One thing I’m adding to our back-to-school schedule

I’ve been making lists and checking them twice.

It’s that other notorious list-making season of back-to-school, back-to-schedule, back-to-back activities. I have been planning sports and home school schedules, vegetable planting dates and weeknight meals, workout routines and play dates. Should we build another raised garden bed? Sign up for ballet? Get a gym membership?

On our wedding day, we asked guests to write a hand-written note giving advice or simply best wishes and to drop it into a big fish bowl vase made from golden mosaic glass. My neighbor at the time simply wrote:

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” 

In many ways, plans and schedules are so important. With four children 6 and under, I certainly couldn’t survive without some sort of routine in my life. And as they get older and ready for new things, I long for them to have varied experiences for growth and joy.

And as a rookie homeschool mom, I am also experiencing a whole new world of planning with curriculum choices and implementation. Though I am looking at our daily Fall calendar with excitement, I also have to remind myself that the typed words in that spreadsheet are not what it’s all about.

I was watching a talk the other day from a speaker named Sonya Shafer. Sonya’s expertise is on the educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason — a British educator from the late 19th and early 20th centuries who strove to improve the quality of children’s education.

In her talk, Shafer references a book she recently read, written by a well-traveled pediatrician. The doctor indicated that he was starting to see in his practice the same symptoms and levels of stress among his American preschool patients as he saw when he traveled to war-torn countries abroad. After much research about the subject, he came to the conclusion that children in our society are prone to an immense amount of stress because of three things:

Too much stuff. Too much information coming at them. And too busy of a schedule.

She goes on to offer an antidote for this stress in the words of Charlotte Mason:

“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.”

The last words jumped out at me and nestled in my heart.

A quiet growing time.

Was that on the schedule? I needed to look.

For the fact is, if I’m not careful, the things on that paper could actually inhibit the learning opportunities I long for my children to have most: the nurturing lessons of life that happen in the nooks and crannies of the day, the wonder found in carefree time outdoors, the creativity born in boredom.

As the children get older, I am so eager to get them (and me!) involved in stuff — but I am tempering myself, trying to make my choices wisely. To choose only those that are most nourishing and enjoyable, to not give in to unnecessary “educational and social pressure,” but to leave room for quiet growth.

What a beautiful perspective that the most important learning is often found in the things we say no to. The times we unplug. In the focused play and bedtime stories. In the nature walks and daily chores. It is a reminder that as many plans and activities fill my online calendar, what matters most are the nourishing, simple, “uneventful” moments of today.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is yet to come. We have only today. If we help our children to be what they should be today, they will have the necessary courage to face life with greater love.” — Mother Teresa


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