“Once your intention is clear, you can relax and enjoy the dance, because you and your child are operating within a clear, protected space that you have created. The dance is what we have called process. Intention sets the tension and boundaries for the field; process fills the form with life. Both are necessary to create the dance that we call education.” Lawrence Williams
As many Oak Meadow students move forward into the new school year, they begin their educational journey with the good intention of being productive and achieving objectives and goals. Intention can also play a significant role in “living education”, which is clearly defined in the following article, written by one of Oak Meadow’s original class teachers, Becky Lowe.
Intention is the inner impetus that adds strength to our ideas and causes them to be born in reality. We have all experienced having a strong intention about something. There are many times in my life, as I’m sure there are in yours, when I have so much to accomplish that I know it will never get done unless I create so much inner organization that I know exactly what I need to do the next day without having to spend the first hour of the day figuring it out. That inner organization is intention.
At Oak Meadow we speak often of engaging in the process, and you might think that process is at odds with intention. But think about it. Whenever you set up a process to engage in with your child, you probably have some kind of goal. Perhaps you plan to discuss the concept of the number three with your kindergartener, to work on multiplication tables with your third grader, or to make a salt and flour map with your fourth grader. You hope to approach it in a relaxed and enjoyable way, focusing on the process together instead of being so fixed on your goal that the process is no fun. That inner goal you hold is your intention.
As home teachers it is critical that we have a strong intention about our children’s work. Some children are extremely motivated to do their schoolwork and create all kinds of wonderful projects on their own. Most children need a fair bit of support, especially if they have previously been in a large classroom of any kind, or a program that was very structured.
The Oak Meadow curriculum supplies a focus for your work with your child. It would be extremely helpful for both you and your child if you could take the time each week to read ahead and get a sense of where the curriculum is going for that week. Make a list of supplies you will need. Make a list of subjects that will be covered so that when you go to the library you can check out relevant books. Purchase any supplies you don’t have, such as tag board or food coloring. Beyond these physical preparations, however, it is necessary to prepare yourself inwardly.
Each night, take about fifteen minutes to clarify your intention for the next day’s schooling. Will you be studying word families? How do you plan to go about that? Will your fourth grader be studying state history this week? How can you help support your child with your own intention? A fourth grader usually needs less direct involvement than a first grader does, but nevertheless, each child needs daily support to set aside the focused time required to complete the day’s assignments.
What appointments or errands or household jobs need to be done the next day? How can you schedule those and a focused learning time with your child without having to double up and wash dishes while your kindergartener works? If you can be completely available to your children for even a short period of time each day, without doing some other task at the same time, it will make a big difference in your schooling.
Some time ago my daughter was reading out loud to me, and as I sat on the couch next to her, I noticed three baskets of laundry sitting in front of me. Of course, being a normal mother in her laundry-person role, I began folding towels. She said, “Mom, could you please just sit and listen to me? If you really have to do that, I guess it would be alright with me but I want you to listen to me.” I said, “When I fold laundry while you read, does it make you feel I’m not really listening to you because I’m also busy with something else?” “Yes,” she said. So I just listened, and it was wonderful. I got to not only enjoy the story she was reading, but to admire the way she’s growing in the fluidity of her reading, to hear her stumble and correct herself over new or difficult words, and to feel excited about the progress she’s making in reading. We felt happy and close to each other afterward, and her reading time became something special, rather than something she just happened to be doing while I was folding laundry. I became an active participant in her reading through my focused listening.
Having intention actually energizes the process you are engaged in with your child. It is not goal oriented in the sense of a goal in the future you would like to achieve. It is something we participate in actively in order to create the space for whatever we are holding an intention about. Perhaps you have seen an ad in the newspaper about an interesting play you would like to take your family to. You intend to go to this play. How will you help that come about? You will act. First, you’ll probably check your calendar to see what dates would suit you, and then you’ll call the theater to check on availability of seats and exact show times. Then you purchase the tickets. Then you’ll mark the date down in your calendar, and when the tickets arrive you’ll tuck them away in a safe place. When the day comes, you get everyone dressed and ready to go, take your tickets and go have a wonderful time at the play. All of this happened because of your original intention! If you just sort of dreamily imagined how enjoyable this play might be, but don’t make the effort to bring it to fruition, you’ll never get there.
This month I’d like you to consider how you can use intention to more actively support your family’s learning processes. Take time to clarify your intentions for the next day’s work, taking into account the age, personality, interest, and academic level of your children. Having this kind of intention does not tie you down into doing specific processes, but it provides a kind of framework within which to work. If a particular approach falls flat, that’s okay. Because you have an inner overview, you can move into another approach that could accomplish the same thing.