We are here, four months into homeschool life, and I think our detox is coming along. Detox from some of the stresses of modern life . . . alarm clocks, the commute, traffic, daily crowds, the rush, missing home and each other . . . and it dawns on me that the children are showing signs of those behaviors most sought-after in our home, the gold standard for us . . . that is, being more like the children in the countryside of Ecuador. (Peru, too, dear friends!) I mean, the real countryside, a rare thing: small towns still surrounded by more nature than people.
I mean to say, in my kids I see more confidence and competency, and resiliency, like I remember in those rural children who, one day, showed up at my door, thick bars of soap and sponges in hand, and showed me how to clean my little apartment (with no major appliances) including the art of scrubbing out socks by hand. Another day, a girl, aged 9, took me on her rounds to care for the cows. Up and up into the hills, I could barely keep up. She knew them all, where they’d be, and what they’d need. Back in the village, I watched children negotiate the rules of games, pack up their own picnic lunch for a climb to the river, and even stop to care for the littlest ones who bumped a knee along the way. I don’t remember hearing a tantrum from anyone older than a baby.
It’s hard to put into words what’s changing, because it’s not that my children seem more grown-up. They are more dreamy and imaginative than ever, immersed in their childhood world. But at the same time, I see them interact in a less “childish” way, working things out, teaching and helping each other, trying new things, communicating.
And no, I haven’t found some great new “meaningful work” for them to do, like those rural kids have, to give them discipline and purpose. Mine aren’t in charge of herding animals, or chopping wood, or even doing regular chores very well.
Or are they? Maybe I’m wrong.
Because, they don’t resist my requests the same way that they used to. In the past, any little bit of help I asked for, cleaning up, or chopping veggies for dinner, was answered with a big fat whine. Not now. Sometimes they just want to keep on playing, but sometimes they come to see what I’m doing with an open curiosity. They might pick up a knife to chop, just because I am. They might help papi with the dusting, just because that’s what’s happening. That stubborn kind of pushing back is melting away. Maybe because now, grown-ups tell them what to do so much less throughout the day.
But really, yes, of course. My daughter is in charge of the most meaningful work of all — she’s responsible for her own education. When we dedicate ourselves to the day’s lesson, I can’t force her. I don’t have the momentum of “everyone else is doing it.” She has to believe in it, buy into it, give me her concentration and participation, herself. We build up this new learning together, with my strong guidance, but by her own choices, too.
This feels like a calling, and a form of resistance, to me. To carve out this space, right here. In the midst of a technology-hungry city where materialism and inequality are growing so fast, where the rush of the streets (and the schedules) accosts you. To spend our days, slowly and surely, soaking the beans. Knitting the wool. Sewing the dolls. Shaping those first, tender sentences with colored pencil on paper. Tromping in the rainy woods. Letting children grow slowly, as strong as they can be.
Gardening in “el huerto de Guilio” (a community garden) —
Popcorn harvest and corn husk dollies —
Part of our alphabet, so far (it’s in Spanish) —
Advent Spiral Walk.