Here we are at the end of the school year. We're in the home stretch...headed for home base...at the end of our rope! For many homeschooling moms, the Memorial Day weekend is one of the bookends to the school year--the one on the end!-- with the other one right around Labor Day. For some homeschooling moms this holiday means the end of cab service to and from co-ops and lessons and the beginning of beach and pool days, and a more relaxed, less-scheduled life. For those who are indoctrinated in the American culture, it can be difficult to let go of doing and simply be.
I currently homeschool 2 children. Even though we are a quiet, introverted family, we end up in activity after activity. Between Chemistry, Irish Dance and more at co-ops, equestrian vaulting at Blue Star Farm and riding lessons every Saturday, Mom's Cab Service is running out of gas. Literally and figuratively. Last week slightly more than 8 gallons of diesel fuel cost me $40...but that's probably irrelevant. The point is that those of who homeschool our children also, to some degree, live to serve and it's the traditional time to sit idle for a while. Problem is that this tradition seems to be falling by the wayside in favor of various sports camp, travel teams and other busy-work for kids and parents during the summer. When do kids learn to be quiet with and within themselves?
Sitting idle is conducive to all sorts of wonderful things. Sitting idle means that kids have to use their imaginations and initiative to find things to do. Hopefully these are things like making an underwater viewing box like the one in the American Boys Handy Book or weeding the garden. If sitting idle is too much to begin with, try reading a book, something parents and children alike can do and enjoy. The joys of idleness are horribly underrated in our fast-paced, do-it-all-right-now society but I suspect that most folks would be much happier if they rediscovered how great it is to be Not Busy.
One of the most wonderful idle-fests my family routinely participates in is the annual Mom's Birthday Camping Extravaganza. This is a command performance, at least for a weekend. By 'command performance' I mean that I really expect that all of my children will show up and spend time as a family for at least some portion of the trip. We have 5 children who ages range from 6 to 21 years old. I don't have any real material desires but I do want presence for my birthday. That is the gift I ask.
Camping is a great activity in which you sometimes have to be physically active but you can let your mind bob around like a giant balloon. We trout fish and ride our horses. We take baths in icy-cold mountain creeks. We build fairy houses from sticks and leaves and stock fairy ponds with crawdads. We eat lots of fried potatoes. We talk. We dream. We laugh at how incredibly unhelpful the mushroom field guide is. We sit and stare at the campfire. We luxuriate in idleness. It's great.
Being idle is curative. When we (as in the collective we, not my family) get sick, we rest but why do we have to get sick to do it? Perhaps as a nation, we could practice a bit of prophylactic idleness and thereby keep ourselves well. Recently, National Geographic Explorer magazine fielded an article about vacation time in the US versus in the EU. Seems like we are taking quite a bit less vacation time than our European counterparts and that it is spread out over the year, rather than used as one, long holiday. According to this article, it takes 3 consecutive weeks of time off for any healing benefits and vacation time can be therapeutic, cathartic and curative.
In my Backwoods Home magazine, I read this:
"Just be bored for now. It isn't fatal.
Eventually something, you can be sure of it, will bubble out ... You'll recall some old dream you never followed through on. You'll start wondering how a prism works. You'll invent a fictional alter-ego. You'll remember a neglected knitting project from five years ago. You'll design your dream house. Who knows?"
Wolfe, Claire. "The joys of idleness." Backwoods Home Jan/Feb 2008: 26+.
Idleness brings with it it's own wonderful potentials.
So here we are at the beginning of summer. The perfect time to relax, think, nap and rejuvenate. It's okay to take it easy. Really. It is.
Bettina Colonna Essert is a native of the Virginia/North Carolina borderland. She currently lives on a 'farmette' in rural NE NC with her husband, 2 home schooled children and a menagerie of farm animals. Bettina is an Equine Sports Massage Therapist and also handcrafts a line of fine, organic bath products, Alchemy Redefined.