Slowness is Not Slothfulness—Learning by Doing Requires Patience

As homeschoolers, making one’s home a refuge and place of peace can be difficult even without all the noise from school people, curriculum manufacturers, and online services telling you how much more productive your homeschooling will be with their products: Test scores will rise! Children can learn to speak new languages! Reading comprehension will improve!

Won’t most of that happen for any healthy person as they grow and learn? What’s the rush?

Why do we want our children to not just play, but to play with an educational purpose? Why do homeschoolers feel they must be on the lookout to capitalize on every teachable moment they see? Must we always be thinking three steps ahead in every interaction we have with our children?

Strategy and tactics are great for war and business, but we need to clear our hearts and minds of these grand plans if we want to have genuine relationships with people: children and adults learn not to trust people if they feel they are being used as a cog in a system operated for the benefit of others.

Practically speaking, most of us know from experience that multitasking often causes mistakes, and studies show that maintaining single tasking is far more productive overall than multitasking. Consider slowing down to improve not just the quality of your work, but the quality of your life.

I’ve written about slow homeschooling and embrace it, but Sophia Sayigh and Milva McDonald have taken it to inspiring new levels. As parents of grown homeschoolers, founders and activists for the statewide nonprofit AHEM (Advocates for Home Education in MA), and writers about homeschooling (Unschoolers) I perked up when I learned about their recent efforts regarding slow homeschooling.

Sophia has a podcast about slow homeschooling:

Milva has written a book of short essays titled Slow Homeschooling that explores the benefits of ignoring the consumerist calls to purchase the most expensive curriculum and scheduled activities for your children and instead take a breath, relax, and explore the gift of time you have with your children and friends.

Last year they put thought into action with the AHEM Homeschooling Coop. They identified that today’s homeschoolers can be easily overwhelmed by the variety of materials—online and offline—that are offered and promoted as more efficient or better ways of learning than the tried and true method of forming meaningful relationships in and out of the family, networking with people to learn and grow, and taking classes and earning credits as needed.

To keep those bonds alive, Sophia and Milva designed a pilot program “to help independent homeschoolers get to know each other, share interests and skills, and plan social events, group activities, and field trips together.” The Fall 2017 pilot program involved homeschoolers who lived in nine towns near Cambridge, MA and had at least one child born in 2011 or earlier. People who expressed interest were sent a handbook with the Coop’s guidelines and if they agreed to them they

“must commit to organizing an event or activity for the group and commit to attending at least one event. Communication will be via an app written just for the purpose of facilitating this network. Members will have a profile where they can list interests and skills they would be willing to share with others in the group. Members will post events that they plan to the group calendar.”

The Fall 2017 Coop was a success and they are expanding it with two Spring 2018 coops, one in the Salem area, the other in the Concord area. You can request a copy of the Handbook and ask questions by writing

The essence of self-directed learning is about learning from living in the world, and the AHEM Coop program directly engages and supports families to help them see that their duties and responsibilities as parents and citizens are not burdens to be outsourced but generators of empowerment and community.