Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Interruptions or real life?

I read Blessings of a Life Interrupted last week and it has stuck with me.  Her discussion of a childhood in school, isolated from the ups and downs of life, really struck me.  It is so true.  School gave me an unrealistic picture of life.  She talks about big life changes, but I also think about the little things - the grocery store, cleaning the house, preparing dinner.  All of these things happened around me - but I either didn't see them happen (because I was in school) or helping with them was somewhat optional.  I was always at school or doing homework or in some activity that was deemed more important than these life sustaining activities.   My parents actually battled over this choice - often - but in the end, school and activities were deemed more important.  (One line of thinking is that this was our job and it could get us scholarships - well that did work out - especially for my brother).

Fast forward about 20 years and now that my whole life revolves around these thing - I am a little overwhelmed.  I was shielded from them in my youth because they were "less important" but now they are my main job! Talk about a change of perspective.

Since we homeschool there is no sheltering for my kids in this sense.  They go the grocery store (people always comment how brave I am to take them there).  They see me cook most evenings.  They help me clean, although I am still figuring this one out for myself.  In part, because I still see reading as more important than sweeping the kitchen floor or folding clothes.  My kids are around the real life stuff we have to do and I need to be better about making sure they are not just observers but active participants.

I also resonated deeply with this thought:
And then it hit me. I wasn’t managing to teach my kids in spite of life’s interruptions; I was teaching them something far more valuable. I was teaching them how to live life. Real life. The life that is messy and is filled with unexpected difficulties. Not the “real life” that only exists on paper and in my imagination. The real life that I never experienced as a child and was completely unprepared to encounter as an adult. 
We have been reading Desiring the Kingdom for book club  and talking about habits and how they form us.  Take a minute to think about what the form of school (home, private, public or otherwise) says to children about:  

  • knowledge and wisdom? (Where we get it? How we learn it? Who has it? What is worth knowing?)
  • home? (how it fits into the scheme of things? what you should learn there?)
  • friends?  (where we find them? how we relate to them? why we form friendships with them? how we deal with them during recess/ at the park?)
  • priorities? (time? talent? treasure?) 
  • parents? (authority? type of subjects they know about?) 
  • siblings (relationships with them?) 
  • school? (where it happens? it's value? who we learn with? who we learn from?) 
  • play? (time for it? who you do it with?)

My family probably went to one extreme by putting school as the middle of all things. But I don't think it is too rare for us to put kids' school work and activities above the "every day" tasks.  Likewise, when the big events happen - instead of taking time to mourn or rejoice or even deal with it as a family - we often take as few days off of school as possible.   At least our family did.

I do realize that in some ways going to school is like going to a job.  There is some value in that analogy. But I am not convinced that having a job should be the most defining characteristic of our kids.  I also wonder if we start instilling - through unexpected habits - workaholism, performance based achievement and other similar issues because of the way we deal with school.

If one of our primary goals is for our kids to leave and cleave; they will have to shoulder the every day tasks and deal with unexpected interruptions with someone else right beside them (and maybe many little eyes watching them).  Are we equipping them?

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