Once I finally kicked that terrible cold or flu I had, I woke up to find myself terribly behind on all sorts of things. I didn’t have much energy, but what I did have was quickly expended doing all the things I hadn’t done for weeks, plus all the things I was supposed to be doing at the time. After two weeks of that, I’m relatively caught up, and oh so weary.
This type of weariness doesn’t require illness. It can be caused by a bad week, a busy week, or the normal trials of life. No matter the cause, the need is the same: we need rest.
The question is how to have rest in the midst of homeschooling. If you subscribe to Scholé Sisters, or have read my posts on Mother Culture, you’re already aware of the idea of mama having some time alone to read and gather her thoughts — to have her mind fed with ideas, that she might be strengthened for the tasks of life.
The problem I ran up against recently was lack of time due to lack of energy. Normally, I could arrange a tidy half hour of reading and thinking later in the evening, but having not fully recovered from my illness, I was brain dead by about 8:00 pm! The more my edges frayed, the worse this situation became.
The question I asked myself was whether there was a way to make homeschooling restful for me. At least for a time. I don’t mean the whole day — that’d be a tall order. But was there something I could tweak or add (or subtract) to try and pull myself out of this homeschooling death spiral?
Lucky for me, the small amount of time I found to read was spent reading exactly the right book. I was preparing for a podcast recording with Mystie by reading more of The Intellectual Life when I came across the author’s discussion of reading for relaxation. That’s what I need! I thought. A little relaxation.
Sertillanges’ description is fascinating. He talks about “highly spiced tales” — what many of us might think of as escapist reading — as often being not recreative enough. All of the action is taxing in its own way and we find ourselves amused, but not restored.
He talks about choosing the right sort of book and suggests genres to try, like travel writing, poetry, and memoirs. And then he makes this stunning comment:
One thing alone according to St. Thomas gives real rest: joy; to seek distraction in something boring would be a delusion.
This was one of those let’s-pause-and-think-about-this moments for me. I needed to ask myself: Is there joy for me in our homeschool day?
The truth is homeschooling isn’t about me. I know that. And I’m happy to teach multiplication or beginning Latin and botany or what have you again and again, even though I know how to do it. But that isn’t exactly the same as something I can take joy in.
Charlotte Mason once observed:
Life is a continual progress to a child. He does not go over old things in old ways; his joy is to go on. (Towards a Philosophy of Education, p. 36)
This immediately came to my mind — since I’m a person just like a child is a person — perhaps this definition of joy would be helpful for me.
So many times we are told to simplify, to cut back — minimize! But what if what I really needed to do was add something, something just for me? After all, sometimes less is more, but other times less is … just less.
(Pam has told me that she often tells moms to put something in Morning Time just for them. I think I finally understand why.)
Around the time I was having these thoughts, my new first aid book arrived in the mail. On a whim, I stopped folding laundry and opened my package instead; I immediately started reading. After skimming the first few chapters, it dawned on me this was the sort of book I could easily put into our morning Circle Time. Even though the book was my way of “going on” in my personal study of homeopathy, my children have become very familiar with it as a type of medicine, and the book was covering many of the remedies they already partially understood. Was it possible that I could share something I geek out about with them in this way?
I decided to try it, and … success!
It’s a little thing — usually only 5-10 minutes of reading — that has made a big difference for me. When I was weary, I found myself toying with Circle Time being optional. How bad would it be to just skip this part and drink coffee instead? Now, because I look forward to the reading that is just for me, I’m much less resistant.
Which is a good thing, because we ought to be doing the work, amiright?
As I’ve been finding more joy in the day — because honestly old favorites have their own sort of joy, and once I had my voice back and was able to read aloud, I remembered how much I’d been loving Robinson Crusoe with my youngest — the more energy I’ve had in the afternoon to do the things.
Turns out, joy really does restore.
Are you feeling weary of doing good? Seek joy.
Reading for study is great. Reading for information is great. But when you’re weary, you need to read for joy.
And remember that joy restores — so this means you need to choose your books wisely. It should add to you as a person, encourage you, strengthen you, and fortify you for tomorrow.
As Sertillanges once wrote:
… and since even when you seek distraction you are leading the consecrated life, have the intelligence to read, among the books that are equally effective in resting your mind, what will also be useful otherwise, helping you to develop your personality, to adorn your mind, to be a man.