Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No Longer a Tourist

Wow! Is September nearly over? Did I really begin a new effort at more consistent and intentional homeschooling this month? If so, why didn’t I share more about the passage here? Well, I guess it was because I was too busy taking part in our journey to stop and journal about it... It seems I was taking the kids lead by casting away my tendency to be a homeschool “tourist”, becoming a “traveler” instead.

What do I mean? Well, Luke and Nina are toddlers. By their very nature, they explore each moment with great gusto and every experience with a keen sense of detail and wonder. They look about at what surrounds them and choose to observe or participate as the spirit moves them. They immerse themselves in whatever is happening, unsure of where they are going, but happy to see whatever they are seeing.

And me? Well, I am an adult. Jaded, I might say, by “supposed to’s” and “could do’s” Swayed by “you should really do’s”. Tempted by teasing pictures of perfect moments and lists of “what’s hot”. Too often, seeking elusive “best of’s”, instead of simply seeing – and enjoying – “what is’s”

Someone named Gilbert K. Chesterson once said, that “the traveler sees what he sees, (while) the tourist sees what he has come to see.” I admit it: My children see what they see. I, on the other hand, often am hampered by more narrow vision...

For nearly three years now, my husband Mike and I have felt called to homeschool our children. In that time, I have been reluctant to heed the call and to fully immerse myself into the Land of Homeschooling. Instead, at first, I sat safely at the sidelines as a bit of an armchair traveler, reading books, researching homeschool curriculums and styles, thinking and praying, talking with those who currently homeschool, who wished to homeschool and who had given up homeschooling... I collected maps of ideas, compiled hit lists of things to do, even went on fanciful trips in my mind, imagining what the true adventure would be like.

Then, somewhat prepared, I became a true tourist. I made quick, planned jaunts to take in a site or two. A yahoogroup discussion here, a local homeschool group there. I even dabbled, now and again, at actually getting lost in Homeschool Land on occassion, crossing over the line of what most folks would call mere “active parenting” into purposefully providing “provocations” for learning and exploration that echoed of Reggio-inspiration, or “following my children” by providing Montessori-based learning experiences for them, and even knocking off a curriculum map by dabbling in literature-based unit studies. In short, I “did” a lot but remained a bit unsure of where I’d truly been. And, yet, somehow, I still thought I knew where I was going... Indeed, I became a classic tourist as defined by a man named Paul Theroux, who is oft quoted when folks abroad (folks like I once literally was in my pre-marriage-and-kids days) debate the difference between “traveler” and “tourist”. “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”

Fast forward to today... Well, I hardly feel that I have crossed all the t’s on our packing lists, nor dotted all the i’s on our itinerary, and, yet, I have been traveling mostly happily in Homeschool Land with my children for the past few weeks. Please note, here, I did, indeed say “traveling”, not “touristing”. For, it seems, without meaning to, I cast aside my lists and plans for the most part and simply became absorbed in each day. I made the crossover from being a homeschooling “tourist”, who simply buzzes through a fistful of earmarked activities, to being a homeschool “traveler”, who makes a slower journey, embracing opportunities that come up along the way, which add depth and flavor -- experience. Yes, I have pushed aside the armchair and tossed aside the tips that were narrowing my vision. And, in doing so, I have discovered a great journey is underway.

Can I promise that I will keep traveling with the children each day from here on out? I’d like to. But, I cannot. Undoubtedly, I will sometimes retreat to the comfort of well-trod paths and carefully planned whirlwind tours. Yet, for the most part, I hope I will remain a traveler, enjoying the gift my children give me – the gift of learning to travel with them, seeing what they see.


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