Tag Archives: mindfulness

Mindful Learning and What You Can Miss if You’re Not Present

Mindful Learning and What Parents Can Miss

Mindful learning involves being present in our children’s lives, trusting them to learn, and enjoying the process.

Maybe it’s because I spent some time on the vendor section of a virtual homeschooling conference website. Or maybe it’s because I read an article in the business press referring to homeschooling as “an industry.” Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking about what we miss because we’re too busy planning the next “educational” outing for our life learning children. Or watching out for the next “teachable moment.” Or chasing what we think is the correct unschooling definition or the ideal life learning lifestyle.

And, yes, we life learners are prone to getting in our own way as much as the parents who are the target market for the conference vendors that make up the industry. Our concern that we’re not doing enough for our kids can result in busyness that we mistake for facilitation. Our momentary lack of confidence in the process can lead us to seek out products and advice that will supposedly help us do it “better.”

But what if success lies with doing less rather than more, with being rather than doing? Think “mindful learning.”

I’ve long been focused on mindfulness and mindful learning. And I’m pretty sure I enjoyed my life learning daughters as much as I could when they were children. But I’m also sure I was often overly-involved with writing, magazine production work, and community activism – or, as one of them reminded me recently, advising new life learners over the phone while the rest of the family ate dinner. And sometimes, I was just too tired or burnt out to be present for, let alone appreciate, each precious moment of our family’s life.

I know I trusted my daughters to develop into the adults they now are, and I respected them as individuals from the time they were born. But the years went by quickly. And I wish I had even more of those wonderful moments to marvel at now. On many days, I forgot to record about the good times in my journal; don’t you do that.

Here are some more keys to mindful learning and living that I suggest you consider:

  • Stay in the present with your children. Enjoy them where they are right now. Share their wonder at a snail making its slow way across the sidewalk. Celebrate with them their video game victory. Notice the feel of their hand in yours as you walk to the park. Play; be silly with them and laugh.
  • Keep in mind that childhood is a real stage of life, not a rehearsal for adulthood.
  • Trust your kids. Remember that the hour of playing with their pet bunny holds lots of learning.
  • Trust yourself to do what’s right for your kids. (Remember that most of us went to school and need to deschool ourselves before we can fully trust ourselves and our kids to learn without school.)
  • Stop trying to control or measure your children’s learning. If they take your lead and remain engaged with the present moment, they will learn. Remember that you don’t really have much control over their learning anyway – it’s mostly in their hands.
  • Pay attention to the difference between manipulation and facilitation. Your kids are watching you, so model learning behavior. Your role is to introduce them to the wonders of the world but not to try and force their interest in any one of them.
  • Remember that learning happens best when it’s not the goal but the byproduct of living.
  • Don’t overcommit, either your kids or yourself. Do they really need all those play dates, classes, and clubs? Examine the real purpose behind them all: Are you signing them up because they really want the activity or because you worry they won’t get enough socialization or stimulation?
  • And lastly, look after yourself. While taking care of everyone else and their learning, make time for you. When you’re not burnt out, you’ll be more apt to stay in the present and not miss all those wonderful moments with your kids. You will have to trust me on that one.

Mindful learning involves being present in our lives. Those learning moments (as opposed to teachable moments!) that we all pursue will happen on their own without your fretting or planning. Pay attention to them – and all the other moments of your family’s life – and you will not regret missing anything.



Minimalism and its Lessons

The Lessons of Minimalism

I have been thinking a lot about minimalism these days, and was recently reminded of this quote from mindfulness meditation proponent Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go, There You Are:

“Voluntary simplicity means seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.”

These many-layered words about simplifying our lives have had different meanings for me at various times since I first read Kabat-Zinn’s book in the late 1990s. At this point in my life, minimalism has become a goal that seems within reach. My husband and business partner Rolf and I spent last summer radically downsizing our personal living and working spaces. Divesting ourselves of four decades of accumulated family and business stuff (I donated close to a thousand books) was a major undertaking. We had to continually remind ourselves to take it easy both physically and emotionally, and not to give in to the impulse to simply throw things away so we could get on with our move.

Staying committed to simplicity, while slowing down and remaining mindful, can be challenging at any time, but especially when undertaking such a major task. But now that the work of finding new homes for a large portion of our belongings is finished, the resulting lifestyle of minimalism has helped me to feel free in a way I haven’t felt in many years.

Choosing a lifestyle of minimalism focuses our minds and hearts on the life around us and the people in it, rather than on things.

Obviously, voluntary simplicity isn’t the same as enforced simplicity; we are blessed with having enough of everything we need, and probably still have more of it than we need, even after all the purging of the past few months. But freeing ourselves of most of the excess stuff has provided us with freedom from other things, such as overwhelm, fear of losing it all, the time spent looking after the stuff and its space, and more.

Working through the chaos and making those decisions about each and every thing in our lives made us pay attention to what we value…and prompted us to move away from what we don’t. And not having all that stuff and the space it took up has given us more time to focus both on our purposeful work and on having fun, two things that have been in short supply in recent years.

We are not the only ones thinking this way. These days, many of us seem interested in clearing away the clutter – both physical and otherwise – so we can concentrate on other things. For some, that’s family and friends; for others, it’s solving a few of the world’s pressing problems; and for others, minimalism relates to a need to concentrate on finding some inner peace in the midst of life’s chaos.

Whatever your purpose, I highly recommend moving beyond an obsession with having too much, doing too much, and being too busy…or even with collecting materials things if that’s an issue for you. It’s a path to a healthier, more enjoyable, more sustainable life.

Note: as our downsizing process developed, a number of people asked me for advice for their own, similar journey. I wrote about it in this article in Natural Life Magazine.