It was the first day of school for everyone else, but not for my family. I was homeschooling all of my kids this year, and my kids, mom and I were on a road trip. We were headed to my hometown to pick choke cherries and make choke cherry jam.
As we traveled in the car through the plains of Wyoming, I was deep in thought about the school year that lie ahead. I kept thinking about what I wanted to give my children this year at home. I was torn between wanting to give them an extraordinary life and yet a very ordinary life? I asked myself, “Do I want them to travel the world, study all kinds of topics, and have experiences I never had—- or do I want them to get my kind of childhood – very simple- lots of family, lots of play, lots of work and not much else?”
I was conflicted between wanting to give my children both a big life and a small life.
When I got home from our trip, I read this quote on Facebook by William Martin and it cleared up all my angst.“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
Yes! I knew I could do ordinary. I do ordinary well.
I was so happy that we had just spent our first few days of homeschool in very ordinary tasks – picking berries, canning, playing at the park, and bike riding. Ordinary felt right.
Since then, the above quote has sort of governed my homeschool curriculum. I am not interested in producing Harvard grads or Peace Corp workers or little prodigies.
I am mainly interested in enjoying our very ordinary life and seeing the beauty in it.
Now I try to show my children “the marvel of an ordinary life”, by slowing down and being present, when we
Walk to the mailbox
Read a family read aloud
Talk over lunch
Drive down the canyon
Find the moon
Ride a bike
Water plants on the front porch
Look at the stars
And my latest ordinary thing is taking Locke on “Sunshine Hunts”. Sunlight is a perfect example of how something ordinary can be extraordinary. Basically, we walk around the house in the morning and open up the blinds so the sunlight can stream in. The basic, every day light literally lifts my spirits as I breathe it in every morning.
I think I’m more present while doing ordinary tasks than I used to be because I am no longer trying to get them all done so I can have a life. I’ve realized that these ordinary tasks are the life. The mundane chores, the daily grind, the ins and outs of motherhood are what give me an extraordinary life.
In our homeschool we are no longer learning things just so the kids can get a job, or get into college, or have a nice life — in the future. Homeschooling, for me, is realizing that learning is the life; it’s about enjoying and growing now, not waiting and preparing for some future career or event.
Later I ran across this quote by Robert Louis Stevenson that sums up what I am trying to say:
“The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.”
Frankly, we are doing nothing extraordinary in our homeschool. It’s a lot of daily duties and plain, common work coupled with time to explore and choose. But I think we are on to something. Our life is ordinary and extraordinary all at the same time.