“Better to do a little well than a great deal badly.”
This quote by Socrates is one of my favorites.
I used to think that a big stack of living book selections was better than a small one. I would, for example, notice that my kids were interested in learning about squirrels, so I’d hop on the library website and put 20 squirrel books on hold. As long as they were all living books, I thought I had the right idea.
What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong is that it’s too much.
I am learning that one carefully chosen book read over and over again is a better means of education than ten living books, read only once.
We learn more from deeper experiences, not from more of them.
More often these days, I select one book. Then we read it for several days. Really get to know it. Make friends with the characters- immerse ourselves in the artwork. Savor it. And the depth of learning that happens there is far more precious to me than the learning that happens when we read a stack.
What Less, Done Well looks like in my homeschool right now
Fewer picture books
I no longer bring enormous stacks of themed picture books home from the library. I’ll bring home two or three carefully chosen selections (and of course I allow the children to choose some of their own, as well).
That is enough.
I look at long booklists put out by curriculum providers, and I wonder how any child can be expected to really savor any of them if there are so very many to “get through.”
When my children are adults, I want them to see a picture book on a shelf, and to be immediately taken back in time. To be filled with warm and poignant memories of their childhood. To remember the characters as childhood friends- to really know and love them and to accurately remember their story.
I’m not sure this kind of relationship can be forged when a new book is introduced every single day. We need to savor these stories- to read them slowly and often.
A carefully chosen story read every day for a week nourishes the soul and feeds the imagination.
Fewer songs at circle time
I used to change up my circle time every day, but then I realized that children need rhythm and routine- they find peace and comfort in anticipating what comes next. Songs must be revisited often if we want them to imprint on our children’s souls.
I’m selecting a handful of songs and one or two poems for each month. I don’t like the contrived feeling that settles in when we sit down to a formal circle time (so awkward!), so we are moving toward integrating music throughout our day- singing as we go about our daily tasks, instead of sitting down to a set circle-time.
Fewer crafts & activities
This one really gets me. There are so many lovely ideas out there! They all sound wonderful and I want to put my finger in every pot. In order to guard my children’s senses, however– and to establish rituals we can revisit each year, I’d better not get carried away in all the paint and glitter.
There is so much meaning for a child to say, for example, “Oh! I love February! We always dip candles in February!” Or, as an adult, to fondly remember apple-picking outings of their youth every time the calendar is flipped to September.
I’m absolutely sure my children won’t remember making paper bag puppets or foam sticker visors, but the soulful family doings- planting a garden, making a Halloween costume, knitting a winter hat– these are the memories that stay with us.
They are crafts, yes- but they are also rituals. I’m not in the business of making clutter. I’m in the business of making memories.
Fewer liturgical feast celebrations
I find that when my feast day plans are too frequent, a bit of the novelty is lost, and when they are too elaborate, I get overwhelmed and some of the joy is lost.
Occasional observances are fine, I think, with an emphasis placed on the living out of them over the pomp and circumstance.
Fewer outside activities
Last year we were involved in all sorts of lovely activities- choir, nature class, Little Flowers… but when there are commitments on the calendar every single night, those activities have become more of a burden than a blessing.
This concept of “less, done well” is more about tuning our children’s hearts than anything else. The goal is to savor. And love. And be.
And what could be a better means of education than that?