Posts Tagged ‘Feeling peace’

Three weeks until the public schools are back in session in my part of the world, but parents around us are already beginning to say it…even practically shouting it out to the world according to some of my homeschooling friends…They can’t wait for their children to be back in school and OUT of their homes. How does one respond to such a proclamation? Sympathy? Dismay? Pity?  Yeah, I’ve been in that situation too. If their children are present, I feel especially bad. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that not all parents are as naturally enlightened as I am  angel smiley #5118 , and not all parents choose or can conceive of homeschooling their children…it’s a societal thing. But celebrating? Really? What’s that about. I’ve always held my tongue. Usually these people really aren’t interested in my thoughts on the matter anyway. But I think that these moms are not only missing something really important, but even worse, they don’t even know it.

I’ve often wondered…why? Why do otherwise sane mothers who waited anxiously for each child to come into their home, who were…and are…loving and attentive to their children…Why do they suddenly feel such eagerness (even joy and celebration) to get them OUT of their homes…and so young. Perhaps I could understand it if the child were 30. But no, these are practically their babies they can’t wait to be rid of for the best hours of the day.

As I’ve thought about it, I have come up with my own theory of how this happens in our society today. I think that there are basically three developments which get short-circuited in families today. But first a little side note. I recently read an article written by an un-schooling mom, Sandra Dodd. I loved her graph! I agree, the amount of time that we generally need to spend with our children is directly related to their age…well, sort of. As they get older, guess what?!…Yes, they need less of our time. Not less of our love, not less of our concern for them, not less of a lot of things…but certainly less of our time. And this is true even if they are homeschooled. In fact, I think that this sort of age/time spent-with-them progression seems to have the best potential of development and happens most naturally in the home educated atmosphere.

Here is what I see happening. You finally come to that long awaited moment…the birth of your child. You gaze lovingly into the eyes of that sweet child and the world revolves around the two of you…well, your world revolves around your child…the rest of the world revolves (for a time) around the two of you. That sweet baby takes up practically every moment of your day…requiring your constant attention. Yes, mothers, we are exhausted, but for the most part, we really don’t mind…after all we have oxytocin helping us out (particularly if we are breastfeeding), and frankly, we are head over heels in love with our own child! Then the child becomes a toddler and life really seems to explode! Now you have a mobile child who really does need your eye on him at every moment…and usually by this time you have less and less of that precious oxytocin to help out…but by then you are hooked, you are fully in love with this child and really, you love his developing “independence” …though exhausting to you.

But what happens about the time that this child starts to need less one on one time? He can feed himself, he’s out of diapers, and there are even moments when he really can entertain himself…what happens? We send him off to school…or even pre-school. There he is entertained all day, each moment filled by directed activity. Just when life with your child is getting easier, just when you have some time to breathe, just at the point when children are able to start self directing some of their activity, we ship them off to have each moment directed by a system. They are short-circuited in their developing ability to self direct. Evenings are also filled with soccer practice, homework, music lessons…so much so that many families find it difficult just to have a quiet un-rushed dinner together. And then when school is out for the summer…what happens then? Suddenly the child goes from having every hour of the day directed to pretty much having zero hours of the day directed…but they have not learned to self direct their activities or make choices, and they have lost what ever ability had begun to develop. They are suddenly “bored”…not that they weren’t often bored in school, but this is different. So mom fills the summer with day camp, soccer camp, swim lessons, outings, etc. By the end of the summer (before the end of the summer…maybe 3 weeks before the end of the summer), she is exhausted…and so are the children. No wonder she can’t wait for the children to go back to school.

Another thing happens. The child, removed from the home, begins to lose the attachment to…and ability to get along with…his own siblings. So along with being a summer of running helter skelter trying to keep the kids entertained, moms have children who don’t quite get along most of the time. Yeah…recipe for disaster. I guess I can see why they can’t wait for school to start. But that brings us to the third thing that seems to get short-circuited. Mom never sees that her children really are old enough to self direct their own activities and worse, in her hurry to direct every minute of the child’s day, the best moments are lost.

Yeah, you homeschooling moms know what I’m talking about…those moments when you are just “doing nothing” together; those moments when you really tune in to the wonder and miracle of your child and the person she is becoming. Those un-rushed moments curled up on the couch with a good book together…or even the ones where everyone is busy doing their own thing and there is a sweet feeling of both quiet (…or not so quiet) industry and peace in the home. You watch the seasons come and go together. You feel and settle into the unspoken rhythm of your days…your own natural and peculiar family rhythms.

I think that Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin say it best:

Christopher Robin: I like that, too. But what I like most of all is just doing nothing.

Winnie the Pooh: How do you do just nothing?

Christopher Robin: Well, it’s when grown-ups ask, “What are you going to do?” and you say, “Nothing,” and then you go and do it.

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing now.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again.

“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.

Winnie the Pooh: I like that. Let’s do it all the time.

(from The House At Pooh Corner)

Sadly, it so often just these moments which are missed or just too infrequent when we send our children away for 8 (or more) of the best hours of the day and bring them home stressed and tired…and with homework to be done. If you haven’t read this sweet little book, I highly recommend it. What follows this little interchange between Christopher Robin and Pooh is such a parallel to what happens in our society when public school systems take over and over-scheduling of our children and families begins.

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands, called out, “Pooh!”

“Yes?” said Pooh.

“When I’m — when — Pooh!”

“Yes, Christopher Robin?”

“I’m not going to do Nothing any more.”

“Never again?”

“Well, not much. They won’t let you.”

You see, Christopher Robin is going away to school. His days of “doing-nothing” are pretty much at an end. I guess that it is this that makes me so sad when I see parents celebrating a little too loudly that their children are going to school. My heart aches for the moments that they are obviously missing (both the mom and the child).

So homeschooling moms, my advice in those moments when you hear someone celebrating just a little too loudly for comfort about their children going away to school…is to just be glad that yours are not. Take joy in what you have with your children around you (even on those hectic days when you almost understand the public school mother’s celebration). Sit back and breathe a sigh of relief that you have not entered your child and family into the rat race we call “school”. In our family, we like to have a “NOT back to school” celebration each fall. So celebrate. And then take joy in the “doing nothing” moments.

And if you are one of those moms who can’t wait for her children to go back to school, then I guess my advice would be to try hard not to let go of every “doing nothing” moment with your children. See if you can at least “schedule” your days so that those precious “doing nothing” moments don’t completely pass you by. And please…don’t celebrate so loudly…at least not in front of the children.


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Oh Summertime, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee for

  • the warmth of the sun-warmed deck under my barefeet as I sit swaying gently in my hammock chair.
  • the coolness of that same deck under those same bare feet in the shade of the covered porch.
  • the gentle breeze which blows softly bringing with it the sweet smell of the freshly cut fir that my tall sons and husband have recently cut and stacked.
  • the evenings around the fire pit with all of my children around me, listening to the popping of the flames, enjoying the fun of s’mores and roasted apples, and then the quiet moments gazing at the embers which glow in the darkness.
  • the smell of the cool evening breeze blowing softly through my open window as I drift off to sleep at night…and again as I wake in the morning along with the sounds of the birds ringing in the day with their many varied songs, and hummingbirds buzzing by.
  • the fresh, sweet, better-than-candy taste of just-picked cherry tomatoes as they fill your mouth with their warm spurting sweetness.
I love thee for
  • thy lazy carefree days. Thy leisurely mornings and un-rushed evenings.
  • thy lying-in-the-hammock afternoons…warm in the arms of my loved one, gazing at the blue and white skies peeking between the leaves of the trees overhead…drifting off for a late afternoon nap and then waking still warm in the sweet embrace of my best loved one.
  • thy beautiful colors splashing merrily out of the hanging baskets around the covered porches of our deck.
  • the day after day mornings of breakfast “in-the-air”…fresh fruit and yogurt eaten in the warm early sunshine and cool fresh air while gazing at the lovely trees in my backyard.
  • the beautiful light shows of sunlight which dance and reflect off of the leaves, changing the leaves on my alders from glowing green to white…and back again.
  • the family dinners spent leisurely, gathered around the table on the deck just outside the screen of the sliding doors to the kitchen. The laughing and teasing of my big almost-grown family.
  • the smell of warm grass and hay…freshly mowed.
  • the warm apple cinnamon smell of my hot herbal tea as I sit in my favorite spot in that well used hammock chair, under cover in the warm summer rain…listening softly…
  • the un-scheduled hours spent locked into the pages of a good book as the sun drifts lazily across the sky.
  • the pink and purple sunset peeking over the tops of the trees.
Oh Summertime…How I do love thee…

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Several weeks ago, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine. We are both home educated moms. We’ve both been home educating our children for quite a number of years now. My oldest child is 20 and her oldest is 16. We’ve both home educated our children from day one. In our conversation, we talked about some of the things we’ve learned along the way…some of the things we learned the hard way…some of the things we would go back and change if we could, and also those things that we did or are now doing that we have found effective or important. During the course of our conversation, my friend wondered what a “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Homeschoolers” would look like. (A concept inspired of course by Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. You may also be familiar with Oliver DeMille’s Seven Keys of Great Teaching.)

The “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Homeschoolers”….hmmm….what would be on such a list? We recognized immediately that this list would look different for each thoughtful home educating parent, but that these different lists would likely be of some use to families who were just beginning the journey.

As I considered this concept, my mind immediately took me on a thought journey of epic proportions as I considered the years behind and the years ahead and thought about what I would put on my personal list of “Seven Habits for Highly Effective Homeschoolers”. This conversation with my friend took place while I was waiting for my daughter at her piano lesson, and as soon as I was off the phone with this friend, I started writing and quickly had a list of seven habits…the last one came later. Yes…my list went just a bit over and has become the “Eight Habits of Highly Effective Home Educating Parents”…or maybe nine, but who’s counting? Here is my list. Thank you Christy for getting me started. I plan to publish each “habit” in a separate blog over the next days/weeks. Enjoy! And other home educating families, please add to my list by commenting. What would you put on your list?


The First Habit: Simplify

Anyone who knows me very well at all will not be at all surprised that this was the first thing to come to my mind and the first to go on my personal list. There are some good reasons for this…the first of which is probably that this is one of the premiere lessons that I’ve had to learn myself.

So often we try to do things in grandiose ways…the bigger, the better, we seem to think….or the more the better. But bigger is not always better. In fact, sometimes bigger is nothing more than pomp and circumstance with no real substance. And more is sometimes simply more…and usually it translates to less of something else. More time running from music lessons, to soccer practice, to karate, to church activities will ultimately translate to less quality time together as a family, less time to sit around the dinner table laughing together and discussing whatever comes up, less time for family read-alouds with everyone sprawled comfortably together in the living room. More is so often less of what matters most.

It seems to be only when we simplify that we find the real essence of life and of happiness. So my first habit is to simply simplify. Simplify your life. Simplify your schedule. Simplify your goals. Get rid of all the “stuff” that gets in the way of your true happiness and family success.

Are you really happy when you are running 10 directions at once…or even two? Are your children? Is your family? No? Then what can you let drop out of your life? Yes, I know that a lot of the things on your list are “good” things to do, but they are ultimately keeping you from enjoying the “best” things, are they not? Then let them go and feel the joy and peace which ultimately comes with a real focus on the things that matter most.

And how about all the physical “stuff” in your life? All of our stuff not only takes up space, but it also uses up our energy as we spend time organizing and caring for the material stuff in our lives. The question to ask is not how much, but how little can you get by with? What things do you spend a lot of time maintaining that you could do without? I used to have carpet in the heavily traveled areas and in the dining area of my home. I spent hours and hours each week keeping that carpet clean. The area that went from the front door to the back looked like traffic went directly from one point the other…and often times it literally did. I vacuumed daily (sometimes more than once daily) and the carpet cleaner was an intimate companion…no, I won’t say “friend”. When we built an addition to our home, I determined that we should place hardwood floors in the kitchen, dining area, and the heavily traveled areas of our home. It is no longer such a disaster when the children come in with muddy feet. This is something that can be much more easily managed…and usually by the child herself…or himself as the case may be. That one thing has made a huge difference in how I spend my time each week. We still have carpet in the family areas, but vacuuming has become a weekly affair and carpet cleaning a yearly one at most. I can now spend all that time that I used to spend vacuuming on the things that matter most in my life and in the lives of my husband and children.

How many goals have you set for yourself and your children? Pull them out and take a good hard look at them. Put them to the “perspective test”. Are these the goals that will matter most in one year? Five, ten, fifty years, a hundred? Ultimately, what is really going to matter? Stick with those goals that will really matter over time and consider what goals can be tossed or drastically modified. Focus on the goals that really matter. And while you are considering those goals, take a look at the less tangible things that you’d like to accomplish. Hint: Usually it is the less tangible goals that are going to matter most when put to the perspective test.

Here is an example from among my own experience as a home educating mom: In the early years, we used the Saxon math program and I had my children do every…single…exercise. Why? Because the program stated that all that repetition was important to mastery. As a result, math dominated the curriculum in our home and most of my children learned to hate it. I had always liked the subject, but I didn’t love the way it dominated our curriculum any more than my children did. My children would get so burned out that they would end up not finishing the course by the end of the year. In the fall, I would have them take the placement tests again. Year after year, they would place in the next textbook anyway. I figured out that the first lessons in the book were primarily review, so I had the children either skip those chapters or just take the chapter tests each day until they reached a point where they obviously needed to begin to do the exercises. I also stopped having them do every single problem. Instead, they did odd number problems on odd days and even numbered problems on other days. Sometimes we skipped the problem sets altogether and just did the practice sets. I purchased alternate math curriculum for some of my children. I let them choose what math programs they wanted to use. There are even periods of time when one or more children (gasp) leaves math off of the daily “to do” list altogether. Originally it had been my goal that my children would complete the Saxon Math series in its entirety. Over the years, I recognized that this goal was not meaningful to some of my children. Some of them didn’t need Physics and Calculus in their home education years. Some of them might never need it and would only need basic math skills.  Their passions and interests are in other areas and they need their time for activities relating to those passions. Not only that, but if the time comes that they need those courses, they can take them when they are ready to do so. Home education in our family improved greatly when I stepped back and began to simplify the goals that I had for my children. We now have a lot more time for the things that really matter most.

When it comes to home education and family life, look for the small and simple way.

My first habit…simply simplify.

Next habit…balance.


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Christopher Robin: I like that, too. But what I like most of all is just doing nothing.

Winnie the Pooh: How do you do just nothing?

Christopher Robin: Well, it’s when grown-ups ask, “What are you going to do?” and you say, “Nothing,” and then you go and do it.

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.

“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing now.”

“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again.

“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.

Winnie the Pooh: I like that. Let’s do it all the time.

(from The House At Pooh Corner)

I lay there on the exercise mat. Flat on my back and looking out the tall tall windows at the fluffy clouds floating by, the contrail of a jet that had just flown over, and at the birds in the bare branches of the tree just outside the right side window. I had not known what to expect when the physical therapist had placed this mat behind the upright bicycle and then carefully demonstrated how he wanted me to position myself on the mat…not just how I was to end up, but the process I was to take in getting from standing behind the mat and beside the bike, to kneeling and then lying on the floor stomach down, placing the left arm overhead, and then rolling over onto my back behind the bike and placing my feet on the pedals of the bike. All in one long slow fluid movement…one movement following and flowing into the next…like a dance. I rather lumpily followed his instructions until, low and behold, I ended up lying on the mat, positioned behind the bicycle.

In this way, I was to bicycle…on my back. The PT, Jon, explained how I was doing a good thing for my body. My spaces between the disks in my back were able to spread out, the spine was perfectly aligned, no pressure on the disks, and no stress on my neck. I had commented that I only needed a book to complete the picture. “You people”, he had said “always wanting to multi-task…that would put stress on your arms and neck.” Appropriately chastened, I immediately understood the truth of his words. So there I lay. I thought to myself, “nothing to do but enjoy the moment”…and I can’t feel guilty about it either…total freedom to enjoy the moment. Free to do one thing and one thing only, free to let my mind go where it would…or nowhere at all. Free to feel the peace that stopping for a moment and observing the beauty of nature always brings. Tim, the assistant, asked if I needed to have the sun blocked. “Are you kidding? I’m totally enjoying the sun!” So there I was (like a cat in the sun, Jon had later commented) enjoying the fact that I had “nothing to do” but lie there and look at the clouds as I rhythmically pedaled the gently whirring wheel of the stationary bike. I could really get used to this sort of therapy!

I thought about how I came to be here. The pain and numbness in my shoulder and arm…coming and going over the last year until the doctor had sent me to try some physical therapy for it and Jon had traced the pain to my neck…though the symptoms were manifest in my arm and shoulder. Living with pain is not a new experience for me. I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 17 years ago and upon learning that it was not going to hurt me to push through the pain, I had (most of the time) learned to push past it and even to ignore it…except on those rare occasions when it became impossible…and then I would almost frantically search for answers. And I had found many of the answers that I needed.

But this pain was different. It wasn’t something that I could ignore and I knew that ignoring it and pushing past it might cause more damage. I was forced to stop and pay heed to what the pain was telling me. The last year had been like a gift to me. My responsibilities at church were less involved than they had been in a long while. I had more time to relax. I spent an hour each morning doing yoga…time for myself to relax and to feel peace. And now this. I had prayed to know what I was to learn from this experience…what was the “gift” I was to find in this trial? The answer had come to my mind almost immediately, “Slow down, feel peace, see beauty, enjoy life…stop rushing past it.” “But…isn’t that what I’ve been doing these last months?”, I thought. I thought that I had been learning those lessons well. We have a relaxed homeschool schedule. We generally keep evenings free with the exception of church related activities (okay, these frequently add up to a busy week…but we make choices and limit our activity where we can.) We always have dinner together as a family…usually the best time of the day where we can connect as a family. As I looked around myself at all the busy people running here and there, I really thought that, comparatively, I already led a pretty peaceful and low-key, sort of life. And yet I felt that the Lord was telling me to slow down? I thought I was slowing down, simplifying, etc. This recent challenge had caused me to discontinue my yoga and violin playing on the advice of the PT until we got things worked out. If I was supposed to slow down, then why had those two things…of all things…two of the things in my life in which I felt that I did slow down and feel peace…why had they been taken from me?  Could it be that I wasn’t really listening? That I wasn’t “getting it”?

I looked back over my notes to myself over the past year…

  • slow down, simplify, do not “run faster”, re-focus
  • focus on fundamentals, avoid over-scheduling, diligence to things that matter most, strengthen marriage
  • God – spend meaningful time alone, be still and know
  • Family – Do simple things together
  • Others – Serve in small and simple ways
  • Self – take time to get to know myself and see myself as God sees me

And a few months later

  • slow down, stick to essentials
  • get to know each child better
  • get to know myself better

Do you ever have “conversations” with the Lord in your mind? I do that. I remembered another “conversation” that I had with the the Lord one day in my mind. I was still trying to figure out why…and how…and exactly where…I was supposed to “slow down”. Now, I’ve been told in personal revelations that I have been blessed in many ways because I am diligent…a quality that many, if not most of us, share, so you’ll probably relate to how I was feeling. I felt like I’d already slowed down in so many ways that to slow down anymore would be to stop…surely the Lord didn’t want that…surely he had many things he wanted me to do…because I’m diligent. I still had my responsibilities teaching the young girls at church and many responsibilities at home which couldn’t be delegated or ignored. I remember thinking to the Lord “but Lord…I’m diligent”. The thought that instantly filled my mind then was “Yes, I want you to be diligent at taking care of yourself and at slowing down.”

Okay. I can do that.

So I’ve been trying really hard to do that. We created a space where I can “bicycle on my back”…and separated my personal study space from the sewing space that I had, and in the process, we cleared out a lot of clutter. More importantly, I backed off of the expectations for myself of things that I wanted to (or thought I should be) studying, and I just spent time “being”…and bicycling…and “doing” nothing. As I have done this, I’ve come to realize something. It’s this: Acting still and Being still are two very different things. I had done lots of things in my life to simplify and to be outwardly still…but I hadn’t done the same so that I could be inwardly still. I realized that I constantly had a very long “to do” list running in my brain…and its ever present companion…the “you should have done” list. These two lists are among the things that have been keeping me from truly being still. So I needed to stop doing yoga, and learning the violin, and studying all of the things that I wanted to study so that I could learn to separate doing from being. I’m not finished learning this lesson. It’s not always easy to live in the momentjust being, but little by little I’m learning how to do that.

And more importantly, I’m beginning to see why this is so vitally important! When I stopped doing “things” all day long and started to focus on doing “nothing” all day long, I suddenly began to feel more peace, see more beauty, and connect with my children and loved ones more. I’m beginning to receive revelations more readily from the Lord. I’m beginning to feel creativity flow naturally and easily. I wake up in the morning with so many new thoughts and ideas that I can’t contain them all.

I was re-reading a favorite book recently and the author does a good job of describing the phenomenon that I think I’ve been experiencing. The book is The Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In her first chapter, The Beach, she describes something that I think is familiar to all of us: The vacation; the trip to the sea-side, or the mountains, or where ever. You go (at least I always do) with a big satchel of books or projects or things that you plan to do while you are there. Usually these are things that you enjoy but don’t have enough time to get to, and vacation is the perfect time for that, so you take it all along with you. But something interesting usually happens, doesn’t it. You never really get down to doing all of the things you brought along to do…or at least you don’t do them at first.

by Hirohisat from WikiMedia Commons

Instead, what Anne calls “deck chair apathy” takes over and you simply sit and do “nothing”. You relax and listen to the waves, you just sit and be until your soul becomes like the beach sand…washed clean of all of yesterdays scribblings…and also tomorrows scribblings…for we carry those with us too. It is in this state…this washed clean state, this blank slate place…that we can have the space that we need to really listen…and really hear…and really feel joy. It’s such an amazing paradox…”doing nothing” in this sense is a really important sort of nothing…as Christopher Robin (or rather A. A. Milne) captures for us. I think that this is what the Lord is trying to help me to understand and to find in my everyday life. It has become my conviction that these moments are not supposed to be reserved just for vacation times, they are for everyday. And it’s not as though I cannot do yoga anymore, or learn the violin, or any of the things that I like to do…as long as I am remembering to just be as I do these things. I can sense that this lesson will take me some time to really learn well, but with Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin as my guide, I think I can begin to learn this lesson the Lord is trying to teach me. Perhaps this is, at least in part, what he means when he exhorts us to “become as a child”. (see Luke 18:16-17 and also 3 Nephi 11:37)

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