One of the many things that's been on my mind lately - competing with "What? These people need lunch again?" - is, well, my mind. Feeding my mind. Homeschooling mothers - any mothers - spend so much time thinking about educational activities for our kids we often forget to feed ourselves.
This was particularly on my mind for two reasons today. First, a friend on a homeschooling message board commented that her kids have been doing a lot of independent learning lately, so she's thinking she ought to figure out what she wants to learn for herself. Hmm, my kids still need a lot of my attention, but they are getting more independent all the time. Then, yesterday I attended a tea put on for the ladies in my church. One of the games was "quotation salad," wherein we were given baggies containing strips of paper with quotes from books to identify. My table of 8 women correctly identified 38 of the 48 quotes (and we won!). But when we heard the answers I was a bit annoyed with myself over some of the quotes I missed, either because I hadn't read the book or because I'd read it and pretty much forgotten it.
I thought about how much I used to read, how many books I have access to, and how little time I actually spend reading, other than blogs and message boards and cookbooks.
This is not about downtime or "me time" for mothers. This is about the necessary activity of keeping our own minds growing. In her article "Mother Culture & You", Karen Andreola shares this advice from Charlotte Mason:
"Never be without a really good book on hand," she said. "If you find yourself sinking to a dull commonplace level, with nothing particular to say, the reason is probably that you are not reading and therefore not thinking . . . If you will read and ponder your Parents' Review [a publication by Charlotte Mason] . . . you will find that it stimulates your educational thought in many directions and keeps you from drifting into mere routine . . . Do not think this is a selfish thing to do because the advantage does not end with yourself. . . The more you study on your spare time, the more there is in you to bestow upon your pupils."
When I find myself not taking time to read or learn something new, I start to feel old. Old and boring! Somehow I feel physically frumpy too. I wonder how on earth I will converse with my husband when our children are grown and gone and they are not the main topic of conversation anymore. At ages 10 and 11, do they even need to be anymore?
Some mothers I know take time to pursue a hobby, learn a skill, read a book daily during their children's resting or reading time. Other mothers read grown-up books on topics their children are studying - Mom learns at her own level while teaching the kids at theirs. More on "Mother Culture:"
Mother Culture is living the educational life with our children by learning alongside of them. A mother may enjoy learning new subjects with her children. When a mother experiences afresh the wonderful things brought forth in Charlotte Mason's wide curriculum - subjects I've discussed in more detail in past articles - she is learning a little more, exploring, and contemplating off to the side for her own benefit as well.
As a child, my least favorite class in school was art. I had no ability to produce art, and very little desire to try. I was ashamed of my creations. It wasn't till last fall that I tried to draw again. We went to a local arboretum with sketchbooks, mainly for the kids' use, but I brought one along too. If I want them to enjoy drawing, why shouldn't I do it too? It delighted my daughter - a natural artist, like others in her Daddy's family. My son too - who tends toward technical drawing and didn't really want to draw nature. It was a struggle for me to put that pencil to paper, but once I set my inhibitions aside and stopped being afraid of failure, it was such a refreshing way to spend an hour. We've done it a few times since and love those times together. I am no artist, still. But, I am learning. Maybe a drawing class is in my future, who knows?
Who knows what we can learn, or what we may enjoy learning, if we never take the time to try?
This isn't just for mothers, either. Everyone can get stuck in their own lives. What are you doing to stretch yourself, intellectually, artistically, physically? How are you growing?