Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Slo-o-o-o-ow down (or, Why I love our read-alouds, Part III)

As we finished Caddie Woodlawn, Anne-with-an-e made an observation.

"It seems," she said, "that families were closer in those days. In some ways. I mean, they had more time. They weren't always running off to the next activity."


I had been thinking the same thing. I've been thinking it off and on throughout this school year. "The next activity" seems to be looming over us all too often.

Then, I remembered a conversation with Betsy from a couple of months ago. It was a frigid, snowy day and we were working on a puzzle together. Betsy said she knew how Laura Ingalls must have felt in those long winters, because sometimes it was hard when you couldn't get outside and do fun things and go places.

"But,then," she reflected, "Laura really did have a good life. She had her family, and dolls. And they could read."

"Yes," I replied, "and although they may have been cooped up in their house for days -- or sometimes even weeks or months -- they had each other and that made all the difference. We can sometimes forget, can't we, what it's like to live without all of the busy-ness of our "go-go-go" lifestyle."

"Yes!" she said, looking at me pointedly. "Yes! We forget how to live!"

Ah-ha again.

These little confirmations of what's been brewing in my mind this school year were all I needed to make it official.

Back to Anne's observation. I replied:

"I've been thinking about our activities, too. You know, sometimes I feel like all of our activities, as great as they are, get in the way of other things we really want to do. Lately, it seems that we have to put something aside that we'd really like to do -- like have a new friend over, or bake a cake, or do nothing but read all day -- because we need to be ready to head out to the next activity."

"Yeah," said Anne and Betsy, their eyes widening with discovery. "Yeah!"

"What would you guys think of an experiment for next year? Where we radically cut back on outside activities so that we are freer to make some different choices about our time?"

They exchanged a look that answered my question.

"I think that might be a good idea," said Anne.

"I agree," nodded Betsy.

"Me, too," said Ramona, with a slightly furrowed brow.

And so it has been decided. The vague, nagging feeling that we need to tweak our schedules and lives a bit has come more sharply into focus.

So, was I lying when I recently told a fellow homeschooling mom that this year had been a good one, with a nice balance of home-time and activity-time? Nah. I meant it when I said it.

It has been a good year, and I am grateful for all of the activities and opportunities that have presented themselves. I firmly believe God takes care of our needs and provides the right thing at the right time. For example, a couple of years ago, when I was beginning to fret over time (or lack of it) spent on science and art, we suddenly met a new family. The mom alerted me to a new set of classes at the local arts center, just for homeschoolers. And, she offered to teach a science co-op. Coincidence? Methinks not. I was paying enough attention to that little series of events to say, "Thanks, God. That's awfully gracious of You."

And last summer, just as the kids' Girl Scout troop was falling apart (because aforementioned mom was moving, and she really had been the glue holding it all together) God provided a new friend who invited us to join her American Girl History Club. This club (thank you, Linda!) has been the perfect "girl time/craft time" opportunity for my kids. Thanks again, God. It's amazing how You know just what we need.

And this year, events in our life have taken us down a meandering path that keeps pointing us toward this one thing: Slow down.

I think I'll pay attention.

And continue to love our read-alouds.


1st grade mom said...

I feel a bit like this too. Outside activities can easily get out of control and life rushes along. Of course we're learning all the time, but need to slow down the pace a bit.

And I often experience exactly what you are saying about God providing when we need something. I turn around and just what I thought we needed happens.

One day my husband was going out the door and I asked him to buy a T-Ball bat. He said he couldn't at that time, but when he came back, my daughter was carrying one. It was free, left out by the trash bins.

meredith said...

Amen, I totally agree!! What a great discussion you all had!

Amy said...

This has been a wonderful set of posts! Thanks for the peak into your thoughts and life! :)

Tim said...

Karen, this has always been something to make me wonder. You know my sister, she has five boys and each one of them is in an activity, maybe two. (Well, I'm not sure the 6 month old's activities count.)

My wife was raised going to ballet 6 or 7 days a week. And this was DRIVING. We're talking Los Angeles driving, upwards of 30 minutes each way. And I was encouraged to take up activities like my siblings, but I've never been much of a "joiner", as they used to say of kids who didn't join things.

We've gotten my son into one sports activity a season, so that means practice on Mondays and games on Sundays, which is, in many ways, just too much for me. And it's just going to get busier when my daughter needs an activity. You can imagine if it's hard for homeschoolers to meet those kid-centered demands, how it feels for two working parents. Yet, all the two working parents seem to have their kids in all sorts of activities.

I find myself thinking again and again that we've changed a focal point of the family to the children, which I don't feel is quite right.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing what your year brings!

sophia said...

This reminds me of the post you wrote awhile back from "Little Women" about the goodness of just taking the time to sit and reflect. I know I always get bad feedback from other parents when I don't have a list of activities my kids are in. They think that esp since the kids are homeschooled, they should be involved with some social or sporting activities. So, I battle with it. I LOVE having a clear day with no outside activities, but I am also one who needs a little structure and outside motivation to get us going. My daughter has always liked activities, but she also likes the freedom and time to pursue her hobbies and passions as a homeschool student.

I decided to take this week off, and the boys and I went fishing. After we realized that only one rod was functional, we took turns fishing. My 7 year old who was waiting for his turn said, "Mom, to me it is worth it to just come and sit here and nature, just watching." Something in this statement and the statements of your girls resonates deeply with me. Indeed, what IS living? I think true living consists of moments like these.

Though for me, with my somewhat slacker disposition, I need some activities to push us a little bit. Everyone is different, but I love the way you have let the spirit lead you to step back and pull back some. I bet this will be a wonderful year of memories for you all to cherish.

Alice said...

Karen, this post is so timely for me as I think over all the things we do and will or will not continue to do next year. I think I need a scaling back time. It is amazing to come to your blog and read exactly what has been on my mind for a couple of weeks now.

Karen E. said...

Thanks to all of you for your kind comments. I think we all go through these times of assessment/reassessment/tweaking, etc. It's somewhat seasonal, too ... the ebb and flow of life and homeschooling.

Alice, with a new baby arriving soon, you'll probably have to fall into some new rhythms. Though, I could also see you continuing to host teas for 100+. :-) And Sophia, I think you're right that we have to take our own weaknesses into account when making these decisions.

Tim, you said, "I find myself thinking again and again that we've changed a focal point of the family to the children, which I don't feel is quite right."

I think that's it EXACTLY. What I find us losing when we're always running places is our *family.* We're less connected, less in touch, less sensitive to one another, to needs and to possibilities.

So, we'll see what a season of pulling back looks like ....