We rarely experience solitude and hardly know its benefit. We certainly don’t think to teach it to our children.
Our western culture teaches us to love public attention, and naturally, our ego appreciates that, until it doesn’t get it. Our western culture teaches us extroversion is favourable, even necessary, healthy, and normal. Our western culture teaches us that constant activity equals importance, value, and purpose. We search for meaning outside of ourselves in crowds of others.
Maya Angelou teaches us about teaching our children how to wield solitude.
“In the biblical story, the prodigal son risked, and for a time, lost everything he had because of an uncontrollable hunger for company. First he asked for and received his inheritance, not caring that his father, from whom he would normally inherit, was still alive; not considering that by demanding his portion, he might be endangering the family’s financial position. The parable relates that after he took his fortune, he went off into a far country and there he found company. Wasteful living conquered his loneliness and riotous companions, conquered his restlessness. For a while he was fulfilled, but he lost favour in the eyes of his friends. As his money began to disappear, he began to slip down that steep road to social oblivion.
His condition became so reduced that he began to have to feed the hogs. Then it further worsened until he began to eat with the hogs. It is never lonesome in Babylon. Of course, one needs to examine who–or in the prodigal son’s case, what–he has for company. It reminds me of the journey of the prodigal son.
Many believe that they need company at any cost, and certainly if a thing is desired at any cost, then it will be obtained at any cost.
We need to remember and to teach our children that solitude can be a much-to-be-desired condition. Not only is it acceptable to be alone, at times it is positively to be wished for.
It is in the interludes between being in company that we talk to ourselves. In the silence, we listen to ourselves. Then we ask questions of ourselves.
We describe ourselves to ourselves, and in the quietude we may even hear the voice of God.”From Maya Angelou’s book, Even the Stars Look Lonesome
Homeschooling certainly offers solitude, if we allow it.
A few tips on encouraging solitude:
- Limit extracurricular activities. (You know how many are too many).
- Enact a communal quiet time. After lunch for an hour perhaps?
- Enable an hour quiet before lights are out at bedtime.
- Expect each of the kids to take the dog for a walk, assuming it’s age-appropriate.
- Don’t schedule every day.
- Intentionally schedule in a quiet day.
- Make Sundays quiet days.
- Go hiking, canoeing, kayaking, walking, biking, climbing, or anything else that could be done outdoors.