come from?
Mystie: for sure.
Melissa: that’s really good. So talking about implementing these things or opening up the idea of making connections across home and church, and then also you mentioned, of course, education, right, specific homeschooling or day schooling – but connecting all those things, from the perspective of a mama, then, who is stitching those pieces together and encouraging how they all weave in… how do you find, going back to that idea of rest, how do you find rest necessary in motherhood? Because I think so often the automatic, the default, is, oh of course motherhood is exhausting. But usually we’re talking about the sleepless nights or the need for more coffee. What do you think of when you ponder the need for rest in motherhood?
Mystie: I think about the need to enjoy the work that we’re doing it, which, at least for myself, does not come naturally. Even, you know, Morning Time, which is supposed to be the best part of your day or whatever, it often it is, well just honestly it can feel chaotic especially when we had younger kids, it just kind of felt like crazy time. But when I treated Morning Time or meal time or these other, you know, really family building times as just one more thing I was supposed to be doing, was when I felt overwhelmed and exhausted. And I was closed off, really, to being able to enjoy them. And it was actually a good friend of mine, who at one point… I was probably at this point having a bit of baby blues after having baby number four, and was the, complaining to a friend. And one of the things she said has always stuck with me. She said, well, just go do something that you enjoy with your kids. And it caught me off guard because I, it made me realize, I hadn’t enjoyed, like, any of those, these times lately. And it wasn’t because they couldn’t be enjoyable. It was because it was like I had shut off a part of my awareness to the fact that it really was enjoyable and so I couldn’t receive the joy, enjoyment, from those times. And the rest of just being instead of doing. Because of how overinvolved my mental space was with the tasks and with feeling like I wasn’t doing good enough, so I wasn’t letting myself be happy about anything. And so just taking the time to just step back, and you know, a brain dump is one of the things I’m always recommending. Where you’re just writing things out that come to your head. And so, what are the things that really ought to be enjoyable with my family, and it required turning off the constant inner narrator loop of this isn’t good enough, this isn’t what I wanted it to be, there’s still the laundry, there’s still the this, that, and the other thing going on. You have to step back and stop the, that negative ticker tape mind and just see the people and enjoy the food or the singing as a person. And that has been a big game changer for me, in that rest doesn’t have to be always a time away or an escape. I was looking, at the time I was looking for escapes. And the joy and the rest was actually right there in front of me. I just had to accept it and recognize it and put away my anxiety and overwhelm.
Melissa: there’s a quote from Sarah Mackenzie’s Teaching from Rest that I remember revisiting this summer, when I did that with the Scholé Sisters’ read through of it, where she said: what if, instead of trying to make the most of our time, we worked harder at savoring it. And I’ve always loved the word savor. But I feel like that’s the essence of what you’re saying. Like, it is right in front of us, but we need to savor it. So, yeah, really… really helpful reminders. It is. It’s right in front of us. So how, I feel like this is… You’ve already touched on this a little bit but how do you as a specific woman, a specific mother, how do you pursue rest in your home, in your family culture? As an individual, but they also, how do you encourage rest in your family?
Mystie: I think one of the things is, we’re pretty careful with our schedule, and we don’t do a lot of running to and fro, and we’re not involved in a lot of different things. You know, sometimes the kids do need times with friends and community and activities, but it’s really easy to overload those so that as a family we don’t have time to have a meal together or it’s just one thing or another, and everyone’s passing each other. It starts happening just naturally with older kids, because now I have two older teens with drivers’ licenses and jobs. And you know, we don’t see them much. So that’s fine for the stage of life that they’re at, but it reminds me to be careful with the younger kids’ time that they have time to just sit and read or draw or ride their bikes out on the road with friends. And those kind of refreshing activities that don’t involve a lot of hurry and scurry, I guess. And making time for family meals together without phones at the table. Or even just… the big one for me is, when we do, do have, when we do have our Morning Time, putting away my phone during it so that my mind is actually engaged in what we’re doing and able to take the singing and the prayer and the Scripture as a source of encouragement and enjoyment in the morning instead of it being just one more thing on my list that we’re doing but I’m also thinking about what’s coming later, you know, this, that, and the other thing. It’s really, you know, looking at that whole day and the week as a whole, and trying to balance that making sure that the kids are each getting what they need while not going crazy as a family.
Melissa: how do you purpose to set aside the Lord’s Day as a day of rest?
Mystie: yeah, that’s been a big growing space for me in the last few years, just trying to figure out that question. Because it seemed like a lot of the advice for making the Lord’s Day a day of rest seemed to come from men who didn’t understand homemaking. [laughter] Because it’s like, well, just don’t work… I mean, we do need food, and we do need all these other things, they are, that’s like your ox in the ditch. But then, that’s my whole week. Like, so? How is this a thing? [laughter] And I really have come to a place where I do enjoy the Lord’s Day as a day of rest even when I have to make food and get the kids together and in the care on time and to church… because I make it a point to not move my own agenda forward on that day. That’s kind of become my reference point for it being a day of rest. It means I’m not trying to get ahead. I’m not making a to do list. What needs to be done, we do. And I don’t let myself have a bad attitude about it. And that makes it restful. It’s the bad attitude that makes it not restful. And that has been a big help for me, is just thinking about it in terms of letting my agenda go, and you know, usually we get together with friends or something, but I also sometimes – because we’re getting together with friends – have to clean the kitchen or sometimes have to make food. But it’s for the fellowship and it’s for enjoying as a family and it’s not because I have this plan that I am making happen.
Melissa: now, I know, Jenn already asked about a resource for encouraging the enculturation, that paideia, in your home – and so I think the answer of a psalter/hymnal or something from church couldn’t overlap here. Bit what is a resource or an idea for pursuing that rest in the Lord as we labor for the kingdom of God? And you’ve already given some really good glimpses of how you incorporate that. But are there, are there any other last thoughts that you have on that subject?
Mystie: well, I think going to church on Sunday and letting your mind and heart be engaged there, and reading the Bible every day on your own and then also with your children somehow – those are the cornerstones. Like, no other… every other resource has to come after those, and then I know, one thing I have noticed more and more lately is that the homeschool moms of my mom’s generation all do take naps, and did take naps. And I am a bad napper. [laughter]
Jenn: it doesn’t further your agenda!
Mystie: no, it doesn’t! And I have a hard time turning off my mind!
Jenn: I get it, yeah! [laughter]
Mystie: and so I’ve been thinking about the a lot lately. The ability to take a nap, even if it’s just a twenty minute downtime in dark and, you know, my kids are old enough now that if I close the door, they can not bother me for twenty minutes. But how that is a giving up of the agenda and the feeling of, like, I have to be all that and supermom and do all the things. It’s an act of trust and faith sometimes to take a nap, and so it’s not lazy. It can be a spiritual exercise of faith.
Melissa: it’s so encouraging to hear, you know, from the perspective of, yes, we need to fill our souls, we need to be in the Word, we need to prioritize those things – but also, I mean, the Word, the psalms are full of references to physical rest and how the Lord uses that to nurture our bodies and our souls. And that’s something that we can receive from Him, and I think, you know, you mentioned, Mystie, putting a hedge around your family’s time, and that’s a gift that we can also give to our children then. To say, you get to have this space of rest. And my kids don’t always appreciate it at a gift. [laughter] Sometimes it’s, you know, I have to lay down? Usually, you know, if I let them have a book, it’s always good news then. But it is, it’s a gift we receive from the Lord and we can then pass that on to our children. I think also a little plug there for the Bible Reading Challenge–that’s something that Paideia Northwest and Paideia Southeast, that’s something we love and we have as a habit and we like to share that. It’s restful. It’s that daily nourishment and, you know, we’re talking about the, the Living Water and the Bread of Life. Man does not live by bread alone, but it’s the Bread of Life and the Living Water, and that’s what gives us that inner spiritual nourishment. So really, really good reminders there. So a final question before we head off is, what have you been reading lately that specifically has brought the blessing of that godly culture, godly nourishment to your soul?
Mystie: right now one of the books I’m reading is C.S. Lewis’ God in the Dock, which is a collection of essays. So that’s always a nice kind of a book to have in the rotation because you don’t have to keep the thread through a long book. It’s like each chapter stands alone. And I wasn’t, I mean I wasn’t going into it thinking, that’s the book that’s going to be a paideia type of book, but C.S. Lewis is so good at identifying the spiritual problems in culture and in questions, and a lot of the cultural and political issues that we see around us today, you know, in a way that’s a part of our paideia. Like, it does, whether we like it or not, the society that we’re in is a part of our surroundings. So our paideia has to address it, and living in that in a godly way.
Mystie: and reading C.S. Lewis and God in the Dock – he’s addressing these cultural, you know, atheistic or other ungodly cultural assumptions and questions, in such a clear way, and it helps me right now to see that some of the problems we see in the world around us today have been a long time coming. Like, they’re not just, where did that come from? C.S. Lewis saw all of this coming and was answering them in his day and we can continue those… there are good answers, and there is a right Christian response to living in the world that has its issues today. So that’s kind of where my mind of paideia thoughts have been lately. Encouraged by C.S. Lewis.
Melissa: yeah, always timely. Always good.
Melissa: well, Mystie, I’m really grateful you took the time to join us for a short conversation today, and… you know, Jenn won’t be here for our conference on Rest next month, but I will get to see you and I’m looking forward to hearing your practical applications for how to pursue and apply that rest and not give in to overwhelm, which we can so easily fall into. So thank you for taking the time to be with us. And, Jenn, it was great to catch up with you today
Jenn: yes, always. Good to chat, thank you!
Mystie: thank you, Melissa. Thank you, Jenn.
Melissa: thank you so much, ladies. We’ll talk again soon.