I mentioned this in my recording with Sarah, and I’ve been wanting to write about it ever since. It’s a great secret — one someone else shared with me, back when I had all very tiny children. It is some of the best advice I ever received. It’s really simple, and therefore it’s really easy to underestimate its significance.
It’s this: Don’t interrupt.
We all have our own list of things that bring us to the brink. Mine happens to be multitasking. I just. can’t. do. it. I have gotten so bad these past few years that I can’t hardly cook and listen at the same time. One of my favorite pastimes used to be listening to a podcast while cooking, but now I have to choose one … or the other.
(That is a rule for the children, by the way.)
It’s very sad and pathetic.
But I digress.
So let’s just say that the clamoring gets to me pretty quickly. I know there is that myth out there that homeschool moms are these paragons of patience, but it’s not true, or if it is, it’s only because we can’t escape all the chances to build such a virtue.
So teaching from a place of rest comes from the inside, right? It’s peace, if we want to boil it down to one word.
But there are external components to all of this, too. I mean, yes, I can try to maintain my peaceful inner state like some sort of Zen master, no matter what, but the truth is that a certain amount of orderliness in life would make it all a lot easier. And chaos is peace’s great undoing, am I right?
So imagine my day, if my children had their way with it:
I sit down to do math with my girls — already I’m dealing with two people who may need different things at different times (or, even worse: different things at the same time). Five minutes in, my five-year-old demands help with his train set, and, to make matters worse, when I tell him I’m busy with the girls, he tries to draw me into an argument. I get him to go back to his playing, recommence work with the girls, only to have my twelve-year-old enter the room, asking to narrate, and if he can’t narrate right now, could I at least look over his Latin work?
With each interruption, minutes are added to the math lesson. Let’s say at least one interruption happens in the middle of some instructions. Now, one of the girls is confused about what to do, and I have to spend even more time straightening her out.
And so on and so forth, ad nauseam.
In The Story of Charlotte Mason, Essex Cholmondeley writes about her time at the Teachers’ College at Ambleside:
[A]t Scale How time was to be respected, given to the thing or person claiming it rightfully. Then there would always be time, without over-pressure or distraction. This sense of time value was hard to achieve but it bore the test of experience during the two years’ training. What an effort of faith it all was to one so slow to read, to write and to think. It did not seem possible to find a moment for everything, yet if no time was wasted there was plenty of it and no hurry.
Think back on my story about the math-lesson-turned-chaos. Who had a right to my time? The girls. Who was claiming it wrongfully? The boys. At least in that instance. There are plenty of times when the situation is reversed, and one of the boys is claiming my time rightfully, while the girls are distracting us with their interruptions.
The good advice that I was given many years ago comes ringing back to me in times like these: Train your children not to interrupt. I have worked on this in the past, but it’s a habit we’ve been losing lately, and so it will be the focus of my summer — it’s the one thing I want to continually reinforce before we go back to a full schedule of lessons in the autumn, this time with four students instead of three.
The youngest members of families are often too young to train in this habit. Babies will cry, for example, and that without any respect for your math schedule. But eventually, about age three or so (maybe four for less mature children), a child can begin to understand this concept of respecting time.
Of course, Mommy has to understand it as well. It’s so easy for us to give our time to things claiming it wrongfully, isn’t it?
But that’s another post entirely.
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