Are there times you KNOW profound information or data to lead to a better life–but realize you don’t actually benefit from it…because you’re not doing it??!
Case and point: I feed my family really well, with lots of vegetables, and for snacks, we eat fruits most of the time. Then one day I realized my kids got a great diet, but not me. While my kids had apples with peanut butter for snack, I had: the peanut butter I licked off the knife, the one apple slice with the funny brown spot no one wanted, and then, getting too busy to make myself a snack, I ate no fruit at all that day (and maybe even scarfed down a handful of chips or part of a chocolate bar at eleven PM!) And yet, for a long time, I believed I ate an exemplary diet, because I KNEW about nutrition and even BOUGHT the right foods, and prepared it so often for others.
The same phenomenon occurs for me in one of my jobs: homeschool teacher. I’ve had some opportunities to slow down in recent weeks, due to some weekly commitments being cancelled. A month ago, we started working with clay as we read The Single Shard, a novel about a orphan boy apprenticed to a potter in Medieval Korea. Because of extra time in our week, we had an hour and half block to devote to clay-building interspersed with reading the book (when I could find opportunity to wash my hands and touch the book!) Spending that much time exploring something–that’s what the freedom of homeschooling is all about! I KNOW that, but I don’t always benefit from knowing it because I often overschedule or let myself prioritize other things. But a few weeks of that taught me to schedule that kind of leisurely, long chunk of time every week. Those days are often the days I think I’ve hit the sweet spot as a homeschooler.
Sometimes, we just have to acknowledge the good days. The days we feel right where we should be. Days where my knowledge meets my practice and we BENEFIT from my knowledge! (Because parents and teachers all know there are plenty of days our lesson plans fail, attitudes derail progress, and many ways we feel we missed the mark!)
These good days I can observe the following: Moments my kids are laughing as they misunderstand something in Spanish that amounts to hilarity. As they keep drawing/writing in their journals long after I’ve dismissed them from the table, and show me their comparison of Ptolemy, Copernicus and Galileo’s contributions to astronomy. When I did not assign it. Much less with portraits of each scientist. (So he did get something out of that lesson?!) When my daughter whips out a definition of something I’ve taught her older brothers. When they love each other. When I get to see evidence of spiritual growth.
Because we sunk serious time into exploring something more deeply, my younger son, on his own, decided he wanted to try to make his own Celadon vase modeled after the famous artifact of the 1,000 crane vase from the 1300s, Korea.
If I’d assigned that from the beginning, he’d have balked at not being able to choose his own project. But when we read the end of the book, he wanted more, so we searched online to find the real pottery that inspired the story and looked through photos of museum collections. That exploration made him want to create his own celadon-colored vase. He even did a presentation on medieval Korean pottery and the process of making it for the classes he takes through Classical Conversations.
Though my older son didn’t want to make a Celadon pot (choosing a different style of pottery), when his brother and I, on day 3 of the project, started trying to mix the elusive color of Celadon, he did get involved. He’s a painter, so I guess he couldn’t resist trying to solve the mystery and arrive at just the right shade of blue/green/gray.
As we learned from A Single Shard, the technique from this time period involved potters carving designs in the partially dry vessel, as the first picture shows. After it hardened, my second son and I both tried to complete the technique of filling in the grooves with color. Traditionally, the fired pieced ended up with white and black designs. The pictures above are of my project. My son won’t let me take a picture of his because he wants to repaint it! (I also need to get the clear-coat to apply to them.) But his is the little squat pot two pictures above, in the center, partially blocked by a pain bottle. You can see the little blue-ish green lid to the right of it.
Doing something exploratory and at a leisurely pace that emphasizes creativity blasts energy into my kids’ experience of learning. May I never forget this! May we continue to BENEFIT from this knowledge–rather than resting on the mere knowledge as if knowing it alone, or intending to value it, means my kids actually get to do it.
Yep, there are moments, days, weeks, where homeschooling is bliss. We may often dwell on the difficulty ad challenges of many aspect of juggling schooling with running a house when everyone is under your feet all. day. long. But just as true, there are moments, increasing as we get deeper into this journey, where I sigh for contentment for the privilege that I get to do this, that they are growing and thriving, and there is joy in sending the days with my kids. And I thank God for all this.