Monday, April 29, 2013

Less is More: Why We Choose Quality Over Quantity, for our Lessons and Life

My friend, who public schools her kids, said to me, reflecting: "It's weird that, all the people I know who homeschool-- their kids are way above where they need to be... for instance, your [6-year-old] daughter is, what did you say? Third grade reading level or above? Yeah, it's weird that the kids are all way above, and yet, all of them that I know, spend way, way less time each day on school work or formal lessons than kids in public school."


Me, smiling, with patient love: "Well, it is not a puzzle. And it's no coincidence, or a happy accident. It's the simple truth that QUALITY is far superior to QUANTITY. When kids have the free time to truly and authentically absorb what it is that they are learning, they retain more of it."

It can't be that simple, can it? But it is. Less is more. Truth, at it's core, really is always that simple.

It's not her fault. We've been programmed in all areas of life to assume the rubbish that more is more. More hours each day, more homework, more drilling, more programs, and of course- more money, more money, more money.

Pure rubbish. Plain and simple.

Kids need less.

Less over-stimulation, less cramming, less artificial and unimaginative entertainment with toys or screens, less hours away from their homes and families.


Do you know what they need more of? Time.

More time outside than inside, no matter the season. More time with their families. More time to explore, imagine and create. Time to build quality, authentic friendships... with no restrictions of the school yard bell. Time to get good and dirty and feel the wind. More unrushed time to rest. More time to read, and be read to. Time where they can think and question for themselves. Where they can learn HOW TO WONDER. So many kids these days are just told what to know. Constantly. They are not taught how to think, they are taught what to think.

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” ―Margaret Mead

But, how, you may ask, do you teach them how to think?

By giving them space to wonder. And absorb.

When kids have constant stimulation, constant activity, constant shuffling from one place to the next, constant something-happening... how much of that is absorbed? What a waste. It's all surface, nothing sinks in deeper. Nothing has time to take root.

“Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.” ―Charlotte Mason

“One of the main things we’ve learned is that interests develop with time and freedom to explore. Kids need big chunks of time to play, create, read, and question. They need the freedom to discover their interests. We have to make room in our days for exploration in order to pave the way for more meaningful projects.” -Michelle Hulse

So yes, it is true. Less is More.

Allow me to repeat: less, is more.

Do people even question or recognize what quality time is, anymore? I know they've lost sight of what authentic play is. But the truth is, you get more out of 2-3 hours of quality lesson time than 10 hours of overdrawn, exhausted, pushed-on, forced drudgery- My kids aren't the only proof. There are millions of homeschoolers across the country proving it, too.

Enough with pushing full-time, stressful, coordinated schedules onto these kids!

"I don't want them to miss out on anything," one public school mom fretfully explained to me, as to why she was cramming, overbooking and frantically double-booking her kids with trips and birthday parties, scouts and soccer and....

Enough! On top of a public school calendar? That is madness.

In the attempt to "not miss out" you are, in turn, missing everything. You are missing the point of it all. You are missing PURPOSE.

“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing.... Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.”
―Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Where did this notion come from, anyway? That our kids shouldn't miss out on anything? Really? Constantly distracted, not centered on anything. How sad. And does that teach them how to make purpose-filled, intentional, mindful choices throughout their life? Should we, as adults, scatter ourselves thin over every available opportunity that presents itself to us?
Furthermore, if we are demonstrating to our kids, through our actions, that constantly being occupied and accumulating stuff is the path to happiness, well, then, we are setting them up to have a pretty unhappy life.

"People ask me how I will teach the kids math. How will I socialize them? How will I continue working? But what people should really be asking is how parents manage to teach their kids how to make important, value-laden, emotional decisions when there is so little time together as a family." ~ Penelope Trunk

Don't misunderstand. I completely acknowledge there are families utilizing government schools who value this time for their kids and carve out time for family. I'm not saying this is exclusive to non-homeschool families, there are- indeed! - families within the homeschool community who burden their kids with over-programing and lack of time, as well. I'm guilty of it at times myself. However, have we asked ourselves, what do we gain?

It's not an accident that we spend less time on formal school lessons each day than a public school does, yet our kids flourish. It is not lazy luck. It is our intention. We want our kids to love learning. Our school knows no limits, we live and learn all the time. We learn because we like to, therefore, we spend our free time learning.

And do you want to know the best part? You can, too.

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