Lest anyone get the wrong idea, based on my last two blog posts regarding slow living, that slow living equals not doing anything, or doing very little, I’m going to share a bit about our day today.
My kids slept till 10 and would have slept longer, but since Joshua and I were leaving at 10:30, they asked for us to wake them up before we left. We had a meeting in Harlem. They got up, had breakfast and did their morning stuff on their own. After I left the Harlem meeting, I texted a friend to see about a playdate for Ben, picked up lunch for the kids on the way home and then Ben & I hopped on a train to the Bronx and the aforementioned playdate. Maya stayed home, busy with her own projects. Then I went to see my chiropractor and while I was out Maya’s friend Greta came over. I went back to the Bronx to get Ben. On our way home we got cupcakes for everyone, then came and sat down to dinner together.
Tomorrow I’m leaving early again to meet a woman who wants to talk to me about unschooling, after which Ben & I will head uptown to meet friends while Maya and Greta go on an outing in the city (to an as yet undecided location) on their own. W.A.A. (Without Any Adults)
Slow living days are full. Sometimes at home pursuing our own projects or interests, and sometimes out on the go, meeting friends.
What slow living days are not full of is stress. The stress of too many appointments or the kind of stress so many schooled children deal with, which is the stress of pleasing others and measuring up to someone else’s standards.
I read an article in the Sunday Time Book Review titled “How to Raise a Child” , which reviewed a new book from Madeline Levine titled “Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success”. Levine is a psychologist in Marin County California, and has gotten fed up with the number of kids she treats who are suffering from trauma-like symptoms and severe stress related anxiety. She points to the super competitive educational system and the intense pressure to excel in that system as the main culprits. Parents are willing accomplices, even when they are unaware of it. The reviewer states:
“…[Levine] really comes into her own — and will, if widely read, make an indelible mark on our parenting culture — when she moves beyond child development to concentrate on parent development, exploring why we do the misguided things we do and asking how we might (as we must) change ourselves and behave differently. Here, her insights are fresh…With vastly increasing numbers of children now showing stress-related symptoms, it’s more urgent than ever, Levine argues, that parents learn new ways to express their love and concern, trading their fears of failure for faith in their children’s innate strengths, and prioritizing the joys and challenges of life in the present over anxious visions of an uncertain future.”
I agree with all of that, of course. It is basically an endorsement for slower living. The only thing I dispute is the “freshness” of Levine’s insights. Anyone familiar with the writings of John Holt or Wendy Priesnitz or Sandra Dodd or Naomi Aldort or Laurie Couture or Dayna Martin or Pam Sorooshian or Joyce Fetteroll or any of the many other great unschooling advocates knows that these “fresh insights” about parental development have been around for almost 50 years, beginning with John Holt’s books “How Children Learn” and “How Children Fail”. Even so, I am all for more people discovering – no matter how or from whom they discover it – that the path to success is not one of inundating children with more pressure, more classes, more ‘elective’s’…. more, more, MORE.
The path is, rather, one of “less”. But with more feeling. It is having time to do nothing so that something can happen – often from within. It is being able to take a deep breath and stretch and look around. What do you feel like doing today? Not how many pre-scheduled things are you required to do. It is recognizing a child’s innate strengths and allowing them to develop naturally, at the child’s own pace. It is a wildly active day followed by a day of quiet.
It is slow living whether on the go or at home. It is living and growing in the now & toward a goal of one’s own choosing and development.
It is life at its’ best. Isn’t that what kids deserve?