Instilling mindfulness in our homeschool

In his book New Pioneers, Jeffrey Jacob quotes a homesteader from Idaho’s description of the joy she has in the way of life her family has chosen:

There is so much more to say, and all I can start with is–this is a most beautiful way to live.  We feel joy in just watching a gate we built open and close. New Pioneers, The Back-to-the-Land Movement and the Search for a Sustainable Future, p. 84

With this, he introduces the concept of mindfulness, a “calm, yet focused, engagement with the present.”  (Ibid.)  He goes on to discuss the concept more in light of its Buddhist origins, but my thoughts focused on the satisfaction derived from accomplishment.  To set a goal, to invest yourself in realizing that goal and to sit back and appreciate the fruits of your labor.

In our culture today, we tend to undervalue manual labor.  Everyone knows you have to go to college to get a “good” job and if your job does not require a degree, it must not be all that good.  Sure, there are those few who drop out, buck the system and go on to do amazing things.  We like to tell their stories because it fits well with the story of ourselves, the one in which our hero picks himself up by his bootstraps and succeeds outside the confines of convention.

But we aren’t about to risk such things on our own children.  And our hero is only a hero if he succeeds according to that convention.  We don’t hold manual laborers in high regard.  Nor do we particularly esteem those who “throw away” their higher education and pursue other lines of work, or worse, voluntarily stay home to care for children.

Yet there is satisfaction in just watching a gate open and close, a gate you built, a gate that stands as a visual reminder of a need met, a challenge overcome, a goal accomplished.

It is a peculiar sense of satisfaction I want my children to know as well.  It is why I leave them time to build their fort in the windbreak while I’m working in the house.  But it is also tied in to some of our goals for homeschooling.  I want my children to be personally invested in their education.  I want them to see their progress as their accomplishment.  When they pull out a lapbook they’ve worked on, a story they’ve written or a model they’ve constructed, I want it to stand there like that swinging gate.

I want them to own their own efforts, and take the time to be satisfied with the result.  It takes effort, discipline and the ability to step back to let my children struggle with a task and perhaps even fail at it.  It means being careful with how I praise them, lest I rob them of their accomplishment by making it about external recognition.

Most of all, it means giving them time to pursue something with all their energy over the course of days and even weeks.

0 thoughts on “Instilling mindfulness in our homeschool

  1. Pingback: momshare.net
  2. Good thoughts for my little brain to wrangle with this morning!

    Getting our house ready to live in created a lot of working together. But as we settled in I see some of that evaporating. Not that we all have to work together all the time, but our goals have become less defined.

    Maybe the chickens will become a reality…I know that my son would enjoy planning and building the coop.

  3. Shawna says:

    Interesting.

    My husband is that laborer (literally a laborer in the Laborer’s Union,) and what a darn good living he has made at it. And me? I am the one with the college degree who decide to stay at home with her kids. Boy, I have never heard the end of that one. But that laborer’s salary allows me to do just that in a state that usually requires two incomes just to get by. But our standards are simpler, not less just simpler.

    Yes, that mindfulness is some of what moved us in this direction. But mainly it was because it was a natural inclination on both our parts. And just the other night our youngest decide to write a short story Just-Because… and he was so proud of his story that he took it to school for his teacher, whom didn’t have the time to read it but would get to it later. Luckily, this did not discourage him as he had written the story for himself 🙂

  4. If we would not have laborers who would build our houses, for our people with degrees and two left hands?
    Judgments are weird things and to be watched as they are showing children how not logic our thinking is! They are watching and thinking and taking on the good and the bad.
    It is a good reminder to be mindful of all we do.

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