Rest on Labor Day

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It’s Labor Day.  We’re a homeschool family, so technically we don’t have to take this day off.  But you know what?

We are.

Some things we love to do around here when we aren’t working are

  • singing karaoke to the laptop (YouTube)
  • watching television shows from the seventies (Netflix)
  • shooting basketballs in the driveway (OK, I don’t do this one but the kids and husband do)
  • eating pancakes any time during the day we want (just add peanut butter!).

Breaks from the norm are important, as everyone knows, but sometimes we don’t take them seriously enough or set aside down time with intention.  I plan to help our family do that today.  Hopefully you can do something fun today, too, even if it’s just hitting Sonic at Happy Hour.

Labor is important, but so is rest.  How do you make time to switch gears?

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The Real Reason I Homeschool

IMG_00011Look, there are a lot of reasons people have for teaching their own kids.  Many of them are good and compelling.  But, for me, most have faded over time.  I see my kids growing up and I think, They were always going to be OK. 

And, anyway, homeschooling is hard and can suck the life out of a person, especially a person who used to carry a planner.  Our warm educational fuzzies have grown a little threadbare during these middle years, and the tender platitudes that used to spur me on now find me with my fingers in my ears and, you know, maybe rocking in my bathroom.

But, so help me, there is one thing that hasn’t changed–and that is my need to go slow through this life.  It turns out that a poet crawled into my head and, having rattled around there, came back and wrote a poem that exactly describes my Actual Real Reason for doing this life the way I do.

To wit:

Leisure

by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

That’s my reason, folks.  What’s yours?

Don’t Just Do Something. Stand There!

Margin.  It’s a word that gets bounced around a lot these days.  Webster defines it as

the part of a page that is above, below, or to the side of the printed part

: the place where something (such as a piece of land) stops : the edge of something

: an extra amount of something (such as time or space) that can be used if it is needed

I used to care about the first definition of the word (all through high school, into college, and, to be perfectly frank, as I turned in research papers for a class I took this semester.  We all know that margins can take a person’s paper from not-quite-long enough to technically-OK).  And I still write in the margins of books I own, so I think about margins along those lines too, naturally.

I don’t own land so I’ve never cared about the second definition.

But I care about the third definition now more than I ever have–because I need it.  It’s  having a cushion of downtime, monetary resources, or other safety net that allows one to thrive when times get tough or stress levels sky-rocket. It’s what people wish they had when they talk about being exhausted, living beyond their means, running the rat race, etc.  In this context, margin is a hot commodity, and a person only achieves it when they purposefully schedule their time so that there are extra minutes in the day to simply ‘be,’ or when they choose not to spend every last cent of their paycheck each month.

People have written books about incorporating margin into our lives.  I don’t have anything new to add to the discussion.  I just know that we all need it.dontjustdosomething2

I also know that Americans don’t believe in margin.  They say they do but they live like they don’t.  Now I’m not here to judge another person’s work schedule, homeschool schedule, class schedule, or bank statements.  I’m still working on that log in my own eye, you know?

But I will say that since returning to the US after three years of living in India, my family and I have felt pressured (sometimes very subtly, sometimes not) to engage in more and more activities–more fun, more sports, more music, more service projects, more field trips, more work and money-making opportunities, more everything.

We’ve largely resisted the urge to fill in every blank space on the calendar.  But we’ve sometimes felt like we have two heads when we tell people that we stay home almost every evening of the work week (though usually we go to Wednesday night supper at church).

I am not condemning kids’ sports programs, music lessons, outings, educational enrichments, date nights (I love me some date nights), or anything else people do with their time.  All I’m saying is, if you have kids, and you’re really tired, or if you feel like there must be more to life, or if you never, ever sit quietly in a room and think or pray–not because you don’t want to, but because you don’t have time–I want you to know, it’s OK to start saying no to things.

Not only is it OK, but it might just save your (family) life.  I promise your kids will survive if they don’t do 1,000 activities, and that it’s not lazy to come home at the end of a long day and just stay there until your eyes close for bed.  ‘No’ can be one of the most life-giving words in our vocabulary.

Because when you say ‘no’ to hurried, overwhelmed living, you say ‘yes’ to margin.  And that is a beautiful thing.