Waiting for Space

In the Classical world of education, it can easily become overwhelming. Especially for us homeschool mom's who weren't classically educated. We have to study Homer, Shakespeare, Euclid, Plato, Plutarch, the Bible, Great Books, all of history, all of the art, all of the music (and learn to play an instrument!), and how many languages?

We want to start early, even though that isn't really Classical, because we feel like there is so much to fit in, we need as much time as we can get. But kids don't learn in an even line. They learn like a river, sometimes slow and wide, sometimes fast and turbulent.

So I've learned to wait for space. Because space will come, and it will be like a vacuum that sucks the knowledge and wisdom right into their heads in an extraordinary amount of time. One minute, the seven-year-old isn't reading picture books well, the next she's reading Shakespeare in her free time.

We have to knock at the door incessantly for months, but then it opens suddenly and it's not a door but a floodgate and the children soak in the learning like a damp sponge. There isn't a timetable for this, you can't schedule it into your school year. You just have to wait for it. But waiting is hard, especially when there are so many things to learn!

Maybe you need to hear that is fine and dandy to just wait. So here's your permission to take it slow. Younger kids don't have much time for schooling anyway. Younger kids have to learn to play, clean up, follow directions, and use the toilet properly. Then they need to learn to count, read, write their letters, follow more directions, do chores, listen to stories and books. These things, while easy for us out of habit, take an exorbitant amount of time and energy for the kids. It's sometime around age 9 that, suddenly, kids' schedules become wide open. They have nothing else to do so they can start studying and learning all the things.

But even then, it's better not to rush. Waiting for space is waiting for 20 minutes of boredom before you add a foreign language. If you are in a busy period of life, or your student is just not getting the concept, back off. Take your plans down to the bare minimum. That minimum might be different for everyone. It might even have to be a week or so of no school whatsoever. You might have to spend time organizing your house and just getting it ready for learning. Or maybe the bare minimum for you is reading a book to the kids. Whatever the bare minimum is, do it well. And then wait.

Soon, eventually, there will be time created. A time that you need to fill. Then, add some math. Or whatever is next on your list. Just keep going down the list until you've gotten everything fitted in.

Sometimes we have to create the space, yes. Sometimes our space is filled with empty amusement habits that can be hard to break but must be won over eventually. Just like with forming liturgies, once you've started the new habit, it's easy to add on to it.

All of this I have known, but now that there's another baby in the house and we're living through all that comes with her, I've been reminded again. Toward the end of the pregnancy, I didn't have time or space to do all the things. It just wasn't there, although I'm not sure where it was. But now that she's here and we're moving past the healing stage that comes after delivery, space and time are opening up again. I have time to sit down with the kids and really teach them Greek and Latin, to do morning meeting well, and to read extra books.

So if you are in a period of life where there's no space, just remember this is not the end of the story or the way it will always be. Life changes every day. Give grace and live in the moment that you are in.

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