Saturday, September 15, 2012

When You Are Homeschooling and Your Kids Are Better Than You At Something

So our 4th year of homeschooling comes to a close.  Yes, it’s September, but we were busy riding out the summer crowds.   Now that everyone else is back in school, this is the time we bust out and take over the parks and beaches.  Even though we don’t follow the normal routine of waking up to be somewhere by a certain time or hurry and pack up to go home at a certain time, it’s still a good idea to take a break from what we have been “working” on in the past couple of months.

Of course the idea of taking breaks is a purely conditioned one that I inherited from my traditional schooling and working background.  We are embarking on our 5th year of home school and my kids still ask, “Why?” When I suggest they take a break from whatever they are doing.   Why indeed?  What is it about our daily task-doing and learning mechanisms that seem to require breaks?  I discovered upon a theory from our last couple of months of home schooling that may answer this.

Ever since our discovery of Meditation as a tool for health and well-being, I’ve struggled with a contradiction.  I consider meditation, and other related modalities, like energy healing, Reiki, Shamanism, and other nature based practices, to be a really underestimated and underutilized tool for learning and living in our modern world.  So, true to my own nature, I set to work learning and reading as much as I could about it.  I really felt that only with enough knowledge and frontal lobe understanding of this could I be any good at it, let alone teach it to my children.

So the past few months have been spent learning techniques as well as history and philosophy of meditation and it’s related modalities. My kids have totally and completely excelled. They are very good at meditation.  They are very good at re-aligning their energies.  They are very good at visualization.  I, on the other hand, seem to be the remedial student of the bunch.  I was struggling.  I was supposed to feel more relaxed.  I was supposed to clear my mind.  I was supposed to feel more energy afterward.  None of that was going on for me.  I was overjoyed that it was happening for my sons, but why didn’t it take for me?

I figured that more reading would show me the way.  More research would enlighten me and I reasoned that once I understood enough history and technique from books and DVD’s that I’d be much more proficient at this ancient science.  Then the dreams came.  I started to dream and dream and dream.  At first they were memory dreams.  Scenes and people from my past, my very early childhood, and things I had not thought about in decades.  The dreams also included times when my kids were babies.   One dream in particular, answered my question about why I was so much less progressed in meditation than my kids.

I dreamt of a time when Harpo was about 4 years old.  He spoke late.  When he was 4, he still had a very heavy baby drawl and it was a struggle, even for me, to discern what he was saying.  This was a time way before I had discovered anything about alternative modes of parenting or home education, so we had set to task constantly correcting Harpo pronunciation of various words.  For example, he would ask, “I want my lelo hey-caca, puhweez?”  So I would jump in and correct his pronunciation by saying, "No. Say, yellow, helicopter, please."  He would try a few times and then give up or just beg for the toy.  I would always give in to his requests, but it became a routine between us in which some form of correcting his speech was involved.

In my dream, we were looking out at the ocean.  I think we were at The Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Harpo was up against the rail and suddenly exclaimed,

“Mama, look!  THE OCEAN IS WAVING!” 

When I woke up I contemplated his words.  “Mama, look!  The ocean is waving.”  I would have jumped in with my correction of, “No, you say, look at the waves on the ocean.”  But, that somehow also seemed inadequate to describe what we were looking at.  Neither was completely accurate.  The most accurate thing to say would be, “The ocean is being affected by the wind, which causes a disturbance on the surface of the ocean and that interaction is called, waves.”

Ugh.  Really?

Then, the lesson of mediation hit me.  My son and I were experiencing the exact same scene.  Our eyes were seeing the same ocean.  Our skin was feeling the same wind.  Our noses smelled the same seashore.  It was only our words that were different.  The ancient sciences were employed by people long before the printed vernacular, so learning and teaching it HAD to employ everything else but written language.  Even as I write this, I know that my telling of this same story using my voice and gestures would convey the very same story in a very different way.

I realized that I was very good at telling the kids to feel the wind on their skin, see the glow of the candlelight, and smell the scent of the grass, but I was terrible at doing them myself.  I was more concerned about completing the meditation process and following the steps one by one to the conclusion that I completely forgot to be in the moment. 

This is where my kids succeed, and I struggle.  Children naturally live in the moment.  They are less concerned with steps or completion and put themselves completely in the process.  This is true whether they are learning something new, repeating a favorite technique or messing one up.  Especially since my kids have had nearly no experience with the production-mode environment of traditional classrooms, they are far less concerned about completing a meditation as instructed, as they are about experiencing it and all that they may come across during it.

Recently we did a simple sensory meditation in which we sit outdoors and take each sense in turn.  The general idea is to first look at things around you and notice the variations in texture, color and shadow that you see.  Then you close your eyes and listen, and time to notice the loudness or softness of each sound you hear.  Then, onto the sensations of your skin, etc. 

The kids will usually never “complete” this mediation.  They will become absorbed at looking at something or listening to something.  One son will start to see tree auras from staring at the leaves of the oak tree.  One son will fall asleep listening for the caw of the cockatiel that lives 4 houses down.  One son will be lost in plucking blades of grass.  From the ancient sciences, perspective, these are all successful meditation practices.  And from a home education perspective, these are all examples of a very productive day.

Consider this next time you are trying to read a book to your child, but they keep stopping you to ask questions, like “…are there Wild Things in our city?”  Forget the rest of the book.  Put it down and explore this tingly combination of fear and curiosity that Wild Things are only found on far away islands, and even if you come across them, they just like to dance and will not harm him.  Or when they are told to fix their beds, but must jump on it for a few minutes first.  Let them jump. It will look no worse for wear after you straighten out the sheets.

Children naturally live in their joy, sadness, fear, anger or excitement.  They don’t shake themselves out of it unless they are told to.  Tragically, we were all taught and conditioned to stop living in the moment to go to sleep, or get up, finish our work, or go back to work.  This continues for decades, starting from about 5 year old, and daily until we seek help from doctors, therapists and professionals who help us re-learn how to live in the moment.

The most important message of the dream was how I felt that day at the beach with my son.  I was happy.  I was at peace.  I felt proud of him and was still and present in the moment.  I remember noticing his jubilation at seeing “the ocean wave.”  I remember that I allowed myself to forego the rules and habits that would have called for me to stop this mode of thinking and talking to bring him back to a more practical, mainstream and accepted way of speaking or being.  My message to you is to do the same.  Just stop.  Just listen.  Just see.  Just feel. 

And if you see the ocean waving, just wave back.