I have been trying to write an article on why classical homeschooling is not elitist, and it’s taken me weeks. Not because I can’t think of reasons but because the words for that article aren’t coming. I keep writing another article in my head – one about being present and aware in the moment, not rushing through to what is to be done next in our heads as we are teaching our children now, not being always almost-present.
A friend from my local homeschooling group emailed us all a letter she wanted to discuss at the next Mom’s Night Out about how answering the need of a child is like answering the monastery call to prayer. A Blessed Be the Interruptions type article. I had read it before and it is lovely, but as I had pondered that article many moons ago, I kept thinking about how the problem we have is not with thinking of every thing that goes wrong as a wretched interruption, but that we are so on to The Next Thing in our heads, we’re never fully present for what we should be attending to.
We are moms. We are not only moms but also homeschooling moms and sometimes working-from-home homeschooling moms and working-OUTside-the-home homeschooling moms and phew! – to run this unit efficiently we need schedules and checklists and menus and planners and yes, yes we do. We need all of it. I can’t hold all of those things in my head, and I need that brain dump onto paper and the checklist and the menu–but what I need most is to be present in the moment I am living right.this.instant.
And, my head just exploded, right, because isn’t that just One More Thing to Do? Argh! I’ll just put that on The List. Be Present. Right under the weekly menu and the activities and the chores and the schedule and the lessons…Be Present.
If that’s not a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.
Thankfully that is not what we need, and that is not what I’m talking about.
We are mothers. Our day is made up of interruption after interruption. It just is. These little humans we are charged with loving and raising don’t understand the schedule thing or the list thing or the task thing–even when they are older and you are so, so tired and ready to go to bed, and your teen chooses that moment to have a three hour talk with you, and you know what you do? You talk. You connect and you love them when they reach out to be loved–because that’s what the interruptions are. They are people (our children are people) reaching out to connect with us. That is the ultimate reason we are home with them, no? – to be reachable? Can we think of interruptions as beautiful moments we are offered to love one another?
So we CAN make our lists and be orderly because we need that, too. But we do it at a certain time, when we are able. And then we can use that schedule as a guide to our day. But whatever moment you are in, be *present* in that moment. Be conscious of those you are with and yourself and what you are attending to in that moment. Not what’s next. And when the interruptions come – and they will – see them as just a part of the cycle of the day, not a deterrent. Otherwise we go through our day in a madly-driven fog, and isn’t that tiring? It’s monotonous, boring, unhuman–it is the automaton of our age. That’s not who we are raising, and that’s not what we are.
So how can we connect and practice this mindfulness? In my own life, I do it a few ways. I have crucifixes and statues and icons all over my house that, as my gaze falls on them, pull me into the present. They make me stop and think with consciousness. When I start thinking about something other than the task before me? I catch myself and pull my mind back into what I am doing. When I feel irritation rising within me, it is an alarm bell as to my motives in that moment. I feel it and I can stop and judge if I am rightly attending to the situation before me.
For a non-religious person, there are many beautiful ways to practice mindfulness. You can write words on stones and leave them on your desk or windowsill, and when you glance at them, you can reconnect with your purpose. A nature table is another meaningful way to bring mindfulness into your family’s life. As we gaze upon beauty, we should stop and be thankful for it.
How can we work a habit of mindfulness and consciousness into our children?
When we become aware of our own inattention, we can see the inattention in them and readjust them. A slight touch on the shoulder, a hug, a kiss, an affectionate reminder of giving our full attention to the task at hand is a loving way to pull a child back. Just a slight readjustment of the sails can remind them to attend to what they are doing.
There is a beauty and a bounty to being present. The beauty comes with the connection we experience, not only with our work but also our loved ones. I will tell you a secret. The bounty of being present comes with getting work accomplished. I don’t know what magic it is, but when I am fully attentive to my day, in the evening I can reflect back with amazement on how much I accomplished and how I was able to connect with those whom I encountered that day.
Instead of ending our day with being always almost-attentive, we can be present, there, fully engaged, come what may. Isn’t that so much more than a checklist?
If you would like to read more on being present, Eckhert Tolle has an article on the idea, and he calls it the Joy of Being.
Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.