Thursday, January 28, 2010

Finding Balance

We are all born originals. Why is it that so many of us die copies?
Edward Young

It has been a befuddling week for me.

I found myself in a funk that I couldn't shake, nor could I identify it's cause, exactly. It was just there, lurking behind my morning coffee and settling in just as the day's activities would, under regular circumstances, naturally be getting started.

And then it seemed to descend deeper, like a thick fog that sneaks up on you and causes you to turn around and check your last step in order to feel better about your next one.

Before long, I found myself sitting, waiting, wondering...

Intuiting that there may be some hormones drawing me to this rabbit hole, I attempted to pick myself up, to move in order to keep from sinking further. I gathered up our "school materials" and decided play make-believe. Maybe if I just went through the motions, my inside self would snap out of it and move on. That can happen.

But then "school" was such a struggle. No one wanted to do anything. Everything I said to try and sway them felt wrong. I ...They...We... everything seemed off balance in some super cosmic way and I decided that I was going to have no part in it. So I declared that we were done for the day. Just like that. Do what you want. Read all day. Play all afternoon. Wonder what in the hell is wrong with mom. Whatever. (And I didn't say that with an adolescent tone. I truly meant, do whatever in the world you feel like doing.)

It was then that the fog began to wane. As if the choice to do what we wanted to do ushered in more light. Much like when the morning plugs on, despite the limited visibility, and the sunlight, by being itself, begins to burn off the blinding fog.

The light, in our case, was me owning up to my wildly vascillating heart.

A heart that adores letting my children lead me to what they want to learn because they obviously know that best.

The same heart that will relentlessly bludgeon my psyche into believing that structure is of the utmost importance and to settle for anything different is irresponsible.

I know that I have blogged about this ad nauseum. I know that I am a broken record. I know that I waste so much precious time worrying and fretting. And I'm so very tired of it. So, very tired.

The world of homeschooling--although wonderful and life giving and an all around stupendous adventure--does have a dark side. That dark side is the incredible temptation to compare your methods, your children, your abilities to that of other families. No matter how hard you try, no matter how confident you may feel (at the moment), no matter what--it happens.

I will observe a friend's child who is of similar age to one of my own and I'll see that they have acquired a skill or a knowledge that my child does not share. Instantly, I go inward and begin to worry, to fret, to bemoan our state of affairs. "We should be learning that! We should have mastered that by now!"...etc.

And no matter how many times I remind myself of the incredible damage this kind of thinking can do, I still indulge in this practice. It is so powerful, this...this ...comparative politics. And so very unfruitful.

Then I stumbled upon this amazing quote:

"To compare is not to prove."
French proverb

If I am going to survive this grand adventure known as "homeschooling" I am going to have to tattoo this truth across the back of my eyeballs. Write it in lipstick on my bathroom mirror--hockey mom style. Brand it upon my big ol' backside like one would a brainless sow. In other words, meditate on it without ceasing until it coats every surface of my heart and mind and soul.

If I continue to compare myself, my methods, my children, my household, my dog, my yard to everyone and everything else, the truth is this:

When I really sit down and have a come to Jesus talk, the truth that I need to grasp with a fierceness and a dedication I've not truly owned before is this:
All we need be is ourselves.

Truly. Completely. Passionately.

Glory in the fact that we love The Story of the World history (Classical method), that we would prefer to spend a great deal of time outdoors just being and observing (Charlotte Mason style), and that when unleashed in a library we allow ourselves to indulge in whatever suits our fancy subject-wise (even if that means we need rolling carts to hold all of our books and we wait until the holidays to pay our fines in canned goods and that we read and re-read every volume written of Hank the Cowdog). If that is who we are, then so be it.

If this is what works best for us then so shall we be.

That funk that I spoke of, that fog that descended so thickly and so effectively obscured my view--that was a result of choosing to compare rather than to be. I, and my children, had begun to lose sight of that which brought us joy and wonder. I had stopped taking pictures and blogging. My boys had found themselves bored and uninspired. Yes, we were moving through a curriculum (that one author had suggested was the best) but what were we really gaining in the process? The truth of the matter is this--I am really an unschooler at heart, with Classical and Charlotte Mason tendencies, but, most importantly, my own passions and hopes and dreams for my children and myself. By taking off that lens and trying to wear those of others (however noble and worthy they might have been and continue to be), I only lost focus, missing the beauty and detail that came more naturally when I was less self conscious and, instead, more self aware.

I want to look back on our learning experience together and be able to describe it like this:

"Youth is the time to go flashing from one end of the world to the other in both mind and body; to try the manners of different nations; to hear the chimes at midnight; to see sunrise in town and country; to be converted at a revival; to circumnavigate the metaphysics, write halting verses, run a mile to see a fire, and wait all day in the theatre to applaud 'Hernani'." -Robert Louis Stevenson

To be continued...