Note: This post is for ALL people who care for others: kids, the elderly, students, whatever. And by no means am I saying that everyone should homeschool. You do you, no matter what.
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
(Traveller, the road is made of your footsteps, and nothing more; traveller, there is no road; you make the road by walking it.)
Antonio Machado (Translation mine)
For all the time we spent learning about writing in school, very little turned out to be useful for actual writing.
School taught me a lot about the mechanics of writing. Mechanics aren’t hard–spelling, grammar, typing, outlines, thesis statements. Sure, they take practice, but they are straightforward.
What school didn’t teach me–and sometimes didn’t even mention–is the stuff that’s actually hard. How to figure out what to write, or worse, how to get someone to read it. No information on owning my voice, or, until grad school, how to make my work useful or just. And let’s forget how to get paid.
In other words, school is very good about teaching mechanics, but mechanics are rarely what trouble you when you dig deeper.
But because mechanics are easier, most of us would rather focus on them than on more complex things. Mechanics are easier to define and easier to solve. There’s a well-marked path if you think about mechanics instead of harder questions.
If we’re not careful, we can travel really far along the road of easy questions and never think about where we’re going. We can forget why we’re travelling in the first place.
When You Abandon the System, You Must Make Your Own
When we stepped off the traditional schooling train, I had to make up my own what to do with our days a lot–which forced me, often, to consider why we’d do those things. Why we learn, how, and for whom. What we’ll do with our knowledge in a world full of suffering.
If that sounds impossible to think about on a day-to-day basis, it is and isn’t. There isn’t an easy answer to those questions. But it’s amazing what you notice when you really pay attention to your purpose. It’s amazing when you start making today’s work authentic, and passionate, and brave. It’s amazing when you stop practicing for real life and just start living.
The Hidden Cost of Forgetting Our Purpose
Look, like most parents, I fret about whether my kids know what they’ll need to know. I think about addition, and reading, and the scientific method.
Likewise, I spend a lot of energy worrying about the details of my life. How to get the floor clean. How to pay our taxes. Whether to let my kids watch another episode of SpongeBob. When to read my Bible.
We all do. We all worry about the mechanics. We can’t forget about them. But it’s easy to let mechanics blind us to larger questions.
We can pour all our energy teaching our kid how to read, and realize that they no longer like books.
We can concentrate on doing all the right things in our faith and realize that we no longer are hungry for God.
We can serve the “less fortunate” and never have a genuine relationship with someone different than us.
We focus on getting the errands done and forget to pursue our dreams.
It’s far too easy to rush off to some clearly-marked destination and forget why we want to go there in the first place.
In abandoning the idea that success can be measured by state standards and grades, I am forced to look for other road signs. I am forced to pay attention to each step forward we take, and each day we learn together, because there isn’t much else to guide me. And when I do, I notice that the journey itself is worth paying attention to.
I learn that making the road one step at a time is a pretty good way of getting places.
Image credit: Harald Hoyer