I've homeschooled long enough to know that inspiration isn't everything. With everything important --- your faith, your marriage, your writing, your art or music, your marathon, your studies, your medical treatment -- you get to the ebb tide, the restless or stalled times when what you are doing seems torturous and burdensome. Or there are those other times, when it's worse than drudgery; when what you've done so far seems to mock you, because you realize you aren't coming even close to what you envisioned.
Does that mean it was all worthless? One learns that the answer is no. You keep at it, and you end up with something not quite what you hoped and dreamed, but something solid.
Still, I've learned with the practice of my Faith that though inspiration and feelings are by no means essential to true devotion to God, still, it doesn't do to just pretend they are unimportant. I can accept deprivations from God because I know He has a purpose, but it seems like a sort of dishonesty to pretend they are trivial. They hurt.
Also, desolations (in spiritual terms) or a fume of burnout smoke (in homeschooling terms) can be a symptom of something that is not quite right. It's like pain when exercising. There is "good pain" that means you are growing and that "bad pain" you shouldn't ignore, or you store up more trouble for yourself in the future. It can help you realize that something has gone off track, so that you don't keep going further and further off.
But that isn't what I was going to talk about, not exactly.
Rather, I was thinking about the art of slow reading. I started thinking about it after I confessed I had read 153 books in 9 months. That's a lot of books. I like fast reading. It's my speed of choice. But I thought I should try to slow down, so I was collecting links on slow reading. Here's a few:
Slow reading: the affirmation of authorial intent
(Who would have thought that slow reading could provide an antidote to deconstructionism?)
The art of slow reading
(Is internet skimming hurting our brains? Probably. )
Going back further in time:
and in the old days, before the printing press, school was mostly Lectio --basically reading from great authors -- and memorizing, reflecting upon and learning how to understand what the readings were about.
This still isn't really what I was going to talk about.
Thinking over WHY I feel sort of restless, beyond that it was a bad food week, I have a cold, and the days are getting shorter -- I realize that I always get to a point where I feel like what I am doing isn't enough. We are proceeding, but slowly. There is more that COULD be squeezed into the day.
This is the state of mind that I cultivate some unschooliness to combat, because I know it's a deception. Quantity isn't of first importance. My homeschool is not a factory. I know that, because some of our most idiosyncratic, quirkily paced years actually turned out to be some of our richest. In retrospect, which makes it harder, because it didn't always show up at the time.
In trying to think this through, I started thinking: If there is something called Slow Reading, and it's a Good Thing, could there be something called Slow Homeschooling?
Certainly, slowness is a vanishing quality in our world; everything else conspires to hurry us along. It's hard to even muster a case for it, but when "slowness" is celebrated nowadays, as in Slow Reading or Slow Food, or Slow Language, it is talked about in terms of individuality, and reflectiveness, and focus. Those are good things.
In that case I should probably keep trying to do what I think is important and not let that inevitable flat feeling stir me into a hastier speed that will become careless and un-deliberate.
As I write this, I ask myself whether I'm just looking for a way to take it easier than I really should. And sure, that is always a temptation. But I'm trying to pinpoint something different -- a habit of waiting, thinking things through. dwelling on a book, accepting that we don't have to have a giant stack of accomplishments in order to be successful.
The purpose of the teaching of slow reading is to allow us to enter into conversations with the authors of great works -- those authors whose distinction is that they afford us the opportunity to think things that are worthy of thought.Since homeschooling is so intrinsically connected with reading, listening, conversing and thinking, then surely some of what Lancelot Fletcher says about slow reading also applies to my pace of homeschooling. Charlotte Mason says (about preschoolers, but surely the need doesn't disappear at the same time as that first front tooth is lost)
The teaching of slow reading, therefore, is an experiment that aims beyond itself. In itself the practice of slow reading intends to create occasions for joining in conversations with (not just about) some of the most powerful thinkers who have ever lived -- not merely to learn what they thought, but to think with them and learn from them. But the aim of slow reading beyond itself is to consider whether the practice of slow reading might foster the recovery of a certain art of conversation: that in which listening holds at least an equal place with speaking.
“In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time.”
Part of this, it seems to me, is not to rush through our school times; to give them a chance to be suspended in time, Or as a Montessori article puts it:
I really want my kids to have that sense of freedom from time in our homeschool. I really admire homeschoolers who are always busy driving their kids to activities or doing multiple clever, energetic things in their homeschools, but I can also see that some pauses and spaces can be a positive thing, too, even if in a less obvious way.
The Greeks had a name for it-Kairos-- a quality of time without measure. We all know it. The artist and writer know it. We are baffled by it when we ask, "Where did the time go!" after we lose ourselves in a book or in a labor of love. Kairos time returns us to the young child's time without measure, where freedom of movement and freedom of choice-the time-honored icons of Montessori theory-are not hampered by artificial blocks of time, as in traditional school environments.
A couple of related posts I found at other blogs:
- Slow Homeschooling from God Made, Home Grown
- The ultimate burnout survival guide, from Conversion Diary