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Posts Tagged ‘Balance’

This is the second in a series of blogs on what I would define as “Principles of Happy Home Educating Families.” Find the first blog here

Once we’ve simplified our lives, we can then begin to look at balance. Most of us can look back and remember when we first learned to ride a bicycle. Remember how you wobbled from one side to the other, even falling down from time to time, until you learned to balance with perfect ease? The time quickly came when you no longer even thought about balance when you got on that bicycle. Homeschooling is much like that. We also tend to wobble from one side to another until we find that perfect balance which works for our family.

Balance is an interesting phenomenon. We seem to think that achieving our goals is all about power (ie: force) and momentum and yet without balance, all that force and momentum have no direction and may even end up as destructive forces which quickly careen out of control. Balance is critical to power. In fact, without balance you cannot have power at all…only force.

I learned a little about balance in my yoga practice. The balance poses all require focus. Focus is critical to balance. But more than that, there is an intangible something else which seems critical to staying balanced in a yoga pose. It is so interesting to me that those times when I feel rushed and out of balance in my life always seem to find reflection in my daily yoga practice…in the balance poses (or asanas).  If I’m feeling rushed, stressed, over-loaded, and out of balance in my life, I can’t seem to balance for beans in my yoga practice either. The balance that we feel inwardly is also reflected in our ability to manage our lives outwardly. There is a trick (no, not really a trick, principle would be a better word) to balancing. The principle which is critical to balance is focus. In a yoga pose, one must focus on one thing with the eyes in order to stay balanced. Focus is critical to balance. Balance is critical to effective use of power and momentum.

So what does this have to do with homeschooling? How do we achieve balance with the education process in our homes? Like everything else with home education, I believe that this will always be an individual thing. There will be no recipe. Each family must find balance in its own way, but I believe that there are principles and guidelines; things that we might think deeply about as we seek to find this delicate balance in our own homes and with our own children. So often in life, we seem to think that if we just use all of our strength and barrel through the tasks we’ve set for ourselves…(That, by the way is a critical element. We must stop and remember that these things are totally within our hands. We set the tasks for ourselves…we choose…and we can un-choose as the need arises.) But where was I?…oh yes…we seem to think that if we just barrel though using all of our strength, then we can accomplish that big long list of tasks. And so we find ourselves careening wildly through each day all force and momentum (both very valuable elements) but little or no balance…no focus. But life…and home education…are about so much more than simply accomplishing tasks.

Work and Play

What in your life needs balancing? May I suggest a few things to think about?Work must be balanced with play. Each is critical to the success of the other. Work is best accomplished when the mind and body have had periods of rest. Conversely, play and rest are enjoyed best when the mind and body have had periods of work. This too is something which I noticed in my yoga practice. Somehow those relaxation poses were so much more…well relaxing after the more strenuous poses which focused on building strength. And conversely, I am always more successful with the strength poses with a little rest between or before them. Do you allow for this balance in your children’s lives? In your own? Is your homeschool all work and very little play? Too much play? Do you go easily back and forth between the two? Or is it all “nose to the grindstone” and then an overdose of play? I think we must all learn to sense when it’s time for a little rest and diversion (it’s seldom the other way around). Often, it doesn’t have to be big. Just consider the schedule you set for yourself and your children. Do you alternate periods of work with periods of pure play? Can you tell when your children have reached their max? Learn to have a break just before that breaking point. Hint: I think that when children are left to themselves in a environment which is rich in learning opportunities, they tend to find this balance almost instinctively with little guidance from us. This ability in children can, however, be quickly crushed by parent or school expectations, or undermined by too much TV and electronic media.

Flexible Structure

Structure must also be balanced with latitude. Living with a very rigid schedule for very long becomes tiresome…but so does too much latitude. It is usually the flexible structure that is strongest. So consider how you choose to structure your day. Have structure, but build in times when there is less restraint, a little more freedom. Build margin into your schedule. Just as the pages of a book have most meaning when there is margin–when things are divided into paragraphs–our days will go most smoothly, be more meaningful, and more productive if we have some space…some margin…in our lives.

Avoid Over-Scheduling

I remember so clearly my first days (and years) of homeschooling my children. One of my strengths is organization, and it can have some pretty bad side effects if I am not careful. I used to organize every minute of our days. Each day was scheduled so tightly! Unfortunately, my early schedules were perfect recipes for quick burn out (on my part and on my children’s). These schedules that I would make would probably last for about as long as the time I spent putting the schedule together in the first place. Very quickly, I would find that we would be “off schedule” and stressed out about it. (Or I would be stressed out about it and communicate that stress to my children.) We didn’t have the freedom (because of my dictatorial schedules) to spend a longer period of time at one subject if we got interested in it. We didn’t have the freedom to take a break…lest we get off schedule. Another thing about these schedules is that they were heavily weighted with table activities and the more academic subjects…a recipe for burn out if ever there was one! For my more right brained children, this was especially painful.

Don’t try to “cover everything”.

One more thing that I started out doing…and have to continually guard against…is the suggestion that we must “cover” a certain amount of “material” or a certain number of, or particular subjects. We live in a day and age where there is a monumental amount of “information” which could be studied. Information can be useful, but it doesn’t usually translate to knowledge or the wisdom needed to live by–or recognize–principles which lead to happiness. Ours is the task of weeding out the significant from the insignificant. Choosing what to teach…the focus…comes before choosing how to teach. Remember what happens with force and momentum with no focus and balance? We must be thoughtful and careful as we choose what to teach. We must consider exactly what it is that we hope to give to our children. We must also consider what it is that each individual child needs. In order to do that, we must first know our children very well. (A great book to help one begin to know and  individualize for the child is The Student Whispererbut more on that in another post.) Do you truly listen to your child, observe them, watch what they do, consider what is important to them and why, spend time with them? These are the beginnings of knowing a person.

Relax.

I’ve learned over time to relax…a lot. I learned to let my children help decide what they wanted to learn…and when. I’ve learned that it is best to set small, obtainable goals. I’ve learned that Rome cannot be built in a day, and I’ve learned to recognize that perhaps it isn’t Rome that I’m really seeking to build. We come to home education with a lot of ineffective and faulty paradigms from the public school systems which most of us were raised in. We must remember why we chose home education, and we must be careful that we do not duplicate the public school system in our homes. Just like riding a bicycle, we tend to wobble a bit as we begin homeschooling. It’s a new paradigm for most of us. But just like riding a bicycle, when you find that perfect balance, you will know it, you will feel it…and you and your children will feel the freedom and exhilaration of moving forward with focus toward all the right goals in your lives. When you find that place…trust it. And that brings me to my next “Habit of Highly Effective Homeschoolers”…Trust. Next blog.

RC

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