As I look back on our school days, some of my fondest memories are of warm afternoons spent on our large shaded porch reading aloud, transported by our imaginations into faraway lands or backward in time. Other treasured memories include early morning nature walks down dusty farm roads armed with notebooks and pencils to attempt to capture on paper the wonders found all around when we paused long enough to look. Even those quiet mornings when everyone was busy with lessons hold a special place in my heart.
However, all of the special times during which we slowed down and lived heartily in the moment, the days that were empty of scheduled activities and planned events, the days that were not overcrowded with more to do than we could possibly accomplish—those days did not just happen by chance. They were carved out with care; they were carefully guarded and defended against a fast-paced world that could send us whirling through our days without pause.
My children still enjoyed field trips, drama, and co-op classes, but we had to choose our activities carefully and say “no” often. Many times it was very difficult to choose between several good activities, classes, and lessons, and there were many semesters in which we found ourselves committed to a schedule that allotted us far less down time than we had anticipated. We knew our commitments directly impacted others—particularly commitments to our home school group activities—and so we would honor them, but fortunately, most of our commitments were only made one semester at a time. At the end of each semester, we would reevaluate our schedule and make adjustments.
I discovered, as the years passed and my children grew into teenagers, that a determination to slow down and savor life usually meant that we were almost continually adjusting the pace. That is not to say that we cannot enjoy a quick tempo at times, but running in place at high speed does not usually move us any closer to our destination. It often just wears us out, and fatigue can rob us of the pleasure we once found in the fast pace of the treadmill.
It seems that in our society today there is a continual push to do more, to accomplish more. For home schoolers, there are countless things to learn and study—enough to fill a lifetime and still never absorb even a fraction of the information available at our fingertips. At the same time, temptations abound that would rob us, both parents and children, of our time. We live in a society that begs to be entertained, a society that thrives on free time and often fills our minutes, hours, and days with movies, video games, social media, or some other form of entertainment. Then we wonder why we struggle to keep our focus and have trouble with our memory. With a constant influx of information, is it any wonder we do not absorb more when we never stop long enough to reflect on what we have seen, heard, and read?
The American culture is set on high speed, and it is much easier to find ourselves running with the pack than it is to get off the treadmill and slow down, but it is well worth the effort. For our family it meant limiting commitments outside our household, making tough decisions on curriculum choices and topics of study, and limiting some of our media exposure. We actually scheduled time to just sit on the front porch and read. However, every family is different, and each family must decide what pace is right for them. The tempo at which each family flows is unique and will ebb and flow at different speeds as the family grows through different seasons. We cannot compare ourselves to one another, but if you feel that life is moving a little fast, maybe it is time to step back and adjust the pace to slow.